Friday, September 19, 2014
      ( 12:33 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
Happy Birthday, Frances Farmer, the new free chapter of my web comic The Casebook of Boschen and Nesuko is online.

Well said, Mr. Cobain.

And I still have inking to do on what will be the next free chapter, meaning the free chapters have finally caught up with the ones on Drive Thru Comics. Meaning I really need to get the last issue done within the next two weeks. I wish there weren't so many distractions in my life as there are now, I miss being able to give my comics my full attention.

Twitter Sonnet #667

Dinner triangles regulate guava.
Undetermined touchstones at length retract.
In this game the glowing rocks are lava.
Butterfly nets fluctuate on impact.
Untamed talisman lipstick trained the God.
Wobbling Beyonce yoghurt statues fade.
Blueberry affidavits spare the rod.
Wash basin fish fortunes are by flood made.
Regressed garlic lore diminished the sprout.
Fading dime store sundries drink eagle blood.
Convex vector graphs can illume the gout.
Restless Leg Superman kicks oil crud.
Motion defines fountain pen taco drag.
The equation's too big for a name tag.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014
      ( 5:57 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

This Lovecraftian space monster, (Uchuu Kaiju 宇宙怪獣), is from GAINAX's influential 1980s OVA series Gunbuster (Top o Nerae! トップをねらえ!, "Aim for the Top!") which I just finished watching through again, interestingly juxtaposed with reading about the current controversy surrounding the use of H.P. Lovecraft's likeness for the World Fantasy Award. Lovecraft's well known racism has recently struck some as making his an inappropriate face for an award reflecting a racially and culturally diverse community. So there was some irony in watching a Japanese series so obviously influenced by Lovecraft, as a great many Japanese manga and anime are. Based on his writings about the inhabitants of New York's Chinatown, one might infer Lovecraft would not approve of artists from an Asian country drawing influence from him.

One might infer it, though not conclusively affirm it. After all, Lovecraft is dead and can't be reached for comment.

I first heard about this controversy through Billy Martin's Facebook who in mentioning it said he found himself leaning slightly towards the side asking for the removal of Lovecraft's image from the award statuette because perhaps the most prominent advocate of keeping the award as is, S.T. Joshi, has presented his argument in a vitriolic, patronising manner in his blog, replete with aspersions cast on the research abilities of Laura Miller of Salon.com that are ad hominem--they may not be purely ad hominem since the research capabilities of one presenting the argument that Lovecraft was a racist and therefore an inappropriate symbol for the World Fantasy Award are certainly a salient issue. Though Joshi provides no real evidence that Miller has never read Joshi's rightfully well respected biography of Lovecraft or set foot in a library.

It is worth noting, though, that Joshi supports his arguments with quotes from Lovecraft, something Miller does not do. I am inclined to agree with Joshi that Miller has probably not researched the issue adequately to make an interesting comment on Lovecraft's racism, though I think Miller's article is more about the place a revered author who is also a racist has in the artistic community rather than debating the specifics of Lovecraft's racism. She does point out that just because an artist created brilliant work doesn't mean he or she was a person who did not possess terribly ugly views.

Since it's easy, as Joshi does with Raymond Chandler, Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, and several others, to take almost any writer of the past and find something that renders him or her an unfit example for a community that values inclusivity, I don't find the issue particularly worth debating but I think exploring the subject as it relates to the influence racism had on Lovecraft's work has potential to provide valuable insight.

This blog entry by World Fantasy Award recipient Nnedi Okorafer more directly pursues some aspects of the issue. She quotes the Lovecraft poem that first truly made her uncomfortable with having a small bust of H.P. Lovecraft her shelf, written by Lovecraft in 1912:

On the Creation of Niggers (1912)
by H. P. Lovecraft

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.

It's an ugly poem and a very immature one. In writings from a few years later that exhibit Lovecraft's racism, his 1926 short story "He", for example, his views on race manifest in his descriptions of people and places that he establishes in the interest of telling a more impressionistic story. Take this paragraph from near the beginning:

But success and happiness were not to be. Garish daylight shewed only squalor and alienage and the noxious elephantiasis of climbing, spreading stone where the moon had hinted of loveliness and elder magic; and the throngs of people that seethed through the flume-like streets were squat, swarthy strangers with hardened faces and narrow eyes, shrewd strangers without dreams and without kinship to the scenes about them, who could never mean aught to a blue-eyed man of the old folk, with the love of fair green lanes and white New England village steeples in his heart.

The focus here is on the protagonist's impression of New York's immigrant population and how they relate to his feelings rather than an attempt to ascribe an absolute value on the people. By contrast, what he saw as the objective reality of race is the point of his 1912 poem and it seems like something puerile one might see written on a public bathroom stall. Lovecraft was twenty two in 1912 and it's worth noting that most of the works for which he is appreciated to-day were written in his late thirties and early forties. Okorafor also includes this block quote from Science Fiction author China Mielville:

“Yes, indeed, the depth and viciousness of Lovecraft’s racism is known to me …It goes further, in my opinion, than ‘merely’ *being* a racist - I follow Michel Houellebecq (in this and in no other arena!) in thinking that Lovecraft’s oeuvre, his work itself, is inspired by and deeply structured with race hatred. As Houellebecq said, it is racism itself that raises in Lovecraft a ‘poetic trance’. He was a bilious anti-semite (though one who married a Jew, because, if you please, he granted that she was ‘assimilated’), and if you read stories like ‘The Horror at Red Hook’, the bile you will see towards people of colour, of all kinds (with particular sneering contempt for African Americans unless they were suitably Polite and therefore were patricianly granted the soubriquet ‘Negro’) and the mixed communities of New York and, above all (surprise surprise - Public Enemy were right) ‘miscegenation’ are extended and toxic.”

It's strange and perhaps reflects ignorance on Mieville's part that he points to the word "Negro" as derogatory when in fact it was the politically correct term for black men and women in Lovecraft's time. I think it's worth noting, too, that Mielville also considers J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings an essentially racist screed so allow that to influence your opinion of Mielville's judgement as it may. But I actually agree that a lot of Lovecraft's work, even some of his best work, was motivated by a racist perspective.

At bottom, the issue here seems to me about the the difference between Dionysian and Apollonian forms of artistic expression. To say that readers want to believe their favourite authors are essentially saints only scratches the surface of the real popular error which, I believe, is the idea that artists are in complete conscious control of what they create. As the filmmaker Luis Bunuel said when asked how he'd live if there were only twenty years left in his life, "Give me two hours a day of activity, and I'll take the other 22 in dreams -- provided I can remember them." For Bunuel, like many artists, including Lovecraft, dreams were an invaluable source of creative force because they were manifestations of concepts and imagery unfettered by analysis. Compare Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo with his later film Marnie. While he tackles similar issues in both films, Vertigo remains a masterpiece while Marnie is hampered by dated thoughts on psychology. Vertigo remains interpretable and successfully says things which Hitchcock likely did not consciously intend considering the more literal arguments of Marnie seem to stand in direct opposition to some artistically made in Vertigo, such as the right to control men have over women. This is a belief that Vertigo arguably makes look harmful to both parties while Marnie seems to endorse it.

While I wouldn't express it the way Miller quotes one individual as saying, "If his racism was necessary for him to create those brilliant works of art, than [sic] thank god for his racism", in a sense Lovecraft's racism is partly responsible for the existence of his really good works. As Miller says--without explaining it or providing examples to back it up--"the loathing he directed at others was a deflected form of self-hatred." I would say this reaches a culmination in The Shadow Over Innsmouth where racial characteristics that inspired revulsion in Lovecraft are finally applied to himself.

As Oscar Wilde said, "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." Whatever Lovecraft's opinions on race were near the end of his relatively short life, his art improved as it became more about his horror than about other people. His strength as an artist manifested when he abandoned analysis and embraced explorations of mood.

However, Miller has the opposite view:

If there was ever a writer who should not be taken too seriously, it’s this one. Although Lovecraft’s stated theme — the terror of confronting the insignificance of humanity in an unfeeling, unthinking universe — is as heavy as it gets, the latent content of carnal, particularly sexual, revulsion often threatens to take over. The oozing goo, the primordial squids! Whatever Lovecraft thought he was doing, he wasn’t big on self-awareness, or else he’d have been Beckett. Freud and his theories of repression and sublimation become impossible to resist when you’re tracing this author’s energy to its source — that is, to all the stuff Lovecraft was avoiding thinking about while allegedly facing the unthinkable. This is what makes his fiction go.

She does not explain what it is about Samuel Beckett's writing that reflects a greater degree of self-analysis than Lovecraft's or what it is that makes Beckett comparable to Lovecraft. As for not taking Lovecraft seriously, the very fact that the World Fantasy Award bears his likeness suggests something about his influence and, despite Miller's inability or unwillingness to see it as more than camp, Lovecraft has an influence worldwide, as far away as Japan. His influence has a scope few authors can lay claim to, to the point where there are few works in Science Fiction or Horror nowadays that do not exhibit some measure of Lovecraft influence and it's more than tentacles or aliens. Lovecraft pioneered horror based on a hateful or unfeeling cosmos where biology was a constant and intimate threat. To say Lovecraft is not to be taken seriously is to say Horror is not to be taken seriously.

So, do I think the World Fantasy Award should stop using Lovecraft's image? Well, I could be the wrong person to ask. I'm happy to congratulate friends and artists I respect for winning awards because I know it's meaningful to them but personally I'm not a particular fan of awards. Awards are essentially criticism borne of a community to serve a community, to show affection for members of that community who have met with approval by producing works whose quality may or may not have been responsible for their popularity. So the artistic merit of anyone whose likeness is borne by the award may be irrelevant, and if that's irrelevant, I guess you may as well avoid anyone who's a racist. I nominate Jesus.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
      ( 1:59 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Is life really about that continent of giant exoskeletal creatures and man eating seaweed, or about the journey to that continent? Hammer's 1968 film The Lost Continent (not to be confused with the 1951 film featured on Mystery Science Theatre 3000) seems to argue for the latter, spending just over half its one and a half hour run time in getting to the titular continent. For all that, it's the most expensive looking Hammer film I've seen and the forty-five minutes or so spent on the boat unknowingly destined for the strange continent are spent developing characters. Cliched or trite characters whose stories feel like very condensed versions of their counterparts in the novel the film was based on but I do respect the idea of spending so much time on the characters and the latter half of the film delivers some by turns charmingly campy and effectively creepy visuals.

The film stars Eric Porter as very shiny Lansen*, captain of the Corita, a run down old ship filled with disreputable passengers quietly fleeing Europe for various reasons. Lansen himself has some sketchy cards under the table--several hundred barrels of an experimental explosive in the cargo hold, an explosive which ignites when wet, and Lansen doesn't hesitate when warned of a hurricane on their current course; he'll go right through the storm because he plans on selling the cargo and retiring.

Half the crew, including the first mate, aren't so wild about this idea so they slowly start to move towards mutiny. Slower than you might think because Porter very capably exudes an air of authority and confidence, something continually presented at sort of fascinating odds with his many reckless decisions.

The passengers include a spoiled heiress and her father, a gangster, a former kept woman making a break for it (Hidlegard Knef), and, the closest the movie has to a hero, an alcoholic named Harry, played by Tom Beckley whom Doctor Who fans might recognise as Chase from The Seeds of Doom.

He begins the film as a cynical, caustic boozer whom the heiress tries to seduce. Then, when they're all on a lifeboat together, he has a moment of clarity and instantly gets a different personality. It's with Harry one most feels the condensed nature of the script as what might have been a somewhat more gradual character arc here feels like an illustration of a pamphlet on alcoholism despite Beckley's decent performance.

When they finally do get trapped by the seaweed surrounding the lost continent, they find a society descended from Spanish explorers living in a galleon also trapped in the seaweed. I found the first shot of the interior, without too much context, rather striking.

Everyone gets around by walking on the seaweed with big yellow balloons on their shoulders and what look like snowshoes. A little hard to take seriously, maybe, but I found myself buying into it, maybe wanting to go along with what seemed like such a perfectly 1960s sci-fi conceit.

Harry quickly befriends a busty native named Sarah played by musician and future David Bowie collaborator Dana Gillespie whom I'd somehow never heard of before this movie. I thought the open, cleavage bearing top she was wearing was a bit of Hammer fan service but a Google image search revealed this was apparently Gillespie's thing.

The lady was really proud of her cleavage. Can't say I blame her.

Soon, Harry is standing protectively in front of Sarah while a giant Scorpion battles it out with a giant hermit crab. Instead of models, it looks like Hammer actually built full scale monsters that move about on rollers. They kind of slide back and forth at each other.

The hermit crab has big glowing green eyes and a weirdly pulsating mouth that put me in mind of David Cronenberg's adaptation of Naked Lunch.

Considering the scale of story implied by all the buildup, the time on the strange continent feels very brief. Most of the character moments in the first half are called back to by the second--very quickly--but it feels like this movie ought to have at least been three hours.

*60s makeup artists sure liked shininess I know but this movie takes the cake.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
      ( 6:58 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

This is from my car's dashboard when I went to lunch to-day between classes. Note the temperature in the upper right--unless I'm forgetting a day, this is the hottest I've ever seen it in San Diego in my life. Though I do remember a year at Comic Con when it got up to 111 and probably wavered into 112 once or twice. To-day it mainly hovered in the 108 to 110 area. Still, pretty fucking hot, especially since I park off campus at the bottom of a hill.

Less than ten minutes after I took that picture, I suddenly saw ahead of me what could only be rain clouds. When I finished eating lunch at the mall, rain was indeed coming down--I flipped down the back of my fedora and walked in it. I saw a lot of other people were doing similar; a young woman standing on a planter holding her arms up, a man leading his four or five year old son out into it. By the time I got back to the bottom of the hill by the school, it was coming down very hard. My socks were soaked through before I could get the umbrella out of my car trunk. This is from my dashboard at the time, as you can see less than an hour after the previous photo was taken:

I only saw one other person on campus with an umbrella. It's a good thing I'm too lazy to clean out my car.

From the Mormon church next to the school:

After class, it was all over, the sky was clear again. Here's my dashboard on the way home, after I stopped at my mother's:

I drove to La Jolla and stopped in the grocery store. When I got out, the Cloud had caught up with me. Here's a vague rainbow:

I saw six bolts of lightning and heard a lot of thunder. When I got home, my dashboard said this:

That was an hour ago and it's cleared up again. I hope it comes back.

Anyway, it seems appropriate that to-day I bring you

Twitter Sonnet #666

Black horns ignite with a molten taper.
Cast iron hands throttle the lately sane.
Moon ringed hooves cut damned like burning paper.
Ubiquitous brimstone crushed ghosts like rain.
Charcoal brushes the red edges in sight.
Fervent venom sucking asp shadows watch.
Cascade clicking firefly falls alight.
Wheezing grey giant lungs grow black and blotched.
Red velvet incubates the boiling eyes.
Yellow haze crackles on volcanic rock.
Pike mounted pig heads line the lane with flies.
The Devil leaves red ivy on the block.
Burning castles sink into the mad crowd.
Satan's storm showed a still waiting cloud.

Finally, here's a strange bug from my wind shield this morning:

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Monday, September 15, 2014
      ( 6:06 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

How much of what we think of as reality is composed of popular delusion? Manipulating this shared delusion is an important part of any attempt to make it seem reasonable to kill or die for a country. Not only is it important to demonise the enemy but, even more fundamentally, it's important to make respectable everything being a soldier entails. In 1941, the year Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, a Kenji Mizoguchi film commissioned by the Japanese government called Genroku Chūshingura (元禄 忠臣蔵, "The Treasury of Loyal Retainers of the Genroku era") was released--called The 47 Ronin in the west because it is one of many cinematic accounts of the very famous incident from Japanese history. This rendition of the story does portray killing and, more prominently, dying for honour, and not for any intrinsically logical motives, as actions worthy of great esteem. The film was not successful with audiences, though, perhaps because this two part movie about samurai features almost no action and focuses entirely on the human compulsion to organise social perceptions. It's a fascinating film--commissioned to manipulate perceptions, it is instead a film about manipulating perceptions.

The only violence in the first of the two films occurs right at the beginning, when Lord Asano (Yoshizaburo Arashi) abruptly attacks Lord Kira (Mantoyo Mimasu) at a formal occasion of the shogun's court. This is also seemingly the one moment of simple human, animal behaviour though Asano's attack immediately follows a series of casually disparaging comments from Kira on Asano's character and abilities--Asano is apparently rebuking Kira for harming his reputation. When interrogated later, Asano never reveals the nature of his long-standing grudge with Kira or what prompted his extraordinary breach of etiquette.

From then on, the movie is about people massaging a certain truth into existence. The three men whom the shogun placed in charge of the investigation respond to hearing that Kira was praised for not drawing his sword by chuckling, remarking on what seemed to them to be cowardice on the part of Lord Kira. They are so impressed with Asano's composure and resolution, the lead investigator strongly insinuates to his superior the impropriety of condemning a samurai of Asano's family and holdings to death. But, the investigators are told, the decision has already been made by the shogun so it is inappropriate to submit an argument to the shogun now. All this is said while the shogun sits quietly in the next room behind a paper wall, likely able to hear every word, but the investigators know that any plea made directly to the shogun would not be valid because it was not arranged properly in rhetoric.

So Asano commits suicide on the shogun's order and his wife, in a solemn ceremony, cuts her hair short.

All this occurs in Edo--the city that would later be called Tokyo--where all samurai lords, daimyo, were compelled to live half the time, leaving their lands in control of subordinates, in this case Asano's castle is overseen by his chamberlain, Oishi (Chojuro Kawanami).

When the shogun orders the dissolution of the Asano family and resolves to take possession of the castle, the Asano samurai look to Oishi for guidance. Oishi commits himself to the cause of his departed lord, commands an oath of unquestioning fealty from the other samurai, now ronin (masterless samurai), and afterwards orders the abandonment of the castle in accordance with the shogun's orders. They must wait, Oishi says, until public and court opinion are in their favour.

He submits a petition to the shogun for the restoration of the Asano family and begins to frequent geisha houses in Edo to give the impression that he has fallen into a disgraceful lifestyle. It is only when the petition to restore the Asano family is denied that Oishi feels public sympathy is strong enough for the forty seven ronin to attack Kira's castle and decapitate him. It's not as though killing Kira is legal by popular vote--it's an illegal action regardless of public opinion. But Oishi knows that the revenge would be meaningless if it did not exist in a certain favourable manner in the public perception.

One might expect at least one big action set piece when the samurai descend on Kira's castle, fighting their way through guards until maybe a pitched battle with Kira himself, but the movie completely skips over the fight to the ronin begging Oishi to allow them to commit seppuku before their master's grave. But Oishi forbids it, knowing that the perceptual victory depends on the shogun ordering them to commit suicide rather than condemning them to the indignity decapitation.

So it's a story of elaborate revenge taken on a man who did not attempt to kill and did not order the death of their master and the ultimate goal is suicide. There are few or no practical motives. At one point the peasants who work the Asano land are mentioned but everyone agrees considerations of Asano family honour are more important than the basic feudal contract.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014
      ( 4:48 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Why do two countries go to war? What would it take for you to shoot and kill a stranger? 2012's The Wall (Die Wand) doesn't seem at first like it's asking those kinds of questions. It's the story of a woman who finds herself trapped in the wilderness by an invisible wall and how she survives several years in this unexpected circumstance. It's beautifully shot in breathtakingly gorgeous locations and makes a statement about human nature more fundamental perhaps than why people seek isolation.

The unnamed protagonist of the film played by Martina Gedeck says she used to be the sort of person who isolated herself in the city but after spending a year trapped by an invisible barrier in a valley in northern Austria, she writes in her diary that such feelings seem ridiculous now and she revels in a feeling of spiritual connexion with everything in nature. Of course, she seems to be in total isolation from humanity now so there's no reason for her to want it.

We don't learn very much about her life before she becomes trapped. We can infer she spent some time living on a farm from the fact that she knows how to care for livestock and how to raise crops, carving out for herself a purely subsistence life of the sort Ralph Waldo Emerson or William Butler Yeats dreamed of. She originally came to the lovely little holiday cabin in the woods with its owners, a married couple around twenty years older than her. The movie opens with them driving her to the cabin and they're listening to a cloying pop song on the radio with English lyrics about how life is a journey. Along for the ride is the couples' dog, Luchs, who is left behind after the wall manifests overnight.

When they don't return one morning after having gone for a walk to the village the previous day, the woman and Luchs set off after them--it's rather telling that animals in the movie get names but people don't.

There's never an explanation for the wall. The woman also notes that people never seem to be on the other side of the wall--no-one gathered on the other side, wondering about the invisible barrier. There are two neighbours that the woman can see on the other side of the wall and they seem to be frozen in place, one of them leaning over water trickling out of a well. The water moves but he doesn't, like a statue, and the woman concludes that everyone on the other side of the wall must be dead.

I think one could look at the wall as a psychological metaphor. It almost reminds me of the invisible barrier in Luis Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel which seemed to be created by a sort of mass hallucination. This one woman, who sought isolation and who got it, could almost be seen as an illustration of Sylvia Plath living in her Bell Jar.

And it might be fair to say that Transcendentalists like Emerson or Whitman were motivated by profound depression.

At the same time, one might look at the woman's experience as the growth of a nation. She talks about lacking the will to continue but for the endless enthusiasm of Luchs. She talks about Luchs essentially becoming another half of her mind. The cow she finds, whom she names Bella, and the two cats confer responsibility on her even as they sustain her--she talks about being both Bella's captor and Bella's prisoner, a prisoner to the constant care Bella requires. One might see Bella as representing part of the natural resources of a country, the country which both keeps the woman isolated and sets her mind free in allowing her self determination and the peace that comes with having clear territory, a clear barrier between oneself and the outside world.

Most of the movie is told in flashback as a much older version of the woman with very short hair sits writing her diary in a cold room with the grey cat recalling her first months. And from early on we learn that Luchs has died--we don't find out how until the very end. But it's always easy to distinguish between the flashback scenes where the woman gradually finds peace in her strange prison and the present day where she lives a more hollow, colder, vigilant existence.

She has to kill animals, deer especially, in order to survive but she never gets comfortable with killing. She talks about trying to imagine what someone who likes killing feels and finding she just can't imagine it. She talks about envying animals who are unburdened by moral considerations but acknowledges a human being can never be an animal, however connected to nature she feels.

The end of the movie uses all this to very effectively make its case, it makes it clear why two countries like Israel and Palestine will endlessly fight each other. It provides an insight into the motive.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014
      ( 5:21 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

There are three standard Steven Moffat devices at play in the new Doctor Who episode, "Listen"--characters meeting child versions of other characters, the Doctor or Clara saying something wise to a child audience surrogate, and a threat that is based on the protagonist's perceptions--like the Silence or the Weeping Angels. There is a fun spin put on that last device, though, which I enjoyed even though I saw it coming pretty early on.

I liked it, but it kind of felt like Moffat doing his greatest hits. There was a bit that provided insight into the Doctor's character that I guess was okay but I rather wish the show would take some time off from being about the Doctor. From 1963 to 1989, the show was very rarely about the Doctor, the new series is almost always about the Doctor. I have to think that's going to cut into its longevity a bit, how many times and ways can you say the Doctor is a pacifist hero with a bit of a guilt complex? It feels sort of like a video game where the player spends all day on the character creation screen. Mind you, I love the character creation screen, so I understand.

Still really not feeling Danny Pink. The episode hints pretty heavily that Danny and Clara are going to end up together, these hints seemingly meant to compensate for the complete lack of chemistry between the two.

The Doctor has a really funny line regarding Danny's profession. I loved the Doctor's driving motive in the episode and his interaction with the desk clerk. Capaldi gives so much weight to this stuff but it all still feels like it was written for Matt Smith. Maybe it's just because I've tied Moffat's writing voice to Smith's performance style so much in my mind.

I want to point out that while Clara wasn't wearing a particularly wild outfit in this episode it was still weirder than the Doctor's outfit. The Doctor's outfit is cool, nice, simple, sleek black. But maybe one good argument for a female Doctor would be the possibility of the makers of the show finding the courage to put her in a truly eccentric outfit again. Bow ties are cool, yes, but they sell them at Macy's. Tennis shoes with a suit, that's slightly . . . odd, I guess. But where are the umbrellas, the spectator shoes, the inexplicable vegetables in the lapel, the suit two sizes too big? The Companion's outfit should never be weirder than the Doctor's.

I did really like the point the episode made on the usefulness of fear. Star Wars links fear to the Dark Side but, as Clara points out, it's knowing fear that can make one kind. It occurs to me that the devaluing of fear, either by machismo or spiritualism, works directly against empathy.

Twitter Sonnet #665

Star shaped pasta pollutes the sea bottom.
Submerged callipers languish for coral.
Cheap anemones cheat all who bought 'em.
Our lanternfish is sweetly amoral.
Weightless noses serenely glide up bridge.
Normal malcontents trouble the orbit.
Balloon livery lines up on the ridge.
The Gold One burned in a yellow habit.
Calm kerchief challenges absorb liquid.
Note the chocolate yellow operation.
Aqualung laissez-faire aced intrepid.
A full house clubs spade participation.
Recursive nightmare chalk always comes back.
The one man train rides a circular track.

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Friday, September 12, 2014
      ( 5:26 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

This guy's not wearing a mask, it's his replacement head and he's holding a flashlight to it for power. He's an Astro Zombie. What does that mean? Well, John Carridine spends a lot of time, the whole movie in fact, explaining it in 1968's The Astro Zombies. But I'm still not really clear on the definition. Very little is clear in the movie--why three gangsters are working for an unnamed foreign government to acquire the Astro Zombies, why Carridine's character is making them, and why the U.S. government wants them. But those are the big questions, the top layer of confusion. Beneath reside the characters who wander about in the mysterious ball of stuff called the plot. It's a bad movie, but I kind of enjoyed it.

In addition to Carridine, the movie has Zura Satana of Faster Pussy Cat, Kill, Kill, seen here carefully posing before shooting a guy who was running from her gang. I'm not quite sure what the disagreement between them was about.

Meanwhile, the good guys work in a lab, trying to figure out this whole crazy Astro Zombie thing. Which I guess the Astro Zombie doesn't like because whenever one of the female protagonists is left alone in the lab, he shows up attacks her. This is explained by saying the body of the Astro Zombie was that of a psychotic criminal whose deviance was left over in his spinal cord and infected his shiny new head.

There's an old man (Wendell Corey) at the protagonists' lab who explains a lot, too. There are long, extended shots of his head telling us about Carridine's character and how he developed something and might be doing something bad.

Little do they know, Carridine is busy explaining to his Igor-like assistant that he's in the middle of making a new Astro Zombie who will be totally good.

To compare the film to a reanimated corpse, despite emitting a muffled groan that may have been escaping gases, it never quite gets on its feet. Zura Satana is fun berating her lackeys but she lacks the clear motives of her character in Faster Pussy Cat, Kill Kill. Carridine effectively exhibits an inexplicable concern at all times.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014
      ( 6:24 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Another of the many lizards I see warming themselves on the brick of the Mormon church next to my college. I've walked past that place for years because I won't buy the forty dollar parking permit but the hour and a half between classes I have now at lunch time is starting to make me want to splurge. I tried packing my lunch for a while but I can't think of anything other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I can make quickly in the morning and don't take up too much room in my purse. Those peanut better and jelly sandwiches dry out my mouth when the heat is already making me dehydrated.

I've been getting by lately eating the egg salad sandwiches sold at the Peet's Coffee now located on campus. A good source of protein for a vegetarian but I sort of feel like I shouldn't eat them every day. There's a school cafeteria but even assuming I wanted to fight the mob of hollaring recent high school graduates in T-shirts I haven't seen anything come out of that cafeteria that doesn't look like a dog's rubber chew toy. So to-day I walked all the way back down the hill to drive to the nearby shopping centre. I ate at Taco Bell. Out of the plastic pan and into rubbery fire.

I remembered ordering what's called a Seven Layer Burrito regularly thirteen or fourteen years ago. I must have been really small back then because I was surprised by the thin tortilla tube I was handed to-day. I guess I've been spoiled by the real Mexican placed I normally eat at where burritos are normally three times the size of the finger I had to-day for about the same price and made in about the same time.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014
      ( 2:03 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

How can a film be a strip tease? Films of the French New Wave are enjoyable not because of their post modern, self aware nature but because of the love and enthusiasm the filmmakers feel for their subjects. Yet constant acknowledgement of film as artifice remains an integral part of what is effective about the enduring films of the movement. Jean-luc Godard's 1961 film A Woman Is a Woman (Une femme est une femme) is like an affectionate strip tease. A woman who enjoys taking her clothes off not only because she knows the man she likes is watching and likes to see her naked but also because she knows he likes her clothes, too.

And the movie is about a stripper named Angela played by Anna Karina, Godard's soon to be wife. The wink she gives the camera is simultaneously a wink for Godard and, as Godard intended, a wink to the audience to let them know the filmmakers know what they came for and they're happy to give it.

Part of Angela's routine is that she sings and the camera cuts back and forth from her singing to the audience reaction. Every time it cuts back to her, the background music goes away. This sort of self aware presentation of the score is typical of Godard's films from the period and he does it over and over again. But here, in addition to the cognisance of the artificial quality of film is the charm of hearing Karina singing in rough a cappella.

It's this allure of realism, rather than the awareness of artificiality, that made New Wave so influential. Karina and Jean Paul Belmondo, who's also in this film, wear the medium loosely, always poised to undress. Belmondo casually chats with a character played by Jeanne Moreau and asks her how shooting on Jules and Jim is going, a Truffaut film Moreau was working on at the time. Belmondo has a cool, awkward, precarious grace. His reference to the real world outside the film is nonetheless a line from the script he's performing, he's such a natural and confident actor he still carries it as his character.

The film works also because Godard doesn't linger. A strange, magic doorway in a strip club that instantly removes or changes a woman's outfit who walks through it is disclosed casually as the camera pans along, as though it's inconsequential.

There's a seeming comment on the critical concept of the gaze years before it was established in the specialised circles it has currency in to-day as the film's other male lead, Jean Claude Brialy, watches a stripper in apparent boredom and she stands watching him in equal disinterest.

Each time the camera cuts from his close up, the woman loses a garment until she's topless.

The impression this creates is that her clothing is being removed as a result of his attention. That neither party seems particularly moved makes this feel a little like a precursor to the topless woman at the party in Godard's later film Pierrot le Fou whom no-one seems to acknowledge is topless, as though it's become normal in the course of the continually more revealing trends of fashion.

The life, the film seems to say, isn't in the naked breasts but in the pleasure one feels for seeing them or showing them. In much the way this film succeeds as a musical despite having only one song. A sequence where Karina and Belmondo self consciously pose as Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse is alive with the fact that Karina, Belmondo, and Godard love movies with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse.

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