Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cats On Trains or Brains or Cats On Trains In Brains or Brains with Whiskers

The desire to writhe in comfort may strike a cat with sudden urgency;

That footage of Snow is from a couple nights ago, I just haven't had time to upload it. I was happy to see him since the coyotes had been so noisy the night before, I thought he'd met the fate of too many cats around here. But the coyotes were probably just going on about the legions of rabbits around here. The music's by Bernard Herrmann from the North by Northwest soundtrack--it's the first train station scene.

Last night's tweets;

Time sneaks suits onto silver bullet trains.
Flight of Roger Thornhill's not for the meek.
Grey undead rain clouds grab broadly for brains.
Blue wallpaper's the sad meat from last week.

Huge headache to-day, and my brain was pretty dull yesterday. I started to wonder if it was my new blue wallpaper, but I really can't take issue with Kiri Komori.

I signed onto Second Life briefly before bed last night and actually found someone willing to play chess with me. It was a place called the Isle of Lesbos, a women's only place, and I hope I don't get banned for being a guy in real life since it's the first place I've found in months where it looked like people might actually be willing to play chess. I considered joining the Internet Chess Club, which Howard Stern uses, but it costs money, making Second Life, ironically, the better deal. Well, provided I can find people to play.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Need More Caffeine

Last night's tweets;

Warily translate overheard statements.
The thin woman lives in a secret well.
Allen Ginsberg hears from under pavements.
Much to authority shall tea stalks tell.

I went to Mitsuwa, the Japanese market, yesterday and bought some kind of apple flavoured green tea. The bags are those cool, balloon kinds were you can see the big leaves and, in this case, apple matter instead of just mulch grain you see in the standard 2D teabag. It was decent tea, not nearly as sweet as I thought it was going to be.

I had no energy whatsoever yesterday for some reason. I drew and inked a page of comic rather late in the day after running a few errands and then just could not rouse myself sufficiently to colour. I ate dinner early, watching the two hour premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sixth season. Much better than the season finale of the fifth season with kamikaze Buffy which didn't work plotwise, though I presume Whedon thought it worked thematically somehow. I haven't put it together myself.

The first episode of the sixth season, though, holds together a lot better than I remember--Buffy's perspective immediately upon being resurrected was interesting, and Willow's at her absolute best, not only in terms of how she's written, but she's light years from her terrible season four Robin Williams-esque wardrobe. She wore a black and dark plum dress last night I particularly liked.

The word "avoidy" was used a couple times in the episode, in true Whedony fashion, and I found myself wondering if Sarah Palin's a big Buffy fan--she has a daughter named Willow and she infamously coined the term "Mavericky".

Sorry if I put a piece of tin foil in your teeth, Buffkateers.

I found myself watching a 1989 Barbara Walters interview with Audrey Hepburn on YouTube just before I went to sleep. It's interesting how Walters already looked 80 and Hepburn looked so incredibly vibrant just a few years before she died.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Love Stories, Fairy Tales, and Fabrications

I've put my skills as webcomic writer/artist, such as they are, up for auction at Care Faith Hope, a live journal community dedicated to raising money for my friend Moira and her husband T, who's in need of heart surgery. The two don't have health insurance, so they're very much in need. Aside from my offer, there are a lot of other cool looking items and services up for auction, so please check it out.

Twitter Sonnet #65

My arrabbiata's nude of noodles.
Garlic's the goal of the noblest searches.
Sweetly physical are the heart's doodles.
Strange women smoke in the biggest churches.
Zombie Jabba spies his favourite Twi'Lek.
Dancing alone in a noisy strip mall.
She's sacred as a barber pole's phallic.
Distracted cartoon angels never fall.
Planets orbit thanks to networked rabbits.
Many Alices aren't really crazy.
Cross hatched holes make efficient travel nets.
While a fierce cat's motives might be hazy.
Beauty's on the edge of a screen by Sartre.
Stars mark the limits of a young dom's heart.

I watched the last episode of Bakemonogatari to-day, which turned out to be very sweet. Senjoghara's vulnerabilities came through subtly enough from behind her latent dom personality, and Araragi's inexhaustible shyness wasn't quite as annoying to me as it once was. I still definitely sympathise more with Senjogohara, though I am usually the one who likes to get the ball rolling in relationships.

I can see now that Senjogohara's sexual advances were entirely aimed at making Araragi uncomfortable--I still wish there had been at least one real, juicy make-out scene. Oh, well. The show's still 8 billion times better than most anime. It certainly blew CANAAN out of the water, which suffered from having its finale released at the same time. CANAAN was an example of arbitrarily assigned melodrama to character types, and Bakemonogatari turned out to be subversions of anime character types to illuminate human, otaku depth. Very nice.

Roger Ebert conducted an interesting interview with Michael Moore about his upcoming film, Capitalism, a Love Story. This was the most fascinating part to me;

"Nobody wants to look stupid, " he told me, "so everybody sort of nods their heads and goes, Oh yeah, yeah, I understand that. You're not supposed to understand it. It's like a snipe hunt on Wall Street.

It's amazing to me how much trouble was caused simply because some people weren't willing to look stupid. Partly I blame internet culture--I think a lot of people have grown so comfortable substituting googled knowledge for their own, and the past nine years have been so much about taunting public officials for being stupid, that now people are absolutely terrified to look like they don't know something. Though there's also the possibility that many of these people didn't necessarily get through all their college classes in a totally honest fashion and they don't know what they are and are not supposed to know.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fantastic Voyage

Guns, Girls, and Gin

Last night's tweets;

Zombie Jabba spies his favourite Twi'Lek.
Dancing alone in a noisy strip mall.
She's sacred as a barber pole's phallic.
Distracted cartoon angels never fall.

And then, to-day, I found I'd gotten an @reply from someone named Gold Five; "Stay on target!" I looked at his profile and saw that he says that to anyone who makes a Star Wars reference. I love it.

I finally got a good day's sleep to-day. I had my alarm wake me at 2pm and I fell asleep at around 5:30am. I think I only woke up twice during that period, and I had a dream that there was a bar I went to every day after some undefined blue collar job. One day, I was surprised to find the bartender had been replaced by Megan Fox. She smiled at me and said, "You want a gin and tonic, don't you?"

"No, actually," I said, "a gin martini with garlic stuffed olives." She delivered. I'm still thinking I might see Jennifer's Body.

I'm so glad to feel awake to-day. Yesterday just sucked. I didn't get anything done, either, and I've got to finish two pages to-day. I spent some time in Second Life last night and ended up just wanting some plain brilliant movie that went down smooth, so I watched Goodfellas. I love when Lorraine Bracco says, "I know there are women like my best friends who would have gotten out of there the minute their boyfriends gave them a gun to hide, but I didn't. I gotta admit the truth, it turned me on."

Wow, googling to find the exact quote, I found this site which not only has mp3s of Goodfellas quotes, but ringtones of them. Sugoi.

I probably oughta mention I watched the last episode of CANAAN with breakfast to-day. The show kind of hadn't been good for about six episodes, though. It was strange--the first five or so had great animation, imaginatively sensual direction, and complicated stories. But suddenly the backgrounds became very plain, all the situations the characters were in suddenly became just excuses for them to say extremely emotional things to each other without them having been earned by any established characterisation, and everything I was interested in was left unaddressed, or they were resolved rather arbitrarily. Hugely disappointing for a show that'd had such promise.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Perfecting Dolls

Last night's tweets;

My arrabbiata's nude of noodles.
Garlic's the goal of the noblest searches.
Sweetly physical are the heart's doodles.
Strange women smoke in the biggest churches.

Oof. Bad headache to-day. I don't think I had enough caffeine yesterday because I barely slept for the fact that my head felt like it was shrinking every few minutes. I stayed in bed until 3pm, but still crawled out feeling oh so shitty. Must press on . . .

In Second Life last night, Toubanua gothed it up at Edelweiss' absolutely amazing recreation of Mount Saint Michel;

I found myself noticing how odd Toubanua looked last night compared to everyone else. This is a pretty typical look in SL;

No-one seems to feel funny about having Michael Jackson noses in Second Life. Which really brings home the reality that Jackson wasn't so strange, just in a peculiar position. I have a feeling Toubanua's pretty unnattractive by the standards of most SL people for her actually larger than average nose. What is this aesthetic humanity's moving towards? If it weren't for the huge lips, I'd say it's all about easing into people just having fleshless skulls.

Give me Barbara Stanwyck and Audrey Hepburn.

Instead of Buffy the Vampire Slayer last night, I watched the season premiere of Dollhouse. Very nice. I especially liked Whiskey/Dr. Saunder's business with Topher. It reminded me of Roy Batty with Tyrell except Tohper's a little more sympathetic. It was a good exploration of the possible psychological implications of living and working alongside the person who created you--her attempts to guess Topher's intentions with her by reverse deduction using her own personality as clues was great. The very human network of excuses she tells herself to prevent her from leaving the dollhouse had great resonance. This was some of the best writing in Joss Whedon's career.

At Tim's house last night, I watched a bunch of production diaries for Star Wars: The Old Republic, the upcoming Star Wars MMORPG. On the one hand, I love BioWare's attention to dialogue and player interaction through dialogue. I think it might add the story element that's sorely lacking in MMORPGs to-day. On the other hand, I wish the dialogue trees were written by people with a better grasp on human nature. An example Tim and I watched of someone getting dark side points for killing a guy where he wouldn't have gotten dark side points for not killing him and using him to kill lots more people was sadly indicative of something too common in computer RPGs--it's not really a simulation of human interaction, it's a puzzle box dressed as human interaction. But I can't help feeling a system like this could be used to tell stories about characters.

There just needs to be more imaginative people at the helm. I noticed nearly all the male characters sounded like Clint Eastwood and all the female characters sounded like phone sex operators. Not to mention it features more of the intensely loud, silly, and ugly wardrobe designs of the Knights of the Old Republic series.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Fish Who would be Girl and the Sea that would Keep Her

The first hour or so of Gake no Ue no Ponyo is so good I was crying. Just looking at it made me impossibly happy. It was like a new Disney movie from the 1950s directed by Yasujiro Ozu. Which is not to say it's exactly like a production from either man, though I realised that Miyazaki is more truly an heir to both than anyone in America or Japan.

I think this is the most dreamlike Miyazaki movie, there's less of a clear distinction between the real world and the magic world, mainly because of its fantastic stylisation, my favourite example of which were the waves which were apparently animated by Miyazaki himself;

They look like waves in old Japanese paintings and yet they move like real water. In my favourite scene of the film, when Ponyo unlocks a great power hoarded by her mad scientist/sorcerer father, the water and the meticulously animated legions of ever present sea life seem to become one. Ponyo, whose father had named her Brunhilde, rides a massive tsunami composed of deep blue, enormous fish waves and Joe Hisaishi's score, especially with undulating, high strings in the background, sounds so close to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" that one suspects Miyazaki only refrained from using the actual music because it's become too familiar.

The story is an interesting fusion of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid and Richard Wagner's Die Walkure, but this may be the Miyazaki film with the least relevant plot. The characters are wonderfully alive, but they mainly seem to exist in this world just as an excuse to animate what Miyazaki wanted to animate. It's for this reason I found the first hour much better than the last forty minutes, though those last forty minutes are far greater than most movies out there right now. They contain, for one thing, a glorious sequence of prehistoric sea life roaming a flooded village as the children gaze at them from a small boat and recite their names.

I watched the Japanese version, and it's hard for me to imagine Disney broodlings Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas delivered better performances than the actors Miyazaki picked out himself, but I might want to check this movie out on the big screen anyway. I recommend you do, too. Disney's certainly very unfortunately undersold this beautiful thing.

Twitter Sonnet #64

The giant squid are growing in number.
The pigeons have been dreaming about it.
In their high shopping mall, wide-eyed slumber.
They woo amateur models through the net.
Girls drawn by a solo singing goblin.
Most coffee places have useless hours.
Daytime caffeine is somehow so maudlin.
In sunlit aqueducts wine soon sours.
Honey's good to give a girl from the sea.
Or Valkyrie riding on hand-drawn wave.
Have at twelve an extra cup of green tea.
Better than you'd like sometimes clocks behave.
Brynhild didn't need to become human.
Link went to Hyrule to find elf women.

This spider sprang out from behind my computer last night;

The music is "Gouin ni Mai Yeah" from the Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei soundtrack by Hasegawa Tomoki.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Passive Cruelty to Self

I love how no-one told David Bowie to wear a cup with his tights in Labyrinth. Or maybe it was intentional, since the movie's about a girl coming of age, a girl resisting growing up--It makes sense the most threatening thing is this attractive, strange guy. The fact that he's a goblin king, very "snips and snails and puppy dogs, too" is perfect.

So, I'm kind of torn about how I feel about Jennifer Connelly in the movie. On the one hand, I want her to be a stronger presence, and for her to exhibit more attraction to Jareth, or at least more complicated feelings about him. But on the other hand, the fact that she is very plain makes her a sort of "every-girl" for an audience of young girls to project their own feelings on. Aside from the fact that she's clinging to childhood a bit, she doesn't have many distinguishing characteristics.

There are things I'd prefer that the movie had included that I don't think would objectively improve it--I think I might simply have been hungering for a slightly different movie. I wished the girl in the part of Sarah had as good a singing voice as David Bowie and that the movie had been a full-fledged musical, though, on the other hand, the fact that Bowie's voice is used to convey her feelings at the beginning and the end of the movie is interesting, too.

I would certainly have liked more scenes like this one;

She's in frumpy, boring clothes for almost the whole movie, it's nice to see Sarah looking great, though, again, sort of blank here, almost a Twilight performance. But then, again, that's sort of perfect. Jareth and everything in the labyrinth is full of tonnes more personality than Sarah. I love Brian Froud's designs, especially these little foetus monsters on sticks;

There's a logic implied by their appearance--they got great choppers, but they're not so much for getting around on their own. Stories pop out of the landscape seemingly without even trying, and then there's the curious moments of Bowie in the Escher sequence where we go to him music video style. It seems we're meant to feel for him, but Sarah's not privy to this stuff--are we breaking from her perspective?

Then we get to the stuff in the final confrontation where Jareth says he'll be her servant if she just lets him rule her. Superficially, this is a good setup for the, "You have no power over me," key line, teaching girls not to let pretty boys prey on their emotions. But was that really what Jareth was all about? He points out that everything he did was because she asked him to, including kidnap the kid. He points out that he was frightening for her, as though she'd requested that he be, and one considers that if this is all her fantasy come to life, then this is what she wanted. Maybe he represents an internal mechanism of hers to teach her how to handle boys.

But damnit, I want them to fall in love. Don't you? And by "you" I mean anyone who's ever watched the movie.

I also thought maybe the movie could be seen as a version of Eyes Wide Shut, with Connelly in the Tom Cruise role. Though I guess lack of sexual desire can't really be seen as odd in a girl her age.

There are a couple things I think are just plain strikes against the film, regardless of my own selfish desires for it--I don't think the battle sequence works at the end. It's a lot of chaotic shuffling about, and it lacks the personality of most of the other scenes. Jim Henson, as a director, I'm afraid might be the weakest link in that the movie feels like a television show, even with the very wide aspect ratio. Though Henson's talent for making puppets seem alive was certainly phenomenal.

My tweets from last night;

Girls drawn by a solo singing goblin.
Most coffee places have useless hours.
Daytime caffeine is somehow so maudlin.
In sunlit aqueducts wine soon sours.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Can't Happen in Places that Don't Exist

Last nights tweets;

The giant squid are growing in number.
The pigeons have been dreaming about it.
In their high shopping mall, wide-eyed slumber.
They woo amateur models through the net.

A picture I took of pigeons I found hidden at the mall, outside the JC Penney. There was a hokey try-out catwalk for aspiring models inside the mall last night. Maybe I shouldn't make fun--I'm sure it's possible I saw the Tyra Bankses and Elizabeth Hurleys of the future lined up for it. Is Tyra short for tyrannosaurus, do you suppose?

I was at the mall getting tea--not herbal tea, before you even ask. Pure, mean, caffeinated tea, the way the angry bull gods of the underworld intended. Though I guess just being at the mall, combined with the fact that I spent an hour playing World of Warcraft last night, would probably earn me enough demerits at Werner Herzog's school to make the tea question moot.

I've already pencilled, inked, and gotten halfway through colouring a page of comic to-day. Maybe I'll watch a movie when I'm done. I kind of wish I had last night instead of whiling away two hours with Second Life and WoW. I saw that Second Life's website has a couple recommended places to visit, so I visited a couple art and museum places. I visited a place that had sets based on famous paintings with poseballs to put your avatar in the painting. Most of them were nude paintings, oddly enough. The thing was set up so that you clicked on the painting you wanted on one floor and then you were teleported to the floor below where the set was generated. I clicked a black and white picture of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in a scene from Pulp Fiction (you know, that famous painting) and was teleported to a street and bright red brick building facade that looked like Sesame Street. Two avatars were there, jumping around and talking to each other in gibberish, a non-descript woman and an astronaut in a space suit. They seemed to be trying to talk to me at one point, and I don't know if they were trying to fuck with me or if they were genuinely lost and confused and for some reason expected me to have the dialogue decoder they were using.

I finally got to the first episode of Angel to feature Fred (technically the second episode, but the first where she has a speaking part). It took way too long for her to show up. I hear in the official comics Ilyria gets some of Fred's memories at one point. I might have to check that out.

Boy, that girl got a raw deal. They find her as a slave in a demon dimension, and then she dies a couple years later and has her soul destroyed. I mean, that's gotta be a mindfuck for the Christian viewers. I can imagine the conversation; "Death is when God accepts your soul in heaven." "But what if the soul was destroyed?" "God would never let that happen." "I understand, but what if, for some reason, he did?" "He wouldn't, though, it's a pointless conversation." "But I'm asking you to imagine." "But it wouldn't happen." "I understand, but . . ." And so on. You can tell I've talked to some zealots in my time, can't you?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to Find a Real Cat?

Twitter Sonnet #63

Merlin's the least canny man in England.
Sometimes the flora isn't green enough.
That's when bright green coloured light lends a hand.
Finding just grey punctuation is rough.
Story's the scrabbled eggs in the muffins.
Contrary instincts make mages aloof.
Delivering plate mail are fey dolphins.
Silver scale faerie gowns are waterproof.
No-one told me that the blinds fall slowly.
Alcohol eliminates dust and air.
Perhaps helping hands are badly holy.
Rarest pleasure is the honest nightmare.
Memories are in one hundred percent.
And to that much the fake cat won't assent.

People on the internet sure like to be bulbous. One of the things that kept me away from World of Warcraft was all the Popeye arms and legs, and how everything seemed to have a big stumpy end. It was cute in Warcraft 2, but I felt a whole World of Warcraft needed something a little subtler. I've noticed Blizzard's been moving away from that aesthetic, most notably with the Blood Elves, but I see it elsewhere too--I was noticing it in Second Life last night, where I wandered a while. I got myself "age certified" as part of Second Life's new content restrictions, and I actually had to jump through a few hoops to get it, so I figured I might as well enjoy it. But, as I remembered, most of the "adult" areas were made up of basic, bright coloured shapes. I guess people are too busy boinking on poseballs to work on the scenery.

But I also noticed the few people I saw roaming around were either of the scary skeleton variety or the oddly protruding lumps of flesh variety. In both cases, tentacles of gaudiness invariably seemed to be reaching from them in the form of platinum hair or cartoonishly gleaming bling. I don't mean to sound so superior, I know not everyone's an artist, and everyone should be allowed to get their kicks, provided they're not hurting anyone else. But I offer this piece of gentle advice--maybe try toning it down a little? Imagine an entire world populated by a sitcom "annoying uncle" character in a loud plaid suit carting around his "inventions". That's mostly what Second Life looks like to me nowadays. And the internet in general, for that matter. I suspect this is not the sexiness you really dreamed of.

I suddenly wish I had a spare 1500 dollars, as I would certainly like to enrol in Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School. One of my favourite bits from the website;

Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.

Oh, yes. I want to say this as plainly, and as loudly as possible--


I mean that.

I also like this;

Follow your vision. Form secretive Rogue Cells everywhere. At the same time, be not afraid of solitude.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shiny Kings

Last night's tweets;

Story's the scrabbled eggs in the muffins.
Contrary instincts make mages aloof.
Delivering plate mail are fey dolphins.
Silver scale faerie gowns are waterproof.

Feeling a little more energetic to-day, but I still have this feeling that time's slipping out of my hands at lightning speed.

I had a lot of trouble getting to work on the script for Chapter 25 last night, though, fortunately, I'd written half of it already at the same time I wrote 34. It wasn't until I took my notebook to Denny's last night that I finally managed to finish writing the thing--my will was just too weak yesterday. Sometimes I have to go somewhere without distractions. I was so out of it yesterday, I actually sat down and watched television for almost an hour.

And I watched Excalibur over the past couple nights. This is a movie my opinion on which goes back and forth. I absolutely loved it when I was a kid and well into my adolescence--it has a very unique atmosphere, though it was only later I learned how much of its music was not written for the film. What's identified as the "Excalibur Theme" on the soundtrack is actually "Trauermarsch" from the fourth in Wagner's Der Ring Des Nibelungen series of operas. It makes sense that it's a song associated with the end of the world, or the world of gods and heroes, because it always implied to me a reality of darkness bigger than I could comprehend.

I don't really hold that against the film, but knowing this, for a while, kind of disassociated the film from its soundtrack in a weird way for me. Almost like, watching it, I was thinking to myself the whole time, "Well, this music isn't really about what's happening." Maybe it's Quentin Tarantino and his use of Ennio Morricone music from unrelated movies that have helped me to appreciate it again.

So I enjoy the movie again, and not just as a nostalgia thing, but also I've come to appreciate that John Boorman really did have a very good eye for composition. There's something so wonderfully old school fantasy about so many beautiful shots of Irish forest in a medieval fantasy film now that New Zealand's become the go-to cinematic fantasy locale of the past decade. Yes, New Zealand is beautiful and great, but it's just not the same. It doesn't have quite the same peculiar combination of gloom and bright green.

To this latter point, I was fascinated by Boorman's lighting choices. The sets are often lit with intensely artificial blues and purples, and even outdoor, daytime forest settings are often augmented by intense green light, making the foliage an unnatural, intense brilliant green.

And he uses this green light on Excalibur's gleaming blade to interesting effect, and I was reminded that Ang Lee did something similar with the Green Destiny in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Though, on the subject of the sword, one thing that still bothers me about the movie is John Boorman's daughter playing The Lady of the Lake.

This is a movie I actually applaud for not being historically accurate (no one really wants to see Anglo-Saxon chieftain Arthur) but, jeez, not only is this hair not remotely medieval, it's just too casual. It says, "Hi, I'm Cindy, and I'll be your aquatic apparition for the day." Otherwise, the 80s inclination towards trapezoidal hair shapes actually kind of fits the milieu.

The costumes I don't have a problem with either, not even the "let's do absolutely everything in full plate mail" mentality of the knights. Anyway, it's really great plate mail, of the kind you don't see much in movies otherwise.

I've always gone back and forth about how I feel about the "series of parables" quality the movie has. Taken as stories of characters over a period of time, it doesn't make any sense. We jump immediately from a scene of noble young Arthur to one where he wants to fight to the death with Lancelot over the right to cross a bridge while Lancelot's only offering his services as a tutor. How insightful can Merlin be if he can't tell from the beginning the kind of guy Uther is? Nearly every miniature story in the movie relies on the characters having learned nothing from any previous story. Because the point is to teach the audience ethics and self-reflection--don't covet your neighbour's wife, don't be controlled by your pride, and if you let yourself go, the people and house around you suffer as well.

Which makes it all the more curious that this movie is definitely a hard R--they're morality tales for adults, though gods know they need them nowadays. I'll never cease to be amazed that John Boorman directed a scene of his daughter, topless, essentially being date raped by a guy full plate armour. Now that's focusing on telling a story. And that's just one scene among many of unabashed, extreme brutality in this movie. There really needs to be more medieval fantasy like that. Or maybe I'm just getting sick from all the Warcraft candy.

I find the performances I appreciate in the film have changed a bit. I liked Merlin when I was a kid, but now find Nicol Williamson's performance the least interesting in the film. I know Boorman intentionally cast him and Helen Mirren as rivals in the film because they didn't like each other in real life, but I wonder if their mutual dislike had anything to do with the fact that they appear to subscribe to two different acting philosophies. You can see Williamson trying to think of the most interesting way of delivering lines, while Mirren's solely concerned with figuring out how her character feels about what's happening and creating deliveries that reflect those feelings.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ghost Pirates in Ghost Worlds

Last night's spider in my bathroom;

That's the clearest shot I could get. My unsteady hands thwart so many of my artistic endeavours. It's amazing I'm able to type.

Played a lot of World of Warcraft at Tim's last night, getting the special pirate day outfits for both my undead warrior and my human rogue;

It was hardest to do with my level 23 rogue, who I had to take through Stranglethorn to get it. I basically had to corpse jump a lot of the time--in WoW, when one dies, they have to run back to their corpse from a graveyard as a ghost, and you can resurrect a few feet from your corpse in any direction, so in this way you can progress through dangerous areas very slowly.

I had a problem resurrecting my undead warrior at one point last night, too, when she accidentally fell into the crater next to Tanaris into a spot I could only access as a ghost by running all the way back to Tanaris. Which I did, only to fall into another hole as a ghost, and I was forced to use the "character stuck" button in the help options. At least there is such a thing--how horrible to be a spirit trapped forever in some geometrical accident in the landscape.

I'm running behind to-day and feeling very sluggish . . . Maybe it's all this Leonard Cohen I've been listening to.

Last night's tweets;

Merlin's the least canny man in England.
Sometimes the flora isn't green enough.
That's when bright green coloured light lends a hand.
Finding just grey punctuation is rough.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Sounds You're Permitted to Hear

My sister's cat, Saffy, from last night;

Music by Wojiech Kilar from the soundtrack to Bram Stoker's Dracula. I originally used some music from the first season Twin Peaks soundtrack, but YouTube disabled the audio before I'd even finished uploading it, as apparently it's owned by Warner Brothers. Wow. I mean, it was an excerpt of a song, it didn't even start at the beginning, but somehow YouTube has a mechanism that was able to recognise music from a soundtrack released in the early 90s from that much. Fortunately, it looks like the Dracula soundtrack's been out of print for a while except as part of a compilation of Wojciech Kilar and it looks like that compilation is put out by a group that's not a bunch of dipshits.

And, because I woke in the middle of the day and decided to tweet before falling back to sleep, it's already time for;

Twitter Sonnet #62

There's always room for penniless barons.
Sometimes there's no room for English muffins.
Memory fey are far from their warrens.
Hard peas rattling safely in their coffins.
There's never a ghoul here when you need one.
Consummate cowards are without limits.
Upon zombie resurrection they run.
Into fast centuries they turn minutes.
All my online friends look like Lily Cole.
I don't wake up when I wake up early.
Your tongue key can plunder a pirate's soul.
Old batteries make sailors so surly.
Your power's in potatoes and lemons.
Give your period piece to Jean Simmons.

It was actually only Moira I dreamt had posted a bunch of pictures of herself that revealed she looked exactly like Lily Cole.

Last night I watched "Dead End", which wasn't one of the better episodes of Angel, but I still greatly prefer the basic high stakes feel of the show compared to Buffy. Although, the previous episode, "Disharmony", is one of my favourites for being an exceptionally good comedy episode. I don't normally dig the sitcom humour, except it seems perfectly plausible in this case--Cordelia hanging out with vampire Harmony makes sense when you realise Harmony was shallow and obnoxious before she was a vampire, and talking to her allows Cordelia to take a break from her new, more serious perspective on life.

I guess this is my favourite era of Cordelia--she's not the irritating saint yet, and she's not the cruel popular girl anymore either, though her moments of "truth-teller" in that first incarnation occasionally reached highs her character never achieved again.

The episode actually plays around with the somewhat murky definition of the "soul" that the two Buffy shows kind of stepped into. I realised that the only difference it seems to make is that people without souls in the Buffy-verse don't mind when people they don't know die. Which, oddly, is what makes Spike such a sympathetic character--he only cares about the people we care about. It makes him actually more sympathetic than any of the characters with souls, as we all tend to see the lives of fictional characters as having value only in relation to how interesting they are.

I have still been watching Buffy, as this screenshot I took of Buffy and Giles wearing thick sweaters and suede jackets in the middle of a desert attests;

She was out there on a vision quest so maybe they figured delirium from heat stroke would speed things along.

Peace and Love, Peace and Love

Friday, September 18, 2009

Depth and Quality of Illusion

Last night's tweets;

There's always room for penniless barons.
Sometimes there's no room for English muffins.
Memory fey are far from their warrens.
Hard peas rattling safely in their coffins.

I guess because I was in a Jean Renoir mood last night, I watched his 1936 adaptation of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths. Criterion packaged it with Akira Kurosawa's adaptation of the play, inviting the viewer to compare the two films in an interesting little marketing strategy. Of course, I was mostly interested in the Kurosawa film (which I wrote about back in May), but I like Renoir okay. I've only seen two other movies by him, The Rules of the Game, which I really liked, and The Woman on the Beach, which I thought was a decent film noir, though not one I'd place among the greats.

His version of The Lower Depths is a completely different story than Kurosawa's and, I would say, much inferior. Renoir himself, apparently, shared this opinion, as, according to this essay included with the Criterion DVD set, Renoir said of the Kurosawa film, "That is a much more important film than mine."

It's amazing to note, then, that Renoir's script had Gorky's seal of approval, particularly since it deviates so wildly from the source material. Gorky died long before Kurosawa's 1957 extremely faithful adaptation and it would be interesting to know which he'd have preferred.

Maybe he simply read Renoir's script from the standpoint of whether or not it would be a good movie, for it certainly isn't bad. But wildly different--it's like a different person wearing clothes woven from thin scraps pulled from the original play. The first hour and fourteen minutes deal with the Baron's fall from grace--the Samurai in the Kurosawa film, who was a minor character who only may have actually had the prestigious social position he claims to have had. In Renoir's film, the question is obliterated, one of many instances where the question about the value of illusion and reality is diminished or avoided. It's not totally absent, but not only is it less prevalent, at times an almost opposite viewpoint is expressed.

In the Kurosawa film, one finally reaches the conclusion that delusion is necessary for the poor to survive but that it was destructive at the same time. In the Renoir film, such dreams are presented as the meaning of existence, and beneficial so long as they're seen for what they are--the difference is most plain in the death of the actor, who, in the Kurosawa film kills himself in an attempt to reach the heaven the monk had described to him, while in the Renoir film he kills himself after contemplating the fact that no-one remembers his stage name, that he's lost his persona. In the Kurosawa film, the dream kills, in the Renoir film, the absence of the dream kills.

But most of the Renoir film centres on the Baron and the thief, who are both presented as almost supernaturally calm and cool gentlemen. They're likeable just for being so cool and actually, since the female lead, as Renoir himself observed later, was totally ineffective, I found the film to be mostly concerned with a barely sub-textual romance between the two men. The beginning of the film, in contrast to the play and Kurosawa film, takes place almost entirely in the homes and clubs of the decadently rich, and perhaps one of the main problems with Renoir as a medium for the Gorky play is that Renoir plainly has no idea what it's like to be poor. The Baron's story about a man who finds his bliss after he's lost everything and finds he enjoys sleeping in the grass on a summer's day would be insulting if the actor and the character he plays weren't so charming. Of course, on those rare occasions when he delivers lines from the original Gorky plot, he seems to be a completely different person.

One of the best scenes in the film was saved, many people believe, by the improvised addition of a snail--the Baron and the thief lying in the grass together discuss the different uniforms and roles they've adopted through life, which sort of touches on the theme of illusion and reality, but the whole time we're watching the snail on the Baron's hand, which plays off the charm of the actors by adding a slight carnal tinge.

Before the thief leaves with the Natasha, the woman he's in love with according to the dialogue, he kisses the Baron. It's only on the cheek, but it's done far more passionately than any of his interactions with Natasha.

The thief in the Kurosawa film was a live wire, a yakuza trying desperately to convince the young woman, frightened of the world, to share his dream of the two of them together and surviving as a couple in the world. Her skating on the edge of accepting that dream or running from it was one of the things that made the Kurosawa film incredibly beautiful.

The thief in the Renoir film is an elegant, easily confident man, somewhat reminiscent of Cary Grant's character in To Catch a Thief, sort of off-handedly pursuing a programmed relationship with a woman while mainly enjoying the time spent with the Baron, who's almost exactly like him.

So Renoir's film is a fun, slightly confused and subliminal romance, while the Kurosawa film is a real and unflinching glimpse into the inner workings of the human soul.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Venia Tries to Sort Things Out

The new Venia's Travels is online. The chapter's title, "Rules", is probably a reference both to Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game and Thea Gilmore's Rules for Jokers.

Making Words Work for You

Twitter Sonnet #61

Drinking water's dismally transparent.
Normal substance is often a letdown.
Gilt masks to legends are heirs apparent.
Garbo haunts a deserted fashion town.
Let's see if I can walk with this much mead.
My balance remains irrepressible.
I have fewer tomatoes than I need.
My tea kettle's almost combustible.
Suddenly everything smells like garlic.
A fucking pinball game for vampires.
My cigars smoked by a Eli Wallach.
The next deal for stagnation transpires.
I do love you, unspecified reader.
Surely that must make you feel much better.

I've been chopping up bits of garlic for my spaghetti almost every night and I've noticed my fingers are starting to get a permanent garlic smell. I'm one of those people, too, who washes his hands after he does something even remotely dirty, so that stuff really sticks.

A while ago, I decided "ire"s in words like "vampires" and "transpires" counted as two syllables--I figured it was inarguable that "dryer", "higher", and "flyer" had two syllables, and had the same sound as words like "fire", "wire", and "hire". You hear "I-ur".

But then last night I was reading Shakespeare's sonnets, which I actually do more than you might expect, and I noticed the first line of the first sonnet, "From fairest creatures we desire increase" counts that "ire" in "desire" as one syllable. Which has given me some consternation. The only thing I can think of is that maybe it was pronounced more like "des-ur" in Shakespeare's day, which is entirely possible, from what little I know of English from the time.

Making sure Eli Wallach's name is pronounced like I think it is, I came across this video;

Looks like his wife's got a pretty good sense of humour.

It's weird how he's the only lead from The Misfits still alive.

You know, I've been thinking I was too hard on Lady Gaga yesterday. A song doesn't need complicated lyrics to be good--I was in a bad mood yesterday. And, hey, she's doing her part to make young people more comfortable with sexuality, sort of. I like how she wears masks all the time. Which reminds me, why isn't there more porn with the female members of Batman's rogues gallery? Someone needs to get on that.

Anyway, I still say Gaga's not as daring as Josephine Baker.

The Trail of Lazy Coffee Beans

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gift Wrapped Grey Matter

I found this through someone I'm following on Twitter (BoMoh);

I have to say I frequently find comments posted on YouTube videos very intriguing. Recently this old video of Bill O'Reilly talking to footage of a kid dressed as a zombie for Halloween who only says, "I like turtles" came up on my recommended viewing. I was fascinated by this comment from someone called "writerinboulder";

You people are really this stupid? IT'S FAKED, MORONS! YOU CAN HEAR THE VOICE OF THE WOMAN HE'S INTERVIEWING IN THE BACKGROUND!!! I hate Bill O'Rielly as much as the next person, but you idiots are making Democrats look like morons by buying this shit.

Jesus fuck, read a book once in a while. Too much youtube rots your brain!

This in response to a couple people obviously very ironically wondering if the video's fake. I'd say draw your own conclusions, but I'm starting to feel like most people can't.

I watched part of Countdown with Keith Olbermann during lunch and saw his commentary on the flagrant demonstrations of racism by Obama's detractors and the rather ominous downplaying of that racism by top Republicans. Apparently Jimmy Carter said Congressman Joe Wilson's now infamous outburst during Obama's speech was racist--the other day, Howard Stern was talking about how the fact that Obama's speech couldn't be played in many schools because of parents complaining was racist. I'd have to agree, and I'm not sure which item is worse.

But during Countdown, I saw a commercial for British Petroleum that used a variety of supposed "on the street" opinions to promote a positive viewpoint on the prospect of offshore drilling. And it occurred to me that this country relies on people being stupid. The right-wing, which is supposedly about the power of the individual, is more about the few individuals who can make killings from swindling large numbers of people.

Which got me thinking about Lady Gaga. Kevin Murphy encapsulated her rather well in this RiffTrax post from last year. But somehow she's still around--I've heard more than a few people express words of unequivocal worship. All I can really see in her is the curiously pure vapidity of her lyrics. There's a sort of hardwired resistance to layers--it's utter superficiality presented as revelation. The chorus of the song "Paparazzi";

I'm your biggest fan
I'll follow you until you love me
Baby there's no other superstar
You know that I'll be your

I guess it's not surprising so many people seem utterly incapable of detecting irony. It's like whenever I see Oprah--her stories are always thickly coated with sappy music to make absolutely, positively sure you feel the right emotion. How we're going to avoid entropy through stupidity is beyond me.

My own gems from last night;

Let's see if I can walk with this much mead.
My balance remains irrepressible.
I have fewer tomatoes than I need.
My tea kettle's almost combustible.

I wrote that after finishing half a bottle of mead, yet still I easily I pwn the Lady Gaga. Though I'm guessing it's not out of line to suggest she may be under the influence of something chemical herself. Or maybe she expends all her energy on her abs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lone Spider Fashion

You'll never guess what was in my bathroom last night;

Music's by Danny Elfman from the Beetlejuice soundtrack.

My tweets from last night;

Drinking water's dismally transparent.
Normal substance is often a letdown.
Gilt masks to legends are heirs apparent.
Garbo haunts a deserted fashion town.

I'd gotten e-mails about this Moldavia Fashion Week in Second Life for a while now, so I went to check it out last night, since the amateur fashion design was always one of my favourite parts of Second Life.

It turned out all the events are scheduled for hours nowhere near when I'm available. I roamed around the deserted area a little bit. I liked their bar with the big Greta Garbo poster;

Tou looking all chic at the bar. Is it weird the thing I miss most about SL is my own avatar? I've signed on sporadically over the past couple weeks, talked to a few people, but mostly it just seems to be white trash from around the world. Oh, well.

I'm running a bit late to-day, so that's a post.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The M&M in the Spaghetti

Twitter Sonnet #60

The Nordic werewolf missed his appointment.
Beware the mountains with tiled textures.
Vary the grains in your each allotment.
Wicker men reward productive mixtures.
Nothing's so deep fried you can't add cream cheese.
Guess these are cranberries in this muffin.
To love's kingdom, civil junk food's the keys.
I'm clumsy to-night as a deaf dolphin.
Connected nuclear can phones with string;
Furious hikikomori power.
Know a caged Galatea will not sing.
Even in Lakitu's mushroom shower.
Never blindly trust a free piƱata.
Mata Hari makes the good ciabatta.

I finally watched "The Body" last night, the fifth season Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode where Buffy's mother dies. I don't think it's a bad episode, and there are several aspects of it that are well above average for the series. I think having something to focus on that he was passionate about actually forced Whedon to cut a lot of the bullshit that had accumulated on the show, like the cutesy talk, and the over the top stupidity of the characters. It was the first time since season three Willow didn't sound like an irritating moron--her obsessing over finding a specific sweater rang true as a small, psychological detail. I've been there--some hugely critical thing's happening, and having certain details just the way you want them can actually be a big source of comfort.

This was the first time Willow and Tara felt like real characters in a real relationship to me, though, at the same time, it was hard to understand Willow and Xander getting quite so worked up over Joyce's death, though this may be because I'm an emotionally stunted human being. When a friend's parent dies, yeah, I feel bad for them, but it doesn't wreck me the way it seemed to be doing to them. Though I guess the point of the Christmas flashback was that the Scooby gang was actually closer to Joyce than was ever much displayed. The fact that she was never really developed, that she remained a sort of stock sitcom mom for the whole series, doesn't help on that score, either--a line from the first season, where she said she only had nightmares "about bills" has always pretty much summed her up for me. She had some vague job at a museum or gallery, but she mostly just seemed to be a foil.

The reason we feel for her death at all was mainly in how it was shot, and there were a couple moments I really liked, like all the POV shots for Buffy--a close-up on the phone buttons, the compulsive fantasy about an alternate reality where Buffy saved her mother. And Buffy going to school to tell Dawn about what happened was strongly reminiscent of the pilot episode of Twin Peaks, and I reflected on how masterful that first episode was--people going through the regular beginning of a day and these strange, small clues start to appear before the fact of Laura's death is explicitly told. The thing about Lynch isn't that he's stranger than most people, it's that he's good at putting what's actually strange about everyone on screen. Only jerk-offs really think Lynch is out of touch with the human mind.

But back to Whedon and "The Body"--the tragedy of the episode isn't that it's bad, but that it does things that the show ought to have been doing all along, if it wanted to be more than an action sitcom--focusing on small, sensual details, developing character reactions by avoiding stilted, cheap dialogue and set-ups. That Whedon waits for Buffy's mother to die to get serious about death inevitably implies he thinks all the death and mayhem that came before doesn't quite "count". I mean, yes, it oughta mean more to Buffy, and therefore to us if we're to take the show as being from her POV, but when telling a story about mortal peril, if you want it to feel threatening, including details that create a "real" feeling world are essential. Every decent horror movie does this--it's why Alien needed Nostromo crewmen who broke each others' balls without necessarily being polished funny, why The Shining needed Danny's toys and stupid sweaters. Shit like that's good for verisimilitude, but Buffy plays as more of an ironic commentary most of the time.

So what I'm saying is basically that "The Body"'s not bad, but it kind of belongs on another show. I mean, even aside from the tone, the subject matter feels like too much of an abrupt detour. Which I wouldn't mind if it were for something I cared about--maybe people actually going through the experience of having a close family member die appreciate the story sympathetic to their experience. Which I think is cool.

I looked at Joss Whedon's Wikipedia entry and saw that his mother is, in fact, dead, so maybe he really needed the platform to vent. I also read, "The dialogue in Joss Whedon's shows and movies usually involves . . . the turning of nouns into adjectives by adding a 'y' at the end of the word ('listy'). According to one of the Buffy writers, 'It's just the way that Joss actually talks.'" Which made me wonder how people restrain themselves from punching him in the face all the time.

Maybe that's why I'm not a wildly successful screenwriter. Maybe I need to come up with some cloying speaking pattern--how about if I randomly put "ingie" at the end of words?

So, the otheringie day, I wentingie to the store-ingie and bought some bread . . .

I need more. How about random pickles?

So, Pickle, the otheringie pickle day, I wentingie to the pickle store-ingie and bought some pickle bread . . .

Say, not bad. I gotta work on this.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Swim or Die Until You Die

Last night I dreamt there was a white kitten in the backyard, maybe a young Snow. When I went outside, I found he'd killed a large opossum and enormous vampire bat.

My tweets from last night;

Nothing's so deep fried you can't add cream cheese.
Guess these are cranberries in this muffin.
To love's kingdom, civil junk food's the keys.
I'm clumsy to-night as a deaf dolphin.

I had some cream cheese stuffed rangoons from a Chinese place last night. I've had few things that seemed as extravagantly bad for me. Next door, I was given a free muffin at Starbucks. I probably oughta be eating nothing but oatmeal and cous cous for the rest of the week.

I feel a lot better than yesterday, and I think my mild illness might have been brought on by some apples I bought last week. I bit into one yesterday and found the inside had a distinctly red, bloody tinge. I kept thinking of the line from Tideland; "Sinister apples."

On the subject of depressing statements made by people who think they're making positive statements;

While eating lunch to-day, I had the television on a documentary about sharks on The Discovery Channel. A commercial came on that began with a child holding a baseball and a bat. "I'm the greatest hitter in the world!" said the kid, and proceeded to throw the ball up into the air several times, missing each time. Finally, he concluded, "Wow! I'm the greatest pitcher in the world!" and a caption came up that said, "Optimism," the point of the commercial having been that optimism is it's own reward.

Then the shark show came back, and a guy was talking about how sharks have been around for millions of years, and their techniques as hunters are well-honed. Of course, he added, there used to be various bizarre looking sharks that went extinct while evolution was still ironing out the kinks. And I'm sure he meant this to be a positive statement about sharks as a species, but I couldn't help thinking about those "bizarre" sharks, who went their whole lives being incomplete, with no opportunity to advance.

Zetsubo. Zetsubo shita.

Someone tried to call me to-day on my old phone--my phone won't tell me who because I no longer have any minutes on it. If anyone wants my new number, e-mail me-- setsuled (at)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wolves Drink Free in Old Worlds

Last night's tweets;

The Nordic werewolf missed his appointment.
Beware the mountains with tiled textures.
Vary the grains in your each allotment.
Wicker men reward productive mixtures.

At Tim's recently, I've been playing with a mod for Oblivion that converts all the locations in Morrowind and puts them in Oblivion. It works surprisingly well, though most of the quests don't function. It's still neat to see Vvardenfell with Oblivion's far greater viewing distance. I was even able to see Vvardenfell from Solstheim, where I was disappointed to find no werewolves in residence. I went to the eastern cave, where the big Nord werewolf is usually my go-to lycanthrope when I want to join the lupus club, but no dice. It's too bad, because the Morrowind werewolf was really fucking cool, even though it was possible to level your character to a point where he or she was more powerful than the wolf form. It was still always faster, and had personality--going down on all fours to run, and causing townspeople to flee in terror when you zipped into their midst.

Off to a really sluggish start on the new Venia's Travels chapter. What I thought was an abnormally bad hangover yesterday seems to be a mild sickness to-day--mainly an upset stomach and general lethargy. I can't think of anything appetising and yet I'm always hungry. If this is the fault somehow of the Wild Turkey I had on Thursday night, I don't mind. Every now and then, booze really, really hits the spot.

I need to get some mead, I've been in the mood forever. Though the tea kettle I use to heat it and sake when I have it is starting to smell funky, as much as I wash it out. More like sake than mead--I know you're supposed to heat sake in the tokkuri in a pot of boiling water, but that takes forever.

Anyway, it'll probably be a while until my stomach feels like alcohol again. I tried Guinness for the first time earlier in the week and thought it tasted like water, which I guess makes it my favourite beer so far, given all the others have tasted like piss to me. Still need to try hard cider, as a number of people, all of them pretty girls, have recommended to me.

I've finished one page of the new chapter and pencilled an additional two, so I guess I won't feel too guilty about just going over to Tim's again to-night . . .

Friday, September 11, 2009

"I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe"

Twitter Sonnet #59

Exclamation marks are never the point.
A day's barely placated by green tea.
New barons of Twitter we must anoint.
Templar Celeborn is no Roy Batty.
Health's a luxury in America.
So's always taking a taxi to lunch.
Girl once knew her name was Veronica.
Alas, scientific progress goes "crunch".
Fashion's a game for the newest gadgets.
Some cats require a camera to talk.
Papers are beset by bandit inkjets.
Histories of popcorn are lost in a wok.
Time travellers are aggressive hagglers.
Catwomen are discreet, honest burglars.

I was extremely impressed by the new Haruhi Suzumiya to-day, the last in this odd sort of second season, coming after a few episodes that had felt somewhat superfluous. What this episode did was to play with the idea of different realities created by perception and the value of those realities.

The first key moment, for me, was Mikuru's discussion with Kyon about Koizumi's assertion that Haruhi is God and unconsciously controlling and creating the universe. Mikuru, the time traveller from the future, tells Kyon in an extremely passive aggressive way that not only does she disagree with Koizumi, but she vehemently distrusts him. The way she speaks to Kyon is almost like a finagling geisha, who wishes to issue a demand to her patron without going to the vulgar length of actually stating the demand. Following this scene is one where Koizumi gently suggests that the frail, delicate creature Mikuru has appeared to be up to now has been merely a pose designed to manipulate Kyon. There's a wonderful moment where Kyon accuses Koizumi of telling a bad joke and Koizumi apologises and says, "It seems I don't know how to make jokes work," quite shrewdly figuring it doesn't matter whether Kyon vocally accepts what he's saying, only that he's heard him. He's created a reality of perception in Kyon's head whether Kyon likes it or not.

It's so shrewd, in fact, we're compelled to contemplate the possibility that Koizumi's the manipulator. The beauty of this subtle ideological conflict is also in Mikuru's existence as a perfect shonen damsel character--I've often been amazed at how anime fans either wilfully ignore, or are simply oblivious to, the fact that they are being manipulated. That the female flesh and subservient attitudes of girls in so many anime series are specifically calculated to indulge the fantasies of a male audience. But this comes with the territory that most people are ignorant of the extent to which art manipulates them--people who assume there's no significant difference in experiencing a movie while people in the room are talking, whether or not the movie's dubbed or subtitled, or in widescreen or pan-and-scan.

It could be years before there's another new episode, but as the series stands now with these additional episodes, it's an even more fascinating story of relationship psychology told with mechanisms of science fiction. It is, quite simply, what science fiction ought to be.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Medicinal Whiskey

Last night's spider in my bathroom;

Music's by Nina Rota from The Godfather soundtrack.

Last night's tweets;

Health's a luxury in America.
So's always taking a taxi to lunch.
Girl once knew her name was Veronica.
Alas, scientific progress goes "crunch".

I think just about everyone was disappointed by Obama's speech. It's kind of what I figured would happen--in trying to please everyone, he's disappointed everyone. Well, it sounds like he's got one or two new ideas, maybe they'll work out. I have a feeling this going to be patching a tire with a slice of American cheese, though.

I watched "Crush" last night, the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Buffy finds out Spike has a crush on her. It was a little better than I remembered it and it has one of my favourite exchanges;

Spike offers Buffy a flask.


SPIKE: It's not blood, it's bourbon.


There's a little bit of unintentional humour in the episode--like when Buffy doesn't pursue a couple vampires because they happened not to be the specific vampires she was looking for, or from the very fact that the episode seems to be about a guy getting soundly rebuffed for the entitlement to affection he seems to feel (which Spike didn't seem to exhibit before, by the way) and the whole time I know he and Buffy are going to be fuck buddies a few episodes down the road. The dialogue between Spike, Buffy, and Drusilla was good, though it got stretched a bit much to hit the kind of nice metaphor of Willow's spell banning Spike from the Summers' house.

Of course, I can't help feeling Spike's actually too good for Buffy (or "Spoike", as Dru calls him). But both the Buffy/Riley and Buffy/Angel relationships had kind of a "star quarterback with head cheerleader" feel--they feel hallowed and endorsed by some invisible observing culture, but there doesn't actually appear to be any chemistry. Which maybe is partly why the episode where Buffy and Riley break up works so well for me.

I think a great pair up would be Spike and Faith, actually, although it might retread the "lust from violence" theme until the tires were bald, but it'd be marvellously sexy.

That's two tire metaphors, folks. You're welcome.

Seebrirun and I have been having a spirited discussion about Blade Runner since last night here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spider Kingdom of Beautiful Oatmeal

Holy shit, Yahoo mail's gotten annoying. It's crashing Firefox for me half the time now. It seems not a day goes by Yahoo doesn't what to pile on a few more tonnes of bloat. I just wanna check my fucking mail, you degenerate slave of hyper-intelligent horses.

My tweets last night;

Exclamation marks are never the point.
A day's barely placated by green tea.
New barons of Twitter we must anoint.
Templar Celeborn is no Roy Batty.

Finished watching the director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven last night--not nearly as historically accurate as I'd hoped. I didn't see one pageboy haircut, and Eva Green hardly ever covers her hair. I was also reminded of Terry Gilliam's frequent complaint that movies in the Middle Ages feature too many people with perfect teeth. The Wikipedia entry has a rundown of much of what was and was not historically accurate, but for the most part, aside from my desire to see a simulation of the time to attain a certain headspace for my comic, I'm not concerned with historical accuracy if it's abandoned in favour of a good story. However, in this case it was often flagrantly abandoned in favour of a lousy story, particularly in its decision to portray all Templars as ridiculous assholes and all Hospitallers as wise and reasonable men. The two orders weren't very much different in reality. And, in reality, groups of people aren't normally so neatly divided into good teams and bad teams.

But the movie's a fantasy--it even follows the basic monomyth as described by Joseph Campbell, with Orlando Bloom's Bailan, who is portrayed with very modern sensibilities about foreign cultures and religions, adopting the role of that archetypical hero. Bloom delivers an exceedingly bland performance that I think confirmed for most of the world that he's not leading man material. And even aside from that, why was he continually cast as a blacksmith for a while? No amount of exercise is going to make that scrawny neck of his any bigger. It was like a bunch of people said, "Wow, that guy's perfect as an elf! Let's completely miscast him now to even things out!"

So, as a fantasy, it's not necessarily a bad idea to have clear cut heroes and villains, but in this instance it's one of several aspects that make the film feel utterly limp. Marton Csokas as Guy de Lusignan has less dimensions than Prince Humperdink in The Princess Bride, though they both seem to be doing Henry Daniell impressions.

While I like Ridley Scott's habit of not hammering every beat like even good filmmakers seem to do nowadays, his understated yet relentlessly beautiful style is not served by plain archetypes. That's why Blade Runner's his best movie--it's one of the few where the characters have truly complicated depths. Those depths aren't overtly expressed most of the time, but Scott's style somehow manipulates the viewer into concentrating on the characters to great benefit. But there's too little, for the most part, to find in Kingdom of Heaven. With its overture and intermission, it seems as though Scott was endeavouring to make his own Lawrence of Arabia. But Harry Gregson-Williams' score is as bland as the rest of the movie, completely lacking the majesty and scope of the strong themes from Lawrence of Arabia

I was really impressed with Edward Norton's performance. He wears a metal mask for the whole movie, but his personality comes right through with head tilts, voice, and eyelids alone, without feeling like an exaggerated mime performance. I didn't recognise him until I checked the cast during the intermission--with the slightly nasally voice, I had an eerie impression I was seeing a young Marlon Brando.

The film did have great costumes, sets, and wonderful cinematography. In fact, it seemed to me it must have been in making Kingdom of Heaven Scott realised the movie he really wanted to make was the movie that ended up being his next film, A Good Year, which is about little more than a guy hanging out in a beautiful world.

I did manage to get some footage of the spider from behind my computer yesterday;

I happened to be listening to a track from the Videodrome soundtrack at the time, and I thought it fit, so I kept the native sound. The heavy breathing is part of the Videodrome music, it's not me. I am not Darth Vader.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The End of the World and Dolls are Smarter than Girls in the Whedonverse

Twitter Sonnet of the Apocalypse

A cross-eyed cat is the End Times saviour.
When clouds become behemoth clay pigeons.
And the pope's a Stuart Gordon voyeur.
Quick rogue rabbits steal off with dark engines.
Quest givers contracted Williams Syndrome.
"Look for flutes in an empty asteroid belt."
Deafly smug yahoo maps keep you from home.
I know how the walkman started to melt.
Few machines can properly speak for me.
A strange, fair princess might come to hang out.
Starting death for Star Trek dichotomy.
Sometimes there's things movies might be about.
Hospitallers shall not mate with the Templars.
God's grace is the guts of caterpillars.

I watched half of the Kingdom of Heaven director's cut last night, I'll blog about it when I've watched the rest.

I also wrote the script for Chapter 34 of Venia's Travels yesterday and to-day I wrote half of 35 without really meaning to. It kind of just came to me while I was eating lunch. The other half is pretty close to solidifying, too.

I typed up the first half when I got back from the grocery store to-day and noticed a massive spider behind my computer monitor. It was too quick for me to photograph or capture, but it did lead me on a journey through a very dusty area, so I'm thinking I may need to clean to-night. Last I saw the spider, it fell among my drawing materials, so I think we shall meet again.

With breakfast to-day I watched "Epitaph One", the thirteenth, DVD only episode of Dollhouse starring Felicia Day. Easily one of the best episodes of the series and for its obviously low budget, a rather great take on a post-apocalyptic world that was quite a bold move in nailing the main characters down.

I realised to-day that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, by far, my least favourite Joss Whedon series, Dollhouse is my favourite, with Firefly and Angel tied for second. I watched "Blood Ties" last night, the episode of Buffy where Dawn finds out she's the key, and I can sort of see it as an attempt to explore the same themes of identity and reality explored on Dollhouse, but I just couldn't buy Dawn freaking out that much from finding out she's the "key". The idea is much too abstract. If there were solid evidence, like, a video of Buffy and her mother doing something a couple years ago that definitively demonstrated that Dawn didn't used to exist, that might have worked. As it is, she's just a kid throwing a tantrum, making her slightly more annoying than she usually is. I will admit I don't think she's annoying as Conner on Angel. I thank the gods Firefly never got to a point where Whedon felt like introducing a Mal Junior or something.

I think, more than anything, what drives me up the wall about Buffy is all the fucking cutesy talk. I think Xander referred to a plan last night as a "plan-ie", and I remember when he was confronting Buffy about her relationship with Riley he said he could see it all plainly in front of his "Xander face." And, oh, jeez, Willow and Anya. A couple episodes back when Willow, Anya, and Tara got in a fight, I came very near to throwing up. This show that's purportedly an unprecedented empowerment for women had a long scene of three of its female leads firing unbelievably stupid statements at each other with breathy voices and glassy eyes. Signifying line from Anya, "Xander, Giles left me in charge, tell her." The only thing that could redeem this scene is bamboo canes from offstage hooking everyone's necks and whisking them away.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Human Heads in History

Everyone was so busy schooling me about evil eyes the other day, but no-one thought to point out that The Thief of Bagdad starts off in Basra, where a harbour scene makes more sense. I guess it could be the River Tigris. I think the one thing this finally settles is that I shouldn't go to Iraq.

For a while now, I've been wanting to find some good medieval movies that are as historically accurate as possible, something to help with the research reading I do for my comic. It's one thing to read about what went on, but seeing people going about their business, with hundreds of elements in play at the same time, even if it's just actors and the knowledge is inevitably imperfect, does a lot to help ground the imagination. There just doesn't seem to be many movies of scope set in the Middle Ages, though. Last night, I googled "Historically accurate medieval movies", and found this top 9 list, the only one of which I'd seen was The Lion in Winter, which I'm sure is as accurate as possible in terms of props, costumes, and location, but the whole movie takes place inside a castle with just five or six characters.

I ended up last night watching the list's number 1, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Which I found to be a truly astonishing and beautiful film, but saying it's the most historically accurate, just because it's based on actual court transcripts, is a bit of a cop out since the movie mostly consists of close-ups. Yes, humans had heads back then, but I kind of already knew. I could make a movie with just a silent black screen and say this was life in an actual empty medieval cave. Not to mention the inevitable impression of the artists on the film. The list says its at number 1 for its "attachment to the true story without the deviations or ulterior motives that many other portrays of St Joan have," rather missing the expressionistic camerawork, lighting and, by the way, minimalist sets, all of which are generally coordinated to serve the movie's intense close-ups.

But yes, brilliant movie, apparently thought lost until discovered in, I shit you not, a janitor's closet in a mental institution in 1981. Maria Falconetti's uncompromising performance is the film almost, her face taking up at least 80 percent of the screen time, while never once becoming tedious. Her eyes almost always wide open and staring up at something invisible, she only barely seems to notice the clergymen questioning her, even as tears frequently roll down her cheek in response to her utterly hopeless circumstances. She's the consummate religious zealot pitted against religious hypocrisy, old men whose language is couched in Christian concepts only to serve their desires for psychic dominance. We instinctively like Joan more, even with the realisation that what God's supposedly commanded her to do is play a role in the endless wars between England and France. It's because her insides are all on display--the fundamental motives, that most people find mysterious even to themselves, are right on the surface for Joan, and in Falconetti's performance. It's no wonder she suffered emotional breakdown and never again appeared in a movie, though her death scene was so intense, following an obviously not simulated bloodletting scene, I wouldn't have been surprised to read the actress never appeared in film again for having actually been burnt at the stake.

To-night I think I might watch Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, which, if nothing else, is bound to have beautiful photography.

You might notice I've been watching a lot of movies over the past several nights. I have to admit, this is due in no small part to me being really tired of World of Warcraft. I've played about forty-five minutes of it a night for the past several night, but it just seems to make me angry and bored nowadays. I feel nothing when I succeed at a quest, and irritated whenever I fail. More and more, I'm noticing how little skill the game actually requires from its players--it's more a combination of luck and perseverance. Which I guess would explain why there are no legendary WoW players the way there were, say, renowned Quake players. Remember Thresh? I guess gaming's more like winnowing now. Mark my words, one day all the WoW players are going to wake and find out they're actually farmers.

Anyway. My undead warrior's at level 41 now. I may try playing until I reach level 60, which I think will be enough for me to feel like I've "beaten" the game, but it's starting to feel particularly heavy on my soul. Especially since I've been playing Oblivion again at Tim's house. The story in that game is only slightly more substantial than WoW's, but it has two things WoW sorely lacks--physics, and incredible beauty.

My tweets from last night;

Quest givers contracted Williams Syndrome.
"Look for flutes in an empty asteroid belt."
Deafly smug yahoo maps keep you from home.
I know how the walkman started to melt.