Friday, December 31, 2010

Doll Muscles

I've been a fan of The Dresden Dolls since 2003 or 2004, I think, but last night was the first time I saw them in concert. My sister went with me and hid my camera in her purse, though it turned out I wasn't even patted down. I kind of figured security wouldn't be too strict about cameras since Amanda Palmer tends to link to them on her blog and twitter. Here's all I got;

As you can hear, there were a lot of people just mindlessly carrying on conversations around me. It got so bad, Palmer herself even asked them to be quiet, at least for the performance of the song "Boston." And of course, practically no-one complied, despite repeated, vigorous shushing by a number of people. When you're competing with a loud, live band to hold trivial conversations, you're obviously doing it out of some shallow existential fear about feeling smaller than the performers, and so the lead singer politely asking you to stop probably isn't going to work.

There are a few other videos online better than mine, like this one of the opening song, a cover of "Cosmic Dancer" by T.Rex. I'd actually always thought it was a Morrissey song until my sister corrected me. So I was taken down from my initial excitement of hearing the Dolls perform a Morrissey cover. Though Palmer did omit the "I was dancing when I was eight," part the same as Morrissey did.

It was a great show, the two have a lot of infectious fun onstage, and I found The House of Blues to be an agreeable venue, as I was able to get a good view from the bar in the back while I sipped Jameson.

I've started to feel a bit stir crazy without a comic or something to work on. I went through a couple ideas a few days ago that I might be able to pull off quickly with little research, but I feel like they wouldn't come out very well. I was getting antsy enough to try one, but fortunately yesterday one of the books I ordered from Amazon for research on the project I'm planning to try to sell arrived, so I think I'll celebrate New Years with some reading.

Twitter Sonnet #218

Rubber straight razors show up in the shop.
Laughing barbers slap the stubble silly.
Fun stops at appearance of Robocop.
So long to macadam Piccadilly.
Twister dots spill across the cobblestone.
Paper flecks infect two hour old wine.
Chill whistles through a ferris wheel of bone.
Lofty breezes smell oddly of fake pine.
Boughs rock subtly in blue and pink starlight.
Sticky bracelet marks the older visit.
Voices across plastic cups start to fight.
Sweat runs out the muscular white faucet.
Numbers age cards quickly in a hedge maze.
Jack Torrance soon learned the Queen goes all ways.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Presume Permanence

2010 almost ended without me seeing Never Let Me Go, which is a bit strange because I'm a fan of both director Mark Romanek and the author of the source novel, Kazuo Ishiguro. Romanek's music videos, particularly the ones he did for Nine Inch Nails, are easily the best of the 1990s, and the 90s were of course the golden era of music videos. I've read two of Ishiguro's books, The Remains of the Day and A Pale View of Hills. I haven't read Never Let Me Go, but now I would rather like to as a number of the reviews I've read for the film have extremely high praise for the book--Michael Philips called the book "nearly flawless". He also says that that Mark Romanek's film is a good film based on a great book.

I loved the movie. I'm disappointed it apparently didn't do very good business, I guess mainly because it's what would be classified as a Science Fiction Chick Flick. Watching it I thought a way to describe it might be, "Blade Runner by way of Wuthering Heights." Both Blade Runner and Wuthering Heights convey the feeling of the desperate, horrific shortness of life.

Roger Ebert's review of Never Let Me Go is one of his best written of the last few years. When he says, "The characters may not know what they're revealing about themselves. They certainly don't know the whole truth of their existence," he describes exactly what I always loved about Ishiguro's writing, his uncanny ability to subtly and credibly express things about characters without the characters noticing. Of course, this makes his work excellent material for actors to show their skills, and this movie has an ideal cast in Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield.

I don't normally like Keira Knightley--I find her to be a bit one note, and her cheekbones disturb me, but both things were perfect for this movie. She seems hungry, all the time, and perhaps of the three most succinctly conveys the horror of the short life spans of the "Donors."

The story takes place in an alternate reality where humanity acquired the ability to completely clone human beings in 1952. A system was set up wherein criminals and poor people were cloned and raised in schools entirely for their organs. In the two Ishiguro books I've read, in one case the story was achieved through the experiences of a Japanese family acclimating to life in England and how buried personal issues manifest in the different environments, while in the other case it was a story of a man whose firmly set personality and mode of life are threatened by the gradual erosion of the culture to which he belongs, his advancing age, and his unavoidable humanity. There are elements of both here.

It's never explicitly stated in Never Let Me Go, but I loved how the fact that the cloning began in the 1950s led to the morality of the Donor system being a complete non-subject by the 90s. There is no resistance group, no Sci Fi action rebellion, as there might have been had this been a movie for the mainstream with studio pressure on its construction. One of the few voices in opposition to the Donor system says that her efforts to prove the humanity of the clones were in essence providing an answer to a question simply no one wanted to ask.

So these people live with the weight of knowing their lives are going to be cut short, of knowing they were cloned from the dregs of society (which sort of seems to work like a consciousness of Original Sin), and the impression that they may not even be human at all. It's no wonder that some of the Donors have no desire to "complete" (survive) their third donation.

None of this functions as a direct allegory for something in real life, for which I was grateful. Instead something more fundamental about human nature is explored. The fact that Tommy, Garfield's character, thinks that humanity in the clones is gauged by their artwork, and spends years drawing because of this, made me think of the life of the clones as a metaphor for the precarious existence of artists.

Ruth, Knightley's character, is someone who lives life desperately trying to cover all her bases without having any confidence in her own decisions, stealing Tommy away from Kathy, who loves him, because, by Kathy loving him, Ruth sees that loving Tommy is proper. She imitates television shows, she quickly answers yes when asked if she's experienced something, deathly afraid of people thinking she hasn't. By the time Ruth's life is over, rather than feeling any resentment for the trouble she caused the other protagonists, I just thought how awful it was for someone to die never having managed to grow out of their shadow.

Kathy, Carey Mulligan's character, meanwhile starts off more mature than everyone else, guesses sad truths much faster. She seems strong, but also seems aware of how little such strength counts for.

Roger Ebert says in his review, "One of the most dangerous concepts of human society is that children believe what they are told. Those who grow out of that become adults, a status not always achieved by their parents."

Maybe being an adult is best described as knowing, beyond any doubt, that life's too short.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Careful Dream

I finally had a chance to see The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya last night, a captivating exercise in combining an alternate timeline story with intense life study.

A not terribly remarkable story about a timeline altered in a few details, and the ripples of broader, fundamental effects is curiously complimented by an attention to detail exceptional even for the detail normally associated with Japanese animation. Brief shots like these are crammed with signifying details;

One can see thought went into exactly what materials the S.O.S. Brigade might need for Haruhi's proposed Christmas party, how those materials might look on a table while being used. This same shot contains little Easter Eggs for fans of the show, like the frog costume visible from the "Endless Eight" arc.

There are a lot of very brief shots dense with detail, telling the story of normal life at Kyon and Haruhi's high school, but there are a significant number of long, lingering shots on trivialities, too. It's for this reason that a plot slightly less complicated than Back to the Future part II stretches out for nearly three hours. This isn't part of the slice of life craze sweeping anime and manga these days--though it's not strange that Kyoto Animation, the studio behind Haruhi Suzumiya, also produced centrepieces of the slice of life phenomenon, Lucky Star and K-On.

The movie, like the show, contains the inevitable Evangelion references, but the themes here are significantly more superficial. I would say magnificently superficial--there is a sickliness about it, and yet a sort of magnificence, too. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is sort of the Mona Lisa of Moé.

The tiny, obsessive details of the environment, the lingering shots of pretty girls' hands and faces suggesting fetishised innocence dovetail with the movie's theme of nostalgia to create an impression of a simulated utopia--a complete, animated world that viewers are allowed to live in for nearly three hours. Because computers can't create the exquisitely inaccurate physics of hand drawn animation--not just eyes and hair whose shapes don't add up from multiple angles, but the movements that occur at alternating speeds without seeming dreamlike or artificial.

Several shots are just beautiful by themselves, outside the context of the movie, and the Blu-Ray edition grants a view of thousands of tiny, precisely created details.

This establishing shot of a drugstore sign went by too fast for me to register the dark shapes as moths.

Kyon remains the irascible narrator, and the centre of the story as the audience avatar. The story hinges again on his grudging admission that he really likes the craziness of the world Haruhi has created. It's sort of like Larry Hagman in I Dream of Jeannie taken very, very seriously. Partly it seems like a male harem fantasy, partly it seems a valuable message about not giving in to a cynical lifestyle. And yet that latter is sort of dampened by the underlying thought that the glory of this world Kyon finally embraces is so unreal.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wondering How They Eat and Breathe and Other Science Facts

Last night I watched the last episode of the most muddled Doctor Who serial I've so far seen, "The Invisible Enemy", the second serial of Tom Baker's fourth season.

A sentient, hostile society of alien viruses are infecting people on a Titan base, behaving essentially as evil, possessing spirits. Leela seems to be the only one immune, but although everyone in the serial who gets infected is male, including the Doctor, no one even mentions the possibility that it is the fact that Leela is female that makes her immune, even though this is the most obvious, biological difference. Instead, the Doctor hits on some vague theory about how it's because Leela's not much of a thinker and therefore lacks the sort of robust thought patterns the viruses thrive on.

The Doctor is infected by the "Nucleus," apparently the leader of the viruses, and to get rid of it, he proposes to have short lived clones of himself and Leela made which are then injected into his blood stream. He evidently has no qualms about creating two sentient life forms and sending them on this little kamikaze mission. And for some, never explained reason, the tiny clones are psychically connected to the Doctor and Leela, so that when the originals feel physical pain, the clones do, too. The Doctor even seems to retain memories of his clone's actions, though it's unclear whether Leela has memories of hers. The Doctor was unconscious, but Leela was busy guarding the operating room while her clone was exploring the Doctor's brain. So does Leela have two different sets of memories for the same period? Maybe she wonders why the clones' ten minute lifespans lasted for the whole twenty four minute third episode and the periods of journeying through the brain passed over in the narrative.

Maybe I am too much of a stickler for logic in fiction, I don't know. I also finally picked up a copy of Fallout: New Vegas, and I was excited to have the opportunity to play on "Hardcore" mode, which requires your character to eat, drink, and sleep. I haven't even gotten out of the first town yet, so I don't know how much it effects gameplay, but so far I'm a bit disappointed by the lack of dialogue options for it. Apparently the people in the town like me, but no-one offered to let me crash for the night, and I didn't have options in dialogue to ask. I eventually had to find a mattress in an abandoned camper. If Hardcore mode isn't going to effect character interaction, I'm not sure it's going to amount to anything more than a nuisance. I don't know, I guess I'll have to wait and see.

Twitter Sonnet #217

Diamond potholes contain a dead gut's nest.
Familial snakes coil to a solid.
Love in the form of granite rooted rest.
Armpits always told the story Rabid.
Dijon fairies dance on the sinus string.
The gates of the bull are stained with mustard.
Crosby's corpse croons a search dirge sung with Bing.
Sad wasabi songs sneezed out by a bard.
Madmen smear their ketchup in the food court.
Ads for gag drinks drip off the wallpapers.
Scooter gangs smash to hell the Segway sort.
Pity for lame metal mounts so tapers.
No one thinks that toons ever need to sleep.
Cruel necessity clouds drift to Paint Keep.

Monday, December 27, 2010

"It's Not 'Comforting', Cheery or Kind"

Okay. I'm willing to concede that a lot of my feelings of disappointment about President Obama may be leaping somewhat rashly over some subtly won political victories. But there's no fucking excuse for the president to go out of his way to congratulate the Philadelphia Eagles for giving Michael Vick a job. The fact that Obama might be getting support for this "from all sides" twists the sickening to eleven.

Howard Stern was ranting about Michael Vick a couple weeks ago, and I'm echoing some of his thoughts when I say, yeah, guys who've served their time deserve a chance at a decent life. But playing for the NFL in this world is a decadent fucking privilege. And maybe Michael Vick is sorry. I'd have an easier time buying that if he maybe shot a dog once in a fit of passion. But what we're talking about is a lifestyle, a subculture. Read the Wikipedia entry, unless you're trying hard to avoid throwing up. Maybe it's enough to just imagine the kind of treatment a dog might need to receive to be mad enough to kill, all the time.

But hey, at least we can enjoy Vick in his shiny tights running around with a ball. We're free to project our feelings of hope and allegiance on his mighty frame. I gotta get out of this fucking country.

And here I was feeling all rockabilly to-day and ate lunch at In and Out Burger. I got the grilled cheese with onions off the secret menu. I wear a leather jacket and a fur hat, so I'd be a hell of hypocrite to get on people's cases about eating meat. But show some fucking class, assholes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Languages, Old and New

Saffy the cat, dreaming of the world outside and its bounty of tiny, careless meals.

Twitter Sonnet #216

Darth Maul's sabre destroyed his new suitcase.
Stomach acid rained on cartilage roof.
Pearly pushpins tighten an idol's face.
Karma mobsters can't break Thom's legs enough.
Boneless wool wings flop fast against soft rib.
A sharp cheddar jigsaw puzzle smells bad.
Chains shoot from the blank and unholy bib.
Distant diaphragm is secretly glad.
Black boots stick to greyish secreted slime.
Cheshire grin slices through violent cheek.
And now, somewhere Deer Face knows it is time.
Knobs of ink blood eyes steal at you a peek.
Power eyes watch above meaningful tongues.
Ladders for sleighs all have hollow quill rungs.

I went with my family to see the new Coen brothers' adaptation of True Grit. It was good--not great Coen brothers, just about half as good as No Country for Old Men, not even approaching Fargo territory, but still quite good. I still haven't seen the John Wayne version, and I haven't read the book either, but I was reminded a lot of old westerns by the beautiful shots of American country and forest (some of which were too brief for me in dissolving montage sequences) and in the misfit comrades on a quest vibe. I thought of The Searchers and Ride the High Country, and one of the first shots, a crane shot of a town as the protagonist, 14 year old Maddy, steps off a train strongly reminded me of Once Upon a Time in the West.

Maddy's played with convincing and sort of captivating cutthroat verve by Hailee Steinfeld, from whose point of view the story is told, unlike the John Wayne version which I've read focused more on the Rooster Cogburn character, here played by Jeff Bridges, I suspect, somewhat less flatteringly than by John Wayne. But Bridges' character is played with great humour and works as a classic foil for Maddy--the old dichotomy of sloppy experience versus sharp greenhorn.

And I liked how, unlike most modern Westerns, there was no overblown sentimentalising when people died. Everyone in the story is very practical about death, right down to little Maddy. You need to lose a limb, so-and-so got killed? Deal with it and move on. So it works as a real and decent Western, and was altogether not bad at all.

Afterwards, I went to the big family Christmas party where I was regaled by Ava, the just starting to walk daughter of my cousin Christa, with stories in a secret, complicated dialect. Ava informed me that, "Obliobiabio blio abiwobli." I was stunned to hear the English, "No?" from her, put as a question, when I stopped her grabbing an olive off the table. All I managed to do was repeat to her, "No?" in the same tone like a bird call, to which she replied, "No?" Thinking back, I probably should've provided some commendation at an English word used and properly.

People exchanged gifts based on names drawn the previous year--I'd drawn my cousin Josh's new wife Frances, for whom I'd gotten a Nordstrom gift card, while my name was drawn by my cousin Angela, who got me a bottle of 18 year Glenlivet. Everyone had wish lists that got sent through the grapevine, and on mine, also amongst various Criterion movies and Fallout: New Vegas, I remember distinctly most wanting the scotch. So that worked out rather well. I had two glasses of it while playing chess last night--I won two out of three games, though it was against a guy who rather frustratingly forfeited the instant he made a mistake, so I felt like the only game that got off the ground was the one I lost. But thanks to my scotch, I really wasn't feeling any pain. I also passed up an exposed Queen and a rook.

Speaking of exposed Queens, I've been watching Smiths videos all morning, and I've gotten to thinking this is one of the best music videos ever made.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Time to Give, Pots, Pans, Mallets, and Sinks

Special Christmas Sonnet Because Twitter's Over Capacity

Screaming cows rampant in whale uterus
Know how to paint a Lego town gone mad.
So the kinky angel four times blessed us.
Because sandwich bags are always just sad.
Dance hall fog rolls into the starship's bridge.
Ping pong zig zag zippers the pointy skull.
Frosty's prayer hands of clay make a ridge
That carves in space a jagged toothy hole.
Grins on mummy elves offend Osiris.
Ant farms generate Easter eggs for bugs.
Life's a chess game for a lone cockatrice
Who's generous with all giraffes and slugs.
Shaving cream slicks the ingrown hair rooftop.
Velocity Santa cannot now stop.

No time for a proper entry, so here's the, er, explosive season finale of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, where heaven descends in lingerie amid the tentacles of hell;

Happy Santa Day, everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Under the Leaves

One of the new team duck hangouts. Their egret mascot was also on hand, but I didn't get a good picture.

I was trying to find the two frogs I could hear ribbitting at each other from under the leaves, but they proved too elusive.

Last night I sat down with some Wheat Thins, white Babybel cheese, cherries I'd chopped up into fourths, and a glass of cognac and watched It's a Wonderful Life. By far, the best part was the snack, as the cheese and cherry on the crackers ended up tasting like cherry cheese cake. The first two thirds of It's a Wonderful Life aren't bad--it's the Sci-Fi section that really doesn't work. Am I really supposed to find it horrible that Mary had lived into her mid-twenties without getting married, wears glasses, and works at a library? Not to mention that the message that the movie ultimate sends is that if you're a beloved community leader, you shouldn't kill yourself. Clarence sure didn't have to work hard for those wings.

I guess these are all pretty old arguments. It's amazing my fondness for Jimmy Stewart survives that movie.

After making yesterday's post on Black Swan, I realised that all my online friends who are into Powell and Pressburger no longer read my journal and don't speak to me. I actually looked at Sonya's blog for the first time in, I think, around half a year, just to see what she'd thought of Black Swan, but I couldn't find anything about it. I don't know if I can go back to check again as when I look at her journal I start getting angry and simultaneously ashamed of my anger. I could talk to Sonya about Powell and Pressburger movies, or any work of art in general, like I could with no-one else. I get angry because she threw that away so easily, and then I get ashamed of being angry because I realise it only seemed precious to me, so I have no right to lament the loss of that relationship on any objective level. And here it is getting me angry still, two years later, so I must really be crazy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Black Swan Singing in the Dead of Night . . .

I finally had a chance to see Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan last night, and I was pleasantly surprised to find both that I liked it and that it didn't end up being the mopey, ultra tragedy so many of the reviews are saying it is. It is definitely a thriller in its construction--there are a lot of haunted house scares, things popping up unexpectedly around corners and that sort of thing. And it has the fun of a haunted house, as Aronofsky delights in tormenting poor, straight laced little Nina.

A lot of this is accomplished by a Hichcockian fidelity to point of view even more strict than Hitchcock's. In films like Vertigo and North by Northwest, though the tension is largely created in locking the audience into the limited perspective of the protagonist, there are one or two scenes where that protagonist is not involved--like the CIA meeting in North by Northwest or Midge's discussion with the psychiatrist in Vertigo. Black Swan is so committed to Nina's POV that there is not a single scene in which Nina doesn't appear. And a few minutes into the film, I realised that Nina was visible in every shot--sometimes just as a forehead out of focus in the lower right corner of the screen, as a scene in a crowded dressing room with walls of mirrors inconspicuously reflects Nina all over the place, and her worried brow as she gauges the import of gossipy conversations of the other ballerinas. Aronofsky doesn't overdo this and we get some pure POV shots a few minutes later, without Nina in them, but seeing Nina in every one of those early shots makes sense because Nina is always on Nina's mind. She's always watching herself, fussing and adjusting bits of her self-image and interpreting the information she takes in and deciding how it relates to her. The camera frequently cuts back to Nina's face, with the tops of her shoulders just barely visible at the bottom of the frame. We rarely, if ever, see Nina full figure, top to toe, and this helps not only in covering up the fact that Natalie Portman isn't as good a dancer as Nina's supposed to be, but it also helps keep us in the claustrophobic space of the self-conscious dancer onstage. When making Raging Bull, Scorsese was inspired by The Red Shoes to keep the camera inside the boxing ring in order to emphasise the boxers' perspective rather than that of the audience, and I was reminded more of Raging Bull than of The Red Shoes in Black Swan's dance sequences due to the camera's more frequent close proximity to parts of the actors, while The Red Shoes showed us Moira Shearer's very real genius as a ballerina.

Nina's family life is the old story of someone trying to live their lost dreams through a family member, in this case Nina's mother obsessively creating her daughter as the image of perfection she could never achieve. It's good insight on Aronofsky's part that this kind of perfectionism can actually be antithetical to success, as in the mother the emotional absolutism provokes her to want to cut away things sometimes at the first sign of trouble. She starts to throw away a new cake when Nina says she doesn't want a piece at the moment, she endeavours to constantly be at Nina's side, sleeping by her bed, still tucking the young woman in at night. So partly the movie's about Nina's personal liberation, how she learns how to "let go" as she's told repeatedly throughout the film.

All this could be a pretty unremarkable After School Special, much like Requiem for a Dream. Making it a thriller elevates it, as does the introduction of hallucinatory or supernatural elements. One of my favourite fantasy tropes is used, that of the embracing of a person's darker half, represented as a shadow or doppelganger, in order to create a whole person. This is an idea used in the Star Wars films, Ursula Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea, and even in *cough* my own Venia's Travels. Mainly, though, I was reminded of "The Enemy Within", the famous episode of the original Star Trek television series where a transporter accident splits Captain Kirk into two entities, a Good Kirk and an Evil Kirk. Much as is the case with Nina, the good half is weak willed and needs the dark half in order to overcome obstacles or take command of anything.*

Natalie Portman's performance in Black Swan is by far the best I've ever seen her give. She's always struck me as a fairly stiff performer, unable to get in touch with her emotions, but this was perfect for Black Swan. I was reminded a little of Kubrick's choice in casting Tom Cruise for Eyes Wide Shut, where Cruise's own peculiar asexuality was crucial to the film. I'm fully willing to believe Natalie Portman's never had an orgasm, as the film suggests of Nina. Tom, the director of the Swan Lake production in which Nina stars, tells Nina he can very much believe her as Odette, the virginal Swan Queen, but not as the Swan Queen's evil look-alike, Odile, the daughter of the sorcerer who cast the spell on Odette that made her take the form of a swan during the day. The movie gets its title from a decision to suggest that Odile is also a swan of sorts, a black swan. Tom doesn't feel Nina has embraced the darker, more passionate character embodied by the black swan. In the end, Nina finds the black swan in herself, apparently even taking on physical aspects of the swan by way of special effects and makeup. These effects and makeup go quite a ways toward making me believe Nina really has found her inner black swan, but unfortunately, Portman, for me, didn't pick up any of the slack. I still don't feel she achieved black swanhood. I was reminded of Francis Ford Coppola's complaints about Wynona Ryder in his Dracula and her inability to connect with an inner passion to match Gary Oldman's, and it's sort of fitting Ryder has a small role in Black Swan as Nina's predecessor in the ballet company.

I was reminded of Suspiria a lot, another movie concerning a ballerina dealing with dangerous supernatural phenomena, but, of course, more than anything Black Swan reminded me of The Red Shoes, as has been the case for so many other critics. And yet, Aronofsky claims The Red Shoes was not an influence on him at all. From an interview with Aronofsky at;

CH: There are also numerous thematic and even visual similarities to the classic ballet movie The Red Shoes (1948), which, like Black Swan, used a ballet to parallel the emotional and relationship breakdowns of characters. Can you talk about how Red Shoes influenced you?

DA: I actually wasn't aware of
The Red Shoes. I mean, I had heard of The Red Shoes, but I didn't see it, and then [Martin] Scorsese did the restoration a few years ago, and then I was like, "You know what, I better go and see it." It's a masterpiece, an unbelievable film, and I saw that there were similarities in the story, but I think that's because we both went back to ballet and pulled from ballet the different characters and stuff. So we ended up in similar places, but I wasn't really influenced by it, and I really didn't ever try to be influenced by it because it's such a masterpiece and the dance sequences, they weren't doing visual FX like that for 20 [more] years, they were [that] ahead of their time. So I just sort of kept it in the back and said, "Look, we just sort of dress it." I forget the year, but it's a long time ago and most people may not know about it, but unfortunately they do.

I can't make heads or tails out of what Aronofsky's saying at the end of this quote. "Dress it?" Is that a typo for "Address it?" It still wouldn't make any sense. I suppose that's the peril of getting a written interview by transcribing recordings of a spoken interview.

Anyway, as for Aronofsky saying he wasn't influenced by The Red Shoes, I say he's just flat out lying. The similarities are just too obvious--notice how the interviewer doesn't ask him if he was influenced by The Red Shoes, but rather asks him to discuss the ways in which he was influenced, because the influence is a foregone conclusion. I remember seeing David Bowie, a long time ago in a discussion on BowieNet, talk about how he never understood why so many artists weren't honest about their inspirations. I didn't know what Bowie was talking about then, but after this and seeing how clearly Star Wars was influenced by Doctor Who, I definitely do now. Aronofsky even borrows one of my favourite sequences of shots from The Red Shoes, where Moira Shearer's performing Swan Lake and we see a series of swish pans from her POV as she pirouettes.

But if Aronofsky's too insecure or something to own up to it, whatever. It won't make me think less or more of Black Swan. If The Red Shoes is a fifteen year old scotch, Black Swan is a shot of Bacardi, and there's a place in the world for affordable rum, even though there're better drinks out there. Like a good scotch, The Red Shoes is more complex than rum, and this speaks to the fundamental difference between the two movies. Black Swan is definitely about someone's struggle with herself, about sex and about how to relate with other people. The fact that Nina is a ballerina is incidental--the movie could've been about a barista. When Craster accuses Lermontov of being jealous of Vicky in The Red Shoes, Lermontov says yes, but in a way Craster "can never understand." I think the idea that Lermontov's libido was perverted and channelled into the ballet is certainly a fair interpretation. But the compulsion embodied by the red shoes speaks to something much bigger than the cathartic personal journey Black Swan ultimately amounts to. In a way, though, this sort of reflects the general cultural change in media over the past sixty years--what was once about giving oneself up to creating something bigger has become more about giving oneself up to creating oneself.

*In my geek fantasy, George Takei mentions this the next time Aronofsky calls into The Howard Stern Show.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bread Crumbs are Closer

This, as you might remember, was Monday;

This was Tuesday;

And this is Wednesday, to-day;

So, yeah, we've been getting a lot of rain. It sure makes quite a racket at night, it kept me up a little while.

I had two stale hamburger buns to give away and those two ducks were the only ones who dared venture close enough since it seems everyone was taking the brief respite from the rain to walk their dogs.

Twitter Sonnet #215

Grinning bubble man fell on a cork moon.
Stilts grew from the scorched astroturf rubber.
Soles stabbed by mutant cleats choke on twine doom.
The fat pirate in green's a landlubber.
Teams of blue farms blockade the cavalry.
Dry skin crackles under showers of scotch.
Sedentary squid draw ink salary.
Razor wire winds a hazardous watch.
Bogs distinguish turns in the grey blank stone.
Grossly stretched sugar grains scratch DNA.
Voices rot teeth across the sweat cell phone.
All electric dust routes go the same way.
Water shrugs its shoulders in some defeat.
Broader banks make ducks easier to meet.

I liked Michael Moore's appearance on Rachel Maddow last night;

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He is walking back his ardent support for Julian Assange a little bit, and it is good to stress that it's important to always take rape allegations seriously. Though, of course, it's precisely because of that that false rape allegations can be such a useful tool in character assassination. Sady Doyle, who appears to be the woman who started the #mooreandme hashtag, and who appears to be vigorously taking credit for Moore's statements on The Rachel Maddow Show and for Maddow putting the question to him, points out in her blog that she saw a lot of rather heinous jokes about rape victims posted in forums and comments sections related to the Wikileaks scandal. These might be Internet assholes, the finest distillations of douchebaggery in existence, but it is important to recognise that a cultural attitude of flippancy towards victims or potential victims of rape should be denounced.

At the same time, I don't think calling the allegations against Assange into question is wrong. I really think it's only the lowest common denominator (who, indeed, are still important) who could possibly see it as trivialising rape. As I showed in my post yesterday, there are plenty enough of those Internet assholes on the #mooreandme side making rash statements about Olbermann and Moore.

Naturally, Doyle expresses herself much more reasonably, yet I'm disappointed that someone who appears to be the nominal leader of this small feminist movement isn't quite as level headed as I'd like. She quite casually referred to Olbermann and Moore as "rape-apologists," which I think she at some level must recognise that they are not now or ever have been. A lot of her language is hyperbolically self-defeating, as in her blog where she says;

The widespread cultural belief that every woman who reports a rape must be taken seriously should be a common part of my day-to-day experience. I should expect that people believe that; I should expect that people behave in accordance with that belief; I should have the right to be shocked or surprised when they don’t. But I don’t expect it. It’s not a common expectation.

Really? I suppose I could be the one who's out of it, but it seems to me rape is usually taken very seriously. Thinking back to prominent cases of rape in the media, like Mike Tyson or John Phillips, it seems to me rape was taken very seriously in each one. It is true there was some whitewashing, particularly in concern to Mike Tyson, which is important to recognise, but it becomes harder to bring to light when the proponents of doing so use falsehoods to overstate the matter in a bludgeon of passion for the issue.

I suppose this could just be all part of this media culture which doesn't seem to feel it can express itself until the subwoofer's bleeding.

Meanwhile, apparently Assange is doing a pretty good job assassinating his own character, as Olbermann tweeted last night.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sense Arrows and Sensitivity Shots

Sometimes it seems to me people spit their preconceptions on others the way Brundlefly did with his acidic saliva in David Cronenberg's The Fly--just to make the target more digestible. Shitstorms happen when people are breaking down others into easily definable concepts. It's annoying, and often destructive, but I also see it as a way of coping with reality. On some level, the spurned lover knows their former object of affection isn't a total monster, but keeping a complicated reality in mind can turn one cross-eyed and delay progress. One might not get anything done if one contemplates the likelihood of doom. Sometimes people are quite conscious of the good things they might trample in the course of saving or acquiring something they see as more important.

Reading some tweets in the Twitter hashtag #mooreandme to-day, I'm seeing a lot of examples of things like;

Maddow is having Michael Moore on tonight, probably to thank him for raping women. Olbermann on vacay pursuing his hobby: rape.

I seriously love the men who are joining #mooreandme but also am disappointed I am cheering on dudes simply bc they consider women humans.

When you trivialize rape victims, you trivialize the crime itself. NOT OKAY, Michael Moore.

Love that @KeithOlbermann feels Republicans should be held accountable for their words but hides from Twitter when its his turn

Keith Olbermann hasn't shied away from replying to some of the thousands of #mooreandme tweets, and at twitlonger he posted;

And lastly, #mooreandme: Here, so we don't go through that again, is EXACTLY and ALL I said about the accusations in the Moore Interview, which strike me as challenging Michael's decision to post bail even IF Assange was being railroaded: "All right. One, one complicating issue here. Address the charges against Assange in Sweden. Are they, are they a ruse? Are they, are they a front for something else? And even if they are indeed something nefarious against HIM, you are still, in essence, participating in bailing out a man who has been charged with criminal sexual charges, or will be charged, under these circumstances. Address that."

This quote comes from this appearance by Michael Moore on Countdown with Keith Olbermann where they discuss Moore bailing out Julian Assange and Moore's belief that the kind of information transparency WikiLeaks provides will save lives.

One side argues that Moore tramples on the idea of respecting victims of rape in order to support the cause of WikiLeaks, while the other side might say people like the posters on #mooreandme are producing slander in the interest of promoting the security of anyone who might need to report that they've been raped.

It's my opinion that the accusations against Assange are likely fraudulent. If major credit card companies are complicit in punishing WikiLeaks for something that isn't actually illegal, it seems to me probable that two woman can be coerced by powerful entities into making character assassinating accusations.

But in some respects, that's a separate issue. Olbermann had retweeted a link from Bianca Jagger, one of the people who contributed to Assange's bail, that apparently gave information about the identities of the two women accusing Assange. Olbermann issued this apology;

Rape has touched my family, directly and savagely, and if anybody thinks I have addressed it without full sensitivity, then that assessment is the one that counts, and I apologize. But these accusations that I "revealed" an accuser's identity by retweeting Bianca Jagger’s link, or that I 'shamed' an accuser by asking a question about the prosecution of a man governments are trying to bury, or that I do not 'understand' charges that have yet to be presented in their final form, reflect exactly the kind of rushing to judgment of which I'm accused, and merit the same kind of apology I have just given.

A lot of people have contended that this is as insincere apology, the charge of insincerity levelled at length in this blog post, which refrains from quoting Olbermann's apology in its entirety and contends it's the use of the word "if" that renders the apology meaningless.

I would say that insensitivity is all that Olbermann can apologise for when he still believes his view of the facts are correct. His use of the word "if", in this circumstance, isn't to suggest that it's possible that people really don't consider him insensitive. It's to acknowledge that the legitimate perspective on the issue of insensitivity is that of those who were offended, not his. Because, after all, he's insensitive, and therefore was probably not sensitive to his insensitivity. It's not a statement addressing an unproved possibility, it's a statement of what he considers to be an invariable fact based on his experience with the issue; if there are people who feel he was insensitive (and obviously there are), then they are right, and he apologises.

The more fundamental issue, in my mind--Does the contention that government entities are coercing these two women into accusing a guy of rape create an environment where rape victims are less likely to come forward? Maybe, but it seems incredibly unlikely.

Does creating the impression that a man is a rapist cast doubts on the ethics of his organisation and possibly put him in danger? Yes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Pictures of Simultaneous Places

The river's overflowing again on this rather gloomy Monday. In Second Life, meanwhile, Tou waited with bells on to play chess but no-one showed.

Maybe it was the antlers. I can't be the only one who thinks reindeer are pretty damn scary. Dark, with skeletal limbs, standing barely distinguishably amongst a thousand thin tree trunks like rotten teeth emerging from the dusk blue snow. Black eyes glimmer under the strange jagged rack, watching you.

Yesterday I again watched the 1969 BBC production of An Ideal Husband with a very young looking Jeremy Brett in the role of Lord Goring. He was really good in the role, but I find it hard to believe anyone could look at him without seeing Sherlock Holmes incarnate.

Lord Goring seems to be Oscar Wilde's stand-in, and I got to thinking how most of Wilde's stories feature an avatar character for him, whether it's Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray or Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest. In fact, his stories that don't feature these characters, primarily his fairy tales, feel fundamentally different. There's a sort of feeling of immediacy in the stories that do feature them, there's more tension, even when the avatar character isn't the main protagonist.

They also, particularly in the case of An Ideal Husband, seem to be stories exploring the contrast between expectation and reality in matters of character. It leads to the odd paradox of Lord Goring being both the most patently irresponsible character in the play and also the wisest.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Water Bearing Latex Pumpkin Turning Purple

Eh, I feel like-ah shit, as Chico Marx might say. Maybe it was the rum last night, maybe it was the mostly green potato I ate at 2am, maybe it was blrraaauahah rah rah, ga ga . . . lada ga ga metal bikinis business men watching dancer in strait jack wa-bluh.

Premise; jet setter George Clooney struck by midlife crisis ennui pays Lady Gaga to play poker with him on her face. Fuck everyone.

Seriously, I feel like-ah shit, as Chico Marx might say. That is to say, I'm saying again that he might have said it.

Twitter Sonnet #214

Crooked rocking horses wake up to-night.
Giant, nosey bats want you in their club.
Never lose your lint without a good fight.
Hors d'oeuvres stab the spokes round the stolen hub.
Tightened roofs of long mouths loudly collapse.
In the paper swamps there's sopping pulp.
Hundreds trampled Goofy's training black taps.
Steve Jobs hears the ominous meta "gulp."
Sheep grow wool now too slow for man's progress.
Old women labour at hand grenade work.
Goliath's drawers can be David's sun dress.
Spoiled fruits are spinning loom's only perk.
Ink blots vanish in a rainstorm of tar.
In traffic I notice a moving car.

This is my blood elf hunter, Sichilde, sleeping on Tim's new 42 inch television last night;

Waiting for a boss to respawn. I have her pet wolf, Greta, waiting on the spawn spot. Sichilde's companion pet is the cockroach sitting next to her. I'm hoping to-night maybe I can get a frog from the Dark Moon Faire. Is it just me, or do Alliance characters get much better companion pets? There are cats all over the blood elf starter area, but the only companion pet you can buy is some stupid wyrm thing. Not that I know too much about the blood elf starter area since I high tailed it right to the Forsaken starter area at level one. You can see Sichilde's even wearing the Forsaken tabard, despite never having been in a dungeon. She's also never set foot on Kalimdor.

Tim remarked at one point it was too bad Sichilde couldn't cannibalise a corpse to regain health like a real Forsaken. "Sichilde is Forsaken!" I protested, "She is Forsaken! Will someone please Forsake her? Come on, even just a little bit?"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Nipple of Truth Pierces the Camisole of Ignorance

It is nice to see the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell to-day. Perhaps this is the first step to a day where our brave warriors are totally unafraid of cooties. But I'm a dreamer. Maybe we'll get around to switching to the metric system, too.

Who'd have thought an organisation that trains its members to see large groups of foreign combatants as inhuman would cling to a policy of intolerance for so long? Maybe the U.S. will get around to accomplishing something again, one day.

I've been thinking to-day about how the largely misinformed state in which the American people live is not only detrimental to those people and the wisdom of the decisions they make but also to the perceptions politicians have of them. I wonder if Obama would be so timid without studies like the one I saw a couple days ago that showed viewers of Fox News, the most watched news channel by a wide margin, are significantly more likely to believe that;

--Most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)

--Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)

--The economy is getting worse (26 points)

--Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)

--The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)

--Their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)

--The auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)

--When TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)

--And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

While I'm posting links to Huffington Post, this post by Michael Moore about a characteristic example of the laziness of modern journalists is pretty funny. I particularly like this bit;

Are you gonna attack me for having my movie played on Cuban state television? Or are you gonna attack me for not having my movie played on Cuban state television?

You have to choose one, it can't be both.

Sadly, I can't agree with that last line of Moore's when we've all heard about how the same people saying Obama's a secret Muslim were also saying he was dangerously influenced by his former pastor.

The words written and spoken by the Fox News crowd aren't meant to be taken for their literal meaning, but for the overall feelings of irrational hate and fear they convey. If they felt they could fill 24 hours with mean grunting, they would.

Gods, I love Doctor Who;

Of course, it would be an anachronism for Leela to be wearing a bra under her camisole in Victorian London, and presumably out of character for her generally, but I'm beginning to wonder if anyone wore bras in the 1970s. The previous serial, "The Robots of Death," prominently featured the nipples of two female guest stars, and one of the things I liked best about Klute's visuals was that Jane Fonda was virtually topless at all times.

But I'm liking Leela for more than her boobs. It's really nice to see a female companion who makes herself useful throwing knives and darts and getting villains in headlocks. Or even just innocently sassing the Doctor.

DOCTOR: Do you know what that is?

LEELA (smiling): Oh! You asked me so that you could tell me.

DOCTOR (subtly off balance): That's--right.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Puppet Wars Remembered

The sample video for the upcoming Rifftrax release of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is some scary shit. I can't wait to watch this thing, but I know I could only do it with Mike, Kevin, and Bill holding my brain hands.

I'd actually been thinking about how much I'd like to see a Rifftrax Christmas special. I tend to associate MST3k with Thanksgiving because of the old Turkey Day marathons Comedy Central used to do, most memorably one year hosted by Adam West. But the Christmas episodes, particularly the dubbed Mexican film Santa Claus, are a permanent part of the Christmas room in my creepy mind maze.

I guess I've been bit by the nostalgia mosquito again to-day. I had a strong urge to watch the cat's tongue arc from the second season of Ranma 1/2, and I watched the first episode of it, "Yappari Neko ga Kirai?" ("You Really Do Hate Cats?") with breakfast. You can see the second season's lower budget pretty clearly in this shot;

It's not the only time I've seen this--I even saw it in a recent episode of an American series I like, where you'd think the fact that animation cells are so often compiled on computer now would make it easy to correct a mistake like this. But this old Ranma episode aired in 1989 and was hand painted. In high school, I remember thinking how much the low budget of season two showed, but now it actually mostly looks really good, compared to modern low budget anime. Maybe the animators were more conscious there was less room for error, probably they also knew they couldn't lean on the easy shading effects and colour palettes of computer programmes.

It's 3:30pm, and I still feel like I just woke up. I was up late last night doing laundry, and as a consequence I saw some people online in SL I hadn't been able to play chess with since I was on my nocturnal schedule. I had a really good chess day, finally. I played five games and won four. I'm bracing myself for the inevitable several months of losses to follow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Real Ducks Don't Wear Shoes

Twitter Sonnet #213

Plesiosaurs drag kings to the lakebed.
Footmen helplessly drift up to the moon.
In the priest holes, modern secrets are said.
Mystery cake's fed to the exiled loon.
Angelic vanity sticks to a card.
Flooded Hallmark vomits wrapping army.
Purple ribbon flutters past a drunk guard.
A cafe keeps a lost paper Emmy.
Red shoes reward the inquisitive girl.
Fake feet shroud the shameful reality.
Cotton candy around cyclone eyes swirl.
Bad veins shoot a sparkly polarity.
Skin grafts supplant lumps of melted whale fin.
Jellyfish monitor the scallop's sin.

Look what I got last night;

Red ballet slippers in Second Life, almost exactly like the ones in The Red Shoes. I was hanging out at Ingenue with Amee when Betty Doyle, the owner of Ingenue, showed up and I was finally able to ask her where to get the shoes I saw a model wearing in one of the display pictures for one of Betty's dresses. Turned out to be a place called SLink, which also has prim feet, which I found myself compelled to buy. They're not perfect, but as you can see they're an improvement compared to the default (on the left);

Last night I also watched Klute, which Iain had recommended to me. Iain is big into 1970s independent film, something I feel like I've only just scratched the surface of. Klute wasn't bad, and I was intrigued to see another example of a tsundere outside of anime/manga, in this case in the form of a call girl named Bree. In the movie's best scene, Bree explains to a psychiatrist her conflicted feelings about Detective Klute--Bree had divulged that she enjoyed her work as a call girl because it provided her with the safe vantage point of sex without exposed feeling. But she finds she's falling for Klute and is disturbed by her compulsion to sabotage the relationship to get back to the safe, familiar state of numbness.

Bree doesn't seem much like a real call girl, partly because Jane Fonda isn't very good at playing anyone but Jane Fonda--she really doesn't play Bree any differently than she played Cat Ballou. But she is really good at playing Jane Fonda--it's sort of eerie when an actor can deliver lines with such conviction and exhibit believable signs of internal reactions and yet be so fundamentally ill matched for the character they're portraying. It's a bit like how I've come to feel about Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary. Fonda's basic aura of confidence contradicts the walled off, insecure person she's portraying. She comes off more as an anthropologist stationed in a call girl's skull--the recordings of her with her psychiatrist or with her Johns are constantly analysing in depth the nature of the profession in terms of contemporary ideas of free love, contrasting them with traditional morality and the psychological impact of intimacy and casual sex. It's a movie that provides value a lot more through what it tells than what it shows.

Blake Edwards, who I just learned died yesterday, directed Breakfast at Tiffany's ten years earlier than Klute, and Holly Golightly was a much better crafted call girl character. Her love interest, though sort of boring in comparison to Golightly, is also a more interesting and flawed character than Klute.

I think Klute gets its title more from Detective Klute as a central aspect of Bree's dilemma than from any prominence of the character himself in the movie. In fact, Klute is barely a character at all--all we really know about him is that he is from outside the city, and he seems very innocent, practical, and invariably right. He exists entirely as a foil for Bree, and in this sense the movie seemed to be strongly influenced by a traditional morality. Bree sort of references it when she teasingly asks Klute if the "sin" of the city people like her had rubbed off on him at all. There's therefore something kind of incidentally disturbing about their romance, and his position as an authority figure there to straighten out her life. He is the unerring, pure male and she is the woman, stained with sin and ill equipped to handle her own life and emotions. There's something somehow religious about it.

I liked how Klute looked. It's interesting going from watching French New Wave and Italian Neorealism in the 60s to seeing how they influenced American cinema in the 70s.

To-day's ducks;

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back to the Cold

Christmas in Second Life is a treacherous thing.

I seem to be having a hard time lately finding people to play chess with. I think I've lost too much--I think maybe a lot of the people I normally play against don't feel like they get anything out of a win against me and the rare occasion where someone loses against me is sort of humiliating for them.

The other day, Howard Stern was talking about losing in chess online to a player whose ELO rating was much lower than his. He said he made an effort to do the courteous thing and say, "Good game," instead of just abruptly logging off the way a lot of people do. But Stern said he found it annoying that the victor responded by saying, "Sorry." What's weird is I've been hearing that lately when I lose, too. Online chess etiquette seems to spread fast. Stern seemed to think it was phoney and kind of condescending, and I'd have to agree. I don't think anyone's really sorry to win at chess.

I think I had too much cheese yesterday. It's the only milk product I seem to be able to digest anymore, so maybe that's why I went overboard. After a lunch of cheese and soy meat tacos with cheese on refried beans, I snacked for about three hours on those red Babybel cheese wheels they sell at Vons née Safeway on wheat thins while I finished a bottle of red wine. Then I had two huge slices of provolone on my vegetarian turkey burger for dinner. I felt like the Egg Man when I was trying to get to sleep. The Walrus had too much motherfucking cheese on this motherfucking plane.

I might go a week or two without alcohol. I feel tired of it again. Though there are a lot of nice liquor gift boxes all over the place. I saw a Glenlivet gift box at the store to-day for 25 dollars--that's a bottle of Glenlivet and a couple drinking glasses.

At Barnes and Noble yesterday I saw that they're selling huge, hardback copies of the complete fiction works of H.P. Lovecraft for 13 dollars. It looks like it might be cumbersome to read, but I wish that edition had been around when I was buying the sixteen dollar Penguin trade paper backs with just a handful of stories in each.