Monday, May 31, 2010

Mind on a Sea of Everything Else

Twitter Sonnet #147

Short heroes are buried by leather clothes.
An action sequence kidnaps a Spaniard.
Craters yawn in her elevator hose.
Carelessly dropped hot dogs ignite mustard.
Instruments wait in apartments for you.
Most violins are there for the taking.
Every plastic bottle is a false clue.
There's a potato that's always baking.
No one needs help carrying fake groceries.
Paper water burns in a tea kettle.
Domestic Valkyries knit wool duchies.
Laurels on an acting donkey settle.
Must drive miles for an expedient;
Complex meals made from one ingredient.

I just saw Snow the Cat gobble up a baby lizard. He purred the whole time, of course.

I watched Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless last night, which seemed to me about the fundamentally ruthless nature of men and women, and how that ruthlessness in the different genders expresses itself differently.

The movie's about a pair of young lovers named Michel and Patricia. In his essay on the movie, Roger Ebert says of Patricia, "It is remarkable that the reviews of this movie do not describe her as a monster--more evil, because she's less deluded, than Michel."

I hardly think she's a monster or evil, at least not in the way Ebert means. He describes her as an enigma, but I actually found her character to be a great illumination of humanity. She merely has that dangerous combination of intelligence and immaturity, believing she can test and study people and situations before deciding whether or not she will fall in love, telling Michel that she's scared and wants to know what's behind his face. But she's too emotionally crippled to recognise love when she finds it, has developed an ego too disconnected from her emotions, not even suspecting the depths of cruelty she can reach in how she treats someone she loves, and therefore assumes she doesn't love the man she's cruel to. The closing shot of her face at the end of the film shows how wrong she is, and it shows a person whose ego and heart have been driven even further apart by her own misdirected plans.

To say that she's necessarily more evil than Michel is wrong--after all, of the two of them, Michel's the only murderer. He's not more deluded than her. In fact, the delusion Ebert refers to, his imitation of Humphrey Bogart, is far more self-conscious and superficial than the internal web Patricia's woven for herself. But he, too, is disconnected from his emotions, telling her of the man he saw hit by a car earlier in the day, an accident he did little more than glance up for. It reminded me of something Gilbert Gottfried said on The Howard Stern Show earlier this year--when Stern asked him how he felt about Artie Lange's attempted suicide, Gottfried said, "Well, it gives me something to talk to people about." Michel is using the experience to make himself seem significant, he spends a lot of the first part of the movie trying to get Patricia to sleep with him. He knows a beautiful girl like Patricia has a lot of options when it comes to guys, so he's aggressive with his flirtations to compensate.

Which is another reason for Patricia's apparent coolness in contrast to Michel, though they're both pretty cool, wrapped up in themselves, and wrapped up in beautiful photography by the way. Martial Solal's soundtrack, too, sits comfortably among the coolest jazz albums of the 50s and 60s.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gods, Give Me Giant, Man-Eating Spiders

I've been thinking back to those BP commercials from a few months ago, supposed regular people on the street talking about solutions we need to the energy crises with a light jazz riff on the soundtrack that starts out troubling and discordant and gains speed and harmony towards the end to give the viewer an impression of people working together to get through challenging times. So they're used to putting more money into manipulating the impression people have of them than being fucking humane at all.

That turtle footage . . . I want to throw up. I want big oily hands to pull BP execs out of bed and tear their fucking bellies off and leave them inverted sacks of gore in Times Square. I want it all the more because I know things aren't going to get better, and those assholes are never going to feel guilty. There's always a way of seeing it as someone else's fault. Fucking shitsuckers.

Last night's tweets;

Instruments wait in apartments for you.
Most violins are there for the taking.
Every plastic bottle is a false clue.
There's a potato that's always baking.

Yesterday with my sister I watched In the Good Old Summertime, the 1949 musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner, an Ernst Lubitsch film made just nine years earlier. The Lubitsch film is definitely superior, though whole scenes of dialogue are carried over into the newer film. The young Van Johnson, in the newer film, comes off as a weird imitation of James Stewart in the original and Judy Garland, though mostly it was nice to hear her sing, gives a far less interesting performance than Margaret Sullavan. Garland often dipped into one of the worst, common mannerisms of 1940s and 50s musicals, giving the male lead exaggerated moon eyes when she thinks he's saying something sweet to her. And Van Johnson's version of his character came off oddly creepy and cruel, as opposed to Stewart who, even though he didn't get along with Margaret Sullavan at first, still seemed within reason with his reactions.

The only way in which In the Good Old Summertime really adds to the original is with a very small part played by Buster Keaton, and a slapstick routine between the two leads I learned later from the Wikipedia entry was worked out by Buster Keaton. Although he was too old for the part, his moments of physical comedy displayed how he was still capable of greatness, even if the film industry had been neglecting him for almost twenty years.

I walked to the store to-day and saw a lot of abandoned spider webs on the way. I took a few photos;

I walked past a pretty girl in a cowboy hat leaning over a bush saying, "You stay there, you'll be okay."

I asked her, "Did you catch something?"

"Just a caterpillar that was in the road, I didn't want him to get run over," she said.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pole Dancing While Rome Burns

Last night's tweets;

Short heroes are buried by leather clothes.
An action sequence kidnaps a Spaniard.
Craters yawn in her elevator hose.
Carelessly dropped hot dogs ignite mustard.

I found myself listening to the Planet Terror soundtrack a lot yesterday. Really great soundtrack, I can see myself listening to it while drawing action sequences, though Rose McGowan's singing isn't nearly as good as her line deliveries. Her singing's a bit over the top, she sounds like a drunk teenager doing karaoke, especially since her version of "You Belong to Me" sounds like a low rent take on the Tori Amos version. But McGowan's pole dance at the beginning of the movie absolves her of all crimes, in my book.

Though I guess compared to some of the acrobatics strippers seem to be doing nowadays, that's not so impressive. It's the editing and music I think that really make that sequence.

I finished watching "The Romans" serial of Doctor Who's second season, and it's by far my favourite serial so far. I'm very glad they've finally stopped having every serial begin with the Tardis getting blocked behind rubble or a force field or something, and this one had a nice, organic mix of tension and comedy, even if the Caesar Nero in the episode was leaning pretty heavily on the standard Nero portrayal, even going to the obligatory burning of Rome. No Nero's ever going to hold a candle to Charles Laughton's or Peter Ustinov's.

But the relationship between the Doctor and Vicki is so effortlessly perfect. It's almost like what I'd imagine the relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell might have been like. I'm getting impatient for Ian and Barbara to leave, though Barbara's certainly improved quite a bit from the passive creature she was early in the first season.

I wonder what the first Doctor would make of the iPad. I walked past an Apple store yesterday and the place was packed with people looking for the iPad. What a wondrous thing is capitalism, when folks can blow money on a useless piece of technology while leaking oil is destroying the gulf coast. I've gotten to thinking how a lot of people with paying jobs seem to have a lot more free time than I do. I couldn't help feeling like this whole world's lost in some kind of dream.

RIP, Dennis Hopper.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Looking Glass Sleep

Twitter Sonnet #146

Overzealous spokes stab the thin tire.
Marshmallow road rocks stink in the summer.
Time machines leave many a tread fire.
A forest was burnt by a Time Hummer.
A pony army is forced from a shrub.
Blind women easily beat the godless.
Zombie Saxons is a freemason club.
Normandy fighting Normans is pointless.
Plastic jewels wash up on a linen beach.
Plain prettiness is sadly adequate.
Metal cutlery's always out of reach.
Further away than Patricia Arquette.
Best breakfasts have expensive whole wheat egg.
Maple juices run down a French toast leg.

Really tired to-day. I've had trouble sleeping the past couple nights, but I was determined to be up no later than 12:30 to-day, whatever the cost, so I could see Marty at least once before the school got out for summer break--he's a high school teacher and I go to see him after class, when we talk about movies and books. To-day we talked about Alice in Wonderland and we both agreed that Burton's generally not as dark as his reputation suggests. We also talked about Hitchcock, and Marty said he's reading a book by David Thomson called The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder in which Thomson argues that Psycho is a perfect film until Norman Bates is done disposing of Marion's car. I kind of agree, as the first portion of the film is a great meditation on the nature of guilt, and the latter half is mostly just plot.

I fucking can't get this song out of my head;

The song really flatters its songwriter--it's got just the right mix of insightful and vain to make her really attractive. I remember being really into Jewel's first album, and then totally turning against her when all her subsequent releases sucked. I've grown to be a little more forgiving, though, so I'm back to just digging this song.

Jewel was on The Howard Stern Show on Monday and was really cute. She explained how the problem with the kids on American Idol is that they don't realise it's the artist's job to make the song work, not to make it all about presenting themselves, which I thought was pretty spot on. Then she launched into a piece from her new album, which featured some of the most gag inducing, plain, prescriptive lyrics I've ever heard. The whole thing seems to be composed of bromides. But, at Howard's request, she did a nice cover of Neil Young's "Needle and the Damage Done"

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Caterpillar Men

When I stepped outside to-day, on my way to the grocery store, I spotted Snow the Cat and a caterpillar. What follows is Snow's aggressive interview with the caterpillar.

For the record, the caterpillar seemed alive when I left it. Music's by Franz Liszt.

I've had a little extra time this week due to an unusually easy couple pages at the start of the next Venia's Travels, but I've had trouble enjoying it since I went on about how this is a full time job. I'd normally love a little free time to come my way, but now it fills me with fear and guilt.

But I saw Ridley Scott's take on Robin Hood last night. At first I was fine with it, happy just to watch some pretty footage of people doing things in mostly accurate medieval attire, though I was a bit disappointed by all the day for night shots. It was really nice to see a modern fantasy film not shot in New Zealand, which, don't get me wrong, is beautiful, but English forests do look different. Though I wish Scott had gone further than some of the apparently thinly wooded areas around London.

I was annoyed to read about Scott dismissing the Errol Flynn version as "cheesy", especially since, as Scott's film coldly unspooled in front of me like a rubber eel from a refrigerator, it was clear that all the credible-ish atmosphere, persons, and politics couldn't make up for the thing Flynn's version has and Scott's doesn't--passion.

I can't remember ever seeing a lead actor so asleep at the wheel as Russell Crowe was as Robin Hood and yes, as everyone is saying, too old and overweight. I thought about all the actors who would've been more suited for the role. Johnny Depp would've been good, though he'd probably have come off as too similar to Jack Sparrow. But it needed to be someone with a gleam in his eye, someone with an indomitable mischievous streak, which would have helped the film's otherwise gloom work by contrast. We needed a hero who pops in the atmosphere, not one who's dully swallowed by it. I complained about the prospect of Marion in chain mail in an action sequence, but it felt kind of necessary when I realised Cate Blanchett has way more personality than Russell Crowe. Which didn't make up for the lack of chemistry between the actors--when Crowe tells her he loves her, she smiles dimly as though she's thinking, "That's sweet. What a nice man."

I didn't have a problem with the historical inaccuracies, really--particularly not Marion's costumes, one of which featured a skirt split up the centre for riding. And it was nice seeing her hair uncovered most of the time, instead of always covered in public as per the requirements of modesty at the time. But other deviations from history might have led me to believe that Ridley Scott has a vicious hatred for the French if it weren't for the fact that The Good Year, an earlier film of his, hadn't been such a mud bath in idyllic French countryside.

In this version of Robin Hood, Ridley Why Didn't More People See Kingdom of Heaven? Scott gives us a mild running theme speaking against the crusades and tyranny, affirming the basic rights of all human beings with a significant part of the plot dealing with an early version of the Magna Carta. In the process, the French are turned into a vaguely Satanic, two dimensional race bent on invading England. In real life, King John's heavy taxation of the people was to fund conflicts in Normandy. In the movie, King John decides to dissolve the army and then tax the people for no reason whatsoever. The rift between Norman and Saxon, so prominent in the Flynn version, isn't mentioned in the new film. True, Flynn's version exaggerated the rift, but the almost total absence of it here is for the purpose of presenting a united English native people against the evil invading French, which leads to not only the English aristocracy not speaking French all the time (Richard the Lionheart could barely speak English in real life), it even suggests there's something scandalous about French being spoken in court. John's and Richard's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is in the film, still called Eleanor of Aquitaine, though the fact that Aquitaine is in France is carefully not mentioned among all the speeches about England for the English.

The French land in England with what appear to be medieval versions of World War II troop carriers--which I guess may have existed. I've googled a lot for my comic trying to find information about medieval boats and ships, and information is a little tough to find. But it does seem really unlikely to me that anyone would try to cross the English channel in flat bowed vessels powered by oars. But worse was Blanchett leading children into the fray on--I shit you not--ponies. I'm kind of okay with Marion in the battle at this point, but can you imagine the conversation that must have precipitated her bringing the kids? "Come along now, children, we're going to fight the French army."

And by the way, the Flynn film also still outstrips this one in terms of action sequences. The sword fight between Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone at the end is filled with more insane vigour than anything in Scott's version and cgi arrows can't begin to compete with stunt men wearing wooden blocks under their shirts getting hit with actual arrows.

There were really only two characters I liked in the new movie--William Hurt as William Marshal, a real knight I was delighted to see as I'd read quite a bit about him, and Max von Sydow as Walter Loxley. I mean, Max von Sydow as a knight, that's just great to see any time.

Otherwise, the movie's a confused, dispassionate mess. I don't think this is the kind of movie for Ridley Scott--he excels at mood and cool, not badass and rabble rousing.

I think he and Crowe were high while they were making the movie. A subtitle informs us two times that we're in Nottingham, the second time a guy a moment later says, "This is Nottingham."

Last night's tweets;

A pony army is forced from a shrub.
Blind women easily beat the godless.
Zombie Saxons is a freemason club.
Normandy fighting Normans is pointless.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Girls are More Attractive When They're Not Your Granddaughters

Last night's tweets;

Overzealous spokes stab the thin tire.
Marshmallow road rocks stink in the summer.
Time machines leave many a tread fire.
A forest was burnt by a Time Hummer.

I've still been watching Doctor Who with dinner, and I've just started the fourth serial of the second season. The show seems to be getting a little more comfortable with itself, the Doctor is starting to naturally become a lot more interesting in some way I can't put my finger on. I like how oddly innocent he is, how he's so delighted at figuring out how to get out of a prison cell it doesn't even occur to him there are a whole mess of guards right outside.

But the best part of that particular serial, "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", was the very end, where Susan's left behind on that Earth. Hartnell as the Doctor here suddenly has more to do than at any other time in the six part serial, instead of variations on "Yes, that's it!" and, "Oh, no, no, no, dear boy," he has these subtle moments where we can see early on that he knows he's going to have to leave Susan behind and then there's the evident pain in telling her and locking her out of the Tardis. And he doesn't flub a single line--I half think a lot of the trouble Hartnell had in remembering his lines is that he just wasn't very interested them.

So I've watched three episodes now with Vicki, Susan's replacement, and although I had gotten to like Susan, I'm loving Vicki. Her face is like an evil Pixie, and her head is inexplicably smaller than everyone else's, even though the actress was already in her early twenties. And she has this fantastic smirk.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

To Wish Impossible Things

"Well, it's no use your talking about waking him," said Tweedledum, "when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real."

am real," said Alice, and began to cry.

"You won't make yourself a bit realler by crying," Tweedledee remarked: "there's nothing to cry about."

"If I wasn't real," Alice said--half-laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous--"I shouldn't be able to cry."

"I hope you don't suppose those are
real tears?" Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.

I really liked the looks of Christopher Nolan's upcoming film, Inception, when I saw its trailer before Iron Man 2, but it strongly reminded me of Paprika, a film Inception will need to work really hard to be anywhere near as good as. I watched Paprika last night for the first time since I saw it in theatre in 2007, and I thought I was noticing a bunch of things about it I hadn't noticed the first time, but now I find I not only did notice all those things, I blogged about them;

There are so many things I could say about it, so many ways I could talk about it. It's a movie about duality; male and female, reality and imagination, free market and altruism, action and complacency . . . and how those dualities relate or coexist or are more connected than we might suspect. Or the ways in which people arbitrarily might connect the sets to suit their own goals or psychological compulsions.

It's a movie that successfully combines the Sci-Fi psychology of
Neon Genesis Evangelion with the sort of neo-mythological qualities of Hayao Miyazaki movies. It's about the crisis of individuality being lost in Japan's groupthink oriented society--a theme I'm seeing in increasing prominence in anime. (There's a plot thread that strongly reminded me of Gendo Ikari's Human Instrumentality Project from Evangelion) And Paprika is all this in a package of charming and interesting characters, as well as extraordinary visuals.

One thing I'm not sure I noticed, or got, the first time, was the scene where Osanai has Paprika pinned like a butterfly and proceeds to tear Dr. Chiba out of Paprika in a manner that very much resembles rape. At first I thought I didn't like the concept of the scene because I didn't think it was exactly right to say that Paprika was secretly Chiba. My impression was more that Paprika was an alter ego in a very literal sense of the word, like another consciousness that happens to use a part of Chiba's mind, like a symbiote. The last portion of the film seems to bear this out, that Paprika is an added, inseminating female "spice".

But I realised, the rape scene is Osanai's dream. He's the one who's decided the Chiba/Paprika dynamic worked as a disguise/secret identity dynamic. When he says to her, "I love you as you are," it so perfectly smacks of a patronising psychopath, the arrogant bastard who thinks the "real" version of his object of desire is the one in his head, as her behaviour obviously can't be reflective the real her if it comes from somewhere outside him and his understanding.

Of course, I couldn't help being reminded of Evangelion again, particularly during the ending where giant naked people fight over Tokyo, which reminded me of End of Evangelion and the giant Rei, voiced by Megumi Hayashibara, who also voiced Paprika and Dr. Chiba.

I didn't expect watching the movie to make me feel as sad as it did, as it was a movie Sonya and I talked about quite a bit. One thing the fight on Elizabeth Bear's blog gave me was confirmation that Sonya really does hate me now, enough that she was perfectly willing to hop into a chorus of petty insults aimed at me. Yet thinking back on our conversations, like the one we had about Paprika, it still seems we are of similar minds. Which makes it all the more disturbing that she hates me--I'm not sure if it's disturbing because it helps confirm the way I acted to piss her off was really wrong or in that it confirms my perception of her and our rapport was totally wrong. I suppose I'll probably never know.

I found myself reading The Annotated Alice last night, and one of Martin Gardner's notes particularly amused me in light of the Tim Burton movie. "Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast," is a quote from the book that Burton used to fuel his whole movie, which was about accomplishing the supposed impossible despite what anyone says--in the Burton movie, the line's first spoken by Alice's father and becomes her motive for triumph. In the book, however, it's spoken by the White Queen when Alice says she can't believe the Queen is one hundred and one years old. Gardner provides a quote from a letter Carroll wrote to a friend;

Don't be in such a hurry to believe next time--I'll tell you why--if you set to work to believe everything, you will tire out the muscles of your mind, and then you'll be so weak you won't be able to believe the simplest true things. Only last week a friend of mine set to work to believe Jack-the-giant-killer. He managed to do it, but he was so exhausted by it that when I told him it was raining (which was true) he couldn't believe it, but rushed out into the street without his hat or umbrella, the consequence of which was his hair got seriously damp, and one curl didn't recover its right shape for nearly two days.

So, rather than a The Secret style endorsement of accomplishing things just by believing them, Carroll's argument is practically the opposite, again satirising the adult tendency to justify nonsense with nonsense. Also included in Gardner's note;

"I believe it," declared Tertullian in an oft-quoted defence of the paradoxical character of certain Christian doctrines, "because it is absurd."

Twitter Sonnet #145

Old moon's house didn't pay its power bill.
A bored comet can't keep trajectory.
Venus lava has fibreglass to kill.
Kids paint bad stars in a tarot factory.
Cream cheese corrupts even pizza sushi.
The pretty cashier eyes question water.
Corn grows on Amerigo Vespucci.
The potato is his mutant daughter.
Odysseus alone in a Greek joint,
Hears sitcom giggles from across the room.
As meaningless bleeped words go point by point.
Whistling spiders again circle a loom.
Inadequate hands took by a brigand,
Are sold wholesale to a giant penguin.

Monday, May 24, 2010

To Face Death

I watched Sanjuro again last night, Akira Kurosawa's sequel to his Yojimbo. It follows again the adventures of the nameless ronin who calls himself "Sanjuro" ("thirty year old"). I got to thinking about how different the character is between the two movies--in the first film, part of the charm is the sadistic pleasure he derives from turning two groups of gangsters against each other and watching the slaughter. In Sanjuro, he's clearly in it as a good guy all the way through and abhors killing, rather than revelling in it. Though he actually kills a lot more people in the second film, in scenes where he single-handedly cuts down large groups of armed men. One senses a compulsion to "one up" Yojimbo's action sequences, and Kurosawa's a master as always at blocking these things, but the slaughters, for their larger body count, inevitably come off as slightly less credible than in Yojimbo. Sanjuro is an almost supernaturally good swordsman, but one can't help but feel he'd be overwhelmed by numbers at some point.

Anyway, it's no surprise Kurosawa had to make Sanjuro more of a straightforward do-gooder for the second film. Not only because Sanjuro's based on a book unrelated to Yojimbo, with Sanjuro inserted into the story, but because Sanjuro needed to be a hero and it's a bit difficult to come up with a believable story where the hero is somewhat amoral. Which is one of the things that makes Yojimbo so brilliant.

But I've long seen Yojimbo as a sort of spiritual sequel to Kurosawa's film previous to it, The Bad Sleep Well, which is based on Hamlet but set in contemporary corporate Japan. In an important difference from Hamlet, the Claudius of the story not only survives but retains his control of the kingdom. Toshiro Mifune, who plays Sanjuro, also played the Hamlet role in The Bad Sleep Well, and he played him as sort of a strong, modern day samurai. I kind of feel that with Yojimbo Kurosawa sought to create a stronger Hamlet, that the ending of The Bad Sleep Well was so dismal that Kurosawa tried to create a hero who could succeed where Hamlet failed. And the main difference between Sanjuro and Nishi in The Bad Sleep Well is Sanjuro's emotional detachment. His strength comes from being an amused outsider, and now that I think about it, perhaps it suggests something about Sanjuro's mysterious past. Perhaps, before he became a ronin, he was profoundly betrayed by his former master, causing his heart to callous.

A couple days ago, I took some pictures of a lot of the funnel weaver spider webs showing up lately. Only one of the webs appeared to have a spider;

The green and bloom of a just a month ago, due to the unusually great number of rainy days, is already drying out and withering.

I was sorry to read yesterday about the recent death of Martin Gardner, who's responsible for the wonderful The Annotated Alice, which I used to make repeated visits to the bookstore to stand in the aisle and read before I finally got together enough money for it. I've read it a few times now, and his annotations were both insightful and creative. I hadn't known he was a mathematician.

Last night's tweets;

Cream cheese corrupts even pizza sushi.
The pretty cashier eyes question water.
Corn grows on Amerigo Vespucci.
The potato is his mutant daughter.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

We're All In It Together, Some More Together than Others

Last night's tweets;

Old moon's house didn't pay its power bill.
A bored comet can't keep trajectory.
Venus lava has fibreglass to kill.
Kids paint bad stars in a tarot factory.

Some days I wonder what is the proper amount of despair one is supposed to have, and where precisely it's meant to be allocated. I think it's perhaps the natural inclination towards caring for one's fellow man or woman that causes us to react with irritation or amusement to the distress of another over something with which we don't agree or over something we flatly don't understand. Irritation or amusement is a defence mechanism to ward off the gruelling task of stretching our imaginations so far, and I think it's a vital defence mechanism, by the way. Even the best places in the world are filled with various kinds of emotional and physical suffering, and no one should be expected to live their lives crying over everything that happens to everyone else. People who try to can seem obnoxious because it's as though they're implicitly saying everyone else isn't trying as hard as they could be.

So, since I lead a life defined by priorities most people don't understand or agree with, I've learned not to be entirely open in most conversations about how to live. Unfortunately, it seems that whiskey loosens my tongue, and I've just gotten back from my parents' house where I had an argument with them about the fact that I work full time on something that doesn't pay. It's amazing I actually keep getting to a place where I think certain people around me are willing to understand and try to sympathise with me as it inevitably leads to disappointment, it inevitably leads to people like my parents giving me the same circular arguments. I say my art is more important to me than my survival, they say my art won't survive if I won't, I say it will if people read it and keep it and what I do is a full time job, regardless of whether or not it pays. If I speed up, the quality will go down. If I try to work another job and try to work on my comic, the quality will go down. I know this--if I go even a week without drawing, I get noticeably rusty. Not to mention I see the web comics by people who have other jobs, and, except the newspaper style humour strips, they all suffer from stories that lack flow and cohesion. Which is natural--I couldn't write now what I wrote a year ago. Time evolves opinion and ideas, and one inevitably drifts away from old places. I'm sure there are writers who are exceptions, but if I don't write chapters of my work within a certain amount of time of each other, a chain inevitably gets broken. How am I supposed to make people who aren't artists understand this, particularly if it runs contrary to their own arguments? I shouldn't expect that much.

I try to explain that I realise I can't live off other people forever, that I just want to at least finish this one thing so if I can never again have this luxury of time I can at least always have this completed work, I can always point to a time in my life where I was able to do what I needed to do. It's hard to explain to people who somehow think that anyone who wants to make money off what they love is able to, and that it's something immature or illogical about my way of thinking that has prevented me from making money off what I love.

I really envy people who aren't evidently driven to do the kind of thing I'm doing, people who are perfectly satisfied by a job within their capabilities and relaxing on weekends and after work. I've lived that life, I used to work twelve hours a day, on two jobs. I worked at a Rite Aid in Ocean Beach where my boss made me sweep up human shit behind the building after a rain storm, where I loaded stock in the freezer every day, having to wear my bomber jacket in the middle of summer. Those were easy jobs--I had no trouble with them, and the fact that they took up all my day made them even easier. I could shut off my brain. I had to stop because I felt like there was something better I could be doing than surviving and being comfortable. And I was right. But some people will never get it.

Anyway . . .

I saw Iron Man 2 with Tim yesterday. It was good, not as good as the first movie. It felt more like a good episode of a television series than the revelation that was the first film. I could definitely sense that Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux were working at a much faster pace than they'd have liked, that they didn't quite have time for all their ideas to develop. The Tony Stark/Pepper Pots relationship was a bit short-changed, but even more disappointing was lack of development for Mickey Rourke's character. He easily creates an odd sort of sympathy for his character, and there was a great potential for his and Stark's conflict to be a real, good, painful conflict between Left and Right. But unfortunately, his motives for going after Stark end up feeling sort of vague and arbitrary.

But it was a good enough film to have a wide cast of famous actors and make me forget they were a bunch of famous actors. Sam Rockwell was great as Stark's rival weapons developer--funny, but played with a very credible layering of jealousy and ambition. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury comes across as a fusion of Nick Fury and the Irritable Motherfuckin' Samuel L. Jackson Type. Which, I'm happy to say filmmakers have finally realised, is the only way to use Samuel L. Jackson in a movie.

I like Scarlett Johansson, but I was unprepared for how absolutely fucking hot she was going to be in this movie. I wanted to reach through the screen and grab her. I love how in all these movies the female martial artists inevitably have to wrap their legs around a bunch of peoples' heads to kill them. You never see the male characters doing that.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Use of Oceans

Twitter Sonnet #144

Miniature lambs meet a large cat's disdain.
Small animals must jump fences faster.
From livestock batteries sleep's not sustained.
Walking wool things serve a different master.
Cold coffee might yet think it's warm for you.
Blue night clouds keep memories of raisins.
Bran cereal searches bowls for a clue.
Milk surface shows projections of treasons.
Food didn't make an ogre twelve feet tall.
Cell phone batteries forget what they need.
An old cello's fingerboard has it all.
For stomachs too sour to-night for mead.
Caulk arrests arteries for a bad law.
Late baths arm Pigpen with
je ne sais quoi.

I think Google has officially won the internet now with its Pac-Man anniversary, playable logo. I found myself playing Pac-Man for half an hour. I haven't done that since I was kid at the nearby, now long closed down, arcade where every game was a nickel or a dime. It was a great, poorly lit labyrinth of arcade games. They don't make them like that anymore, when they make them at all.

My mind's totally consumed with Venia's Travels right now, it's hard to think of anything else. During the CHUD interview, Ian asked me if I had the whole plot laid out already, and I told him I had some of the broad strokes, but I like to leave things a little loose. I actually came up with an outline for Boschen and Nesuko at around the fourth or fifth chapter, but the final comic ended up deviating from the outline almost entirely. With Venia's Travels, I find myself contemplating a lot of different endings. One week I find myself absolutely convinced the comic will end one way, and the next week I think for sure it'll end another. It's like Yoda said, "Always in motion is future."

My sister remarked last night that the puppet Yoda was much better than the cgi Yoda, which I completely agree with, though for some reason the puppet looks a little different in Episode 1 than he did in the earlier films. I've never been able to figure out why--he's smaller, maybe more Kermit-like.

I read the first story in the new Sirenia Digest while I ate breakfast to-day, "Tempest Witch", a beautiful homage to a Frank Frazetta painting (The Sea Witch) sprinkled with references to Shakespeare's The Tempest. Mainly a meditation on sea and sea-faring imagery, but also apparently about the destructive potential of dreams.

I played a lot of Fallout 3 yesterday, both here and at Tim's. In case anyone's wondering, here's my custom playlist of mp3s. The game sticks to tracks for specific regions in those regions, but shuffles them;

Explore (for all wasteland and outdoor areas)

"Main Title" The Shining OST - Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind
"Rocky Mountains" The Shining OST - Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind
"The Sundown" The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly OST - Ennio Morricone
"Desert Suite" Terminator 2 OST - Brad Fiedel
"The Desert" The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly OST - Ennio Morricone
"The Transgression" Once Upon a Time in the West OST - Ennio Morricone
"TV or Not TV" Videodrome OST - Howard Shore
"The Streets" Vertigo OST - Bernard Herrmann
"The Forest" Vertigo OST - Bernard Herrmann
"Tales of the Future" Bladerunner OST - Vangelis
"Memories of Green" Bladerunner OST - Vangelis
"Sunset Narration" Citizen Kane OST - Bernard Herrmann
"Susan's Room" Citizen Kane OST - Bernard Herrmann
"The Trip" Citizen Kane OST - Bernard Herrmann
"Xanadu Music" Citizen Kane OST - Bernard Herrmann (all Citizen Kane tracks are from the recording of Joel McNeely conducting).
"Prelude - The Bay" Shutter Island OST - Ingram Marshall
"On the Nature of Daylight" - Max Richter
"Fog Tropes" - Ingram Marshall

Dungeon (for sewers, subways, abandoned buidlings, and most interiors)

"Lux Aeterna" - Gyorgi Ligeti
"Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" - Bela Bartok
"Hieroglyphics" - Spider OST - Howard Shore and the Kronos Quartet
"Atmosphere Station" Aliens OST - James Horner
"Requiem IV Lacrimosa Molto Lento" - Gyorgi Ligeti
"The Match Box" North by Northwest OST - Bernard Herrmann
"The Message" North by Northwest OST - Bernard Herrmann
"The TV" North by Northwest OST - Bernard Herrmann
"The Night" Citizen Kane OST - Bernard Herrmann
"The Terrain" Alien OST - Jerry Goldsmith
"The Passage" Alien OST - Jerry Goldsmith
"Lizard Point" - Brian Eno

Public (for all friendly towns. I need to find more tracks for this one)

"The City" Psycho OST - Bernard Herrmann
"Freshly Squeezed" Twin Peaks OST - Angelo Badalamenti
"Akron Meets the Blues" Blue Velvet OST - Angelo Badalamenti
"Felt Tip Pen" Cowboy Bebop OST - Yoko Kanno

Battle (for when you're fighting something)

"The Wild Ride" North by Northwest OST - Bernard Herrmann
"Swat Team Attack" Terminator 2 OST - Brad Fiedel
"Ripley's Rescue" Aliens OST - James Horner
"Helicopter Chase" Terminator 2 OST - Brad Fiedel
"Tanker Chase" Terminator 2 OST - Brad Fiedel
"The Stone Faces" North by Northwest OST - Bernard Herrmann
"Rush" Cowboy Bebop OST - Yoko Kanno

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Good Lake

Last night's tweets;

Cold coffee might yet think it's warm for you.
Blue night clouds keep memories of raisins.
Bran cereal searches bowls for a clue.
Milk surface shows projections of treasons.

I suppose this won't come as a revelation to anyone, but Japanese porn is really weird. I was doing a torrent search for "ballet" and one of the first things to come up was "Nude Swan Lake." And I didn't actually assume this was porn, but a genuine artistic endeavour celebrating the beauty of the human body. Googling seemed to support the idea that there are such "nude ballets", though people discussing them on forums seem to have uniformly bad grammar.

Anyway, the idea in itself sounded just silly to me, and as I am a well known pervert, I guess that's saying something. But of course I had to see it.

The production I found in my initial search turned out to be by a Japanese group called Zenra, which is not a ballet troupe, but rather a group specialising in finding diverse activities for naked women. Such as cooking;

Or "water games";

Which turned out to be just a thirty minute video of queued naked women running across floating cubes in a swimming pool one by one in an effort to get across, which quickly becomes sort of asexual. It clearly exists for jerking off purposes, but it kind of misses the mark when it begins to simply be a reminder that it's only social convention that tells us that seeing naked bodies is an inherently sexual or shameful experience.

As for the ballet, it turns out to be neither good ballet or good porn, but working out to be some kind of fascinating third category of specimen. It's definitely not a pure artistic endeavour--for one thing, the people stop dancing at various points to have un-simulated sex. Most of the dancers seem to be really bad, except the lead ballerina who wears a mask at all times, and the impression I get is that she's supposed to be an actual well regarded ballerina hiding her identity in order to not damage her reputation. But it has kind of a pro-wrestling vibe about it, and I suspect there's just another curiously dedicated porn actress under the mask.

And, I mean, really, good or bad, these people obviously spent a lot of time practicing and they seem very earnest. It's all kind of adorable.

YouTube's policy against posting porn I guess doesn't apply here as looking at it one can't really say for sure it is porn. I guess this might ultimately be for people who want to watch porn without admitting to themselves they're the sorts of people who would watch porn.

I was amused by the list of related videos YouTube automatically spawned for the Zenra clips, which mainly seemed to include college experimental dance acts that made me feel more embarrassed for the clothed performers than I felt for the nude Zenra dancers. Particularly a group called tEEth. This video reminded me of the Dude's landlord in The Big Lebowsky;

Remember, new Venia's Travels to-day. And happy birthday,

The preceding post was NSFW.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Venia's Relapse

The new Venia's Travels is online. Things get really nasty. I used as inspiration a cat I saw once after he'd been in a protracted fight with another cat.

The Allure of Stomping a Thousand Koopas

Last night's tweets;

Miniature lambs meet a large cat's disdain.
Small animals must jump fences faster.
From livestock batteries sleep's not sustained.
Walking wool things serve a different master.

I wasn't surprised to hear on AICN that Terry Gilliam seems upset with Johnny Depp for leaving The Man Who Shot Don Quixote. Gilliam seemed a little resentful at Comic-Con that Depp, who had been at the Con that morning for Alice in Wonderland, didn't stay for the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus panel. I can't say I blame Gilliam, particularly as, having seen both films, I know Parnassus is about a million times better. Thinking back, it's really odd how Parnassus didn't seem to get much love or promotion. Sure, the three big stars came to pinch hit for Ledger, but after that, it was barely promoted and hardly stayed in theatres long. My friend went to see it two weeks after it came out and the woman at the theatre explained to him the movie'd already been cycled out, contrary to posted movie times. Heath Ledger's last film, and it tanked.

So now that Gilliam's got Ewan McGregor for Quixote, it seems like the kiss of death on an exhumed corpse. If Gilliam couldn't make money with Heath Ledger's last film, how's he supposed to do it with Ewan McGregor who really hasn't been a hot item in a long time? And he thought he had trouble getting funding the first time he tried to make this movie. It makes me angry at this fucking world--Terry Gilliam's one of the very best directors out there, but mediocrity drowns him out. And Johnny Depp's too busy making shitty blockbusters now.

That said, I do still like Ewan McGregor. Maybe he's Johnny Depp ten years from now; former Indie film darling who makes millions off blockbusters suddenly, goes back to the quality films as the blockbusters dry up.

Anyway, I'd better get back to my comic . . .

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Shadow Over the Nuclear Wasteland

Twitter Sonnet #143

Sensorites unveiled perennial fear.
Hyper Curtiz atmosphere endeavour.
Broken ceiling fans electrocute beer.
Hard spills torment a carpet forever.
Burnt water leaps into the square tip jar.
Green plastic melts the dollar's self image.
Wary archers go alone to bazaar.
Bovine bowmen with hooves do more damage.
Robot Gilliam animates steel feet.
Remains of three Tokyos lie underground.
Young Kerouac killers kill to a beat.
Hungry hoboes hear every Eva sound.
Rolling crab eyes watch from nuclear waste.
Arthritic tongue bones are floral to taste.

I finished work on my comic pretty early yesterday--for some reason I was filled with energy all day, not wanting to slow down, actually looking for more chores I needed to take care of. But by 11pm I guess I was feeling antsy, so I ended up playing some chess in Second Life and playing some Fallout 3 for about an hour and a half.

I've been playing the Point Lookout expansion, which takes place somewhere on the southern coast of the United States, possibly Louisiana. Maybe now it's a bit of grim prophecy, with the oil spill. Anyway, it adds a bit of southern gothic to the post-apocalyptic 50s atmosphere. I came across an old mansion which I helped a squatter in a seersucker suit defend against a bunch of invading "tribals." I'm hoping it's going to be a Call of Cthulhu homage, as now I'm supposed to be investigating their strange new religion. Cthulhu stuff would be appropriate, too, since the beaches are crawling with Mirelurks--big mutant crab men.

There's kind of a cool Shadow Over Innsmouth side quest in Oblivion, where you need to investigate the disappearance of a girl in a weird little village called Hackdirt. The locals are mildly hostile and all have kind of the same, vaguely fishy/ froggy features. The writers kind of fucked up, though, by casting an Argonian as the missing girl--Argonians are Oblivion's resident race of lizard people. Suspiciously fish looking people aren't quite as impressive in a world where orcs and lizard people are fully integrated into regular society. There seems to be some kind of anachronistic politically correct philosophy at work where Bethesda is afraid of portraying the orcs, Khaajits, and Argonians as having different kinds of brains than the humans. It's like they were scared straight by China Mielville's rants about racism in Lord of the Rings. I say, there's nothing wrong with letting lizard people be lizard people. It's one of those things that make fantasy worlds fantastic, and it's kind of boorish to constantly worry about the one or two psychos out there who assume all monster bipeds in fiction are really black people or something.

Anyway, the Innsmouth quest in Oblivion was fun--it was an instance of Bethesda's very open ended style of gaming really working as it felt, the first time I was playing it, exactly as though I were investigating a weird little village rather than following a couple script trees. I snuck into houses, read people's diaries, drew what conclusions I might from the generally unkempt state of the inn, a storehouse covered in cobwebs with old furniture and cutlery scattered about. The Point Lookout area in Fallout 3 has a really nice atmosphere and I'm hoping for an experience like that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Functions of Green

Last night's tweets;

Burnt water leaps into the square tip jar.
Green plastic melts the dollar's self image.
Wary archers go alone to bazaar.
Bovine bowmen with hooves do more damage.

I think I can blame The Odyssey, Doctor Who, and Fallout 3 for the dream I had. A skeleton was running from the police at night and as my dream began he'd reached a carriage parked in the middle of a shanty town. A tired looking woman let him in, and it was revealed she was one of a trio of nymphs he needed to perform some kind of spell to expunge his criminal record. The spell also required three blue gems and a few giant ant eggs, these items brought somewhat clumsily by Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks. When I woke up, the skeleton, the nymphs, and the chipmunk were dancing around a bonfire with the gems and eggs arranged around them.

I was wakened by someone working on the wall outside. Some kind of work that involves a lot of scraping. I read an interesting article on Huffington Post about a "non-profit" restaurant. I've actually eaten at a Panera, one of their for profit locations. It's good stuff. Of course, I suspect the reason the non-profit restaurant seems to be working so far is that it's located in a well to do area. I have a feeling that if it was put in a poorer community, where people live their lives rightly or wrongly feeling they've been screwed by the world, there'd be a few people going in early and depleting the store's whole stock of bread to hoard it. That's what capitalism's really based on, though--regulating human greed. It's not, as some naive persons would suggest, based on giving people what they deserve for the work they put in. I've come to this belief not only because the amount of money I've received has never been in proportion to the quality and difficulty of the work I've done for it--the easiest jobs I've had have by far brought in the most money. But how many jobs can you think of where you can definitely say the amount of money people receive for it is exactly the worth of their time and effort? When you get into culturally prominent jobs like baseball players and the small number of people in the entertainment industry who bring in millions of dollars one sees there's little sense in the idea.

So the idea of something like a non-profit restaurant actually working makes me kind of excited. I hope my first instinct about its future proves wrong.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Electric Bullets in Telepathic Potato Brains

Last night's tweets;

Sensorites unveiled perennial fear.
Hyper Curtiz atmosphere endeavour.
Broken ceiling fans electrocute beer.
Hard spills torment a carpet forever.

Last night had a few unexpected distractions. After writing my blog entry, I got back to inking. It gets very hot in my room, so I usually have the ceiling fan on its highest setting when I draw. But the chain, for changing the fan setting, broke off in my hand last night, sticking the ceiling fan on off. This wouldn't only be a problem for drawing, but I knew I'd never be able to get to sleep with the fan off, either. So I had to find some way to make it work again.

I noticed the white metal cylinder above the lamp on the ceiling fan had little gold screw heads, so I decided to try opening it and seeing if there was anything I could work with. Inside was a mess of wires at one junction of which was a small plastic disk, which fell out of the hole the broken chain had been in. The top of the disk was a translucent cap of white plastic, and inside I could see the remains of the chain, looking like there might just be enough to pull out and make a working chain again if I could somehow get the translucent top off. Unfortunately, the top was clamped in fast by a tab on either side.

As I was trying to press the little tabs in with my fingers, I suddenly got a feeling in my left elbow as though I'd struck my funny bone on something. I vaguely thought maybe I was experiencing some kind of blood pressure problem and didn't think much of it. But then I got the same feeling, far more severely, in my right arm and I realised I was electrocuting myself with the exposed wires attached to the disk, despite the fact that the fan was apparently turned off. I flipped off the light switch connected to the ceiling fan and didn't experience the problem again.

I finally pulled the disk off after twisting one of the tabs with some needle nose pliers. Then I busted it open with my dagger at which point its guts popped out, courtesy of a spring coiled within. I never figured out how to fit it together again properly, but I took a little plastic spindle I found inside and stuck it in a square black vagina (I don't know if I'd ever get through tinkering with gadgets if I didn't usually find vaginas on them) on the disk half still connected to the wires, surrounded by four beds of wide, S shaped copper petals, each with its own bare headed wire clamped in it. I used pliers to twist the spindle or penis, if you will, in the vagina a couple times, periodically flipping the light switch until I got the fan on the desired setting. Then I put it all sort of back together. So now the fan has just two settings, off and high, but at least it works. That took an hour.

Shortly afterwards, I decided to have dinner. I got some new, massive potatoes from CostCo that are normally really good, but take around ten minutes to bake in the microwave. After cooking it for ten minutes last night, I cut open my potato to see this;

I don't know what was wrong with it, but it smelled terrible, too. When I finally finished making dinner, I watched the final episode in the "Sensorites" Doctor Who serial.

A serial that began with a promisingly creepy episode unfortunately dissolved into total confusion. After the nicely spooky looking Sensorites are revealed to be another relatively ordinary civilisation, a villain, the City Administrator, is established amongst them and some kind of plot about a poisoned water supply. The aqueduct where the water's being poisoned is, as the Doctor observes, conveniently dark, as the Sensorites have very poor vision in the dark, and there's a monster located in the maze of pipes which shreds the Doctor's coat. There are two water supplies, the city's regular supply and a "crystal water", which is exclusively consumed by the upper class and is found to be uncontaminated. So with the City Administrator trying to consolidate power for himself, evident sabotage in the lower caste's water supply, and the purity of the upper caste's supply, it seemed pretty clear we were heading towards a reveal of the City Administrator poisoning the people as part of some megalomaniacal scheme.

But the final episode suddenly reveals the monster in the aqueduct to be feral humans with no explanation as to how or why they shredded the Doctor's coat without him noticing they weren't a monster. The feral humans replace the City Administrator as the villain, and the Sensorite in charge casually mentions a forged map as having revealed the City Administrator to be a traitor, even though it hadn't even been established that the characters knew the map came from the City Administrator. This City Administrator barely appears in the final episode, which made me think the sudden change in plot was due the actor suddenly becoming unavailable. I can't find any information about it online.

Anyway, it is nice to see the Doctor taking a more prominent position on the show. Even though William Hartnell constantly flubs his lines, he's easily the most interesting character of the four protagonists. I'm not exactly sure why, but it could be his tendency to seem inappropriately amused and triumphant at times.

Here's my current character in Fallout 3;

She didn't end up looking much like Peggy Cummins, more like Eva Marie Saint, maybe, which I guess is appropriate since I'm using music from North by Northwest. But I've been playing her like Cummins' character in Gun Crazy, making her a bit selfish in dialogue, maxing out the Small Guns skill quickly and getting the Thief and Gunslinger perks. I've gotten her so she kills most people she comes across with one shot to the head with a pistol, from a good distance.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Human and Insect Segments

Over at AICN, there's a post by a guy named Beaks about some upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopics. Beaks talks about how he feels the curvy Marilyn Monroe body type isn't accepted in Hollywood anymore with the exceptions, he claims, of Christina Hendricks and Scarlett Johansson. He seems to subscribe to the erroneous, somewhat popular belief that a heavier look for women was more "in" in the 50s.

Look at the picture I posted up there. Take your eyes off Marilyn Monroe's camel toe (what an innocent time) for a moment and look at her arm. Does that look heavy to you? And consider for a moment other 50s stars like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

The difference to-day is in how the body is dressed, most importantly in the waistline, which has gotten considerably lower. This has the effect not only of emphasising lower regions of the body, but also of giving the body a generally longer quality. If you think of the waistline as the bottom of a segment, one realises as it's lowered, the upper segment isn't as wide anymore in proportion to its height. Marilyn Monroe was 5' 5 1/2", but unless she's standing next to someone, you wouldn't know. Consequently, you end up with a wider look compared to the women in movies and magazines to-day.

I hope I've provided some illumination for people this evening.

Twitter Sonnet #142

Refugee soldiers sleep in an old hive.
Brady clones leave an acid frosting trail.
Nuclear algae make sprinkles alive.
The city's shadow's swallowed by a whale.
Stubby legs change shyly into smooth fins.
Real faces form outside the hospital.
Glad flesh leaps from blasted asphalt and grins.
Ghost giggles charging air are audible.
Sparking ash collects on the crowded shelf.
Short shag periscopes watch from the 60s.
Green cat's claws catch his reflected screen self.
All the anger was really Bill Bixby's.
Guilty muppet implodes Schrödinger's hand.
Racist crows watch a blushing rubber band.

The dystopian 50s aesthetic of Fallout 3 put me in the mood to watch David Cronenberg's adaptation of Naked Lunch last night. More and more these days, I wish Cronenberg would go back to making weird movies. Sure, his gangster films are a cut above average, but his ability to tell earnest stories about the completely fucking weird is too precious a talent.

The movie's really more about William S. Burroughs than it is an adaptation of the book, and it's a fascinating and very effective portrait of someone tormented by feeling--the various hallucinations and delusions come off as automatic attempts by the mind to ward off feeling, as rationally he knows the only feeling he has any right to is pain. It would seem to be the inevitable result of killing someone you love by accident and being someone who doesn't believe in accidents. So "exterminate all rational thought" is the film's tagline.

I think Cronenberg believed that Burroughs wasn't really attracted to men, that homosexuality was a "cover", a way of finding a life where the lack of feeling was natural. This is demonstrated to me in the scene where he callously allows Kiki to fall into the clutches of Julian Sands' character and the strange centipede monstrosity the other two men appear to become when he sees them having sex is a reflection of his own realisation of the monster he's become. But all sex seems to take on insect and centipede qualities, as evidenced by this bizarre puppet that shows up when he begins to make out with the second Joan.

Intimacy and compassion have become irredeemably strange and dangerous, which is why it's sort of admirable that throughout the movie he's clearly fighting to keep his sensitivity. It's been way too long since I've read the book . . .

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Worst Mouse

Last night's tweets;

Stubby legs change shyly into smooth fins.
Real faces form outside the hospital.
Glad flesh leaps from blasted asphalt and grins.
Ghost giggles charging air are audible.

Eli Roth just tweeted a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker next to the Cloverfield monster with the caption, "So excited for the Cloverfield sequel!" I just realised the monster looks sort of like Chuck E. Cheese.

Speaking of mildly campy fun with the apocalypse, I played a lot of Fallout 3 yesterday. I've discovered one of the great things about the game is its customisable soundtrack. Oblivion had sort of the same thing, where you could simply put mp3s of your choice into the game's music folders, but Fallout 3 has a few more categories; Battle, Explore (for when you're roaming outdoors), Dungeon, and Public (for towns) just like Oblivion but with the addition of Base, Tension, and Endgame. I put in a bunch of tracks from Aliens, North by Northwest, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and, since the default soundtrack sounds like knock off Brad Fiedel anyway, a bunch of tracks from the Terminator 2 soundtrack. There's also in-game radio stations--by default you get one where Malcolm McDowell, as the new, self proclaimed president of the United States, feeds you propaganda. I think he's supposed be using an American accent, but it's hard to tell because he completely fails. Not that it matters much to me, since it's still Malcolm McDowell.

The other radio stations play a lot of music from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, keeping with the game's alternate history where I think the nuclear war happened in the 50s. A mod lets you create your own radio station so I added a bunch of Juliette Greco, Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe singing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend", which comes off as somehow ironic when you're blasting the heads off super mutants.

To-day I've mostly been drawing, the soundtrack for which has been Annie Lennox and Tool. Gods, I love drawing action sequences.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Tragic Want of Mead Distribution

Last night's tweets;

Refugee soldiers sleep in an old hive.
Brady clones leave an acid frosting trail.
Nuclear algae make sprinkles alive.
The city's shadow's swallowed by a whale.

If anyone wants to know how to get me drunk quickly, the answer is mead. And keeping me from food for several hours beforehand.

Since I've been without a working dishwasher, I've been getting these insulated disposable cups--basically generic brand versions of Starbucks cups. They even come with lids. I'd been using them for my coffee, but they turned out to be just the thing for hot mead. It kept it hot for as long as it took me to drink it.

I think I may actually need to see this new Robin Hood movie, even though a lot of the mostly negative reviews specifically mention things I've consistently found to hate about a lot of modern movies--like feminism as validation through martial prowess and phoney, sombre realism at the sacrifice of story and fun. Of course, those are two things that kind of contradict each other. Certainly there are examples of independent, powerful women in the Middle Ages, but did you know that they're not all Joan of Arc? I'm still reading Frances and Joseph Gies Women in the Middle Ages, and as one example;

In 1266, the abbess of Notre-Dame-aux-Nonnains, Odette de Poungy, dared to resist a project of Pope Urban IV. The Pope was a the son of a shoemaker of Troyes, and wanted to build a church where his father's shop had stood. Odette opposed this plan because the site impinged on the abbey's property and went so far as to lead an armed party that drove off the workmen and demolished the work. Two years later the same abbess led a second demonstration that brought excommunication to her whole convent. The sentence remained in force for fourteen years, but formidable Odette never wavered, and the new church, St. Urbain, was not built until long after her death.

But, of course, in an action movie no-one's really part of the game unless they can swing a sword. Even though, as a critic named Latauro on AICN points out, it doesn't actually make much sense within the story, "We'd already established Marion as a strong, realistic character. Why the fuck is she suddenly Joan of Arc? Anyone who isn't groaning or laughing at this point of the movie has a better tolerance than I do." If Scott must go that route, one wonders why he apparently, according to these reviews, felt it necessary to excise all the whimsy. Maybe he's still bitter over Legend, from which he removed Jerry Goldsmith's original score because it wasn't hard enough for him, only to realise his mistake decades later and put it back in. Looks like Scott's back in neurotic machismo mode, but then, one could easily argue that's the mode of society at the moment. One can't even begin trying to top the Errol Flynn film when homophobic antennae quiver at the idea of "merry men."

But like I said, I may need to see it anyway. Partly it's that I was obsessed with Robin Hood as a kid, but I was obsessed with werewolves as a kid, too, and I didn't see the new Wolfman. It's more that, in Roger Ebert's otherwise negative review, he praised the photography and I remembered how I was able to appreciate Scott's A Good Year for its aesthetic beauty alone despite its otherwise mediocrity. Damn it, Scott, you fucking will-o'the-wisp.

And I just know there's all kinds of historical inaccuracies in this supposedly real life style movie other reviews haven't even spotted yet, just like Kingdom of Heaven. Would someone please give Ridley Scott a good sci-fi script for fuck's sake?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wine in Space

Twitter Sonnet #141

Lousy wine hair products flood the restroom.
Piggish coffee waits all day at the bar.
The whole world knows of your power mushroom.
Coelacanth mobs force you to be their Zsar.
Radiation ignites an empire.
Long chins sink lips on the old computer.
Bologna travels as "Oscar Mayer."
Sliced meat's a vulnerable commuter.
A silver phallus now goes cross country.
Agitated pennies want to fall down.
Feathers vibrate in the throats of gentry.
Release is in the shadow of a frown.
The caffeine rotted teeth have a weak bite.
Tangled strings follow white keys to the light.

Never try to imagine riding a unicycle while you're driving a car. Nothing happened, but I got a little dizzy.

I just got back from the grocery store and BevMo, where I bought a bottle of mead. Chaucer's, the local producer of genuine mead, has a new bottle label I rather like.

While I'm sharing pictures of my stuff, here's a book of matches from Quark's Bar I came across a couple days ago;

This is proof of my visit to The Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. Sure, it could be argued that the Ferengi are a somewhat of a puerile caricature, but I still really treasure the memory of feeling pretty close to actually being on the Deep Space Nine promenade and eating at Quark's. I had an iced raktajino.

I didn't mention watching The Red Shoes again while at Tim's house. I guess, having watching it around nine million times now, I don't think there's much more I can say, though I don't think I've ever written a proper post about the film. I don't have enough time to-night to write one, but I will say I was focusing a lot on the cinematography this time, especially as compared to The Tales of Hoffmann. The two films have the same directors, same set and costume designer (Hein Heckroth), but different cinematographers--Christopher Challis worked on The Tales of Hoffmann while Jack Cardiff worked on The Red Shoes. Mainly the difference I noticed was that The Red Shoes has a lot more shadows, giving everything a slightly waxy, burnished look while The Tales of Hoffmann is more evenly lit, looking more typical of Technicolor films. The fact that Cardiff got such a wonderful texture from his footage using Technicolor is indicative of amazing talent.

The Red Shoes has a rare, Technicolor outdoor night shot that demonstrates the necessity for the infamously hot arrays of floodlights aimed at the sets and actors most of the time;

The odd, high contrast look to this scene, Grischa's birthday party, gives it an oddly realistic quality, looking almost like amateur footage of an actual party. My eye always catches on this blonde girl.

She doesn't look like she even sat in a makeup chair.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Real Legs

Last night's tweets;

Radiation ignites an empire.
Long chins sink lips on the old computer.
Bologna travels as "Oscar Mayer."
Sliced meat's a vulnerable commuter.

Lately I've been seeing references to a so-called "pantsless trend" in women's clothing, but googling has only yielded for me images of what look like women in high waisted short shorts. It kind of looks like swimsuits from the 50s.

So, ladies, here's the latest Setsuled Challenge! Let's show the world what pantsless really means--I want you to go outside in nothing more than thong and tank top. Or, if it's legal in your country, just skip the underwear entirely. Obviously I've been hung up on semantics lately, which is my sole, innocent motive for proposing this project, of course.

I picked up a copy of Fallout 3 yesterday. I'd forgotten how truly delightful gunfights are in that game. The last thing I did before I finished for the night was sneak across the broken remains of an overpass to pick off raiders with a 10mm pistol. I'd wanted to model my character after Peggy Cummins, but I'd forgotten how much more restrictive the face generating is in Fallout 3 compared to Oblivion, Bethesda's previous game. But otherwise, Fallout 3 is largely an improvement, particularly in terms of story and the number of paths available for character development. Oblivion may have been physically open-ended, but its story threads were pretty linear. In Fallout 3, obviously in a carryover from the non-Bethesda predecessors in the series, dialogue options not only establish whether your character is good or bad, but whether or not he or she is an asshole, and certain dialogue options are more likely to be effective for a character with skill in speechcraft. I do not remotely miss Oblivion's stupid speechcraft colour wheel, despite the fact that I've gotten really good at it.

It still pales in comparison to the different dialogue trees of Fallout 2, where dialogue options were different based on a character's intelligence and perception. But I found myself just basking in the familiar Fallout atmosphere, from Ron Perlman's introduction to the whole ironically cheery 1950s aesthetic. And Liam "Apparently I'll Do Anything for Money but I'm Still Oscar Fucking Schindler" Neeson's really well used in the game as your character's father. Whether it's teaching you how to be a Jedi, how to be Batman, or how to survive a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Neeson's the man.

Last night's spider in my bathroom;

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yoghurt Seaweed

Last night's tweets;

Lousy wine hair products flood the restroom.
Piggish coffee waits all day at the bar.
The whole world knows of your power mushroom.
Coelacanth mobs force you to be their Zsar.

I have seaweed stuck in my teeth. I went to Mitsuwa to-day to buy chopsticks and ended up going to the nearby sushi place for lunch, where they serve "mixed seaweed" as an appetiser. It was good, although I could've done without the vinegar and sesame seeds.

I managed to get up at 12:30 to-day, and enjoyed the extra time to finish up the newest Venia's Travels script and draw the rough versions of the pages. I wrote the last three pages of the script at a coffee shop located next to a Starbucks. The shop's called Intermezzo, closes at 4pm (I got there at 3:30), and serves really terrible flavoured coffee. But it looks kind of pretty. I really have no idea how it's stayed in business.

I went to get frozen yoghurt with my sister last night, who's a big aficionado of all the local frozen yoghurt places. The first place we went to, a new one called Yoghurt World, the woman inside told us the store was already closed, despite the fact that it was almost thirty minutes prior to the store's posted closing time of 7pm. I guess she didn't like our kind. "Your droids," I said to my sister. "We don't serve their kind, they'll have to wait outside." It's oddly comforting that I can still lapse into Star Wars quotes at halfway appropriate times.

We ended up going to another place nearby where I had a mixture of "New York Cheesecake" flavoured yoghurt with boysenberry while my sister had red velvet cake yoghurt sandwiched between to other kinds of cake yoghurt. One day, no cake shall be made in barbaric non-yoghurt form.

Here's a video of Charley the Cat from Tim's.

Music by Gyorgy Ligetti.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rejuvenation and the Idea Reclamation

Twitter Sonnet #140

Pale yellow sphere burns microwave centre.
Anxious pitbulls watch an aloof kitten.
Ceiling fans melt for upside down winter.
By stepladders are Debbie's shoes smitten.
Vital treaties retreat to upholstery.
The fierce beasts stop halfway up a staircase.
Motives are key to solve human mystery.
No plane's a toy for a real flying ace.
There aren't buttons to select life's chapter.
Leaky barley liquid moistens mousepad.
Vaginas accept a good adaptor.
Lack of USB makes machine sex sad.
The master's cake survives as yoghurt now.
Valets like Eric Blore never ask how.

Just now looking at Eric Blore's Wikipedia entry, I see this fascinating bit of information;

His death caused an unexpected stir, quite independent of his fame. The British critic Kenneth Tynan, writing for The New Yorker, had recently made a mistaken reference to "the late Eric Blore", and this error passed by the normally vigilant checking department. When Blore’s lawyer demanded a retraction, the editor had no choice other than to refer this demand to Tynan, pointing out in a fury that this was the first retraction ever to appear in that uniquely authoritative magazine. In disgrace, Tynan prepared a major apology, to appear prominently in the next issue. On the eve of publication, when the edition was printed and ready for delivery, Blore dropped dead. So next morning, the daily papers announced Blore’s death, while The New Yorker apologised for any insult to Mr. Blore’s feelings through their erroneous report of his demise.

What a different world. The idea of any journalist taking such a thing so personally nowadays seems fantastic.

I'm feeling strangely refreshed to-day--Kaydyn the Dog woke me up at around 8:30am yesterday and I ended up not going to bed until 3:30am, after two scotches. I thought I wasn't going to be able to sleep, but ended up sleeping the best, most solid nine hours I've had in at least a month. I could've kept going, I think, if the alarm hadn't woken me up. And I just felt peaceful and good to-day, not even a hint of a hangover. I was also oddly lucid all day yesterday--just thinking about all I managed to do at a relatively leisurely pace makes me seriously ponder Jhonen Vasquez's whole Z? (question sleep) philosophy.

I'm still very much a cat person, but taking care of a dog for two days wasn't so bad. Here's some video of the strange relationship between Kayden and Charley the Cat.

Music's by Bernard Herrmann from the North by Northwest soundtrack and there's an Ella Fitzgerald track on there too, which UMA is bugging me about, but fortunately didn't disable. Unlike Sony, who disabled to-day the video of a pacing Jaguar I've had up for months because I used a fragment of a low quality demo tape of Bob Dylan performing a song called "I Got Troubles." So looks like the free ride's over folks--you may no longer listen to that magical one minute anymore without paying. I trust you shall now track down that boxed set of Bob Dylan "bootlegs".

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Men are from Ireland and Women are from Japan

I watched Ugetsu Monogatari yesterday and The Quiet Man to-day, a rather fascinating juxtaposition as it made me realise the two films are philosophically almost directly opposed to one another.

Kenji Mizoguchi, director of Ugetsu, has been called a feminist director--despite the fact that he actively prevented one of his favourite actresses from becoming a director herself (though Kinuyo Tanaka did eventually become Japan's first female director), all of his films that I've seen do seem to present an argument that women are forced into unfair positions by society. He contrasts in various ways great wisdom in women with a tendency in men to become lost in superficial lusts and material concerns, and Ugetsu is no exception, focusing on two peasant families wherein the women loyally support the foolish ambitions of their husbands though they try to talk them out of them.

Ugetsu's about the dangers of single-mindedly pursuing wealth and pleasure, indicating that such a path can destroy the happiness of a family. Miyagi observes that her husband becomes uncharacteristically irritable as he works to complete a number of clay pots and bowls before an approaching army sacks the village.

The Quiet Man, meanwhile, blatantly honours a sort of culturally embedded capitalism, where a woman's dowry has to her immense emotional significance. John Ford, director of The Quiet Man, isn't with his film making any particular statement about the relationship between the sexes, though the film does display social endorsement of men beating their wives. But it's interesting to see that Maureen O'Hara's character is the one exhibiting the single-minded preoccupation with material goods that Mizoguchi would seem to consider characteristic of men.

The Quiet Man seems more sympathetic to that materialism. Ugetsu even seems to look down on the pride Genjuro has in crafting his pots and bowls, his craftsmanship drawing admiration from the dangerous ghost woman who seduces him.

One way in which the two films are alike is in their beautiful imagery. In Ugetsu, Machiko Kyo's scenes are particularly creepy and elegant.

Unfortunately, The Quiet Man on DVD still only comes in bad and worse. I have the better of the two--released in 2002, it's an extraordinarily muddy transfer, which is just heartbreaking. John Ford's film of the Irish countryside is a masterpiece of compositions which is only available to us now as though filtered through a cheesecloth.

Last night's tweets;

Vital treaties retreat to upholstery.
The fierce beasts stop halfway up a staircase.
Motives are key to solve human mystery.
No plane's a toy for a real flying ace.