Thursday, December 3, 2009

Age of Legend: The Highlander

PERHAPS THE GREATEST reason for the success of the Highlander concept is that it embodies the age-old desire of the human being to live forever. Immortality entails a plethora of other eternal dreams involving youth and strength. Duncan MacLeod, in one of the episodes, encouragingly details the life as being whatever one wants to be. And in his four-hundred-year life, he has been, as the narration goes, “a warrior, a lover, a wanderer”—and a chopper of heads, because being his kind of an Immortal forces him to engage in life-or-death struggles with others like him, for the death of one such being brings to the victor something called “the Quickening”: an uncanny transference of power with the manifestation of thunder and lightning amidst a ripping whirlwind.

No matter how old the dream of immortality has been, the Highlander movies, television series, and books have successfully profited out of the concept. The inspiration that brought the Highlander to life came in 1980, when Gregory Widen concluded a summer vacation in Scotland where he came face to face with what to him was a handsome suit of armor, triggering his imagination about what would it be like for a knight to live in our present age. The knight immediately translated into an immortal, and the foundation was laid for a story he was to make entitled “Shadow Clan,” the script of which he later sold in 1982 that landed in the hands of director Russell Mulcahy.

Although the first Highlander film failed to draw instant success in the United States, it was different in Europe and other places internationally where a notably wide and persistent popularity developed [1], to quickly elevate the movie into cult classic status. The Film As Art review awarded it with four out of four stars, hailing Highlander as “a classic film that will continue to be cherished and watched as the world of movie-making continues to grow and change” [1]. FilmCritic.com fearlessly toasted to as “the greatest action film ever made” [1]. This tremendous popularity may have pre-echoed its advent as the casting was joined by acting living legend Sean Connery, one of the very few today whose very presence is a prophecy of forthcoming renown. This renown gave birth of four more sequels and a television series that lasted six seasons.


Adrian Paul surpassed Highlander: The Series producers by competently portraying one of sci-fi's greatest characters; and directing two of the show's best episodes of all time. Despite these, however, there remains a large part of Paul's skills that is underrated, if not unexplored.

Like The Highlander movie of 1986, Highlander: The Series blazed a six-season trail on television that critics like DVD Verdict called “unique and inspiring” [2]. For each season, DVD Verdict respectively graded Highlander: The Series with a 92 for the first; a 93 for the second, the show’s highest ever reached; a 90 for the third; again, a 92 for the fourth; an 87 for the fifth; and a 70 for the sixth, sadly its lowest. The last season seemed to be a launch pad for the new spin-off series the producers were experimenting on entitled Highlander: The Raven, which featured Elizabeth Gracen, a regular guest in Highlander: The Series, in the lead as Raven. As a result, a number of episodes only featured Duncan MacLeod in cameos and two did not even show him at all. It was also said that Adrian Paul was seeking lesser involvement in the series in that he was gearing up for a career in the movies.

The Series rocketed to success despite casting a virtual unknown in playing the lead role of Duncan MacLeod. The producers, somewhat finding the ruggedly handsome Adrian Paul as a young Sean Connery [2], proved their choice unquestionably wise in that Paul revealed competence not only as The Series’ flag-carrying character but in also directing the episodes “Homeland” and “Revelation 6:8,” both hailed as among the four best of the entire series. Paul’s portrayal of Duncan MacLeod placed the character on TV Guide’s eleventh in a list of 25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends in its August 2004 issue [2].

The Highlander Universe

Highlander II: The Quickening Christopher Lambert and one of the movie world's living legends Sean Connery.


The Highlander stories follow a powerful scheme, a scheme so attractive in its apparent simplicity but engages the aficionado into a very stable, layer-after-layer sub-structuring mythology. First, it features immortals: beings born into the world who look every bit human but are generally endowed with eternal life. Ironically, however, in spite of this gift, the immortal is vulnerable to experience his life momentarily expire under certain threatening situations, particularly accidents. In most of the stories, it was through such conditions that an individual realized his gift. And usually, there was an older immortal awaiting his resurrection to adopt him and train him in the ways of immortal survival, for, again, in spite of the gift of eternal life, an immortal can be killed forever.

There is a ritualistic way of slaying an immortal and this is perpetrated by most immortals engaged in an activity called “The Game,” wherein two—and only two—immortals attempt to decapitate each other in a duel. This concept regarding the beheading of an opponent may have been borrowed from an ancient Celtic belief that a person's head is the seat of his power. Taking a warrior's head, therefore, meant taking his power. It was traditional for the ancient Celts to impale their victims' heads on top of poles or spears, in addition to casting and carving the images of human heads on certain accessories, including the hilt of their swords and daggers.

There could be no more than two immortals in the battle and it could not be waged on “holy ground,” which may mean a temple, a graveyard, a church, a mosque, or probably any place dedicated to religious activities. In this effect, immortals make holy ground their refuge should they seek temporary or even permanent withdrawal from The Game.

Every immortal is equipped with a precognitive sense that buzzes when he comes within certain radius of another immortal’s presence. This alarm mechanism, called The Buzz [2], was felt by Connor MacLeod the first time he encountered Kurgan in the field of battle. According to immortal mentors, the Buzz tells one to prepare. For battle.










From Highlander II: The Quickening, Michael Ironside and Christopher Lambert duel it out for the head.


When an immortal faces the fatal misfortune of defeat, when his head flies off from his neck by the victor’s blade, transference of “power” termed “The Quickening” takes place where the victor receives all of the victim’s abilities, skills, talents, wisdom, and experiences good or bad. It can be hinted that the loser’s personality, good or bad, may even be absorbed by the winner. If this is true, then it can be also implied that an immortal’s soul may evolve for better or for worse throughout the process of winning matches.

The Quickening, also said to be destructive to electrical and electronic devices that happen to be stationed within the area of the event. (PHOTO CREDIT: http://l.yimg.com/
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As earlier explained, The Quickening is evidenced by a rush of elemental disturbance of mostly thunder, lightning, and a strong whirlwind that surrounds the victorious immortal. The Quickening occurs every time a beheading takes place whether or not another immortal is present to receive the victim’s power. An example is a weak-willed immortal that solitarily devises and carries out a way to decapitate himself. Another is when an immortal is executed by a mortal, as what happened to the old immortal Darius when he was slain headless by the renegade watcher James Horton. In this situation, a manifestation of The Quickening may have been triggered, but because a mortal can neither absorb an immortal’s power nor be transformed into an immortal by it, the spiritual transference dissipated.




The Duncan MacLeod in the fitting, all-familiar ending to an exciting swordfight.If you happen to have left your documents in an area where a Quickening took place, you may have better luck finding it in, oh, Kansas? (PHOTO CREDIT: http://venturebeat.com/.)




The Game has been “played” by many immortals since time immemorial. Some immortals, like Darius, Methos, and even Duncan MacLeod, with their own unique reasons and motivations, chose to stay away from the deadly struggle. The first one, in a sincere decision to follow the way of peace, preferred to be a Catholic priest. The second admittedly lived a life in hiding, fearing the fact that, through the years, head-hunting immortals have grown more skillful in their deadly craft and that his sword skill was not enough to save him from them. Duncan did it for love.

Peter Wingfield as the old immortal Methos, a character that took over Darius as Duncan MacLeod's dear friend. (PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.fortunecity.com/lavendar/scaramouche/69/Methos2.jpg.)

In the pilot episode of Highlander: The Series, Duncan is introduced living a simple life with a stunningly lovely wife by the name of Tessa Noel, played by Alexandra Vandernoot. They ran an antique shop called the MacLeod & Noel Antiques. Connor—Christopher Lambert himself—one day appears to urge Duncan to rejoin The Game and aid the cause of good to triumph over evil (a concept dealt earlier regarding the evolution of the immortal's soul). Because of love, Duncan was disinclined to agree. The arrival, however, of the evil immortal Slan Quince who was currently after Duncan’s head forces this lover to re-don his katana and receive the rush of The Quickening once again.


What immortal heart or eye dare resist thy lovely symmetry? Moving on after Highlander: The Series, the ever-lovely Belgian actress Alexandra Vandernoot, once donned—and fittingly donned!—the character Tessa Noel: the mortal greatly loved by Duncan MacLeod.

Yet though Duncan had rejoined and experienced rush after rush of The Quickening from countless opponents, he had developed no taste for The Game. As a matter of fact, he seemed to have despised it, though he was resigned to the truth that these deadly one-on-one battles would soon culminate into a final war called The Gathering. The concept of The Gathering is like a Ragnarok wherein, as all the Viking deities battle to the death, so will all remaining immortals. But unlike the Ragnarok where no one is meant survive, The Gathering will yield a victor, the “only one” spoken of in the beginning narration of every Highlander: The Series episode, who will claim The Prize.

Boy, don’t you just love these capitalized-and-articled common nouns—The Buzz, The Game, The Gathering, The Prize, the Only One, and here's one more.Until The, er, the movie Highlander: The Source (2007), no one had a clue what The Prize was. (PHOTO CREDIT: http://upload.
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Until the fifth Highlander movie, one could only guess what The Prize would have been. One disadvantage of being an immortal was the inability of one to produce an offspring. It could be gathered from the stories that it was the mortals as well that produced the immortals. Duncan MacLeod once sarcastically commented that the only role of the immortals was to kill each other in the shadows while the mortal multitude advanced and developed in life. MacLeod then was speaking in context to The Gathering, which he soon won in Highlander: The Source. The Prize was The Source: the mother of all the immortals and with whom Duncan became one with in marriage to thus begin a race of immortals, possibly on earth.

Duncan MacLeod surviving The Gathering and winning The Prize could have been easily concluded in the beginning narration of each episode of The Series: “In the end, there could be only one. He is Duncan MacLeod. The Highlander.” And in the end, after all related movies, television series, books, audios, and multimedia games, The Highlander has become a twenty-plus-year-running documentation of the winner of The Game of immortals.

I am Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod. Check thee out my awesome blade. And check thee out how I brandish it! Feel the wind split in its keenness! Yeah! Yeah, indeed! (PHOTO CREDIT: Baverel Didier/Corbis Kipa. Spin blur enhancement mine.)

The Deadgame Endgame

WHAT CANNOT BE SOMEWHAT easily absorbed was how the story of Connor MacLeod ended. In Highlander: Endgame (2000), both starring Lambert and Paul, Connor forced Duncan into a duel leading to the first one’s decapitation. Connor was convinced of three things: that Kurgan was far more than a match for either him or Duncan; that it would take his power and Duncan’s combined to defeat Kurgan; and that between Duncan and himself, Duncan was the better fighter. So Connor forces his clansman into a duel where Connor meets his end. The Quickening merges both clansmen’s power into a force to match Kurgan. Connor’s death failed to convince some fans of the soundness in martyring the original Highlander, much like with how Duncan’s sidekick Richie Ryan, in the television series, was killed off, most of all by Duncan’s sword. To this day, many are those who argue whether the death of Richie was necessary at all. END?


Stan Kirch as Richie Ryan, one of the costliest casualties of producer discretion. An original cast member, he was introduced as Duncan's sidekick in season one's first episode. Then the producers one day decided, Hey, why not make him an immortal? After all, he too handsome an' we wouldn't want all those good looks going to waste, now would we? And the legend of Richie Ryan grew. And then one day again, they concluded a meeting to kill him off. Repercussions? Richie's death was supposed to be the fifth season's cliffhanger for the start of the sixth. But with him gone by then, with fandom in an uproar, and with Duncan's appearance starting to languish, The Series quickly drifted into cancelville. Before being killed off, Richie Ryan had already been making scarce appearances throughout the episodes after becoming an immortal, cultivating some speculation that he may have then been ripe for a Highlander spin-off. A spin-off series was indeed launched—Highlander: The Raven—but had nothing to do with Richie. What would have it been like if his character lived the course of his immortal life, long enough to have his own spin-off series? Highlander: The Legend of Richie Ryan?

References:

1. http:\en.wikipedia.com\wiki\Highlander (film)
2. http:\en.wikipedia.com\wiki\Highlander The Series

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Heroes of the Antediluvian Age: A Word Study

The words "giant" and "giants" appear twenty-one times in the Bible and are used in three specific connotations. The first one is a rare one appearing in Job 13:14: gibbor, or "a powerful warrior, a champion, chief, mighty man, strong man, giant." The meaning also stretches to include "tyrant." Its adjective form is gibber, "valiant."

The next word is the most commonly used rapha. It gives the idea of an invigorated physical strength. The primary root of rapha figuratively denotes "to cure, (to cause to) heal, repair, or thoroughly make whole." It is familiar to us when taken in the name Raphael, literal for "God has cured." The term Rephaim, or Rephaites, is a frequent sight in the Old Testament. This noun singles out a race of giant people living in the Promised Land before the Chosen Race took over. In the King James Version, the Rephaim is used as a general term to speak of the Giant race during Moses' time.

The third and last word appears two times: one occurring before Moses, the other after his death. It is the noun Nephilim, a transformation of the verb naphal that means "to fall down," and "fall away." However, the richness of meaning includes the following: "to overthrow, to overwhelm, perish; to be lost, to make rot; slay, smite out, or throw down." It also suggests "a fugitive." Though the meanings present a rather violent image of these creatures, the passage in Genesis 6:4 highlights them as "the heroes of old, men of renown" (New International Version).

The claim about giants dominating the planet in the distant past has also been recorded from among the now-extinct cultures in Europe. The Vikings believed that they were even magic wielding, instrumental in creating the earth and founding the human race; the Celtic druids called them "fomors," the enemies of the high gods of the heavenlies; the mythical history of England begins with a giant named Albion. The ancient Greeks spoke of a race of immortal giants called Titans that mingled with humans. Classicist Edith Hamilton described them as a "splendid race of godlike heroes" (Edith Hamilton, Mythology, Mentor Books: New York, 1969; p. 69). Where did this race of giants come from? Are the giants of ancient records one and the same?

The Bible and the Fantastic

At the onset of the new millennium I was excited to hear that my all-time best-loved fantasy-adventure saga was coming to the big screen. I remember one day as a fourth-grader in 1978, browsing at the library (as instructed by the teacher), and finding a worn, tattered-covered The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings slid deep back at the beginning of a row of books in a shelf, obscured in the shadow of one much larger and lovelier. It was a scene straight out of a fantasy movie: the antiquated appearance of the shy book’s spine suddenly spews with intrigue, causing me to squeeze my left hand into the recess and nudge out the book with my fingers. It was this Tolkien tale that launched me into a vast world in my mind of sword and sorcery, metal and magic, dragons and dungeons. There was one conflict, though: I was also caught up in a whirl of the Evangelical revival sweeping the Philippine religious landscape during that time. My sister, a zealous convert, was quick to warn me of the implications brought by dragons and magic. The very presence of these symbols, as made understood to me, will set me in danger to the fires of hell. The immediate result was a bombardment of emotional pressure similar to giving up smoking for the first time in the face of aborning symptoms of lung cancer. And because one older in the Faith told me so, it was out of the question to get on my knees and ask God for myself whether the very symbols of Sauron, Saruman, or Gandalf would drag me to the Lake of Fire. But thank God, He’s God; for as surely as an older co-sibling had zealously warded me away from my beloved Tolkien pages, He sent a much older brother, the very one who got my sister into the born-again swirl, to restore my joy by handing me another Tolkien book: The Hobbit.

He patiently explained to this little boy that even the Bible features dragons: one that symbolized Satan in chapters 12 and 13 of Revelation; and one that does not, with a creature called the Leviathan cited in Job 41 for its strength, sovereignty and invincibility. It was settled then; the demarcation line drawn: be wary of dragons; and that witchery and sorcery is bad. Reconciling the dwarves and elves came much later in my college life in the Bible school, when the Holy Scriptures suddenly drew a fantastic of its own. Out of Genesis 6:4, the Giants emerged. And they were as widespread among ancient cultures as were the dwarves and the elves.

The ancient Greeks called them Titans; the Celts called them formors. The Vikings believed in a race of magic-wielding giants that populated the planet. The identical and extinct civilizations of the Near East shared the idea about an enormous breed of “Elder” gods that walked the earth. And a surviving detail of these ancient giants is mentioned in our said Biblical passage where, in Hebrew tongue, they are known as the Nephilim.

As students of the Bible, the Nephilim would bring a momentary excitement in our discussion because it spurred our imagination into the images of literary fantasy, like Conan the Barbarian. But the big picture never held any importance for these creatures because, as Evangelical Christians, we were concerned with the eternal salvation of the soul, not in building worlds of fantasy with Giants who were shortly obliterated in the Flood. But as it turned out they were never entirely annihilated by the Flood and continued to exist to threaten the Israelite kingdom in the eleventh and tenth centuries B.C. Goliath was an evidence of this. Nevertheless, it was still ancient history, and more recent history shows that Christians never wanted any part of the world outside the subject of Salvation. For if our Lord Christ Jesus promised to return a second time to gather His faithful, then by God, we’re going to wait. And wait. Any moment now. St. Paul in the first century A.D. thought that Christ would come in his lifetime. In adhering to Christ’s teaching the Christians “are not of the world” (John 17:14), so Evangelical Christians today quote the passage with conviction to avoid entangling themselves with useless matters such as lost legends and tall tales. But the truth surrounding the Nephilim, though may not affect immediate spiritual salvation by faith, is not as trivial as commonly believed.

As it turns out, the Giants were the symbol of the highest ideals of the Cainite culture, the worldwide movement of Cain’s family that swept the world to replace Adam’s righteous culture. It was therefore expected for the peoples to call them gods and heroes. But inasmuch as the followers of Cain loved them, the adherents of the Adamic culture hated the Giants. While the world saw the Giants as the embodiment of perfection, the righteous ones looked at them as corrupt. As the Bible suggests, the corruption was so great during that time, that God commanded a cleansing of the planet through a worldwide flood. And by not studying the existence of these great creatures, unanswered therefore is the question of how a tiny Cainite counter-culture overwhelm the dominant, pre-existing Adamic civilization established by God.

Contrary to the suggestion brought by the imposing idea of Giants, the Cainites did not seize the world by force, but through the subtle wiles of comeliness: an approach that has proven very effective in leading steadfast wills astray. It was true among God’s faithful then, it is a reality now. The Cainites knew that they would never win a battle by storming the gates of the Adamics with the physical power and intimidation of their Giants armed with crude technology, gently knocked in the hearts of the faithful but restless with the weapon of seduction, when “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” (Genesis 6:2, King James Version). It was a serious matter of muddying the distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous. Thousands of years after, St. Paul would continually warn Christians from being “yoked together with unbelievers” (II Corinthians 6:14, New International Version). By the word “unbelievers,” we mean those who work against God’s plan of prosperity and goodwill to any man.

The image, therefore, of the fearsome Giant, or ugly dragon, is balanced by the sweet sight of the temptress, the shiny surface of a succulent apple, the reasons presented in logical pretense aimed to turn the truth into a lie to those gullible enough to give evil’s voice a chance. This is why the Book of Proverbs, presenting evil in its subtle form as “folly,” presents destruction as a loud and boisterous harlot who entices the young and na├»ve with her brand of superficial but empty charm. There must be a reason Proverbs was placed in the middle of all the books of the Bible. More than many Bible stories show that the people of God fell into the power of sin (or, garbage) after they tolerated its existence and did not eliminate it as God commanded. Somewhere in Judges, a Delilah masterfully crafts the downfall of a mighty leader; in I Kings, his pagan concubines successfully lure a King Solomon, famed far and wide for his wisdom, away from his Godly worship forever; then a ruthless Syrian queen named Jezebel rules by the side of her Israelite king. It took the faint but deceiving wiles of an enemy to turn the fate of the world in the Garden of Eden when the serpent, known to be the wisest and therefore the animal kingdom’s most credible, to convince Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. But what took the serpent words to accomplished was merely facilitated in silence by the Cainite daughters to the Sons of Adam in Genesis 6:2.

Notice how a fledgling culture of spiritual isolation from God established by a life-worn Cain, the Bible’s first murderer, rise to outstrip the trend established by his father Adam.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween, without the Ghoulies, Ghosties, Long-leggedy Beasties...

"'Twas the night before Halloween when all through the house...." Exciting night this Halloween, with the young and old looking forward to it.

For the ancient Celts, it was between a harvest thanksgiving celebration and the new year. But instead of partying and choruses of the Auld Lang Syne, there were spooks and ghosts and ghouls. And that has been the legacy we today have inherited from the ancients, and Halloween has become the season of the ghoulies, ghosties, long-leggedy beasties, and everything else that go bump in the night.

The Chinese have a similar celebration called the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, held on the full moon night of the seventh lunar month. It is said that nether ghosts emerge from the spiritual realm to walk the land of the living. The living burn joss paper and lay food on the roadsides for these transient spirits. Candles are also lit and strewn along the roadsides, for people fear the concept of a wayward ghost wandering into an unsuspecting home and terrorizing it unintentionally.

As still believed, there are among this throng from hell victims of heinous and unsolved crimes and forgotten accidents, and that the time of the Festival is their opportunity to haunt the guilty known only to them.

The food on the streets is also for the spirits who may happen to go hungry along the way, so it does not need to harass any nearby houses or restaurants.

In this day and age when be boast of rationality and "superior logic," why do we need to celebrate anything as spiritual as Halloween or Hungry Ghost Festival? For the fun of it? Because ghosts are reported worldwide and are probably true?

Human nature has always asked the question, "Why does man have to die?" Death is a discontinuation of contact between the expiring organism and the world around him. Any influence that has existed between the two disappears upon the death of the organism. All that is left is a memory. Upon death, it will be up to those that yet live to continue what has been started.

This Halloween, amidst the trick-or-treats and the scary movies and the illusions of fearsome monsters, let us remember our loved ones who have given their lives so it would go better for us. For those who have lived their lives with us in their hearts even when we were still unborn. Maybe this is what the Psalmist in the Bible meant when he, while attributing the song to God, said, "your eyes saw my unformed body" (Psalm 139:16 New International Version). Our parents, while they have yet newly entered the doorsteps of married life, saw our unformed bodies and promptly started to make a life for us.

For the people who have done us wrong. It may be too much to ask that we remember them too, yet afford a glimpse at this notion: that they have been set before us as examples we must not follow. Some of us complain and say, "Well, if there's a God, why does He allow this jerk to live? He's done nothing for the betterment of our lives, so why does he yet prosper?" Maybe his personal welfare is not why God or life has kept this "jerk" alive today. Maybe his presence makes yourself ask the question whether the path you take today is somewhere near the path that made him what he is. Or maybe it will always be a reminder for you to guide your loved ones—like sons, daughters, or grandchildren—more diligently. In this case, we may need to give these "bad examples" the proper respect just the same.

In the Bible, King Saul lived as a bad example for David. The former was a king who was acting like a bloodthirsty maniac chasing the young warrior, who would not lift a finger against "the LORD's anointed," all around ancient Palestine. Did David later live his life like Saul? Read I and II Samuel and find out for yourself that he did not. In fact, while all his colleagues were urging him to take the opportunity and slay Saul while he relieved himself in the same cave David and his men were hiding in (I Samuel 24:3), David retorted: "The LORD forbid that I do such a thing to my master...for he is the anointed of the LORD" (verse 6).

Therefore, think before you treat this "good-for-nothing nobody" like dirt. It may go bad or worse for you.

Honoring the memory of those who had gone before us is a noble tradition that we must keep up as long as we live. We honor their examples by words and in deed no matter who they are. By this, we learn to live in peace with our past, our present, our future, and most of all, to ourselves.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Developing the Art In You!

One of the first things in learning how to draw is to see and evaluate things beyond their superficial layer. Everything visual in nature, as taught by the Post-Impressionist Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), is based on a fundamental shape. The shape of an apple, for example, in spite of its bulges and recesses, is based on a sphere. The trunk of a tree, in its simplest form, can be seen as an upright cylinder. An ice cream cone is a combination of an inverted cone and a hemisphere, which represents the single ice cream scoop. The human body can either be constructed as a combination of cylinders or cubes and rectangular planes of varying sizes.

Cezanne was a master of the form. He took special care in constructing an object by bringing it down to its most basic form. According to him, “everything in nature is modeled after the sphere, the cone, and the cylinder”[1]. And it should be in this way that any novice artist must develop his perception.

In developing this acuity, the trainee will include in his exercises portrayals of nothing but the basic shapes. He may begin with a single shape, say of a sphere, filling his entire plate. It may also be enhanced with what he knows about lighting and shading; later, he may include the use of color. The most important thing, however, is that he must recognize and pay his respects to the basic shapes he may identify in everything.

Once the artist has accustomed himself to the basic shapes, it will be time for him to distort them. His next exercises will feature the distortion of these basic forms. By this time, the artist may be apprehensive in disfiguring the shapes he has learned to respect and draw in perfection. His plates, therefore, may show a slight warping of the shapes while largely maintaining their integrity. This is but a normal reaction. And this is how the very trend of how expressionism and the non-objective art of abstraction took shape. The artist may start with a standing cone twisted at its trunk, or a cube that appears to have been mashed by a careless grip.

The importance that this exercise promotes is that of experimentation. In this way, the artist develops a new way of seeing the world. Masters like Cezanne and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) grew out of the convention of merely copying from nature and began putting their creative visions above the obvious. Cezanne, in seeking for his own brand of balanced composition, ventured to distort the shape of an apple [2].

The later phase of an artist’s exercise is to compose his shapes in a shattered formation. While the second phase merely deformed his figures, this last stage requires him to blow apart his image. This is the beginning of the non-objective art of abstraction. In its simplest sense, one of the reasons why we see no figure in an abstract work is that it has been splintered all over the plate leaving the essence of the subject to be felt by the viewer.

For this stage, his illustration plates will attempt to portray figures in their broken state: maybe a cube that had been smashed by a sledge hammer or a sphere demolished into a hemisphere. The artist may reduce a basic shape into smithereens. The challenge here, however, is to retain any idea of the basic form despite the transformation represented. This is not difficult to portray. In real life, we reconstruct with our minds what a broken down wall must have appeared before state we presently perceive it. In this same way, the artist will allow his audience to visually reconstruct his shape, even without the use of a title to guide them.

Work cited:
1. Jeremy Kingston, “Arts and Artists” (Aldus Books: London, 1980), p.103.
2. Ibid., pp.16-17.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Greatest Heroes of Modern Mythology: Zuma

In the 1970's, the Philippine comicbook world was dominated by a fearsome green-skinned snake lord by the name of Zuma. This powerful anti-hero was created by a writer named Jim Fernandez and featured in the beginning pages of Aliwan Komiks, the most popular local comicbook of its time. The story wherein Zuma appeared was entitled "Anak Ni Zuma," or "Zuma's Child," and has been one of the Philippines' longest-running stories to date.

It took a while for readers to realize the significance of the title until the middle part of the story when Zuma's daughter, a pretty girl named Galema, was revealed to have the power to stop him. It was then thought by Zuma's nemesis that the poison she had was potent enough to kill him. Yet when presented the opportunity to finally use the poison against him, he merely slipped into hibernation. He awakes years later to continue his havoc on humanity. The span of his absence, however, nurtured his daughter to full maturity and power to engage her father in fatal combat.

Zuma was a green-skinned demi-god who ruled over serpents, a son of an Aztec god named Kukulkan. Around his neck slung a mutant snake with heads located at both ends of its body. Being half-man and half-deity gave him the immortal and invincible privileges; yet in the stories, he even seemed to possess the nine lives of a cat, in that he slipped past tortuous predicaments without being landed a blow.

Zuma is one character I wish I had the privilege to create. Imagine a green-skinned, g-strung Superman who worked on the side of destruction and mayhem.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Boredom: The Lurking Killer

Are you bored? Tired? Slowed down by the pace of a dragging day? Sick and tired of being sick and tired? That's dangerous. And protracted boredom can be deadly. You have heard people exclaim how "bored to death" they are that they feel like "shooting" themselves. The origin and development of this run down, exaggerated statement will surprise you.
        Those who grew up in the 1980's may remember a TV actor and model by the name of Jon-Erik Hexum, whose rise to stardom was ended in a tragic fate of Russian roulette during one of the long intermittent delays that plagued his television series tapings. Early on in the aftermath, fans, co-stars, and the TV crew alike were not ready to believe that Jon-Erik died by his own hands. This is where the incident becomes controversial. Negligence for safety was filed against the studio management of CBS. Years later, his co-stars would continue to point to the gross disregard to in-house safety procedure. But when viewed in the context of boredom, the circumstances surrounding his accident will appear grimly disturbing.
        The production shoots of the television series “Cover Up” at this time was plagued with long periods of intermittent delays, and Jon-Erik rose from a nap he inadvertently took on the on-set bed during one of these “break times.” He was weary and overworked, as were the other cast members and crew, being compelled to stay at the studio for up to 18 hours a day. In his attempt to occupy the complacency, however, he turned to the prop guns they were using on the set. This has been an established fact.
        His favorite was the .44 Magnum designated to the character he played. For some unexplained logic, this gun was left in his possession, ungathered by the props master, even throughout the length of the break time. This gun had ventured with Jon-Erik to his dressing room, twirled around his palm, raised and aimed at just about anything he fancied, much to the ire of co-star Jennifer O’Niell who once fumed over Jon-Erik’s haphazard handling of the prop pistols.
        Now, Jon-Erik reaches once again for its now-familiar grip. He sees the time and realizes the tediousness of nothing to do. In what seems to him as harmless dabbling, he unloads all the blank bullets but one, then locks back the chamber section. He spins it, watching its form blur in speed and progressively regain its details as it slows and stops. If only break time would end as soon as the chamber stops; but it seemed that not a minute had advanced at all! In exasperation, Jon-Erik, for what would be the last time, raises his .44, with the barrel’s firing end at his head. Squeezing the trigger, the studio reverberates with the sound of a gunshot. Amidst black smoke, Jon-Erik was screaming in agony, his head baptized in blood. As people around dashed to his aid, Jon-Erik slips into a coma, from which he will never awake. In the hospital, despite intubation and life support, he was pronounced brain dead after six days.
        Jon-Erik’s death is not merely a lesson on careless recklessness. It reveals the subtle power of boredom and complacency. Management experts understand that a dragging momentum is as much a serious factor into committing fatal errors as the oversights incurred in a headlong scramble. And not only was Jon-Erik a victim of this, as claimed by his co-stars, but the props people as well, as manifested by their deliberate disregard of the studio’s safety protocols. There was, and will be, no logical excuse for anyone in the studio at that time in violating safety standards. This is the nature of a mistake committed out of boredom.

Check out my recently published content on AC:

Coping with the Complication and the Hidden Danger of Boredom and Complacency