Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Was Quoted About Insect Traps

Stephanie Walton of the Daily Breeze consistently gets things quickly, and gets them right - at least, whenever I've talked with her seen her print something with which I have been involved. She writes answers to "Ask Us" submissions made by the paper's readers. I used to get calls from Ms. Walton when I was at Public Works, and I get them from her now, too.

This time, the question was about possible insect traps someone was seeing around Torrance. One kind of trap spotted sound like ones used for trapping Asian Citrus Psyllid.

That pest now has been found in dozens of cities in the county, said Ken Pellman, public information officer for the county's Department of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures. The disease the species can transmit, Huanglongbing (HLB), which kills citrus trees, has not been detected in trapped specimens in the state, Pellman said.
I try to let people know what they can do, especially when an ounce of prevention is better than many pounds of cure. The Daily Breeze coverage area rangs from LAX to the ports, which means the area that will often get hit first with an infestation.

"We really need the help of your readers in preventing infestations of destructive exotic pests," Pellman said.

"Fruits, vegetables and other plant materials that come from outside of California may bring with them pests - such as insects, diseases and weeds - that don't belong in California. Those things are problems because they kill or harm native species, damage buildings, destroy landscaping and home-grown fruits and vegetables, and add extra costs to California's agriculture industry - costs that will get passed along to consumers."
Don't bug California!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It’s Alive and Oozing From the Vault

The legends are true. Footage exists of some of the first projects of award-winning international independent experimental filmmakers Francisco Matamala and Ken Pellman.

Back in the tumultuous, war-torn days of the later mid 1980s, living along the tough streets of South Pasadena, California (the “free love” capital of the world) were two demented junior high school kids looking for a way out so they would no longer be constantly chased from Huntington Drive to the Rialto to Garfield Park by their hundreds of crazed (but hot) groupies. Pellman, the American-born aquatician, and Francisco Matamala, the Chilean-born genius, joined forces to take stop-motion animation to the next level.

Unfortunately, all they unleashed on the world was an film-based expression of something they called “Goremation”, which is certainly not to be confused with “Claymation” or a Presidential bid or climate change documentary.

Together, they wrote, produced, and directed the astonishingly well-titled silent motion picture “Laserfight”, a film about a treasure-seeking space traveler on a strange, hostile world full of peril: a rival, rough terrain, and a hyperactive food chain system where every single living organism apparently must constantly be moving and eating.





Amazingly, Matamala and Pellman did all of the lighting, choreography, cinematography, character design, animation, and special effects themselves.

Encouraged by loud audience reactions and awards, Matamala and Pellman both agreed to make a sequel. Oddly enough, it was titled “Laserfight II” The extreme demands of making the more advanced sequel required a third creative force: Todd Yamanaka. Together, the three wrote, produced, directed the grueling project, again taking on the lighting, choreography, cinematography, character design, animation, and special effects.

Now, after years of anticipation and public demand and intense negotiations with major Hollywood studios, both projects are being released for the first time on home video DVD.

Well, sort of. Much to the disappointment of Matamala, Pellman, and Yamanaka and legions of fans, the second half of the sequel never returned to the team after it was sent out for developing. You see, back in those days, video and digital technology in public schools was somewhat limited. So these motion pictures were shot on 8 millimeter analog chemical film, the kind that has to be sent somewhere to be developed, and the kind that deteriorates day by day. Matamala was especially hard hit by obvious conspiracy to steal the second half of the sequel – he never got over it, and about five or six years later he fled in dispair to his native Chile, where he threw himself into his work and was consoled by marrying a really hot wife and making adorable babies. Pellman likewise consoled himself by marrying a really hot wife and making adorable babies, but he only fled as far as Anaheim.

The entire first motion picture and what was returned of the second motion picture have been kept hidden deep in the vaults of the Pellman Archives for all of these years until very recently being exhumed for the purposes of being subjected to transfer to DVD.

The result was both better than I expected in parts and worse than I expected in other parts.

First, there’s the source material. Since we couldn’t watch the film until it had been developed and returned, we were unaware how much of the original movie had focus issues until it had been wrapped (I think I was not yet fully aware of my growing nearsightedness). We took greater care with the second production.

But speaking of the second motion picture, what we have of it was placed first on the DVD, and then the title footage from the first film was not included (perhaps it had deteriorated too much) and so the DVD watched straight through starts off with the first part of the sequel, never gets to the second part of the sequel (since we don’t have it), and then goes straight on to the entire first motion picture without any delineation. Eat your heart out, Christopher Nolan.

Other notes…

While making the first film, we pretty much were forced to change shots for each new day of filming, because the sets and characters were subject to vandalism and the equipment had to be moved. For the sequel, we were given our own tiny locked room because we were some of the few people who were actually serious about using class time to make a movie. (The instructor, who had impressive connections in the filmmaking world that she sometimes would bring in to class, wasn’t known for being a hard grader or a strict disciplinarian.)

We sculpted characters as we were inspired. We set about filming with a loose idea of what we wanted to do, and we would constantly brainstorm along the way. Two great characters that were in the lost second half of the sequel were a ninja-like opponent and a gigantic lizard. It is a shame they didn’t end up in the theatrical release or the DVD.

Finally, keep in mind that we were demented junior high school kids.

FOR A LIMITED TIME, you can view how the DVD transfer ended up by CLICKING HERE.

On the left, click on "Goremation".
You will be "treated" to the "highlights”. To see the whole thing, click on the tab that says "Entire YesDVD Video". There is no sound. Many blocks of clay died to bring you this.

If you order copies, I do not get residuals.