Whilst Learning the French I have found it helpful to watch the same ten movies over and over and over again until I sorta dope out the language in them. These are not necessarily good movies — some of them are quite bad. But that’s not exactly the point, now is it? Here’s the main ones:
- La Grande Vadrouille
: brilliant film, there should be more like it. It’s the French equivalent of the Great Escape, a 60s caper film about some English and American soldiers who get shot down in German-occupied Paris during WWII. All the characters speak their own languages and nobody else’s, so the movie is a mishmash of French, English, and German, tossed back and forth until you actually understand something.
- La Diner du Cons
: this movie is all about mispronounciation, puns, and bad French accents (they spend a lot of time making fun of Belgians), so it’s great — teaches about pronounciation and idiom.
- Banlieu 13
: This is an idiotic film that has taught me a lot of French. It’s Luc-Besson-as-Michael-Bay in a fairly ridiculous dark future parkour action movie. The subtitling is great, because it’s clearly someone who speaks good French and bad English.
: a completely amazing film about slapstick social justice by the people who made Amelie. Unfortunately the subtitles tell you “what they meant” instead of what they said. Jeunet is more or less my favorite director.
- Maison Close
: a six-hour miniseries about life in a brothel during the Paris Commune. I think. It’s definitely Paris and 1871 and all these people are wearing military uniforms; why would you do a movie like that and not have it be about the Commune? Tremendously complex and confusing, I’ve watched it twice and still don’t know more than a couple of the characters’ names. It does not help that I do not have English subtitles for it.
- Le Roi et Le Oiseaux
: animated children’s movie from the early eighties, a visual delight, extremely easy to understand. The sort of thing you’d see on TV on a Saturday morning if you were a French kid. I really like this one.
: this film is comforting and familiar and engrossingly cute. It’s also very, very carefully colored, which I find to be fruit for endless speculation. Possibly the greenest movie ever. I mean, there are a lot of green movies, but when this movie uses green it’s the greenest. Oh, and the dialogue is pretty simple, and narration illustrated by hilarious cutscenes is very easy to translate.
- La Revolucion Francaise
: It’s like a Masterpiece Theater story, but in French. Four hours long, completely incomprehensible. I know the revolution well enough to spot a couple of the main characters — it’s amusing how the film gravitates towards the ones who were of striking appearance in life (Robespierre, Saint-Just) and minimizes the ones of legendary ugliness (Mirabeau, Danton, Marat). I have learned a whole lot of not much from this one but I’ll keep trying.
These are stories from the Austin-American Statesman on the days of December 7th, 8th, and 9th, 1991.
Why is this important?
Because on the night of the 6th four teenage girls were murdered in one of the gristliest crimes I’ve ever heard of. If you know nothing about it, here is good place to start: http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2011-12-16/scene-of-the-crime/
What do these articles have to do with it?
Well, the first two photos are of a front-page story — it is the story that people would have been picking up and reading in the morning, as news of the murders first started to spread through the city. It tells the story of federal investigators raiding a prominent Austin policeman, and arresting his best friend, looking for evidence of a child pornography ring that was being run out of the Austin Police Department in 1991. They had already arrested the chief of vice, “Bubba” Cates, because he was involved in prostitution, pornography, and shaking down other local sex workers for protection money. The last part was the real problem. Cates was as dirty as they come, and federal investigators had followed the trail back to his superior in the APD and his friend Kallestad. They actually raided APD HQ at 8th and I-35. Kallestad was in jail for videotaping sex with a 15-year-old local girl. This is front-page news.
The third photo is from the paper on December 8th. Mr. Kallestad and Mr. Shaw are off the front page. There is talk of little else besides the yogurt shop murders. People are uniting behind the police as they track down the criminals. There is no further mention of Mr. Kallestad on Monday, if you were wondering. He is off the front page and he stays off the front page.
The sidebar story on the third page is interesting when you think, hey, a bunch of cops just got arrested yesterday for having sex with teenage girls, and then a bunch of teenage girls were brutally murdered, and honestly isn’t this sort of wildly suspicious timing? I never heard of Ms. Jessica Rose Marie Reeves before today, and she does not appear on the internet. I do know that Killeen is not far from Austin at all, less than an hour north.
The next article is from the 9th of December. I put it in here as pure speculation, but it certainly jibes with other things. It is my speculation that the killers are dead, and have been dead since very shortly after the murders. I have no idea who these people in the article are either — again, today is the first time I ever heard of them. But I would not be at all surprised to find that the real killers met their fate something like this, and it’s interesting that it happened on the 9th. I would also not at all be surprised to hear that the killers were rich, and it says right there that they were well known at the golf club. I’d like to know more.
I’d also like to be clear that I believe the APD of 1991 and the APD of 2012 to be entirely different animals. The police were flagrantly corrupt in the early nineties, and it caused a public outcry that has molded them into a model of a professional police department. I do not agree with most things that the modern APD does, and I have major problems with their base philosophy, but I want to be clear that I am aware of no connection whatsoever between the modern APD and the days of “The Family,” when Shaw and Cates ran a brutal domain. In fact, I think there is a strong movement within the APD that is as horrified by killings as anyone, and wish to bring the story to light. There are a lot of people who know a lot about this story in Austin. If you talk to people who were around then, it’s not as much a “We have no idea what happened” story as a “we know and we don’t talk about it.” Make no mistake; this was a terrorist attack, and it scared the hell out of a lot of people.
If I haven’t been clear, here are my conclusions: corrupt elements within the APD in 1991 commited or conspired the deaths of those four girls as a terrorist attack to distract the city from their own malfeasance. They also killed other people to cover their tracks. Most of those “elements” are now dead, retired, in jail, and powerless, so the story is really gaining momentum.
Your conclusions are of course your own, but that’s what I’m taking away from this.
Merle: Man, it sure is rough being handcuffed to a roof in a town full of zombies. Maybe if I hadn’t been such a crazy racist I wouldn’t be stuck here. On the other hand, bad luck had a lot to do with it. I guess you could say it was nature AND nurture.
Merle: Those zombies sure are scary, and if they could get through that fire door I bet they’d eat me up in a trice. Well, better get to escaping.
(through complicated maneuverings drags hacksaw across roof to self with belt).
Merle: what to do…what to do. Well, guess there’s nothing to it but to cut my arm off.
(sticks tongue out, screws out eyes, prepares to cut).
Merle: Wait! I almost forgot the most important part! The tourniquet.
(takes shirt off, wraps it around arm, ties off. Arm immediately turns bright red)
Merle: Legendary badassery here I come! Think I’ll start with the back of my wrist, save the veins and tendons for dessert.
(begins to saw through skin. Hacksaw quickly clots with bits of flesh)
Merle: Wow, this hacksaw doesn’t work very well. It’s almost like it’s designed to cut through metal instead of flesh. Of course, it’s so dull that it won’t cut through metal (obviously, or I wouldn’t be sawing my own arm off) but how is it therefore sharp enough to cut through flesh and bone? Oh well I will just have to saw harder.
(cuts through the outer layer of epidermis, begins to peel fascia away from inner sheathing of muscle and bone. Fingers begin to jerk uncontrollably as the tendons are slowly abraded away).
Merle: My goodness, that smarts! Good thing I have lots and lots of time while those zombies:
Merle: those zombies over there repeatedly try and fail to get through a locked door. You know, I’ve been out here so long, sawing on my own arm in the hot Atlanta sun, monologuing, I guess it wasn’t really that important to escape quickly. Those guys could have hung around for a while and really helped me not be handcuffed to a roof as much. Then I wouldn’t have to saw my own arm off. This is definitely their fault, by the way. Every time I sever another tendon
(there is a plonk!ing sound as one of his tendons breaks)
Merle: after I recover from feeling dizzy and lightheaded from losing all this blood and pain and stuff I am just so ANGRY at them. This is definitely all their fault. Oh well, I’ll just swear epic revenge. From now on where I look at the awesome empty space where my hand used to be I will only see my own bad ass, revenging myself on them. When they least expect it, too. Maybe season three?
(saws some more, gets to the bone, starts slowly grating through. Blade slips repeatedly).
Merle: This was easier before the blade got wet. Looks like there are still some dry parts on either end of the blade, guess I’ll use those for a while.
(comically saws too close to the handle, then too far away)
Merle: Oh if only I had had proper father figures in my childhood then perhaps I would not use a saw like such an idiot. Hey…you know what I just noticed? The links on the handcuff chains are made out of metal just like the handcuffs, but it is a lot thinner metal than the handcuffs! Well anyway what does that have to do with me.
(he gets halfway through the ulna. The blade gets stuck)
Merle: Oh man this is TENSE.
Merle: Better hurry! (saws) There we go!
(the ulna pops in half)
Merle: That’s pretty good, but it’s not good enough!
(he starts sawing on the radius. His hand randomly jerks and flops around)
Merle: Hey, you know what I just thought of? I bet I could have just cut my thumb off or maybe just a finger or two and slipped the cuff out that way. Less effort, too. (pause) But ya know, walking around missing fingers? That just looks stupid.
Zombies: (looking at each other) BRAIINN….????
(disappointed, the zombies leave. Merle whistles as he saws his arm off).
Not that I have the right to tell you, but this is what I’ve figured out.
Draw a big circle to fit the entire figure inside. This is to make sure that you don’t run off the edge of the page.
Draw a line for the spine. Just one line.
Draw a cup shape for the hips. Don’t draw more than that.
Draw a box for the torso, a circle for the head, and stick arms and legs. Don’t draw any other lines.
Turn the legs and arms into cylinders. Use no more than two lines each for this. That’s a cylinder for the lower arm, a cylinder for the upper arm, repeat four times. Block the torso in and turn the head into a sphere. Do exactly this and don’t do anything else.
The hand is a box. The foot is a wedge. Don’t draw toes. Toes are like teeth and eyelashes — as a general rule drawings look better without them. Don’t worry about fingers, if the hand is closed they’re a wedge, if they’re open it’s a cup, and if it’s anything else then draw an arc that shows where the fingers end and move on. Don’t draw anything on the face except for a line for the eyes and a line for the center.
And now for the most important part:
Actually follow these instructions. If you didn’t, toss that drawing, go back and do it again.
If you have followed my instructions properly, you will have a basic figure, and most importantly, NO OTHER BULLSHIT.
Now you can scribble. Use the remainder of your time and attention to elaborate details. Do whatever you want. After the basic figure, which should not take more than sixty seconds to draw, you have enough information to work one pose any which way. I usually start with the hips and the inside of the weight-bearing leg, and then get distracted by the collarbone or the bridge of the nose or whatever I feel like.
Not drawing is, for me, the hardest part of drawing. It’s taken me a long time to realize that wasted lines not only cloud the picture, they cloud my vision of the picture and make proportions impossible to get right.
I’ve taking life drawing classes pretty regularly for a pretty long time, and let me tell you, scribbling straight does not work. Give up, because it is wrong. Even if you are getting good results, you could be getting them faster if you just draw what you intend and don’t draw what you don’t intend. Thirty second and one minute poses are wasted on scribblers. You will only feel mounting frustration if you attempt to approach short poses in any other way than this, which is breaking the body down to simple shapes and then elaborating them.
Which is what you are supposed to be doing.
Life drawing models are living in a different time zone from the people drawing them. For the model the seconds tick by like hours, and for the artists five minutes is barely time to get started. Models cannot possibly pose for the time that artists want in the poses that artists need. Strenuous poses hurt. They cannot be held for any length of time. But many of the most interesting poses are strenuous. In my opinion the best balance between the model’s needs and the artists’ lies at about three minutes. That’s short enough that the model can do something cool, but long enough that the artist can get a good drawing of it.
So if you can’t bust out a decent life drawing in three minutes you’re missing out on the best stuff.
Finally finished the centerfold for Rocksalt #5, which is good because we go to press later today. Here it is, the thing that I was working on the whole summer:
If you wish to embiggen it, simply click here for the enormous version:
Three months! Thanks for your patience. As soon as Rocksalt #5 is done I have many, many things that I want to show you, including a new story that I’ve already done about ninety installments of. The next thing I am doing involves banging my head into web design until something breaks, and then moving on with War on Christmas.
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