Saturday, April 30, 2005

A couple nights ago, I tuned to BBCAmerica while eating dinner and saw a pretty blond woman with a dim grin sitting next to Graham Chapham, who was wearing a white lab coat. It was a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch about alien blancmanges trying to secure a victory at Wimbledon against earth--and all earth's tennis players had been turned into Scots.

I didn't see the end of the sketch, as I had something to do when I finished eating. The next morning, I felt a little sorry. It's not often I see Monty Python on TV these days. As I ate breakfast, I turned on the television and was confronted again by the same woman and the same Graham Chapham. Earth's battle with the blancmanges had begun again.

That's a sign from the gods to me, it is, and I don't need to tell you what it means.

I'll tell you something else that's unrelated;

A few days ago I was walking home from Tim's and stopped in at a Round Table Pizza I used to eat at a lot when I was a kid. I'd been looking at it now and then, meaning to go in for the nostalgia or something.

The place had changed only a little. It was still a very enclosed restaurant, with only one wall of windows, leaving the rest of the place a somewhat difficult labyrinth of booths. I remember it having dark, reddish wood walls, but now it has white wood walls. Which was disappointing--it was such a dark, warm place with few lights before, which, combined with the name Round Table Pizza, always allowed me the vague fantasy that it was a medieval mead hall.

I was delighted to see that the very, very old Super Mario Brothers machine was still there. I remember it showing up at the restaurant at about the same time as the original, 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System came out. This was not your usual arcade, stand-up setup, but a sort of table thing that allowed you to sit down and play comfortably, albeit with a joystick, which feels pretty unnatural with Super Mario Brothers.

I sat down to it for a while, found that the A button stuck a bit, and proceeded to make a fool of myself on level 1-2. Like a bird continually ramming itself into a window, I could not shut off the confident feeling that I could jump over any of the level's pits. At Parkway Plaza mall, I frequently almost beat the same game on a newer, cheapie system whilst waiting for my latte, and here this machine of my youth, with its cunning, sticky button, was schooling me.

So that didn't last, and I was too slow with quarters to continue. So I looked the place over a bit more while my order was taking an impressively long time. I found that there was a new, separate video game section, where the place had accumulated a few of the standard, stupid side-scrollers of the past twenty years.

Among them was what I trust was a relic of 9/11--a platform shooter called Target: Terror. Its start screen featured photos of Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush floating by in the background, much as one would expect to see a Ninja Turtle or a gun wielding anime girl.

You didn't condemn this sort of thing very harshly in the months following 9/11. Everyone was pretty unnerved and we sensed that maybe this was, for many of the more simple-minded around us, the only way of coping with the events. Now it just looks like the ridiculously crass artefact it is. A toy fashioned by and for people who have only a hazy grasp of mortality and the dangers of this world, and see man-initiated catastrophe as an a excuse for the glorious story they want to be the hero of.

The world needs the Mario Brothers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I put up a Google ad on my site a few days ago, but I took it down to-day because it looked as though it probably wouldn't pay ten dollars in ten years. Oh well. I will think of a way to make money with this, one day. Mostly I'm thinking of doing a 100 page or so online graphic novel thing, and charging 25 cents per view.

It the meantime, I decided if there's gonna be an ad on my site, it might as well help a friend, so I put this up;

Yesterday I picked up the Citizen Kane soundtrack, which is great to listen to and, for some reason, a lot subtler than I was expecting. It has to be played very loud to be heard at all, most of the time, and creates this really great, murky mood in the room. And then the opera scene comes on and it flattens you.

This isn't the original recording, but one made a couple years ago by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Joel McNeely, as is my copy of the Psycho soundtrack. For the most part, both recordings are rather straight copies of the original orchestrations, except with a better recording quality. But the Opera scene is sung by a woman named Janice Watson, who seems to be the singer Kane wished Susan Alexander to be.

There's a lot of information about Bernard Herrmann and his early career in the CD booklet, including a cable sent to Welles in July 1940. Regarding the Opera scene, Herrmann wrote, "FEEL THAT SUZY SHOULD HAVE A SMALL BUT RATHER GOOD VOICE. THIS IS THE TICKLISH PART OF IT. EVEN G[ANNA] W[ALSKA] HAD SOMETHING OF A VOICE. FEEL SHE MUST AROUSE SENSE OF PITY. MUSIC SHOULD BE INTENSELY DRAMATIC AND SHE NOT UP TO IT."

Which is a nice touch. It would have been terribly over the top to give her a truly horrible voice, and a lesser film would've made Kane seem utterly delusional about her.

Well, that's just one small good thing about a movie full of great things . . .

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A man approached me in the Nordstrom bathroom and asked if I had a coconut. He was wearing a bright red jogging suit and baseball cap and I assumed "coconut" was a code for cocaine or a sexual favour. I said no, and it was only after he'd gone that I realised the whole room smelled like coconut . . .

Trisa visited San Diego last week. We had a pleasant time, she has a very nice new haircut, and we watched Napoleon Dynamite.

I was expecting to have a much stronger reaction to the film than I did. I expected to hate it or love it. It turned out my feelings were slightly warmer than lukewarm.

There's a sweetness about it--I get the impression that the filmmakers had a genuine affection for these characters, that they were not sadistically exploiting them as many reviews for the movie insist.

Perhaps this misimpression arises from the fact that none of the characters really become more than mild caricatures--you can see the kinds of guys they're trying to be, but they never quite pull it off.

The movie is a very mild comedy. The best jokes make you smile or sort of chuckle. One of the film's problems is an over-reliance on the comedy of tedium--especially in the first two thirds of the movie, there are endless static shots of people standing very still speaking in slow monotone. There were several instances where I got the joke midway through the delivery, but the movie insisted on dragging it right along anyway.

It was, on the whole, a pleasant movie, but I think by the third viewing I'd jump out of a high window. It's a little like Braveheart.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

There. Finished.

That was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Still, I don't think I'll ever do anything like it again if I don't have to.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I'll be posting my 24 Hour Comic here. I've decided to make it about a group of cartoon characters I created when I was about nine or ten. I've made references to them in Boschen and Nesuko, but otherwise I remember almost nothing about their personalities or relationships. It ought to be an interesting experience.

I'll try to update with each page as I go, starting at midnight (for me, it's currently 9:23pm).
The new Boschen and Nesuko chapter's up. I hope it doesn't make anyone puke.

And now I have to run off again because I'm gonna do the 24 Hour Comics thing and I wanna get supplies . . . Gods, nobody better give me anything to do on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I saw Sin City again a few days ago and, afterwards, I dropped by Borders and noticed I'll Sleep When I'm Dead was out on DVD.

I remembered very badly wanting to see this movie when it was in theatres, but I'd never gotten the chance. I was very intrigued by Roger Ebert's review. Maybe because it was a British film noir, maybe because it was a good movie featuring Malcolm McDowell in a good, sinister role. Maybe it was because it stars Clive Owen, for whom I had a mysterious fondness even before I'd seen him in any movies (perhaps this is explained by the bit of trivia off his IMDb profile; "Is a huge David Bowie fan and has called singer 'the biggest musical influence on my life.' He says, 'I don't know why, but no one else has ever had such an effect on me. I didn't have most of his work. I had everything.' In the 1970s, when Bowie was changing his appearance and style with every album, Owen would re-dye his hair whatever color Bowie's was at the time.")

Anyway, I felt it an omen somehow that I should be looking at a Clive Owen film noir after having just come from seeing Sin City, so I bought it.

It's a good movie, and considerably more true to the grim existential spirit of film noir than is Sin City.

It is not remotely what one would call a thriller, in spite of being mistakenly marketed that way. It's the story of Will (Clive) coming back to London after having been living reclusively in the forest for three years, attempting to avoid his past as a fierce crime boss.

But his brother's suicide in London brings Will back and into a quest for revenge, and inevitably amongst his old enemies and friends. It's certainly a noir idea, and is enhanced a bit by the man seeking revenge for what is unquestionably a suicide.

Perhaps the most innovative element director Mike Hodges brings to the table is the tone. When I say it's not a thriller, I ought to stress that it's practically the opposite pole of thriller. It's quiet, ruminating atmosphere of Will walking about London simply dwelling in his hellish endeavour, all the more hellish for how unsentimental and coldly the movie puts things. Really, perfect for the main theme.

Good movie. I'd probably say more except I'm feeling the absence of coffee . . .

Friday, April 15, 2005

Because I'm a productive member of society, I made this:

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Caitlin's reactions to a film called What the [Bleep] do We Know?, intrigued me enough that I sought it out and watched it. The movie consists of a series of interviews with physics students, spiritualists, doctors, and, supposedly, the channelled spirit of an Atlantian warrior named Ramtha. At intervals, the movie follows the fictional story of a young woman played by Marlee Matlin. Her life as a divorcee and photographer is used to demonstrate and gloss arguments seemingly made by the interviewees regarding a connexion between quantum mechanics and the idea that we humans are capable of altering physical reality purely by effort of will.

Having read the information Caitlin found showing the film's most important proofs to be false, I knew going in that the film had no real scientific basis for its arguments, despite its pretensions to the contrary. But I was curious, as it seemed a stimulating point of conversation and several very intelligent people seemed to have been taken in by it. What I would have thought of the movie if I'd not known the illegitimacy of its evidences, I can't say. What I did find was a movie that was silly and pathetic.

The first portion is an overwrought justification of the title, What the [Bleep] do We Know?, as it states the old idea that we don't know if our reality is really real, or a sort of dream, or something else. This can be sort of fun to think about, but a surprising lot of people tend to not realise that the concept in itself neither proves nor disproves anything.

Then we segue somehow into quantum mechanics, in which there is a theory that an infinite number of alternate realities exist, one for every alternate possibility. Which is interesting, but hardly is this the first time the concept in art has been explored. I remember it from the seventh season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called "Parallels", in which Worf was continuously shifting between different quantum realities. Data explained the idea a lot more effectively than What the [Bleep]'s experts ever do.

So from there, the movie reaches its real point, which is to say that somehow we can take control of our lives--have better jobs, relationships, self-esteem--by consciously tapping into alternate realities. "Creating the day", effectively, by visualising what we want and making ourselves believe it until it's true.

What I'd like to know is why it's supposed to be easier to tap into an alternate reality to change things than it is to simply decide to do things differently and doing it. Yeah, we have our habits and they can be hard to break, but is it really harder than shifting to an alternate reality?

You know, these are just the sorts of people that ought to never get their hands on a time machine. "I magicked my ex-wife to death!", "My mental powers got my horse to win!", "I eradicated all pigeons every where, every when!"

But perhaps most heinous of the movie's crimes is that damned wedding scene with those shrill cartoon peptides. Think Son of the Mask, only worse.

And one final, evil thought--did Marlee Matlin ever ask Ramtha to take her to the reality where she's not deaf?
Entries I would have posted if Blogger hadn't been on the fritz;

From 2005-04-11 11:04:00

I went with family to a couple of malls in Orange County yesterday. They gave me some money for my birthday, so I bought some Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes, Jill Thompson's Little Endless Storybook, a Charlie Parker CD, Thelonious Monk's Monks Dream, and I re-purchased The Smiths' Meat is Murder, having lost my previous copy.

I was tipped off about Monks Dream by Peter Straub's wonderful site. Having just begun to cultivate an interest in jazz, it's nice to see what a writer I respect recommends. It's a very sweet album. Many things I've read on Monk seem to describe him as being a sort of creature removed from other pianists, and it's true I've not heard anyone play piano like this. It's restrained, in the good timing way, but very wild, with chords played just out of synch--or the normal conception of in synch, anyway.

We ate at a restaurant called P.F.Chang's yesterday, which I cannot advise against strongly enough. I had spinach and garlic stir-fry, which tasted something like mulched salt licks. Much of my time at the malls was spent in the bathrooms thereafter.

From 2005-04-08 19:13:00

The new Boschen and Nesuko chapter is up. With decorated robots.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Has anyone ever noticed that "Migrations" by Jocelyn Pook, off the Eyes Wide Shut soundtrack, and "Renholder" by A Perfect Circle, are almost exactly the same song? Does anyone else even have both the Eyes Wide Shut soundtrack and the debut A Perfect Circle album? Could I be the only person in the world who's noticed this?

Eyes Wide Shut came out a year before the Perfect Circle album, so if anyone's a crook, it's A Perfect Circle. And now you know.

Lately I've been annoyed by people who seemingly can't relate to anyone of the opposite sex. I've talked to a couple women recently who couldn't get involved with the male characters' story in certain movies. And I watched The Outlaw Josey Wales a few days ago.

I don't think I've seen a movie that is more palpably insensible of its female characters while simultaneously exploiting them. Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood in 1976, the movie takes place at the end of the American civil war, and follows the exploits of a bushwhacker named Josey (Clint). Early in the film, Josey's family is slaughtered by Union officers led by the nefarious Red Legs, so named for his evil red pant legs.

All the Union soldiers in the movie come off as mindless villains while all the Confederate sympathisers are noble, sometimes conflicted men. No one mentions slavery. Why would they?

When it becomes clear the south has no hope, the leader of Josey's bushwhacker gang, Fletcher, is offered a deal by the Union--his group can go free if they give up their arms and swear allegiance to the Union. The whole group grudgingly agrees, except Josey--which is how come he's the outlaw Josey Wales.

The Union ends up going against their word and tries to slaughter everyone but Fletcher who, for some reason, they have a lot of respect for and are going to employ in the hunt for straggler bushwhackers. They succeed in killing all the other bushwhackers, except for one annoying young guy, who Josey rescues by commandeering a gatling gun.

After this, for reasons that are never explained, Fletcher hates Josey fiercely, vowing to hunt him down at all costs.

Thankfully, the annoying young guy dies pretty soon after this, and we're left to bask in Clint's steeliness as he adventures through the country solo. It couldn't last, though, as an old Indian chief caricature joins his party. Another thing about this movie--rife with the Native American stereotypes it is. This particular fellow was a pretty bad actor, too, always conspicuously conscious of being in a movie.

It's soon after that we meet our first female character, who is also Native American, which I suppose makes two strikes against her. She's irritatingly referred to at all times as "the squaw", and is in fact not very different from the squaw bride in The Searchers--a John Wayne movie which I did not find to be racist, despite having a racist main character. In fact, none of the John Wayne movies I've seen are as racist or as sexist as Josey Wales.

Anyway, the Josey squaw, who is at least credited as being named "Little Moonlight", is not given, by the writers, the ability to speak English, despite the fact that when we meet her, she's working at a white man's general store. The man hits and berates her with familiarity, and while Josey ambles about the place, two men proceed to start raping her. Josey seems disinterested until the would-be rapists recognise him and try to capture him for his bounty.

Josey kills them and now, of course, Little Moonlight considers herself his slave. She doesn't do anything else for the rest of the picture except follow him and have sex with the old guy.

Josey, outlaw loner, or not, starts to collect people. He comes across a wagon being raided by bandits--the wagon carries an old woman and a young pretty blond woman, who they begin to rape while Josey watches in consternation from a hiding spot on a nearby hill. The bandits show the audience the woman's breasts and ass and Josey sorta/maybe starts to go for his gun, before the bandits come up with a vague excuse suddenly about needing the woman unspoiled.

Later, Josey defeats the bandits and seemingly acquires another slave girl, this one blond and English-speaking, even if it's only, most of the time, to say things like "Josey!" and "Wait!"

She eventually makes a watch chain for him out of her hair and they fall madly in love. Or something.

The movie has one or two good moments, most of them involving Clint gunfighting--although the final confrontation with Red Legs is rather lame.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Sin City is an excellent movie.

Film noir dialogue of the sort pioneered by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler is something between tough talking and poetry. It has a unique sound and has been mocked and tossed about over the years until it's almost been made to seem phoney and silly. It's a style, and a beautiful one. And in Sin City, it's made relevant again.

An unprepared viewer may go in and find the 40s-ish street talk between Michael Madsen and Bruce Willis to be more off-puttingly artificial than the computer generated backgrounds. But it's when the hard, human reality of ghastly situations set in that we find ourselves clutching desperately at those beautiful words, the pulse that has the brain walk right on through the razor wire and severed limbs and still look up, grin, and say we like this place.

Yes, I liked just about everything about Sin City. Except Jessica Alba. Otherwise, it was great.

What was wrong with Jessica Alba? She's not a very good actress, and she didn't get naked.

Pervert, you cry! Well, look. One thing that was refreshing about the movie was how uncompromising and comfortable it was about nudity. And then we get to Nancy Callahan's story, and we have a stripper who doesn't get naked, not on stage, and not in another, even more unlikely situation. So, Alba, why all the clothes? Why did we have a scene where you said, "Let me put some clothes on" when you were already wearing more clothes than half the other girls in the movie? Alba recently had this to say;

"You know, nudity was an option . . . We could have done it if we wanted to. Obviously, it would have been more authentic. But I felt dancing around with a lasso and chaps was going to be sexy enough. I think being nude would have been distracting and I really couldn't be bottomless. My dad! He would freak out."

Which I translate as, "Initially, I told Rodriguez that I'd be willing and then, after I'd signed the contract, I 'changed my mind', and there was not a damn thing they could do, as it wouldn't exactly look good to fire a girl 'cause she wouldn't get naked."

Although I'm willing to believe Jessica Alba's clueless enough about sexuality to think that a girl with lasso and chaps is as sexy as a girl without clothes.

I don't mean to sell the movie short. Just about everything else is tops. The Marv story, starring Mickey Rourke, being, by far, the best. In fact, if I'd been editing the film, I'd have suggested closing with it. It's the most pure expression of the underlying ideas in all of the stories.

Oh . . . I promised to talk about the Star Wars Holiday Special.

In the mid-1980s, George Lucas vainly attempted to destroy all master copies of this 1978 CBS special. So of course, Tim was quickly able to find a copy on one of his file-sharing programmes.

It stars Mark Hammill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels--everyone but Obi-Wan, really. And it has Art Carney and Bea Arthur. Why not? And, hey, why not have a five minute segment of a Wookiee family having common, domestic discourse, made up of unintelligible growls, in what appears to be a contemporary Earth home (poor matte paintings assure us it's in a tree)? Oh, and throw in Jefferson Starship, only make them tiny.

It was incredible.

In a set that must have been comprised of, at best, pieces of the one used in the first movie, we see Han Solo (indeed, Harrison Ford!) and Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millienium Falcon, en route to the Wookiee homeworld so that Chewie can celebrate Life Day with his family. Scores of awkward, commercial-like close-ups ensue (this was not directed by George Lucas). Han Solo blushingly tells the ridiculous ball of fur passing as Chewie's wife that the Wookiees feel like family to him. Princess Leia appears to be working as a bank teller when we see her furiously typing at a keyboard behind a plain, plastic desk while C3PO stands awkwardly by.

In the end, all the Wookiees wear red robes and carry glass orbs through space to wind up at a foam cave set where Luke, Han, and Leia await wearing too much makeup. And then Leia sings about the Tree of Life--to the tune of the Star Wars main theme.

And it's all the original actors. You know you want to see this.

Actually, there was one bit of quality stuff--a brief animated segment involving the heroes' first encounter with Boba Fett. A good, decently written story, with intriguing dialogue--Boba Fett, posing at first as a friend, has a disconcerting way of ending sentences in an eerie neutral tone with the word "friend." The alien designs are great and the whole short is enriched by a coherent style and good, expressive animation.

It felt like ambrosia compared to the rest of the special.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Nar'eth Winter Special is now up. Written by Caitlin and illustrated by yours truly, it's a bit of Farscape fan-fiction, and was a lot of fun to make. I tried a lot of new things, and learned a lot of new things just through the process of working with Caitlin.

In any case, I hope it goes over better than the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, which I watched earlier this evening. I'll post thoughts on it later. I have complicated, astounded, horrified, bemused, outright betwirtled thoughts about it.