Friday, September 29, 2006

Let it not be said that I don't know how to spend money. I had a little extra this week, and already I'm down to about twenty dollars.

Last night alone I spent a hundred dollars; off Amazon I ordered Caitlin R. Kiernan's Alabaster and To Charles Fort with Love, and I also pre-ordered her Daughter of Hounds. And I ordered Alan Moore's Lost Girls. All these lovely books, and I don't even have time to-day to read the new Sirenia Digest, though I've been especially looking forward to this one.

I also bought a lot of movies this week; Akira Kurosawa's Stray Dog, both of Yasujiro Ozu's Floating Weeds movies, I got the aforementioned first season of DuckTales, and, on the same day, a nifty twenty dollar two-pack of Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers.

It was only last night that I realised I'd gotten for myself a little cinematic tour of Japan's roller-coaster evolution in the twentieth century. First I watched Ozu's A Story of Floating Weeds. Made in 1934, it's easily the oldest feature length Japanese film I've seen. I was amazed at the apparent utter lack of western influence on the clothing and manners of characters in the movie. Except for the telephone lines and trains, the events in the film may've taken place at any point in the preceding two hundred years. Yet the story, about a travelling entertainer ashamed to let his son know of his profession, seems to highlight a movement in Japanese culture away from its traditional class system.

Being accustomed to the only sparingly sentimental films of Kurosawa, it was a little strange and slightly uncomfortable watching an unabashed melodrama like A Story of Floating Weeds, and it didn't seem at all strange to me that young Kurosawa was not a fan of Ozu, and in fact often worked against Ozu's sentiments. But taking A Story of Floating Weeds as, it is, a silent film, its melodrama doesn't seem exceptionally overwrought compared to the silent films of America from just a few years earlier. That this Japanese film was made as a silent a few years after talkies had become the norm in Hollywood suggests to me that cinematic imports in Japan were likely slightly outdated.

But the movie does have a genuinely interesting visual style. Most frames could be beautifully elegant photographs by themselves, and there's an interestingly lingering pace; there are many still shots of props and landscape features, which seem to serve as a counterpoint of ambiguity to the film's scenes of steamroller sentimentality.

Next watching Kurosawa's Stray Dog was a startling contrast. Made in 1949, the film has a great deal of documentary style footage of the unmitigated squalor of post-World War II Japan as Detective Murakami, played by an almost unrecognisably young and skinny Toshiro Mifune, searches Tokyo's dregs for his stolen gun. The movie's events take place during a spat of unseasonably hot weather, and the sight of Takashi Shimura constantly mopping sweat from his face and the lingering shots of scantily clad showgirls crammed into a small room, doing nothing but lying around and sweating, seem to heighten an air of oppressive demoralisation. It's in this atmosphere we see Murakami feeling an increasingly unbearable guilt as his stolen gun becomes responsible for one murder after another, and a girl named Namaki combating herself over her own attachment to the murderer. Both Murakami and the murderer are war veterans, and a none-too subtle parallel is drawn, showing the two separated by a very thin line of desperation.

Watching Lost in Translation next provided a view of Japan yet again massively transformed. Tokyo in the Sofia Coppola movie bears no resemblance to the hell hole in Stray Dog, but I could see similarities to the city in Ikiru, where a massively crowded and gaudy nightlife can already be seen, as well as strange vertical pinball games that seem to be the ancestors of the clamouring forest of video games Scarlett Johansson wanders through.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Anyone wondering why I've been so quiet lately? Observe;

Yep. Sad, isn't it? I maintain it's more than nostalgia; that game's genuinely addictive. Anyone remember where the whistle is?

But on the subject of recapturing my youth, I bought the first season of DuckTales to-day.


Sheesh. First The Path to 9/11 and now this. Why is Disney so stupid lately?

Still, I watched the episode "Send in the Clones" this evening and I marvelled at what an anomaly DuckTales must've been in 1987. The animation and general storytelling are so many light-years better than its contemporaries.

I wish it wasn't Thursday.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

If you haven't already, I recommend watching this interview with Bill Clinton on FOX News. I wanted to post a YouTube embed, but YouTube only has pieces of the interview uploaded by right-wingers hoping to paint the interview as Clinton getting irrational and antagonistic. It's actually a case of FOX's Chris Wallace getting completely owned.

I don't know very much about Clinton's bad points because I wasn't really interested in politics until Bush took office (the asshole big enough blow my antennae against my skull). But the interviews I've seen recently with him on The Daily Show, Keith Olbermann, and now FOX, sorely make me wish he was still president.

This is a case of truthiness striking again, and it's cause to realise again that Colbert's imitation of the NeoCon mentality may be funnier than the real thing, but is not exaggeration of it. You'll see that, preceding the interview, Chris Wallace mentions it's complete and unedited, as though Clinton did something that's embarrassing in the raw footage. At first I wondered if Wallace was simply trying to delude himself in consolation, but then I realised it was also another stitch of broad, community consensual truthiness--He gives it to the FOX News viewers so they can say it to themselves now, until it becomes "true." The same idea was behind the ABC documentary. It's obviously rational for Clinton to bring up the documentary, but for the clan of brainwashed behind Wallace, it probably seemed like a pathetically irrelevant reference.

On the subject of television, last week I made a bit of an effort to see more of it. A poll on Franklin's journal showed me how deprived I was as I was unable to choose a favourite character among current shows for my universal inexperience with them. So on Monday, I caught the premiere of Aaron Sorkin's new show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It was pretty good; intelligently written with interesting characters and good actors to play them. It seems to almost be a thoughtful ode to Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. I suppose there'll be some comparisons to Sports Night, but it seems to be carrying some political sensibility from The West Wing.

Next, I finally caught an episode of House, which both Arina and Franklin seem to dig. I thought it was decent, and I liked that Joel Grey was in the episode I saw. The show centres on the eccentric and brilliant Dr. Gregory House who, like many eccentric and brilliant television doctors before him, often comes up with the out of left field solution no-one else could see. It seemed to me that, in this case, the effect was mainly achieved by dumbing down the other characters. But that's probably pretty common--for the writer to be an uncannily ingenious doctor might be slightly much to ask. House is distinguished by some humour and dynamic energy from its star. It wasn't a bad hour.

Later that night, I saw Boston Legal. It would take a fierce effort of will for me to dislike that show, written by David E. Kelley, creator of two shows I enjoyed in the past (Ally McBeal and The Practice), and starring a small army of actors I like; James Spader, William Shatner, Candice Bergen, Rene Auberjonois, Parker Posey, and that night's episode featured Michael J. Fox. And yet, I think I have a little David E. Kelley fatigue. In one episode I saw the familiar pattern--a bizarre case comes up, leading to a "surprisingly" thoughtful revelation in the courtroom about life or law. That's fine, except when, as in the episode in question, the bizarre circumstance seems a little too contrived and ridiculous, robbing the resolution of a great deal of weight.

But sometimes it does work. The number of characters, though, makes me wonder whether it's suffering from the same disease that brought down Ally McBeal; introduce a new, Quirky (tm) character, until the bag of quirks is empty, at which point we bring on another Quirky (tm) character, until . . .

Anyway, on Thursday I caught two shows I'd seen before, and liked, but hadn't been keeping up with; My Name is Earl and The Office.

As I'd suspected it might, the initially mildly decent My Name is Earl has grown better with age, primarily capitalising on the chemistry between Jason Lee and Jaime Pressly. Though it'd be a lot better if the two talented stars could lose those annoying accents.

The Office, however, easily puts Earl to shame. The Office is persistently funny while maintaining an atmosphere of consistent place and character so rarely seen in sitcoms. It does what usually only good comedy movies do--creates distinctive fools we care for, makes them do ridiculous things, while providing a nice overall shape to the episode. Steve Carell's brilliant in it, but so's everyone else, either by skill or good casting. This and Studio 60 were easily the two winners of last week's foray.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The new Boschen and Nesuko's up.

One of the few weeks I got ahead of schedule, and it was thwarted when I had to spend time with a visiting relative on Wednesday and Thursday. I finished all pencil and ink by Wednesday, but I underestimated the amount of colouring that needed to be done. I was colouring last night until my head started hurting in a disconcerted way that said, "Er! Why am I not on a pillow, right now?!"

Anyway, enjoy.

Monday, September 18, 2006

You will beg for mercy. You won't get it.

I'm tired. I wouldn't have gotten up so early, except I was extremely hungry.

I haven't had time for much of anything because I've been so caught up with Boschen and Nesuko since some time last week, er . . . Yeah, I pencilled and inked the first page on Thursday, and then, for no reason at all, did two pages on Friday. So I'm now two pages ahead of schedule. It's only Monday, I've five done, and I'm already thinking about the next chapter. I suppose this is all because I'm only a few chapters away from finishing.

So there's not much to talk about here. I mentioned Nazis to Sonya last night, and was dismayed to see, almost immediately afterwards, this article about Neo-Nazis recently winning some elections in a small part of Germany.

Then I watched an episode of Firefly. I'm finding it a hard series to rewatch. I see too many seams. The episode "Shindig" made it particularly hard for me to suspend my disbelief. There're something like a billion and one ways in which that ball looked phoney, from Inara's mannerisms to Kaylee's sudden stupidity. I'm sorry, I just don't buy that Kaylee wouldn't feel out of place in that dress right from the get-go.

But last night I watched "Safe", which worked a lot better, except for the ending where Simon lays down five guys with his meat hooks and then asks about fifteen motionless people to light him and River on fire, without even trying to set her loose himself.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

There were some tiny, hard white chips in my mouth to-day, and I realised it was probably connected with the molar on the right side of my mandible that has become strangely sharp edged in recent weeks. I wonder how it happened.

As I was trying to get to sleep on Tuesday morning, the new Boschen and Nesuko script practically wrote itself in my head. But I waited until I'd slept before actually writing it, knowing better than to trust my sleepy brain with words. I'm glad I waited because more came to me and by the end of Tuesday I had a Boschen and Nesuko script I was happier with than I've been with a script in a long time. Of course, how much I like a script has tended to have almost no correlation with the quality of the finished chapter, but at least it's got me happy, and it pushed me to get the page layouts done to-day. So I'm officially one day ahead of schedule on the new Boschen and Nesuko chapter. To-morrow's Thursday, so I think I'll slack off.

Talk about the movie Crash--the real Crash, the one directed by David Cronenberg--prompted me to watch it again last night. I didn't realise how perfectly in the mood I was for that movie until I was in the middle of watching it. I needed something perverse and cool.

At the same time, there's something about it that strikes deep memories of impressions for me. It sort of makes me feel like a kid. It really seems to capture mysterious nights, riding in the backseat of a car, listening to rain and cars outside and seeing blurred brake lights and mist. I find it a very soothing film, all the more so for how cold and unsympathetic it is.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I didn't think the 9/11 anniversary would put me in an especially sombre mood. Though, even all the way in San Diego, I felt some of the horror on the day. But the anniversaries usually don't get me.

I felt differently after I saw this clip from September 20, 2001's Daily Show on Robyn's journal, which I don't think I'd seen since 2001. I thought back to how I read William S. Burroughs on 9/11 because, being used in that period of life to emotional lows, I found that Burroughs was one of the few writers I could read in moments of despair that didn't make me feel worse.

Anyway, the sombre feelings to-day continued when I saw clips from this recent Matt Lauer interview with President Bush on Keith Olbermann's show, and I noticed how neatly the interview conveyed what a truly scary guy Bush is.

On Friday, Bill Maher said it was our patriotic duty to make fun of Bush. I say; yeah, for starters.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I feel sort of bad about Steve Irwin. Not really bad for Irwin. Just bad about him. I think I kind of sympathise with the stingray. Well, not really. I guess the stingray's probably forgotten all about it by now.

What I mean is, I was never really a Steve Irwin fan, and it seemed to me he was rather rude to the animals he handled, and what he got was probably his just desserts. But he always seemed like a big, giggly, innocent baby. Not like Scott McClellan, Dick Cheney, or Supreme Captain Cheidin, who are like evil babies. I got the impression Irwin only barely understood the difference between right and wrong, and that he was just trying to cuddle with everything remotely fuzzy and cute simply because he had a huge gooey heart. He ought to have known better, but I don't think he did.

So, yes, the stingray had every right in the world the put its barb in that great doughy pump. But it seems to me less a battle of good versus evil than a battle of panicked versus stupid.

If any of you have ever wondered about my dislike for children, know that I regard them as, at best, miniature Steve Irwins and, at worst, as small Ku Klux Klansmen. Children are very intolerant.

What was my point, though? Oh, yeah. I feel bad about his death. I guess I feel silly sods ought to have a place to tumble and play without worry. What Irwin needed was a day-care centre for people his age.

I guess, if there is a heaven, that's basically what heaven is; the great day-care centre in the sky. Guests are neutered, spayed, and de-clawed in so perfect a fashion as to be inoffensive to them. And they wear armour so perfect as to be completely unnoticeable.

Before you say, "No! Zounds, this is not heaven, this is The Twilight Zone!" I'll say, "Well, anything less and it'd just be a pretty good life, not heaven." And you'd say, "But shouldn't heaven be a good life?" And I'd say, "Oh, sure, fine, if you don't like variety."

Friday, September 08, 2006

The new Boschen and Nesuko's up. I shouldn't have bitched about the previous chapter--I think that's why a little part of my subconscious decided to make this chapter even harder to colour.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I've fought through my own sluggishness and pencilled to-day's page, and am halfway through inking it.

A few quick notes;

Poppy Z. Brite, whose home was destroyed by hurricane Katrina, has been screwed out of four thousand dollars by magazine publisher. As she says in her blog

"I'm not generally one to send out flying monkeys, but if you care to tell Mr. Griffith ( ) what you think of a "religious" magazine that cheats freelance writers trying to rebuild their lives after losing their homes, cities, and four months' worth of livelihood, or of a publisher who lies to respected literary organizations in order to save his failing magazine a few bucks, this would be a fine time to do it."

You know what to do.

And lastly, I want to note how much I like seeing Debbie Wasserman Schultz when I turn on C-SPAN.


Glah, I feel slug-like to-day. But I got to the bottom of one mystery; the past couple days, I've felt curiously unfocused, as though I was lacking sleep, even though I was sure I'd gotten a solid eight hours each day. But as I was awakened by the arrhythmic pounding from upstairs this morning, I realised it was my grandmothers workmen each day waking me early, but for some reason my bleary morning proto-brain thought I was waking up because I wasn't tired anymore. I confirmed this by noticing I was starting to fall asleep in between rounds of hammer strikes. Yes, I know this ought to have been obvious to me.

And yesterday was Thursday, which didn't help matters. I went to Starbucks and read Sonya's "Nights with Belilah". It was a good, sexy, mysterious story about a guy named Theo who sees a girl named Clarity at a party and becomes a bit infatuated. Also there's some interesting stuff about a girl in a mirror. Maybe a fetch? I don't always catch all the mythological allusions Sonya makes. I sure wish I did. I'm not even sure "fetch" is the right word for what I think it is--I'm drawing on Dungeons and Dragons experience there, as in that game world a fetch was a sort of apparition that lives in mirrors.

Anyway, it was another example of Sonya's fine ability to craft mood and a narrative of emotions with words, in this case charting Theo being somewhat broken by his attraction to this removed female entity. It almost seemed like an exploration of intimacy found through remoteness. I must say I found Theo adorable, though, maybe more adorable than was intended, because he kind of reminded me of Harima Kenji in School Rumble.

To-day in her journal, Caitlin was saying, "My approach to plot has always been haphazard. I don't see plot in the world, in life, and so I am very reluctant to impose it upon my novels. Maybe this is some holdover from my years as a paleontologist, but I am very leery of mistaking actual patterns for patterns that are illusory and vice versa. Most plot is a sort of illusory hindsight, weeding out everything that actually happened and choosing to make a story from the bits that interest us. Synoptic history, I call it. I'm sure it's why I've had to deal with so many 'what happened?' complaints. I have always preferred to leave many of the 'what happened?' and 'why?' and 'how?' questions to the minds of my readers, while I concentrated, instead, on giving them real people and places and mood and atmosphere and subtext. I tend to want my books to unfold by the gradual accumulation of happenstance, the consequences of cause and effect, rather than by following some preordained plot."

I was sort of thinking along similar lines while reading "Nights with Belilah" yesterday. I think another way to put it would be to say that these writers are more concerned with most with what's happening now than with what's happening next. I noticed I kept reading not because I was interested in what was going to become of Theo, but because the writing was good and I wanted more good writing to read. There's something poetic about it. It's less like a melody and more like a series of related paintings in a gallery.

I suppose I oughta get working on my comic to-day before I lose all ability to be coherent. I want to say I finally got the new Double Indemnity DVD yesterday, though, which I watched despite being exhausted. It was wonderful seeing it without the filter of smooshy grey block pixels found on the bootleg copy from China I've had to subsist on until now. Those wonderful black shadows, bright shafts of light, and Mrs. Dietrichson's "honey of an anklet." Not to mention Billy Wilder's instinct with the camera and Raymond Chandler's excellent writing. I love the progression of the "down the line" simile. It starts off as plain as that, possibly referring to a line of anything. But as the movie continues, circumstances and the characters' subconscious slowly seem to mould the phrase to mean a trolley or train on a track, eventually reaching a cemetery and death. The mind of the movie seems to put it together like a person would.