Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Someone Help the Naked People in the Machines and Machinations

Grocery shopping a couple nights ago, at around 2am, I saw that the Ralph's in La Jolla had no human operated check-stands. Just six self-scan check-stands. For months, I watched the slow progression from one open human check-stand in the wee hours and a bunch of customers shy of the automated ones, to the point where everyone was using the automated ones. The only human employee was a woman sitting idle in a booth in case someone had a problem.

This is only in the La Jolla Ralph's, and La Jolla is one of the most expensive places to live around here, But, still, this seems like an interesting new twist in this country's poor atmosphere of employment.

I drew two pages last night, and listened to more of Christopher Lee reading The Children of Hurin while I inked. I'm at the section about Turin in Nargothrond. I still marvel at what an astoundingly luckless chap Turin is. He's so full of good and even reasonable intentions that almost invariably go to ill.

I didn't have time for much else yesterday. The maid was here which kind of put me off my routine and I felt sort of poorly aimed all day.

I haven't been too closely following the current conflict between Israel and Gaza, but I have to say I think Israel's probably doing the best thing it can. When a population is so ignorant and blinded by hatred that they elect a party bent on the destruction of a neighbouring country, what else can that neighbouring country do? But who knows who the people in Gaza could've been if they'd had a better shot at life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm becoming a hopeless shutterbug. Hopefully not an obnoxious one. Here's Snow, the neighbours' cat, very early this morning. Cameo by my very dry hands;

He really wanted to go inside the house. I felt bad leaving him out there, especially as his big blue eyes watched me imploringly through the door.

This was just before I went to bed, and it's a testament for my weakness for cats that I spent time with him after getting barely any sleep yesterday.

Since I knew I wasn't going to get any quality work done on the comic, I went to Tim's early in the evening before coming back here and watching my new copy of Vertigo. I know, it's pathetic; I already had a copy that I've watched fifty billion times. But finally the movie's been put out by people who know a thing or two about DVDs--it's anamorphic widescreen now instead of just a letterboxed image in a square, the sound's mixed properly so the dialogue's not just barely audible under music and sound effects blasting, the colours are crisper, and the resolution is almost twice that of the old release.

While I watched, I drank a sample bottle of Le Tourment Vert, a brand of absinthe I'd never heard of, but the sample bottles were only eight dollars by the register and so pretty;

It's so amazing to me to think genuine absinthe is now being sold on check-stands. Though this wasn't the best absinthe I've had. First of all, it's only 100 proof, very weak for absinthe. I sipped a bit of it straight and it tasted a bit like a gummy worm. I mixed the rest with water and it tasted a little like mouth wash. But I enjoyed it more as I kept drinking, and absinthe seems the perfect beverage for Vertigo.

Jeez, the whole movie's on YouTube;

Switching to full screen mode, I bet it's not such a bad way to watch it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Space, the Final Frontier

There's a scene early in Akira Kurosawa's Drunken Angel where Takashi Shimura opens a door for ventilation, starts to walk away, then, noticing the door's starting to shut itself, goes back and opens it again. He does this a few times before he can finally rig it to stay open. That's so me. I have a tendency to chew on problems until I reach a resolution, which has put me at odds with people who prefer to avoid addressing issues. But I think it served me well last night, when I redrew the last panel of a page over and over between around midnight and 4am. Until I got it right. It was one of those things that looks so simple, and no-one's going to notice it, but I fucking mastered the motherfucker. I won't spoil what it is for you, but I will say it involved drawing something I've noticed most comic book artists avoid roughly a 100% of the time, though I've noticed people working in animation don't seem to have any trouble with it.

For some reason I can't really figure out, I woke up at around noon after falling asleep at around 8am, and couldn't get back to sleep until 2:30pm. I started thinking about a guy I knew on Live Journal formerly named Watermelontail--St. Sisyphus brought him up to me again recently. He's brought him up to me several times for reasons I've never been able to determine. Watermelontail actually seems to be a touchy subject with a lot of people and I can't quite figure out why. I have a feeling there's a big piece of the puzzle I'm missing.

After Sisyphus had mentioned the guy to me several times, I friended him for a while and almost immediately regretted it when I saw he was one of those people who used his blog to write a story serial in. Most people aren't very good writers, and I don't like to sugar-coat my criticisms or encourage people who'd probably be better off discouraged. But at the same time, I don't want to be randomly rude to some guy, so I didn't read any of his creative writing posts. I felt a little awkward in the position, though. When I eventually did read a couple of his shorter things, mainly poems, I couldn't find anything in them that particularly interested me, but I still didn't say anything. Really, the guy wasn't much of a blip on my radar. He kind of just took up space on my friends list, but it's not like he was a bother.

I think the first time I felt any kind of irritation towards him was when I mentioned to Sonya that I thought his writing was kind of boring and unimaginative and this happened to coincide with her becoming very cold towards me. Of course, I still don't know why she stopped talking to me, but Watermelontail became the centre of one of my theories. I didn't really know why, though, she'd be so sensitive about him--he wasn't even on her friends list at the time. But afterwards, I noticed she began showering him with attention, particularly his writing, which seemed to me as boring and unimaginative as ever. I guess she disagreed with me about his work, but it seemed as though there was something far more personal in it for her that caused or exacerbated a rift between us that I still don't quite understand.

Then I started to notice one or two instances where something Watermelontail said seemed to reflect things I'd said to Sonya in private e-mail. Around the same time, I found out that Watermelontail was using my name for a character in an online role playing community. I guess I ought to have found this flattering, but combined with his apparent knowledge of things I'd thought I was saying just to Sonya I started to wonder who the fuck this guy was and why he was so far into my business. He went from being a guy I barely noticed to someone who actively skeeved me out, maybe more than he really deserved. I mean, maybe he didn't ask Sonya to tell him things about me, but I also kind of resented the fact that he might have a better idea of why Sonya stopped talking to me than I did. So when he took me off his friends list after my blow up on Sonya's journal at the end of 2007, I definitely felt like it was good riddance. But, still, I barely knew the guy and he seems to be friends with a lot of my friends, so I wonder if I dislike him a lot more than he really deserves and I definitely wonder about his significance to Sonya and possibly other people. I even remember Caitlin mentioning how she'd "finally" met him at Reader Con, even though I could barely remember them interacting much at all. I guess the fellow's really special in some way I can't see and which some people maybe resent me for not seeing.

So. To whom it may concern; sorry.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

This is Not about Sex

My corkscrew broke trying to open a bottle of mead last night. The metal bit is stuck in the cork now and I have no idea how to get it out. I always wonder if this kind of thing is a metaphor for my rotten love life. My aim always seems to be off when I toss something in a basket, too. Fortunately, I've yet to experience any trouble with gas pumps. Well, except that one time when Trisa and I were arguing about how much gas I'd let her buy for me and the pump came out and gasoline spilled all over the place.

Er, I know what you're thinking and, no, Trisa and I never slept together.

Before beginning comic work yesterday, I went to Target and bought a cheap tea kettle for the mead (it was awkward pouring it out of a pan before) and some moisturising hand lotion. My hands get astonishingly dry during the winter and normally I just wait for my mother or sister to look horrified at my cracked and bleeding fingers before giving me a bottle of lotion, but no-one noticed this year. I wasn't quite sure what kind I should get, and I couldn't help feeling somewhat awkward in the aisle looking them over. I assume everyone who sees a guy buying lotion by himself thinks he's going to use it to masturbate, which probably makes it a good thing the Bath and Body Works was closed when I went to the door.

I've been trying to figure out whether Amanda Palmer's "Blake Says" is a tribute to or a rebuke of The Velvet Underground's "Stephanie Says". Maybe it's both. It almost seems like it's about how, though Blake is critical of Stephanie's emotional remoteness, he secretly wants to end up either with her or become just as cold as she is. I get the sense that Palmer sees this situation as both pathetic and pitiable (er, those words mean almost the same thing, don't they? Let's read "pathetic" as containing a dose of derision from Amanda). Maybe the idea is that Blake focuses on aloof women to avoid confronting his own fear of intimacy.

Preliminary Post

I've been seeing ads for these "Busted Tees" just about everywhere. Are we selling shirts or breasts? Are they really such a lucrative sponsor? Or does everyone just like the subtle breast garnish on their site? When will you be honest about your kinks, humanity? Think about it; these women could be topless.

Easy, Isn't It?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

When Machines Translate Passions

Now testing my camera's video function;

I was listening to Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg's "from The Green Automobile" and I'm rather surprised by how audible it is. Visible on the computer monitor is this story about a man in Philadelphia who shot another man in the arm for making too much noise during The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. First of all, let me say; finally. People need to learn to shut the fuck up in a movie theatre.

Seriously, though, no-one deserved to be shot. I know my friends who are proponents of less restrictive gun laws would likely say, sure, you hear about this story, but not all the stories where other gun carrying audience members spotted the irate viewer in the dark theatre and gunned him down before he could shoot the noisy gentleman, or maybe the noisy gentleman would twist around and fire back at the guy like Abraham Lincoln in the opening to Police Squad.

Is a movie called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button really the place for any kind of gun violence? With all due respect to F. Scott Fitzgerald and director David Fincher, that is one of the most twee ass titles I've ever heard for a movie. What's next? A knife fight during The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants? That doesn't sound so unlikely, actually . . .

Feels like the sore throat is coming back to-day, along with coughing and sneezing. Guess I'd better buy some more mead . . .

Friday, December 26, 2008

Discrepancies of Size and Flavour

Snow the cat also took shelter from the rain on the back porch last night--every time I looked outside it seemed there was a different cat. I went outside to see Snow and the poor guy was very cold to the touch. He's gotten a lot bigger than he was when I saw him last. His fur's not quite pure white, it's slightly browned on the edges and he looks a little like a roasted marshmallow. Last night, I could swear he smelled slightly like a roasted marshmallow, too.

I was too tired for much of anything last night, but I knew better than to go to bed early which, from past experience, I know would only result in a couple hours sleep before hours of sleeplessness until I fell asleep three or four hours later than I usually do, and nothing gets solved. So I read more War and Peace, played a lot of Jedi Academy, and fiddled with the most expensive present I received for Christmas, a digital camera. I'm not yet satisfied with my level of competence with the thing, but here are a couple of the practice shots I took last night;

This is my Edea action figure from Final Fantasy VIII. I really love the camera's ability to focus on such a close object--the figure's only around six inches high.

A candid shot of my bedside table, which obviously I have to use for storage. I haven't finished reading that distinctly 1970s looking Gene Tierney autobiography yet--War and Peace has been monopolising my scarce reading time.

My Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu figures with my Eraserhead coaster in the background.

Neither of the figures usually stands on her own, so I guess they really wanted their picture taken. Actually, I somehow managed to rig them so they're supporting each other's weights via Asuka's elbow. They each came with alternate heads and arms that can be swapped.

I'm running behind, so I'd better end this now. Remember, new Venia's Travels to-day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Venia's Jolly Excursions

Merry Christmas, everyone! Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Ha, Ha, Ha, Christ is back and his veins are huge!

Er, what I mean to say is, as a Christmas present from me to personally you, I've uploaded the new Venia's Travels slightly early. Soon Venia shall be an indispensable part of your Christmastime.

Actually, I think I'm just too sleep deprived to trust myself uploading it later. I was trying to think of Christmas movies to watch and I thought of Groundhog's Day because of the snow. I spent some time asking myself whether or not Groundhog's Day takes place on Christmas. Yep, that's sleep dep. Now let's add some alcohol . . .


Did not get enough sleep. But there are Christmas things to be done.

I listened to the first four hours of Christopher Lee reading The Children of Hurin last night while colouring. Lee reads very well, and I love the story of Turin, though I've yet to spot any difference between this version and the one included in The Silmarillion.

There's a lot of moral greyness in the story for Tolkien, though I found it interesting the lengths to which he'll go to tie misfortune with pride or some other unbecoming emotion, like Morwen is apparently punished by fate for not going to Doriath with her son because staying behind in the hopes her husband would return was a point of pride. But Tolkien never seems to really pin the blame for Turin's misfortune on Turin. Maybe he was inspired by the story of Job. I don't know, I'm too tired to really think right now.

The introduction to The Children of Hurin, written by Christopher Tolkien, is also read by Christopher Tolkien, and it's wonderful hearing the care he takes in his brief synopsis of the history of Arda thus far and the pronunciations of various words his father made up. He made a new map for the book, too, and a folding copy is included with the audiobook.

There is currently a big, grey homeless cat taking shelter from the rain on the back porch . . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Lion, the Biomechanical Monster, and the Christmas

I suppose Christmas is a time for hope, a time for possible paths of light streaming away from the penchant for destruction and mediocrity that so often characterises humanity. The first item that might qualify as a ray of hope I've seen to-day is Disney pulling out of the Narnia business. Hopefully this means the Prince Caspian adaptation shall be the last dry, chalky crusting of coloured sugar on the necklace. I'm generally pleased with how already everyone seems to have trouble remembering the first film, that even people who told themselves they liked the first one had trouble remembering to see Prince Caspian. Now, hopefully the series will sail completely into obscurity before The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has a chance to be ruined, and ten years from now we'll see an honest adaptation of the books.

Of course, I suppose this frees up Weta for the live-action Evangelion movie, and I'm not entirely sure I want to see an Americanised, live-action Eva. I'd probably change my tune for the right director, though.

I worked all night on my comic, but I still need to colour the last two pages of Chapter 15. The chapter's looking a bit better than I'd expected.

Anyway, that's about all I have time for. Merry Christ Mouth, everyone!*

*Baby Jesus lives in Christ Mouth until he's older, but sometimes he's eaten on accident.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Red Man and I Want to Read, Man (Hold Your Applause)

I saw a Santa Claus at the mall yesterday, in a little gazebo located in the middle of one of the thoroughfares. I heard him first; a loud, "Hello, there!" to a child a few feet away.

It's one thing to talk about the inherent comedy of these guys, but actually seeing them in the wild I can't help but feel acutely aware of why so many children cry while sitting on the laps of these guys. I bet the kids get this indescribable feeling of wrongness just encountering them--it's not that they necessarily didn't believe Santa existed, I just think there's something discordant about having an entity comprised of fantastic concepts illustrated with subtle variation by multiple sources suddenly distilled into a strange man with frequently unconvincing line deliveries. There's a lie there, but it's a lie too big and profound for the mind even to begin processing in a normal fashion.

I see Paul Dini's dreaming of a Max Fleischer-esque Indiana Jones animated series. It's a great idea. But, if anything like that happens, here's what it'll be; George Lucas will decide it's more important to get guys he can keep under his thumb than anyone with independent vision, the series will be cgi schlock like the new Clone Wars series, and we'll all feel a dose of undeserved shame for our childhood dreams.

Also at the mall yesterday, I got the unabridged audiobook of The Children of Hurin read by Christopher Lee. How wonderful does that sound? I'm starting to wonder if my reading is going to shift entirely to audiobooks. I don't really want it to--I still prefer reading the old fashioned way, but I barely have time for it. I squeezed an extra thirty minutes out of my night a couple nights ago to read more of War and Peace. I'm only seventy nine pages in after all this time. I had so much more free time when I was doing Boschen and Nesuko, but I guess this is what I get for putting so much more work into the colouring.

Speaking of which, I'd better get to it so I won't stress about it as much over the next couple of days which, apparently, are Christmas Eve and Day.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I think I may've caught something from Tim, who'd caught something when I saw him. That would explain my fatigue yesterday, maybe. To-day it's just a cough and slightly sore throat, for which I'm now drinking chai tea with honey. Fantastic stuff for it. I also bought a bottle of mead, because I suspected some hot mead would also go well on a sore throat, and, in fact, a doctor who was in line next to me at BevMo, who was also buying mead, confirmed this for me.

I was mainly out to-day doing some last minute Christmas shopping. Normally this is about the time I start shopping, but for months I've had a recurring nightmare that I'd forgotten to go Christmas shopping and I saw everyone shaking their heads in unsurprised disappointment, perhaps muttering, "We all knew he was a selfish asshole."

I felt good going out to-day, though, in spite of the rain and the cold. I'm just not in the right rhythm for cold. I keep starting tasks without my jacket and find myself surprised to notice I'm not properly attired. Yesterday, since I was so off the ball and strangely tired, I just went to my parents' and watched some Sherlock Holmes with my sister and came back here and watched Shiki-Jitsu, Hideaki Anno's second live-action film released in 2000 in Japan. It hasn't been released yet in the United States and it took me two weeks to download the fansubbed version, so I guess there's not a whole lot of interest for it in this country. Which is a shame, because, while it's certainly not perfect, it's definitely a fascinating and impressively constructed film.

The first thing I noticed about it was how strongly it resembled Evangelion. The setting is a section of town filled with factories and warehouses and, somehow, residences. The sounds of machinery and establishing shots of the grey, inhospitable buildings are almost identical to shots of the dismal part of town where Rei Ayanami lives and is accompanied by the same anonymous, rhythmic sound effect of pounding metal. It's reminiscent of Eraserhead, yet this place is quite real and, indeed, closely resembles the real home town of Hideaki Anno, if this video is any indication.

Shiki-Jitsu is told primarily from the POV of an unnamed anime director played by a live-action film director named Shunji Iwai. The guy couldn't more clearly be an avatar for Amano himself, so it's interesting that the other principal character of the film is an unnamed girl played by Ayako Fujitani who also wrote the novel upon which the film is based. I was very much surprised the movie was based on something written by anyone other than Anno, as the film seemed not only to feature autobiographical details but also seems to reflect opinions and desires I'd read of as attributed to Anno, most significantly in this quote from the clip I posted last night (which is also quoted in the Wikipedia entry); "Images, especially animation, simply embody our personal and collective fantasies, manipulating selected information, and fictional constructs even live-action film, recording actuality, does not correspond to reality conversely, reality, co-opted by fiction, loses its value. 'The inversion of reality and fiction.'"

Apparently the character in the book was a shopkeeper; Anno evidently made a great deal of changes. The movie would seem to be a successful fusion of two very personal stories, Fujitani's and Anno's, a success achieved by the stark definitions of their roles as director and subject. The director eventually starts making a documentary film of the girl, and seems to utterly lose sense of his place when she decides to turn the camera on him--though he's not frightened or particularly angry. He seems to relax into the realisation that he is an entity that finds subjects of interest, and he's not particularly interesting himself.

Anno's previous film, Love and Pop, seemed partly to be about Anno doing everything with a camera he couldn't do as an animator. Shiki-Jitsu, on the other hand, seems to be completely about adapting aesthetic sensibilities he'd honed as an animator for live-action. There are a great deal of static shots and extremely carefully arranged compositions.

There's a very appropriate ambiguity about the reality of what we're seeing. We're not bombarded with obvious dreamlike imagery or effects, but the very premise of the movie seems to be a metaphor.

Whenever I find myself in a girl's room, I pay careful attention to how she's decorated it, what books she has on her shelf, what objects decorate her desk and so on. I suppose there are guys who are this way as well, but I've found that generally women are more likely to try to communicate by how they've arranged their rooms. Shiki-Jitsu takes this phenomenon and expands grandly on it so that the girl played by Fujitani is the sole inhabitant of an office building, which functions in the movie as a physical manifestation of her psyche through which she permits the director to wander. Inside, she's carefully arranged furniture, pictures, umbrellas, bathtubs and telephones. So much detail is given quickly by Anno's tendency to throw things into rapid shots inserted into the middle of scenes of dialogue. I had to be quick to get these screenshots;

We're never quite sure what's happened to the girl's family, whether they're dead or alive, whether they abandoned her or she ran away. But she seems to have a bottomless appetite for love and affection, doing what she can for herself, and then demanding it constantly from the director when he becomes the only person in her life.

Another reason I was surprised the film wasn't an idea original to Anno was because, according to Wikipedia, during the production of Evangelion, "Anno became disenchanted with the Japanese 'otaku' lifestyle, considering it a form of forced autism." The girl's behaviour in Shiki-Jitsu seemed exactly that--a sort of self-imposed autism, and eventually the director becomes impatient with the girl's desire to create a world around her out of only the things in her life that pleased her, denying the existence of anything unpleasant. I was reminded of a question posed to Evangelion deputy director Kazuya Tsurumaki about episode 16 of Evangelion in this interview; "There was a line in that dialogue -- something like, 'We can't weave our lives only out of things we like . . .' That line was pretty intense. I would have thought it would strike right to the heart of anime fans . . ."

As I recall, in at least one of the translations of Evangelion I've seen, the line is something like "Stringing together the pleasant things in life like rosary beads." Shiki-Jitsu can be translated as "Ritual Day", and the girl's arrangements of her possessions, her costume-like wardrobe and extreme makeup corresponding to specific days or weather, seem definitely ritualistic.

Functional Vision

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wireless Pipe Cleaners

Tired. This is one of those days where I think I got less sleep than my memory cross referenced with my clocks would seem to indicate.

I keep forgetting to mention Majel Barrett Roddenberry's death last week. Both she and Alexander Courage died in 2008 so I guess this has been a gloomy year for Star Trek. Maybe it's hard for me to really feel like that, though, because I'm so used to hearing George Takei on Howard Stern all the time nowadays singing songs like, "Brass Big Balls" and "I'm Dreaming of a White Penis".

Maybe we don't live in a time innocent enough for Star Trek. A couple weeks ago, my sister and I were talking about Ally McBeal and how people made such a big deal about the short skirts Calista Flockhart wore. Can you imagine anyone making a fuss about that now?

Anyway, I'm too tired for much of a post. So here's a poem I wrote about Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion

Ode to Asuka

A pin's space in a box
She can take it okay
All the rust fused locks
She'll wait again to-day

Right thing to do, caution
And safer than sorry
Hazard of decision
Delayed like the fury

But the frost never works
S2 engine burns on
The blind beast yet coiled lurks
More timid than a fawn

Yeah, I'm a hopeless fanboy. I'm really curious about how they'll handle her story in the new Rebuild movies.

I sort of wonder if the story of Yukino in His and Her Circumstances, which is about an emotionally repressed girl who lets her guard down and miraculously finds love, was something Anno felt he had to do to cheer himself up after the emotionally locked up people in Evangelion, like how Kurosawa had to make Yojimbo after The Bad Sleep Well.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Girl Lost in a Chorus of Dreams

I've been watching the 1951 Disney Alice in Wonderland while eating dinner over the last couple nights, and feeling a lot kinder towards it than I did the last time I watched it. Usually I'm too caught up in how short-changed Alice is as a character, but now I've been marvelling at how beautiful the design is and how keen the animation is.

If I can ever make something half this beautiful, I can die happy;

I can't believe how cool Disney is about their stuff being on YouTube. They're usually pretty uptight about things.

Anyway, I still think animation is the best medium for an adaptation of the Alice books to cinema. But this one sadly lost cohesion in a big way, and here's why;

That's not even counting the people who did the storyboards or the songwriters--and this movie has more songs than any other Disney movie. And they're generally good songs; I particularly like "Very Good Advice", which does the most to humanise Alice, second only to her animation. The animation of Alice is filled with marvellous character, in such quick tiny movements. I love the graceful, rapid movements of her hands while talking to the Caterpillar that come off as completely unselfconscious and reflective of a personality yet also ethereal and balletic. And I adore instantaneous bits like when she places the mushroom pieces in her pockets and snaps her hands back to indicate pleasure she feels at the power granted to her by the items.

But these moments are fleeting as Alice quickly gets lost in the shuffle of slapstick routines which are brilliant in themselves but which serve to derail the story as a whole. Alice becomes merely a foil in the mad tea party to Ward Kimball's, Ed Wynn's, and Jerry Colonna's brilliant comic timing and comic logic. The March Hare snatching the cup of tea back from Alice when she admits she doesn't know what an Unbirthday is is like a grain of sand in a whole sandbox of brilliant comedic moments.

There are so many good ideas flying around it's really too bad they never come together. I'm not alone in my opinion, of course, as Wikipedia says Walt Disney himself, "surmised that the film failed because Alice lacked 'heart' and was a difficult character for audiences to get behind and root for." When she starts crying at the beginning of the movie, we just don't know why. Too much of her development was tossed out for the other things.

The Wikipedia entry goes on to quote animator Ward Kimball who said, "it suffered from too many cooks - directors. Here was a case of five directors each trying to top the other guy and make his sequence the biggest and craziest in the show. This had a self-canceling effect on the final product."

But there are so many great individual elements to enjoy.

And dig this;

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blind Christmas and Liquor versus Cold

Last night I went to Tim's to give him his Christmas present because I didn't think I'd have time to go over there again between now and Christmas. I'd gotten him a copy of Lost in Translation and, on the spur of the moment, I stopped at the grocery store on the way over and got him a six pack of bottled coke and a bottle of rum (Bacardi). I'm always trying to get Tim to drink alcohol, because that's the kind of influence I am. Though I didn't imbibe myself until the scotch I had at around 4:30am while colouring.

It's hard to think of what to get Tim because we frequently trade entire anime series we've downloaded that, considering how overpriced anime DVDs are, are probably worth more money than I've seen in five years. Meanwhile, Tim just gave me this rather nice computer I'm using right now when my old one broke last year.

I played Soul Calibur 4 while at Tim's last night. I'd made a character I named simply "Christmas". She appears to be a young woman wearing a deer's head like a mask, a hard edged gold breastplate, a bright red skirt with white lace trim, short white socks and sandals. She's using Voldo's fighting style so she has massive cleavers attached to her hands that look like pendulums (I think the particular weapon's actually called "the guillotine"), and she fights by squirming and twisting around. Voldo is normally a tall, blindfolded man in vaguely bondage-looking gear and a lot of his moves involve falling on the ground or randomly stabbing and slashing spaces behind him and to the sides. All together, Christmas is one creepy broad.

Tim had Howard Stern on as usual and I listened to Stern and his people discovering Amanda Palmer. They all seemed to like her.

The rain let up yesterday, but it was very cold. It seemed to take forever for my car to warm up and for the fog to leave the windows.

I suppose it could be colder, though. I watched the third episode of Gunbuster 2 again while eating breakfast this afternoon, the episode where Tycho makes it snow on Jupiter, or what's left of Jupiter after the events of the first Gunbuster series. I downloaded the series again a couple months ago with subtitles by a different fansub group. The whole Gunbuster series is partly about the importance of being passionate about what you do (sometimes it's tongue-in-cheek, sometimes it's adorably earnest). To me, this is kind of reflected by the very concept of fansubbing; people working for free to create what very often tend to be superior translations of anime series to those included with the official U.S. DVD releases. Of course, it's the fact that these superior versions are easily available for free online that has probably helped contribute to the high price on the DVDs, but it seems to me this phenomenon is an indicator of a problem that pervades American industry.

Daniel Clowes' term "Ghost World" is one of the more perfect terms for modern society I've ever heard. We have a series of systems set up so that people can live and work without having to think about what they're passionate about, and, in fact, attempting to actually find oneself, to truly accomplish something, can actually run counter to one's chances of surviving. That's how we end up with people trading phantom stocks, it's how we ended up with failing car companies, it's why crappy video games spend years in development. People have been groomed to see money, and recognition from the money oriented world, as the only real objective. Tolerance of any other objective has gotten lower and lower. Cars dependant upon an outdated and dangerous fuel source are less durable than cars made fifty years ago, most American video games are less fun than the ones made long before video games were a massively lucrative industry, because people are clapped into training and academic programmes and careers that kill their souls, and they naturally expect to be compensated for their troubles, and they're too tired after the day's work to imagine anything. This is why we need a government that sees to every citizen's basic needs for survival. Because the invisible hand of the market is strangling itself.

Small Alice

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seduced Yet?

Last night I dreamt I was walking across the Coronado Bridge, which is a big bridge connecting downtown San Diego with Coronado, where the Hotel del Coronado is located, one of the exterior shooting locations for Some Like it Hot. The bridge was much thinner in my dream than it actually is and there were no walls or railings on the sides. A taxi ahead of me was trying to back up and turn around, but the driver misjudged the distance between the rear of his car and the edge of the bridge and the vehicle tumbled into the water creating a massive white splash. The driver and four passengers were killed.

In my dream, I knew I was going to blog about this terrible accident, so I started imagining how I'd describe it. Somehow this led to me in a bathtub with a bunch of plastic toy cars in a row across my chest. I dipped under the water and all the cars floated away while I went, "Aaaah! Bchhssssh! 'Help me, help me!'"

Yes, I am a master storyteller.

Over the past couple nights, I watched the first Terminator movie for the first time since high school. I'm trying to keep myself to as strict a schedule as possible, so I stop working at 5am and eat either a bowl of cous cous or jam on toast. I figure this is conducive for optimum efficiency. Though last night I actually didn't stop colouring until 5:15.

Anyway, I watched half of Terminator on what you would call Wednesday morning and the other half on what you would call Thursday morning. It's truly amazing how much better Terminator 2 is. The dialogue is astonishingly bad at times in the first movie, and there are really silly problems with story logic--when it becomes clear that someone is killing off women named Sarah Connor, the police determine they can't help the final Sarah Connor so long as she doesn't answer the phone at her apartment. And in the so bad it's good category, there's this guy;

Apparently the janitor in the apartment building where the Terminator is staying. I'd say he looks like Karl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force except Karl's not quite so much of a caricature. I get the feeling this is what James Cameron thought the common man looked like, and it is perhaps here that we can see the director of Titanic.

But I still mainly like the movie. I can see why Harlan Ellison was so pissed off by Cameron's tribute to two of his episodes of The Outer Limits (which apparently inspired Terminator). It must have seemed to Ellison like Cameron took bad dialogue and a rather awkward love scene and coasted them on Ellison's good ideas, but I still love Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton, and the construction of the action sequences. I've been trying to get enthusiastic about action sequences again. I remember I always used to look forward to them when writing Boschen and Nesuko, but with Venia's Travels I'm so much more into the dialogue bits.

I finished the script for Chapter 16 last night and I'm really looking forward to drawing it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's been raining almost non-stop for days now. Nights like this, I just want to play video games all night. But I can't--I have too many things to do.

The rain was coming down so hard that, even with my wipers at full blast, my windshield was still like a wall of gelatine. It's pretty out there, though. Reflections of red and yellow lights making glow worm reflections on the asphalt.

I went to Denny's and wrote the first five pages of Chapter 16. A couple women in a booth behind me were talking in Spanish until one of them suddenly said, "Ooooooouu--Ah!" in a perfect imitation of the succubus from World of Warcraft. I walked to CVS in the same parking lot to buy gift bags for Christmas presents, and outside the store a homeless man was sitting against the wall, projecting loud "Cooooooooooooooo"s out at the rain like a mutant dove. It won't be long until language is obsolete.

I see Keanu Reeves wants to do an American, live action version of Cowboy Bebop. Although this is a lot closer to being cast in an appropriate role than Reeves usually is, I think he'll still mostly manage to be impressive for his ability to create less of a presence on camera than a cartoon character. At least he kind of looks like Spike Spiegel, and it's hard to do worse than the used car salesman voice from the English dub. But Koichi Yamadera's performance in the original version was so nicely nuanced in a way Reeves can never be. Yamadera was quite good at sounding very low key but with just enough of an edge to hint at Spike's history and abilities.

I do like the idea of the movie being based only on the first episode of the series instead of trying to condense the whole twenty six episode series into two hours. They definitely need more of a tough guy to play Spike, though. Maybe Jason Statham. A young Clint Eastwood would be perfect.

Damn. It's hard to think of any guys who look like they might be in their late twenties nowadays who seem remotely manly. Not among guys I know nor among guys I know of. Hmm. Christian Bale would be pretty good, though he's all over the place lately.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oh, and happy birthday, Broken Symmetry.
I know there are people out there who'd enjoy the sort of story last night's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was and, you know, I just wish them all the best, I really do. As for me, it felt like almost a complete waste of time. Where last week's John Enbom script felt like it could barely be contained by one hour, Natalie Chaidez's script felt like she couldn't believe she had to keep writing this. The episode dragged its feet the whole way, grudgingly squeezing out developments. Here's what we learned;

-Cameron or the writers or both forgot we already learned what the three dots meant, or the writers don't care and are going to milk it anyway.

-If you have short hair, it means you're a man.

-Sarah's life has been transformed by the whole Skynet/Terminator business. Well, okay, it's nice to touch base with that now and then, but I'd rather not have it coupled with

-Sarah's getting gullible and sloppy.

-Apparently Jesse's more of jerk when Natalie Chaidez writes her.

-Reilly's apparently supposed to keep Cameron and John apart. Yeah, she's doing a bang up job.

That was actually the plot thread that interested me the most, so, of course, it felt like only about a third of it was written. I love all the reaction shots of Cameron, and the beats before she says something. I like looking at her face and wondering, "Wow, what's she gonna say? It could be anything!" I don't think there's a single person watching the show right now who doesn't want to see more of Cameron. I think the main reason we're not seeing more of her is the writers are afraid of screwing up once they commit to something.

I rather like how we still don't know what Shirley Manson's supposed to be doing. I find the whole John Henry thing a little silly, though, especially now that God is involved.

I noticed, perusing imdb last night, that Lena Headey was fourteen years-old when Thomas Dekker was born. I guess Dekker's supposed to be playing John as fifteen on the show, which suggests Linda Hamilton, at age 28, was playing an eighteen year-old in the first Terminator film.

I'm not saying Lena Headey's miscast. I'm just saying Thomas Dekker's all wrong.

Not much else to say about yesterday, of course. I spent all night drawing, except when I went to the grocery store. Now I have more hummus and tea.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Slept quite a bit later than I'd meant to to-day. I couldn't get to sleep this morning for some reason. I felt tired, but my mind suddenly started running and wouldn't stop until after 7am. So I had to sleep later to make sure I was rested enough to work on my comic to-day--I've a lot to do. I did two pages yesterday and I need to do two pages to-day. Darth Vader's here to put me back on schedule and the Emperor's not as forgiving as he is.

I didn't have time for much else yesterday. I was toying with the idea of trying to be vegan for a while and suddenly realised I was eating vegan yesterday; I had a bowl of plain oatmeal for breakfast with black coffee, then for lunch lately I've been putting hummus and lettuce in whole wheat pitas. I had spaghetti noodles with marinara for dinner and an apple for dessert. And about an hour before bed I had a bowl of cous cous I'd made with olive oil. I guess the hummus was probably the only protein I had yesterday.

I think I made up for yesterday's spartan diet by going to my parents' house to-night and eating for breakfast just a plate of cookies my sister had baked yesterday. I came back here and ate an apple while watching the first episode of FLCL, which I hadn't watched in years. I think I'd subconsciously been avoiding it because Adult Swim's been airing the English dubbed version, which always depresses me. But I was thinking of the series because I've gotten to episode nineteen of His and Her Circumstances, which is three episodes in to Kazuya Tsurumaki's tenure as director after the departure of his mentor, Hideaki Anno. I could see the bombastic animation style of FLCL germinating already in Tsurumaki's episodes of His and Her Circumstances as he took, what seemed to me, the impressionistic POV Anno had established for the lead character and expanded it to the general atmosphere of the series.

There's an interesting, almost unaccountable dissolution of the tension of the earlier episodes. Under Anno's direction, these teenagers felt always like they were treading on a thin layer of ice over a lethal pond of psychological trouble. Tsurumaki's take gives everything a more optimistic feeling--there are a great deal of misunderstandings and awkwardness, but the needle never dips too far into the disaster zone. But he's by no means a bad director. He's a lot of fun, in fact. He just doesn't feel quite as dangerous as Anno, which I associate with Anno's roots in 1980s anime. There was very often a feeling in anime from that decade that you were being pulled into something you weren't quite prepared for, and you weren't sure you ought to like it. I have a great deal of fondness for art that breaks down your internal safe zones.

I think Tsurumaki has an appreciation for this, too, and I think it's something he aims for a lot with FLCL. The sexual euphemisms are great, as the strangeness of Naota's sexual awakening, from his perspective, is translated by the story into bizarre robots and possible biological disorders. But while you never really knew for sure if Shinji in Evangelion was a good person or not, you have to say, yeah, Naota's a good kid. Tsurumaki's a more reassuring director--his strength as an artist is in his basic faith in people, while Anno's strength is his constant need to question the fundamental motives and desires of human beings. I think which one's superior may depend entirely on your taste or personal outlook, but it's interesting that Anno and Tsurumaki have had such a close working relationship.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I bought my very own copy of The Dark Knight last night, just the regular widescreen edition, nothing fancy. But it did come with "The Dark Knight Catalogue", presented by the Noble Collection. I opened it up and--no exaggeration--I laughed for what must have been a full three minutes at this;

Who wouldn't pay sixty dollars for a pog they can hang around their neck? And who can resist buying it after seeing that elegantly soft portrait in the background, a single curl of green lock on the right frames that haloed acrylic countenance. Movie makeup and a masterful performance could not fully conceal that great heart that loved Thomas Kinkade and doggy sweaters as much as you do. And this heirloom is rich in loving tradition; many's the time Great Uncle Wally's smoked his pipe in his study as the grandfather clock ticked steadfastly and he drew comfort from one of his gilt framed portraits of The Joker.

I thought Heath Ledger might be this generation's James Dean. Might he actually become this generation's Princess Diana? If one good thing comes out of the bad economy, may it be that the answer to that question is "no".

I have a button of Robert Smith's face on my car's sun visor that looks almost exactly like that thing. I think it cost me a dollar.

I did watch The Dark Knight last night and I still enjoy it. This time I noticed how carefully they avoided showing the face of Gordon's daughter. I wonder if Nolan's actually toying with the idea of including Batgirl in a future film.

Jim Emerson's bitching about how critic Josh Tyler's bitching about lack of recognition for The Dark Knight from the Golden Globes and critic's awards. I have to say, though, I kind of agree with Tyler. If a movie's enormously popular and the vast majority of reviews are positive, what more objective criteria could there be to call a movie great? The failure of the Golden Globes to even list it among contenders for best picture does underline the irrelevancy of that awards programme.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I guess I have an impersonator; I've been wearing a black fedora, slacks, and long sleeved button down shirt for years, all black except for a couple red shirts. Now my mother and sister have reported seeing another guy dressed the same way at the mall, sitting on a bench reading Neil Gaiman. At the mall on a bench is where I read most of the Sandman series, actually, so this guy really does sound like a younger version of me.

I had to go to the mall to-day, which I didn't mind, since I actually kind of enjoy the amazing clump of humanity in one place. I like the subtle, close, dizzy feeling it gives me. I might actually be afraid of crowds, but I'm so used to enjoying my fears when I can find them.

I still have a lot of Christmas shopping to do. The past couple days I've been forced to lose sleep, which means I haven't been able to work on my comic. So this has been the first real opportunity I've had to do Christmas shopping.

I've been working on my comic so constantly lately that I actually didn't know what to do with myself last night. I read a lot more of War and Peace, played some Jedi Academy, and watched Hideaki Anno's Love & Pop.

Anno was creator and director of Gunbuster and Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Love & Pop was his first live action film. It's a good movie, but not quite as strong as Anno's work with animation. There are plenty of stylistic similarities, some of which don't transfer very well, especially his tendency to insert very swift exterior shots and reaction shots in clusters. These things work fine with animation, and are effective in communicating a certain mindset for the POV character, but live action places and faces aren't as stripped down and efficiently communicative as impressionistic drawings.

When thinking of another example of an animator turned live action director, the first one that comes to mind is Terry Gilliam, and actually there are a lot of similarities to Gilliam in Anno's style, like a fondness for wide angle lenses and use of extremely large foreground subjects while action takes place or begins in an extreme background. Love & Pop was filmed entirely with handheld digital cameras, which Anno endeavours to use for a physical intimacy with his characters, frequently placing cameras in shirts, up skirts, sleeves, on plates, and at the bottoms of drinking glasses.

I can't really decide whether I think this was too obtrusive or just appropriate. The movie's about a sixteen year-old high school girl named Hiromi and her experiences taking part in enjo kosai, a practice that generally consists of older men paying teenage girls large sums of money to have dinner with them, hang out, and, on some occasions, to have sex. The shooting style does create a visual focus on objects and people as objects that does seem appropriate. The film follows Hiromi over the course of a day as she tries to accumulate enough money to purchase an expensive ring, and her progression from simply having dinner or going to karaoke bars with lonely men to having sex for money.

The movie does a good job of making this progression seem logical. As a sixteen year old, Hiromi is just figuring out the intrinsic value of relationships with people and things, and cultural promotion of materialism has garbled the signal for her somewhat. The men paying for Hiromi's company are so painfully pathetic--one guy simply wants Hiromi and her friend to taste some spaghetti he's cooked. There's a sense that a vast number of men simply cannot conceive of themselves as valuable enough to spend time with for any reason other than material rewards, while the girls slowly seem to be learning that it's impractical to spend time with any guy unless there's material compensation. Hiromi's desire for the ring seems confused with her uncertainty about her direction in life. There's an amazing interplay of culturally fostered dysfunction. The man Hiromi eventually agrees to have sex with is played by Tadanobu Asano, an attractive and naturally charming actor who doesn't seem as though he should need to pay girls for sex, except he refers to himself as Captain EO and speaks to a stuffed Fuzzball doll, a character from Captain EO which Asano's character had gotten from Disney World in Florida ten years earlier when he and his parents had been there on vacation, shortly before his parents' divorce. There's a sense that this somehow damaged his ability to form and trust connections with other people, so he uses the Captain EO identity and Fuzzball as a sort of safety filter, frequently expressing his wishes to Hiromi in the third person ("Captain EO wants you to go with him to a love hotel.").

While unusual, Captain EO's problem is not truly dissimilar to, and for its exaggeration is somewhat illustrative of, the problems of most of the men Hiromi is paid to be with. In one of my favourite scenes in the film, a man pays Hiromi and three of her friends to chew slightly on some muscat grapes before spitting them out, at which point the man places each in a small, isolated container which he marks with a name given to him by each girl.

He knows they won't give him their real names, but he says, "Even if it's not your real name, if it's a name you think up, it's your name. Do you understand? It's the name of the other you inside of you." This seems to be an interestingly stylised version of girls in Japan I've heard of selling their underwear in plastic bags marked with names and some superficial pieces of information about them.

So here's another way in which people are attempting to achieve intimacy and emotional rewards through objects, or to have these things conveyed by objects. Anything to avoid interactions where one's own value on less material, more unquantifiable, levels might be critical. What material I've read about enjo kosai seems to regard it as a new phenomenon, but it seems to me it's not very different from the lives of the bar hostesses portrayed in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, only the industry is less regulated, the workers are younger, and their motives are more confused.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I watched the second part of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries last night. Some questions remain with me. Why was the president lady talking to Commander Adama about installing computer networks on the Galactica when she was about to be decommissioned? Why were all the clones of the arms-dealer guy dressed like arms-dealers? Why did all those human clones have to go onboard the station to retrieve that one guy? Did Gaius refer to working on something on the Galactica for weeks only for the second in command guy to refer to his fight with Starbuck as happening "yesterday"? I don't have time to go back and check.

Still, I enjoyed it. I'm digging Katee Sackhoff big time. And now I am sorry I got out of the Battlestar Galactica line at Comic-Con.

It's kind of interesting watching the show so shortly after watching Blade Runner. Every time someone died, I wanted Edward James Olmos to say, "It's too bad she won't live! But, then again, who does?" I feel like I find it too funny the way his tummy pokes through his tight uniform, though. He's so unrelentingly dour but he looks like an aging bellhop whose uniform shrunk in the wash.

I woke up at 2pm to-day, which is an hour earlier than I'd meant to, and boy, I feel it. I'm not sure how much I'll get done to-night, or what I'll try to get done. My ability to make decisions is one of the most difficult to access departments of brain on sleep deprived days.

I was sorry to hear Bettie Page had died. I was glad the news items I saw reporting her death all used pictures from her old pin-ups. I know she didn't like being photographed in her old age, and I always respected her for not falling prey to a vain fiction like Susan Sarandon or Demi Moore. I've seen a lot of women feverishly grasping to the belief that Demi Moore's still pretty, but even if you do manage to convince yourself of that, there's still the inevitability of beauty fading with time. I respected Page for recognising this truth while still managing to be happy and proud of her career.

Again, new Venia's Travels to-day.
The new Venia's Travels is online. Peas and carrots, peas and carrots, peas and carrots.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If James Cagney were a woman, he'd be Katee Sackhoff.

Can't you just see her shoving a grapefruit into someone's face in a fit of rage? You might remember me complaining last month about skinny little women being cast as soldiers. Battlestar Galactica did it right--Sackhoff punches a guy in the miniseries and I can believe it hurts. And she carries herself like someone who likes to mix it up. All that, and she's charming and sexy, too. See? It's possible. How many girls like this are short changed so Natalie Portmans can feebly pretend like they're beating people up?

I'm extremely late to the party, but I finally got around to watching the new Battlestar Galactica last night. I mainly liked it. There's an opening scene that's extremely silly, and one or two others that don't quite make sense (none of the kids squawked about getting separated from their parents?), but otherwise there was a wonderful focus on characters and an unreserved tact with storytelling. Commander Adama's estranged relationship with his son seemed somewhat cliché to me, but I guess these things do happen in real life.

A couple weeks ago, I listened to Carly Simon and Ben Taylor, the son she had with James Taylor, being interviewed by Howard Stern. Stern got them talking about Simon's relationship with her ex-husband, James Taylor, and both she and Ben admitted that Stern was the first interviewer to get them to talk very extensively about how James refuses to speak to Carly and, to a large extent, refuses to acknowledge her existence, going so far as to cancel appearances at events where they both might be scheduled to appear.

Stern asked Ben if he'd ever tried to talk to his father about maybe having some kind of speaking relationship with Carly, to which Ben replied that he knew his mother "would never ask him to do that." Which is a dodge, of course, because Ben was afraid of admitting that he was too afraid of broaching the subject with his father. When asked if anyone ever tried to talk to James about it, Ben said, "No, because everyone's too intimidated by him."

"But he's a baby!" said Robin Quivers, which I thought was dead accurate as regarded James Taylor's behaviour. Carly said the rift between them had begun when, after she'd learned James had cheated on her while on tour, she'd cheated. Ben said the one time he'd gotten his father to talk about Carly, he'd told him that thinking about her took him to a "dark place". I bet he'd cheated on Carly on a spur of some idealistic hedonism, shutting off total self-awareness of the consequences of his actions, and that Carly's retaliation had been simultaneously hurtful while putting a strain on that lid he'd put on a part of himself. It is, indeed, intensely immature behaviour because it subscribes to a philosophy that denies personal growth to avoid unflattering self-reflection.

I've always been of the opinion that an artist must always be brutally honest with his or her self as he or she is capable of being. I can't really prove this brutal honesty is necessary, but it's something I've long believed, which is why it always frustrates me when I see other people avoiding such honesty. Which means a lot of people frustrate me because a lot of people seem to see self-deception as necessary for survival.

When I worked in retail a couple years ago, there was a girl I liked with whom I worked. I asked her out to coffee once, she said yes, then rescheduled. Then she rescheduled again, and again, until it seemed going out to coffee was going to be infinitely rescheduled and I started to think this was her way of turning me down. A mutual friend would later tell me about her drug addiction, and I came to know what a very frightened person she was. We worked together for years, and while she claimed to have had sex with Ron Jeremy and other people had witnessed her publicly exhibiting some very dangerous and immodest behaviour, she was still too afraid to tell a guy she didn't want to have coffee with him. I guess those of you with experience with drug addicts know these two things actually do add up.

Mainly I think what I learned from that experience (though it's a lesson I sometimes blatantly ignore out of frustration) is that you can't push these people. They just get more frightened, and there's no bottom to the hole they can dig for themselves. You can only hope they'll find courage on their own some day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jon Stewart interviewed Mike Huckabee last night and failed to say, "Are you fucking kidding me? Are you fucking stupid?" at several appropriate moments, particularly when Huckabee rolled out the argument for procreation as a justification for denying gay people the right to get married.

It's like someone using a public forum to declare individuals who purchase black cars as being unfit to drive because some consider black to be a depressing colour. I don't need statistics to know homosexuals are in the minority and are as likely to have kids or not regardless of whether or not they can get married and that there're more children in the United States now than there are parents to properly care for them. If Huckabee's logic sways you, you're a fucking moron. An incontrovertible, plain and simple, stupid motherfucker.

If I sound angry, it's because I know such shit for brains ass necks really are out there and exist in large numbers. I figure Huckabee knows how stupid the things are he's pulling out of his mouth and that he's pandering to those nitwits. That being said, the fact that Huckabee has a television show is pretty fucking hilarious since he comes off as less intellectually and humanly engaging than Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein.

Meanwhile, I'm always happy to see Christian Bale, but I just can't get excited about the new Terminator: Salvation trailer. Script help from Jonathon Nolan is likely a drop of honey in the bucket of manure filled by Paul Haggis and director McG (the auteur behind Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle). Maybe I'm just loyal to the Sarah Connor Chronicles continuity now. But I'm certainly glad they've taken care to separate the two--Salvation is a follow-up to Terminator 3 while The Sarah Connor Chronicles ignores the third movie. It's kind of an interesting idea; they knew Terminator 3 didn't catch on the way Terminator 2 did, but still made money. Maybe this is their way of loving a franchise while cynically fucking it over at the same time.

Am I the only one who thinks this guy's out of line with his android?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I must say I'm greatly pleased by the fact that Coldplay's being sued for plagiarism. Joe Satriani's case seems rock solid, if you ask me, but as a fan of Radiohead, I've long been hoping for the day when the focus grouped pretty version of Thom Yorke would be humiliated and exposed for the fraud he is. I know this won't stop Coldplay fans from listening to Coldplay any more than utter mediocrity has stopped Four Christmases from reaching top box office. But this does give me a little Christmas cheer.

Last night's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles wasn't bad. It was written by one of Veronica Mars' better writers, John Enbom, who did a nice job of portraying a family's transition from normalcy to surviving a world ending. The dialogue spiked up to too cutesy at points, but I forgive it for going down so smooth, except for the very end of the episode which tried to play off something that was clearly written to avoid a plot inconvenience as something very profound. The episode also made me like Jesse a lot more, and I'm even starting to like Derek on some theoretical level.

I actually spent almost all night colouring, so I don't really have any new tales to tell. I still have two and a half pages to colour on Chapter 14, but I'm really happy with how this chapter's coming out.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I used the restroom at a Macy's to-day, and, while I was on the toilet, I distinctly heard the guy in the stall next to me say, "I want your ass." After a few moments of awkward silence, a woman came in the bathroom saying, "Are you ready?"

"Yes, I'm almost done," said the guy irritably.

"I was just making sure you were still here," said the woman. They both sounded old.

"Jesus Christ," said the man after she left.

She came back again as he was exiting the stall. "You're not at home!" she said. "You can't take that long!"

I was at the mall because it's the easiest place to buy minutes for my phone. I thought I might do some Christmas shopping while I was there but I couldn't think of anything to buy.* I still had a bit of the headache that'd kept me up this morning, though it was slaked somewhat by the hot cup of green tea I'd gotten from the mall's sushi place.

The headache didn't come on seriously until around 2:30am last night. Before it had hit, I'd gone to The Living Room to work on the Chapter 15 script. The Living Room is in the SDSU college area and the place is typically packed with college students until it closes at 2am. As I wrote, I listened to a guy and a girl who were apparently on a first date, or something deliberately less defined. The girl awkwardly described herself as an "early bird" when the subject of her age came up, and from the way she kept trying invoke her lesbian acquaintances, dildos, and drugs, I could tell she was trying to present herself as more hip and sexually mature than she actually considered herself to be. And I could tell the guy was marvelling at his good fortune, egging her on and at one point defensively asking a student reading at a table nearby, "Are you listening in on our conversation, man?"

"Er, no." said the student.

I wonder why he didn't mind me sitting there. It's true, I was writing pretty incessantly, but he didn't know for sure what I was writing. I had a writing teacher once who had us go to public places alone and write down conversations people were having around us to get a feel for how people actually talk.

Afterwards, I went to the last remaining 24 hour Ralph's, and came back here to colour a bit before this brain just couldn't handle itself anymore. I made some Darjeeling tea, put Blade Runner on the big, 42 inch wide television, and vegged in front of it for the rest of the night. Blade Runner's often the first movie I think of when I get a bad headache. It's just so soft, enveloping, and lovely, especially now with this final cut.

I found the scenes in Deckard's apartment curiously transcendent last night. It really hit me when Rachel first confronts Deckard at his apartment, and there's a washed out, sallow quality to the light as Deckard callously reveals the awful truth, feeling defensive after his failure to notice her in the elevator.

Then as he softens up and starts to feel bad for her, he offers her a drink a second time, this time because he understands he'd need it if he were in her shoes. And the lighting turns to a much warmer yellow as the track called "Memories of Green" from Vangelis' score plays, a song both tentative and flowing.

I don't know why, exactly, but I suddenly very badly wanted to be there in that apartment. The song, too, I felt connected to. Back when I made Quake mods in my spare time, I'd used "Memories of Green" for a level I'd done mostly with blue lighting. Going through the level with the song looping, I think I wrote it somewhere on my subconscious.

The next time Rachel's at the apartment, the colours are predominately green and a subtle, luminous yellow, like Waterhouse's Hylas and the Nymphs.

It's a colour combination I usually associate with more unequivocally dire or depressing circumstances. But in both the case of the Blade Runner scene and the Waterhouse painting, there's the theme of physical love layered over alien and potentially dangerous circumstances.

*They had a DVD of the first two episodes of Gunbuster 2 for forty dollars. For two episodes! Does anyone really actually buy these things?
can't . . . sleep . . .

Coughs as he passes her Ford Mustang, Heaven forbid she should take anything. But the freak and his type all for nothing, misses a step and cuts his hand . . .

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The other anime series I've been watching lately is Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. This was the series Hideaki Anno directed before Evangelion, and watching it with His and Her Circumstances is an interesting experience as it reflects the massive evolution Anno went through in making Evangelion.

Nadia's fun and very sweet. Almost immediately, I found myself thinking more of Hayao Miyazaki than of Hideaki Anno, so I wasn't surprised when I discovered the series concept came from Miyazaki. Nadia works hard at creating a credible alternate late nineteenth century Europe and the imperilled young protagonists Jean and Nadia benefit greatly from this backdrop.

I slept until 5pm to-day after I decided last night to toss out all attempt at changing my sleeping schedule and stayed up until well after 7am. But I have a lot I want to do to-night, so this'll be a short entry.

Roger Ebert's already compiled his list of the best movies of 2008, so here's mine, early yet again. This list includes new movies I saw this year, some of them are even 2007 films, but they didn't make last year's list so that's why they're on this one. As usual, I started by listing all the movies I could think of off the top of my head and then I went through my blog archive to refresh my memory of the other movies I saw this year. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was one of the movies I forgot. Of all criticisms of the film, that may be the saddest. I just forgot it.

Best Movies

1. Rebuild of Evangelion: You Are (Not) Alone (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
2. Wall-E (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
3. The Dark Knight (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
4. Burn After Reading (Wikipedia entry)
5. Tropic Thunder (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
6. Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
7. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Wikipedia entry)
8. There Will Be Blood (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
9. Let the Right One In (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
10. Iron Man (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
11. Batman: Gotham Knight (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
12. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
13. Juno (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
14. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
15. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
16. Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (imdb entry)(my review)
17. Cloverfield (Wikipedia entry)(my review)

Worst Movies

1. Dragonlance (Wikipedia entry)(my review)
2. The Happening (Wikipedia entry)
3. Atonement (Wikipedia entry)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Slept in isolated episodes again to-day. Episode one, I dreamt I was in a band with a guy who looked like Jimi Hendrix playing bass. We were talking about how Angela Bowie was obsessed with her looks, and I somehow remembered David Bowie telling me about it in 1973 or so. Then, we (my band and I) were doing a military obstacle course in the middle of the desert. We needed to play a song and then cross a ravine via a bridge of neon coloured slinky hoops connected by cellophane. Kind of like the bridge to Magneto's cell in the X-Men movies, except the tubes were so small we had to wriggle through them like worms while the hoops cut into us.

At the other side, we talked about how for the most part we hardly played particularly well, except the Hendrix guy's guitar had sounded fantastic and he had to admit it was somehow thanks to Angela Bowie.

Episode two, after I'd lain awake for no less than four hours, I was with a bunch of soldiers setting up for a gun battle to be contained within a zoo enclosure which featured a concrete moat in the middle spanned by two logs to act as bridges. In charge of my team was a four inch high grey plastic egg filled with angry, pink, naked, muscular action figures wearing handkerchiefs over their faces like bank robbers. One of them wanted to participate in the battle, so I took him out of the egg and set him up with a little machine gun. But the battle never came as I spent the rest of the dream watching some animals across the moat. A black and white cat was stalking a big, fluffy grey bunny. I could tell the cat, which was half the bunny's size, really wasn't a threat to the bunny, but the bunny nonetheless emitted several "whoop"s of terror. Then I saw there was a baby rabbit, fresh from an egg in a small pit the adult bunny had made for a nest like some sort of reptile. There was a crushed egg, with a dead white baby that looked like Bomberman. Then, as I watched, another egg hatched and a cranky, soft, stark white baby hippopotamus emerged.

After all that talk about sodium yesterday, I had a pretty reckless yet very satisfying series of meals. The blog entry was actually cut short when I was invited by my family to join them at a sushi restaurant, where I had vegetable tempura and a vegetarian roll filled with spinach, cucumber, and avocado. I also had a bottle of hot sake, which was one of the most wonderful things to happen to me lately. Hot sake gets me toasted like nothing else, I think maybe because I drink it so fast. I'm the direct opposite of an angry drunk--on those rare occasions when alcohol works on me anymore, I just want to smile at everything.

After this, I came home and somehow drew a page. I had a pot of coffee and made myself a veggie ham with mayo, mustard, provolone and lettuce sandwich and took it and an apple over to Tim's house. Then I came back here, inked and coloured, and ended the day with hummus on a pita with lettuce and a bowl of saltless beans. I think that does roughly add up to a low sodium day.

To-day, I watched the tenth episode of His and Her Circumstances and it's one of my favourite episodes so far. I wish I could post the whole episode here, but it only seems to be on YouTube subtitled in Spanish. I'm noticing Spanish speaking audiences generally seem to have better taste in anime than English speaking audiences.

Anyway, here's one small impressive clip with English subtitles from near the end of the episode. Shibahime, the short blonde-ish girl, has just torn a picture of Miyazawa that Shibahime had just found in the wallet of Arima, Miyazawa's boyfriend and the guy Shibahime's had a crush on for years. Meanwhile, Miyazawa's female classmates are getting ready to apologise to her for giving her the silent treatment at the behest of the manipulative Izawa, the girl with long black hair;

That's so me, I have to say. Accruing sympathy and respect from others and then blowing it with sudden bad behaviour. I love this show.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I think I've gotten enough sleep to-day and I woke up at bright and early 2pm. I got hardly anything done yesterday--I noticed I was losing consciousness whenever I rested my head on my hand for a moment at around 1am, so I decided to try to get to sleep insanely early. It worked for about two hours, then I woke at around 5am and didn't get back to sleep for hours. Irregular sleeping hours mess me up a little.

A couple people in my family have had strokes recently. This has gotten me a little paranoid--I've seen strokes really fuck up artists. It's like they have to relearn how to draw and some of them never come back from it. So I've redoubled my efforts to cut back on sodium recently. I've been worried about that because I've been so angry the past year or so. I've heard some guys just get angrier as they get older--I remember Jack Kerouac in, I think it was Maggie Cassady, talking about not understanding his grumpy high school football coach until he got older and found himself, "always in a rage". Certainly, Kerouac had plenty to be angry about, though.

Anyway, it seems like everything I look at at the store has at least 20% of the daily recommended amount of sodium for adults per serving, and a single serving is always less than you'd give a kitten. So I've mainly been relying on oatmeal and cous cous to make up for the massive intake I get from veggie ham and other things, but that's been kind of difficult lately since all the bowls are so soapy. I spent a full thirty minutes preparing my oatmeal this morning, and I had to rinse out a bowl full of oatmeal for the network of sudsy veins that formed in it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I was just breaking some old Quicken CDs for my grandmother. I twisted the first one until it snapped, the second I pulled apart and it sort of exploded into glittering confetti. I'd better find a better way of doing this before I put my eye out.

I went to see Let the Right One In last night. I enjoyed it--any movie named after a Morrissey song is automatically going to get points with me. I wasn't quite as wild about the movie as a lot of people seem to be, but I did enjoy it (there'll be spoilers ahead).

The movie is pretty austere and cold. So cold it's frosty. Plenty of snow. Swedish snow. Blue Swedish snow. Everything's blue in this world, as Trent Reznor would say. Though in this case it's due to a fashionable blue filter applied to the camera lens or the footage. This is something everyone seems to love these days--blue filters and generally subdued colour palettes seem to go hand in hand with almost any film or video that wants to be taken Very Seriously nowadays. There's nothing wrong with that, and I fully admit that it's my own fault I can't get into it. To me, it's dull as dishwater. To others, it's evocative. I don't begrudge them that. By all means, enjoy. I'll just sit here by myself wishing it'd been shot by Martin Scorsese circa Taxi Driver, or Stanley Kubrick circa The Shining. Funny how the greatest directors don't rely on filters to give a film a consistent tone.

But, okay, here I'm kvetching about a movie that has many positive qualities. Let's just assume I'm intimidated and am snarking as a defence mechanism and I'll move on.

Actually, Let the Right One In looks a little Kubrickian, especially when it comes to Oskar, the twelve year old male lead, whose pageboy haircut seems like a slightly more feathery version of Malcolm McDowell's in A Clockwork Orange, or Danny's in The Shining. All the kids in this movie are a little more emotive than Danny, though. Even the cold little Ms. Vampire girl, who tells Oskar she's not a girl, which somehow causes Roger Ebert to assume she's a boy. There's one shot in the film that does something to contradict this idea and, if the same rules applied to movies as manga, we'd all be facing jail time for watching it. I rather assumed Eli (the vampire) was referring either to the fact that she was much older than she looked or that she's inhuman.

Whatever she is, she and Oskar develop a sweet little relationship, though the sweetness of it is dampened somewhat when you consider Hakan, Eli's middle aged lackey from the beginning of the film, is probably a glimpse into Oskar's future. Hakan takes it upon himself to acquire human blood for Eli, though he seems to be astonishingly bad at it. Eli proves enormously better equipped to acquire blood herself, but maybe she just wanted Hakan to feel useful.

Mostly this is a story about that point in life where morality just starts to matter to kids. It actually kind of reminded me of Venia's Travels, as I chose the age of twelve very carefully for the scene where Venia killed the puppy. Up to that point, kids see the nasty consequences for doing something wrong as being punishment from adults or other authority figures. Morality comes partially when a person sees the futility of never-ending reciprocation of violence and the limited satisfaction brought by destruction. If, however, a kid becomes a vampire (or a Duchess permitted and encouraged to commit violence by adults) at an early age, the natural bad consequences for destructive behaviour never come to pass, and there's always an opportunity for new violent thrills, it's easy to see how kids might not grow up in that most important respect.

Venia's Travels has actually gotten a lot of hits from Sweden. What's with you freaky Swedes? I always assume my Swedish readers look like Ingrid Bergmans and Brock Samsons.

The movie Let the Right One In most reminded me of was Nadja, which lacks some of the narrative focus of Let the Right One In, but I think Let the Right One In would've benefited greatly from the presence of a Peter Fonda. Someone naturalistic who can accomplish a lot by seemingly doing very little. I think it would've punched the movie up from good to very good. Aside from the colour palette, the only other problem I had with the movie was an incredibly silly scene with a bunch of cgi cats.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

One thing I forgot to mention about Monday's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (that's hard to type around a plate of toast) is the guy in a wheelchair who looked eerily like a young James Cameron. He babbles about the Titanic at one point, and at another, Cameron (the Terminator named after the director) cradles his arm while teaching him how to shoot a gun. I think most of us know about James Cameron's almost erotic obsession with guns. It went so far as to lead to a gun in the movie Titanic that wouldn't be invented until fourteen years after the sinking.

But Titanic is astonishingly replete with anachronisms and factual errors; just look at the list on imdb. Maybe the real tragedy of Titanic is a perfectly good action movie director trying to be something he's not. I caught the end of the movie on television with my sister a couple weeks ago, and the scene at the end of Rose moving through the ship looking for Jack was so like Ripley looking for Newt at the end of Aliens, which I guess makes Billy Zane the Queen Alien. The combination of a love triangle's running gunfight with the loudly melodramatic recreation of the actual disaster of the Titanic seems even tackier and more confused as the years go by. This is definitely a movie for the young, for older adolescents whose selfish, centre-of-the-universe mentalities are just blossoming into an ability to empathise. But James Cameron is always trapped in that place, not suspecting how much truer to himself he was with Aliens and his Terminator movies.

Looking at the Wikipedia entry for the RMS Titanic, I find myself struggling somewhat to feel for the actual tragedy through the silly pageant Cameron made of it. Mostly I just can't help giggling at, "Nearly every first-class woman survived." Right-o!

So I sort of suspect the people of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles are trying to seduce James Cameron into directing an episode. Come on, James. Cameron's a first class woman.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I made a frustrated attempt at grocery shopping a couple nights ago at 2am. The Ralph's stores, which I'd relied on to be open 24 hours, are all changing to close at 1am. My grandmother suggested it had something to do with the company not being able to afford the overhead now.

I suppose I can see the advantage of a diurnal schedule. I just can't seem to get to sleep. I tried really hard to get to sleep at 6am last night, but I didn't accomplish slumber until 7am. I just keep pushing it further and further. I feel like Superman reversing the Earth's rotation. Speaking of somewhat dodgy time travel logic, I rather enjoyed last night's episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It was written by Toni Graphia, the same woman who'd written the great "Allison from Palmdale" episode earlier this season. Clearly, Graphia likes writing about Cameron. Graphia's Wikipedia profile, aside from noting that she's a television writer and producer, says of her only; "She is openly lesbian." Excellent.

I'd been thinking how much I'd like to see more of a focus on Cameron, and here this episode speedily delivered. The shows sucked me into the old, seductive dance with a robot, "Does she have emotions or doesn't she?" that I'd first tangoed with Brent Spiner. The third season episode of TNG featuring Data's daughter Lal (which I watched again a couple of days ago) may've marked my transition into the android receptive puberty our future overlord nanites had seeded me with in utero.

As is the case for every television series anywhere from any time, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is sexier than Star Trek: The Next Generation. So this may mark my transition into later robot receptive adolescence. Still, I wonder how long the show can tease me before I'll get bored from the lack of a substantial commitment to a character path for Cameron. For now, I'll enjoy the age old Mona Lisa mystery of a pretty android face which may or may not be expressing genuine emotional responses.

As for other aspects of the episode, yes, there were problems with anachronisms (a radio newsman in the 20s wouldn't say "how in God's name"), and the whole episode makes us wonder again why terminators weren't sent back in time for Sarah's ancestors, but I enjoyed it, including the slightly unbelievable climax. I'm even starting to like John Connor now, and I think it's entirely due to the leather jacket he's started wearing. His dull blankness suddenly seems moody and mysterious. The jacket does for him what it did for James Marshall on Twin Peaks.

I suppose I'd better get to the grocery store now . . .

Monday, December 01, 2008

Happy birthday, St. Sisyphus.

Neil Gaiman's blog to-day has an interesting post wherein he replies to someone who wrote him to speak somewhat in favour of the prosecution of an American man for owning lolicon manga. Gaiman makes a good argument for the idea that, when it comes to freedom of speech, sometimes you have to defend the indefensible in order to preserve that freedom.

I've never read any lolicon. I've seen some pretty gob smacking hentai, though. Stuff involving incest and children that did nothing more than turn my stomach and make me wonder how people could enjoy it. But I don't think people that do enjoy it are therefore dangerous. I think they're pathetic, quite honestly, but not dangerous, nor do I think such hentai causes paedophilia or incites people to commit crimes. I think there's a lot of weight to the argument that such porn actually prevents violence by providing an alternative outlet. There's at least as much evidence for that as the argument that it causes violence.

As for the specific case of lolicon, which features sexual depictions of childlike characters, its existence makes perfect sense within the context of what I know of contemporary Japanese popular culture. Earlier this year, I posted about the drive in Japanese art to cheer up a country with an abnormally high suicide rate. I mentioned a Magical Girl series called Princess Tutu which, like all Magical Girl series, seems written for little girls, but also features sexualised images of those girls--not, I suppose, terribly different from shows in the United States such as Hannah Montana, which features some surprisingly strong sexual innuendo played off as unintentional (I posted about it here).

My favourite anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, features fourteen year-old main characters who are often shown in very adult circumstances. It never really bothered me, for a couple reasons. For one thing, the fourteen year-old characters don't look or act much differently from the characters who are much older than them. Also, Shinji, the fourteen year-old protagonist, is to me clearly an avatar for series creator, Hideaki Anno. All the fourteen year-olds on the show are rendered with complex psychological problems, and always distinctly human, and it's long been my opinion that children in Evangelion and many other anime series are given problems actually experienced by adults in real life because adults aren't permitted to acknowledge these problems in themselves without incurring a great deal of shame.

The other side of the coin is what I see as the natural progression from what was started by Walt Disney--giving cartoon characters large eyes. This artistic conceit was adopted by early manga and anime artists and evolved into increasingly larger eyes as well as other childlike features on characters that aren't necessarily children. To the point where we have now a series like Lucky Star, which features high school students who look like six year-olds. I find Lucky Star to be a fascinatingly boring series, as it appears to be just scenes of these four girls having absolutely mundane and flavourless conversation. It seems to be aimed at the same kind of guy who plays dating sims, guys who need something to simulate the regular human interaction he can't acquire normally. Except these girls have distinctly unnatural features.

The first episode of the new Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei OVA series pokes fun at a group of guys who aren't attracted to a gorgeous, real woman, instead preferring a television showing an episode of the anime series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

But this fetishisation goes beyond youthful physical characteristics. These girls are also often given comically stupid personalities. There's also a big subgenre of shonen (for boys) manga and anime called harem, which typically features a male protagonist surrounded by beautiful girls who are automatically, helplessly in love with him. I'm actually a fan of a couple harem series, as several are genuinely funny and feature entertaining characterisations. But what it reminds me of is the bar women of Mikio Naruse's When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, who, while they're not being paid to have sex with their male customers, are being paid to present themselves as simple, beautiful, and attentive. In his commentary for Yasujiro Ozu's Floating Weeds, Roger Ebert mentioned asking someone why there were so many good Japanese actresses, and he was told that it was because Japanese women were taught from an early age, mostly by a sort of subliminal osmosis, to affect a certain persona, which breeds a skill for acting.

So, if one is to take this childlike behaviour traditionally found to be attractive and combines it with the childlike features of cartoon women, one gets something that looks like modern manga and anime. It's an artform that is capable of producing genuinely valuable artistic expression, but one has to adjust and even in some way appreciate the fetishes of the culture that produced it. In the end, I think whether or not someone is capable of loving someone who is his or her intellectual equal has little to do with their physical attraction to childlike imagery. I think there are people who confuse the desire to dominate another with genuine love, but you can't change such people by withholding their porn.