The More You Holmes

From: Elementary ep. 5.17

Character name: Lady Frances (Carfax)

Reference: “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax” is one of the most underrated, underplayed mysteries of the whole canon, and on of my personal favorites. It involves a kidnapped lady and has one of the most chilling “gotcha” moments at the end, of any of the canon stories.

Though there are twists and turns in this ep, the Lady Frances is not a woman, but a Carfax Desperado guitar, described as the “Stradivarius of guitars.” Which of course is another reference to Sherlock Holmes’ musical instrument of choice.

Upcoming Events and Other Things

Golly, it’s been awhile, lovely lurkers. Sorry bout that. See, it’s around midterm time at schools one and two, it’s the end of one class session and the beginning of another for school three, and for school four, I’m behind in having my updates for the complete course shell up and ready to go. All that, plus my computer dying on me yesterday means not only are there wrenches being tossed in my machine, but several of them. Which I needs must juggle. Anyway.

That’s not counting the intense personal stuff happening right now too. Sheeeez you guys. And no, as usual, buy me a pint in person and maybe I’ll tell you a little about it. But there’s a little blog out there in the online world now (that’s very well written), on which you can see some of the story unfold. I won’t direct you there, to protect the not-so-innocent, but it is out there.

But hey! There are two events happening this week, in both of which I will be performing. One is an author’s reading series, on Thursday at Front Range, and the other is a politically themed burlesque show in Boulder, called Pussy Grabs Back. Either or both should be a lot of fun, so come one, come all…

Parakeet: a play

More from the about-to-be-recycled old notes from my MFA. I found this to be hilarious, though methinks it may not be funny to anyone else who didn’t experience the aged neo-Beats of the Naropa writing faculty. As far as I can ascertain, Anne is Anne Waldman, Andrew is Andrew Schelling, Andrei is Andrei Codrescu, Anselm is the late great Anselm Hollo (who now infamously called my work “determinedly derivative”), Reed is Reed Bye, then department chair, and I don’t recall who Ronnie or Tyler would have been. I think they were students/friends, which makes me feel awful that I don’t remember them. Anyone who was there, chime in in the comments. Anyone named STUDENT were all different people. The rest have both first and last names.  Also: I really really hope nobody gets offended by this. But, it was my dramatic impression, that hot summer afternoon, of  Colloquium #3. I don’t have it down, here, whether it was 1999 or 2000, but was one or the other. Also: go google all these names, kids, and get some real good reading added to your list…


ANNE: Blah blah blah…

ANSELM: (snores)

ANDREI: (nods)

ANNE: blah blah blah…

KATHY KUEHN: it’s wonderful to be here, working with you guys. It sort of spiralled from there

ANSELM BERRIGAN: (trying to look very wise) …

BRIAN EVENSON: (stares at the ceiling)

STUDENT: each shoe is a dream.

ANNE: that was wonderful…blah…

me and Monaco making observations together. Around this same time.

ANDREW: look where we are now.

ANSELM: (snores)

STUDENT: c’mon c’mon c’mon

ANSELM: (stares at the ceiling)

REED: (smiles sweetly)

ANNE: (chortles)

STUDENT: Fat chance

ALL: (applause)

KAREN YAMASHITA: took a lot of notes, I don’t know what everyone did

ANSELM: (snores)

NORMA COLE: This is a translation: I do love banana split

ANDREI: (snores)

STUDENT: Blah blah blah…

ANNE: (stares into space)

TYLER: Blah blah blah…God forbid you can become complacent, so

ANNE: (nodding)

RONNIE: bad boy bad boy

BRIAN EVENSON: It was a class on madness??

SIMONE FATTAL: Makes me want to clear my throat…


(then, underneath, I have a note which apparently is a term coined by C. Davis [whoever that is]: Techgnosis. hmmm, fascinating…)

The garage lights, foggy & dust-licked

Culling even more of my superfluous belongings, I have saved a few bits from my old notes from my MFA studies. I’ll share them here, a select few, before recycling. The following is an in-class exercise, of which the phrase in this blog post title is the prompt. If you know about writing, you’ll recognize the poetic form.


…late at night, after many margaritas (the kind they stop you after three), tottering to friend’s car, talking about love, war, or (more likely) sex, we enter.

going to friend’s car, we enter, a large parking garage, the kind that makes all women think of attacks, that make me in particular think of those action scenes in movies: car squealings, gun ricochet off paint, hiding between BMWs with a magic sword.

Power in two–not nervous like alone. The place itself is alone. And there, a sound. –Under the lone lights, stained with time and piss, he leans, jazz man.

Jazz man leans in that way on the cement wall. His sax softens it. He doesn’t look like anybody in particular–no more frightening or more beautiful than anyone. Ordinary–yet his sax softens cement.

We stop.

Not going home, yet. Friend lights cigarette. Not going home yet. Stay a while. Learn to listen. No hat, so no pay. No deal, no bargains. Only music. Only echoes subterranean. Ricochet off paint, moths tick, a syncopated metronome. Music.

Stage combat as a ryu

Back in my first martial arts training experience, I had the good fortune to train at a dojo that was intensely focused, complete, and rigorously disciplined in the instruction of its myriad arts. All the ryu-ha put together made for some high quality, authentic ninja training that has formed the base and foundation for many other practices in the many (many!) years of my life since then.

One of the documents I’ve come across as I cull my belongings is a page of musing re: making stage combat a facet of the trainings offered at the school. Before I recycle this (handwritten) document, allow me to share these thoughts of mine from 2004 with you, lovely lurkers.

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When most people think about the martial arts these days, one of two things come to mind: sport tournaments, and the movies. Therefore, most non-martial-arts people have a completely distorted view of what real martial arts (read: actually used in combat or self-defense) are really about.

As practitioners of ninpo, I feel it’s important to know what the fake stuff constitutes, so that we can freely communicate the differences to those who inquire. Also, as practitioners of theatre, I feel stage combat is one of the most important and useful trainings one can get in the theatrical arts.

Fake fighting and real fighting go hand in hand in this culture. Mark Grove isn’t so crazy in his inclusion of stunt work and stage combat in his dojo. I’d like to embrace this cultural idea of martial arts as theatrical, and include a branch of training in this art. In reverse, too, hopefully those only trained in the fake stuff can then also come to us, to learn what a real punch feels like to throw, and especially to receive, and etc.

I get poked in the sacrum with my brother’s boshiken. My first black belt test, ninpo taijutsu, at the Genki Kai dojo. Also pictured: sensei Jason Boughn.

Mini-Essay Contest Winner

As you’ll know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, lovely lurkers, each time I teach Comp 1. This semester’s winner is Bennett Fresh, discussing CGI vs. practical effects. Good job, everyone, and congrats to Mr. Fresh!


 

Real Fake Action

by Bennett Fresh

The art of special effects in film has a long and storied past, almost as long as the history of film itself. For more than a century, film has been the greatest storyteller available to the masses. From early nickelodeons to the blockbuster films of today, special effects have been used to suspend disbelief and transport audiences to new worlds. Practical effects, until very recently, have dominated the world of cinema. As computing power has become cheaper and more readily available, computer generated images have steadily risen in prominence. Many, including myself, have asked the question of whether or not CGI has been a detriment to film.  It is my belief that while CGI can be a powerful tool to help tell a story, it should be used sparingly.

George Méliès, the father of special effects, invented many of the techniques still used in film today. It was his work that laid the foundation for the effects that would captivate audiences and confound the laws of physics for more than a century. Considering the age of these early films, the effects have aged remarkably well. As time has progressed and the techniques pioneered by Méliès have become more refined, the films that make use of such effects continue to astound and amaze the audiences of today. Early computer generated imagery, on the other hand, does not possess the same luster it might have once had. Few examples from the early days of CGI are capable of producing the impact they intend and often produce little more than confused laughs from those accustomed to the more refined CGI of the modern era.

When producing a film, a filmmaker must consider all costs associated with telling their story. If the use of special effects is required, they must weigh each option carefully. CGI has an appreciable cost-to-benefit ratio when used for short sequences. As the length of a CGI sequence increases, the cost rises as the effectiveness drops. Take, for example, the less-is-more approach of Terminator 2. For those unfamiliar, the sequel to the original 1984 Terminator film introduces a polymorphic robotic foil to Arnie’s rigid, also robotic, protagonist. The scenes in which the phase changing takes place are short and dramatic. There is not much time to scrutinize the level of detail present, which lends greater power to the sequences that make use of CG. Even over two decades since its release, the liquid metal robot in T2 is still as convincing as it was in 1991. Contrast this with films that blow their entire budgets on CGI sequences that were glaringly awful even upon release, a great example being The Matrix Reloaded. The entire climax of the film revolves around a ten minute brawl between one hundred Agent Smiths that appear to be made out of silly putty and an occasionally solid Keanu Reeves. Here, even the end result does not justify the massive budget, as the action and gravity that the scene could have had is drowned in a sea of lumpy polygons that vaguely resemble Hugo Weaver in a black suit.

This is not so say that practical effects do not suffer from similar woes. The complexity of certain sequences can make practical effects prohibitively expensive, if not outright impossible. Although, unlike the big budget computer generated action sequences, absurdly expensive real fake action almost always pays off. As an example, let us look again at James Cameron’s Terminator 2. The specific scene to which I refer is the breathtaking helicopter pursuit, easily one of the most complex and dangerous stunt sequences ever filmed. The scene looks and feels real and will indeed have you “‘gespannt wie ein Flitzebogen,’ that is, on the edge of your seat,” (Anderson 1.6.10-11) because it is real. The action was all filmed in situ by James Cameron himself, as the stunt pilot scraped skids of the helicopter on the tarmac at seventy miles an hour over an artificially illuminated stretch of the Long Beach Terminal Island freeway. The lunatics who choreographed and participated in that chase produced one of the most convincing action sequences ever filmed.

Computer generated imagery is a relatively new tool for directors and filmmakers to express their stories on the screen. It has a great deal of potential and power if utilized correctly, just like any form of special effects. There are many examples of excellent films that benefited from using CGI, but there are many more examples where that is not the case. Practical effects, properly implemented, lend weight and believability to any scene in which they are used, with generally fewer catastrophic failures. Computer generated images would best be viewed as a spice that can enhance a film when used properly, or ruin a film when abused.

The Rock as the Scorpion King, looking like an awkward diorama from a history museum. ~Jenn

The Rock as the Scorpion King, looking like an awkward diorama from a history museum. ~Jenn

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Works Cited

Anderson, Wes. The Grand Budapest Hotel. Final Revision. 2013. Google. 3 Feb. 2017. https://d97a3ad6c1b09e180027-5c35be6f174b10f62347680d094e609a.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/film_scripts/FSP3825_TGBH_SCRIPT_BOOK_C6.pdf.

Stamm, Emily. “The Most Insanely Complex Stunts from Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.” i09, 31 Jan. 2014, https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-most-insanely-complex-stunts-from-science-fiction-a-1513419585. Accessed 31 Jan. 2017.

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The More You Holmes

From: ep. 2.3

Character name: Gregson

Reference: in this ep, you can only hear the name Gregson overlapped by other dialogue in Lestrade’s protest of his use of Sherlock to his superior, when he says “I’m not the only senior officer who’s done this; Gregson–” before he gets cut off. We never see Gregson or hear mention of him (her?) again. In fact, I have long taken Lestrade’s first name (Greg) as an Easter egg of sorts, referring to Gregson and Lestrade in one character.

In the canon, Gregson and Lestrade are two of the best of the Scotland Yarders that work with Holmes on his cases, or bring them to him. In A Study in Scarlet, Holmes describes the two as competetive “as a pair of professional beauties,” and neither of which would admit to needing or admiring Holmes for what he does for them.

Later in the canon, there are others that Holmes comes to respect, and a lovely moment in “The Six Napoleons” wherein Lestrade tells Holmes just what he thinks of him.