Monday, May 23, 2016
      ( 3:23 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

I started hearing about how good last night's Game of Thrones was twenty minutes before I watched it. Stephen King tweeted, "I thought my friend Jack Bender, who directed so many great LOST episodes, just turned in the episode of the year on GAME OF THRONES." And he was right. We're halfway through the season yet--and Bender directs next week, too--but it's hard to imagine the show topping this. "The Door" was 800 times better than last week's episode and last week's episode was good.

Spoilers after the screen shot--I'd particularly recommend avoiding spoilers for this one

Let's start off with the scene that's doubtlessly still on everyone's mind, the last one, where Max von Sydow died. Okay, so that's not the death you're thinking about, but still, it's too bad we'll have no more von Sydow.

The origin of Hodor's name was George R.R. Martin's idea--Benioff and Weiss say that Martin told them about it in a hotel room at some point. This may be the biggest plot point from a book that's appeared on the show that hasn't been previously published, I wonder if Martin will handle it very differently. I wonder if he's really kicking himself now for wasting so much time. No, George R.R. Martin, as Neil Gaiman famously said regarding complaints about the slowness of his book releases, is not our bitch. But alas, we are all time's bitches.

It's a real good idea. The reason it resonates so well is that it means Hodor's entire adult life was defined by his death. Which, if you think about it, is normal, particularly in Game of Thrones. Every time a character dies, be it Stannis or the Starks at the Red Wedding, we compulsively think about everything the characters had been through up to that point and we think about how cruel death is. As the end, its circumstances inevitably make a statement regarding everything that came before, and the arbitrary nature of it makes everything else seem fruitless and each action becomes significant only for its own sake. Hodor's story becomes a perfect encapsulation of that idea and that's why it's so perfectly heartbreaking. And once again, it was for something small, just Bran being bored and recklessly giving away their location to Darth Maul.

Of course, a big part of the reason this episode worked so wonderfully is that Ramsay's not in it. Though he was a topic of discussion, notably between Sansa and Littlefinger. I think Benioff and Weiss are taking notes from internet blogs and discussion sites as Sansa is giving the thoughts of such sites practically verbatim when she tells Littlefinger that him sending her to Ramsay either meant Littlefinger was stupid or her enemy. Of course, like most things involving Ramsay, this whole story doesn't quite make sense. Littlefinger has no reason to want to hurt Sansa and obviously he should have known about Ramsay. So . . . what happened? This is a bit much for any lampshade to contain.

Let's back up and think about it. At the end of season four, Sansa had the swiftly abandoned Littlefinger jr. makeover and it seemed she was going to be a sneaky power player. Maybe Littlefinger wanted Ramsay to kill her so Littlefinger could solidify his control of the Vale. If Ramsay killed Sansa, that may have been extra incentive for the Vale to attack the Boltons. This assumes that Littlefinger's devotion to Sansa as the living memory of Catelyn was a lie. But with Sansa in charge of the Vale, he would have an easy time manipulating her and it's not like the Vale and Sansa lacked reasons for wanting to take down the Boltons. Sansa taking over Winterfell would probably have been a better asset for Littlefinger than anyone else. So it seems he likely didn't know about Ramsay, which doesn't make sense. Maybe he honestly expected Sansa to wrap him around her little finger since Ramsay doesn't seem very bright. But, then, neither does Sansa, which was the main problem with her whole presumptive Dark Manipulator role to begin with. Just because she's had a lot of bad experiences doesn't make her a genius. Now she's turning down the desperately needed forces from the Vale because Littlefinger's with them.

Sansa's not the only Stark unable to put her emotions aside for pragmatism. Arya is having similar troubles with the Faceless Ones in the episode's weakest segment. But it was such a good episode, even the weakest segment was good, and I loved the play starring Richard E. Grant as Robert Baratheon.

I spend so much time analysing media, when a show invites me to analyse a play it's wonderfully natural. My biggest complaint about Game of Thrones is its inattention to the thoughts and feelings of the common people and here we can learn a few things about what they expect and accept from a play about the power players. Apparently Ned Stark is generally considered a buffoon for some reason. The oddest thing about this is that Arya seems to be just now hearing about it. And, of course, she has absolutely no poker face, as usual.

Arya is such a laughably bad assassin it sinks the whole Faceless Ones story line. She has the same outfit and hair style as when she was pretending to be a fish monger. And once again, she observes her intended victim by staring directly.

But let's get back to the good stuff. The "kingsmoot" where Theon and his sister lost the throne to Euron ("Euron"? Like urine? I guess it's no worse than Tolkien's "Huron") was great. I love the sea focus of the Iron Islands ritual and dress, the squids on the shields and the practice of ceremonially drowning the new king. The murky armour and the muddy beach are great.

The second best segment, after Hodor's, though, was Daenerys and Jorah on the cliff and Daenerys ordering Jorah to heal himself. It's like something out of a mediaeval poem about chivalry where Jorah's refraining from touching the object of his devotion is physically manifested by a skin disease, his sweet melancholy death at the end of it his romantic fixation. But Daenerys chooses life. It's sweet.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016
      ( 6:45 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

There is the past and then there's the Hollywood version. In some confused vortex between 1650 and 1910 is the setting for 1950's Buccaneer's Girl, an entertaining but almost completely rote pirate film starring Yvonne De Carlo.

References in dialogue to the Mexican coast sound like they were replacements for "the Spanish main" in an earlier version of the script so it can be assumed to take place at some point after Mexico declared independence in 1810. However, all the ships have bowsprit sails and other features of sailing vessels that went out of use in the mid 18th century.

I can only guess these are models reused from another film as there's nothing about the triangular jibs that were in use in the early nineteenth century that jars with a pirate film, even if the golden age of piracy is considered to have ended in the 1720s. None of this explains why all the women are dressed in a manner that could best be described as Edwardian--from the beginning of the twentieth century.

That's the great Elsa Lanchester as Brizar, the madam of a brothel where Deborah (De Carlo) finds work in New Orleans. The Hays code was still in effect so I was genuinely impressed at this film's boldness in portraying what was unmistakably a brothel. They get around it by having Deborah going to work for Brizar and taking lessons in deportment from her without explaining precisely for what purpose Deborah's being trained and employed. But it's pretty obvious.

Despite the fact that Lanchester was already at the point in her career where she would only be cast as sexually undesirable, older women, I loved that they put her in beautiful costumes in this film, many of which bore remarkable resemblance to her costumes from 1935's Naughty Marietta, which was also set in New Orleans.

I can't describe the wardrobe as being entirely Edwardian because nearly every dress has a strange bodice that cuts off halfway or under the breasts to reveal some kind of translucent bikini under which pasties can occasionally be discerned.

This is my favourite one, worn by De Carlo during the last of her unimpressive musical numbers. I like how it sort of implies sea foam.

An earlier scene has Deborah singing at a society ball where she becomes angry when two women talk during her performance. Unlike the respectful patrons of the seaman's tavern.

For obvious reasons, pirates in Hays era films could rarely behave like pirates but these must be the most neutered of varieties. The buccaneer of the title, not to get too pedantic, is of course not a buccaneer at all, not one of the exiled hunters who attacked ships from small boats but rather a debonair tycoon played by a cut rate version of Errol Flynn named Philip Friend.

When he finds Deborah stowed away on a ship he's captured, he threatens to take her to "the Tortugas", apparently mistaking the small group of islands near Florida for the infamous pirate haven on Tortuga, near Haiti. After she's warmed to him, he cautions her not to tell anyone that he lets all his victims live. Nevermind it seems like if anyone blabbed it would most likely be all those victims he allowed to live.

Yvonne De Carlo is feisty and has a lot of fun with her role. It's great watching her escape out the back when police come to arrest her at the brothel or seeing her argue with a romantic rival. Still, she doesn't get to have half as much fun as Jean Peters in Anne of the Indies or even Maureen O'Hara in Against All Flags. But the pretty Technicolor, the costumes, Lanchester, Henry Daniell in a tiny role, and De Carlo's spirit make this one worth watching.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016
      ( 5:03 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
To-day brings word that Paramount may be dropping its lawsuit against the Star Trek fan film Axonar. They oughtn't to have needed J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin to apply pressure--as impressive as the effects and casting on Axonar are, the story still feels very fannish, moreso than some other Star Trek fan films, actually, being basically light weight war fantasies.

Did you know Nicholas Briggs, who to-day voices the Daleks and various other villains on Doctor Who, played the Doctor in a series of fan made audio plays in the 1980s? I didn't until yesterday when I was reading the Wikipedia entry for Frozen Time, the officially licensed Big Finish Doctor Who audio play from 2007. Also written by Briggs, it apparently references one of his fan audio plays from the 80s involving the Silurians. Like Axonar, Briggs' writing is often fannish and thin but Frozen Time wasn't so bad.

Featuring former Bond girl Maryam d'Abo as a scientist working in Antarctica, she and the rest of her team are surprised to find the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) frozen and preserved in the ice. He's still alive despite having been there millions of years and his memory is a little spotty. He asks about Mel, Ace, and Hex before remembering he's been travelling alone, placing this audio play closer to the 1996 television movie. There's a rich capitalist (Anthony Calf) in charge of the expedition and I liked how the story didn't make him into the usual snarling villain, just making him kind of dumb and greedy. McCoy has good chemistry with several of the characters in the story and it would have been nice if d'Abo's character, Genevieve, had become a permanent companion. Mainly it's the concept of the Doctor recovering himself after being frozen in ice so long that keeps the story intriguing.

So the Seventh Doctor is frozen in Antarctica during most of his and the other Doctors' visits to Earth. There's also the TARDIS trapped in Pompeii, there's the Twelfth Doctor dwelling millions of years in that place from the recent season. I bet there's more examples I'm not remembering; I wonder how many Doctors are going at one time.

Twitter Sonnet #873

Ten suits delivered on livery tax.
A polearm labelled wrong gets shafted out.
A scutcheon shadow chows on arms of flax.
The threads of thoughtless wigs enmesh the trout.
A leg as duplicate to catsup pop.
The crime was closed to crisp and blank cigars.
No flag protrudes from failure pranks to drop.
From milk a nose was sculpted like a car's.
The ice machine returned the coat too late.
A war advanced along the seams of bands.
The cattle clapped upon the prodded slate.
But hooves are much too hard to pass for hands.
Uncounted beans o'erwhelmed the jar of sums.
For all lost teeth there's always still the gums.

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Friday, May 20, 2016
      ( 2:18 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
You may have made assumptions about the old thief in Newgate; you might guess correctly she worked as a prostitute but you might never guess that she had several impressive marriages, including one to her own brother, had been at various times worth hundreds of pounds, and had been a successful colonist in Virginia and come back to England. But such is the tale promised on the cover of Daniel Defoe's 1722 novel Moll Flanders. This is a delightful tour of 17th/18th century English society and underworld with a fascinating narrator.

I say "17th/18th century" because although it was written in the 18th, it's set entirely in the 17th century, being, like many 18th novels, a fictional biography, sold as a true one. It has many characteristics I'm coming to recognise of the 18th century novel. Its story is episodic and free-wheeling; the Moll Flanders who is a servant torn between the affections of two brothers has little connexion to the Moll Flanders who becomes an expert pick pocket, yet it's all part of one continual, streaming narrative. She does occasionally run across people from other parts of her life but mostly each segment is almost entirely self-contained. One could say this is like a real biography except every stage of Moll's life is in some way extraordinary and involves incredible luck, good or bad.

Something else that reminded me of Roderick Random is that Moll Flanders involves a lot of people posing as upper class in the hopes of luring a rich person into marriage. A lot of the schemes and plots are very complicated with each party employing a lot of subtlety, as when Moll presents herself in such a way as to make her land lady suggest to a man that she has a good fortune, even though she hasn't got one, and doesn't say she has directly--so has plausible deniability later. I bet a lot of the things in this book inspired some paranoia, particularly in Moll's several detailed descriptions of her shoplifting and pickpocketing where she uses the kind of credible techniques to rival the ones shown in Michael Mann's movie Thief that landed the film in hot water. Moll's technique of diverting attention from herself when it seems she might be caught by being the first one to yell out "Thief!" is particularly insidious. The story might make people believe that thieves have eyes in the backs of their heads, too, as when Moll is grabbed by a man just as she's about to enter an apparently empty shop. She relates explaining to the alderman who arbitrates the case:

That seeing nobody I the shop, I knocked with my foot very hard to make the people hear, and had also called aloud with my voice; 'tis true, there was loose plate in the shop, but that nobody could say I had touched any of it, or gone near it; that a fellow came running into the shop out of the street, and laid hands on me in a furious manner, in the very moments while I was calling for the people of the house; that if he had really had a mind to have done his neighbour any service, he should have stood at a distance, and silently watched to see whether I had touched anything or no, and then have clapped in upon me, and taken me in the fact. 'That is very true,' says Mr. Alderman, and turning to the fellow that stopped me, he asked him if it was true that I knocked with my foot? He said, yes, I had knocked, but that might be because of his coming. 'Nay,' says the alderman, taking him short, 'now you contradict yourself, for just now you said she was in the shop with her back to you, and did not see you till you came upon her.' Now it was true that my back was partly to the street, but yet as my business was of a kind that required me to have my eyes every way, so I really had a glance of him running over, as I said before, though he did not perceive it.

This sort of thing must have led to innocent people being apprehended more than once, as indeed Moll is at another occasion.

While hardly being on the level of the Marquis de Sade, Moll Flanders is also impressive, particularly compared to Victorian novels, in its depiction of a woman who doesn't only tolerate sex but seems to quite enjoy it sometimes. She seems only to feel amusement and some pity for the Baronet who "did what he pleased" with her later in the novel, when she's in her 50s.

This was an adventure indeed unlooked for, and perfectly undesigned by me; though I was not so past the merry part of life, as to forget how to behave, when a fop so blinded by his appetite should not know an old woman from a young. I did not indeed look so old as I was by ten or twelve years; yet I was not a young wench of seventeen, and it was easy enough to be distinguished. There is nothing so absurd, so surfeiting, so ridiculous, as a man heated by wine in his head, and wicked gust in his inclination together . . .

In the novel's first episode, though she couches it in polite language, Moll describes enjoying frequent sex with her first boyfriend. There's the quality of an unreliable narrator in all the manners Moll takes pains to show, refraining from writing explicitly those things "which are not so proper for a woman to write."

The manners are for me the best part of the book. From the various landladies, merchants, and seaman, working their way through life for food, sex, and shelter with reputations crafted through seeded rumours and stolen clothes and watches: this floating world, to borrow a Japanese term, is there to delude everyone even as everyone seems aware it's an illusion.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016
      ( 1:37 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

This lovely spider was hanging on the wall outside my door a couple days ago. Hanging on my door was this moth:

Hanging around the courtyard below my sister's door down the hall was this teenage raven:

My sister had told me about this one a few days earlier. I'd already noticed two very large ravens hanging about--I'd notice them when they flew away so I'm guessing they were trying to divert attention. My sister also told me about a hummingbird who seemed to be acting as guardian for the young raven. I wasn't fast enough to get pictures of the hummingbird but it made a point of getting in my path when I was near the young raven.

Ravens and crows are so good at noticing something taking interest in them, it's hard to get pictures. This young fellow was already backing away even though I kept my distance.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016
      ( 5:47 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

On life's path, something offensive or obscene threatens to accost us at every step. Throughout the 30s, 40s, and 50s, under the guidance of the Hays Code, deeply moral films endeavoured to show us the way through by demonstrating how easy it was to fall prey to adultery, alcoholism, and other depravities. But none equal 1981's Polyester for daring, no work of Susan Hayward or Douglas Sirk could approach the realisation of what horrors could befall an innocent housewife as portrayed in this John Waters film. And never before had such a film featured the wonder of Odorama.

I wonder if I missed out by not having the scratch and sniff card, by not being able to experience alongside the protagonist, Francine (Divine), the roses, farts, air freshener, or skunk. But even odourless, the film is a good satire that shows an intimate acquaintance with films of the 50s. Nearly all the actors have the mannerisms down to a T. From the German scientist at the beginning to Francine's cheating husband who exclaims with absurd ecstasy to his mistress that he has condoms.

None match Divine, though, who identified as male in his personal life but was so effective at portraying this particular idea of 1950s/early 1960s woman. The hand gestures in particular impress me--it helped he had small, tapering hands, but he had that delicate hand wringing and finger pinching to perfection.

The pushy morality of such films as Rebel Without a Cause or All that Heaven Allows typically have the characters hitting misfortune for their transgressions no matter what kind of logical contortions the films needed to make--the logic of melodrama I mentioned on Monday when talking about Game of Thrones. Polyester takes this and amplifies every pay-off. When misbehaving kids drive by and swat a rabbi with a broom, they must then swat a Chinese woman in traditional clothes (accompanied by plucked strings on the soundtrack) and then a heavy black woman dressed as though she's on her way to a choir. One stereotype prompts the next like dominoes. At a picnic, Francine takes out a sandwich, looks up a moment to enjoy the beauty of nature to calm her nerves, then finds ants have immediately coated her sandwich and a skunk has appeared.

Francine's best friend, Cuddles (Edith Massey), has just come into an inheritance and is rashly taking on the airs of a society woman. She's also mentally impaired, a nice skewing of this typical plot contrivance. It both underlines the silliness of this typical story and automatically provokes some extra concern for her. It's reflective of Waters' particular brand of irony which is both funny and yet oddly sympathetic. There's a genuinely nightmarish quality to the picnic scenes and others and one is compelled to ask what this poor humanity has gotten itself into.

Twitter Sonnet #872

A proxy set of soldiers sewn from cheese
Condemned the orders sent from grapes for songs
About the straw from Panama that can't appease
Ambulance hairnets coating wigs of pawns.
In cables patched by errant paint the sign
Was sped on paths unshorn by sheep who crack
Their vengeance slow on anchovies and wine
We brewed from dreamless grapes to safer sack.
A radio heard only by the suit
Induced a dancing too alone for pubs
Intent on silent beers of carbon root
Where pop was soda sewn of tyre hubs.
The grated daikon gateful takes the paste
Along the grove ordained by bowling waste.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016
      ( 1:48 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

A strange creature threatens man's domain and there's also a giant octopus in 1955's It Came from Beneath the Sea. This giant monster or kaiju film has some really impressive effects from Ray Harryhausen but most of the movie is about a budding romance between a submarine captain and a marine biologist. The movie's perspective on sexual politics is adorable and fascinating in its apparent awkward sincerity. And one really ought to wonder, what can we make of the modern, professional woman when confronted with a giant octopus?

Obviously very influenced by the original Godzilla which came out in Japan the year before, this American film also features a monster from the depths of the sea who's awoken by nuclear testing. And, like Godzilla, it features a love triangle involving two men, a ship's captain and a scientist, and a woman. In Godzilla, the woman is the daughter of an older scientist while in It Came from Beneath the Sea, the woman is a scientist herself.

Faith Domergue as Professor Lesley Joyce puts the cheese in cheesecake as she plays the role with the knowing smirk of a streetwise chanteuse. At one point, she uses her feminine wiles to get a sailor to open up about encountering the monster. She has him light her cigarette and sits on the table in front of him.

She's great. I couldn't stop smiling whenever she was on screen.

The Navy captain, Pete (Kenneth Tobey), doesn't know what to make of this woman and is surprised when she's offended when he wants her to break off attending a conference in Cairo just for him. Of course, he still has the right to extort her into dancing with him at the hotel, taking her insistence she doesn't want to as a "yes"--which ends up being apparently the case when she kisses him later.

While she may be okay for identifying an octopus, it takes the male scientist, John Carter (Donald Curtis)(no relation to the hero on Mars), to team up with Pete for some undersea fighting to actually defeat the thing. In Godzilla, the male scientist is driven mad by jealousy when the woman breaks up with him favour of the ship's captain. But while John had seemed to be interested in Lesley, he doesn't seem to take it hard at all when she chooses Pete over him. He ends up being kind of superfluous, mainly there as an initial obstacle for Pete and then he's there to do the manly yet scientific things that Lesley can't do.

Godzilla featured mainstream stars like Takashi Shimura, it was directed by Ishiro Honda who'd been assistant director to Akira Kurosawa, and had music by one of the great film composers of Japanese film in the 50s and 60s, Masaru Sato. It Came from Beneath the Sea actually had a pretty good composer, Mischa Bakaleinikoff (though I'd swear I was hearing a lot of Wagner), but mainly all the star quality was in Ray Harryhausen.

That octopus outperforms all the actors. A sequence where men with flamethrowers fend off a tentacle in particular holds up surprisingly well.

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Monday, May 16, 2016
      ( 5:25 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
Last night I dreamt I was at a big outdoor concert festival like Coachella and a guy asked me to watch an ant he was fighting while he used a port-o-potty. The big black ant ended up being about the size of a cat and it was just standing there wiggling its head in the air. I couldn't believe I was seeing such a large ant so I started taking pictures, feeling slightly frustrated there was nothing near the ant to show the scale. Then a little black Scottish Terrier attacked it and it ran. I chased after the two, following them into a network of caves but I had to stop because Donald Trump blocked my path. The dog and the ant raced past him. He was saying something to me about how horrible he thought Jews and black people are and he started talking about troubled youth and blamed the problem on their "parent nets".

"You mean parents?" I asked and he admitted he meant parents. I realised I was taking video with my camera and I was about to start asking Trump some questions that would show how foolish he was in a satisfying way when Trump said to someone behind me, "You need to lose weight."

I looked back and Kyle MacLachlan was reclining on a chaise lounge dressed as Agent Cooper. He shrugged and smiled. He didn't seem that heavy but I said, "Well, after all those years of doughnuts and cherry pies, it would make sense for him to be fatter."

Nothing in my dream was apparently inspired by last night's Game of Thrones but it was my favourite episode of the season so far. Though it still feels a bit like the show is in fast-forward.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Although I would have liked to have spent some time on the road with Brienne, Podrick, and Sansa getting to know each other, it was really nice seeing Sansa and Jon reunite. Now we see why Jon has been struck with the inexplicable reluctance to help anyone, it was to give Sansa something to take charge about. Well, good for her.

Meanwhile, Cersei takes control of the situation in King's Landing politics, Daenerys becomes the first woman to rule over all the tribes of the Dothraki, and Yara finds she might have a shot at being the first female ruler of the Iron Islands thanks to the timely arrival of a mutilated and cowed Theon. Let's not forget that the Sand Snakes took over Dorne so it looks like we're seeing a spontaneous feminist revolution in the world of Game of Thrones. That's a whole lot of coincidence in these supposedly patriarchal cultures but, hell, why not. It's fun, it's fantasy.

It's a shame poor Margaery is benched for it but she and the High Sparrow had my favourite version of the repeated scene where the High Sparrow comes off as really nice and humble despite being at the head of a group of mute, weird assholes. Jonathan Pryce sells that story about being a cobbler and we share the feeling Margaery seems to be having of slight entrancement. This season is actually making the High Sparrow seem credibly dangerous and I'd say it's almost entirely due to Pryce.

Although, here's a lighting tip--if a character is using her hand to shield her eyes from the light, you should probably make it so that her hand is shielding her eyes from the light.

Seeing Tyrion getting the ball rolling on some possibly brilliant, possibly disastrous political manoeuvring was great, vintage Tyrion.

It was nice to see that beautiful location again in the reintroduction of Littlefinger. Is it Ireland? Anyway, it's gorgeous.

With Davos bringing up Shireen to Melisandre, I wonder if by some implausible means the truth that Stannis sacrificed Shireen at Melisandre's urging is going to come out. Realistically, it shouldn't, but according to melodrama logic it will inevitably come out. I hope not, I don't think anything interesting can come out of it. It'll probably end up with an argument between Davos and Melisandre that comes to nothing. It's so hard not to type "Davros". Now that would be interesting.

Well, just when we thought we'd seen the last of Emilia Clarke's boobs, there they were, making the dramatic reappearance Game of Thrones is known for. I know, it's not exactly the same as a character from three seasons ago unexpectedly returning but, then, it kind of is. We got to know these boobs over the years and then they were gone. Just like Kit Harrington was doing all kinds of press about how Jon Snow was truly dead, Emilia Clarke was going around saying she wasn't doing nude scenes anymore. As Clarke put it:

"I'd like to remind people the last time I took my clothes off was season 3. That was awhile ago. It's now season 6. But this is all me, all proud, all strong. I'm just feeling genuinely happy I said 'Yes.' That ain't no body double!"

Which is great, I'm glad she feels empowered by it, regardless of what Bette Midler might tweet at Kim Kardashian. Only . . . Well, the shot is actually kind of awkwardly framed. Really, it should have been a full body shot and then maybe an extreme close-up of her face. A waist up shot says, "This is how much we're allowed to show." A full shot says, "This is what the people watching, ostensibly the POV, are seeing," while an extreme close-up would be, "This is what the people watching are focusing on," as well as giving us the emotional perspective of the character, an extreme close-up reflecting the power of her will.

I know, I know, there's no pleasing some people. Really, I thought it was a badass moment, a pleasing echo of Daenerys' badass moments from previous seasons.

There was really only one scene I genuinely didn't like and of course it was Ramsay's scene. I had no particular investment in Osha--I didn't love her or hate her. It's not that I minded that she was killed after only just recently showing up again after two or three years, but there are too many layers of implausibility in the scene;

1) Why is she there at all? Why did the bearded guy think Ramsay would care about some random Wildling?

2) Why did Ramsay have her bathed and brought to him if he was just going to execute her?

3) Why is Ramsay able to kill her so easily? I know, he's been established as a martial arts badass, but since that didn't make sense to begin with, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't remind everyone that still doesn't make sense.

Oh, well. It was a mostly good episode. I'm glad Julian Glover got a scene that restored some of the mystery about his character.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016
      ( 2:17 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Bad luck and incompetence may combine to make a really bad week. A drug dealer named Frank in Nicolas Winding Refn's 1996 film Pusher finds himself in a perfect storm as multiple accumulated bad decisions abruptly come crashing down on his head. He finds himself desperately bullying his way through the Copenhagen criminal underground in this nicely brutal piece of gangster cinema.

My exposure to Nicolas Winding Refn's films as so far been from within the past ten years--Valhalla Rising, Drive, and Only God Forgives. So after those extremely stylised films of carefully composed artificial lighting, frequent slow motion, and deliberately glacial acting, it was surprising to find he'd begun with such a naturalistic film. Maybe not too surprising given it's harder to make the kind of carefully constructed art pieces of those later films on an indie beginner's budget. And there are some scenes in Pusher, particularly in bars and nightclubs, that seem to presage the director's current stylistic predilections.

Here a woman at the bar rebuffs some crude, rough flirtations from Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) while Frank (Kim Bodnia) covers his face in laughter. A moment later, the two men kiss on the lips, the two having a closer relationship than either has with any of the women in their lives. Tonny describes pissing on a girl's face in a car ride while Frank talks now and then about Vic (Laura Drasbaek), a prostitute he stays with but doesn't like to have sex with.

Whether or not there's repressed homosexuality beneath the drug addled machismo is never explicitly addressed because most of the movie is about Frank desperately trying to collect debts from buyers after a deal goes bad and he finds himself suddenly owing a massive amount of money to his supplier.

I don't know anything about being a drug dealer but it seems to me Frank is extraordinarily bad at it. He's apparently given drugs to all kinds of people on credit. When he goes to deliver on the big deal that goes wrong, he just gets into the car with the prospective buyer, unarmed, and carrying the drugs. It's no wonder he finds himself in hot water. I said he had bad luck, but thinking about it now, it's a wonder he's lived this long.

Mind you, this isn't a criticism of the movie but of the character. Frank's incompetence is a wonderful source of tension. He, Tonny, and Vic are all characters with that sense of addicts who simultaneously put everything on the surface and suppress everything. Vic talks about how she's not a whore but a "champagne girl" and how she could do anything she wants but she just doesn't want to.

Winding Refn is often--and justifiably (as he is apparently first to admit)--criticised for not writing women as effectively as he writes men. But the pretty standard concept of the deluded prostitute takes on plenty of life thanks to the naturalistic lighting and Laura Drasbaek's portrayal of the character whom she infuses with a very credible vulnerable obstinacy.

But it's Frank's misguided belief in his own strength that's centre stage here. As we watch him make one obviously bad decision after another, usually involving him beating someone or begging for money with a stone face, we wonder how on Earth he expects this to work while finding it absolutely believable that he does.

Twitter Sonnet #871

Through turquoise sky the lightning bleeds of years.
In sinks of scratched and greying paint are bills.
A whitefly eats a dollar hid by peers.
The melted throne attracts the ants by hills.
Ornate investors clink along the bank.
A cube of ice the size of Spain relaxed.
Geometry once melted breaks the tank.
No car in sight the cherry's not yet taxed.
The uncrushed thought, velvet too loud in hand.
The steeple turned, a dropper caught in rise.
A step is manifold, a copy band.
The burning moons insist from spinach pies.
The golem eyes of cheese misspoke for green.
Hors d'oeuvres in space took on a slimy sheen.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016
      ( 4:20 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

This is my current desktop wallpaper--it's one of about 40 pictures my desktop cycles through every thirty minutes. It's a promotion photo from Tom Baker's last season as the Doctor on Doctor Who (making it 1981-ish). Those faces speak volumes. Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), so chipper and happy to be there, to score such a nice gig. Baker, meanwhile, seems barely able to conceal his lack of enthusiasm. He began his run as the free spirited fellow with the orange scarf; seven years later and the curl's just about gone out of his hair and he just wants it to be over. Doctor Who was moving from Dionysian to Apollonian. No more improvisations, the humour and horror always so close to the hearts of Baker, Holmes, Hinchcliffe and Adams. Now was the time for Christopher Bidmead to put it all in a tight can in which Baker couldn't fit.

It's wonderful how the audio plays have given better stories to the Fifth and Sixth Doctors than they had in their run, a couple miracles like The Caves of Androzani notwithstanding.

Last night I listened to a Sixth Doctor audio play from 2007 called The Wishing Beast. With Colin Baker as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as his companion Mel, it's possibly the worst Doctor/Companion combo from the television series but it works in this decently written audio. The Doctor and Mel receive a transmission from a couple young women who turn out to be a couple very old women living in a house in the woods. They're taking care of a "wishing beast" with which they seem to have a peculiar relationship. It has a wonderfully creepy atmosphere assisted in no small part by the fact that none other than Jean Marsh plays one of the women. These audio plays do get some impressive guest stars. I wonder if there's any chance of her appearing on the television series. As Sara Kingdom, the character she played on Doctor Who in the 60s, or as Morgana Le Fay, whom she played on Doctor Who in 1989 (basically she was reprising her role as the evil queen from the Ron Howard movie Willow), or as someone new. Maybe 1989 counts as too recent. I seem to remember there being an unspoken rule instituted on the show that guest stars had to wait three years before appearing again as another character. It seems a waste to have her only on audio if she's game for more.

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Friday, May 13, 2016
      ( 5:19 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
Happy Friday the 13th, everyone. I always seem to have a nice day on Friday the 13th. I may stand an especially good shot because I had a rather unlucky day yesterday. While I was cleaning the oatmeal bowl I've used almost every morning for five or six years, it slipped in my hand and broke on the sink, cutting my left pinkie. Then I ended up wasting hours making a chess arena in Second Life that ending up being unusable because the castle walls construction pack I bought had parts that disappear when the camera's only a short distance away. From the full bag of potatoes I had for dinner, it turned out all of them were emerald green and had to be thrown away, so I had rice and made a mess making tortillas for quesadillas. Then, around the sweet potato I'd had growing in a mason jar for almost a year, I noticed swarms of tiny white flies when I tried to trim it so I had to throw it away. But my day was still better than Daryl's in episode five of The Walking Dead, season two.

Spoilers for The Walking Dead season 2 after the screenshot

I can see why everyone likes Daryl now. Just when I was wondering if I could get any further through the "Who the Baby Daddy?" story in the excruciatingly shallow Rick/Lori/Shane love triangle, Daryl's horse throws him, he falls to the bottom of a hill, and has to fight two zombies after being impaled by his own crossbow arrow. He didn't have to wear their ears as trophies, he probably didn't have to eat a dead squirrel, but I'm so glad he did.

And Michael Rooker as Merle came back! Sort of, in visions. I hope he comes back for real.

I love that Daryl believes in Chupacabra, too. He presumably has some of the same bigotry as his brother but there's a stunted innocence about him that's really sweet. If it were the Merle and Daryl show, the dysfunctional redneck brothers after the apocalypse, I'd be really happy with The Walking Dead. If the show does turn out that way, though, don't tell me, I'm trying to avoid spoilers.

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