Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Well, not working on that Halloween special (the first portion of which is online, remember), means I'm able to enjoy all sorts of luxuries, like watching television, taking a shower, eating oatmeal (it took too long), and drinking vodka. So there's that.

So I've kinda sorta done something for Halloween, for once. I suppose I'm happy enough for that. I'm actually more disappointed by another fruitless endeavour I engaged in yesterday. I really must make a point of avoiding vain exercises. Maybe I'll do a twenty four page comic over the course of two years, doing one page a month . . .

Anyway. I've got things to do now, so I leave you with a Halloweenish Morrissey video. My mouse has been jittery lately; it sort of feels like using a Ouija Board;

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ah, hell, I worked too hard on it.

Here's the first half of my Halloween special. Volume 1, if you will. I'll put up the second half next week.

It's always Halloween somewhere in the world.
Robert Goulet is dead.

As Kenny Rogers would say, sometimes you gotta know when to fold 'em.

I fucking hate Kenny Rogers.

At around 1am last night, I was colouring page eleven of the Halloween special and thinking to myself how close I was cutting this thing. How I would just barely make it if I worked until at least 4am and worked all day on Tuesday (to-day). I thought to myself, "Gee, if something unexpected happens and detours me for, oh, four hours, I don't think I can do this."

And then there came a rapping on my chamber door.

It was my grandmother, who needed to be taken to the ER. She'd had surgery on her gallbladder that morning and now she was worried because she was getting sick and her blood pressure was up. Sitting next to her at the hospital, I felt one hour turning into two into three into four . . .

I coloured one page to-day, as quickly as I could, cutting a few corners, and found I wasn't able to colour it in under an hour. If I really put pedal to the metal, and sacrificed quality, I still couldn't finish this thing before to-morrow. And I don't want to sacrifice quality.

So I've decided I'm going to shelve this thing until next Halloween. I'll finish it over the next couple of days, and if you're a friend of mine and you want to see it, e-mail me and I'll send you a copy. But I'm afraid the rest of you will have to wait for next year. In the meantime, I'll be starting on a new project. A project I'll be giving myself at least a month to finish.

Gee, damn, as Holly Golightly would say. Ever get the feeling the gods really don't want you to do something? I worked twelve hours a day for two weeks on this thing, blowing off friends and movies and television and books . . . Bah, fuckbug.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not really any time to blog to-day or to-morrow. Yes, it's 80s montage time;

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Well, it looks like I'm actually going to be able to pull this off. I pencilled two pages yesterday and inked four, catching up to my pencils, which means I have twenty pages pencilled and inked. All this in just about two weeks. I'm still pretty behind on colouring--I only have six pages totally finished and six partially coloured, but at this pace, I ought to be able to get them all done. Looks like the wildfires are almost entirely contained, too, so they won't be getting in my way.

I changed a few lines of dialogue yesterday, which is always a risky thing when I'm in the middle of drawing a comic, as my perspective on the big picture is inevitably skewed by this point. I also experimented with a colour palette that I think is going to pay off--see, I have a minor problem in that a lot of this comic takes place in places where there are dim or no light sources, and since I'm a big fan of natural lighting, I'm compelled to completely obliterate a lot of what I've drawn with darkness. Ultimately, I still see this as a gain. I like darkness to look like darkness. I love it when filmmakers have this sensibility--look at David Lynch. Twin Peaks is especially illustrative; if you compare the Lynch directed episodes with the others, you'll see Lynch has these wonderful pitch black forest night scenes, lit usually only by a shaky flashlight. In the pilot episode, you have that oddly scary shot of James and Donna's pale faces close to each other surrounded by blackness. And yet, in a later episode, when a different director takes us to the same location, also at night, the place is lit by a boring ambient yellow.

I took another cue from Lynch last night, though, by using a general dark blue lighting for pitch black, a sort of wild artifice I borrowed from a scene in INLAND EMPIRE. It serves a number of functions for me; it marks the passage of time, it reflects the mood of the dialogue, and it makes everyone's faces visible, all while being artificial enough to cue the reader into the fact that the characters can probably see less than we can.

If nothing else, this is going to be the best looking comic on my web site. I've scanned the pages at a much higher dpi than Boschen and Nesuko and Moving Innocent, and, for the first time, I'm using a ruler on the edges of the panels when I ink them. I always kind of wanted a slightly squiggly quality to the lines in my comics previously, but jeez, I like how this looks. I'm getting comfortable with it; hopefully I'm not on the road to putting cg AT-ATs and dewbacks in my old comics.

Last night I actually listened to a commentary I'd already listened to before--Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince's commentary for Kagemusha. But it's such a dense commentary, practically a history lesson, there's no way I could retain it all after just one or two listens. Kagemusha is a movie thick with historical references left utterly unexplained that nonetheless are crucial to the viewing experience, so a history lesson is rather useful. I wonder if Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas knew what they were getting into when they decided to fund the film.

Prince talks about the fact that Kagemusha was originally planned as a comedy, written to star Shintaro Katsu, a well-loved comedic actor best known for playing Zatoichi. Unfortunately, Katsu showed up on the set expecting to direct his own scenes. I suppose you have to admire the chutzpah of a guy showing up to work on an Akira Kurosawa movie and telling that legendary director he's going to take the reins. But of course, it simply meant that Kurosawa fired him on the spot, and called in Tatsuya Nakadai as a last minute replacement. I like Tatsuya Nakadai, but I rather think the movie would have been better served by having someone more suited to comedy in the role to balance out the dense historical drama and bloody battle scenes of the rest of the movie. It might have made Kagemusha as good as Ran.

Ever since J.K. Rowling announced that Dumbledore is gay, I've felt somewhat deficient, not having any secretly gay characters. So I've decided the guy on page 119 of Boschen and Nesuko with the black moustache and pink scarf is gay. Secretly gay.

But, by the way, I'm quite certain Rowling made Dumbledore gay because Ian McKellen is gay. Dumbledore is Gandalf. There, I said it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A while ago, Caitlin spoke in her blog about hearing Tori Amos' cover of The Cure's "Lovesong", saying she felt that Amos had completely missed the point of the song. It's only recently I've come to understand exactly what Caitlin meant. I guess don't wholly dislike Amos' interpretation, but yeah, The Cure version has a great, quiet thing.

Compare for yourself;

Looks like it's probably going to rain to-day. That'll be good.

Lots and lots of colouring last night. I worked until 4am, again. I listened to the Desperado commentary, which was informative. It's nice to hear a director like Robert Rodriguez who sounds like he's genuinely interested in providing valuable commentary. I had no idea Desperado was such a low budget movie (seven million dollars). Rodriguez explained all the techniques used to make it look expensive, like using only two stuntmen for the whole movie, serving as his own editor, and hiring the bigger name actors, like Steve Buscemi and Cheech Marin, for only six days a piece and using creative editing to make it look like they were there longer.

I was surprised to learn that Salma Hayek was the first female, Mexican lead in a Hollywood movie since Dolores Del Rio in the 40s. But gods, Hayek looks good in Desperado. It's no wonder the studio abandoned their desire to cast a blonde after Rodriguez showed them Hayek's screen test.

Anyway. Let to-day's marathon begin . . .

Friday, October 26, 2007

No commentaries yesterday. I ended up listening to Morrissey, William S. Burroughs, and lots of David Bowie, starting with Space Oddity and working my way up to Hunky Dory. It always seems to come as a revelation to me how much I really, really love The Man Who Sold the World. And Space Oddity's good for more than the title track. I quite like "God Knows I'm Good" and "Letter to Hermione" makes me a little sad knowing he never got back together with her. I guess even David Bowie gets his heart broken.

I pencilled two pages and inked two pages, and then I cut my thumb on the lid of a bean can while I was trying to make myself a burrito. I somehow managed to make the little Mexican meal I was hungry for one-handed while my other started bleeding profusely. Unfortunately, it was my right hand, so I only coloured for the rest of the night, which, well, I really needed to catch up on anyway. I think my thumb's basically healed but hopefully it won't split open while I'm drawing.

The Chargers are actually going to play at the stadium, which I guess is why they're forcing evacuees to move out. Nice, guys. But the flames do seem to be on the retreat.

Now I'd better feed the cats. My aunt's moving out, and soon the cats won't be around anymore. I'm sure gonna miss those little things. I can't say I blame my aunt, though, considering how Republican my grandmother is about cats. I think the last straw was when my grandmother wouldn't let my aunt feed an elderly, skinny cat that's started hanging around the backyard. My grandmother said it was because it made her sad to see the old cat. If you ever wondered why someone would vote against S-Chip, there it is.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Things seem to be getting mildly better around here. Part of me thinks it's just that people are tired of things seeming completely unmanageable and are just reflexively calling conditions improved. But a lot of the evacuations have been lifted.

You know, I ought to point out that this whole thing hasn't actually impacted my life very much. Aside from worrying about the proximity of the fires, I've pretty much conducted my life this week exactly as I would have if it weren't for the fires. The 2003 fire had much more of an impact on my life, since the power was knocked out for a day and we did have to evacuate. So I've been pretty lucky. Then again, it's not over yet.

Last night, I dreamt Kingston Falls was burning and Phoebe Cates was presiding over it, laughing sadistically on a hilltop even as her own flesh was burning. I don't know why my subconscious was so harsh to Cates, but obviously I did end up listening to he cast commentary for Gremlins. It was fascinating in a weird way--it almost had a dramatic arc, where a group of unlikely cohorts are reunited, their personalities clash, but they pull together in the end. The commentary featured Phoebe Cates (Kate Berringer), who had very little to say, and sounded almost like someone who wasn't even in the picture, as the others continually prompted her to tell stories she had absolutely no memory of, though apparently her favourite part of the movie, as a viewer, is when Gizmo spawns the other mogwai. Howie Mandell (the voice of Gizmo and some of the gremlins), on the commentary, comes off as a mildly funny douche, as after Cate giggles at her favourite scene, Mandell asks Joe Dante, the director, if those furballs are actually his balls.

Mandell obviously seems to think he was the star of the movie. I kept wishing that someone would point out to him that anyone could have done Gizmo's voice.

The main drama on the commentary, though, was provided by Joe Dante and Zach Galligan (Billy Peltzer). Galligan comes off as an eager nerd, chomping at the bit to tell every little story he can think of, sounding both like someone who rarely gets a spotlight anymore and also like someone who genuinely loves DVD commentaries. It was during one of his early, excited ramblings that Howie Mandell interrupted to point out that he'd be pretty annoyed if people were talking over the movie when he was trying to watch it, and what's the point of commentary anyway? It's not the first time I've heard an actor gripe like this on a commentary, but I'm always impressed by the level of stupidity required to spawn the comment*. Joe Dante somehow managed to explain to Mandell, without calling him a moron, that people can turn the commentary off whenever they want, and that it's meant for people who've watched the movie before.

But later, when Galligan started going into a story about a scene that had to be filmed at 6am, Dante interrupted to say that it was that sort of story he'd probably edit out of the commentary if he could. Galligan replied with a very subtly, but obviously deeply felt, hurt, "Why?"

Dante gave an awkward excuse and a tense silence followed. Finally Dante started blabbing about this and that before anyone else felt comfortable talking again.

And somewhere in all of this was Dick Miller (Murray Futterman), who didn't seem to quite understand the sense of humour of all these young people and stayed quiet for most of the commentary. But he made everyone laugh when, at the very end, he said, "Oh, I just thought of a good story."

Phoebe Cates has one of the sexiest voices ever, I must say.

I pencilled two pages yesterday, inked two, and coloured quite a bit. But I'm still very behind on colouring, so I need to buckle down.

I went out yesterday to get shaving cream and decided to eat lunch at a tiny Mexican restaurant next to the CVS. An eight year-old kid rang me up and brought me my food. I could see that he and his father, the man making the food in the back room, were the only people working there. It was like being in a Robert Rodriguez movie, which reminds me I have the Desperado commentary to listen to . . .

*It's worse when it comes from people I have more respect for, as when Stanley Donan said it on the Charade commentary, or when Lucy Davis said it on the Shaun of the Dead commentary, though at least she was cute about it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Things are still unchanged here, though ash is starting to fall from the sky more noticeably. I'm trying to keep myself steeled.

I had dinner with my mother and sister last night, which is why I didn't get as much done on my comic as I wanted to--I pencilled two pages, inked a page and a half, and coloured a fourth of an MST3k's worth (The Starfighters, one of my favourite episodes. The refuelling sequence alone is worth watching the episode for). But I am now halfway done with all the pencils.

I listened to the cast commentary for Re-Animator, which was a fun commentary. It's fun listening to Barbara Crampton giggling over her own gratuitous nudity, and hearing the guys trying to sound detached (Jeffrey Combs; "Look at that lighting fixture." Barbara Crampton; "Look at those breasts! They're right there!").

I'm starting to run out of commentaries. I think I only have Gremlins left, though I'm oddly looking forward to hearing what Phoebe Cates has to say.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Google maps has an interactive map for the San Diego fires. Gotta love Google.

I see they're calling the fire to the north the "Witch Creek Fire", which is better than the local news channels referring to it as the "Witch Fire". Are police looking for a practitioner of the black arts here?

What am I saying? Witch Fire sounds much better.

Anyway, things still seem to be okay in Santee . . .
Still no call to evacuate. But evacuations were ordered in El Cajon yesterday, and now, I see there are some being ordered in Rancho San Diego--both of those areas are south of here. So we seem to be in the eye of this thing here.

I keep seeing guys on CNN talk about the similarities to this and Katrina, and how federal and local responses seem to be much more effective in this case. There have been two deaths so far, compared to Katrina's much larger, untold number. But I would argue there are a number of other differences--aside from the fact that the federal government is obviously going to want to skip to faster this time for purely PR reasons, there's also the fact that mobility is far easier. I've heard of only a couple roads being made unusable to emergency vehicles, and besides this, the roads and places in Southern California are much more spread out than in most of the country's older cities. San Diego's also the fifth most expensive place to live in the country, which means there are far fewer people unable to transport themselves.

President Bush is supposed to be here for a photo op on Thursday. How much you want to bet he plays it as St. George conquering the Katrina dragon at last?
I've given up trying to sleep. There're evacuations now in Lakeside, which is on the side of Santee (where I live) opposite where the fires were (and still are) yesterday. There's been no mention of Santee in the news except to say that Santana High School, my high school, is being used as a shelter for Lakeside evacuees.

They're still calling this fire completely uncontained, so I'm nervous, as you might expect. I'm going to start making a few preparations.

I mean to work on my comic to-day.

Yesterday I listened to Peter Bogdanovich's commentary for The Searchers and producer Richard Shepherd's commentary for Breakfast at Tiffany's. The Bogdanovich commentary was easily more interesting and informative, though the producer's perspective on the Audrey Hepburn movie wasn't without interest. He talked about choosing Hepburn over Marilyn Monroe because Audrey seemed to him to have more of an innate sensitivity.

Martin Balsam's character calls Holly Golightly a phoney, but a real phoney, which is a key observation to her fantastically, perfectly formed character. She makes fantastic promises she can't keep, but she nonetheless makes those promises in all earnest. She has a thousand superficial relationships not because she's cold, but because she's so sensitive that the promise of depth in a relationship derails her in ways she cannot admit to herself because to do so would be to acknowledge a weakness in herself she so often speaks derisively of in others.

"Okay, so he's not a rat, or even a super rat, just a scared little mouse." She had that Brazilian guy pegged better than Paul.

Anyway. I better get to things . . .
"President Bush has authorised FEMA to help Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Is it too much to ask for one encouraging name in that sentence?
Having a croissant instead of oatmeal this morning really paid off--by 2am, I got everything done I had scheduled for myself; I drew two pages, inked three, and did as much colouring as I could for the duration of a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode (I'm not measuring the colouring in pages since, as I'm using the same colour palette for all the pages I currently have scanned, I'm colouring single components straight down the line . . . That's not very clear, but I'm tired, so deal)*

So I guess I clocked another twelve hours to-day. Maybe more like eleven, if you take out lunch and dinner. The fire situation hasn't seemed to change--a couple news sites say it's certain to get worse to-morrow, so we're a long way from being out of the woods. It still doesn't look like it's going to come this way, but it's still only about thirty miles away, and is spreading uncontrollably.

Here's a spot I drive through frequently--I drove through here when I went for sushi on Friday;

I was only away from the house for two hours, remember, so factoring in that I bought Dune and read some of it at the restaurant, you can see this is indeed very close. This satellite photo from CNN isn't encouraging;

Of course, also discouraging from CNN was Glen Beck taking a moment to say, "I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."

There's some perspective for ya. Don't let the lava scare you away from grabbing the Ring of Power . . .

*Red Zone Cuba was the MST3kepisode, by the way. Crow: "This movie dares you to watch it!"

Monday, October 22, 2007

I woke up to the smell of something burning to-day. It was, of course, San Diego. Again. I guess this is what the orange-red dryer was up to (maybe the guy was saying, "Orange County Fire"?). The southern perimeter is the 56 freeway, which is about thirty miles northeast of here. The fire's supposed to move to the coast, but who can predict these things, especially when the Yahoo! news site says it's "zero percent contained."

The last time this happened, in 2003, it was also around Halloween. I wrote in my blog;

Driving on Fletcher Parkway, into the cancer yellow haze, I looked up and saw, in a half constructed tower on the corner, the dark shape of a rotted corpse, silhouetted against the diluted sunlight, hanging from a noose.

Wouldn't it be funny if Armeggeddon happened on Halloween? The thought's crossed my mind more than once over the past couple days.

So God doesn't want me to finish this Halloween special comic, eh? Bah! It will be done, if the flesh melts from my fingers!

"There are only two creatures of value on the face of the earth: those with the commitment, and those who require the commitment of others." - John Adams

I now have eight pages drawn and four inked. That's almost the equivalent of a Boschen and Nesuko chapter in just four days. Now I just need to do this 2.5 more times. Plus colouring. I shall!

Last night I listened to commentaries for 1776 and Secretary, which I think must be the sweetest movie ever made. In all, I worked about twelve hours yesterday.

And here I go again . . . !

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rigorous night of drawing last night. I guess I started at around 3:30pm . . . I took a two hour lunch break, bought a copy of Dune, started reading it while eating sushi, came back, continued drawing, stopped to log briefly into Second Life where I found the desert planet, well, deserted. Which was probably just as well since it meant that I continued drawing until the wee hours.

I have to face the facts; if I want to get this done, there'll be no Second Life, no movies, no hour long breakfasts until Halloween. But I think I can do this. I just hope doing so much in such a short time doesn't affect the quality of the drawings.

I remember drawing, inking, and colouring the last four pages of Boschen and Nesuko's chapter 6 in one day. That took sixteen hours . . . It's hard to say if this had an effect on quality. There are a number of problems I have with those drawings, looking at them now, but I'm not sure how much of this has to do with the fact that I wasn't as good of an artist back then. In any case, I guess it works well enough, even though I made everyone's necks weirdly long. I do like how I blocked panel 3 on page 56. It looks almost like a Kurosawa arrangement. Though Kurosawa probably would've figured out how to get Boschen in the frame.

Thank the gods I have such a backlog of DVD commentaries to listen to--I had two especially good ones keeping me company last night; the scholar's roundtable commentary on the new Criterion edition of Seven Samurai, and David Cronenberg's commentary for The Fly.

Spending so much concentrated time on a comic is bringing back a lot of old feelings. You get strangely intimate with the characters . . . I remember always feeling like Nesuko was there in the trenches with me, and I'm starting to feel that way about the characters in this Halloween comic. The title, by the way, is Kim, Kimberly, and the Snake. I like how it sounds almost like a cheesy 1980s detective show. I was tempted to call it Kim, Kimberly, the Snake, Mrs. King, Simon, and the Fat Man, She Wrote.

It'll be nice to have a new 24 page comic on my web site. I haven't put one up since Moving Innocent, way back at the beginning of this year. I'm still happy Sonya seemed to like that thing so much. She's a good person.

Well, back to the comic mines with me . . .

Saturday, October 20, 2007

While I was making coffee this morning, there was a helicopter circling outside with a guy making some kind of announcement. I couldn't understand what he was saying, even when I stepped outside and the helicopter was especially close. It sounded like, "Orange dryer! An orange-red dryer!" I swear at one point I thought I heard him say, "A fucking orange-red dryer!" He then said either, "Stay in your homes!" or "Stay off the road!" Sounds like a dangerous, tomato coloured dryer. It all seems Burroughs-ian somehow;

I think I'm getting in a good rhythm with this comic. I've drawn the first four pages, haven't coloured any, and I have twelve days until Halloween. I say things bode well, and 'cause I say it, it is so.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Really late start to-day. Well, I think I'm going to go back to sleeping during the day. It seems like I was generally more productive at night.

I went to bed at 4am, after watching Star Wars: Episode III while drinking brandy. What a strangely relaxing movie that can be. I was digging even the scene with that most notoriously awful bit of dialogue, where Anakin and Padme get in the weird, playful argument about whether Padme looks beautiful to Anakin simply because he loves her so much. I realised the scene would actually have worked fairly well if the two just didn't say anything. John Williams has a sweet, forebodingly sad violin solo going, and Coruscant at night is really beautiful. Maybe it was the glasses of brandy I'd had, but I started really getting effected by Anakin's and Padme's doomed, naïve romance.

I slept until 9am, when I woke up having this really complicated scenario in my head where Ash confronts Pikachu, holding him by the shoulders, trying to figure out why Pikachu, of all the Pokemon, is so special. "Why do I choose you, Pikachu?" he asked. Of course Pikachu could only reply, "Pika?"

I fell asleep again about an hour and a half later and didn't wake until 1pm. Oh, the weighty thoughts stealing my slumber.

Right. To the comic making . . .

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I was sorry to hear that Deborah Kerr died on Tuesday. Michael Powell called her the most intelligent actress he ever worked with. It was always nice to see her in a movie. Even in a crappy movie like Separate Tables, you could count on her doing a good job, though I mainly appreciate her as integral parts of the Archers films, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Black Narcissus.

In other death news, Death Note is starting to suck. I guess things started to go south at around episode eleven where a pop idol character, Misa Amane, was introduced. She's a typical, cheap caricature of a pretty girl often seen in anime. Some bubbly dame whose whole purpose in life is fawning over one or more of the male characters. It reminds me of something Roger Ebert said in his commentary for Floating Weeds--he recalled asking someone why Japanese actresses were almost invariably excellent, and was told that Japanese women are forced to be actresses from an early age in order to present as fundamental a semblance of subservience as possible. A lot of Japanese films and anime give me hope that Japan's moved beyond that, but then a character like Misa Amane comes along and disappoints me. Especially since Death Note did feature one interesting and intelligent female character prominently in an earlier episode.

It's not just Misa, though. The tone of the series has largely changed, L's being given increasingly cloying mannerisms and the main character, Light, has been lobotomised and sidelined. I have no idea how things got this bad--there doesn't appear to be different writers or anything. Maybe Tsugumi Ohba just had a breakdown at some point and she wasn't able to channel it as effectively as Hideaki Anno was with Evangelion.

I'll be staying in a lot working on my comic in the coming weeks, but I'm strongly tempted to see Ang Lee's new movie . . .

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Actual title of a news story link on MSN;

"Suspect arrested in video rape of tot"

Fortunately, the article itself has the headline, "Suspect arrested in sex assault on 3-year-old."

But here are some alternative suggestions for whoever made the link;

"Man nabbed for hand in the jammies"

"Mr. No No Touch has time out"

"To-day's show is brought to you by the letters 'R','A','P', and 'E'"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I think I had too much bread yesterday. I had a big pumpkin muffin for lunch, and dinner was sort of an ongoing affair with twelve breadsticks I got at the mall. Pat & Oscars, by the way, has great breadsticks, and for only about three bucks, I'm able to get four and a little tub of marinara sauce, which constitutes a meal for me. But the barely engaged young server at Pat & Oscars almost invariably gives me a dozen breadsticks, I guess because they're just not used to people ordering any other amount. Which I suppose is a deal for me, but the only problem is that I order four because four is precisely how many I can eat, and these things taste like crap heated up later.

I was on a tight schedule yesterday--I worked on my comic until four, then I went to the bank and after that to the mall, where I got the breadsticks and some minutes for my phone. I ate my four and stashed the rest in the car as I drove to Fry's and picked up a copy of David Lynch's Dune. I got back here at around six and finished the breadsticks while my nerve endings were becoming fused to Second Life over the course of over five hours. Cripes, that's some potent shit. But all my breadsticks had magically vanished by the time I was finished (I blame Nareth's witchcraft).

I watched Dune afterwards, a movie I hadn't seen in a long time. I'd forgotten how beautiful the sets and costumes were. And how wonderfully repulsive Lynch had made the Harkonnens. I'd also forgotten about David Lynch's cameo as a Fremen;

And now Virginia Madsen's spoken introduction reminds me of the beginning of Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring. Dune needed to be bigger . . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

I found myself watching Death Proof again last night. It's so rare for me to watch a movie twice within just a couple weeks, unless I'm seeing it at the cinema. I said to myself, "I just watched it. Surely I don't really want to watch it again." But I did. Grindhouse is so criminally underrated.

I didn't have much stamina yesterday, and ended up only doing ten of the rough sketches for the comic. I blame it on the bean burrito I made for lunch that seemed to turn my brain into a plush version of itself. To-day will be better, I think.

Here's this;

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I miss the old Trent Reznor who was angry about his personal life. He was more interesting than the current, oddly beefy Trent Reznor who's vaguely angry about politics. Still, you could do a lot worse.

I've been digging the sort of mid-nineties, rusty pulp vibe lately. I watched Pulp Fiction last night, which I actually consider something of a comfort movie. It's a movie that just so perfectly is. It's hard to pinpoint any precise aspect of it that really makes it, but it just works at every moment.

I'm in the mood to play Quake.

Anyway, yesterday I finished a comic script I am enormously pleased with. Yesterday had to be the single most fulfilling work day I've had in . . . Gods, a half a year, at least. To-day I'll be doing rough sketches.

Otherwise, yesterday there was Second Life, and a serious conversation with Professor Nishi about why Batman shouldn't drink.

So now to sketching . . .

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I got about halfway through the new comic script yesterday, getting to a point where I definitely felt like I'd be better served by waiting and pondering the next step. It was a good plan because most of the rest of the comic came to me this morning, and I have a feeling this comic is going to be the first of a series about these characters.

Writing came slowly yesterday--it felt like a chess game, as I carefully thought about each panel before making my move, so to speak. I thought about each moment from every character's angle, weighed what would be natural for him or her to say, what would be interesting at the same time, and if I needed them to say something uninteresting, was the ultimate goal worth it? I find I need to be a lot more economical with comics than with prose--I'm aiming for twenty-four pages here, which in itself shall be a difficult thing to accomplish by October 31. There's just not the kind of room you get with prose, especially since, for whatever reason, I never feel comfortable giving the characters thought bubbles or narration squares. I love reading them in Frank Miller comics, but for some reason I find them unwieldy.

Anyway, it's probably well that I feel like I can finish this script up to-day. But before that, kids, Uncle Setsuled's got more slides from vacation in his Second Life (no, not the one with the other wife and kids in Tucson).

I finally bought some Lindan dollars--the in-world currency. I bought about ten American dollars worth, and I've already blown just about all of it, mostly on silly random things.

Presenting Sir Lehagvoi Setsuko, Jedi Knight in Her Majesty's Navy;
I don't know why exactly I love the scene at the top of this clip so much. I just soak in it.

I would sit killing time with Donna and Maddy all day at the Double R . . .

Friday, October 12, 2007

At the post office yesterday, I wondered why there were so many fat old men there wearing t-shirts and suspenders. One of them rode in on a bicycle. Another one, with very bad B.O., was ahead of me in line. I was reading one of my pocket sized copies of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland when he asked me, "Did you ever see that movie, Men in Black?"

"Uh, yeah," I said.

"Good, wasn't it?"

"Sure," I said, nodding and immediately returning to my book. It took me a moment to realise he'd asked because I was wearing all black.

Not too much else to say about yesterday. I'm working on a new comic, something I intend to be a Halloween special for my web site. I'm still in the script writing phase, and I'm really enjoying it because I've given myself an extremely difficult puzzle to solve. I've brought together several elements that seem related to me psychologically and/or thematically, and now I'm trying to fit them together in a plot.

Also, I might as well admit now, one of my inspirations is a Halloween episode of Simon & Simon I saw as a little kid that I didn't quite understand but found rather creepy, probably especially for not understanding it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Death Note continues to be good. One of the things that I think often result in bad television is a lack of courage among the writers to write truly difficult situations for the characters, fearing that they won't know how to get the characters out of those situations and thus continue the series in a believable way. Not so with Death Note. Only eight episodes in, and every episode feels like the episode where Light's finally going to get caught, but he manages to pull out of it in an interesting and credible fashion. Good stuff.

I bought a copy of Caitlin R. Kiernan's novelisation of the new Beowulf movie, and I'm looking forward to reading it, but I couldn't resist starting Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!)*. I fully expect Beowulf to be a better, more satisfying read, but sometimes I just need candy. I have to love the warning on the back of the book;

Several reportages of illegal produced issues of this book from Glorious Peoples Republic of China stealing into bookstores. Do not! Buy only likely copies only authorized STEPHEN COLBER'S I AM AMERICA AND SO ARE YOU books like this one itself!
--Yours, U.S.A. Publisher

*The weird grammar of this title actually makes more sense when you read the introduction; "Bottom line: Read this book. Be me."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Since Wednesday appears to be the new Thursday, I went out and about. I went into Mitsawa, walked to the back and came face to face with a Mickey, Donald, and Goofy cartoon I hadn't seen since I was a kid. The guy working at the little anime store had put in a DVD of Disney Halloween shorts. It also had Ichabod and Mr. Toad on it--I was seriously in danger of standing there all day.

The Mickey/Donald/Goofy cartoon was the one from the 30s where they're ghost busters. I walked in when a ghost was tormenting a frustrated and helpless Donald. As always, Donald Duck cartoons tell the story of my life.

I was listening to Aimee Mann while I was driving this afternoon. This song resonated with me in a fresh, new way;

Skip the cloak and dagger bit
Don't you know we're sick of it
As much as I would like to stay
The message light just blinks away
And while I'm here you won't push play

I could quote all the lyrics to this song--it's like a transcript of my thoughts for the past several weeks.

Anyway, I'm very pleased to say I've got Microsoft Word again.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I was pleased to have some guy teabag me yesterday. Oh, you people are too smart, I shouldn't even try. Of course I actually mean I watched a guy take some tea leaves out of a jar, put them in a little white envelope, staple it shut, and place it in a cup of very hot water. This is how they do it at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I know it's still not the proper way to make tea, but it's a hell of a lot better than Starbucks.

My sister thought she'd acquired a couple small bottles of absinthe for me yesterday, but it turned out what she'd gotten was Absente, which, according to Wikipedia, is actually more of a pastis due to the fact that it contains southern wormwood instead of grande wormwood. Still, it is very nice stuff. For something that's 110 proof, it goes down remarkably smooth (though I ought to point out I mixed it with water). It tasted a lot like a black jelly bean.

Seeing that Adult Swim is going to start showing Death Note, I finally talked Tim into downloading the series. I'd been interested in seeing it since I'd found out it'd tied with Code Geass and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya for "Best TV Anime Series" at the Tokyo Anime awards--I'm very fond of the other two series, especially Haruhi Suzumiya.

But Death Note actually seems to have a lot in common with Code Geass, in that it's about two hot guys who're geniuses, battling each other without knowing their opponent's identity, and neither individual is clearly the "good guy". And like Code Geass, Death Note's main character, Light Yagami, actually demonstrates his genius instead of asking us to take it on faith, as many a lesser anime series would do. I'm up to the fourth episode, which is entirely concerned with Light crafting a plan to discover the identity of someone who's stalking him and then executing that plan. It's like watching a chess pro, it works so well.

The "Death Note" referred to by the title is a magical notebook given to Light by a Death God named Ryuk. Anyone whose name Light writes in the book, whose face he can clearly picture in his mind, dies of a heart attack within forty seconds. Or Light can specify the manner of death, in which case he's granted an additional six minutes. There's a lot of Death Note stationary available at Mitsuwa, which is a marketing strategy I've loved even since before seeing the series.

I'm disappointed, as usual, that the series is getting an English dub. But I'm a little curious how they're going to handle all the English that actually is used in the series.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I don't know how to be sick. When I see Tim get sick, he seems to completely wilt and resent the existence of the world around him, barely seeming able to move. I don't understand the state--I can't imagine it. So my stomach hurts, my ribcage is sore so that it hurts whenever I laugh, and I feel generally weak and a little foggy. That didn't stop me from driving downtown yesterday and walking ten blocks to the unair-conditioned little Mexican restaurant, Pokez, and having a massive, scalding hot, cheese-slathered burrito with chips and salsa. While I was there, I finished reading The Lathe of Heaven.

Action conflicts and contrasts with stasis, isolation conflicts and contrasts with cooperation, awareness conflicts and contrasts with belief. These seem to be the central conflicts of the story.

George Orr dreams "effective" dreams that are capable of altering reality, down to past events and people's memories of them. Orr gets new memories, but, unlike everyone else, he retains the old memories, until eventually his recollections have become a vast catalogue of alternate realities. A psychiatrist named William Haber begins controlling Orr's dreams, and thus reality itself, through hypnotic suggestion.

A quote from Chuang Tse in chapter three neatly encapsulates much of the book; "Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed by the lathe of heaven."

Orr's various unremarkable characteristics, his strange ordinariness, about which Haber at one point says, "You cancel out so thoroughly that, in a sense, nothing is left," seem related to his being what an alien species in the book refers to as an iahklu, what the aliens call someone with the ability to alter reality with their dreams. Haber, on the other hand, is filled with the desire to change the world for the better, and is also possessed by what Orr refers to in his own mind as a "will to power."

One of the fine qualities of this book is that it refrains from demonising either perspective. Orr's poorly controlled or completely uncontrolled dreams can lead to bad things, like the death of his aunt or an alien invasion. Dreaming from the suggestions of Haber, Orr makes a world where the government slogan is, "The greatest good for the greatest number," and indeed wars and unhealthy living conditions are gradually reduced by drastic degrees. There generally seems to be a trade-off; racial disharmony is deleted by simply giving everyone grey skin, wars are diverted among humans by the globally shared threat of the invading aliens. Fortunately, the book allows Haber the valid point of saying that these trade offs are the fault of Orr's imagination interpreting Haber's entirely positive suggestions.

If there is any flaw in this book, I would say it's in its ending, which is a little abrupt and a little too rosy (that latter point is probably just me, and it's probably well for most people I didn't write this book). But I think it's interesting to ask oneself who is really destroyed by the lathe of heaven. The ending suggests that it's Haber, though I found the phrase far more interesting in how it related to Orr's relationship with Heather Lelache.

Early in the book, Haber's unwilling to admit to Orr that he knows he's changing reality with Orr's dreams. So Orr hires Lelache, a lawyer, to observe a session, ostensibly because he wishes to see if there's a case against Haber for misusing a patient, but I suspect it's more because of the vertigo Orr feels from being exposed to so many different realities without anyone else acknowledging the truth. The scene where Lelache says she believes him knocked my socks off;

"How do you live with this going on all the time? How do you know where anything is?"

"I don't," Orr said. "I get all mixed up. If it's meant to happen at all it isn't meant to happen so often. It's too much. I can't tell any more whether I'm insane or just can't handle all the conflicting information. I . . . It . . . You mean you really believe me?"

Saturday, October 06, 2007

That's What I'm Talking About;

Pat Buchanan: How dare you sacrifice money to save children!

Rachel Maddow: Evil laugh.
I first saw this on Crooks and Liars;

I'm really starting to like Rachel Maddow. Every time I see her on MSNBC, she comes off as the sharpest and quickest of commentators, and watching her happily route Pat Buchanan is delicious.

So Newt Gingrich has a Second Life avatar? Ye gods, how I'd like to introduce him to my hobo. It's only too bad there's no PVP in Second Life.
I'm starting to think it wasn't the sake that made me sick, but that I just happened to get a flu that same night, because my stomach still hurts and I feel like I have a ping pong ball in my throat constantly threatening to pop up.

I thought the cats were giving me sympathy this morning because they both started mewing and following me around whenever they saw me but, of course, they stopped after I fed them. Kitties look out for number one.

I'd like to get out from under this sickness*. It's making me feel useless.

I turned into a penguin last night. Specifically, Pen-Pen from Neon Genesis Evangelion;

*Every hardcore Cure fan automatically said "Find a cure!" just now.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I threw up last night for the first time since I was fourteen years old. Read on!

The culprit seems to've been the five glasses of sake I drank while watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I was having a good time, and being slightly drunk helped me enjoy my least favourite Indiana Jones movie more than I had in years. But halfway through the movie, it became clear to me that I had to take up temporary residence in the bathroom, and it was there I stayed from 2am 'til 5am, alternating between dozing on the tile and retching. I had "All You Need is Love" from Across the Universe stuck in my head;

"All you need is love . . ." bleeuggh . . . guh-ACK . . . "All you need is love . . ." CAK ppththt . . . kuh . . . ghuh . . . "All you need is love, love." qaCCCKT bluh "Love is all you need." fluuuuuuaaaagh.

I'm not sure what did it to me. I can have well over five glasses of whisky and be fine. Life is a grand mystery, no?

I did a bit of Second Life. New Babbage was off limits to everyone but land owners, so Second Life automatically kicked me to Korea for some reason (not the first time it's happened, either). I decided to explore, since it does seem to be a pretty solidly designed area. The Second Life logo is everywhere, so I'm guessing it's not user made, unless it's a couple of Korean guys who really love Second Life. Actually, judging from the names and conversations I overheard, there aren't actually any Koreans in Korea.

I decided to take charge of a bridge;

Dear navy recruitment commercials; why would anyone want to accelerate his or her life? Haven't you seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Acting on general orders from Robyn, I saw Across the Universe last night. It was pretty good. It's directed by Julie Taymor, whose film version of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus I'd really enjoyed. And I liked her movie about Frida Kahlo.

I'm not sure Across the Universe really succeeds as a story. There are too many elements introduced and left dangling. The movie serves the music more than it serves itself, so as a series of loosely connected music videos, it works pretty well. It's frustrating to have a lesbian cheerleader introduced so brilliantly with "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", only to have her story all but fizzle out. And the use of "Happiness is a Warm Gun" to portray a Viet Nam vet's addiction to morphine is interesting, but also goes nowhere. Most of the Viet Nam stuff, shot on stylish sets, was incredibly difficult to appreciate after seeing the extraordinarily realistic Rescue Dawn so recently. Though I did sort of like the image of a bunch of young guys in their underwear, trudging over a miniature Viet Nam, carrying a heavy model of the Statue of Liberty on their backs.

Another real problem I had with the movie--and this one's probably my fault--is I couldn't enjoy how pretty everyone was. Seeing a guy who works at a Liverpool industrial shipyard, living in a tiny home with his mother, with perfect skin, a great body, and wearing pristine sweaters is to me like looking at one of those pictures of an object that seems to have three prongs at one end and two on the other. But I think I'm missing the magic of musicals there.

The movie gives Eddie Izzard what is probably his best role ever, as a demented ringmaster called Mr. Kite. His sequence begins when massive models of hands and arms are pulled back to reveal a massive model of a head in a green forest clearing--I was reminded of the "Bojangles of Harlem" sequence in Swing Time*. This segues into a great scene of our heroes making love naked underwater. It's a PG-13 movie that gets away with a couple girl nipples here and there, mostly by playing the Titanic artist's model card, but this movie would have been great rated R. You see exactly the kind of odd blocking that David Cronenberg managed to avoid recently when Viggo Mortensen decided it was okay for everyone to see his penis. There's also a curious scene of people smoking invisible joints--it's so obviously a technique to get around censorship that it's a little distracting, even as it makes clear how ridiculous the censorship is.

But I don't want anyone to get the idea this movie's not worth seeing--it's good Beatles music, performed well with beautiful sets and costumes.

I had sushi again before the movie at a little place right next to the movie theatre inside the mall. I'm fiercely craving sushi a lot lately. It's a good thing I found a really cheap place for it that nonetheless sells good sushi--I had a two piece meal with green tea a little while ago for just eight dollars.

I read The Lathe of Heaven last night while eating my sushi. I'm deeply, passionately in love with this book--I'm already about two-thirds through, which is fast for me. I think Heather Lelache is my dream girl.

I finally broke down and ordered the new Criterion edition of Seven Samurai. I'd read several really astonished reviews about how much better the film looks now, and I saw that Amazon had it on sale for ten dollars off. Considering how much better their newer edition of Yojimbo was compared to their old one, I'm really looking forward to this.

*I keep being reminded of Swing Time lately.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I couldn't stop thinking about Chris Matthews last night. He has this new book out, Life's a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success*, which I first saw him plugging a couple of times on Keith Olbermann. I didn't think much about it until I saw him on The Daily Show last night where Jon Stewart gave him what Matthews called, with some incredulous laughter, "the worst interview" of his life. I saw it coming a mile away--it's been a while since Jon Stewart's infamous appearance on Crossfire, where he denounced panel punditry shows--specifically mentioning Matthew's show, Hardball--as being harmful to America and no more than convenient forums for calculated political memes. But plenty of snide half-remarks aimed in the direction of such shows since has informed me that Stewart's opinion hadn't changed, and as if more confirmation was needed, in last night's episode Stewart held a mock panel of Daily Show correspondents called "The Speculatorium", emphasising how frequently the arguing heads on shows like Hardball make wrong predictions and spend a lot of time with useless bickering, where people often seem to take an opposite point of view for the sake of taking an opposite point of view, and no-one's mind is ever, ever changed.

I don't think Matthews is the sharpest guy on television. And lately, his mental faculties seem to be deteriorating as he often seems to get guest names wrong, and he's accidentally said "fuck" and "shit" on live television on two separate occasions (not that I mind, but it shows a loss of self-control, except maybe the former case when he didn't know he was back from commercial), and he seems a little too tickled that the Scooter Libby trial revealed Dick Cheney's obsession with Hardball. That being said, I kind of like Chris Matthews. Mostly because he seems to have a completely earnest love and respect for the political process. And although he might be naive, he's not a sycophant. As the title of his MSNBC show suggests, he's not afraid to vocally disagree with anyone of any political stripe he's talking to. And he's got sort of a big, oversized baby head and his soft, feathery yellow hair is like a halo of down on an infant's scalp.

So watching him venture onto The Daily Show was sort of like watching the Snuggles Fabric Softener bear getting raped on Robot Chicken, especially since I know Matthews loves The Daily Show. I remember when, on Hardball, he gleefully referred to Stewart asking McCain, early in his current presidential run, if he was "going to crazy base land", and McCain said yes. And you can see why Matthews would admire it--always trying to get politicians to tell the truth with a steamroller, Stewart got it out of McCain with his perfect, subtler than it seems, cocktail of humour and candour. But there was nothing subtle about Stewart's approach last night, as he called Life's a Campaign "a recipe for sadness". When Matthews accused Stewart of trashing his book, Stewart said he thought the book was fine, that it was Matthews whole "philosophy of life" that he objected to.

Through all this, Matthews kept his good humour without running from any of Stewart's points. He didn't seem genuinely hurt until near the end of the interview, causing Stewart to seem ashamed of himself--Stewart even agreed to appear on Hardball. Whether or not he was aware of it, Stewart was acting much more like the demagogue he seemed to think he was nailing as he was reduced to calling Matthews a fascist and interrupting him as he tried to support his side. One story Matthews did manage to tell was about Bill Clinton in college, how Clinton's ability to listen enabled him to win over many young women he dated just as it enabled him to succeed in politics. And I realised something; Matthews is right. Life is a campaign. Bill Clinton's extraordinary ability to seem like he's listening to everything you say, internalise it, then spit it back out in a way that demonstrates real empathy that very smoothly converges on Clinton's own agenda simultaneously makes you feel like he respects you, and his judgment is better than yours because he knows how these things connect to larger issues and to himself. Half must be really felt, half is calculated, and together they create something new.

Matthews said he had poor luck with women when he was young because his technique was to "drink a lot of beer and brag". Women--and men--don't want to hear about you. Your perspective is useful only for giving them an alternate perspective on themselves. It's only then that they'll care enough about your perspective that they'll want to know more about it. That's why Matthews came off better in that interview than Stewart, and that's why the average bickering punditry Stewart hates doesn't work.

But just because Matthews is right doesn't mean Stewart's wrong. It is, indeed, sad. Just imagine how many great potential leaders have never emerged, or how many good relationships have been aborted, just because someone's technique was off.

*This is a new computer, I'd never looked at on it before, yet somehow it already had tailored recommendations for me on the opening page. How do they do that?