Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Eating some oranges, I watched a bit of VH1's 100 greatest rock bands and saw them rank Soundgarden better than Pink Floyd. Maybe it has something to do with the really nasty weather last night, thunder and lightning like doesn't happen around here.

A few days ago, I finished reading Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. Such a sweet book.

"It's not me," I said, wondering why I was saying it but somehow enjoying it, "It's you. Every time I mention killing, you jump on me. You're a woman. You think if nothing's said about it, maybe none of the God only knows how many people in town who might want to will kill you. That's silly. Nothing we say or don't say is going to make Whisper, for instance--"

I love that long twisty sentence in the middle surrounded by the plain and simple ones. Just a component of the funny poetry in Hammett's language that slows you down enough to show you the chasm before shoving you down in it.

I've had the complete novels of Dashiell Hammett in a single volume for a couple years now, but am only now getting a chance to read one of them. Shows you something of my reading pile.

I remembered reading in William Gibson's blog some time ago about how some people were calling Raymond Chandler a huge influence on Gibson. "I’ve never read much Chandler either," said Gibson "another frequently supposed influence. The real deal, in that particular rainslick modality, for me, is Dashiell Hammett. Invented the vehicle, as far as I know, though Chandler brought a classier chassis to it."

And it was interesting to me how very much more like Gibson Hammett seemed than Chandler. I've only read two Chandler novels, The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely, but I found Chandler's style, while lovely, could occasionally overwhelm the story. I was very happy to start reading a Chandler novel but, on both occasions, when I'd finished, I didn't feel like reading another Chandler for a long time. There was something less innocent about Red Harvest, something that gnawed a bit more on ideas of human nature.

While I'm on the subject of noir, I should mention that I watched the 1947 Postman Always Rings Twice last night. Loved Lana Turner and John Garfield. Hated the obvious alterations made to please the censors. Sometimes Frank and Cora were two people caught in a plausible, hellish situation of decisions, other times they were reduced to being simplistic hooligans.

You know, I'm beginning to realise how much I always enjoy not having a car. Just knowing that I can't drive anywhere makes me feel more productive.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Well, Robyn has listed what she considers to be the ten best and ten worst movies of 2004, and she ended her post by suggesting others do the same. So I went through my blog archives and discovered that I've only actually seen 22 movies from 2004. It's hard to find a reason to go to the cinema when I've so many great movies on tape that I haven't seen yet . . .

Anyway, here's a ranking of what I've seen;

Best of 2004

1 Kill Bill vol. 2
2 A Very Long Engagement
3 The Blind Swordsman, Zatoichi
4 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5 Hellboy
6 Fahrenheit 9/11
7 Before Sunset
8 Finding Neverland
9 Coffee and Cigarettes
10 Maria Full of Grace

Honourable mentions; Spider-Man 2, Sky Captain and the World of To-morrow, The Machinist.

Worst of 2004

1 The Stepford Wives
2 The Triplets of Bellville
3 Alfie
4 Van Helsing
5 The Terminal
6 The Passion of Christ

Yeah, only six worst movies. I felt ambivalent about the remaining four. Those are; Hero, I Heart Huckabees, Secret Window, Meet the Fockers.

I know some people may feel violent, terrifying fury towards me for including The Triplets of Bellville in the worst movies. Or those people may coolly feel I'm an idiot. To either reaction I respond; I'm sorry, the main character was expressionless, speechless, and, really, hardly a character at all. A bowling pin with arms and legs would've been more interesting.

To those convulsing in disease fostering spasms at the sight of Hero in my Ambivalence Pile, I say that movie was very pretty, and I'm glad it was so enamoured with itself. That the movie was happier with itself than I was made by it is no reason not to encourage it, smile at it, and nod in vague approval. But it really deserves no more than that.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

So, happy Christmas, Kwanza, Chanukah, Sandwich, Patrick Swayze, Great Cola Spirit, etc. I'm celebrating Christmas because there's more to it than any of the others. I go in for complexity and moral ambiguity.

I'm very sleepy and I have been ever since I got up early on Christmas Eve morning. I'm not sure how I'm gonna make the Christmas rounds to-day without using my car but I suppose I'll figure it out something out.

I've gotten some gifts. The biggest I got so far were the entire third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, the final season of the Jeremy Brett series.

I was made to remember how innocent Star Trek is, occasionally to an annoying degree. But the third season is definitely when TNG started getting good. And The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is kind of sad because, not only was the season cut short due to Jeremy Brett's death, but many of the episodes that were filmed showed the accommodations the people were forced to make for Brett's failing health, even all but writing Holmes out of one episode. It's really too bad.

I wish I wasn't so sleepy. I need to work on my slacking off skills so I don't feel so guilty about being sleepy on Christmas morning . . .

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Things're gettin' ominous around here.

I walked to a nearby shopping centre to finish off my Christmas shopping Tuesday. I walked because the night before I’d gotten pulled over on the way to Tim's. I was inexplicably angry all day yesterday, so maybe I was a little shorter than I meant to be as I talked to the copper. I got the impression he thought I was a dangerous delinquent, or at least someone who was trying to pull something over on him.

Oh, yeah--why did he pull me over? My frelling break lights are out again. I told him I'd just gotten 'em fixed, saying something like, "Yeah, the guy at the place told me they're out 'cause the bulbs are out but the genius didn't think to wonder why the bulbs on a fairly new car'd gone out."

The Man didn't like my tone, I don't think. That's my theory as to why he wanted to see my license and registration so badly, made a big point in telling me he wasn't gonna give me a ticket this time, only a warning. Gee, I guess I ought've thanked him for not being a complete, bottom-feeding asshole.

Anyway, to-day I wasn't so much angry as having a bit of difficulty concentrating. It was a dim day, I guess. But ominous.

I got lunch at Quizno's where, I discovered, the price of a small Veggie sandwich and a bottle of lemon Snapple is exactly $6.66.

"I feel lucky!" I said to the cashier, whose weak smile suggested that she was either unfamiliar with the sign of the beast or loathed my flippant reaction to irrefutable evidence of my sin coated soul.

After that, I went to Target and bought the very last Christmas present I needed to buy. As I was waiting in line with it, a man behind me, who looked like a large, more weathered version of Peter Straub, suddenly said to me, "No rest for the wicked, eh?"

It took me a moment to realise he was talking to me and I could tell from the subtle reactions of everyone nearby in the crowded store that his statement had puzzled everyone. The man's wife gave him a quick, angry look.

It was a mysterious, slightly inexplicable incident. And like most slightly inexplicable incidents, the mind took it and feverishly attempted to decode it for hours. From concluding it was a feeble result of his observing my black clothes and hat and needing somehow to comment on them, to thinking perhaps he was a vessel meant to convey to me some Jacob Marley-ish revelation.

All I know is that Christmas, and this Christmas season in particular, is starting to take on this vast, overbearing, bruise-fleshy shape of chilling, and unknowable significance. It's like a big ghost of a genetic experiment, its mottle skin sagging grey through the sharp metal restraints until it resembles nothing so much as an overcast sky . . . And let's not forget all the red painted on everything.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A couple nights ago, I dreamt there was some kind of disease on my scalp that made daisies grow out of it. I didn't realise it until I'd gotten back from being out for awhile. I guessed no one had noticed because I was wearing my hat, and I tried to think of any instances when I'd removed my hat during the day. I couldn't think of any, and as I leaned closer to the mirror, inspecting the flowers that were mostly on the left side of my head, I noticed the one nearest my forehead had Glenn Close's face in the centre. She was grinning and wouldn't say anything.

I dropped by Tim's house last night. He gave me a rather nice Christmas present--two pairs of jade chopsticks direct from China. He gets that kind of thing because he put together this web site for a friend of his who seems to have some crazy connexions in China. Tim tells me his friend often receives ancient little statues and things fresh from the tombs.

The chopsticks are nice, and very cold. I'm wondering if I ought to actually eat with them. I'd feel sort of like an emperor, except I'd probably only use them for cheap ramen.

I saw The Male Animal a few days ago, a 1942 film starring Henry Fonda and Olivia De Havilland. There was more subtext in the movie than I think was intended.

The story is that Fonda's character is an English teacher who gets in a bit of trouble for wanting to read a statement to his class by Bartolomeo Vanzetti--of Sacco and Vanzetti--as an example of good writing by someone who isn't a writer. When the trustees of the university catch wind of what Fonda intends to do, they attempt many forms of intimidation, including threats of dismissal.

This is a domestic comedy.

A head representative of the trustees, played wonderfully by Eugene Pallette, is a friend of Fonda’s family, as is a football hero played by Jack Carson. The information above is revealed at a dinner party as is the fact that Fonda's wife, De Havilland, is still very attracted to her old boyfriend, the football hero. Maybe more now than her husband, who's frightening and confusing her with his obstinate desire to read the Vanzetti statement, despite Eugene Pallette's baritone derision for Reds.

What follows is a fascinating scene of Pallette, Carson, and De Havilland joining a night time mob of college football fans as they march to a rally being held next to an enormous bonfire. In the light of the flames, Pallette goes onto the stage and, in his peculiar, booming voice, gives an angry speech about how decent people are American kinds of people. Fonda, who glumly followed along to watch his wife being handled by Carson, is fiercely berated by random people in the mob for not cheering at the appropriate moments.

Oh, yes, this is a domestic comedy. And not a bad one at that.

You see, the real story--for which the above striking scene is but window dressing--is De Havilland seeing Carson, the dumb football hero, as being the real male animal. Her husband, who seems weak for adhering to mysterious principles that run counter to the mainstream, is suddenly terrible to be saddled with.

Most of the movie concentrates on physical and verbal comedy about matrimony and the difference between men and women. But the end of the movie is very rewarding, as Fonda--who is, let us not forget, Henry fucking Fonda, after all--goes in front of his assembled English class and a load of "guests" drawn by the publicity, and not only reads the Vanzetti statement, but makes a statement of his own about free speech.

I dunno but, personally, in this day of attempts an enforcing Christianity in schools and repression of literature, I found Fonda's scene rather stirring. It occurred to me that such a movie would never come out of mainstream Hollywood to-day, and I found it a little distressing to realise that, in some ways, America is now more conservative than it was in 1942.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I can hardly believe I pulled it off, but the new Boschen and Nesuko chapter is up.

I'm pretty sure it's done. I'm so damn tired right now, I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me if there're any real huge, sloppy mistakes . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Got the Return of the King Extended Edition yesterday. It's very good, although the extended scenes don't have as dramatic an effect on the overall piece, as was the case with The Two Towers. The extended Two Towers is, to me, a profoundly different and better movie than the theatrical release. The bulk of the added scenes alter the pacing and mood significantly as they have to do with quieter, less "Middle-Earth on the march!" moments. It's a richer, fuller movie.

Return of the King, however, even though there's actually more extended stuff, feels pretty much the same. Still, I'm very glad I waited for this edition to come out instead of buying the theatrical release. I do love the extra footage, and the appendices alone would be worth a good price.

Some of my favourite bits . . .

The scene of Frodo and Sam marching with the orcs. This was something I very much felt the absence of in the theatre--it felt like a scene was cut. Suddenly Frodo and Sam were dressed differently and across a vast portion of Mordor. Having the scene in is a particularly sweet bit of spackle. The inspection scene was nicely tense.

I also liked that there was a lot more of Eowyn's story. Although I'm not sure if I didn't feel Eomer barking at her something like, "Battle is the province of men!" wasn't a little too broad.

Merry's vowing of service to Theoden was good, so now there's not merely an awkward "Look, Merry's coming, too!" shot of him riding with everyone as they leave Edoras.

I've already watched most of the appendices, and they're just as fascinating as in the previous volumes. A wide range of things that get you surprisingly involved in a very human perspective of the films' makings. There's the eerie moment where Christopher Lee explains to Peter Jackson what it actually sounds like when someone gets stabbed in the back, and Jackson remembering that Lee served in a somewhat shadowy way in World War II. There's Miranda Otto starting to cry as she's remembering how hard it was to part with everyone. There's the bit about many New Zealand army personnel being employed as extras during the battle scenes and fighting just a little too real. There's the neat documentary on how the horses were trained and used--rumours that Viggo Mortensen slept with his, and the wonderful little interview with Jane, the stunt rider, who wanted desperately to buy Shadowfax, with whom she'd become quite close, but couldn't afford him. And then turning on her answering machine to hear Viggo telling her he'd purchased the animal for her.

And there was Billy Boyd and Viggo Mortensen's deep, long, passionate kiss.

Anyway . . . I recommend you all go out and buy a copy for yourselves . . .

I also picked up Tom Waits' new album, Real Gone, a few days ago. It's very nice, at times kind of making me think of David Lynch.

Monday, December 13, 2004

It occurred to me to-day that Sorsha from Willow was a very sexist character. She starts off evil, and then converts because . . . Madmartigan says there are no stars or moon without her. Or something like that. At the beginning of the movie she has evil, leering facial expressions, then, when she crosses over, she has wise, nurturing facial expressions. It's just sad.

Yesterday I was drawing page 66 of Boschen and Nesuko when a cat fell asleep on top of my paper. Funny how cats like to be asleep at exactly the coordinates of your focused attention. So to-day I was a little behind, so sayeth the cat.

The entire course of events was altered to-day when I discovered there were no coffee filters. I'd originally planned on getting to work right away after a breakfast of cereal, oranges, and a hard boiled egg but, not being able to make coffee meant I had to go to the Starbucks in La Mesa, by the trolley station, get a triple latte from the old (better and spontaneously combustible) machine and a scone. And, while out, one might as well visit Tim at his workplace, buy minutes for one's phone, and discover that Radioshack is selling a "Super Brave Action Hero!" named Brum.

Visiting Tim at work meant I felt like visiting Tim after work, and I got little done to-day. I plan on getting lots done to-morrow and Tuesday, hopefully not in the same way I planned on getting lots done to-day.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

So far to-day I've been to the new Starbucks at Hazard Centre, written there the script for the next Boschen and Nesuko chapter, and while doing so enjoying a fresh, very, very good cup of coffee. It was one of those moments where my head kind of hurt, the brain inside was somewhere between figuring what to write and eavesdropping on the two office workers next to me talking about Frank Sinatra . . . And then with just the smallest sip of the very hot coffee, there suddenly was in the world only the coffee. It's a hard thing to analyse--did it really taste that good, so good that I suddenly felt like a different person entirely? It seems impossible, yet that's exactly what happened.

It was a sort of split in my personality. An emotional reaction to something that I didn't necessarily agree with. Which is not to say I disagreed, simply that it was not what I was doing at the moment. And yet it was. How could this be? How could I be different than my own feelings? Does that make the part of me that's different from my feelings just wrong? Or does that make my feelings wrong? It's eerie, slightly disturbing, and yet, at the same time, I'm kind of proud it.

I watched Caddyshack last night. A movie that really doesn't deserve to have much said about it. There were maybe five or six things I found funny in it, and all of them involved Bill Murray. I was brought to the conclusion that the movies that Murray's making now aren't "come back" movies. He's just starting to make really good movies. Aside from perhaps Ghostbusters, nothing he did in the supposed height of his career really rivals Rushmore or Lost in Translation. Which is kinda neat.

I was such a slug yesterday. It was a bad kind of day. A day when nearly every moment I'm thinking about something I ought/want to be doing, and consistently not doing it. To-day will be different, oh, yes. I woke up angry, but I think the coffee's fixed that. I'm gonna pretend it's only now a question of what I want to do first . . .

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Just figured the secret of my pop-top coffee cup . . . I had only to press harder . . .

Good afternoon.

I woke up thinking about "The Yellow Face" because, on the table by the bed, there sits my DVD copy of the Jeremy Brett Sign of Four. With the hunched, savage faced black man on its cover, I thought it might lead some to think that Conan Doyle was mildly racist. I hoped there was an episode for "The Yellow Face", because it proves rather decidedly to the contrary, but, unfortunately, there's not . . . I wish Jeremy Brett hadn't died.

You know, though, as much as I love the Brett series, they're still not as good as reading the original Sherlock Holmes stories. In fact, I often reflect on the fact that I have yet to see a single film or video version of a Holmes story that is the equal of the source material. And yet I don't think such a thing is impossible. Maybe one day . . .

Last night I watched Pat and Mike, and was very surprised to see Katharine Hepburn kicking young Charles Bronson's ass. I imagine Hepburn watching Bronson's movies later in life, and remarking to a companion, "My, the lad sure looks tough, doesn't he? Really, I was disappointed he went down so quickly--you do know I kicked his ass, don't you?"

What else to say . . . Caitlin has uploaded the latest Nar'eth manga chapter I did to

And I'm too excited that Moi is writing a Dana Scully/Clarice Starling slash fic.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

All the doorknobs in this house're cold. And it's so fucking dry around here . . . I'm pretty sure this winter's much colder than last year's. And, yes, all yous in the cold north are looking at this entry and shaking your heads. Well, I ain't complaining about the cold. I like the cold. Believe me, it's a nice break. What bugs me is the dryness. I could definitely do without it. And so could the cats.

A few nights ago I watched Les Carabiniers, the first Jean-Luc Godard movie I'd ever seen. As far as I can tell, it's an overrated movie. According to Rober Ebert's review, the humour is appreciable only if you're caught up with the sort of exclusive comedic language of Godard's films. Ebert says, ". . . walking in at the beginning of a new Godard movie is like walking in at the middle of someone else's: You ask yourself what happened before you got there." A number of perspectives on the movie point out that Godard was forcing the audience to look at movies in a new way. And I can appreciate that. But I'm not sure the movie has much more than groundbreaking moviemaking techniques. Which, of course, aren't groundbreaking any more (the movie was made in 1963), so what's left?

The story is that, in a fictional country, ruled by a king, two farmers are duped by a couple of carabiniers into fighting the king's war for promises of looting, pillaging, and . . . lifting girl's skirts. And, no, that's not a euphemism for rape, apparently. These uncouth, amoral soldiers apparently get adequate jollies from peeping at a lady's panties. And all of these ladies don't seem particularly to care. I don't think that was intentional. I think we were meant to be shocked by the actions of these soldiers and take pity on the young women. Now, I've not witnessed such a situation myself, so maybe women do tend to take it as they would a slow line at Disneyland. But somehow I doubt it.

But, you know, maybe it was meant to be funny. Or something other than realistic, because most of the movie was unrealistic. On the other hand, TCM's Robert Osbourne, before the movie, explained that Godard was committed to making more realistic films than what people were used to from Hollywood. And, in terms of the almost totally absent musical score, realistic locations, and often static or erratically moved camera, I suppose it was that, for the time.

Osbourne also explained that Godard expressed an intention to enrage audiences with his technique. I wonder if, then, the annoyance I felt was meant to be felt--my annoyance at the fact that scenes supposedly of our characters trudging through battle-torn landscape just look like a couple of guys romping about in a field. My annoyance that not a single scene is believable, except for the extremely graphic stock footage of people terribly wounded or killed in war.

And that added up to another annoyance--that such brutal reality was juxtaposed with podgy, grinning actors playing army-men, most of the time for no apparent reason.

On the couple of occasions where reason was apparent, I did see how some of the humour could be pretty good, if the rest of the movie hadn't put me in a bad mood. The farmer-soldier trying to get at the bathing woman on the movie screen was pretty good. The execution of the rebel woman reciting poetry would have been good if her clothing looked like she'd been living desperately and the soldiers killing her had looked like they'd been fighting in a war for some time.

One thing I did like was that, throughout the film, letters were shown on title cards and read by the narrator. These letters were actual letters from soldiers all throughout different wars in different countries, from the time of Napoleon up to 1963.

But otherwise . . . it mostly just seems shoddy. I dunno, maybe I'm missing something.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Blogger was broken last night, so I couldn't post that the new Boschen and Nesuko chapter is up. Stuff happens in it. Just so you know, this is a series where things shall indeed happen, from time to time.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I dreamt last night I knew a woman who wanted breast reduction surgery. I really didn't blame her because her breasts were ridiculously large and misshapen. So I went to the place with her and stood by as the doctor outlined the process. Surprisingly, it seemed the surgery would involve an incision all the way to her hip and her lips would have to be removed and replaced with green synthetics.

The woman agreed to this, figuring, I guess, there'd be plenty of anaesthetic. So she went through with the surgery only to find, afterwards, that she had to apply the fake lips herself and that they would take several hours to adhere properly. This woman had a personality trait that made her prefer to pawn as many difficult jobs off on her male friends as she could, so she talked me into switching bodies with her.

For some reason, I decided to apply the lips while driving. The things looked remarkably like sticks of spearmint gum and I was forced to wonder just how natural they could look when applied.

I was turning off Mission Gorge while applying the upper lip and it kept slipping. I worried that I might be wearing out the adhesive, so I decided to park in front of Cosco and do the thing properly. Looking in the mirror, I was surprised to see that the lower lip was actually looking very lip-like, with only a faint line of scab to show anything strange had taken place.

Unfortunately, I was woken before I could see how things were going to go with the upper lip. My grandmother was outside my door fiddling with the heater, which apparently had stopped working. Meanwhile, I was marvelling that this was the first night all year that I hadn't had to sleep with the fan on. I was also contemplating turning it on.

I didn't manage to fall asleep again until my aunt and grandmother left. And then I dreamt that, while walking through a very creepy, mist shrouded forest, I told my sister that the scariest thing I'd ever seen on video was a Ranma 1/2 OVA about terrible things happening to Ranma and Akane in a haunted house.


In other news, yesterday I discovered a new addiction. A few days ago I'd gotten a grande earl grey tea from Starbucks. I'd observed to Tim that it tasted like soap and I didn't understand how Captain Picard could drink the stuff. But yesterday, I found myself not only desperate for earl grey, but encouraged by subtle signs from the gods to drink some. I went to Starbucks, bought some, sipped, noted the soapiness, burned my thumb on some that spilled, and compulsively kept drinking until it was gone.

There's that . . .

Speaking of Starbucks, earlier in the day I'd been at my aunt's Starbucks in a large, insanely comfortable green chair drinking a regular coffee, when I glanced to my right and noticed a small note behind the fake plant on the table. It read, "To love a person is to see the face of God."

I thought about various snarky replies I could make to that, but in the end kind of liked the idea of notes being hidden in random places. It'd be better if they had more intriguing messages, though.

I have a lot to do to-day.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Kiernan made a great entry yesterday that I rather liked, it being in a similer vein to the delusions of real life entry I made a while ago. Further good argument that more people need to keep their heads out of their asses.
I love Robert Blake's voice. It's one of those tin cool voices like Lou Reed's or Charles Bronson's.

I watched Bobby Blake in In Cold Blood some days ago and I pretty much enjoyed it. I thought Blake was really good in it.

The movie, made in 1969 is based on the actual slaughtering of an innocent, God-fearing family in 1959. Director Richard Brooks was so keen on being as true as possible to the events that he filmed the murder scene in the actual house where they took place. Photos of the family throughout the house were actual photos of the family, not the actors playing them. Just a nice touch--added a special pinch of atmosphere when watching.

I think the idea at the end of the movie was to present an anti-death penalty argument. I don't really think the movie succeeds at that, but what it does do is paint a couple of believable and fascinating characters.

And I was really happy to've seen The Treasure of Sierra Madre earlier because Blake's character refers to it several times, comparing himself and his doomed companion to the desperate treasure hunters in that movie. Actually, it made me look back at Treasure of Sierra Madre a little more fondly. And, it turns out, little Bobby Blake had a small role in it, playing the little boy who sold Bogart the lottery ticket. Eeriness abounds!

And speaking of . . . I saw The Machinist a couple nights ago with Trisa. We both liked it, even while agreeing that it was inspired almost entirely by a number of current trends in filmmaking. Although I quite appreciated the Bernard Herrmann-esque score--a robust, symphonic thing that's getting to be rather rare in this heyday of ambient and/or electronic soundtracks for thrillers.