Tuesday, November 6, 2018

FANTASTIC BEAST!


Hey, friends and readers!

Look at this: my Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge has placed at #4 on the list 9 Fantastic Novels for Fairy Tale Fans, over at Wiki ezvid!

This is a website devoted to cool stuff whose users and editors compile videos to celebrate their favorite things. Not only books, but food, clothing, electronics, toys —  you name it and this site has posted a video about it!

The video attached to the 9 Fantastic Novels list features an interesting, eclectic mix of vintage and more modern images.

I might have selected one or two additional images to illustrate Beast in the video. (In fact, I did! Check out my own compilation of graphics and illustrations that inspired my book, over on my Pinterest page for Beast.)


But I could not be more thrilled that my Beast, having dared to venture out of his lonely chateau, is winning friends and recognition out in the wider world!

I’m also pleased that they gave an additional shout-out to Alias Hook!

Thank you, Ezvid Wiki!

Friday, November 2, 2018

LOS MUERTOS

Which day exactly is Dia de Los Muertos?

Nov 1 is All Saints Day (which is why Oct 31 is All Hallows Eve), and Nov 2 is All Souls Day — everyone else. Are the Spirits of the Dead up and about on both days? When does the portal between our world and theirs open and close for another year?

I decided that midnight between the night of November 1 and the morning of November 2 was the most likely time for Spirits to be active.

A celebration held at my little at-home altar last night was meant to entice James' Spirit back to visit the land of the living with all the things he loved here — a plastic dinosaur, a toy robot, and a fossil from his childhood collection, his box of paints and his glove, a piece of bubble-gum, a crossword puzzle, and, of course, a bottle of bubbly!

Also, a little piece he made years ago for a local Dia de Los Muertos altar somewhere, in honor of his own grandmother — a photo of his teenage self and his Grandma Asch, in a frame he made citing all the ways she shaped his life, from making German Potato Salad to teaching him magic tricks.

I was hoping all this would be inducement enough for the Spirit of my Art Boy to linger here with me during the time allotted to him.

But I have to admit, I didn’t feel any particular disturbance in the Force overnight. He didn’t visit my dreams (not that I remember).

Maybe it’s all just a big story we make up to comfort ourselves in the face of unbearable loss. Maybe there isn't any way for James’ enormous Spirit to ever get back to me.

Or — maybe he never left.

In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the noble, dying warrior tells the woman he loves, “I would rather be a ghost by your side than enter the Kingdom of Heaven without you.”

Maybe it’s like that. I hope so!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

TEA INTERSECTION

Art, life, friendship dished up at Tea With the Dames

You know those friends you've had forever? Maybe you don't see them as often as you'd like, but you've shared so many adventures that whenever you get together, you pick up right where you left off, your conversation as full of vivid memories, tart observations, and raucous laughter as if you'd never been apart.

That's kind of what it's like going to see Tea With the Dames — a chatty and witty conversation with beloved old friends. It features four of our most acclaimed British actresses — Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins — in the most challenging roles of their careers: themselves.

In this irresistible documentary from veteran feature director Roger Michell, these four great ladies of stage, screen, and television (each of them honored with the title of Dame), and longtime friends in real life, get together for an afternoon of tea and conversation — always, trenchant, often hilarious — about life, love, friendship, and the craft of acting.

 The talk is lively, and Michell makes judicious use of vintage footage from the actresses' illustrious careers to illustrate their stories.

Smith and Dench: impishness has no age limit!
This is a welcome time-out between the season of men in tights and testosterone action thrillers and the more serious, Oscar-bait movies to come. Grab a crumpet, pull up a chair, and refresh yourself!
(Read more)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

ART (BOY) RESTORATION





Time to dance for joy!

The animals at Hestwood Park have been restored!


These are the critters James Aschbcher was commissioned to create for the public art installation in the children’s area of the Hestwood “pocket park” in Live Oak.

They were installed to great acclaim in 2002, when the park opened. The kids loved the bright colors and exuberant attitudes of these fanciful beasties!

But over the years, vandalism and weather took their toll on these creatures. Although James devised a way to affix them pretty permanently to the fence, legs, fins, and other body parts were sometimes ripped away.

One character was beheaded.



Meanwhile, hot weather cracked the sealant he used, so that in rainy weather — back when it used to rain — water leaked into the cracks and began to erode the paint.

It was an increasingly sorry sight over the years to go by the park and see how badly these animals were deteriorating.

As you can imagine, my Art Boy was heartbroken about it; he worked out a timetable to do the repairs himself, donating his time and labor if the county would pay for materials.

They said no.

The animals continued to decline, until the opportunity passed for James to ever restore them himself.

But then an angel stepped in!


Robert L. Echols, our neighbor here in Live Oak, who specializes in antiques restoration, made the county an offer it couldn’t refuse. He has taken it upon himself to rebuild, restore, repaint, and reseal every Aschbacher animal in the park — for free.

He borrowed some of James’ paints from me to match up the colors, but all other expenses of time, labor, materials, and craftsmanship, he has donated to the project out of the enormous goodness of his heart.

This was entirely Bob’s idea. When he first proposed the project to me, I was so stunned with gratitude, I could barely gush out my thanks. I told him how excited James would be about it. With a big grin, Bob replied, “He’s a great guy!”

That was the way my Art Boy inspired people to be their best, most generous, most creative selves.

This must be what they meant when they launched the whole “Be Like James” meme at his memorial celebration. He inspired everybody, not by preaching, but by doing. By the way he lived his own life.


He would be surprised to learn how many local people he influenced, just by who he was.


And he would love, love, love how his Hestwood menagerie has been brought back to life, in all its impudent glory!


Thanks, Bob!


PS: Here’s the very modest plaque Bob put up to acknowledge his hard work. I hope it’s in a prominent spot!




Tuesday, October 16, 2018

FRENCH TWIST

Country girl becomes celebrated author in lively Colette

Even for an era of such artistic and cultural ferment as the turn of the last century, famed French author Colette led an extraordinary life. She was a country girl dominated by a sophisticated husband who became the toast of Paris for her wildly successful, trendsetting novels.

She was also a music hall performer who scandalized the public, a sexual adventuress who loved men and women, a cross-dresser, and an accidental advocate for equality who had to fight for the right to publish her work under her own name.

Her melodramatic life was always tempered by her wit and wry self-knowledge in her books, reviews, and voluminous letters to friends and family. In his biographical feature, Colette, filmmaker Wash Westmoreland sticks to her early years in Paris, during the metamorphosis by which she would eventually turn herself into the celebrated author.

Reel life: Knightley, West

As portrayed by Keira Knightly, this Colette is all good-humored innocence and coltish bravado. The film ends just as she's about to launch herself back into the world on her own terms, so we never get a sense of the wry wisdom of the author's maturity, but Knightley is appealing as an awakening personality in the making.

The movie begins in 1892, in the remote French country village of Saint-Sauveur. 19-year-old Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Knightley), her beloved mother, Sido (Fiona Shaw), and her father, are entertaining Willy (Dominic West), a renowned magazine writer and critic from Paris, whose father knew Colette's father in the military. Within a year, Willy and Colette are married and living in Paris.

There she discovers that "Willy" is a cottage industry; he employs other writers to crank out the work that appears in the press under his name. To stave off creditors, her husband decides "Willy" should write a novel, and assigns the task to Colette. When he physically locks her in her study to work, she starts writing about her own schooldays.

Willy, Colette: out of the shadows
The book, Claudine At School, is an immediate bestseller. Together with its three sequels, it influences a generation of young women, who copy Claudine's clothes and hair, bathe with "Claudine" soap, and nibble "Claudine" chocolates. But the books all come out under the name of "Willy," who refuses to compromise his "brand" by allowing Colette to take credit for her own work.

No feature-length movie could do more than scratch the surface of the real-life Colette's long, rich, and productive life (she died in 1954 at age 81), or include her expansive circle of friends, artists, writers, mentors and devotees. But the movie looks beautiful (largely shot in old-world Budapest), and Knightly captures enough of Colette's rebel spirit of adventure to encourage viewers to explore the rest of her fascinating story.

(Read more)


I’m such a sucker for this era of wild experimentation before WWI. Matisse and Picasso were reinventing the world, the Arts and Crafts Movement was redesigning furniture, and women were cutting there hair, agitating for the right to vote, exploring their inner lives, and remaking themselves outside of their husband’s shadows.

There are so many luscious period details in Westmoreland’s movie, you can’t take them in all at once. Just look a the chair back and draperies in this shot of Knightley’s Colette at work at her desk — yow!

Every detail is perfect.

Meanwhile, here’s a companion photo of the real-life Colette at work on the Claudine novels.

At this point, she is still in the prim collar and upswept hair of her early years with Willy. She still had a way to go before morphing into the scandalous, yet acclaimed author beloved for such popular novels as Cherie, and — much later in life — Gigi.

But you can see by her determined chin and serious demeanor that she’s on her way!

Monday, October 8, 2018

ENCHANTING BEAST


This review of Beast arrived in my inbox, from Emmie Enchanted, an intrepid 9-yer-old reader who presides over her own book blog, Fantastic Books and Where to Find Them. It is quite wonderful in its simplicity and enthusiasm!

She says in part:

"I loved this book! This is a retelling of Beauty of the Beast, except an unsuspecting character has the main role. It is a story of how a servant tries to save the beast that she loves before it is all too late. If you love magic and fairy tales, then you will love this book!"

She rates it 3 out 5 on the scary factor, 1 out if 5 for “Yucky-lovey stuff,” and 5 out of 5 Wands of Approval!

Thanks, Emmie!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

TRIBUTE TO ART BOY


Some kind person just dropped this off on my porch over the weekend. (I didn't get to the door quick enough to see who it was.)

It's the 2017-2018 Yearbook from Del Mar Elementary School, with a 2-page spread devoted to James— and the 5 murals he painted with the kids there over the years!

I especially love the handprint motif around the edges of the pages! It was James' idea to replace his trademark border of Runic glyphs with the students' handprints dipped in paint when he did school murals — a way to give every child who painted a creature on the mural a chance to "sign" his or her work.

I think it's so cool that the designer of the yearbook layout not only adopted this pattern, but put a negative-space heart in the center of each palm!

Thank you, Del Mar School, for this tribute to my Art Boy!



Monday, September 24, 2018

FIGHTING MAD

Michael Moore finds some hope amid outrage in Fahrenheit 11/9

Got some rabble to rouse? Take 'em to see the new Michael Moore documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9. No matter what side of the political "aisle" you're on, you'll come away in a fighting mood.

It's sort of a companion piece to Moore's 2004 doc, Fahrenheit 9/11, which excoriates George W. Bush and the horse he rode in on in the wake of the Twin Towers attack, which then became an excuse to systematically erode civil rights at home (in the name of "security"), and launch endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But this time, Moore's principal target is you-know-who, the current occupant of the White House. Still, he has plenty of outrage to spare for the contamination of the water supply in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan, thanks to the venal actions of Governor Rick Snyder. Or the ongoing crisis of gun violence in America, and the politicized response of a band of teenage survivors of the Parkland shootings who organize a global protest march to school their ineffectual elders.

This time, the move opens with Election Night 2016, not 2000. "Was it all just a dream?" narrator Moore muses once again. The champagne corks are already popping at the massive Hillary Clinton victory party as the early returns come in. But as the night wears on, the impossible truth begins to surface.
Match point: the CEO golfs while democracy burns

As the tragic aria from Il Pagliacci engulfs the soundtrack, the victor, with his family and handlers, takes the stage to address his supporters. "It looked like a perp walk," notes Moore. By the next morning — 11-9-16 — the nation awoke to the grim reality of President-Elect Trump.

As usual, Moore is preaching to the choir, and stunts like aiming a fire hose of Flint water over the gate into the courtyard of Snyder's governor's mansion aren't likely to win him any new converts.

But Moore's relentless drive to connect the dots between past transgressions and current crises and expose the bad guys is as revitalizing as ever — especially in this era of lockstepping conformity among the political establishment of both parties.
(Read more in this week’s Good Times)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

ART BOY HONORED


 The Legend of Art Boy continues!

This came in the mail at the end of August from the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Jimmy Panetta has introduced remarks into the Congressional Record in honor of James Carl Aschbacher.

My own Art Boy is enshrined in the Congressional Record!

He would be surprised, and honored. And then, I can just hear him saying, "Now if every one of those congresspeople would go out and buy an Aschbacher painting . . . "

Read the full text here.

Thank you, Congressman Panetta!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

BOY ON THE BRINK

It could almost be a Third World country. The overgrown landscape is lush and green, with rambling, clapboard houses tucked in here and there, and a swimming hole hidden under and outcropping of trees.

It's an Eden for two of three young brothers growing up half-wild in the woods of upstate New York while their parents are preoccupied with each other — but a challenging proving ground for the youngest brother struggling to come of age in We The Animals.

Documentary filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar makes a impressive transition to fictional storytelling. Adapted by Zagar and Dan Kitrosser from the acclaimed novel by Justin Torres, the movie is a lyrical plunge into the subconscious of a boy on the brink of manhood trying to piece together his own identity.

Zagar manages a very deft balance between powerful, evocative visual style and the casual poetry of Torres' narrative voice, using minimalist dialogue, documentary realism, and fanciful animation to tell a simple-seeming, yet complex and moving tale.
(Read more)