Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Day After Day, They Send My Friends Away"

This morning I watched Jon Stewart's closing speech from yesterday's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. I really like the fact that so many people got together to support the idea of seeing one's ideological opponents as people. I think Stewart is correct, and the number in attendance to the rally as well as the interest its garnered, help to confirm it, that most of the country really is tired of two sides in the political arena utterly entrenched and uncooperative. I don't know how relevant this is to actually getting things better, as I think it's pretty clear wealthy, private interests controlling the government are entirely responsible for the uncooperative culture in Washington, not ideological stubbornness. The bombastic rhetoric is just a veneer. We already knew congress is consistently voting against the majority public preferences when it comes to healthcare and civil rights.

But a couple things bother me about the Rally to Restore Sanity. Keith Olbermann's tweets didn't make him come off as a great fan of it, his main gripe apparently being a sense of false equivalency, which has been Stewart's problem for a while. The idea that because one side wants to define marriage as between a man and a woman, the other side must be doing something equally as bad.

And I just can't help being bothered by someone asserting a definition of sanity, especially when Stewart's complaints are often very vague and ultimately created by years of making fun of the news media and politicians for being truly stupid. There's too much of a liability, in my opinion, for someone to now label someone "insane" to discount them without thought--it's pretty much the same kind of philosophy that got Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez heat, about which Stewart complained. Maybe a "Rally to Restore the Importance of Careful, Rational Thought" might have been more appropriate, though more cumbersome.

And, as an insane person, I can't help feeling indirectly slandered.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cats of Steel

Feeling a little better to-day, but I had to avoid watching the second half of the new Panty and Stocking with Garter belt, which was about vomiting. The first half, about nose picking, was hard enough to get through. This show is definitely hitting new levels of gross out humour--there's been episodes about shit and about semen (or rather the ghosts of sperm). I guess they haven't covered urine yet--it's like the show was written by the nastiest fourteen year old boy they could find. But it seems to work most of the time.

Here are a couple photos of moths from yesterday;

I wanted to get pictures to show just how thick the air was with them, but they're too small and fast. They liked to fly circles around me, too.

I decided I felt well enough to go to Tim's last night, or at least I thought getting out would help, and it seemed to. On the way, I saw a cat lying in the road--not like he was dead or injured, but in "loaf" position, which cat owners might recognise as a cat lying on its stomach with its legs curled up under it. One of my aunt's cats, Lucky, when he lived here would freeze up in terror in this position sometimes when strangers would come in the house, so I wondered if the cat had been crossing the road and suddenly realised what a scary thing that is to do when several tires whizzed past, inches from his face--I'd almost hit him myself, as he was in a turn lane slightly behind a partition.

So I parked and got out of the car and approached him. He ran a few feet away from me and then seemed to get distracted by something in a bush. It must be nice living so free of anxiety.

Looks like it'll be another Halloween where I don't have the time or money to dress up. I did buy a big bag of candy, though, for trick or treaters. I wanted to just get a big bag of Atomic Fireballs, but I could only find them in a mixed bag of candies. I think I remember that being my favourite thing to get in my bag on Halloween when I was a kid.

Belated happy birthday to Natalie.

Letters and Words

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thick Tattoo Circles

Twitter Sonnet #197

Pizza army ghosts march on lanes of steel.
Golden liquid--not piss--floods a basin.
Bowie's supermen can once again feel.
There are weirder dry things than the Craisin.
Burning apple cider leaks through linen.
Sorbet's false gods contain bits of dairy.
No good trousers ever came from denim.
Rubber blade sashes become a fairy.
Muddy sheets make weird airplane propellers.
Water's caught by the same paper cup twice.
Zombies are like rotten Helen Kellers.
Except that they can see distant field mice.
Metal detectors arch over a moor.
The Secret's to smash into a closed door.

I finally got around to watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night and mainly enjoyed it. Its Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor, translates to Men Who Hate Women, but although the movie certainly features more than one extreme example of a man who hates women, the movie didn't really feel like it was about them, in fact they were essentially two-dimensional. There was no exploration as to what men who hate women generally have in common (aside from the women hating), they were more like obstacles to the main plot. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is more appropriate a title because the film is much more about the character of Lisbeth, along with the male lead, Blomkvist.

The movie I kept thinking of was Thriller: A Cruel Picture, aka They Call Her One Eye, also a Swedish film, also an exploitation rape/revenge film. Some might take issue with me calling The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an exploitation film, but while it's nowhere near as graphic as Thriller, the basic framework of fantasy involving rape and revenge is in place and, most importantly, the characters are similarly constructed.

Frigga, the protagonist of Thriller, is mute, a lasting psychological effect of a sexual assault when she was a child--a scene conveys this at the beginning of the film in what I always thought was sort of an interesting Impressionistic manner--beginning at around 1:24 in this clip (this is from a censored YouTube version of the film);

A youthful psychological trauma also seems to have shaped Lisbeth's striking, antisocial personality and in both films, the young woman is victim of another assault in adulthood resulting from somewhat ludicrous circumstances--Frigga becomes a sex slave when her captor forces her to become addicted to heroin, only giving her the fixes she needs on the condition she has sex with clients, and twenty four year old Lisbeth is abruptly put under the care of a new adopted guardian, who apparently takes legal control of her assets and forces her to perform sexual acts by threatening to have her committed--despite being a supernaturally gifted hacker, Lisbeth instead chooses to catch the man by secretly filming him forcing her sexually.

The first fourth of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is roughly the plot of Thriller - A Cruel Picture; woman still troubled by childhood trauma is assaulted again and then takes extravagant, bloody revenge. The newer film takes this as character development, and inserts Lisbeth into an Agatha Christie-ish murder mystery starring Blomkvist, who's a high profile middle aged male journalist who's recently been sentenced to prison for libel, though for some reason he's permitted to roam free for six months first and even travel to Australia later in the film.

One could see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a reversal of the normal sexual paradigm, as Lisbeth is the mysterious, attractive, and powerful stranger while Blomkvist is the well-intentioned damsel in distress. I suspect this was something the author of the original novel intended. The author, deceased now, was a journalist himself, and it's part of the reason I mainly see the film as a sort of passive man's fantasy. Here's a man who not only doesn't need to fantasise about being the hero for the woman he's attracted to, he enjoys fantasising about being saved by the heroic woman, who's dangerous but also vulnerable and irresistibly drawn to him for not really any perceivable reason, especially since the film seemed to be indicating up to that point that Lisbeth preferred women.

I don't feel any of the violence, including the rape, ought to be taken as the violence in, say, Schindler's List. This is meant to be torrid fun, from a country more comfortable including sexual violence under the exploitative umbrella of movie violence. In any case, effective rape scenes are extremely difficult, especially for the viewer who might be attracted to the victim, because here the filmmaker has to work harder than usual in making the viewer forget he or she is actually watching two consenting adults simulate sex for a movie. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo didn't fumble it totally like Zack Snyder's Watchmen--unlike Snyder's film, there are no shots from the rapist's POV, and effort isn't made to make Lisbeth sexy to the audience in these scenes--we get close-ups of her face instead and the emphasis is on the ugliness of what she's experiencing. The less shown onscreen, the better, when it comes to making an audience take a fictional sexual assault seriously. The more matter the artist supplies, the more implicitly artificial it is, unless the artist in question is extraordinarily gifted (see Blue Velvet).

Those scenes in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo never really come off for me, but the murder mystery was engaging enough to keep my interest for the whole film, and as a fantasy action woman, Noomi Rapace is exceptionally good. Though I was kind of annoyed by how she was given progressively less makeup in the movie;

I feel worse to-day, but for different reasons. I woke up at 5:40am with a strong feeling of nausea that came and went, keeping me up to sunrise. I then ate breakfast and went back to bed, when I sort of slept. I went for a walk to-day, still not escaping the nausea, and finally stopped at the clinic to make an appointment to see a doctor on Tuesday. I figure I can always cancel if I feel better by then. My chest isn't hurting too badly to-day, and I'm hoping the nausea may simply be from the miso soup I had yesterday.

I saw the egret again when I went walking to-day;

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Endless Gridlock

I walked to lunch again to-day--first getting turned away from one Japanese place because they apparently close at 2:30 in the afternoon. I walked across the street and ate hurriedly at another Japanese place, which closes at 3pm.

Part of the reason I've been wanting more exercise is that I've been getting some chest pains for the past week or so. On Saturday I got almost a stabbing sensation in the heart area, which freaked me out a bit, but I've been getting little pains in my chest for the past year or so, some even as severe, and for some reason I haven't paid them any mind. This one got my brain churning for some reason. I've decided it's probably due to heartburn or stress, as the jaw aches have come back, too, and I have noticed, waking once or twice in the night, that I've been grinding my teeth. Which is sort of amazing to me, because I never thought this was something I did.

Just talking about the idea that I might be overstressed kind of stresses me out a bit. Because I know a lot of people, particularly in my family, who would be kind of pissed off at me for claiming I was stressed. I've had this general feeling over the past couple years that I'm a sort of zeppelin of psychological triggers trying to navigate a narrow chasm of other people's brains. And then I feel presumptuous for thinking I'm that important to other people, and then I feel depressed about how I'm not that important to other people. But with a thorny list of crazy like that, how could someone feel totally at ease with me?

I also think sleeping during the night is contributing to stress. It's as though I feel there's a certain noise level the world needs to be at at all times. When I detect a certain ambience, I can sleep easy. The silence at night puts me on edge, makes me want to dispel it with activity. But I want to keep a daytime schedule for when I try to find work after I finish Venia's Travels.

I suppose chest pains seem like something one should see a doctor about, but I dread how expensive it'd be, especially since they'd inevitably want to do x-rays, which, even with my cheap ass health insurance, would cost at least seven grand, which I don't have. There's a very strong possibility my imagination's at its stupid work again, either contributing to the stress causing the pain, or misleading me altogether.

I watched Jon Stewart's interview with President Obama last night--I was newly impressed by Obama. Whether it's because he's great at playing the game or it's real, he seems genuinely interested in his job and realistic about it. But he disagreed with Stewart's idea that the changes to healthcare had been relatively "timid," and listed a number of significant changes that have been made, but I think what Stewart meant is that we still have a system where, unlike most other civilised countries, a guy can't see a doctor about some mysterious pain without worrying about it costing a few thousand dollars.

I heard a former Republican senator on The Howard Stern Show last week complain about how the Democrats have run roughshod over Republicans, refusing to compromise, and thereby doing a lot of damage--which is a common complaint I hear from Republicans. Meanwhile, last night Stewart voiced the common complaint of the left, that the Democrats have accomplished very little when considering that they control congress and the White House. When one wonders about the inability of congress to reach compromise, I think it's useful to reflect on the fact that Republicans consider one or two minor accomplishments by the Democrats as way too much. It's one of the main reasons I haven't been as interested in politics over the past couple years--I knew when the Democrats didn't get a filibuster proof majority it meant we were in store for endless gridlock.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Hard Truth of Rubber Suits

I wasn't surprised to read to-day that the Synnns Fykshyn Chynn1 has decided to cancel Caprica. I haven't seen the newest couple episodes, but although I think it's a decent show, it does lack the urgently paced action sequences and the pretext of hard-ass military relationships Battlestar Galactica had. People do like the soap opera stuff, but they need it from characters like Starbuck and Commander Adama, who act like they're above it. Though I guess the characters were generally listless and spread a bit thin on Caprica--everything felt a bit conceptual, there were rarely any scenes of two characters having grounded, plain conversation. All the best stuff was sort of arch, lofty, and cold, not the kind of thing that captures most audiences, and then there was the sort of muddled statement on terrorism. It had a good cast, and was nicely shot, if studiously mundane. I'm sorry to see it go.

I'm not really wowed by the news that the new Batman movie's going to be called The Dark Knight Rises. Sounds sort of like a comic book themed penis drug, or like some kind of badass cake. Maybe The Rise of the Dark Knight would've been better, though I guess then we wouldn't have the lean towards Frank Miller-ish titles they're obviously going for. It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to retroactively rename the first film The Dark Knight Begins.

I've no particular feeling about the news that the Riddler definitely won't be in the movie--I am hoping Catwoman will, though I doubt she will be in the capacity I think she needs to be. The movie I envision, that I think thematically needs to follow The Dark Knight, would be something like The Lightening Up Knight. Really play the cat burglar aspect up, and make the movie feel a little bit like To Catch a Thief. But also, Catwoman, as both love interest and adversary, should be a teacher for Batman, should help him appreciate life's moral complexities. Almost taking the Joker's perspective, but slightly more constructively and benevolently towards Batman. If this is to be a trilogy, as Nolan has said, this being the final film, such a story would complete the Bruce Wayne character arc introduced in the first two films.

I had to pick my sister up to-day after she'd been in a car accident--a girl had pulled out of a parking lot and hit the side of my sister's car. Fortunately, neither by sister or the girl in the other car were injured. There are a lot of real morons driving cars out there--I was waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street the other day when a car honked its horn behind me--a similar thing happened to me to-day, and I'm always seeing people in an angry rush to get nowhere in particular. I connect this with the fact that I see more and more people entering movie theatres late and that the Tea Party has no particular constructive platform. There are a lot of angry nitwits out there.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We All Need Birds and Bread

I've been feeling like I need more exercise lately, so I walked to lunch across the river, which is overflowing a bit after yesterday's rain. I fed ducks some stale hamburger buns and saw a bunch of what I think are emperor moths. They were much too fast to get pictures of, until I saw one fluttering on the ground. I think it'd scratched its wing on something, or maybe it was just on its last legs. I followed it as it crawled up a shrub;

There were a lot of fast moving grasshoppers about--this is the only one I got lucky enough to get a picture of.

This is looking down from the bridge--I don't know if all those dead fish have something to do with the rainstorm, pollution, or the same hick assholes who left the beer cans and soda bottles in the water.

While I was taking that picture, this egret landed on the bridge near me;

I watched the newest Boardwalk Empire while eating breakfast to-day. Definitely one of the stronger episodes--it felt comfortable with itself, there was a nice, old fashioned gangster double cross bloodbath, and I loved the prostitute with the ukulele;

Though when her voice faded out for the dialogue between Nucky and the New Jersey mayor sitting right next to her, I was a bit annoyed. I know it's supposed to be saying something about how these guys are so high on the hill that a naked, singing woman in front of them is just window dressing, but it felt really artificial. Can you really hold a conversation with someone loudly singing right in front of you?

I also didn't like the standard turn of Nucky skipping out on his dinner plans with Margaret for "business" to make her feel like a kept woman now. It's a bit too well worn, and it also caused me to reflect on how everything's really happening much too quickly--they mentioned Margaret's husband had died just four months ago, and now she's gone from grieving widow in the Temperance League to mistress of the guy in charge of the local booze racket.

But I did like Margaret standing up to Lucy. Using a story from her youth in Ireland, an environment where she felt more confident, made more sense for building her confidence now than the abrupt confrontation with powerful politicians in the previous episode. It's a little glimpse into how they might navigate writing her character more naturally.

Twitter Sonnet #196

Machines strip Oz trees of apples en masse.
Stockings snap off a triangular thigh.
Lies start when the stars are covered in glass.
Kirk saw too many starships in the sky.
Round faced robots fix a dusty nightmare.
Wheel chair eyes advance through a profile.
There's always a mace where there's a femur.
Natural weapons in tombs compile.
Muppet keyboard keys contain tiny hands.
Blue ghost tadpole entourages chill fast.
Multiplying organs aren't held by bands.
Vestigial livers travel to the past.
Extra ears are often empty belled cloth.
Egrets end journeys began with a moth.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Loud Tumbling

I went downtown to write my comic script yesterday and saw that the Star of India's sails were still torn up, as they had been when I was downtown a couple weeks ago.

I took that picture from my car--I didn't have time to stop and ask about it, whether it was caused by one of the recent storms or if it was Halloween decoration. More of a blight on the site to me were the massive Jesus billboard things;

For yea, verily, the believer is as a contented parasitic worm in His flesh.

I went to Grossmont Centre mall afterwards and saw this beautiful sunset;

I see an awful lot of great sunsets from that parking garage.

This morning, I found a cricket by the front door struggling on his back. I'm wondering if he was afflicted with the same pesticide as the lynx spider from a couple weeks back.

After a few attempts to set him upright with a flower petal, I eventually moved him into a nearby planter, where I hope he'll avoid being squashed for a long time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"I Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby"

I levelled my rogue to level 58 in World of Warcraft at Tim's house last night, then drove to the grocery store and on the way back received a call from my sister, who'd just gotten back from working at BlizzCon. Con, apparently, being the operative word--the last time my sister had worked at a BlizzCon, part of her job was handing out glowing pendants from her booth. This year, people waited in line for nearly two hours to receive that same free pendant. There was also a "quest" handed out to con goers--a sort of scavenger hunt, it sounds like, my sister took part in. The end prize turned out to be a sew-on badge. She said getting in to see Tenacious D, who were performing at the Con, was practically impossible because seeing Tenacious D was really the only thing to do, so everyone was crowding into that room. So people were basically paying 150 dollars, the price of a Con ticket, to maybe see Tenacious D. I told my sister waiting in line for hours to get a tacky badge or pendant would give me a lot of time to bitterly contemplate what else I could've bought with 150 dollars.

Hmm. "Tacky badge." What does that remind me of?

"Sickening greed"--that's Blizzard all over, and a lot of video game companies. Yet I keep playing that game.

I also bought the remastered Bona Drag, actually--it is a little ironic hearing Morrissey sing about "reissued, repackaged" and "extra track and a tacky badge." But, fuck, the remastered tracks sound really good, and while most of the extra tracks aren't especially great, the extended version of "Let the Right One Slip In" is probably worth the price of the whole CD. I sort of wonder if Morrissey was compelled to release it by the success of Let the Right One In, the book and film named for the song. It's one of the reasons I knew the American remake, Let Me In, wasn't worth my time. As a title, Let the Right One In is more interesting and appropriate because it conveys the idea of a choice and that the person choosing might be in danger of making the wrong choice because the "right one" might seem wrong. Let Me In is a bit ham-handed, by comparison, though I guess one could say it's a reference to "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get."

To-day I need to write the script for the final Venia's Travels chapter. I spent most of yesterday reading back through the comic, to make sure I'm not forgetting any loose ends and to pick out the items I want for my agenda on the last chapter. I have to say, I'm really proud of this comic. I don't think it's enough for me to say I have nothing more to say as a story teller, but I think it's the best thing I've made so far. Though I guess artists often seem to prefer the newest things they've done. I heard about a recent interview with Woody Allen where he said he thinks his newer films are much stronger than his older ones, and I heard Billy Joel on The Howard Stern Show a couple days ago saying he doesn't like his early stuff as much as his later work.

I also corrected a bunch of typos--or I guess they'd be "write-Os"--in older chapters while I was at it yesterday, including a few in the early chapters that I guess have stood all this time. I also noticed that for some reason Chapter 37 was all low quality jpgs. I'm not sure how that happened, except that was one of the chapters I did while I had the urinary tract infection and was on antibiotics. That whole period is a bit of a haze, but I am rather happy with the chapters I somehow produced in that time. I uploaded higher quality jpgs, so check out 37 in its proper form, if you like. It's a big improvement, in my opinion, since there's a lot of red in the chapter and red seems to suffer most from higher compression. Though, as usual, the images aren't anti-aliased, so if you're an impotent, amateur critic with the kind of axe to grind that looks for problems no-one else can see, you may be disappointed. Or pleased, depending on how you look at it.

The chapter's title, "Dirty Water," is a reference to a Jesus and Mary Chain song. The newest chapter's title, "The Girl in the Red King's Dream," is of course a reference to Through the Looking Glass and the famous bit with the sleeping Red King and the question of whether or not Alice was a part of the Red King's dream or he was a part of hers. Of course, in lieu of this, Tim Burton, in his new film, had the Red Queen reference having murdered her husband at some point, which I'm sure is so much better.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Woman and the Gargoyles

I watched Josef von Sternberg's The Scarlet Empress last night, a film of absolutely amazing visuals with a somewhat less than effective story. I kind of knew that going in, though, but I figured the visuals would be enough for me. And they were.

Of the famous collaborations between Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, I still find Morocco and Shanghai Express to be the best by far, and both of those films avoid the chief mistake made by The Scarlet Empress, which is to have Marlene Dietrich playing someone much different from herself. The first half of the film, which has Dietrich in the role of Catherine the Great, has the young future Tsarina just being introduced to her destiny and travelling to Moscow in wide eyed innocence to meet the Grand Duke, whom she is to marry.

Marlene Dietrich can't do wide eyed innocence. She seems like she's pretending the whole time, and the second half of the movie, when she settles into her usual cocksure self, comes very abruptly. One wishes she'd simply played the whole movie in her usual way--there's no reason they couldn't say the young Catherine hadn't simply been an insolent youth. The set design takes enough liberties with history, after all, with its fascinating, grotesque Expressionistic statues all over the place.

The visual nightmare created by these things is almost story enough. But Dietrich, from The Blue Angel all the way to Touch of Evil, is always best when she plays her peculiarly elegant and commanding self. The only time I remember her being believably flustered was in the lesbian kiss scene in Morocco, just after she's kissed the woman. Watching that scene, you realise how absolutely uninterested she is in men. She seems to enjoy the power she can assert over them, but other than an amusing game, you can't see there's much value in romancing the male leads to her.

But once she does get to herself in the second half of The Scarlet Empress, she's a delight to watch. My favourite is a bit where she pushes her handkerchief over the blade of her husband's sword.

And her husband, played by Sam Jaffe, is wonderfully mad.

The movie was made in 1934, coming in just as the Hayes code was coming into effect, but even in a pre-Code film I was amazed at the opening sequence where a naked woman tumbles out of an iron maiden and three topless women are burned at the stake. It's pretty rare even now to see a movie quite that honestly brutal about medieval torture.

Twitter Sonnet #195

Glad mitt relinquishes a wrapped cork dream.
Melted phone poles capture comic book ink.
Long term lasers only listen to Cream.
There's just two ways ducky idols can sink.
Inverted bat wears a seagull costume.
Monochrome witch shows a lot of cleavage.
Grey scale horror hopes you like to presume.
Disney's shadow's an unwilling hostage.
Skull handles break a percentage of brain.
Green gum floods purple pillows to excess.
Giant rats drive larger maggots insane.
Clam chowder has the smell of shell success.
Saltless soup ennobles the hatted man.
Pirate priests cannot menace Peter Pan.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Paper Gravity Wells

I feel like I'm being made aware lately of a lot of powerful, sinister, rightwing people from Australia. I have to remind myself there's a lot of Australians I like--the Australians on Farscape, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman (at least in Eyes Wide Shut). People to distract me from the menace of Rupert Murdoch, Mel Gibson, and the Australian union that apparently is trying to prevent the Hobbit films being made in New Zealand. I think it's a mistake to think of unions as being invariably left wing--when, as that strikingly desperate Peter Jackson notes in the video, a woman supposedly in charge of championing workers rights basically spat in the faces of the workers.

What happened to the chubby, jolly Jackson from ten years ago? He looks on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His hair seems to have gone grey in a very short space of time. It must be dizzying--his last film was a failure both commercially and critically, and now he's in the middle of this mess. He seems to be slipping from his Next Spielberg status to Flash in the Pan, at least to the Eye of the Studio Sauron.

But I like the looks of the cast so far. Martin Freeman seems like an ideal Bilbo Baggins, though I'd have pegged Aidan Turner as more of an elf than a dwarf. He is appropriately hairy, though.

And I have to say I'm very glad legal and bureaucratic machinations inevitably forced out Guillermo del Toro. I think del Toro could've made perfectly fine Hobbit movies--he'd have been less compelled to tamper with it the way he did Hellboy 2 by inserting lame sitcom family drama and violence that lacked any sense of impact. It wouldn't be as daring and not as good a del Toro style film as Pan's Labyrinth, but it would've been decently shot. Jackson, though, is better at making fantasy violence and suspense meaningful without inserting explicitly adult subject matter. Del Toro can either do cartoon or horror, Jackson has a talent for bringing to life something in between.

I took a break from The Satanic Verses for a couple days to read "The Contract" by Margaret Cavendish. As I said to Marty last week, The Satanic Verses feels often like it's holding me at arm's length because its characters tend to be more concept than character, which I find tedious. The underlying thematic structure of "The Contract", written in the seventeenth century, is composed of some of the prominent social ideas of the time, and as the characters are almost never referred to by name, and the tension in the story comes from a sort of loophole in the fabric of tradition, the story feels almost more like a hypothetical case in a text book. And yet, character seems to come out almost by accident, as the protagonist, Lady Deletia, interacts with the constricting obstacles of her world. The importance and nature of virtue is impressed upon her through a rigorous education, but she finds herself having to negotiate with respecting her uncle's feelings as he almost unconsciously tries to force her to marry a Viceroy. Meanwhile, she's fallen in love with a Duke she was betrothed to marry before he skipped out on the contract only to fall for her when meeting her after she's come of age. The drama here is teased out of paradoxes inherent in the contemporary sense of propriety. The story feels like it's in the DNA of Jane Austen novels.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Venia in the Black Lodge

The penultimate chapter of Venia's Travels is online. I'm kind of pleased with the eight million homages I managed to insert in what reads like a very short chapter.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dramatic Win

The aftermath of last night's chess game--look at the time on the clock;

I was playing white and that was my one second left. Normally, I don't like the clock, but I have to admit it was pretty thrilling this time. Maybe if I'd lost, I'd just be complaining about the clock again to-day, but I don't know. It's not often both players start running out of time simultaneously. It was interesting when we both noticed and started making really quick moves. I didn't even realise I'd gotten a checkmate until a couple moments after his time ran out. It's a guy I don't think I've ever beaten before, too, so it was an all kinds of satisfying game. He was ahead of me for a long time by two pawns.

I also got around to watching Sunday's Boardwalk Empire last night, my favourite part of which was how great this scene looked;

Those blues and purples and damn, just look at her hair. This is, of course, idealisation turned up to eleven for a prostitute with a slashed face in a 1920 Chicago brothel. The paint on the walls isn't even chipped. I just wish the show had a sense of fun to match its pretty, artificial look. This particular scene basically dragged on for the whole episode--James, caring for her because they seemed to have some kind of subtle new bond and some gangsters slashed her face in the previous episode because of him, tells her a boring story about a boating trip he took when he was a kid before she kills herself at the end of the episode, which I saw coming but was hoping they'd avoid. It's such a cheap route to giving James motive for revenge and freeing him up to possibly get back with his wife. I mean, I have nothing against melodrama, I guess. I feel like I might just not be plugged into the acceptable forms of melodrama in modern television. It just seems so goddamn mopey. Tell a joke, people. Have multiple facial expressions. Something to indicate life a little bit.

And on the same token, the show's had this irritating tendency to indulge in sobering insights into oppressed groups. Coupled with the prettiness and melodrama, I find it intensely grating. Last week, it was a black gangster telling a Ku Klux Klan member a long, very boring story about how his father was mistreated by white people before finally getting around to doing some interesting violence to the Klansmen--which isn't even done on screen. This week it was a tangent into how dwarves in the early twentieth century were people, too. It was kind of nice seeing a lot of good dwarf actors get work, but I really don't need tedious lessons in acceptance from a show that is apparently self-consciously artificial.

I did really like the resolution between Margaret and Nucky at the end of the episode, though, and what it revealed about the nature of the friction between them throughout the episode. I also really loved Margaret's snake hat;

Gorgon chic. I guess a woman who's supposed to be heartbreakingly poor probably shouldn't have something like that, but this is a fantasy. I only wish the writers would figure that out.

Twitter Sonnet #194

Rivets bend for short haired violinists.
Double olive martinis concoct well.
Radiation's the blowhard of chemists.
Beasts circle agencies for the new Belle.
Cursed pixie sticks hold a blasphemous sand.
Proper steam trains are to balls conducted.
False limb named Smith formed a great 80s band.
Good leg cradles are rarely constructed.
Whiskey ideas call an ant a trophy.
Horse pills rain in an old addict's nightmare.
Damp notes written in ink like weak coffee.
Are just absurd to pay a hansom fare.
Pumpkins are kept too long under soy milk.
Teeth whitening drams make illegal silk.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Expensive Mouthwash

The bass is weird on my car stereo--it's been raining hard again to-day, and I found myself listening to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue for the mood. "So What", the first track, starts off with just upright bass and piano and I discovered the upright bass was totally inaudible. This almost gave me a headache as I involuntarily strained to hear a melody I knew was there. I think I turned down the bass years ago because, though I listen to music really loud, I don't like to bug the people around me, though I suspect this is the only purpose a lot of people see in loud music. But I turned the bass back up to-day.

I switched to The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed later and immediately was barraged by bleeding bass and had to turn it all the way down again. So, although the little meter indicates increments, it seems, for most CDs, there's just "off" and "fucked up."

I make a lot of fucking typos, and it annoys the shit out of me. Especially since a different part of my brain seems to read things than the part that writes things, so typos and misspellings instantly pop out at me when I read over old blog posts that I totally missed when writing them. This is part of the reason I tend not to give other people a hard time when I see them making typos. The only time it really bugs me is when someone commits a typo while they're in the middle of trying to school someone else about something. Though this exchange of comments on the YouTube video for Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" just really amused me;

If beer, drugs and sex with guys who look like McJagger(whom probably most ppl who listen to this song don't know) is awesome, then i'm sorry to dissapoint cause its not.

Personally, I can't resist a nice, juicy McJagger with cheese.

Honestly speaking, does no one who like this song and video see the sluttiness and bitchiness in it or is everyone who like it just like her. BTW, the line that goes "and the boys are lining up cause they hear we've got swagger but we'll kick them to the kurb less they look like McJagger". McJagger or Mick Jagger was a member of The Rolling Stones back in 1960s. So if anyone now looks like him, he'd be like 80! Or really ugly!

Time either ages you or makes you ugly but never both.

I think she says "Mich Jagger" whom as we all know is the lead singer of Rolling Stones, but yes, I totally agree with your comment.

I think "Mich" might be his German name.

This is kind of an interesting line from a modern pop artist. One of the things that struck me about the video is yes, she looks trashy, but she looks trashy 1988. She almost looks like Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan.

How did I even end up watching this video, you may ask? I think I'm actually starting to like the song in a weird way because of this video;

Monday, October 18, 2010

If at First You Succeed, Keep Trying

I walked to lunch to-day and took some stale hamburger buns with me, even though I wasn't sure the ducks would be around since it's been raining off and on the past couple days and it tends to flood the river. But I found a huge crowd about me, including, for once, a lot of male ducks with pretty green hoods.

This is that whole crowd fleeing when we heard a dog nearby. The ducks took the rest of their meal in the water.

I played a little World of Warcraft last night before going onto Second Life where I couldn't find anyone to play chess with. It's weird how people start avoiding me when I'm on a winning streak. I had a nice win a couple nights ago that involved a lot of pinning--the guy was using his bishop to back up a lot of things, not quite sensible to the fact that his King on one side of the bishop and my rook on the other made the bishop pretty impotent. I was getting ready to mate him with Queen, rook, and knight when he let the time run out, at which point he gloated to me that I didn't "kill him." It's a lucky thing I usually lose, or I'd never find anyone to play against.

So last night I ended up playing Oblivion for the first time in quite a while. I put it on the hardest mode of difficulty and spent some time trying to kill the gatekeeper at the beginning of Shivering Isles without doing any of the quests that are supposed to make it easier to kill him. I didn't succeed, but I enjoyed the attempts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Female Shadow

"Since the trial, I've been doing a lot of thinking. The only defence Scott offered was to continually talk about a woman with a funny hat. My kid coulda done a better job of describing it. No, only a fool or an innocent man woulda stuck to that alibi. A guilty man woulda been smarter. Scott wasn't being smart, he was telling the truth."

This quote from a detective in 1944's Phantom Lady has, to me, a larger meaning. The movie's whole plot barely makes sense--in fact, it makes so little sense I'm forced to wonder if it's even meant to, if it's not simply dedicated to serving some other purpose. Maybe this is a case of a movie not being smart, but telling the truth.

Scott Henderson meets a woman in a bar one night who agrees to accompany him to a show after his wife has refused to go with him. The woman does so only on the condition of not telling Scott her name. This becomes inconvenient when Scott's wife is murdered while he's at the show and the mysterious woman becomes his alibi.

Well, you might say, surely the woman would only be part of his alibi. If the bartender, cab driver, and people at the show can remember Scott to the police, as they all do, what does it matter if Scott was with a woman or not? Yet not only do all these people mysteriously deny having seen the woman, a jury convicts Scott when this one part of his story doesn't hold up. It feels, bizarrely, more like he's being condemned for apparently making up a story about a woman than for murdering his wife.

Scott's not the film's protagonist--most of the film is told through the perspective of Carol (Ella Raines), Scott's secretary, as she independently investigates the murder in the hopes of clearing imprisoned Scott's name. Even when the detective "unofficially" joins Carol's effort, she's still clearly in charge, giving her a someone unusual position for a female character in a film of the time. Though the fact that, after joining forces with the detective, the first thing she does is disguise herself as a sort of caricature of a loose woman to seduce the drummer for the show Scott saw at the beginning of the film makes her seem a bit more like a male fantasy than a female audience avatar.

One has to presume that Scott told the police the drummer had been winking at the Phantom Lady because we don't see this directly revealed to Carol. But assuming she did learn of it, it still doesn't quite explain why Carol didn't try a subtler tact with him.

The drummer, Cliff, played by noir regular Elisha Cook, Jr. (one of Sydney Greenstreet's lovers in The Maltese Falcon), takes Carol to what appears to be a jam session where musicians randomly wander in all night. It's filled with not terribly subtle sexual imagery.

Cliff kisses Carol, after which she looks privately in a mirror as though she's struggling with a feeling of dirtiness. This is followed by a fascinating bit where she and Cliff appear to be vigorously fucking each other with his drum kit. There's really no mistaking it for anything else.

After the experience, Carol goes back to being an innocent secretary from Kansas. Meanwhile, Franchot Tone, who has top billing, finally shows up at around the film's halfway point. I've seen him in several movies, though I still mainly think of him as Joan Crawford's husband in the 1930s who appeared with her in a few of her many "shopgirl" films. I've never thought he was a particularly interesting actor, though he has the most fully formed role in this film, coming off as a really creepy mixture of Joel Grey and Chevy Chase.

The movie's plot continues to react more to a sort of dream logic than to a credible string of reasoning. This is heightened a bit by the fact that it was beautifully and spookily shot. My favourite part of the film is earlier than the jazz scene when Carol decides to shake down the bartender by showing up every night just to stare at him constantly until following him home on the train.

Already she seems oddly predatory, incongruously sexual. When we finally learn the killer's motives for killing Scott's wife, the whole movie seems borne of a mind both consumed with and mystified by women, at turns perceiving them as blankly innocent and then dangerous and sexually dominant while the men are victimised both by their desires and their misfortunes. There's no real film fatale in the movie--it's like all the walls and shadows are one big femme fatale.

Twitter Sonnet #193

Cat eye questions shoot an empty marble.
Rapid Pong games exhaust horizontals.
Old grey pixels emit a clam warble.
Frenetic butler ghosts seek free tonsils.
Indecisive lava will sometimes burn.
Dearly got numbers vanish in vapour.
Cold doors show a cat's claws little concern.
Labyrinth walls allow a mouse caper.
Short and unique monsters appear at whim.
Thimbles of milk sew a thin lactose shirt.
Hairs aren't useful growing on every limb.
All vestigial crane legs want a long skirt.
Water flies spot vertically stalking fish.
Limbo Jell-O is a really cold dish.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fluctuating Clover Value

Another tiny spider I saw to-day. This one dropped down beside me when I opened my car door to get out. I waited until the wind caused it to sway out of the car before shutting the door. I took pictures when it landed on the car window.

I'm pretty sure, judging from its markings and shape, it's made to grow up into one of the enormous orange spiders. I hope it makes it. That's what I love about baby spiders--so full of potential, the future's wide open. Any one of them could develop sentience and take over the world.

I played a lot of World of Warcraft at Tim's last night, and he and I discovered and discussed a number of the new changes to the game. Most significantly, how the rogue kicks ass now to a fucking ridiculous degree. I was tearing through level 60 monsters with my level 53 rogue. The rogue's Eviscerate ability's now like a nuclear option. I was taking away half life bars from monsters seven levels above me, who also had a hell of a time hitting me, even without Evasion proced.

I unlocked a box I pick pocketed from a monster and was surprised to find that I didn't go up in skill level from it. It was then I discovered that, instead of going up in lock picking skill by picking locks, the skill now automatically scales to your character's level. Which, on the one hand, is a really good thing because before I had to go back to old areas and spend hours dedicated to finding locks low enough for me to pick. On the other hand, it's a bad thing because I spent hours in old areas dedicated to finding locks low enough for me to pick so I could go up in skill level and now that effort was completely wasted. Oh, well, at least I did it accompanied by The Howard Stern Show and alcohol.

Herbalism has improved enormously, as now I find I receive more experience picking some flowers than get from killing monsters.

When I got home, I went and checked out the Innsmouth Second Life sim I heard about on Caitlin's blog. It's really nice looking.

My, what a handsome tentacle.

I'm not quite sure who Myrna Loy would play in Call of Cthulhu that would give her top billing but early 1930s Myrna Loy and Basil Rathbone would be really fucking cool in a Cthulhu film.

Tou's whole outfit's by Donna Flora, including the hat, but the shoes are by Ingenue and the clover necklace I got from a little shop a million years ago and I can't remember the name.