Point of Exquisite Suspension

Thoughts & life experiences of a Chicago area graphic artist

07 December 2017

Moonrise (a recollection)

"Moonrise" art © O. Douglas Jennings. All rights reserved.

"Attention, Please."
Every head in the classroom turns to look at the loud-speaker mounted above the classroom door.
"School will be dismissed early, due to the rising of the Full Moon."
"All right, class", Mrs. McCluskey nervously intoned, "Leave through the door in an orderly manner".
I am near panic. I must get from my 5th-grade classroom to the Kindergarten class on the lower level to gather up my little brother Martin. We live just close enough to be unqualified for the secure bus service. We must make our way home on foot. And as a five-year-old, he won't be able to run as fast as is needed.


Hand in hand, Martin and I leave the safety of the school house door to make our way home. Quickly as possible we walk to the edge of the school yard near the old maple tree next to the fence and topping the small hill that slopes downward to our street. All of our senses are hyper-alert as we hear a rustling of bushes from the old abandoned Stout's house across the street from the hill. Muscles tense, adrenaline flow escalating.


The menacing growl barely commences before I dart down the road. Martin practically suspended horizontally at the end of his hand and arm that I grip like a vise. We hear the feet pounding the gravel and asphalt behind us. The panting, horrible guttural noises sound terrifyingly near.


I cut across the neighbors yard and somehow make it to our front porch. Martin is crying as I reach for the door handle and before we know it we shut the door behind us. But it is now on the porch and wants in. We know this because the beastly howl that it makes in desperate frustration emanates from the other side of the wooden, locked panel door.


Incomprehensibly it might not protect us as blow after powerful blow rattles the door, distorting it with convex shaped spasms until at last, with a violent crash it gives way. And I wake up.


This one of the actual dreams I would have as a grade-schooler who could think of no greater, more abjectly, tortuously horrifyingly monstrous threat than the classic werewolf.


Frankenstein's monster and Dracula had at least some semblance of humanity. I would think that confronted with either of those two creatures of darkness I might have a chance. Either I could outrun them or perhaps (I had a high estimation of my intellect) outwit them. But the sheer animal irrationality and primal beastliness of a werewolf totally vexed my powers of defensive strategic calculation.


Even in my twenties, if I was working late in the office where I was employed and no one else was around, I would have an occasional spasm of irrational terror that a werewolf might enter the building to stalk and attack me.


This has faded over time. I'm surprised I didn't become a gun owner. It's funny that when one lives long enough, the dark isn't scary anymore. I'm not talking about the common sense caution that anyone should have if he or she is out at night around deserted streets or darkened alleys. But a dark room or closet or even an empty house at night is unable to evoke the fear in me that it did at one time. There are greater fears I have these days. Fears of economic down turn. Fears of catastrophic illnesses. But even those don't hold the same sting of terror that once agitated my mind when I thought of my imaginary lycanthrope.

20 November 2017

Warner Bros. Prolly R not worried too much abt JL... yet



Social Media needling of #JusticeLeague fans over "disappointing" early box office receipts of the DCU's prospective flagship movie has been brutal. But since 85% of the audience reporting on Rotten Tomatoes liked the movie, I feel like there's is nothing to be alarmed about. I'm confident that Justice League will recoup Warner Bros. production costs easily through worldwide box office sales and DVD/Digital release. Although I'm sure the bean counters will be ringing their hands.

Illustration © O. Douglas Jennings. All rights reserved.
As far as I'm concerned, the movie (even with it's flaws) was a satisfying, enjoyable and fun experience. I loved the characters and felt they embodied their respective heroic icons well.


SPOILER ALERT - If you read further, I discuss aspects of the movie in detail. If you don't want to know surprises or other plot details, please read no further until you have seen the film.

Okay.

We're clear.

On the outset, the film dove directly into the plot of the invasion. Actually, it seemed at first that it was a typical night on patrol for Batman as he apprehends a criminal. But then the next layer of understanding and story is revealed as he actually is setting a trap for a Parademon. Some viewers expressed dislike for this continuing faced-paced plot. But I enjoyed it.

To me, it was classic Batman as he and Alfred were trying to decipher the clues left by remains of the Parademons, Lex Luthor's notes on mysterious sketches of "boxes".

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman was thwarting a terrorist plot to blow up a city block. This action was quite an exciting ride.

Then the scene switches to Themyscira where the Mother Box being held by the Amazons is vibrating and making alarming noises. The first appearance of the invader Steppenwolf is dramatic and menacing. I suspended any disbelief that might have been caused by some less-than-perfect CGI. I could easily stay captivated by the action.

I caught many of the Easter Eggs in the flashback scene with Steppenwolf upon his first thwarted invasion. The Atlanteans, the Green Lantern, the Greek Gods/Heroes were easy to follow as they battled Steppenwolf and the Parademons. This was all great fun.

As Bruce Wayne and Diana worked to gather the team, I was happy with the way each character of the team was introduced & developed.

The MUSTACHE CONTROVERSY

You might have heard about the scenes where there was obviously some weird visual stuff going on with Superman's face. It's like when someone shaves off their eyebrows and you can tell at first what is missing. Actually it's not that bad. But there was something just a bit off about Henry Cavill's upper lip as he talked, smiled etc. It's not in every scene. Just in the scene's they added after filming had ended and they decided to add some extra scenes. That is when they brought back the cast to film some select scenes to help the story, etc. Problem was that Henry Cavill already was in the middle of filming a Mission Impossible movie and he had a mustache that contractual obligations did not allow him to shave. So... much $$$ was spend on "fixing" it. Fun behind the scenes story.

But that did not ruin the movie for me by any means.

......


12 November 2017

Crafting More Than Art While Enjoying Art

What pastime can compare with the moments spent fabricating a well-designed object or beauty or usefulness -- or both! I have great memories of the Father's Day my daughter Melody and I spent at the Art Institute of Chicago after I had picked her up in the city and before we headed back home for family picnic festivities.

I've been a devotee of the Art Institute for decades and know it pretty well. But Melody suggested we try to focus looking at collected works of home goods they had on display. A medieval chair, an 19th Century Art Nouveau pitcher, an oriental themed secretary cabinet --all were delightful to examine and imagine what it might be like to create such objects or to use them. The pitcher was a combination of undulating gilded bronze vines and leaves that served as a handle and setting for a brilliantly azure glazed ceramic vessel.

"How did they make that?" Melody mused.
"Look! See the little bronze screws they used to attach the ceramic to the bronze?" I marveled.


We discussed the gold-trimmed mirrors, the elaborate mixed-influenced desk that seemed both Middle Eastern and Far Eastern. The hour was brief but our depth of appreciation and connection over the love of art was sweet.

"When I mention things we've discussed about Art and History in conversations with my friends, they think I'm such an expert. But really all I ever tell them is stuff I remember hearing from you." Melody remarked as we rode home.

It was touching to hear that. And I thought, my most satisfying craft is most likely the one I spend time on building connections with my loved ones.

Photos taken over the years during our visits to the Art Institute of Chicago. R-L, Me, Melody, Emily.

10 November 2017

Uncanny


"...there is at least one time in my life that, as I look back on the experience,
fills me with a sense that I had been touched with an spark of uncanny insight..."

I’ve talked with people who have told me of personal scary “ghost stories” or strange X-files-type encounters with unexplained events or phenomena. I’ve often felt jealous of those friends who breathlessly recount their brush with the supernatural and the mysterious. Although I was often filled with terror of the dark and imaginary monsters as a child (werewolves were the most horror-inducing creatures of all), I have never encountered anything truly “spooky” —or at least anything that couldn’t later be easily explained rationally in the light of day. No alien encounters. No ghostly presences in abandoned houses. Yawn.

But there is at least one time in my life that, as I look back on the experience, fills me with a sense that I had been touched with an spark of uncanny insight or deep personal revelation. At the age of 11, on a breezy Summer evening, I was watching the Dick Cavett show on the family’s boxy black and white TV when the fluttering lace curtains of the open window in the adjoining room captivated me. In a rush my consciousness was propelled through the window and into the night sky above my house. I could see in my minds eye my self watching the TV, in the house on the lot among the trees; then on the planet, below the Moon. Like invisible metal filaments that form the shape of bands on the paper surface around a magnet, I could perceive and sense my connection to the life on the planet and to the greater universe as part of some enormous galactic loop. Memory of that pure sense of cosmic connection is still as palpable and vivid to me today after many years.

I consider the experience to be a gift from God who, in spite of being the subject of much stale dogma, is The Father of Spirit and who breathes spirit into us all.

Post Script: This comic expresses some of the sense of being that I felt.

27 October 2017

Children of Atlas

"Consider the Earth Worm"  © O. Douglas Jennings
I am convinced that earthworms must be one of the most underrated wonders of the world. They are nature's underground, unseen laborers who constantly move, process and rejuvenate the soil. Children of Atlas who bear the burden of lifting the earth and more as they eat, fold, and swim in the dust of ages. Intertwining with and through the hidden roots of all plant life; intermixed with all those who sleep in the earth, worms must somehow know, as the angels know, the starlit space of the heavens through their underworld counterpart environs. We would do well to become more familiar with both.

BONUS:
After his revolutionary work The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote a book on earthworms that is the first scholarly treatment of soil-forming processes.

20 October 2017

My Cuban Missile Crisis Story


My brother Harlan, sister Alicia and I (on the toy plastic horse) in Florida in 1962.

When I was one year old, my mom, dad, and 4 other siblings moved from Peoria, Illinois to Cocoa Beach, Florida. It was 1961.

My mom was a school teacher and my dad was a factory worker. We were only there for a year or two (which is another story). But besides family photos, I have what I think could be one vague memory from that time. As an adult,  I asked my mom about it.

"Did you ever have a birthday party for me when were were there?", I said. I'm not sure if I detected a very slight tone of parental defensiveness in her voice, "I'm sure we did. We'd celebrate birthdays for all of you kids."

"It's just that...." I try to explain, "....I have a memory that I can't really figure out. I must have been young because I remember...I think...I was in a high chair and ...." I strain to verbalize the quavering imagery of the memory, "...and I'm fairly sure I'm at my own birthday party." I don't go into too much detail on the phone but I see, in my minds eye, there being a cake, the smiling face of my only sister, other happy people... and a brightness to the light coming in the window...and a green, lush quality to the outdoors that I can see through the back door leading out of the kitchen. "I think you gave me a toy truck as a present."

"We probably did. That sounds like something we would do." Mom said. I was disappointed that she could not remember it as well.

Later, I did some research into the timeline of world events happening at the time we stayed in Florida. I realized it was probably too much for me to expect my Mom would remember my birthday which falls on October 24th.

During October was when the most intense aspects of the deadly stand-off between United States and the Soviet Union over Soviet Missiles in neighboring Cuba took place. The so-named Cuban Missile Crises was surely the most dangerous pinnacle of tension between two world powers as ever seen in the history of our planet.

In other recollections, my mom told me that at her school, children were told to bring dry food goods in case they had to shelter there during a missile attack.

We were on the brink of nuclear war which most experts feel would have surely meant annihilation for the human race or, at least, life as we know it. At the very least it would have blasted us back into the Stone Age.

In, fact two days after my birthday that year, on October 26, the U.S. Stategic Air Command nuclear bombers were placed on the almost unthinkable level of a defense readiness condition: DEFCON 2. That is one level of intensity before all-out war (DEFCON 1). It has never been at that level before or since that time of geopolitical crisis. For comparison, during the attacks of 911, the U.S. war readiness was at DEFCON 3.

 But the world survived this contest of nerves. One year and a month after that, on November 23rd, the President that my dad helped to elect and who stared down the Soviets during the missile crisis, John F. Kennedy, would be assassinated. But I and my family survived to celebrate my 3rd birthday in in Energy, Illinois that year (no record of the party but it’s something we would have done).

17 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 review. Non-spoiler

 
"Off-set Effect" Art of Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 © O. Douglas Jennings

As a long-time fan of the original Blade Runner, I was eager to see the sequel starring Ryan Gosling who I enjoyed most in the movie Drive. First off, I recommend the movie —particularly for avid Sci-Fi enthusiasts and if you’ve seen the original movie. But I can’t say that it was a completely satisfying film on all levels.

What I loved:

Ryan Gosling.
This guy proved yet again that he can play the kind of loner hero in a role that in previous generations would be given to Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson or, even, Harrison Ford. Is it cliche to say “the camera loves him”? I know that on the big screen, Gosling commands my attention and draws me in with the persona and understated expressions he brings to these flawed hero roles.

Music.
It expertly yet non-slavishly evoked the musical feel of the fist Bladerunner in a way that built upon the original’s solid foundation while bringing in a fresh, updated quality.

Cast.
My least favorite member of the cast was Jared Leto as Wallace. But it could be due to the story that I felt didn’t resolve his character’s role well enough in the plot. But everyone else, I felt, were cast well and gave strong performances. I qualify that with the contrary feeling that Harrison Ford was somewhat under-used. But he had to be there and it was great to see him and Gosling interact.

Twists.
Wow!!! There were a lot of twists, which, as promised, I won’t spoil here. So hang on to your seats and pay attention! Although I predicted some plot lines before they happened, there were enough that kept me guessing that it was a fun ride for a good while.

Themes.
I’m somewhat of a philosophical movie watcher. I love big themes, cultural touch stones and allusions to literature in movies. There were Biblical references (replicants as a type of angels for example), fairy-tale allusions and comments on the human condition that I felt had resonance for me. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you I enjoyed the carry-over of the role of memories in a person’s development and sense of self.

What I didn’t like: 

Loose plot threads:
There were some plot lines that were brought up that I did not feel were resolved well. This is not a deal breaker. More like a little “fly in the ointment”. But not a big fly.

The Last Third of the Movie:
I felt like I could not enjoy the movie as much after two thirds of the movie had passed. Some final twists that sorta lost me. And I must admit that the way Decker (Harrison Ford's character) was used used in the plot was somewhat anti-climactic.

FINAL THOUGHTS -- In spite of my peeves about certain parts of the film, I find that it stayed with me and made me think about the questions and philosophical issues that it raised. And since I saw the film, I've also viewed the three short films set in years leading up to the events in the theatrical release. I will most likely buy the DVD or Digital version of the movie when it is available. I have the Directors Cut of Blade Runner so having Blade Runner 2049 will complete the set.

One more thing. I saw the movie on a Monday early evening. The new, well appointed Cinemark Theater XD was a terrific sight and sound facility. Yet I was completely alone in it. Not one other person was in this large-screen, 100+ seat room with plush recliner seating. So.... was my feeling of isolation I got from the movie with it's barren cityscapes and climate-change desolate landscapes a result of deliberately crafted story or was it because I was in a desolate room? Would the feeling of isolation and alienation that I felt from Blade Runner 2049 been less if the theater space was full?

BONUS: Here are videos I enjoyed that discussed Blade Runner 2049 (SPOILERS):