Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another wonderful trip to the dentist's yesterday and I've learned I have five cavities, infected gums, and some really nasty tooth decay. To fix all this would cost roughly two thousand dollars, which I don't have. So I guess it's a good thing this is the last chapter of Boschen and Nesuko I'm working on this week because I'm going to have to get busy trying to find some kind of paying job. All for my fucking teeth. It seems like such a stupid reason for my life to be so hugely disrupted. I'm starting to think about pliers again . . .

I'm going to assemble some work to submit to comic book publishers. I'll go down fighting, anyway.

John Kerry's taking a lot of shit to-day for a remark he made about people without the benefit of education being stuck in Iraq. Ring wing spin is calling it an insult to the troops. Yeah, because people who haven't graduated from college have all sorts of choices, and Military service certainly isn't marketed as an alternative, oh no.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A couple music videos I've enjoyed recently;

A wonderful institution continues to work its magic.
There's an interesting article on the Time website featuring a letter from an American soldier in Iraq. It seems lately there've been a lot of particularly gruesome descriptions coming from Iraq of the tortured and the dead and the social climate that produced them. I forget where, but I heard about a dog seen carrying a human head in its jaws, and I couldn't help being reminded of the early scene in Yojimbo (later paid homage to by David Lynch in his Wild At Heart) where a dog is seen carrying a human hand, indicating to the audience what a thoroughly bad town it was Sanjuro had wandered into.

I'm reminded of a story I've heard a few times about Yojimbo's director, Akira Kurosawa--of how, as a young boy, he and his brother survived a devastating earthquake. When they saw corpses in the flooded streets, Akira's brother told him not to look away because not seeing the truth would inevitably be more frightening.

So one of the things that interested me about the American soldier's letter is its reference to visiting VIPs and their sanitised visits to safe zones, "which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency . . ." He mentions Bill O'Reilly as being the biggest offender in painting a false picture of Iraq for American television.

Considering that the ruling party is so secure in its hold over the people's uninformed, and perhaps uninformable, collective imagination that it's comfortable reversing even its most keystone rhetoric and denying recorded past uses of it, it seems to me that there is a vast dark room a lot of people have shut themselves in that must be very frightening indeed.

It reminds me of David Bowie's Outside album, lyrics like, "Explosion falls upon deaf ears while we're swimming in a sea of sham."

I saw Marie Antoinette last week, Sofia Coppola's new movie, which I found to be a beautiful and generally enjoyable experience. A nice meditation on an atmosphere that perhaps didn't exist anywhere except in Sofia's camera. A number of the reviews I've read talk about how the movie received boos from French audiences, so I read part of the entry on Marie Antoinette in Wikipedia this morning to try to find out why. I was actually struck most by some of the more neutral differences between the movie's accounting of events and Wikipedia's, such as the difference between whether or not Antoinette wanted to flee Versailles. Reality and the history of it seems an awfully fragile thing, and I'm impressed again by how the people who know less tend to be far more passionate. It seems to take rare guts for someone to stand up and say "I have no idea what I'm talking about . . . but I get the feeling that you don't either." (Which is what David Letterman said to Bill O'Reilly recently).

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Will Wolf Blitzer finally live up to his peculiarly aggressive name?

Well, at most he could maybe be called "Puppy Nudger". I have a feeling the Cheneys look forward to the day when they can arrest and kill anyone they want--oh yeah, we already have that . . .

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I wasn't able to sleep at all due to the interesting tooth ache. I was seriously hatching a plan about walking to Wal-Mart and buying some pliers, maybe putting them in boiling water first, and using them on the molar after putting ice next to it for a while.

Fortunately, I called my mother first, who got me a prompt dentist appointment. She seemed unsurprised I was having tooth problems as I have very ugly teeth and most people don't believe me when I tell them I do brush.

Anyway, the kindly but oddly nervous dentist informed me that what I had was an infection and that he could either give me a root canal and a crown or simply remove the tooth. Since I wasn't spending my own money, I asked for the cheaper route, and I'm now one molar less. Since I have a false front tooth, a molar seemed like small potatoes.

I'm at my mother's house now--she asked me to stay here for some reason--and I have to routinely change the gauze, so I still can't sleep. I've been up since 2pm yesterday. But, gods, it's nice to have the pain gone.

I have infamously bad teeth, but the irony didn't occur to me until later that the book I brought with me to the dentist office was called Alabaster.
I finished reading Sonya Taaffe's Singing Innocence and Experience on Saturday. It was a very good and aptly titled collection of poems and short stories. They're tales of the supernatural and biological bizarre impacting individuals, told by an author excellent at conjuring images with words. Many of them are also stories of innocence either resisting experience, rationalising its way out of experience, and sometimes meeting it and being damaged by it.

It was good stuff. I wish I could say more, but I have this monstrous tooth ache that's making it hard to think. Remember a few weeks back when I mentioned part of one of my molars had exploded? Well, on Saturday, I was eating a sandwich and part of it went down on what remains of the molar causing sharp, rather intense pain. It's since subsided into this constant ache, but it spikes back up whenever I accidentally chew with that side of my mouth.

I guess I'll have to figure out some way of getting a dentist to help me. Though hammering the tooth out like Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys sounds appealing just now.

Anyway, next I'll be reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, thanks to several people who recommended it . . .

Monday, October 23, 2006

On Saturday, I planned on driving up to Los Angeles to see Tideland, which is the closest place it's playing, and even there it's only playing at one cinema. But I decided I really didn't feel like driving around L.A., which always stresses me out. I still might face the gauntlet at some point, though, because I want to see that movie very, very badly. That's despite the many bad reviews I've read for it. In fact, the bad reviews only make me want to see it more.

Instead, though, I went on Saturday to see The Prestige, which was mostly an absolutely brilliant film. Fine directing, acting, costumes, set design, and writing--gods, the writing was so much better than Batman Begins--all added together for a great movie.

Christopher Nolan oughta be chained to his brother and never let David Goyer take his place ever, ever again.

Anyway, I won't talk much about specific plot details as there is a surprise ending of sorts. Though I guess the one problem I had with the film is that I was able to figure out the surprise ending halfway through. Not a problem in itself, except that I couldn't believe that none of the characters in the movie would've realised it too. Which is too bad, because otherwise the characters are very intelligently drawn.

Fortunately, the movie isn't dependent on something so trite as a twist ending. Memento, a previous film of the Nolan brothers', was criticised for a structure gimmick that supposedly made second viewings inferior, and The Prestige might garner a similar criticism. I have to say I don't agree in either case. I watched Memento again a few weeks ago and I must say I believe it's still the best film noir of the past decade.

And The Prestige is a great story about obsession, the value of illusion, and art.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The new Boschen and Nesuko's up. Special guest stars include Caitlin, Sonya, Arina, Mella (with a nod to Edward Gorey), and Barbara Bel Geddes in a strapless bra (sort of a do it yourself kind of thing).

Yesterday I wondered why I smelled so bad and realised I hadn't showered in four days. Yes, a time and attention consuming chapter this was. I was colouring Nesuko at one point and abruptly stood up and walked out into the dark hallway for some coffee, only to be confronted by the bright after-image of Nesuko's angry face. It was a slightly spooky moment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Apparently President Fuck W. Face can now imprison and put to death anyone he wants.

No, I'm not kidding.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm working on what promises to be a particularly time-consuming Boschen and Nesuko, yet I somehow managed to finish Sunday's page at midnight. I decided to eat at Denny's to celebrate, but now I'm not sure what to do with these sudden bonus hours. I'm worried that by the time I get used to it, it'll be time for me to sleep, and I won't want to get started on Monday (technically to-day, I know. C'mon, you know how I live).

Yep, finished early, even after frivolous possum talk earlier to-day. Friday and Saturday I didn't finish until 4am . . . I guess I'll watch a movie. I sort of want to watch The Hidden Fortress again, but it's probably too long. Maybe I'll watch an episode of Farscape or Sherlock Holmes and play some video games.

I borrowed Baldur's Gate 2 from Tim a while ago, but I haven't been playing it much because there's some kind of bug whose patch I can't seem to find online. It's a bug that significantly impedes my progress in the game. Instead, I've been playing Castlevania III and Zelda II. Yeah, I like Zelda II. What of it? You wanna fight?

For music lately, I've been listening to the Neil Gaiman tribute album, Where's Neil When You Need Him?, the title coming from a Tori Amos song called "Space Dog" off Under the Pink. This new tribute album doesn't feature "Space Dog", but it does feature Tori singing her "Sister Named Desire", as well as tracks for Neil by Rasputina, Thea Gilmore, Voltaire, Future Bible Heroes, The Cruxshadows, and others.

A band called Hungry Lucy does a song for Wolves in the Walls that sounds to me like it could be a political rallying cry against our Republican controlled government, with lines like, "They came from the walls/They tortured us all/And drove us away from our home."

Anyway, I think Gaiman ought to be awarded Stephen Colbert's Balls for writing these liner notes for Tapping the Vein's "Trader Boy";

"Sometimes you have a great idea that nobody else ever had and then you invent fire or the wheel or outer space or something . . . . and the idea of The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish was one of those perfectly-shaped ideas."

Wow. The next time I'm chastising myself for being arrogant, I'll just remind myself of how happy and successful a guy Neil Gaiman always seems to be.

Speaking of Stephen Colbert, I pity any Star Wars fan who missed this Colbert Report;

Thursday, October 12, 2006

You know what would make you a better person?

Try this;

It was pretty much Caitlin's idea. She's brains.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"As I look at an Ozu film, I often times feel very contemplative and relaxed. When I leave an Ozu film, I feel rested and at peace. And frequently with modern Hollywood films, when I leave the theatre I feel a sort of disquiet; I've been all wound up, my emotions have been pitched to a very high level for a long time with no release--except the end of the film. So Ozu's films are very contemplative, very peaceful."
-Roger Ebert, from his DVD commentary for Yasujiro Ozu's Floating Weeds.

Last week I got into a fairly heated discussion with Owl about movies. Owl had said that she didn't like movies at all, and I was a bit flabbergasted. It resulted in me arguing a little more forcefully than I ought to've, thereby accomplishing nothing as Owl seemed to increasingly become too hurt to hear what I had to say in defence of movies and my belief that it is an art form.

I'm not a particularly volatile guy, but one thing I can get fanatical about is art, and particularly movies, which are my favourite kind of art. When I was in seventh grade (around 13 years old, for non-Yank readers), during a classroom discussion about art during the Renaissance, one of my classmates asked the teacher what was the point of art, asking why people poured energy and resources into it that might be better spent on other things. I immediately replied, "Because art makes life wonderful!"

Mind you, I almost never said anything in class, and was never a good student, but this got me going. I launched into a tirade before the astonished teacher and class. Later, during a parent/teacher conference, I heard my teacher explaining to my mother that it was clear to him that art was I what I was entirely concerned with, and that's why I didn't do very well at anything else; nothing else mattered to me.

It's probably still a fair assessment, though I'd probably say that art simply matters more to me than anything else.

I often find myself quoting Oscar Wilde's preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray; "All art is quite useless." The whole preface is dead on, in my opinion, about the importance of art, but that last line in particular. The use of art is that it is useless; unlike religion, art proscribes nothing. It reveals, and if anyone's doing any proscribing, it's you. In fact, when art tries to tell us what to do, it invariably fails to work on intelligent people; they realise the lie instantly. Because most people prefer to figure things ought for themselves, art plays an important function in not, in its essence, forcing philosophies upon us. It's possible to completely disagree with an artist's beliefs while still enjoying his art. It's finding truth through beautiful complexity, and that excites me.

Anyway, I had little time to do much of anything last week but work on Boschen and Nesuko. Despite the fact that the newest chapter doesn't look nearly as good as the previous chapter, in my opinion, it actually took a lot more colouring than I expected, simply for the large quantity of characters. But I did listen to movie commentaries while working, and Roger Ebert's statement, which I quoted above, struck me as being strangely prescient; one of Owl's complaints about movies--and she specifically singled out Hollywood movies--was that they were considerably more stressful, and less "wholesome" than nature.

I doubt an Ozu picture would convert Owl, but it was a so oddly relevant statement, I felt like sharing it anyway.

Ebert also spoke about Ozu's commitment to style above more mechanical and standard conventions of plot and even continuity. Ozu believed every shot ought to be a beautiful composition in itself, something one might conceivably want to hang on a wall. And his camera never moved--never panned, never zoomed; nothing. The movie is literally a series of moving pictures.

1934's A Story of Floating Weeds and, the remake, 1959's Floating Weeds (both directed by Ozu), are about a travelling Kabuki company coming to a small town. The company's master has a son with a local woman, but it's a secret to his mistress, an actress with the company. Here are few screenshots from both movies;

An opening shot from the 1959 film juxtaposes a lighthouse and a bottle.

Later in the film, the shot is mirrored by this one, with father and son in place of the bottle.

Machiko Kyo as the mistress. Ozu frequently liked to place something red in the lower righthand corner of the image.

A shot Roger Ebert particularly liked; it lasted less than a second.

The umbrella in a later scene, as the master and mistress argue after she's discovered his secret family.

The same scene in the older film.

The mistress asking a younger actress to seduce the master's son.

The same scene in the older film; the black and white picks up the glittering head ornaments a bit better.

The young actress meets the son by a dark tree.

In the 1959 version, the two sit together at a shipyard. Here's an example of Ozu caring more about composition than continuity between shots. Watch the red boat;

Ozu's movies contained many "pillow shots"; lingering, quiet shots of props and places between scenes.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A little while ago, Jamey was asking people to name their favourite Christmas song. I assumed someone else would mention mine, but to my great surprise, no-one did. So here it is;

I happen to know it's one of David Bowie's favourites, too.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hello! A confirmed Aries greets you from Mars!

The new Boschen and Nesuko's up. Special guest stars include Caitlin, Sonya, Robyn, Arina, and lots of women's breasts. Some of which might be yours. I'll let you find out on your own.