Monday, August 31, 2009

Toothless Vampires

Now I'm really digging Bakemonogatari--Saturday's episode went back to the S&M subtext that first caught my eye about the show, and the thinly disguised kinky dynamic is clear--Araragi, who has supernatural healing abilities, lets himself be abused by beautiful women who need to hurt him to work out their own psychological issues.

This latest episode was the last part in an arc that introduced the athletic lesbian character, Kanbaru, who's jealous of Araragi for capturing Senjogohara's affection. But the layers of story deployed before the characters reach this conclusion themselves are nice--Kanbaru blames the supernaturally extreme violence she wreaks on a monkey's paw granting her wishes in ways she does not expect--and she seems to believe this explanation herself. I love the alternate opening for the episode, "Ambivalent World", which superficially plays like an Aim for the Ace style, optimistic sports series, but with sinister undercurrents;



I'm even growing more comfortable with Araragi's shyness, as I see it now as an aspect of his desire to be punished. And I've been thinking more about the standard "shy guy" in anime and manga--I downloaded the first episode of a hentai series the other night called Stretta. I only watched the first part of the episode, but it featured a guy going to a maid cafe where apparently sexual services could be purchased. The maid seemed happy and eager to perform these--hardly unusual for a character in a porno--but what struck me is the guy, the whole time, acted sincerely shocked by the maid's behaviour, "Oh my god, she's taking her clothes off! Oh my god, she's giving me a blowjob!" etcetera. It's like the Ani DiFranco song about the goldfish with bad memory always being surprised by the little plastic castle--we all know any halfway intelligent person would've figured out sex was happening pretty early in the proceedings, so it seems to me this is a conspicuous play-acting, though perhaps it's not consciously read as such by the typical viewer, even less likely read as such in standard anime and manga where the shy guy often appears. Bakemonogatari might be an honest attempt to analyse the type and what it means that the type is so popular, or is deemed necessary in order for a show to have abnormally affectionate and sexual fantasy women. Perhaps it's a sort of automatic solution for guilt young men are made to feel for being attracted to women's bodies, a solution based on poor understanding of the actual issue of women being treated solely as sexual objects, or just jealousy over the fact that women get to be both beautiful and intelligent and guys feel they can only hope to be the latter.

On kind of the same subject, I find I'm having exactly the same reaction to the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nine episodes in, as the first time I watched it. Well, except I really liked the episode with Amy Adams where the Buffy gang tells Tara's conservative family to fuck off. But I'm hating the Buffy's mom stuff just as much as I did the first time and feeling just as frustrated by wanting more Spike than is being served.

I remembered thinking the episode where Buffy's mom dies was lame, but I'd forgotten about all the cheesy Lifetime movie stuff from earlier in the season where Mrs. Summers was dealing with a brain tumour. Though this time I started thinking about how a two-dimensional, standard sitcom "Mom" character getting cancer might in some way be a discussion of a disease attacking an extremely broad, amorphous concept, but the show isn't really exercising that discussion. I feel more like Joss is punishing me for wanting to see more Spike, "No, you callous viewer, you, you must WEEP FOR BUFFY'S MOTHER." What's more, the precious few moments with Spike are misfires anyway--one of my favourite moments in the entire series comes at the end of "Fool for Love" where Spike is about to make an earnest go at murdering Buffy, only to find her crying and finding he wants to comfort her. The play of emotions on James Marsters face here is great, and the episode does a good job of establishing something of an inferiority complex for Spike that prompts his need to go for big targets, like Slayers, and craft flashy styles and mannerisms for himself. But it's like the writers became worried about the amount of sympathy the episode generated for him, because the only times he's appeared in the two episodes afterwards, he's committing piddling stalker crimes--sniffing Buffy's sweater, stealing photos from her basement. I don't buy it--Spike's been around over a hundred years at this point, he's used to getting what he wants, and is concerned for his self image. This stuff is clearly here to set up for Buffy really shutting him down.

Meanwhile--hey--he's a murderer. We don't need this. If we feel bad for Spike when Buffy spurns him while she's unquestionably the heroine and he's a soulless killer--well, that's interesting. When you have an audience whole heartedly liking something they know they're not supposed to like, that's a great moment in art. Though that assumes mortality means anything on Buffy, and, of course, it increasingly doesn't. Oh, well.

My tweets last night;

Opposing ear canals are in your head.
Kerouac and Gollum are lost and beat.
This heavy wine is like red liquid lead.
You'll never get home from the car's back seat.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Incorporeal Assets

Twitter Sonnet #55

Malls are haunted by con ghosts of commerce.
I crawled there from ocean society.
My phone instincts have only gotten worse.
But I've kicked telegram anxiety.
Old machine mouths would speak to new elf ears.
Anarchy's safely looked at online now.
Detective mice smoke their pipes on the gears.
They cannot conceive of skinning a cow.
Invest in paper worms with metal guts.
But Lawrence maintains nothing is written.
Britain may fall for want of Pizza Huts.
Valuable leaves are not for the kitten.
Yoked with electrodes is our Fred Astaire.
The uncashed cheque is remembered somewhere.


Yesterday I received this letter from my car insurance company;

Dear Insured:

A reconciliation of our outstanding refund checks reflects that a check issued to you by Wawanesa Insurance in 2006 has never been negotiated. The amount of the refund check was $8.00. We have voided the original refund check and you will find enclosed a replacement check.


Someone has a really fun job.

I rolled sixty dollars worth of quarters yesterday, and I haven't even gotten through half of my loose change. I guess what I've learned about myself this weekend is that I accumulate a lot of money in very small quantities. I often imagine capitalism as a frustrated child, constantly trying to get my attention.

Yesterday Tim ran my human rogue through Dead Mines again. Now she has all kinds of Defias gear and is wielding two swords, the Thief's Blade and the Butcher's Blade, though I kind of miss the rolling pin she had until a little while ago;



I've gotten my rogue, Galatea, to level 21 now, neglecting my level 40 warrior. I've been enjoying the Disneyland Fantasy Land quality of the human lands, while I guess the undead areas are more Haunted Mansion.

Anyway, I'd better get back to my comic . . .

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pickled Chaos

I see pictures are circulating of the Dawn Treader from the Narnia movie of the same name. Actually looks pretty much the way I always imagined it--and pretty close to the illustrations. But there were a lot of great sets, costumes, and props in the first movie (I never saw the second). Hopefully now that someone besides Andrew Adamson's directing, we'll have a Narnia movie worth seeing. Of course, there's every possibility it'll still suck, though I actually see the vastly reduced budget as potentially a good thing as perhaps it might force a filmmaker to try to create suspense and tension with pure composition, lighting, and lots of the mysterious unseen. Do I even have to point out C.S. Lewis' printed word succeeds far better at creature-making than the films' cgi?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader's such a great fucking book, a good movie out of it would be a really nice surprise.

My tweets last night;

Old machine mouths would speak to new elf ears.
Anarchy's safely looked at online now.
Detective mice smoke their pipes on the gears.
They cannot conceive of skinning a cow.


My sister sent me a link to photos from BlizzCon in which she's featured--she's the blonde girl on the left in the third to last picture and she's in the last picture on that page. Apparently the price of admission is 125 dollars for both days. Which seems absurd when Comic-Con costs only 75 dollars for four days and there isn't, strictly speaking, anything at BlizzCon. If you spend a hundred twenty five dollars to play shuffleboard and get autographs from the booth girls, something's wrong. There was the Ozzy Osbourne concert, I suppose.

I was struck by this crowd shot where you can see one guy's wearing a Dark Knight Joker t-shirt. And it seemed to me a nice indicator of the sort of counterfeit freedom many World of Warcraft players subscribe to. Here's an emblem of chaos and anarchy, but it's hard to imagine this guy jay-walking. It's easier to think of the world as truly a chaotic free for all when your world is contained on the internet.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Finding the Summer Frost

My tweets last night;

Malls are haunted by con ghosts of commerce.
I crawled there from ocean society.
My phone instincts have only gotten worse.
But I've kicked telegram anxiety.


Which is to say, I got a blackberry yesterday. I feel sort of like I got fleeced, and it put me in a bad mood. At least I was able to get online to-day and switch my plan from a hundred dollars a month to seventy dollars a month. And Morrissey on my mp3 alarm clock put me in a good mood. But I'm still not sure I'm happy about this thing.

I was also in Ocean Beach yesterday, where I stopped in at the Rite Aid where I worked for three months several years ago. There was no one there I recognised, and it was eerie being in the place and getting rung up by someone using a register I know I used to know how to use but have absolutely no idea about it now. It's amazing how completely my memory on that got wiped. I remembered learning it very quickly.

Mainly I remember working in the freezer to stock ice cream. I used to have to bring my leather bomber jacket to work every day in the middle of summer.

I finally got to drawing yesterday on the new Chapter. It was the happiest I'd felt in days. More and more, it seems to me when I'm immersed in drawing it's the truest thing in the world. So I might as well get back at it now . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Second Nature Demonic Summoning

Twitter Sonnet #54

I held distant doors open for babies.
So my journey was kind of not in vain.
County's covered with miles of maybes.
My skull filled with a single useless brain.
Twitter hides shyly behind error drapes.
There's no shield from the affection of Lum.
The day's drowned in the red vessels of grapes.
Pan knows grapefruit was created for rum.
Dampened brains collect layers of grey lint.
I can't see my way to a fresh squeezed juice.
Texts of human progress are left unsent.
Wonder what motor skills I can deduce.
Swing shadows moving are fine substitutes.
Escaping dirt are running mandrake roots.








More noises around the house waking me up to-day, and I was having trouble sleeping before that, waking up at 6am and reading Anne Sexton. But I made myself stay in bed until 2:30 and I think I feel rested enough to be useful to-day.

I watched the first regular episode of Twin Peaks last night, the one after the pilot, and I got to thinking about how subtle and yet crucial some aspects of an artist's abilities are. The episode's directed by Duwayne Dunham, who normally works as David Lynch's editor, and it's curious how ineffective his style is even when he's using exactly the same actors, sets, characters, music, and screenwriters as the far more effective pilot episode, directed by Lynch. A moment that stands out for me is a scene where James, being led to his cell, is taunted by Mike and Bobby in another cell. Both episodes have a scene like this. Lynch chose to shoot James from a distance and give his eyes dark shadows while going to extreme close-ups of Bobby's face. Somehow this creates a real menacing feeling, as James conveys practically nothing but somehow the lighting and camera distance make him seem vulnerable to Bobby's uncomfortably close face, bared teeth, and slightly inscrutable yet clearly threatening barking. Dunham, meanwhile, employs diluted lighting, lets James get close enough to give Bobby an absolutely empty look, and Bobby says something conventionally threatening. Not half as effective.

But still a basically enjoyable episode, especially for Agent Cooper's breakfast scene with Audrey.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do Not War with My Web

I saw a bunch of funnel web spiders as I was walking home from my parents' house last night and I took pictures;















I'm starting to pick up on a subtle hostility from people who see me taking pictures of spiders. A car drove past behind me while I was taking these and a young guy angrily yelled out, "What are you doing?!" I'm taking pictures of spiders, man. What are you doing?

So, so tired to-day. I'd set my alarm for 2pm, fully an hour later than I've normally been waking up, in the hopes of being properly rested to-day to go back over the Chapter 33 script and come up with rough drawings. But someone was having a good time with his leaf blower outside my window at 9am. This gentleman and his friend found various noisy activities with which to amuse themselves in the vicinity of my window over the course of the succeeding two hours.

Not much sleep for me. But several snippets of sort of unpleasant, violent dreams. One involving a high speed red monorail on a very high altitude track that stopped at a small, floating mall platform where I wanted to buy DVDs. The place was crowded with pretty girls dressed as prostitutes from the 50s, all talking loudly to each other or into their cell phones. And in another dream, I was part of a group of four kids investigating a large old house which turned out to be haunted by a big, floating Asian woman's head. Somehow we knew she was sucking the life out of all the kids in a nearby orphanage and to kill her we had to peel the flesh off her face in layers. She was screaming when my mp3 alarm clock woke me up with the Talking Heads' "Once In a Lifetime", which I'd never realised before begins with a high pitched noise of some kind.

I'm okay for about an hour after I've had coffee on a day like this, but I'm already getting into the mode where I forget what I'm doing half a minute after I've start doing it. I hate this mode.

My tweets from last night;

Twitter hides shyly behind error drapes.
There's no shield from the affection of Lum.
The day's drowned in the red vessels of grapes.
Pan knows grapefruit was created for rum.


Happy birthday, Felis Demens.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Big Jokes

Last night's tweets;

I held distant doors open for babies.
So my journey was kind of not in vain.
County's covered with miles of maybes.
My skull filled with a single useless brain.


Writing at strange coffee shops seems to help me get started on a new script sometimes, but last night I ended up just buying coffee. I had too many things I wanted to do with Chapter 33--every time I started to address one item, another part of me would freak out that I was maybe forgetting two of the others. The fact that I was weirdly groggy yesterday certainly didn't help.

Of course, when I wrote the script to-day, it came out having almost nothing to do with any of the items on my agenda. But it's a necessary series of events that I think will strengthen the narrative.

One of the things I really admire about Inglourious Basterds is its ability to switch easily between parody and drama without dissonance. Last night I was thinking about the very thin line between comedy and tragedy as I watched the Rifftrax of The Room, a fascinating independent film from 2003. I don't think I could get through it without the Rifftrax, but I can understand why it gets midnight showings and why people see it again and again. It's not just bad, it's bad in a way no other movie is bad.

The film's auteur--writer, producer, director, and star, Tommy Wiseau--has spent some time trying to convince people that the movie was intended to be a comedy all along, but it's the unmistakably earnest quality that makes it so fascinating. Funded entirely by Wiseau, six million dollars out of his own pocket, the movie feels a bit like the faux suicide note of a self absorbed teenager, depicting Wiseau's character Johnny as a "wonderful man" whose girlfriend and best friend cheat on him with each other for vague and sometimes contradictory reasons. The plot is sort of astonishingly plain with characterisations that seem to come from someone who doesn't actually credit people other than himself with having a soul. As the love triangle drama the movie tries to be, it fails, but as an exploration of its director's own personality, it's actually quite illuminating. This movie is a singular artefact; it's what happens when someone who's not an artist has the absolute confidence he is one and the money to execute his project. Wiseau's a genuine, modern day Ed Wood. Almost a Werner Herzog character.



And so, ironically, it is a valuable piece of art. I suppose it's in line with Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame idea--that any human being, regardless of whether or not he or she is an artist, is capable of submitting a valuable artistic contribution to the public discourse.

Apparently Tommy Wiseau guest starred on an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, clips from which I watched to-day while I ate breakfast, and that sort of deadpan comedy seems to suit him well. Tim and Eric seems to find comedy in the realisation that what unites most of humanity is a fundamental creepiness and inadequacy. Which is I guess why it's funny in short doses but becomes increasingly depressing the more I watch it. I needed a chaser, which for me turned out to be YouTube footage of Tori Amos performing "Leather" live in 1994. Early Tori Amos is a cure somehow for the weight left on me by a Tim and Eric sketch that seemed to be about the common ugliness of affection. I guess, when you think about it, the two items were almost about the same thing, but it's comforting I can tell Amos feels about as unhappy about it as me. It's the fact that she seems to feel there can be something better, I think.



Monday, August 24, 2009

Quality Webbing

Here's some footage of one of the big orange spiders that are again constructing massive webs throughout the neighbourhood;



Music is The Pogues doing their rendition of "Star of the County Down".

Still feeling a bit groggy, four and a half hours after waking up and drinking a pot of extra bold coffee. It can't be a hangover--I didn't drink anything last night after the scotch, figuring I'd had enough alcohol for the day, which led to an abnormally sober session of World of Warcraft after I watched Yojimbo again. I think I've crammed enough frivolity and art appreciation into the last couple days, I think I'll feel okay getting to work on the next chapter of my comic to-day.

On Saturday night, I watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a movie I'd somehow expected to be much better than it actually was. Sean Penn's character could easily have been a lot more fun if he simply never learned his lesson by the end of the movie. The abortion sequence was kind of banal and awkward, despite the fact that Jennifer Jason Leigh turned in what was easily the film's best performance, and actually came off far sexier than Phoebe Cates.

Mainly, the movie felt like a series of character studies that not only felt unfinished, but barely even begun. Damone seems cool, turns out to be a jerk, and . . . so what. The shy lead guy cockblocks the viewer in his first makeout scene with Jennifer Jason Leigh and has no arc, neither overcoming or learning to accept his shyness or even exploring in any way its nature. I couldn't even get a bead on Judge Reinhold's character--I feel like I know Moltar on Space Ghost, Coast to Coast better. It didn't help that none of the teenage characters were played by anyone who looked like a teenager, particularly not the guy playing Damone. They didn't even seem to be written as teenagers, it was like watching a half-written movie about people in their 20s attending high school.

Twitter Sonnet #53

Somewhere in my headache a brain yet lives.
No amount of cola beats a coffee.
Good cinema's carved with very big knives.
Crocodiles are big, slow and daffy.
Most dwarves have way too much time on their hands.
At least I can always rely on them.
One day I will conquer all English lands.
And have a different tea for every limb.
Spiders instruct thieves with physical pain.
Empty boxes can only teach so much.
Sprites and dragons flit dimly through the rain.
Yakuza wars require a light touch.
Coffee's the thing that creates human souls.
With it, oatmeal spackles in from your bowls.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Default Belle of the Ball

I just had an object lesson in how alcohol can slow reaction time--walking back from my parents' house, I spotted one of those enormous webs with a gigantic orange spider in the middle I tend to post photos of from time to time--I spotted it a second before I walked into it. Fortunately, I saw the spider, a specimen with a particularly bloated orange abdomen, scrambling up the remains of the web.

I'd had a scotch at my parents' house, where I talked to my sister, who'd recently returned from BlizzCon. BlizzCon, judging from my sister's description, must be the saddest place on earth.

She told me the vast majority of the people there were men ages 40 to 50, large, and extremely smelly. She said when she walked to the restroom, she had to go through curtains of body odour. She said there was maybe one girl for every twenty guys and that, despite the fact that she and her co-worker weren't in WoW costumes and didn't know the first thing about the game, they were both treated like celebrities simply for being pretty girls. I'm not exaggerating.

My sister and her friend Kelly were there running a shuffleboard game as part of a promotion for some computer hardware she didn't know much about. When a Con goer asked her about it, she referred him to one of the tech guys and he said, "I should've known you were a dumb blonde. No offence." Other guys walking past shouted "Whores!" at her and Kelly. I speculated to my sister that the ease of escape from social situations and anonymity on the internet breeds people whose social skills are made up entirely of inconsiderate and insensitive devices.

On the other hand, when another guy asked her where she was from, and when she told him, he replied, "Oh, I thought you were from heaven." Which, you know. Was nice, at least.

When my sister and Kelly decided to go on a ride set up for Starcraft, which was a metal sphere with wrist, ankle, and waist straps that suspended a person in the centre while the whole contraption spun horizontally and vertically, an entire crowd of cheering guys formed who preceded to line up afterwards to pose for pictures with the girls and to get autographs from them.

So. BlizzCon sounds even less worthwhile now. Though my sister also said she met a couple who'd met through WoW, which seemed sweet, though I can't imagine how one could even begin a relationship like that through the game.

My tweets from last night;

Most dwarves have way too much time on their hands.
At least I can always rely on them.
One day I will conquer all English lands.
And have a different tea for every limb.


I discovered yesterday that Lauren Bacall twitters thanks to Bill Corbett retweeting a comment from the lady that she posted as three tweets;

Yes I saw Twilight my granddaughter made me watch it, she said it was the greatest vampire film ever.After the "film" was over I wanted to..smack her accros her head with my shoe, but I do not want a book called Grannie Dearest written on me when I die, so instead I gave her a...DVD of Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu and told her, now thats a vampire film! and that goes for all of you! watch Nosferatu instead!

Epic, as the kids say, win.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Glorious Monsters

With the possible exception of Kill Bill, I've noticed something that defines a Quentin Tarantino movie is a lack of focus and a rather arbitrary point of view. We don't seem to see his movies from the perspective of anyone but him, the cinema lover. None of his movies--not even Kill Bill--have a real nucleus character, the way Peter Jackson felt it essential the Lord of the Rings movies should have (Frodo). The Bride is almost a MacGuffin at times, but our appreciation of, say, O-Ren Ishii's story requires us to divorce our sympathies from The Bride for at least a moment. And this can be a great strength as we realise in his films that there aren't any real "good guys" and "bad guys", just people with conflicting motives and needs. "That woman deserves her revenge . . . and we deserve to die. But then again, so does she. So I guess we'll just see, won’t we?" as Michael Madsen's character puts it in Kill Bill.

There's a moment in Inglourious Basterds where Brad Pitt's character, Aldo Raine, holds forth on how the Nazis are inhuman, but the previous scene had already contradicted this idea, not by showing a "good side" to a Nazi character, but by laboriously conveying his thought process, reasoning, and tactics. It's a scene that recalls the openings of both Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in a movie filled with Sergio Leone references, but the aim of this scene is slightly different from the aim of the two Leone scenes. It is about a man breaking a hard peasant until he gives up the innocents he's protecting, but it does so in a way that establishes character and theme for the rest of the movie--as usual in a Tarantino film, through lots and lots of dialogue. Since the camera's POV is almost always Tarantino's, we know the characters entirely through dialogue, performances, and how Tarantino feels about the characters. It's the first two items that set Tarantino's films above a Baz Luhrmann or a Zack Snyder film--two directors who, even though they might cast good actors, tend to maintain a distance from the characters with neglect of POV that is not offset by anything like what Tarantino's dialogue provides.

Inglourious Bastards begins with inevitably beautiful shots of French countryside and this scene ends with Nazi brutality and composition borrowed from John Ford's famous shots of proscenium-like black silhouettes of doorways through which we see bright landscape inhabited by a character while another character--in this case Landa, the Nazi "Jew Hunter"--is seen to move through the doorway. Tarantino created a similar shot in Kill Bill vol. 2, and it's little wonder he should like it so much--in The Searchers, it conveys our point of view on the "cowboy", John Wayne, as an entity whose essence inevitably makes him an alien to mainstream society, or the viewer, even in spite of the popularity the archetype enjoyed in the 1950s. It's not about how Ethan--Wayne's character--feels, it's about what he is from an exterior viewpoint. And so, too, is the shot in Inglourious Basterds about the Nazi in the doorway and the Jewish girl running away from him across that beautiful countryside. We know the relationship between these two characters before we enter the theatre--movies and literature even more than actual history has made these two forces larger than life entities in the public consciousness.

It's interesting, then, that the Nazis should be as three dimensional as they are in the movie, because I think it suggests that, really, the horror that maintains the existence of the Word War 2 Nazi in the public consciousness isn't in response to their lack of humanity, but in response to what they showed us human beings are capable of. That the movie is a fantasy rather than an examination of reality means we are really seeing the Nazis and Jewish refugees inside Tarantino and therefore us.

The Basterds themselves, the title characters who actually seem to have the least amount of screen time, represent the film's righteous Id. In real life contexts, we would see their brutality as being scarcely better than the Nazis', but in movie context, theirs is the visceral reaction we have to the situation--they're big as mythological creatures, which is why the film is theirs despite having very little screen time. Barely any time is spent with their back stories, and here the casting of Brad Pitt and Eli Roth is essential. Everyone knows and, in a way, loves Brad Pitt, and Eli Roth carries the baggage of having directed the Hostel movies, movies that most people are disgusted by without ever having seen (they're actually good movies, by the way). Therefore, a legend--he's a sadistic maniac of mysterious proportions, but he's our sadistic maniac of mysterious proportions. Which makes him perfect as the so-called "Bear Jew", who comes out of a completely darkened tunnel preceded by the hollow sounds of his baseball bat against the walls before emerging to brutally murder the Nazi prisoner whose POV we've briefly alighted upon.

One of the things I absolutely adore about the movie is its attention to language--the Germans speak German, the French speak French, the Americans and English speak English. Supposedly 75 percent of the movie is not English, and it is established early on, in that same Leone-esque scene at the beginning, why this is important--the movie's about this sort of POV-less POV. People may superficially complain that subtitles are silly and hard to read, but the movie assumes people are, underneath, intelligent enough to know language makes a difference. Inglourious Basterds takes popular impressions seriously, even the ones we don't realise, or won't admit, we have.

Anyway, great movie. Some other things I really liked--a British spy who's half young Sean Connery and half Charlton Heston, a brutal Nazi sniper who turns out to be a boy with a crush, and the French Jewish girl, Shosanna, who gets a truly badass montage with the unexpectedly great use of David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)".

Saw a couple nice trailers. Avatar doesn't look quite as silly in very short, non-3D form, but I still don't think it's going to be very good. Scorsese's Shutter Island looks amazing, and Benicio del Toro's Wolfman looks like it borrows a lot from Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. It might be okay.

Last night's tweets;

Somewhere in my headache a brain yet lives.
No amount of cola beats a coffee.
Good cinema's carved with very big knives.
Crocodiles are big, slow and daffy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Corrected Vision Makes the Familiar Strange

I just took a picture of myself for a conversation I was having with Chris Walsh about hats. I realised I hadn't shown off my new glasses yet;



The picture also makes my nose pointier than it actually is, making me look a bit like The Shadow;



It occurs to me Kakeshya's look may've been unconsciously inspired by The Shadow (remember, there's a new chapter online of Venia's Travels).

Twitter Sonnet #52

From killing satyrs to colouring clouds,
There's always something to do before sleep.
The local ghosts are demanding more shrouds.
Ethereal beans through tortillas seep.
There's always a forest lying in wait.
Headlights turn Alice's hair to bright fog.
Some video records preview man's fate.
The channel needs a serviceable cog.
Some people won't stand for food division.
The registers here close for ten minutes.
My mint addiction is in remission.
I dreamt that I knew nothing of walnuts.
Snack agendas can take the subconscious.
To the doom of many starship launches.


I really did have a dream where I found myself discovering walnuts. First through walnut butter--like peanut butter, but from walnuts. I have no idea if they really make the stuff (oh, they do). But in my dream, I investigated backwards until the trail led me to the nut originally behind the strange butter.

Feeling very low energy to-day. Maybe the dreams a sign I need more protein. At least there's nothing scheduled for me to-day that requires a lot of concentration. I am very much looking forward to seeing Inglourious Basterds.

I'm so glad Jon Stewart's on his game;

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Betsy McCaughey Extended Interview Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Venia and Successfully Transmitted Impressions

The new Venia's Travels is online. Now I think I'll watch movie.

Dubious Conveyances

Last night's tweets;

There's always a forest lying in wait.
Headlights turn Alice's hair to bright fog.
Some video records preview man's fate.
The channel needs a serviceable cog.


Talking about a cog, the medieval sailing vessel, going across a channel like the English Channel. A reference to some ship in World of Warcraft I was on last night. I guess my sister's heading to BlizzCon to-morrow or the next day, where she's working as an attendant to a shuffleboard game, I think. Crazy shit us WoW-heads are into. Youths to-day are into extreme aging.

I was at my parents' house yesterday and saw that they've gotten a hybrid car. They name their cars, and my sister wanted to call it "Spock", but I think I've just about convinced them to call it "George Takei".

I'm starting to feel like a frightened animal on Facebook. Everything you do seems to ask if it's okay for some application to get access to yours and your friends personal information. And some things end up leaving weird messages on my "wall"--that is what it's called, right?--I didn't think I was bargaining for. I actually put my profile on "public" since the whole idea, if I ever get around to devoting time to it, was to find another outlet to promote my comic and the general grandness of "me". But it seems generally built for someone more hyperactively social than I am--I made a comment on Sara Benincasa's Facebook, and now I'm getting e-mail notifications for people who commented on the same topic--people that aren't even replying to me.

Anyway, it's the part of my social theoretical homunculus that gets the least love, neglected, shrivelling and bloodless. Nevertheless, please friend me.

I read about something called phone novels to-day--novels that are published in the format of text messages. Apparently they're big in Japan already, maybe it's a viable artistic medium, but mostly it seems like it'd to be for a somewhat shallow crowd-- like what the Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei episode I posted yesterday was poking fun at phone novel readers for being. I suppose a lot of the artforms enjoyed and respected nowadays were considered cheap and patently lowbrow in their infancy--like comic books and movies. Maybe I shouldn't judge until I've read one.

This bit from the Wikipedia entry strikes me as just ominous, though;

Cell phone novels create a personal space for each individual reader. Paul Levinson, in Information on the Move (2004), says "...nowadays, a writer can write just about as easily, anywhere, as a reader can read" and they are "not only personal but portable".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Enough Points for a Circle



Looks like a lot of people are talking about Barney Frank's town hall confrontation with a woman describing Obama's healthcare proposals as "Nazi policy". Frank rightly observed to the woman, "Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table." Which is funny, but also reflects what's both disturbing and frightening about the resistance to national healthcare. It's fair to complain about government gridlock, but the real reason we have elected officials caught in endless loops of senseless arguments is that so many of them were elected by pandering to a voting base that gets its knickers in a twist about things they don't feel it's worthwhile to understand.

Obama's policy is "Nazi" because that's the clear-cut, evil metaphor that fits the mindless emotion these protesters feel. It's disturbing because they've been carrying guns to these things now--one guy also carried a quote from Thomas Jefferson about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Part of me thinks these yahoos are ultimately too stupid and lazy to mount actual terrorist attacks, but unfortunately, intellectual laziness doesn't always come with physical laziness. We could be seeing, right in our own backyard, what the beginnings of religious war look like--a call to arms out of the frustration provoked by a bill that takes too much time to read and consider. That's why Frank's comment's so spot on--there's no point in trying to reason with people who've dialled their hearing aid to "furniture". Which then begs the question, what can you do? I think the only real solution would be decades of gently sprinkling the tree of liberty with psychic and artistic persuasion. Of course, we don't really have that much time. The world just keeps getting more depressing.

My tweets from last night;

From killing satyrs to colouring clouds,
There's always something to do before sleep.
The local ghosts are demanding more shrouds.
Ethereal beans through tortillas seep.


I've been meaning to mention how excellent the sixth episode of the new Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei season is. One of my favourites of the series, I think--from Chiri's "Playing alone with the meat doll" to the variety of measles adults shouldn't catch;


Watch Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei - 06 [gg] in Anime  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dream Autopsies

Twitter Sonnet #51

In the land where linen and apples heal.
Rum and watermelon just keep giving.
You never know what mobs might be a meal.
Secret agents relocate the living.
I'm twenty thousand leagues under sleep dep.
There's a flattened baby Kraken down here.
Pushing slowly through pea soup for each step.
Might find the English crown in Musgrave's mere.
Somehow 1am keeps coming sooner.
All old paintings will become new again.
Marilyn Monroe was always lunar.
And on the bicycle was Jack Lemmon.
Daphne's the most earnest girl in the band.
As the walrus hides his shells in the sand.


I watched the second episode of Angel's second season last night, which was an episode I liked the first time I watched it, but liked even better now. For one thing, it has one of my favourite moments in the entire series, where Angel thinks the glass of blood Cordelia's handed him has begun to coagulate only to find out she'd put cinnamon in it.

And this time I was delighted to notice a Vertigo reference--in the portion of the episode that flashed back to Angel's 1952 stay in the Hyperion Hotel, he meets a brunette named Judy who's from Salina, Kansas. The episode's Wikipedia entry lists a number of other references, most of which I also caught with the exception of Angel's opening line being a reference to Psycho and the fact that Angel stayed in room 217 was a reference to The Shining. I can't believe I missed that one, with the bellhop character actually saying something to the effect of, "I don't like room 217."

It also seemed to me the episode's music was very Bernard Herrmann-ish, which was actually what first put me in mind of Hitchcock references.

Angel has continued to vastly outshine Buffy for me. Maybe it's just because Angel has more location shots and practical points about crime and life in the city (in spite of the abandoned hotel in the middle of Hollywood), but it makes Buffy look like the kid's table. Especially after the most recent Buffy episode I watched, where Buffy and the gang discovered a corpse in a magic shop at the beginning of the episode and, despite the fact that Giles moved into the shop by the end of the episode, we never found out what happened to the body. He'd clearly been murdered, so was there a police investigation? Did Buffy and her friends dispose of the body themselves, and if so, did they think for a moment about notifying the man's family? The show pulls shit like this, and then expects to deeply contemplate mortality or something when Buffy's mother dies. I'm so not looking forward to that episode. Well, at least I can gripe about it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Everyone's a Baby Monster

There were a bunch of baby spiders in my bathroom last night. I guess some eggs hatched;



The music's by Hasegawa Tomoki from the Zoku Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei soundtrack.

Last night's tweets;

I'm twenty thousand leagues under sleep dep.
There's a flattened baby Kraken down here.
Pushing slowly through pea soup for each step.
Might find the English crown in Musgrave's mere.


PBS has been airing the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series lately, probably in anticipation of the upcoming Robert Downey Jr. movie. I caught part of "The Musgrave Ritual" during lunch yesterday--definitely one of my favourite episodes. Unobtrusive direction, nice, gloomy English manor house, everyone wearing scarves and black, grey, or pale brown suits. I wonder if Robert Downey Jr. will be spending an hour of the new movie deciphering a centuries old poem.

Running a little late to-day because I went grocery shopping. I stopped in at the bookstore and saw Caitlin's The Red Tree on the shelf, came close to buying it, but just couldn't. I got too sad when I picked it up. Even reading Sirenia Digest nowadays makes me feel like my guts are being scooped out with a rusty spoon. I can't imagine going through a whole book like that. It's not that I have anything against Caitlin, it's that she probably still has something against me.

I prefer not to see art as related to any personal relationships--Caitlin's a good writer, and good writers are too rarely given the remuneration they deserve by society, so I feel one should celebrate good art at all costs. But it's hard these days, especially following twitter now, not noticing the network of personal relationships that are integral to people making a living off art. I've been following Thomas Lennon's twitter lately--I never saw more than a couple episodes of Reno 911, but I remember liking what I saw, and having seen Lennon in a couple movies, I think he's a funny and very talented man. I saw him as Dangle (his Reno 911 character) at Comic-Con one year--the same year I saw Borat there, and I remember enjoying Lennon's improvised performance better than Sacha Baron Cohen's.

Anyway, I was surprised to see what a huge Morrissey fan Lennon is, and shortly after Reno 911 was cancelled a few days ago, he tweeted, "My top Moz song right now: 'Why Don't You Find out for Yourself?' when you understand the lyrics, you'll know me a little better too."

The lyrics for that song;

The sanest days are mad
why don't you find out for yourself
then you'll see the price
very closely
some men here
they have a special interest
in your career
they wanna help you to grow
and then siphon all your dough
why don't you find out for yourself
then you'll see the glass
hidden in the grass
you'll never believe me, so
why don't you find out for yourself
sick down to my heart
that's just the way it goes
some men here
they know the full extent of
your distress
they kneel and pray
and they say:
"long may it last"
why don't you find out for yourself
then you'll see the glass
hidden in the grass
bad scenes come and go
for which you must allow
sick down to my heart
that's just the way it goes
Don't rake up my mistakes
I know exactly what they are
and... what do YOU do?
well... you just SIT THERE
I've been stabbed in the back
so many, many times
I don't have any skin
but that's just the way it goes


The brilliance of this song, like so many of Morrissey's, is that it acknowledges without being particularly dramatic about it the layers of resentment and jealousy under the surface of people's relationships which result, really, from the simple fact that no-one ever feels they're compensated properly for what they do. "Too many stars and not enough sky" to quote a Tori Amos lyric. Sooner or later, you just have to get used to people being constantly rude, constantly too concerned with preserving self-esteem to go out on a limb for someone else.

Anyway, in a weird way I admire the stamina of people who manage to network online as much as they do, coming up with incentives for fans so that they can feel like they're participating rather than just reading a book, or just buying some music. It acknowledges how those fans are people who have a need to be valued in return, but there's simply not enough space in the audience psyche for them. I guess this is a side effect of the internet--less people are content being a silent audience, or rather, the internet has made it clear how one sided a connexion to art is, and people instinctively need to feel there's an actual exchange.

I don't have much stamina for networking--I try to be polite to people. When I'm asked a direct question, I answer it as promptly as I can, but I doubt I could handle a forum on my web site or even twitter enough to establish any kind of useful "personality" on the service. And it occurs to me that it really shouldn't have to be this way--there ought to be room for artists like me to just lock ourselves away and tie our stories and drawings to carrier pigeons which we release out our tower window from time to time.

I don't know. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm utterly exhausted with people to-day.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Riding Griffins, Horses, and Motorcycles

I decided to download a couple of the top searched for shows on Tokyo Toshokan to-day so, with breakfast, I watched the first episode of a tokusatsu series called Kamen Rider Decade. It's live action, and the episode opened with a pretty girl in a sooty, frilly pink dress in what looks like maybe a quarry. After a moment, a flood of explosions, motorcycles, flying buildings with screaming Godzilla heads, and enormous mechanical monkeys were onscreen. There was an uncontrollable smile on my face.

The show's hero, whose name, apparently, is "Decade" uses trading cards and a large belt buckle to activate his awesome powers.



It occurred to me that I could buy trading cards. Lots of them, and even a belt like that wouldn't be outside the realm of imagination. As the show flashed images of power and martial arts initiated by the cards interacting with the belt buckle, I thought about how imposing I would be and how capable everyone would consider me if I walked around with such a belt and cards always at the ready--like, a big deck that I could supplement with daily stops at the comic book shop so there'd be a card for every occasion. And then people would notice those who didn't have many cards and everything about such people would suddenly seem foolish and possibly diseased.

And look at the female lead's grandfather (there, on the left);



That's how one ages their hairstyle without shame.

I watched the season premiere of Angel's second season last night. I've said I think David Boreanaz is a bit bland, but I gotta give him props for this;



And that episode introduced so many of my favourite things about the series--Lorne, Gunn as a cast member, and I was surprised at how happy I was to see the hotel. Although the fifth season is my favourite, I always thought there was something really cool about the characters having an abandoned hotel as their base. The surprise yet understated appearance of Faith at the end of the episode, when Angel visits her in prison, was also nice.

Last night's tweets;

In the land where linen and apples heal.
Rum and watermelon just keep giving.
You never know what mobs might be a meal.
Secret agents relocate the living.


I managed somehow to finish drawing and inking a page rather early yesterday, so I dropped by Tim's house and spent some time with my human rogue in World of Warcraft. Tim showed me a bunch of the cool, really nasty things one can do as a rogue, and I proceeded to do two quests the wrong way--first a stupid messenger mission where I couldn't deliver the message to its intended recipient because I ran to Stormwind instead of flying there on a griffin. Then I had a cool pickpocket mission from Stormwind's spy organisation, "SI:7", but after spending time picking off each of my target's lackeys and bodyguards, I botched the thing by just assassinating the guy instead of robbing him, which evaporated, I guess, the contents of his pocket. Fortunately he respawns really fast. From what Tim told me, there are a lot of ways in which Blizzard really didn't prepare the game for the wide variety of options a rogue has for accomplishing his or her objectives. Which is too bad.

I'd say I'm enjoying the rogue more than my warrior except I'm dying all the time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Surveying the Rind

Twitter Sonnet #50

Some cats need humans to remain standing.
All dogs and cats are asleep around here.
Woven into roof papers 'til landing
On the bleeding cop Tim Roth bier.
I've cleaned the prestigious dust of two weeks.
By the power of food I now transform!
I sought the pizza arcade no kid seeks.
And I like vegetables in french fry form.
I'd like a Playboy Centrefold katsa.
Friendly healing spells leave me oddly numb.
Chaos cheese is perfect for a pizza.
Watermelon juice is perfect with rum.
Above the garage hides William Holden.
Arachnids keep the sustenance totem.


It's hard to imagine a more perfect flavour combo than the watermelon juice with rum. That was a pleasant surprise. I bet grapefruit juice would work pretty well, too, come to think of it.

Haven't slept very well the past couple nights. On Friday I thought it might be because I hadn't had alcohol the night before. To-day I wonder if it was because I had alcohol the night before. I may finally have to face the fact that some problems are totally unrelated to alcohol consumption. Maybe it was the tea I had first. Hopefully I can get some drawing done to-day, because I need to.

Last night I watched the "Buffy vs. Dracula" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It really made me want to watch Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula movie. The Buffy episode borrows in bulk from that film while tripping all over itself--it's clear Whedon wants us to take this Dracula seriously by tying him into the exploration of the Slayer's essential nature, and yet the seductiveness that drives the story in the best incarnations of Dracula is reduced to a dopey spell and the episode kind of goes back and forth between either Buffy behaving well out of character or a flat love potion effect for a rich thug.

So, yeah, I'm in the fifth season now. The dream sequences at the end of the fourth season were pretty good, especially the bit where we got to see Willow in the far more attractive "nerdy" attire for a brief moment. At least they've made her paler again with higher contrast makeup and clothes. But she still has that lousy haircut.

Here's a daddy-long-legs I found in my bedroom last night--music's by The Pillows from the FLCL soundtrack;

Friday, August 14, 2009

Find the Snacks

Last night's tweets;

I've cleaned the prestigious dust of two weeks.
By the power of food I now transform!
I sought the pizza arcade no kid seeks.
And I like vegetables in french fry form.


By which I mean these;



I got them at Trader Joes yesterday along with flatbread and a bunch of Cliff bars. Felis Demens had recommended the Cliff bars to me some time ago, and so far I'm digging the black cherry and mint chocolate flavours, but I had a snack place at around 10pm I needed to fill. It's when I generally start colouring, and I tend to have a compulsion to put a bunch of small objects in my mouth at the same time.

I'd been eating unsalted peanuts, but I wanted something lighter, and these veggie sticks seem to be working out okay so far. Except they taste extremely salty, despite having only 300mg of sodium per 50 sticks.

I was very ahead yesterday, having finished pencilling what I needed to at 4pm, so I went out for lunch and snack adventures, going to a kid's pizza place called Shakey's, which is kind of famous and has been around forever, but I'd never managed to eat at one. It was like a slightly less extravagant Chuck E. Cheese, with an arcade but no monstrous animal robots singing twisted versions of familiar songs. The place was mostly empty when I was there, and I got a decent personal pizza with mushrooms for about three dollars.

On the television was a show called Johnny Test. You may remember Johnny Quest looked like this;



Johnny Test looks like this;



Based on the evident trending patterns, I project the next incarnation--say, 2015--shall look something like this;



Modelled slightly on Danny Trejo. Johnny Test already has the possibly drug induced massive, pupil-less irises, so I've decided my "Danny Quest" is into crack and angel dust. His show will be about adventures in the city, but there will still be episodes dealing with other cultures and uncovering ancient treasures and artefacts. Johnny Depp will be rumoured to voice the lead.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hedgehog's Holiday

Last night's tweets;

Some cats need humans to remain standing.
All dogs and cats are asleep around here.
Woven into roof papers 'til landing
On the bleeding cop Tim Roth bier.


I watched Reservoir Dogs with my sister last night. It was the first time she'd seen it and she seemed to like it. It's strange how comforting all of Quentin Tarantino's movies are--Reservoir Dogs is a film noir, and all good films noir have a sort of relieving "Let's drop the bullshit" quality to them. Reservoir Dogs tends to remind me a lot of The Asphalt Jungle, and both of them seem like ripping the lid off a network of raw, brutal human nature I feel like is always around, carefully coated over. These movies are about people unapologetically trying to address their own needs and compulsions, outside artificial, imposed morality. The Asphalt Jungle has the big speech by the police commissioner, but it's so insubstantial compared to the plight of the characters you know it's only there to please the censors. The guys in Reservoir Dogs aren't good guys, but they're fucking honest, and practical in their way, and seeing it seems to release a great deal of weight off my soul somehow.

With breakfast to-day, I watched the fifth episode of Bakemonogatari, which I think is my favourite episode so far. Some real time was finally spent with Araragi's characterisation, using a "snail" spirit as a reflection of Araragi's own mind, which kind of reminded me of how the characters on Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei seem, to me, to really be aspects of a single mind. Salaman Dream talked to me about how the lolicon theme song for episode four of Bakemonogatari both critiqued and indulged in the genre. Here we get perhaps a comment on lolicon fans--suggesting it was Araragi's unhappy and strange relationship with his sisters and mother that drew him to the lolicon-ish spirit. Since Senjogahara identified herself as the anime/manga character type tsundere, it's possible the intention is for the show to entirely be a critique of otaku culture. Which would explain the shyness that irritates me about Araragi. There's a bit at the end of the fifth episode where Senjogahara expresses her feelings for Araragi and I became annoyed with him again when he couldn't at least be nice to her about it at first. I think the problem is that I've known too many guys with that kind of insensitive tunnel vision. Maybe a show like this will actually help open the eyes of guys like that, but for me, I just want to grab the guy by the shoulders and scream, "You spoiled fucking little brat!" This guy doesn't piss me off nearly as much as the guy in Zero no Tsukaima, though, maybe because everything about Bakemonogatari's more intelligently and carefully constructed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rhymes and Syrups

Twitter Sonnet #49

The wrong road is contained in the right one.
Although all paths will lead to Morrissey.
Or the cliffs of Dover with Irene Dunne.
Nothing of which would Gloucester ever see.
Apple Jacks taste how apples used to taste.
Otherwise the old flavour's a huge secret.
Surprise cereals win the world with paste.
Candy ooze gurgles from the grand trumpet.
Mrs. Butterworth is not fan service.
Indecision across pancakes trickles.
My scales hold gin and coffee in office.
I drew some cool motherfucking circles.
I've the unspoken orange juice hangover.
Hello, yon Moon-Eyed Demon of Dover.


Someone tweeting as Mrs. Butterworth now seems to be following me on Twitter . . .

Last night I tried mixing gin with orange juice. Man, Snoop Dogg was right.



And there's an important message in those lyrics--"laid back". Is it just me, or do people seem inordinately angry nowadays? I was playing World of Warcraft a few weeks ago and some asshole started going nuts on the general chat just because he hadn't been to Stranglethorn before and couldn't find the Horde city. The fact that some monsters were ten levels above him seemed to piss him off, too.

World of Warcraft should be a time for chillin', people. Relax.

It's worse among the Alliance players, though. I've been levelling up my human rogue lately--Tim'd told me Horde players generally are nicer and more level headed than Alliance players, but I didn't realise how right he was until the other night when I saw an argument in general chat between people calling each other children and each side was insisting the other had committed ban-worthy offences. I don't even know what had started the argument.

Of course, I was drinking Bombay Sapphire and Snoop Dogg seems to prefer Tanqueray and Seagrams. I kind of don't want to mix the Bombay Sapphire with anything, either, since it's so smooth.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Storage Space for Hearts

Last night's tweets;

Apple Jacks taste how apples used to taste.
Otherwise the old flavour's a huge secret.
Surprise cereals win the world with paste.
Candy ooze gurgles from the grand trumpet.


I went to a Japanese restaurant yesterday to work on the script for the next Venia's Travels, but some college kids were having a noisy party and I ended up just doodling in the margin of my notebook;



I blocked out the actual bits of script I did eventually write when I parked in the Fashion Valley mall parking garage. There was a time I used to do nearly all my writing and drawing in my car, generally parked in garages or under trees at college. The return seemed to help yesterday as I finished a script I'm very happy with.

Of course, there's a lot more space in my car since I cleaned it out last week. Among the layers of things I hadn't seen for years, I found a black leather bag with this guy inside;



He was a gift from someone and, the sentimentalist I am, I feel really bad for neglecting him. He seems mostly intact, although the glue seems to have bubbled up around his eyes like tears. I also can't help fancying this as some cosmic message about my love life, that all my problems are actually due to something precious I was entrusted with and totally forgot about. Of course, this theoretical metaphor wouldn't have such an effect on me if I didn't usually have the dim, glum feeling my basic M.O. with girls was totally flawed in some way I was fundamentally incapable of perceiving. Useless paranoia. I found other gifts from girls back there, too, but this one made me feel the saddest.

I watched the third episode of Bakemonogatari this morning. Somehow it never occurred to me before how much Akiyuki Shinbo's style is influenced by Hideaki Anno in his use of flashing title cards that both explicitly state a character's thought process, mood, or unspoken preoccupation, but also serves to convey these with speed, colour, and design. I suppose I wasn't reminded of Anno so much in Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei or Maria Holic, because the title cards were used typically for comedic and/or aesthetic effect exclusively, while Bakemonogatari uses them almost exactly the way Anno did--I particularly thought of Anno during this scene from the end of the second episode;



Senjogahara's placement in a white void as a reflection of her psychological state, the relationship with her mother, and the odd inserted bits of live action footage, are all reminiscent of later Evangelion. The episode previews are spoken by the lead character's hyperactive younger sisters, much like His and Her Circumstances.

But I found the juxtaposition of Senjogahara's retained psychological trauma from past sexual assault with the implicit sexual fantasy of shounen to be somewhat awkward. Senjogahara doesn't feel as real as the women in Evangelion, which results in a seemingly unintentional fetishisation of trauma resulting from sexual assault.

I'm quite comfortable knowing there are groups of anime and manga consciously aimed at demographics of sexual orientation. There's a reflex in a lot of people nowadays to be ashamed of an attraction to characters or images onscreen. I say it's perfectly natural. But I get irritated when people seem to forget this is happening. When I was telling Tim about the josei (for women) series, Honey and Clover, Tim told me a bunch of people on the 4chan anime forums had been complaining about how it was "gay". And you know they didn't mean the word simply to refer to a viable lifestyle. They simply failed to grasp or appreciate there are other demographics out there with different natural impulses that aren't inherently better or worse than their own. I get as irritated by girls who feel reflexive disgust when guys display attraction to women's bodies. There's really no excuse for adults to-day to be so wrapped up in themselves their imagination can't stretch to the point where they can accept different people like different things and there's nothing sinister about it.

Anyway, I wish Bakemonogatari were a little more honest with itself. When Senjogahara walks up to Araragi unselfconsciously naked or when she offers to make him breakfast every day wearing nothing but an apron, that's a fantasy for people who are attracted to women. It's annoying when Araragi then chooses to act shy and dismissive like a real teenager. Annoying to me, anyway--I know a lot of the shy people watching might need it to identify with, and I know a lot of girls love the idea of making guys uncomfortable with their sexuality. But I'm just completely fatigued by the guilt and shame moe. If this were just a realistic character study, that would be fine, but don't show me a beautiful naked girl and try to tell me I should feel guilty about enjoying the sight.

But I can't say I'm altogether hating the show. I loved the use of the Japanese word that can mean either weight or feeling--that Senjogahara's quest to reclaim her weight was also a quest to reclaim the buried, negative feelings created by her unhappy relationship with her mother.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Street and the People it Keeps



Last night I watched Street of Shame (Akusen chitai), Kenji Mizoguchi's last film. Made in 1956, the movie was quite topical, dealing with institutionalised prostitution in the same year that prostitution was made nominally illegal in Japan.

An ensemble film, the large cast featured the great Machiko Kyo, best known in the west for her roles in Rashomon and Mizoguchi's Ugetsu. This is the first movie I've seen her in where she wasn't in traditional or period attire;



As you can see from the way in which she throws herself on the man who'd been watching her in the window, the prostitutes in the film resort to plainly physical and aggressive techniques to compete with the other girls on the streets for each passer-by's business. Repeatedly throughout the film, the "shame" of the title is most bluntly illustrated by this practice, which is performed by all the woman that form the story's team of subjects for its discussion of the nature and effects of prostitution.

Though Mizoguchi, whose films are known for their marked feminism, comes down very clearly in opposition to prostitution, the film is hardly one sided and he takes pains to present the opposing argument. The madam of the brothel upon which the film focuses talks about how her position had been inherited from a legacy of forty generations, and rhetorically asks why prostitution should have existed in Japan for centuries if it wasn't necessary. The brothel's patron makes speeches to his employees like a politician, countering with his own spin the arguments everyone's been hearing on the radio lately against prostitution, explaining he's a social worker, providing for the women in his employ where the government would not.

And in fact, this is a salient point illustrated throughout the film--two of the women are working to support their families, and when one of them tries to find more respectable employment, she finds there's nothing available paying close to what she needs, and is even advised by the government official to become a prostitute. Some of the women, including Kyo's character, are shown to have become prostitutes in order to acquire independence from abusive families, while the youngest and most successful of the workers at the subject brothel is revealed to have chosen this lifestyle after her father was imprisoned for his 200,000 yen debt, a number which provokes a sneer from the young woman as she speaks as she now regularly earns and cons men out of far more in a single-minded quest to distance herself from poverty.

She's shown constantly collecting on debts throughout the movie, and in fact, every character in the film is shown to either have money owed to them or to be in debt to someone, especially the older and less popular prostitutes. Although Mizoguchi's perspective on prostitution is made plain by the end of the film, the movie nonetheless doesn't present answers as the only logical conclusion that can be derived from the information provided is that prostitution creates permanent psychological damage, but it is a necessary tourniquet for the haemorrhaging produced by the fundamental social and economic problems of the country.

I was reminded of Hideaki Anno's 1998, Love & Pop, which focuses on enjo kosai, or "compensated dated", one of the many practices that has filled the function of explicit prostitution. Considering the more precarious lifestyle of the young girls depicted in Anno's film, one's forced to wonder if regulated prostitution is really the worse alternative.



My tweets from last night;

The wrong road is contained in the right one.
Although all paths will lead to Morrissey.
Or the cliffs of Dover with Irene Dunne.
Nothing of which would Gloucester ever see.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Mysterious Kinks of Incessant Background Prettiness

Twitter Sonnet #48

To-day everyone skip school for John Hughes.
See that you drink quite enough tequila.
Forget your worries with alcohol fugues.
There is no true monster of the gila.
Robot doctors remain always virgins.
No matter how much sex they might have had.
Chotchke depths demand deft scuba surgeons.
Rotten food's just inedible, not bad.
Saturday's traffic's too fast or it's stopped.
Mexican malls are south and north of here.
But pizza is still everywhere it's sought.
Got bad reception on my palantir.
Ice sheets block visions of school in the glass.
So starved reflections populate the class.


Watched Eyes Wide Shut again the other night, for the first time in about a year and a half. It occurred to me watching that movie brings me back to the lazy, comfortable feeling of watching Christmas movies as a kid. Eyes Wide Shut is undeniably a Christmas movie--Christmas lights decorate backgrounds in nearly every shot. It gives the film a diffused, dreamy look, along with some very expressionistic lighting, most notably the bright blue used to simulate moonlight.

The beginning of the film, Ziegler's party, is especially intoxicating. I felt a little like I'd been drinking the champagne Nicole Kidman and the Hungarian with the long nose who reminds me of Herbert Marshall were getting drunk off of.

Anyway, I still stand by all of my 2007 analysis of the film.

To-day I watched the first episode of yet another Akiyuki Shinbo series, this one a shounen romantic comedy series called Bakemonogatari. No series is quite as perfect a fit for Shinbo as Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, where the disjointed beautiful imagery perfectly accompanies the anti-verisimilitude of the show's insubstantial settings and circumstances, which constantly shift about to illustrate the social commentary by the characters. But Bakemonogatari is interesting, and beauty's always worth something. Pondering the path of the writer's musings in creating the story, I wonder if it began with him thinking to himself, "What if the prettiest girl in my class suddenly stuck an exacto knife and a stapler in my mouth?" The Japanese have the best perversions in the world.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Turtle Shell Visual Library

Last night's tweets;

Robot doctors remain always virgins.
No matter how much sex they might have had.
Chotchke depths demand deft scuba surgeons.
Rotten food's just inedible, not bad.


My mother offered to lend me two large plastic containers and some storage space in her garage, so yesterday I cleaned a bunch of stuff I've been toting around on the backseat of my car for five years. It was the first time I actually saw the bottom of my backseat in all that time.

The stuff just ended up staying there after multiple moves, and a lot of it was boxes of things dating back to my childhood. Including this picture;



I'm the cool and aloof character on the far left. And it's with small surprise that I see at such a tender age I had the really skeevy glasses.

I'm not sure how old I am in the picture. One kid's wearing a Simpsons t-shirt, making it at least 1989, and it looks like at least second season Bart, so I'm going to guess we're looking at 1990, which would make me eleven years old. The kid wearing the Simpsons shirt was named Andrew--I remember the names of all the kids, but I haven't seen most of them in at least ten years. The only exception is the kid right next to me, Peter, whose face is obscured by his own hand. I ran into him at a Starbucks about a year ago--he had joined the Navy and he complained to me about how he hadn't seen any actual combat. He seemed very sure of himself and when he asked what I did, I queasily told him I made webcomics. I had an impression then of how completely the military tries to obliterate doubt in people--the anticipation he clearly felt for killing whole shiploads of people without seeing them was a bit unnerving.

The only girl in the photo, whose face is also mostly obscured, was named Jennifer, I think, or maybe Jessica. She had a big crush on Jesse, the kid on the far right. I know this because on an occasion where he'd upset her--I forget what he did exactly--she stormed over to his house and uprooted the tree in his front yard. It was a skinny little tree but still twice her height and it was a pretty astonishing event. We all lived on the same cul-de-sac.

It's amazing what half a decade in direct sunlight will do to things. There were plenty of paperback books whose glue had disintegrated from their spines, a black shirt so faded on one side it had become a pale mustard colour, and a plastic bag that had been reduced to sticky white confetti. That was the hardest thing to clean up.

I found four umbrellas, three cameras, and wall calendars for every year from 1991 to 1997. I took home a 1994 Marilyn Monroe calendar. For some reason I couldn't bring myself to throw it away whenever I looked at it. I couldn't find a good quality version of this photo from April online;





I love how the authors and titles of books are visible. She looks really engrossed in Big Brokers. Shame on that guy for trying to take it.

So to-day was the first day since Comic-Con I had nothing scheduled. So far I'm spending it by being really lazy. I think I'll go do some more of that.

Here's my favourite episode of Zan Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei so far;


Watch Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei - 03 [gg] in Anime  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Friday, August 07, 2009

Sensation and Suki



Last night's tweets;

To-day everyone skip school for John Hughes.
See that you drink quite enough tequila.
Forget your worries with alcohol fugues.
There is no true monster of the gila.


Just 59 years old, John Hughes died. It seems very strange.

A lot of people were twittering about it yesterday--maybe that's why I completely failed to see Amanda Palmer's tweet where she linked to my Comic-Con post about drawing her. No wonder my web site was getting more hits than usual from my live journal profile. I'm only following 112 people on twitter, and I barely have time to keep up. I don't know how people manage who follow more than 300. Anyway, it was very kind of Ms. Palmer, and if anyone reading who found me through that link would like to see more of my art, my current webcomic is called Venia's Travels. I just updated it last night, and a new chapter goes online every two weeks.

To-day I watched what turned out to finally be the last of the "Endless Eight" Haruhi Suzumiya episodes. The story went through all the same events shown in the previous iterations of the time loop, and I was digging again the sense of motionlessness and futility the repetition created. I won't ruin it for anyone who hasn't yet watched the episodes and intends to at some point, but I rather wish a larger portion of the episode had been devoted to the aftermath. Still, it kind of touched on Haruhi's inadvertent omniscience in an interesting way. "Inadvertent omniscience"--there's a good way of describing the whole appeal of her character, actually.

I also watched the fourth episode of Canaan, which is continuing to be a cut well above the average action anime. The director's instincts for sensual moments are far keener than average--in this latest episode, a POV shot of a sunset through cigarette smoke comes to mind, as does a moment where a jealous, sociopath spills wine on a transparent glass wall she presses against. And these moments aren't arbitrary--they accomplish a lot in communicating character and emotion. The story of a girl whose life is controlled entirely by her abnormal talent for violence is hardly unusual, but there's a genuine life to this narrative. Another great sensual moment involved Canaan's rival swiftly tearing her dress to draw a concealed pistol and confront Canaan about how her reaction had been slowed by her anger and desire for vengeance. Again, well trodden themes, but always worth exploring again when the people writing about them are feeling them.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Venia and More Reflection

The new Venia's Travels is online. I am tired. Spent a couple hours finishing the chapter after getting back from my sister's birthday party where I had four margaritas and a massive quantity of good Mexican food. And I feel good.

The Dance of Death on Ice

Twitter Sonnet #47

Key rings about the neck open few doors.
But there will always be tacos for him.
He glides around us in line on shop floors.
His sorrows through Mexican polka dim.
Phantoms like to stretch across your hard drive.
But they'll help you remember when to eat.
With strange cats the day's outdoors are alive.
It's "The Cat Inside" diverts your defeat.
One can only colour for awhile.
Coyote cherished his few steps on air.
Fruit Roll Ups should not be kept on file.
But too few in food storage ever dare.
Names and shapes blur with tectonic rattle.
The ice rink is a realm of sex battle.


It was a magical morning for my 5000+ mp3 and flac playlist--I saw Amanda Palmer mention Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" in a tweet, and then it came up on my playlist after a track from the North by Northwest soundtrack. It was followed by Aretha Franklin's "Baby, I Love You" and The Doors' "Indian Summer". The juxtaposition, I think, is going to influence my thoughts for days.

A couple songs later, the theme for the second season of Ranma 1/2 came up and I was reminded to check YouTube to see if my favourite three episodes of the series had been uploaded in subtitled form yet and they had.

These episodes are, to me, together the most perfect example of Ranma 1/2's unique blend of martial arts, comedy, gender issues, identity issues, and teenage sexual anxiety. It's a story arc that exemplifies the classic Rumiko Takahashi formula--begin with a very weird and dangerous premise, and then have the characters get so caught up in their petty motives that they barely seem to notice their situation.

For those who've never seen the show, everything you need to know is pretty much covered in the episodes themselves--the only thing I'd tell you going in is that the small black pig you see at the beginning is actually a human boy named Ryoga. He changes into a pig when hit with cold water and back again when he's hit with hot water.

These were great quality uploads and look good at full screen;

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Finding Your True Deficiencies

Last night's tweets;

Phantoms like to stretch across your hard drive.
But they'll help you remember when to eat.
With strange cats the day's outdoors are alive.
It's "The Cat Inside" diverts your defeat.


Little William S. Burroughs reference there for you.

The times seem just to be outstripping my computer obnoxiously. I somehow managed to finish the work on my comic I had planned for yesterday an hour early, so I decided to play a little World of Warcraft, only to find it wouldn't load until I freed up four gigabytes for the update it wanted to install. And Yahoo seems to have smeared more useless junk across its bloated mass so that just checking my e-mail there has demanded I find Buddha.

I did manage to free up seven gigabytes with that bonus hour last night, but there'll be no WoW to-night as I've only so far pencilled two pages in a day wherein I planned to pencil two and ink two, and colour 'till the lines on the screen started writhing. I've been moving slower than expected to-day, mainly because I think I had a slight hangover from the Bacardi rum mixed with Tropacana orange juice I was drinking last night. That was unexpectedly good.

I discovered yesterday that the word "hangover" is only just over a hundred years old and I can't find an older English word to describe the ill effects of a previous night's drinking. Which I find incredibly annoying. What the fuck, English? I see Japanese has futsukayoi. I have no idea how old it is, but I bet it's older than the English word.

I haven't been talking about how incredible the new season of Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei's been, have I? Well, it's been incredible.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Necessity of Quality Food for Interdimensional Travellers

Last night's tweets;

Key rings about the neck open few doors.
But there will always be tacos for him.
He glides around us in line on shop floors.
His sorrows through Mexican polka dim.


A little portrait in Twitter of a guy I saw at a Mexican restaurant yesterday while I was shopping for my sister's birthday present. He couldn't quite figure out how to be in line--he was one of those people who don't want to quite commit, so he floats around, he wants to look like he's rebellious or something and polite schmucks like me won't just go around him. He wore bright coloured clothes, a backwards baseball cap over messy dark hair, and looked slightly like a guy from 1978 who decided to take a Chevy Chase style vacation to the year 2009 and found himself a bewildered tourist in the face of even the simple changes in taco shop decor. And he was wearing a big necklace of key chains hanging low over his gut--I've known several of the particular variety of socially backward nerd who needs to wear a lot of keys in order establish his presence in a room. Guys who can't manage to talk to people so they have to connect by annoying them. There was a guy like this I knew in high school who attached a train horn to his car.

So tired to-day--not a whole lot of sleep last night. Yesterday I went on some musical explorations while working on my comic, deciding to listen to some works by vocalists featured on the Lord of the Rings soundtracks. First I tried out Sissel Kyrkjebo, who had a decent voice with, of course, fantastic training, but with generally phenomenally cheesy musical arrangements. I could kind of dig her when she was singing songs in languages I couldn't understand, but when she starting giving me a piercing soprano business about love as the greatest gift all, I felt close to throwing up.

Next I tried out a sort of ambient pop artist named Sheila Chandra. I enjoyed her stuff, except it made whatever I was doing seem really serious, bordering on cloying serious like an Edward Zwick movie, but in small doses I think I like her.

Then, despite the fact that she had nothing to do with the Lord of the Rings movies, I started listening to Kirsty MacColl. I'm glad I did--that lady was a genius. Obviously I knew her from The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York", but it wasn't until I heard her rather faithful cover of The Smiths' "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby" that I really wanted to explore her work further.

This song, "Celestine", from her last album, fit so perfectly with what I was thinking about this morning;



Anyway, I'd better get something to eat and get back to my comic. Caitlin Kiernan's new book, The Red Tree, comes out to to-day. It sounds like it's pretty good, so if you're looking for something to read, you might want to check it out.