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Archive for the ‘classic films’ Category

CliffBurns1A number of things on my plate in the past while, which leads, inevitably, to another long gap between posts.

Starting with the fun stuff, I attended a screening of F.W. Murnau’s silent classic “Nosferatu” and wrote about it over on my film blog. Some musicians from the Saskatoon Symphony provided accompaniment and, what can I tell you, it was an absolutely brilliant evening. The following day I turned fifty and couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to celebrate.

Yeah, I said celebrate. I’ve hit the big five-oh and, okay, physically I’m not as strong or durable as I was twenty years ago, but mentally and artistically I feel close to the top of my game. Growing spiritually, as well, and that’s an ongoing process. I’m in a good space, some of the fears and obsessional thinking that once upon a time dragged me down are either gone or have eased to the point where they no longer cause the kind of damage they used to. My family played a huge part in that transformation and also the sense that my life and work are serving a tiny role in a Grand Design God-knows-how-many years in progress. My faith life is essential to my entire sense of well-being; without it, I’m a miserable cur, hardly worthy of consideration, barely rating a glance.

In terms of my work:

Researching for the novel, reading reference books and trolling on-line for more info, looking for those obscure little tid-bits that add the perfect dollop of detail to a scene, imparting an authenticity that makes the Reader shiver (love those moments).

I collaborated on a sound collage with my youngest son, Sam. He’s getting to be quite the musician so when my wife asked the two of us to put together an “environment” for a puppet and mask project she’s creating, I was curious to see what we came up with. Turned out to be a weird, ambient piece nearly four minutes long. Now we’re going to edit together a short film using that soundtrack and footage Sherron’s assembled over the last couple of years. Hope to have that done in the next week or so.

What else…well, I’d been giving some thought to writing something for the CBC/Enroute Short Story Contest but every time I checked my well of inspiration, it was dry as fossilized bone. So with the deadline looming I’d pretty much given up any notion of sending anything…until a couple of days ago, when I sat down and started tapping away, managing to complete a tale that adhered to the 1500 word limit (barely) and turned out to be a darn good story. Imagine that—posted it yesterday, just under the wire.

Have to confess, I hate entering or submitting my work anywhere—as an indie, I’d rather publish it myself. But the prize money for a six page story is unbelievable, ridiculous, and the notion of spending two weeks in residence at Banff…how could I resist?

From what I’ve heard, the contest receives between 1800-2000 entries annually, so I’m not holding my breath.

But wouldn’t it be nice…

What else? Ah, I’ve been in my basement cave, doing some more painting. A couple of canvases currently being prepped, exercising my visual muscles, expressing myself beyond the precincts of the printed word. Who cares if I’m any good at it?

And music, lots of music playing, which is always an indication I’m in an inspired state of mind. Frequently heard these days: The Eels, Bob Mould, Brain Jonestown Massacre, Jimmy Eat World, R.L. Burnside, Radio Moscow, old Dylan. Keeping it eclectic.

I guess that just about sums things up. Heading into November around here, but the yard work is pretty much done, all I have to do is order some pine wood and see about winter tires for the car.

The next six to eight months will be spent on the novel (mostly), so by Spring, 2014 I should have the lion’s share of the editing done (crosses his fingers). I’ll keep you apprised of developments and, hopefully, will be posting more frequently than I have been of late.

But no promises…

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Harry Bliss

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And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

from “Jerusalem” by William Blake

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One of my heroes, Ray Harryhausen, died yesterday.

Here’s a link to my tribute on Cinema Arete.

God bless you, Ray…

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Be sure to pop over to my film blog and check out coverage of this year’s edition of Silence is Golden.

The format is a cineaste’s dream:  a classic silent film is chosen for screening, with live accompanying music from the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. This time around, it was Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920 adventure “Mark of Zorro”.

An evening to remember…

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And, please, folks, during this magical time of the year, let’s not forget the true meaning and origin of Christmas.

I confess it:  I love it every time December 25th rolls around, and Christmas morning still sees me scrambling down the stairs, bright and (too) early, poking under the tree, pestering my wife to hurry up as she makes us her customary scones.  It’s ridiculous, I’m pushing fifty and there’s no excuse for such silly behavior.

But I was the kinda kid who avidly followed reports from CKOS-TV (Yorkton) on Christmas Eve, an announcer glibly informing gullible dopes like me that our military radar (Canada’s famed Distant Early Warning System) had picked up Santa’s sleigh as it departed the North Pole and his stupendously improbable round-the-world odyssey had begun. And, yes, later on, I’d be in bed, straining for the sound of hooves clattering on the roof. Swear to God. So I guess you can see why so much of my fiction tends toward the fantastic. It comes honestly.

Both my sons are in high school now so there isn’t that buzz around Christmas that there was in the old days.  We even wrapped their presents early, hoping to draw them like inquisitive ferrets but, well, Sam’s been rehearsing and performing in the school play and Liam wrestles four nights a week these days so they’re quite preoccupied with matters other than rattling boxes and guessing their contents.

Not that it would do any good—I’m a devious wrapper, cleverly disguising even the most modest gift so that by the time I’m done the Amazing Kreskin couldn’t tell you what’s in there.

Christmas is a time of kicking back, reading, relaxing, watching movies…which reminds me, I’ve got to dig some of the classics out of the basement storeroom:  “Charlie Brown Christmas”, “Muppet Christmas” and, it goes without saying, “Santa Claus Vs. the Martians”.  Lots of family time, lots of time in front of the fireplace, lots of…turkey.  Turkey, turkey and more turkey.  That is absolutely mandatory.

Editing on my western novel has been especially intense for the past three weeks. I wanted to have a good draft of The Last Hunt by Christmas Eve and it looks like I’ll achieve my goal.  That will make it easier for me to take a few days off, rest and recharge before I do a final polish of the novel in the New Year.  Everything on schedule, nothing to get uptight about.  Easy, boy, easy

Here’s wishing you a cheery, laughter-filled holiday season. Remember to spare a thought or two to those less fortunate, drop a few bucks in the hand of a street person, send a check to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, do what you can with what you have to make this world a little more humane and compassionate.

Oh, and, ah, KEEP READING.

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This afternoon I posted reviews of 7 more movies on my film blog, “Cinema Arete”.

Any cineastes out there are welcome to give them the once over and either agree or…well, go and start their own damn film blog!

You’ll find all my film reviews here.

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Check out the short essay I wrote on “Forbidden Planet” and other classic oldies—you’ll find it over at my film blog, Cinema Arete.

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Well, who would’ve guessed this blog would last as long as it has.  Or that this strange site would draw the kind of traffic it does, the responses (good, bad and incoherent).

I’ve met some smart, funny, terrific people, thanks to “Beautiful Desolation”, and it’s always a particular thrill to read a comment or receive an e-mail from one of you.  Writing is a lonely business and those missives, brief as they are, remind me why I keep putting pen to paper, year after year after year.   And let’s have a rousing cheer for the internet, without which none of this would be possible.  I mean, jeez, from halfway around the world you can wave or send regards or blow a kiss…or a raspberry (whatever floats your boat).

I spent perhaps an unhealthy amount of time trying to come up with ways to say “thanks” for your support and patronage for the past three years.  There are a good number of you who take great pains to keep in touch and pass the word to other folks out there who are fed up with the tepid fare offered by traditional publishing sources:  the books and magazines we buy and yawn our way through.

For the past six months or so the e-Reader crowd have been coming by in droves.  Welcome, welcome.  Dive right in and enjoy my stories, poems and radio dramas.  There are dozens of offerings on this site, hundreds of thousands of words.  Works that will astonish, amaze or, at least, entertain.  And it’s all FREE.  Download it, peruse it on your Kindles and iPads and Sonys (what the hell, a book is a book) and God bless ya.

I have to say there are certain, ah, special circumstances that give this anniversary more significance.

The impending release of my novel So Dark the Night is a super-big deal around Casa Burns.  The cover nears completion and then it’s a case of loading the book onto Lightning Source’s template, crossing our fingers…and zipping it off.  Looks like a late-April release.  Will give you a peek at the cover soon–it’s a beauty.  Wait’ll you see it, kids, it’ll knock your socks off.  Christ, I love this book.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m practically vibrating in anticipation.

2010 marks my 25th year as a professional writer.  That’s a helluva long time, a helluva lot of words on paper.  Too many to ponder without suffering some kind of brain seizure.  So we’ve got the third anniversary of the blog, my silver anniversary as an author and a new book coming out.  That’s gotta call for something a little something extra, a bonus item or two…

How about an hour of free music?  This is music I recorded with my iMac’s Garageband software.  Space tunes, all instrumentals, totally trippy and out there.  Some of my friends have downloaded these oddities on to their iPods or their computer hard drives.  Go for it.  Knock yourselves out.  And above all else, enjoy the music.  With my compliments and thanks.

I call my project Soundtrack For a Science Fiction Film Never Made and if you’d like to give it a listen, pop over to my “Audio” page, scroll down, past the spoken word section and you’re sure to find it.

Ah, but I’m not done.

I also want to unveil my new blog, Cinema Arrete.  After literature, film is my great passion and for ages I’ve wanted a site where I could talk about some of my favorites and steer people toward flicks that aren’t on prominent display at their neighborhood movie store.  I think that with places like YouTube now renting movies, there might be an increased demand and a wider assortment of movies to choose from–after all, cyberspace is like an endless virtual store and titles are always in stock.  It might be the perfect time to re-introduce film fans to the work of auteurs like Henri-Georges Clouzot and Carl Theodor Dreyer.

But it’s not just a one-way street.  I want cinephiles to steer me toward works and creative individuals that I’ve missed or neglected for some reason.  I want to re-watch classic movies, research them and write essays based on my impressions and speculations.  Sometimes I’ll re-examine a work and discover I’ve been dead wrong and will be forced to backtrack.  The downside of being an honest critic is that you have to learn to like the taste of crow.

My refusal to bestow any respect on CGI fests like “Avatar” and the latest comic book adaptation will enrage those of you who (shudder) go to movies purely for fun, for the eye candy and escapist fluff.  Sorry, if that’s the sum total of your aesthetic, Cinema Arete likely isn’t for you.

Pop over, give it a look-see and let me know what you think.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  I’m feeling kind of misty-eyed at the moment and it might be that extra shot or two of scotch I’ve had.  Or it could be an indication of emotions lurking closer to the surface than usual as I ponder this blog and what it has meant for my writing.  Most importantly, it’s given me access to you, o wise and discerning readers, a venue to display my odd wares.

Thanks so much for spending some of your precious time here.  Visiting and browsing this…repository of my poor words.

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