Sunday, December 21, 2014
      ( 3:35 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

What's better, love or an orgasm? Joe, the protagonist of Lars Von Trier's 2014 film Nymphomaniac, calls love orgasms with jealousy added. As she tells her story to a very well-read, self described asexual atheist, this perhaps most cerebral of Lars Von Trier films is captivating and explores what it means to fulfil oneself and the value of pleasure and altruism.

One of the things I love most about Lars Von Trier movies, and which isn't talked about often in reviews of his work, is his practise of creating thematically evocative fantasy versions of the modern world. Plenty of people pointed out consciously made scientific inaccuracies in Melancholia while fewer point out that the puritanical little society depicted in Breaking the Waves was entirely fabricated by the director or that the legal practices and execution procedures depicted in Dancer In the Dark were anachronistic or entirely fabricated. Similarly, Von Trier creates an apparently mafia controlled debt collection practice for Nymphomaniac that enlists Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) based on the skills she becomes known for in the world of S&M.

When she meets Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), she's lying half-conscious, bloodied in the alley as a Rammstein song about nymphomania plays on the soundtrack. When she's recovering in Seligman's bed--she insists he not call ambulance or police--she tells him casually that she's a bad person. He agrees to hear her tale and decide whether or not she is truly wicked. The movie sets up dichotomies between the two that evolve and intermix throughout the film--he, the purely intellectual, she, the almost entirely physical. He the ascetic, she the hedonistic; he the innocent, she the Satanic. In fact, he explicitly remarks on Satanic symbolism that comes up throughout her tale, like a musical chord played on a piano during meetings of a secret nymphomaniac club she joins as a teenager.

The teenage Joe is played by Stacy Martin, her father is played by Christian Slater. He's a doctor and doesn't seem as perturbed as her frigid mother (Connie Wilson) by her youthful sexual experimentation. He's in most things secular but in a scene Joe recalls multiple times throughout the film, he demonstrates a love of trees that seems to have a spiritual quality. He takes Joe walking in the park in winter, describing the bare trees as the "souls of the trees". He has a particular fondness for ash trees and mentions their significance in Norse mythology.

The fondness for Wagner that Von Trier exhibited in Melancholia manifests in a scene that uses the descent into Nibelheim scene from Das Rheingold as a metaphor for Joe's discovery that she's lost the ability to orgasm. But this is just one part of a diverse and very nice soundtrack that includes the aforementioned Rammstein, Talking Heads, and Shostakovich's "Waltz Number 2", remarkable in that for many people it would instantly recall another high profile movie about sex, Eyes Wide Shut. Joe is of course almost the exact opposite of the protagonist of Eyes Wide Shut, unbound by social conceits regarding sexuality and not regarding sex as an outsider as Tom Cruise's character seemed to--and as Seligman seems to.

The first half of the film (which is divided into two films, volume 1 and 2) is a little more light hearted, following young Joe as she and her friend, B (Sophie Kennedy Clark), prowl a train in a competition to see how many men each can fuck. Seligman jovially compares the story to fly fishing and brings up some amusing analogies. Joe, meanwhile, seems surprised that the story of her selfish behaviour doesn't push him towards judging her as bad indeed but he has an intellectual acceptance of free sex. It's later in the film the issue becomes somewhat more complicated as Joe's pursuit of ever more elusive physical pleasure takes dominance over her responsibilities to other people. Throughout the film, Seligman and Joe draw fascinating analogies to music, literature, and religion, and as rich as these are, they also serve in augmenting a provoking subversion of the dichotomy between the two that calls into question all judgements, religious or secular.

Twitter Sonnet #698

Wet cotton buttons have a yen for cane.
The elegant snowmen maintained silence.
Sweet Falstaff's antlers sparked in the late lane.
No luck linked Santa's boot to compliance.
Reindeer rein in rainstorm reigns for the snow.
Fur lined boot waffles hold breakfast dom feet.
Eustace! You bought Yuletide yew trees to go.
The sleigh's unseen note was on Santa's seat.
Christ straddles crates of the angry eggnog.
The mistletoe frames clouds and Von Trier.
Coniferous con plants dupe the hedgehog.
Pines decorated are even tree-er.
Frosting firmament sogs the golden star.
Christmas centipedes are driving your car.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014
      ( 2:52 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
I only managed to listen to one Doctor Who audio play this past week and unfortunately I think it's the worst one I've heard so far, Bloodtide from 2001. A Sixth Doctor story so it already has that going against it. It actually had a nice premise--the Doctor goes to visit Charles Darwin on the Galapagos islands at the time he made his famous observations that led to his writings on natural selection and evolution. Unfortunately it goes downhill from there as author Jonathan Morris displays both a superficial grasp of Darwin and evolution and a weak understanding of elements of Doctor Who he was working with.

The main antagonists are Silurians, a humanoid species of reptiles introduced in the Third Doctor television story Doctor Who and the Silurians. The Doctor originally called them Silurians because they had supposedly been hibernating underground since the Silurian period, over four hundred million years ago. In a subsequent episode, the Doctor makes an offhand remark about how it's ridiculous to call them Silurians, this in response to letters written to the show pointing out that such complex sentient animals like the reptilian humanoids couldn't have been at that point of evolution in the Silurian. I think the show would have been better off coming up for an alternate reason as to why they existed in the Silurian than trying to suggest they actually came from a later period. In any case, it's not as bad as one of them triumphantly proclaiming, "We are Silurians!" in Bloodtide.

Though this probably isn't as silly as Charles Darwin being portrayed as a slightly religious young man who's shocked to find he's the first one to come up with the idea that animals evolved--he wasn't.

The Doctor makes references to ape-like human ancestors inhabiting the earth at the same time that the Silurians walked the surface which is completely wrong. Though the Silurians on the series refer to humans as being descendants of the "ape creatures" they were more familiar with, I always took it to mean the Silurians observed them from underground.

The Doctor's companion on Bloodtide is Evelyn Smythe, an audio only companion and one of the few things I like about the Sixth Doctor's run--she's a college professor and middle aged, a nice change of pace from the sexy young companions, though I certainly have nothing against those. But the fun thing about Evelyn, like Liz Shaw and Romana, she has a great well of knowledge to draw from leading to more intellectual exchanges between her and the Doctor. Except in Bloodtide where Evelyn has to have basic things about Darwin and evolution explained to her by the Doctor and she also mentions she was unable to finish reading Moby Dick because she thought Melville was pretentious. Hugely disappointing, though it was fun hearing the Doctor say that Melville was his favourite author even though, if I remember correctly, the Ninth Doctor says Dickens is his favourite. But maybe each Doctor has his own favourite.

I have a bit of a flu to-day, I think. I had it yesterday too and possibly the day before as well. I've been trying to stab it to death with miso soup and NyQuil. But so far it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to go see the Hobbit movie to-night as I planned. Oh, well.

Here's a squirrel I saw in Hillcrest a few days ago:

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Friday, December 19, 2014
      ( 5:24 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

In looking for meaning behind our existence or reasons behind patterns of behaviour we exhibit, it's natural to look to one's childhood and attempt to find the actions or events that shaped us. Whatever else one might say about Richard Linklater's 2014 film Boyhood, it can't be denied that it is a remarkable achievement. In casting the same actors to portray characters at different ages--in scenes shot only when the actors themselves are of the corresponding ages--for a partially improvised project that spanned twelve years, and then for the resulting film to be even halfway thematically cohesive, is an achievement. But Boyhood comes together in an effective portrait of the essential mystery of growing up and finding one's way in life generally.

Several aspects of the story are cliché--the divorced parents, the dad who's too wild for the mother who wants to get practical to raise the kids, the string of abusive boyfriends she replaces him with. But just because it's cliché doesn't mean it doesn't happen and the nature of the film lends some weight to these things. One of the things I liked about the film is that in transitioning from one stage of the characters' lives to another--which aren't separated by title cards or any obvious buffer--the film avoids most conventional landmarks; the first day at school, the first time someone falls in love, etcetera. The segments jump into the middle and the characters hit the ground running each time. We get a sense of who the people are and we draw our own conclusions as to why they are who they are or have become those people.

Linklater was fortunate in finding actors not only willing to do the project--due to the projected length they weren't legally allowed to sign contracts--but who also ended up being decent enough actors. The two kids at the centre of the film are Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater, the latter being the director's daughter. They play siblings Mason and Samantha, beginning the film at six and eight years old, respectively, and ending it at eighteen and twenty.

As the title suggests, the film is more focused on Coltrane's character, but it's interesting seeing Lorelei Linklater change as well, going from a typically hyperactive little girl who likes to tease her brother to an emotionally walled off young woman.

Mason seems significantly less emotive by the end than he did at the beginning, too, though the change isn't quite as pronounced because he starts off quieter. But since I read that Linklater managed the project partly by adapting it to what was going on in the lives of the actors, I felt like I might be seeing something more like children growing up in Hollywood rather than the suburban Texas the film depicts. Indeed, the point of view of filmmakers creeps into much of the film. Only the first segment really feels like it comes from outside the Hollywood experience as we watch young Mason play under a bridge with his friends or examine a dead bird he finds behind a trailer.

Something about these scenes have the feel of real childhood experiences, the relationship between the children and their mother--played by Patricia Arquette--has just the right tone of sensitive pride and needs from every party.

Their father is played by Ethan Hawke and it was interesting seeing the two famous actors change as well--or pretty much not change much at all in Hawke's case. Arquette goes from the sort of soft spoken siren of Lost Highway to being a slightly brassier lady with a penchant for blazers.

It almost simulates a real childhood when we examine Mason's parents along with him as he views them as models for how to be an adult. Hawke's character seems possessed of a little more basic wisdom--which is part of the character type he is, as the more wild one there's an instinctive screenplay law that he must also ultimately be the more insightful. But I liked a scene near the end where Mason observes that really his parents seem about as clueless as he is.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014
      ( 2:04 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
Last night I dreamt Ahsoka Tano and I went to help a remote village contained in a pale blue cube. Half the residents were werewolves and in an alternate timeline, which Ahsoka and I barely remembered, we killed all the werewolves. But it ended up being the wrong move so we came back in time to do things differently. We could remember very little about the old timeline except one middle aged werewolf guy with a black beard was more of a main character in that timeline than he was proving to be in our current timeline. I only remember bits and pieces of what happened next--I remember discovering I was a werewolf but wondering if I was supposed to act like one or not--running around killing people in wolf form seemed like the wrong thing to do except I knew if the werewolves weren't allowed to act like werewolves, something vague would go wrong. There turned out to be a Sith Lord in the village played I think by Ethan Hawke. I remember trying to catch a spinning red light sabre by its handle as the village cube slowly filled with water.

There seems to be extraordinary consensus of opinion regarding Sony's decision to cancel its North Korean set comedy The Interview. I saw Mia Farrow retweet Mitt Romney to-day--and not ironically. "@MittRomney .@SonyPictures don’t cave, fight: release @TheInterview free online globally. Ask viewers for voluntary $5 contribution to fight #Ebola." Devin Faraci of Badass Digest tweeted: "A country run by corporations is a country that is cowardly and exclusively profit-driven. Fucking capitalism." Well, if it's the profit motive at play, all this coverage is sooner or later going to make someone at Sony say, "If we release this movie, it'll be the single biggest hit we've ever had." There's no doubt in my mind we'll be seeing The Interview eventually. I think we're probably also going to go to war with North Korea. What better way to get our minds off the torture memos? After all, Kim Jong-un tortures a lot more people than we do, I think it's safe to assume. Gods, I hope that's safe to assume.

I have to admit, I was from the beginning rather surprised that a comedy film would depict the assassination of an actual leader of a country, however infamous that leader may be. Though its not without precedent--I remember the bomb landing on the lap of Saddam Hussein in Hot Shots! Part Deux. And even Daffy Duck had a crack at Hitler:

Of course, in the examples I just mentioned, Hussein and Hitler were both men whose countries the U.S. had been at war with. In his blog to-day, George R.R. Martin mentions Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, which was released before the U.S. went to war with Germany. And it did actually generate controversy at the time--Chaplin was one of the few directors who had complete control over his films as he was in charge of his own studio. Quite a few people at the time said Chaplin had gone too far. As far as I know, no-one was saying that about The Interview except North Korea. But we live in a climate that takes satire more for granted.

But now I read that Sony screened the film for State Department officials who okayed it, who even okayed a graphic depiction of Kim Jong-un's death. An activist planned on dropping DVD copies of The Interview into North Korea, something he's done regularly. The movie Titanic apparently had such a profound impact on a North Korean woman named Yeonmi Park that it led to her decision to flee the country with her family, a dangerous undertaking and her father died in the attempt. Now she's a minor celebrity in South Korea where she regularly mocks North Korea on South Korean television despite threats to her life, apparently possessed of a lot more guts than the higher ups at Sony.

The Interview looks like a good movie to me. I loved This Is the End, another movie from the same director, writers, and stars. It seems to me that The Interview may have been inspired by Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea--Rodman came back seemingly brainwashed and hearing him talk about how Jong-un was a good guy, just misunderstood, was eerie and ridiculous and certainly ripe for ridicule. Jong-un, like his father, of course, is evergreen fodder for jokes, as anyone who takes himself that seriously usually is. I don't think the movie was orchestrated by the U.S. government--I can believe Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen would come up with the idea to push the envelope in just this way. But I wouldn't be surprised to learn there's more to this than meets the eye.

Twitter Sonnet #697

The winged spinach overwhelms the olive.
A glassy traffic cone misled the cord.
Santa's female saint is real suggestive.
A coke has broken across the blackboard.
Scuba portents precede the hollow step.
Tow cables will distress the white mammoth.
A coal ignites on a high godless steppe.
Imperial troops landed on Plymouth.
Isolating plum pastes appear in eels.
Blue rust occurs when oxygen won't breathe.
A question of stilts punctured the weak heels.
An alarm arose when sock puppets teethed.
Pipe straws dip into the turtle drama.
Thin stalks fall to illusory kama.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014
      ( 5:15 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Finally got around to watching yesterday the Blu-Ray copy of The Empire Strikes Back I bought a few months ago. I wanted to watch it in the middle of the day so I could have the sound up to a proper volume without being incredibly rude to the neighbours. Though sound doesn't seem to travel at all through the walls of the apartment and the people upstairs with their routine random jackhammer noises at 2am don't exactly seem like courtesy is a priority. In addition to being the Blu-Ray, this is the first time in a long time I'd watched George Lucas' special edition--unfortunately what I call the "classic" edition (like it?) has of course not been released in high definition.

I at last had definite confirmation on something I'd suspected for a long time, which is that the special edition shot of Darth Vader coming off his shuttle into the Star Destroyer landing bay is in fact footage from Return of the Jedi--the detail on the Blu-Ray is enough that you can see the face of the officer in front and he's clearly the same guy Vader terrifies in the Death Star hanger at the beginning of Return of the Jedi.


I doubt I'm the first person to notice this. Which makes the already seemingly pointless addition of this scene seem even more pointless. Of all the Star Wars nitpicks I've heard in my life, I don't think I've ever hear anyone say, "How did Vader get to his Star Destroyer while Leia, Lando, and Chewie were rescuing Luke?"

I wonder what Irvin Kershner thought of this--the director of Empire Strikes Back. He's no longer alive to tell us but cinematographer Peter Suschitzky is--I can't seem to find any comment from him by googling, though. Certainly his distinctive style is visible in Empire Strikes Back when contrasting it with the other Star Wars films--David Cronenberg, who would beginning in the late 80s hire Suschitzky as cinematographer on all his films, called Empire Strikes Back the only Star Wars movie that looked good.

If you compare the above shot with other Imperial interiors that were shot by Suschitzky, one can detect a more sophisticated use of shadow, for all of the even lighting on shining grey that Imperial interiors allowed.

It probably really was a pain in the ass to light these sets, actually. But light really does distinguish one location from another in Empire Strikes Back rather well, from the misty murk of Dagobah to the perpetual red sunset on Cloud City, exterior and interior.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014
      ( 4:44 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Becoming a stripper isn't enough to replace a signed Balzac novel. Brigitte Bardot has to become the best stripper in 1956's Plucking the Daisy (En effeuillant la marguerite), a distractingly sexist yet undeniably adorable movie about a young woman who runs away from home and shacks up in a museum.

If it had been anyone other than Brigitte Bardot, this film would be pretty run of the mill and I wouldn't be able to get past the fact that the smug male lead, Daniel Gelin--who appeared in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much the same year--is incredibly annoying. I can't remember ever wanting the guy not to get the girl as much as I wanted him not to get her in this movie.

But damn me, Bardot carries it. The film was co-written and produced by Roger Vadim, who that same year directed Bardot in her big breakout role (though she was already famous) And God Created Woman, a movie which also bugged me in its rather retrograde attitude regarding the roles men and women ought to inhabit. I think roles Bardot later took, like Viva Maria and particularly Contempt, were reactions against the attitudes of these Vadim movies. But nevertheless, watching her absently taking up residence in a Balzac museum, wearing Balzac's robe while she drinks coffee, all because she believes it's her brother's home, just could not fail to put a smile on my face.

Her brother's an artist who's written home claiming to be a big success but is in reality an assistant curator at the museum. He's played by Darry Cowl, who gives my second favourite performance in the film with a hazy, stumbling, double taking interpretation of the role and seems to be even more lost in the woods than his sister.

Before he comes to the museum to find her living in his work place, Agnes (Bardot) innocently sells what she thinks is a book from his personal collection in order to pay her expenses while in Paris. Daniel (Gelin) works for the paper and he misinterprets Agnes' meaning when she says she "sold a book" and shows up wearing expensive clothes--she is a writer, having previously published anonymously a book about the people in Vichy, where she grew up.

Daniel has a habit of kissing his female editor to get her to do favours for him and he has another girl he's seeing. And he looks down on strippers but comes on real strong to Sophia, Agnes' masked alterego she adopts when she enters a stripping competition, hoping to buy back the Balzac books with the prize money.

You don't see Bardot naked in this film but there's plenty of nudity--sadly, despite ostensibly having a story about how Daniel ought to accept Agnes as she is, the regular, experienced strippers are all portrayed as caustic and dumb. One of them strides along the catwalk grinning broadly to display her gaptooth which reminded me of something Roger Ebert says in the Criterion commentary for Ozu's Floating Weeds, that characters in movies with bad teeth have a tendency to have big, open mouthed grins to show off their teeth as much as possible.

Daniel's obvious duplicity in promising Agnes she's the only girl for him in one scene and then wanting to schtupp Sophia in another is forgiven a little too easily and there's a clear attitude about the film that there are two kinds of women in the world--overgrown babies or trash, even as the film indulges in displays of beautiful naked women, a pathetic double standard.

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Monday, December 15, 2014
      ( 2:21 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Did you know George R.R. Martin once ranked 1981's, Dragonslayer ahead of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Pan's Labyrinth, La Belle et la Bete, and Raiders of the Lost Ark in a top ten list of fantasy films? His description of the film on the list contains a major spoiler so read at your own risk but I'll quote this bit:

It's surprisingly dark, and delivers some nice twists and turns along the way. Vermithrax Perjorative is the best dragon ever put on film (the dragons in Reign of Fire are a close second) and has the coolest dragon name as well.

I suppose Vermithrax may have been the best dragon created on film to that date though I found the variety of techniques used to create the monster--switching between different models and stop motion animation--and the brief space of time in which the dragon actually appears in the film sabotage attempts to establish the dragon's personality. I would certainly say Maleficent in dragon form in Disney's Sleeping Beauty was more impressive. But Dragonslayer is also a Disney film--co-produced with Paramount--surprising perhaps because of the relative darkness of the material Martin mentions. This was before Disney had Touchstone or Miramax so graphic, bloody violence and a scene establishing that Peter MacNicol is rather well hung were a bit jarring to see in a film bearing the Disney name. It is interesting for its moral ambiguity but unfortunately it fails for its lack of solid characterisation.

A problem particularly apparent in MacNicol who plays the Luke Skywalker-ish lead, apprenticed to a dying wizard played by Ralph Richardson. We can take the film as a coming of age story only by default. When MacNicol takes up the mantle of wizard he does so without hesitation and his self-confidence never seems to be challenged. He's sort of a blank.

More interesting perhaps is his costar Caitlin Clarke who plays a peasant daughter of a blacksmith who lives her life disguised as a boy in order to avoid the lottery which demands virgin women be sacrificed to the dragon periodically. When it seems MacNicol's character has vanquished the beast, she comes out as a women in a scene that's kind of sweet.

The film also features some gorgeous location shots form North Wales and Scotland.

Twitter Sonnet #696

No survey came for the dashing receipt.
It takes good treats to tease a toucan right.
The rubber thread glove is yet incomplete.
The coaster collapsed for the wrong man's height.
Echo's laser pointer caught Narcissus.
A one cracked a thirty's ribcage in half.
Adventure is harder than Calculus.
The danger came on a tray to George Raft.
When sixty shochu weddings steamed we drank.
Wheat police turned to milk in cereal.
Carbon abandoned the caribou tank.
Ben Franklin's gotten too ethereal.
Wheel cuff link bailiffs spend for sleeves.
Miracle juices beguile the reeves.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014
      ( 3:30 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

The appeal of nature, the inherent sympathy many human beings feel for it, is contrasted with the human compulsion to create artifice, to make cities, technology, and art, things which diverge from the world of forests and animals. Is one world truly better than the other? The typical answer is that the natural world is superior. Yet 2013's The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (かぐや姫の物語) provides a more complex and more interesting answer. It's also a truly extraordinary and gorgeous work of animation.

When most people think of Studio Ghibli they think of director Hayao Miyazaki. But there's another great director associated with the studio, Isao Takahata, best known in the west for his beautiful and brutal portrayal of the lives of a couple Japanese children during World War II, Grave of the Fireflies. The Tale of Princess Kaguya was his first full length feature in fourteen years and features a more stylised approach compared to Grave of the Fireflies, its imagery bearing a remarkable resemblance to art from Heian era (tenth century) Japan, the period from whence came the original folktale upon which the film is based.

In the forest one day, a wood cutter finds what appears to be a tiny girl sleeping in a bamboo stalk. He takes her home and he and his wife raise her as their own child. The beautiful Princess Kaguya grows up to be courted by the most affluent men in the country.

I loved the old fashioned fairytale feel to the movie, I love how the film preserves the story of how each suitor compares the Princess to a mythical item and so she tasks each one with finding the item he mentioned in order to win her hand. It has the feeling of The Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears where a character follows a pattern of trying one thing and then another. Takahata successfully teases out a theme inherent in the original story about the relationship of the beauty of the natural world with a colder, more artificially refined beauty and makes an interesting aesthetic statement.

The intensely stylised quality of the film itself supports this statement as it contains renderings of nature that celebrate nature while inherently reflecting a human impression of nature arising from the same aspect of our brains that separates us from nature. The Princess, while loving the rough world of the country and living precariously by subsistence farming and the meagre earnings of her father seems to be imbued with a reverence for the artificial. She exhibits early unusually refined natural singing ability and seems to know the lyrics from birth of a song about birds, beasts, and trees. Her adoptive father finds gold nuggets and silk kimonos inside the bamboo in much the way he found the Princess and takes it to mean that he ought to take an expensive home in the capital and raise the girl like a real Princess. And who could argue with him? Why else would the bamboo be producing gold and kimonos?

The Princess seems to chafe in the new ornamental lifestyle, deliberately disobeying her new tutor and cultivating a garden with a tiny reproduction of the family's old home in the woods. And yet when company arrive, she demonstrates a masterful ability to play the koto and an inherent, unrivalled grasp of manners and decorum.

Ultimately, the film seems to suggest the thematic contrast is a movement from birth to death but it doesn't portray death as a negative thing any more than it portrays clinging to nature as infantile. Death is the truth behind artificial beauty and so there is an inherent sadness and yet also a grace to it.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014
      ( 5:29 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
It's Saturday and it still feels like Doctor Who day so . . . This past week I've listened to a couple more audio plays, Loups-Garoux and Dust Breeding, a Fifth Doctor story and a Seventh Doctor story, respectively. I think I preferred Loups-Garoux but I enjoyed Dust Breeding very much. Loups-Garoux sees the Fifth Doctor and his non-human companion, Turlough, visiting a future, deforested Brazil that has become a dustbowl. I love the rare occasion when Doctor Who portrays a grim future that actually seems likely and it gives Turlough--next to Jamie my favourite male companion--an opportunity to grouse about how stupid humans are.

I found this image of Turlough with another non-human companion, Nyssa, on this Live Journal which appears to be entirely devoted to Nyssa.

I actually feel like none of the Fifth Doctor's companions were explored deeply enough. Certainly this picture makes me long for a story about a secret affair between Tegan and Nyssa;

Anyway, Turlough is also a companion whose potential I never thought was quite tapped in his run on the show. Most of his stuff is related to the second Guardians of Time story arc. But I liked how flawed he was without being a villain or whiney. He was a kid who had slightly sinister motives and some unexamined self hatred.

Loups-Garoux turns out to be about a secret society of werewolves and feels rather like White Wolf soap opera. The queen of the werewolves is played by Eleanor Bron, marking her third Doctor Who appearance after the television stories City of Death and Revelation of the Daleks. Here she has almost a romance with the Doctor who's given dialogue about how women aren't his field, how he knows little about this romance stuff, one of the few times I've heard the fact that the Doctor rarely has an acknowledged girlfriend addressed. Though, honestly, there are several Doctor and Companion pairings where I think the two absolutely must have been having sex, it's just never mentioned on screen (Romana, Sarah Jane, Jo, Liz, Jamie). The dialogue between Peter Davison and Bron is unfortunately a bit stilted, stuff about him being her champion in a ritual fight. There's far too much of the Doctor being flustered and the Queen Werewolf stating political reasons for marrying the Doctor. A real flirty back and forth between the two--like in the audio play "The Land of the Dead", would have been nice.

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Friday, December 12, 2014
      ( 3:50 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

The latest of the many bees who've come to rest on my car. I guess 'tis the season of bee dying.

I took this at Plaza Bonita mall which is pretty far south. I had lunch at a bank owned Italian place called O's American Kitchen (previously Pat and Oscar's before they went bankrupt). I was approached by three people asking for money. I guess that's what I get for wearing spectator shoes. I finally gave one guy my breadsticks.

For the other end of the spectrum, I drove up to La Jolla to see the tide pools but the tide was high.

These seagulls were pretty funny. They just sat there screaming, totally unafraid, at everyone walking past, wanting some food:

I hate this camera. I'm tired of trying to trick it into giving me the exposure I want by pointing it at a bright patch and then trying to whip it quickly over to the dark area I'm actually trying to take a picture of to get around its insistence on only letting me use a set of prefab exposure settings. Canon knows best, I guess, so this is why I end up with these lousy washed out shots.

I need a proper camera. One that takes pictures at night without a flash. Though I've noticed the trick to doing it with this one is to keep the camera really still. Which is tough because I have an unsteady hand. People point at the squiggly lines in my comics as evidence I use Paint but, sadly, no, it's these lousy analogue hands. They give me no end of trouble in video games, too. I did manage to hold it steady long enough to get this photo of a church, though.

Across the street from the church was a slightly weird piece of motorised modern art, an eleven or so foot tall statue of a blacksmith pounding at an anvil. It's the sound I love the most, the rhythmic, undulating metal scraping mixed with the sound of the sea.

Twitter Sonnet #695

Unseen salamanders fade through the cloth.
Pinned tapestries unveil the old printer.
Yellow clouds roll through the enormous moth.
Magenta stars burn the coming winter.
The wheels without ears won't heed the corp.
Expected spirits quicken each branch proved.
Antique brown curling antlers thank the boar.
A gable eyebrow pointedly was moved.
When George's sun came it brought the rabbit.
Silhouette android workers pound the beach.
Regressed troopers wore an iron habit.
Wan pilots fly from the atmosphere's reach.
A bald perplexed intern reversed health.
Dark faceless smurfs make mechanical wealth.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014
      ( 11:21 AM ) posted by Setsuled  
Last night I dreamt I was riding in the back seat of my friend's family's car and was asked to provide some Christmas music. The CD player was in the back with me so I put in the soundtrack to David's Wedding, a television musical produced for the Disney Channel in the late 1970s by David Bowie and members of The Pogues. The opening song began with slightly jubilant but elegiac flutes, accordion, and drum and bass like the beginning of The Pogue's "Broad Magestic Shannon" but it ended with David Bowie chanting "David's wedding" over and over. Of the television production, I remembered the song corresponding with David Bowie, in full Ziggy Stardust makeup and costume, curled up in the middle of what looked like a Sesame Street back alley set with artificial rain pouring down. Disney was criticised for racial insensitivity for airing the programme while David Bowie was praised for making an insightful and generally healing comment on the state of race relations in America in the late 1970s. In fact, the term "David's Wedding" became synonymous with Christmas. People didn't say, "Happy David's Wedding," but if you said, "David's Wedding is coming up at the end of the month," people would know you meant Christmas.

I also started watching the BBC's 1985 adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House last night, an eight part series of one hour episodes with Diana Rigg as Lady Dedlock, Peter Vaughan as Tulkinghorn, and Denholm Elliot as John Jarndyce. Mostly I like it so far. I love the literally bleak quality of it, all the darkness with murky lanterns or candles feebly illuminating faces.

The casting is the best part, though, except for the overly slimy guy they have playing Guppy. Peter Vaughan, too, might come off as a bit too sanguine for Tulkinghorn but Diana Rigg as Dedlock seems perfect. However, the casting of Denholm Elliot as John Jarndyce cannot be rivalled in its perfection. Few actors would more perfectly and genuinely convey the combination of generosity, modesty, and deep, barely repressed sorrowful frustration.

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