Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I feel sort of like I shouldn't say anything because it would be kind of a blasphemy to so implicitly ask for attention in the face of what feels like a big strange shadow. But then again, it's things I've read that have communicated to me this impression of wide disaster.

Once again, I'm thinking on how frail and naive the human posture is. I mean, you can't go around assuming disaster will happen to-morrow. But it does seem our intricate infrastructure of operating systems is based on dreams that are old and invisible until they're knocked out from under us.

Natural disasters like the recent tsunami and Katrina, juxtaposed in our media with disasters wrought by human action, emphasise to me how much these things all end up being about tending to the injured and rescuing survivors. It seems we're being reminded again and again that we are mere sacks of flesh and bone.

I seriously hope that changes one day. Until then, from sunny and discordantly calm San Diego, I'm going to be making some decidedly useless, non-corporeal things . . .
As news from New Orleans continues to be bleak, it feels strange to be here in a city that's cloudless and still. It's eerie not knowing what sort of condition a prominent portion of the country shall be in next week at this time.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush continues to infamously demonstrate his inability to grasp a serious situation at any level. Amidst even some normally conservative pundits' criticisms, I was sort of amused by this little MSN headline meekly attempting to gloss the President's conduct;

"President vows aid to storm-hit area."

Oh yeah? Gee, I was expecting the government to shrug its shoulders and try not looking in direction for a few years you damned putz.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Caitlin keeps linking to the Red Cross to encourage people to donate. It's a good idea, if you can.

I hope New Orleans comes out of this one.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina has me worried about several friends and acquaintances. But fortunately, they all seem capable of getting out of harm's way.

However, articles like this suddenly make me feel I may never be able to visit New Orleans, or what is recognised as New Orleans, in my lifetime. I'm getting foolish, queasily sentimental feelings about Poppy Z. Brite's Liquor and various movies depicting the city.

Anyway, I hope things turn out better than expected.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The new Boschen and Nesuko is up. All kinds of things happen.

I feel like maybe I forgot to include someone though . . . hmm . . . I'm sure it'll come to me . . .

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I've been watching all these Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies lately, and then I see this on Dark Horizons--a little story about Hugh Jackman wanting to employ an Australian dance competition winner, Tom Williams, in his new Wolverine movie. The article provides a link to footage of the winning dance and, boy, do I ever miss the days of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.

Am I crazy or can this guy barely dance at all? He's hardly keeping time with the awful music, forgoing any steps in favour of rickety poses that aren't even particularly attractive or interesting. And the gracelessness of the dancers' movements is mirrored by their pathetic clothes. The girl's only sexy because she's almost naked. Which is nice, but actual nudity is too readily available in this world for it to mean anything.

One of the cool things about these Astaire/Rogers disks is that they all come with vintage shorts and cartoons, so you can somewhat simulate the 1930s moviegoing experience. Swing Time has a short called Hotel a la Swing that features a segment with a hell-themed floor show. They were studio dancers--no big names. But with only four cuts (each shot longer than Tom Williams' whole routine), they managed with dance and costumes to not only out-dance this Williams mug, but also to be sexier.

We are living in the Hanna Barbara era of sexiness. Mass-produced images of scantily clad crashing bores bully their way into the limelight, while only the lucky find out about quality art and porn.

All hail the lazy, horny prude.

Friday, August 19, 2005

There's an interesting article on Roger Ebert's web site right now. It's Ebert's response to the makers of Chaos, who wrote Ebert a letter in reply to his review.

Reading over this discourse, I was reminded of, "it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." If the number of reviews of Chaos I've read are at all accurate, the famous quote might well be applied to the film. But Macbeth was talking about life and, so, his sentiment is not dissimilar from that of Chaos' makers.

I've not seen Chaos, and I probably never will, because it sounds like it's probably not very good. So I won't say I have anything against the movie as, not having seen it, I don't feel qualified to form an opinion. But what does irritate me is the apparent attitude of its makers as expressed in their letter to Ebert.

That Bernheim and Defalco's stance echoes that expressed by Macbeth is hardly an endorsement of their views, when considering an argument Ebert made, "As the Greeks understood tragedy, it exists not to bury us in death and dismay, but to help us to deal with it, to accept it as a part of life, to learn about our own humanity from it. That is why the Greek tragedies were poems: The language ennobled the material."

The position that life has an underlying meaninglessness is a valid one. But you need more than a position to make good art. And saying that you have a position doesn't invalidate someone finding your movie to be an unpleasant experience.

I don't think a movie with all sorts of bad shit going down needs to have a contrast impression of hope. But I do feel art needs to be entertaining or beautiful, otherwise it's a waste of time. A piece devoted to discussing a new thought or set of thoughts regarding life is a philosophy text. Bernheim and Defalco couldn't have put their thought into that format because it would be achingly obvious that it is unoriginal, which is probably something they don't wish to admit to themselves.

As a number of excellent writers have said, there aren't really any new stories. Chaos is, itself, as several people have pointed out, a retread of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left, which was itself a remake of an Ingmar Bergman film. What an artist brings to the idea and the story is their style, their craft, and themselves.

Ebert observes, "I prefer that the artist express an attitude toward that evil. It is not enough to record it; what do you think and feel about it?" This in response to Bernheim and Defalco's assertion; "Natalie Holloway. Kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq shown on the internet. Wives blasting jail guards with shotguns to free their husbands. The confessions of the BTK killer, These are events of the last few months. How else should filmmakers address this 'ugly, nihilistic and cruel' reality -- other than with scenes that are 'ugly, nihilistic and cruel,' to use the words you used to describe 'Chaos.'"

There's an implied arrogance in that attitude that really annoys me. It's as if they've seen powerfully disturbing images and wish to somehow elevate themselves by making themselves the generators of similar disgust. Like a monkey trying to force respect by throwing crap at you.

Bernheim and Defalco sort of remind me of Joel McCrea's character in Sullivan's Travels. Sullivan being a Hollywood director who, tired of making screwball comedies, wants to make a truly dismal picture about the ravages of the Depression. Only, in his quest to live as a "common man" he discovers what the people really want from him is more of his screwball comedies--to laugh, to enjoy themselves.

I suggest the next time Bernheim and Defalco want to disembowel us with one their movies, maybe they ought to spend some quality time in Iraq.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

There're children around here to-day. They're annoying. As children are.

I bought the new Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers box set yesterday, and I'm fiercely pleased about it. I watched Follow the Fleet last night, which was almost completely good, except for the "Face the Music and Dance" number, which was brilliant.

I'm starting to hate the automobile again. A little while ago, I received a notice from my insurance company that they were going to cancel my insurance because I'd failed to mail in a set of papers saying I acknowledged my family weren't covered drivers in my insurance. So I called and asked if I could still mail the thing in and, yes, they said I could. I guess it'd slipped my mind, perhaps because when I was getting insurance for myself, I didn't feel like I was getting insurance for my family somehow on the sly.

On Monday, as I spent an increasingly irritating amount of time searching for these papers, I came across my actual insurance policy thing, which clearly stated that I had already clearly agreed that my family wasn't on the policy. So basically Mr. Insurance Company was impatiently tapping its foot at my tardiness in fixing its fuck up.

Well. I suppose it's time I got to writing to-day . . .

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A couple weeks ago, we were sent notice that at 10pm on the night of Friday, August 12th, electricity would be out for the entire neighbourhood for up to ten hours. It was in anticipation of this that I finished the new Boschen and Nesuko chapter on Thursday night--or, Friday morning at around 5am or so, to be precise-ish (this detail shall be important later in the story, friends).

I honestly didn't think I was gonna make it. Thursday was, after all, Thursday, meaning for most of the day I had to be out of the house and therefore couldn't use said daylight hours to get going on the final two pages of twenty-six. It also meant that I got only three and a half hours of sleep for Wednesday night.

I tried to sleep a couple hours after returning here in the afternoon, but, despite two cats hanging about, demonstrating how it's done, I couldn't pull the sleep trick. The invested sum of fatigue therefore transferred itself into the Headache Deposit, which became active at around midnight Thursday, with sluggish interest. I was ready to give up and somehow cram it all into the few electricitied hours of Friday, but . . . somehow . . . slowly . . . putting one line . . . at a time . . . the gradual process seemed to continue itself without my bidding. And a cup of tea helped me along--the first time I'd ever put milk in tea, and it was pretty good.

So I woke at 5pm on Friday, feeling outrageously groggy. I replied to some e-mails and a post on Caitlin's LJ before heading off to the mall for coffee, to try to start feeling like I didn't need to do anything in particular. I knew I was going to need to be in a serious time-killing mindset.

My plan was this--Do what I'd normally do, on days where I'm not working on Boschen and Nesuko or something else; go to Tim's and hang out until 1am or so. After that, if the power wasn't back on, I vaguely planned on reading at Denny's or going on one of my unwisely long night walks. Trouble is, I only do the latter when I have a lot of hard thinking to do and my life seems generally bleak. But I've been feeling pretty good for a long time, now, so I was likely just to be bored by such a venture.

Anyway, I called Tim from the mall parking garage . . . to discover this one night, of all nights, he couldn't have me over.

So what the fuck was I supposed to do from 10pm to 8am on a Friday night? And if you are, as you probably are, more of a people-person than me, you're probably not qualified to give me a valid answer.

Well, first I thought I'd see a movie. On Thursday, when I was forced out and about, I went to see Jim Jarmusch's new movie, Broken Flowers. And it is, by the way, the best movie I've seen so far this year. There's deserved praise for Bill Murray's ability to convey impressive volumes of emotion with little facial twitches. The story of a man searching for a son he may or may not have sounds mundane enough, but what made me absolutely in love with this movie was just the absolute brilliant pacing--which, well, wasn't necessarily brilliant, except it made me think of how I've been inundated with typical-movie, dumbed down narrative. It was nice to see a movie that didn't feel like it needed to hit obligatory plot points, didn't need to tell me something once, then yell it through a bullhorn. There's a quality about this movie where you feel information is being got as naturally as you get it interacting with the waking world, and yet, you know these are all elements of a story the filmmakers are deliberately threading together.

So the story ends up being a man whose life of pleasure and romance has come to a sort of grinding halt as he has a sort of epiphany of knowledge-absence. The film is a sort of rumination on the absence of easy-plot points, actually. It's funny and sweet and sad, but always canny, always fluffless, if you will.

Anyway. So on Friday, I felt I was in a good movie-place, and thought I could pick another as satisfying . . . turned out nothing sounded particularly interesting. There were movies, like The Great Raid which sounded like they might be decent, but I just wasn't in the mood for. Finally, I noticed that Revenge of the Sith was still playing at Horton Plaza, and having been meaning to see it at least once more before it left theatres, I went to the 10:10pm showing.

Horton Plaza is something like in the dead centre of downtown and I drove all the way up to the top of the parking structure. I went up a little ramp that terminated in a short wall, and there was no ceiling. So when I got out of the car, I felt sort of like Batman, surrounded by night amongst the twinkling upper portions of skyscrapers.

The cinema is at the top level, and the theatre Star Wars was playing in was on the second floor of the cinema. Which was huge--an enormous stairway, as tall as this two story house I'm sitting in now, and almost as wide, lit by purple neon, flanked by escalators. At the top, a little plaza of closed concession stands with park benches and potted trees. I was a half hour early for the movie so I sat there reading Gulliver's Travels.

I purchased, in the downstairs concession area, for four dollars, the most obnoxious small Coke I'd ever had in my life. I guess, sensitive to criticism of overpriced food, the cinema had decided to make the "small" so only in height, but its width now need rival that height. It was like drinking from a baseball mitt.

The Soda Jerk (is he yet so named?) tried to mumble out a commercial whilst filling the beverage, but I abruptly interrupted to request that my Coke have no ice. He numbly dumped it out to refill it again.

It was not that I felt I could actually drink so much Coke as I find lately I'm driven murderously mad by the sound of ice clinkling around in a paper cup.

Revenge of the Sith was still a wonderful movie, and nice for the almost empty theatre which meant people couldn't make impatient sounds during the film's lesser moments. And so I discovered I actually don't mind those lesser moments as much now. I even sort of like them.

After the movie, I decided to go to a Denny's I'd never been to before, and so went to Point Loma, an area I often found myself in late at night when I lived in Ocean Beach. But I'd never been inside the Denny's.

The people there were strangely nice to me and even asked if I wanted my own seat, away from the other customers. Sometimes I wonder if my black fedora makes me seem like I might be one of those anonymous restaurant critics.

By the time I got out of the Denny's, it was around 2am, and I decided to see if the power had come back in my neighbourhood. I drove back to Santee, and drove around . . . And the power wasn't back. Everything was eerily pitch dark, and there was a crane in one intersection lit by blinding floodlights.

So I drove to a Longs Drugs I knew was open 24 hours. I wandered about there until the noise of the floor cleaner started to annoy me. I then went to Save-On and found they had a DVD section--all DVDs for 1.99. Most of them were crap you'd expect, but I carefully perused them, trying to take as much time as possible, and found Buster Keaton's College, and a collection of old Superman cartoons. When I left, it was around 3:30am. So I decided to simply drive awhile.

I drove north on the 15, then took 78 west, and came back down 5 south. It took about two hours. I listened to Tom Waits' Real Gone and Ani DiFranco's Little Plastic Castle.

It seemed it took forever for 5am to finally happen, but when it did, I was immediately in a Starbucks, and I stayed reading Gulliver's Travels until sunrise.

When I returned home, the power was still out.

I went to sleep, and awoke at around 9am to discover it was rather hot and the strange silence in the air was making the littlest noises like the vicious stabs of toy soldier bayonets at my temple.

The power came back on briefly at 10am, but in about an hour, there was, as I discovered later, a fire somewhere and power went out again. I didn't get any proper sleep until it finally came on for good at around 1pm.

I feel like having fun to-night.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The new Boschen and Nesuko is up early. I spent all night working on it because the power here is scheduled to go out to-night. At least we were warned. I'd have been pretty annoyed if it were sprung on me.

So now I need to sleep. Any references in this chapter, you ask? Er, yes, but I bet you can't spot any of them. I'll say only this; Bette Davis.

Crack your melon on that one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Well, happy fucking Wednesday to you, and you, and most especially to you, meaning me, I think, who made it all possible.

For various reasons, one of which may have been laziness, I didn't work on Boschen and Nesuko very much over the weekend. Reasons as various as; I kept re-writing it, it dealt with subject matter that I was having a hard time making myself get enveloped in--see, although it probably won't be when you read it, it was sort of hard for me to dwell on, particularly when I could have been at Tim's playing bright, happy, innocent Jedi Academy or Final Fantasy X-2, Which I've been playing lately 'cause Caitlin's been gabbing about it.

Is there anything more sterile and safe than to-day's video games? Ultra-violence--with almost no blood, hardly any bruising, certainly no nudity, sex, and let's avoid cussing . . . Even as I'm having a good time, I constantly have this spectre of an Emerald City around me where heavily makeuped, phoney folks in gaudy fake material costumes are scrub-scrubbing here, scrub-scrubbing there, la la la . . . Or if there is sex and violence, it's practically the name of the game, and even then it's restrained.

Anyway. Finding myself hugely behind yesterday, I determined to work on Boschen and Nesuko with absolutely no distractions, until I'd gotten three pages done.

That would be pages 202, 203, and 204. I did manage to do page 201 over the weekend.

I woke at 1pm and let myself read some blog posts while drinking my coffee--I find it's better to have had coffee before getting to it than to be having coffee while getting to it. But after that, I didn't look at the internet at all. From 2pm Tuesday until 5:30am Wednesday, the only distractions I allowed myself were to stop and eat twice, use the bathroom four or five times, feed the cats and change their litter box, and from 11pm to 11:30pm I watched The Daily Show. And that was it.

Now, it wouldn't have taken me as long if this had been an average chapter. But this one has all kinds of itty bitty details that I absolutely had to have, even if people won't notice them and they won't show up on some monitors (I was dismayed to find that the tears and redness I'd carefully placed around Nesuko's eyes in previous chapters are all but invisible on Tim's fancy flat monitor).

But, hurrah, I did it, and now half the chapter's done, and now I've got three days to do four pages. It should seem like pie after last night. I suppose I oughta get to it . . .

It's funny how a night like last night can make the following day feel like the beginning of some kind of new era.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I bought Suspicion the other day because it was on sale at Borders and I rather like the movie. It really is a shame the studio insisted the ending be changed but, as Hitchcock pointed out, the whole of the movie beforehand is still very important. And very wonderful.

Let's see if I can think of anything to say about other movies I've seen recently . . .

Ah. Miraculously, Tim was able to get hold of Urusei Yatsura movies five and six. Urusei Yatsura movies can be very difficult to acquire in the U.S, with the exception, for some reason, of the second movie, Beautiful Dreamer. Some say Urusei Yatsura's humour is lost on American audiences due to the fact that a lot of it is obtuse references to Japanese culture and folktale. Personally, I rather like the gleeful strangeness of it at times.

The comic on which it is based was by Rumiko Takahashi, creator of Inu-Yasha, Ranma 1/2, and Maison Ikkoku. Urusei Yatsura preceded all of those titles, and set up many of the themes common to each of them--bizarre, violent, immature characters in bizarre situations, with a love story in the middle.

Urusei Yatsura was made into a television series in the early 1980s. The first episodes set up the premise--Ataru (whose name can mean "struck by a fallen star" or "very unlucky") is a student at Tomobiki high school and quite lecherous. When one day earth is besieged by aliens, it is Ataru who is randomly chosen to play tag with the beautiful alien Lum in order to decide the fate of the planet.

Lum's species bears a peculiar resemblance to the Japanese mythological creature "oni," often referred to as a Japanese ogre. Ataru must grab Lum by the horns to win, but unfortunately, Lum can fly. Eventually, Ataru takes Lum's bikini and, while she's chasing it, topless ("Give me back my only outfit!"), Ataru grabs the horns, forgetting Japanese mythology, and rashly exclaiming that now he can get married--his girlfriend had promised to marry him if he saved Earth. However, when one grabs an oni by the horns, one is granted a wish by that oni, and Lum interprets Ataru's exclamation as a marriage proposal. Soon, she's moved in with him, and his home begins to attract all manner of alien and mythological chaos.

Urusei Yatsura can mean "Those Obnoxious Aliens," but "Urusei" is also a crude spelling (pronunciation) of "Urusai," which means, sort of, "You're being too noisy!"

So, I've now watched the fifth movie and I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I would have a decade ago. Years of inundating myself with a broad variety of movies has altered my taste a little, so I become a little uninterested, at times, with the film's unrelenting twists of strangeness, which sort of have a greying effect. Perhaps this is why I've so enjoyed Maison Ikkoku recently, as it's Takahashi's most subdued series.

But, in the end, how could I not love Urusei Yatsura 5?

Trouble begins when Lum's senile grandfather half remembers trading her hand in marriage for an antidote to a poisoned fish he'd eaten as a young man. So Lum's betrothed comes to Earth on a flying chariot drawn by eight black pigs. Soon, Ataru leads a group of monks and mythological Japanese characters in an intergalactic chase to a dark planet, all the while refusing to admit it's because he loves Lum. But there's a collision in hyperspace, and Ataru's ship and another crash-land on the dark planet. The other ship belongs to a girl in love with Lum's betrothed (of course).

The girl packs a rocket launcher, threatens the groom, and Lum is cloned. It looks like everyone's gonna die, but then Lum and Ataru get in an argument and Lum decides to stay on the planet. The movie continues with a plot about Earth being overrun by giant mushrooms, and a looming, grinning, memory erasing device that can only be deactivated with tennis balls.

Ataru's wealthy friend, Mendou, assembles tanks to fire tennis balls from their cannons . . .

And so on.

Some of it is cheap, romantic comedy shenanigans, but there's something sweet about the credulously strange, treacherous, and vicious characters.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

About a half an hour ago, I leant close to the cat Lucky's ear and whispered, "Tell me about the future."

Far from uttering a word, Lucky merely looked at me, wide-eyed, in something like terror and walked quickly away. If nothing else, this proves that cats do have the gift of foreknowledge.

I went to the horse track on Monday for my mother's birthday. It was dull. The prodigious spaces of time between races were filled with only fine cheese for diversion--the menu featured little for the vegetarian. The best was a plate of cheeses and fruits, intended to accompany wine.

I've taken a book with me to all family functions of the past couple months--my cousin's wedding, a party for (I think) another cousin--but my mother gave me to understand that I was not to bring a book to the track. This, so that I might at least credibly feign enthusiasm.

The second brick on my chest was that I was to feign so after only four hours of sleep--I'd had to drive my aunt to the airport at 5am.

At one point, my sister asked if I was feeling all right. I felt slightly irritated at her asking me that question in front of my mother, as I was sure she knew there was only one possible answer I could give; if I was fine, I'd say "fine." If I wasn't, I was still going to have to lie and say, "fine." I explained this to her when we were alone and she said she hadn't known. Maybe it hadn't occurred to her, but I wasn't seeing straight. Anyway, she had her revenge when, later, my mother was saying we'd stay only until the sixth race and my sister begged to stay for all eight. And so I spent five hours sitting, intermittently giving in to the temptation to rest my eyes.

There were, however, a couple of very nice looking female horse-riders (not jockeys, I don't think, as they didn't race and only road alongside the race horses when they were being presented), and that is sort of a fine thing for a pervert like me to see.

I was wearing my usual black felt fedora and it seemed to capture a special notice among the employees, who perhaps associated it with the classic image of the track. At one point, an old security guard came to our table. He abruptly started to chat casually with us and explained, seemingly by way of idle conversation, that he was seventy four years old and a professional bounty. He mentioned that Mafioso, sent from the east to hide out, often wore hats like mine. He asked me if I was Mafioso.

He asked like someone who seriously wanted to know but wanted it to come off like a jocular thing. But I'd also just watched the 1932 version of Scarface the night before, so maybe it was only my sleep-deprived fancy. Though, you know, it's probably hard being a bounty hunter at seventy-four, especially if he also needs to work as a security guard.

And, wouldn't you know, it's time for me to sleep again. I'm tired of my body requiring food and sleep.