Let’s watch THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER in Iceland: 1.01: “Marionettes, Inc.”

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Title card with appropriate “digital clock” typeface.

SEPTEMBER 20th 2018 — Ray Bradbury loved cinema and cinematic storytelling all his life.

From trips to the movies with a beloved family member when he was a boy, he fell in love with the form and it never ended.

Two characteristics permeate all his writing: all of it is lyrical — he had the soul of a poet and that’s why he’s one of my favorite writers — and much of it is powerfully sensual. It engages all the senses.

He said one could film any of his stories by simply turning each sentence or paragraph into a shot. All the information was there, he said, in his writing: what to show and when and how.

From 1985 to 1992 the world enjoyed his TV series THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER. It was filmed on location in many countries: Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and France.

Ray personally scripted every episode and proved his profound and natural understanding of how to tell a story in this form. His work for the series is a model of what to do and not do in scripting film and television.

(I prefer saying just “film” from now on. These are mini-movies in all but name.)

Scenes are allowed to unfold without drowning everything under too much dialogue. Just enough is said and not said. Sights, sounds, and yes, through the power of his work and that of his collaborators, also smells, tastes, and tactile experiences come through.

Iceland is to me Bradbury country and more like the remembered land of my childhood than anywhere else I have been as an adult. Magic is still possible here. The elements have power, like in his stories. The wind has a presence unlike anywhere else. There is the sea, there are mountains and waterfalls, and dark nights and summer cottages in pristine nature.

Stories live here and are respected. As is poetry. As is music. I write this in a snug bedroom with a great big bed and a slanting ceiling of the kind that through some geometrical alchemy seems to fire the imaginations of all creative people. I wish more than anything that I could really share all this.

In any case, Iceland is a great place to watch THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER. I also did so in Paris last winter, and before that in Finland. As an adult, and long ago, first in childhood.

“Marionettes, Inc.” (1985), directed by Paul Lynch (who also directed many episodes of the STAR TREK spin-offs), is not among my favorite episodes. I felt casting James Coco (1930–1987) as the protagonist was not the best choice.

But like all these episodes, this one too affords many incidental delights. Here are some of them.


This and every other episode of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER is available as part of a DVD box set. Despite nearly VHS-quality video, it comes with my warmest recommendation.

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Pitch shifting, rhythms, & a figure

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Audio Damage’s Discord4 pitch-shifting delay for iOS. This company was founded in the United States in 2002.

SEPTEMBER 13th 2018 — Today I continued several long-running threads in my life:

First, learning to use more music-making apps, in this case Audio Damage’s pitch-shifting delay Discord4.

This allows for creating various effects for which I have no immediate use — but I am proceeding methodically to build a strong and wide foundation in all areas of music-making. It is good to have skills to draw upon when the need arises. This one relates for me most to the end stage of putting flourishes on otherwise pretty finished pieces.

Second, building my personal rhythmic vocabulary. In Paris last winter, I started implementing this idea when I found a notebook perfect for this purpose. Rather than horizontal or horizontal and vertical lines, its pages are marked with matrices of small crosses.

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This little book from Paris holds my catalogued rhythmic vocabulary so far. After noting down each new rhythmic pattern with simple Xes over the cross matrices on the pages, I transfer each pattern to three solid favorite music-making apps. I’ll be able to draw upon this treasury of inspiration and material for the rest of my life.

I had long been pondering this notion of starting to create a personal catalogue of rhythms, because I had come to realize that this is a key to much greater musical productivity in the future.

I derive these rhythms from melodies and harmonies of music as well as strictly percussive music and personal inspirations. And these rhythms can be used not only for percussive but also melodic and harmonic ends in creating new pieces.

As for the notebook, it didn’t hurt that its cover is themed in pink Tiki symbology. That made me smile. Tiki paraphernalia, so linked with 50s Americana of a certain kind, holds for me a quaint, carefree charm.

As for the figure mentioned in the title of this post, I learned yesterday that our little dark adventure game SERENA (for which I was one of the writers) has now been downloaded 1,684,328 times on Steam.

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More than 1.6 million downloads.

It is quite mind-boggling. Over 1.6 million souls all over the world have for a myriad reasons downloaded and experienced our game. We all poured our best work possible at that time into this game — I remember the exactly two months it took us to make it from conception to release as an extremely fertile, productive, inspired time — but it is safe to say this popularity has exceeded all our expectations. It seems to have struck a chord in the hearts of many.

Bradbury country

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THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER 1.01: “Marionettes, Inc.” (1985).

SEPTEMBER 10th 2018 — What is Bradbury country? It’s a place where the magic of life and childhood are still possible. Where the elements and outwardly simple, primal sensory experiences can still get to you. The night means something, and the wind, and all the repeated rituals of life.

The first image and sound of the first episode of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER after Mr. Bradbury’s introduction:

Boiling eggs, closely followed by brewing coffee and toasting toast. I can’t begin to say how refreshing it was to me to see and hear these things. I could taste and smell the eggs, the coffee, the toast.

I was reminded of the good things in life, the things we would miss most if we were shot out into space, never to return.

Where in our filmed fiction these days do we even see or hear these things anymore? And when we do, nearly always they are no more than halfhearted daubs of color to lend the thinnest surface gloss to a story without real human warmth.

In Bradbury and other fiction I can love, these things are primal, self-sufficient experiences that need no other justification. They may serve some story functions, but that’s not really why they’re there. They’re there because in these things our love of life finds expression. We share.

But that’s already getting too far into analysis. Better to just experience and savor when we can.

Why am I so preoccupied with what I call human warmth? And why the same with thoughts concerning childhood?

The questions are nonsensical to me, because I cannot imagine a human being I could love or even like who cared nothing for human warmth, and no artist or kind person worth much of our time has lost touch with or stopped caring about childhood — their own, and that of others.

And a person with a reasonably healthy and developed mind who did not concern himself or herself at all with thoughts and hopes of making the world a better one for children to grow up in could perhaps be called something of a monster.

When I came to Iceland again, one day I was alone pushing a cart in a supermarket,  feeling sad for reasons I won’t even try to put into words — and remembering the amazing scenes with Sarah Palmer at a grocery store in the TWIN PEAKS Season 3 trailer and episodes — and suddenly I heard a child’s voice that made my eyes sting.

It was so clear from that voice that this child was growing up in a caring family, in a world that is largely safe and where real childhood is still possible.

I had not heard that anywhere since my own childhood. Not in Finland and not in Paris.

It is a quality that I see and hear here, in passing, all the time. But I don’t remember it from Finland since I was a kid myself.

And like I’ve said, I believe there can be no greater gift you can give in this life than giving a child a safe, happy, good childhood and start in life.

We are here now — but one day we won’t be. We have to care and do what we can.

Sometimes I have days or nights when I feel I am on the very edge of the cliff. In my life, in better days, and on better nights, I have been lucky enough to be the recipient of great human warmth in many forms.

Words, deeds, from people very close and from people very far and even personally unknown to me. They all found some ways to pour some of their warmth out into this world, to pass it forward, and to give some of it to others.

When I feel on the edge of that cliff, I must remind myself that even if a wind were to gust up and blow me over that edge, I should try to turn around and hurl as much of my warmth back into the world as I can, even in that last moment — like a wizard casting their life energy as a final message and protection and strength over those with life still ahead of them.

I am not a wizard, but I care. Whether in art or daily life, if we find ways to do that, we are helping.