Monday, January 30, 2006

I just noticed there's an 1894 film for download of Annie Oakley in her Wikipedia entry.

I feel like this was an unproductive night. I spent a lot of time playing Baldur's Gate. Yes, the writing irritates me, but it is still Dungeons and Dragons. If only I lived near Stephen Colbert, who, as I've learned from this recent Onion interview, played it as a lad. He was lucky. I wish I knew people nearby who played Dungeons and Dragons.

Well, then, maybe I don't. After all that Baldur's Gate, I feel really dirty. The best way I could justify it to myself was by saying, "It's Sunday. Sundays are made for slacking off."

I was playing it a few nights ago as well, when I looked to my left and noticed that my Citizen Kane DVD happened to be sitting at the top of a DVD pile. And I asked myself, "What would I really rather be doing? Playing this insipid game, or watching Citizen Kane yet again?" And I'm happy to say Kane won that particular vote.

Afterward, I was looking at the movie's IMDB entry and noticed one of the user comments, though ostensibly a positive review, described the movie as "slow" and, though obviously important and influential, also "not pure entertainment."

Bullocks. Someone needs strangling. I'm not even putting this one down to a short attention span. This is abject stupidity. Slow? There's not a merest fraction of an atom of fat in that movie. Though I guess I can see how a teenager might not like the subject matter, and even get greater thrill, as the quoted reviewer does, from The Matrix. But it sure does make me hate young people.

Anyway. I better put myself to bed now before I start dragging white trash out of their homes and into cold asphalt hell, as I lecture them in the early morning chill about the difference between squares and rectangles. Gods, all my crotchetiness seems to come out at 7am . . .

Friday, January 27, 2006

It's the jolliest Boschen and Nesuko yet! I think it's also an early anti-Valentine's Day chapter.

Boschen and Nesuko's now past 300 pages, so . . . mazel tov to me, I guess.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Yesterday was a strange eating day. I went to Starbucks thinking I wasn't going to have much time for breakfast, wanting to get a zucchini walnut muffin. When they didn't have any, I settled for a cheese danish, which had a strange, insubstantial weight in my stomach. I couldn't tell if it'd filled me up or not. So when it turned out I'd have more time yesterday than earlier thought, I went back to Starbucks and used up a gift-card on an egg salad sandwich and a five-shot grande latte. I was unmistakably full after that. So I went home and got to work on Boschen and Nesuko, and after an hour of decent headway, I got a call from my mother asking if I'd like to drop by for some tofu salad.

My operating system, by default, will not refuse free food. Then there're several programmes running that add qualifiers like, "Does it have meat?", "Am I even really hungry?", and "Is it sweet (if yes, then no)?" But the operating system's running the "accept any food" algorithm the whole time, and sometimes I run out of virtual memory, and then that directive is all I've got to go on.

Anyway, I figured, the tofu salad might simply spackle the couple empty spots.

However, I'd probably misheard my mother, because the meal ended up being the salad, two kinds of paddy looking things, soup, and chips with guacamole. The bitch of it all was that it was good stuff, but I could barely choke down half of it.

I was sorrier at 3am, though, when this stupid body reminded me that us organisms have to eat at intervals No Matter What. And I had to settle for two miniature microwave burritos.

I was playing Baldur's Gate at the time. I've been itching for a game with an interesting plot with well written characters and dialogue since Fallout 2. So I borrowed Baldur's Gate from Tim, figuring since both it and Fallout 2 were from Black Isle, they'd share some writing quality. No such luck.

Either the writers are different, or the Fallout 2 writers' skills were neutralised by the Forgotten Realms environment. The dialogue is so awful as to be awesome. It deserves an award for "Most Gratuitous Misuse of a Thesaurus" with lines like, "There are a plethora of people going through the woods," and, "It's a mistake to think I'd trust your benevolence!"

And I think the Lord of the Rings movies have ruined at least one thing for the AD&D worlds--it doesn't wash to hear American voices speaking in faux Middle English. No longer may Ed from the corner drugstore play Sir Gawain.

Friday, January 20, 2006

There's a free episode of South Park online (it's Quicktime). I guess it's kind of a "fuck you" to Tom Cruise, who's prevented broadcasting of the episode in Britain. The episode makes fun of Scientology and makes an oblique, but lengthy crack at the man's supposed closeted homosexuality.

Personally, I've never really found the idea that Tom Cruise might be secretly gay to be particularly funny. Mostly it just reminds me of the guys passing him on the street in Eyes Wide Shut calling him a faggot--it just seems kind of immature, and provoked by the fact that he's handsome, but not as particularly macho as other pretty leading men of his generation.

But I do think it's stupid how angry he gets over the jokes, which may also be the real point of the South Park episode. And I do agree with Stan's assessment of his acting ability--I don't think Cruise is a bad actor, but John Heder probably is a little better.

As for the Scientology stuff, Matt and Trey really seemed to be just phoning it in. It's not as funny as the Hubologists from Fallout 2--the South Park episode basically relies on actual facts of Scientology to be funny by themselves. Matt and Trey used to be more inventive. I wish they'd retire, before the show shares The Simpsons' fate.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I love Firefly.

A little over a year ago, long before I'd seen any Firefly, I talked to a guy at school who I knew was a fan.

I said to him, "From what I've heard, it sounds a bit like . . . Cowboy Bebop?"

And his face subtly fell. I could tell he was used to telling people how innovative this series was, and suddenly he realised he couldn't think of significant differences between it and Cowboy Bebop. But what he said to me was, "No . . . Firefly's pretty much a drama."

I let it go at that, even though I knew Cowboy Bebop was not a comedy series. But I thought about it as I finally got around to watching Firefly a few weeks ago. And yes, it's a lot like Cowboy Bebop. As I continued to watch the series, I couldn't help but check off similarities, and places where one was better than the other;

They're both combinations of Space Operas and Westerns. In both, characters usually speak one language, but can slip into another on occasion (in Firefly, it's English and Chinese, and in Cowboy Bebop, it's Japanese and English). The respective central space ships, Bebop and Serenity, even look a little alike.

A Firefly episode is roughly twice the length of a Cowboy Bebop episode, so you get a more intimate feel for the characters. The characters are also a lot more affectionate with each other, which is kind of sweet, and there're more of them.

But Cowboy Bebop easily defeats Firefly in terms of visuals. Mars on Bebop, which combines jumbled Tokyo-like modern city with familiar empty red Mars landscape, monorails, and very vital, complicated crowds, easily overshadows Firefly's big cities, such as the one seen in "Ariel", which are neat, but grey, and seem populated by twelve to twenty television extras. But partly to blame for that must be the budget limitations of a live-action television series.

I also have to admit I got tired of how similar most of the planets on Firefly looked. I know it's in keeping with the western theme, and maybe it makes sense if all the planets are terraformed by the same technology, but it all looks a lot like empty fields a few miles from here. I guess the fact that I live in southern California biases me on that score.

It highlights an advantage Farscape had in being produced in Australia, with its wider variety of locations in a small area.

I loved the characters and writing on Firefly. Inara felt kind of stiff most of the time, but in instances where she didn't have to play formal, unconvincing Lady of Elegance, and just be a girl, she was good. I was able to remember why I liked Morena Baccarin as Black Canary on Justice League.

Kaylee was adorable, and the actress playing her continually found interesting ways of making her lines effective. Nathan Fillian as Mal was good, except his jaw line always seemed a little too soft to me. But that really didn't bother me a whole lot. I never did really warm to Simon, as I thought I might, but the actor doesn't do a bad job. It's not his fault if I think his face is weirdly lumpy.

Summer Glau was good as River, and is probably a big part of why her character worked, which is the sort of character I think is a lot more difficult to make credible than a person planning a series might assume. It's hard to make crazy talk without sounding very contrived, and actually, they didn't always succeed with River. Especially when she was under the pen of writers who Joss Whedon probably purposefully left in the dark regarding River's true nature.

But she was really good in the last episode, versus the bounty hunter who was apparently an homage to Boba Fett, complete with his own Slave 1. I knew he was a bounty hunter from the moment I saw the shape of his ship. However, his character was obviously more complex than Boba Fett, and genuinely threatening when it came to Kaylee. Which was why it was a shame he lost a bit of his gravity in his dialogue with Simon.

Overall, it's a lovely series.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I wish I had some gloves. Mittens, even. Or thick gloves with the fingers cut off--I'd feel very Blade Runner, then.

Now, I know that compared to where most of you lot are now, this temperature around me is practically the surface of the sun. But I think it's rather cold, and I seem to be one of the only ones around here who seriously thinks so.

I've got layers of clothes piled on me, but my bare hands have become floppy frozen hamburger paddies.

I ate breakfast at Einstein bagels again this morning. No one knows how to act in there anymore--the counter spreads pretty symmetrically across a corner of the shop, and they've removed the "Order Here" sign. So I might be blissfully daydreaming in the queue, free to ignore the corporeal world, when I notice a fierce redheaded businesswoman giving me bristly indignant glances as she shuffles from the opposite direction.

But I have the old knowledge. I know where the order sign used to be. And I see that ordering and paying still goes generally in the same order. But do the employees correct anyone? No, they just take 'em as they come, from whatever direction they come, and my somnolent routine is disrupted.

The queue is strange as a social venue. There's an unspoken protocol, and a narrow avenue for unspoken confrontation.

At the bank, I usually read a book while waiting, and to-day I had Caitlin R. Kiernan's The Five of Cups. Next to me, an athletic girl in a short, bright blue nylon skirt and an oversized white t-shirt seemed unsatisfied that I could monitor the progress of the queue and read at the same time. Subtle body language conveyed this--from the rhythm with which she edged closer to me, to her rigid trajectory.

But do not get me started on they who can't actually stay in queue, but think they are when they're standing well off to your right, left, two people ahead of where they're supposed to be, and leaning on the counter. An old woman dressed in black behind me, upon noticing such antics displayed by someone in front of me, remarked that such a thing never happened in New York.

I think the secret to San Diego's social malaise is its artificial easy attitude. People like to think they're laid back, but they're really just trying to cut in line. That's what I says, and I'm an anti-social recluse. So there, yeah.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I learned of the draw Batgirl meme through Robyn's journal.

Here's my version;

She'll fuck you up, man.

I looked at a bunch of pictures of bats, thinking about how I was going to do this thing. It terms of colours, I think I based it on a lot of the more harmless bats. So it's the girl half that's dangerous, naturally.
Truthiness to power.

Friday, January 13, 2006

See how you feel about the new Boschen and Nesuko chapter.

I'm dedicating this chapter to Jessica Rabbit, for reasons less obvious than you might think.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ai, ai, ai. Just watched Dead Ringers for the first time in a long time. Gods, I love Cronenberg. Sure, the idea of twin gynaecologists going mad and one of them creating some evil looking "instruments for mutant women" is a bit disturbing in itself. But there's something subtler about Cronenberg's style that gets under my skin so nicely. Something that has purely to with angles and editing--the bare bones, to which the subject matter is almost secondary.

I got the Criterion edition of Dead Ringers, which has been out of print for a while, so I had to order it used from Amazon. But it's worth it, knowing I have the Cronenberg commentary that's not on the newer edition.

Cronenberg does a good commentary. He's articulate, intelligent, and doesn't merely point out obvious things. Some commentaries are critics who seem to assume I've decided my first ever viewing of the film would be with their commentary, so they give me the play by play; "Here's Jimmy Stewart . . . He's playing the lead in the movie . . . Now watch what happens here . . . Neat, huh?"

Then there's the other end of the spectrum, like Marian Keane's commentary for Notorious, which really tells you more about Marian Keane than it does Notorious. I'm sorry, Marian, but a transitional shot that happens to feature a grandfather clock is probably not meant to be a penis.

But, then, it could be anyway. I saw an interview with Hitchcock's daughter where she talked about taking a film class where her father's movies were being similarly overanalysed. She went home asking her father if he really meant to put all that in his movies. He told her, of course not, but people are allowed to see whatever they like in the movies, and it pleases him.

Anyway, Cronenberg's commentaries are generally good. I liked an anecdote he related on the Videodrome commentary about an exchange he overheard between Deborah Harry and James Woods--Woods had to wear an uncomfortable, large prosthetic over his stomach of a vertical lesion in his pseudo-flesh. It was so uncomfortable that he griped to Harry one day, "I've ceased to be an actor and have become the bearer of the slit." To which Harry replied, "Now you know how it feels."

It's been a good Christmas for movies, a lot of which, actually, have commentaries I'm looking forward to listening to; Brazil, Star Trek II, The Circus, the Star Wars trilogy, the 1950 King Solomon's Mines, Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, and Akira Kurosawa's Ran. I haven't had time to watch any yet except Beauty and the Beast, which I intend to watch again, both because the movie wants to be watched again, and because I've been borrowing Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast production diary from Marty for over a year now, and it strikes me that this would be an excellent time to read it, especially as I've just finished the previous book I was reading.

I also reread King Lear in preparation for Ran (which is based on the play). This is the Criterion edition I've just gotten, and I'm looking forward to seeing it on the 42 inch screen. I have an older DVD edition of the film that isn't formatted for widescreen televisions, and since it's a movie in which Kurosawa consciously avoided close-ups, I think as large a viewing as possible would improve the film substantially.

I also went on a small CD binge, getting Charlie Parker's With Strings album, Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, and two Oingo Boingo CDs. I'd been wanting more of the Boingo since Trisa played a collection of theirs on our trip back from San José, but, unfortunately, I'd only been able to find collections for the longest time. I don't like collections--they lack the structure of proper albums, and buying them usually means you end up buying most of the songs multiple times. But I found Only a Lad and Nothing to Fear for rather good prices, and I am pleased with them.