Monday, January 31, 2011

Wide Eyed Somnambulism

I have a feeling this whole week's going to seem like a dream. Everything seems harder without caffeine. I keep stopping in my work and just staring, not thinking of anything. Just blank. Aside from these bouts of sickness, I've had at least two cups of coffee every day since I was seventeen or eighteen years old. I suspect it's totally supplanted the function of something in my head that has long since withered and died away.

I dreamt I was at an indoor mall where an old woman was drawing a crowd by delivering some passionate oration in Navajo. There was a little boy whining, "I don't want to hear Navajo!"

I turned a corner and ran into Conrad Veidt, dressed as he was in his role as the somnambulist in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, probably because I watched that movie before going to bed. He was carrying the big doll version of himself in a pale yellow cardboard box with a transparent, cellophane front, as though he'd just bought the doll at the toy store. He seemed both really excited to see me and sort of sorry to see me.

I told him how much I loved his performance in The Thief of Bagdad, and he seemed pleased.

I've now begun five paragraphs with "I." Sorry, Jedediah. Here;

Determined not to have trouble with to-day's katakana quiz, I spent some time writing each character twenty times, repeating them each aloud as I wrote. That should do it. I hope. I also did a couple pages of homework, conjugating verbs. I kind of can't tell how well I'm doing, or how well I would be doing if I could bloody think. But I'm doing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Raining Bilge Water

Doing Japanese homework to-day on antibiotics and without caffeine has given me a real glimpse of how wonderful this week's going to be. Holy fuck this isn't going to be easy.

I had a few vivid dreams last night that I can't quite remember. In one, I remember living in what seemed like a Disneyland ride, with all the shadows and sort of neon, false sunlight of each little piece of animatronic story. I was keeping a cat and a horse, and for some reason I was having trouble making sure the horse got food and water. Getting it either seemed to involve a long trek through the place, and the horse had become emaciated. I think I may have been inspired by this Victorian photo I found online somewhere, I don't remember where;

There's an image you can't get from period films, however well they're made. They always have healthy horses.

I was in the mood for pirate movies the other day, and it occurred to me I haven't really seen many. So I googled "Top 10 pirate movies" and "Top pirate movies," looking to see what lists people'd come up with for their blogs. I was surprised to find the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie came up first on every list I saw. I guess it is really popular, and though I could never whole heartedly connect with it, I liked Johnny Depp's performance. But like most of the movies I saw listed, it tends to feature very little of pirates being pirates--actually attacking and plundering other ships.

This was the case, too, for the movie I watched last night, Captain Blood, but it was a good, interestingly meandering story. The first half of the film has Errol Flynn, playing Peter Blood, being sold into slavery by Britain for tending the wounds of an enemy of James II. He's sent to Port Royal, where the movie becomes mostly about the gentleman slave and the forbidden love he shares with Olivia de Havilland. Somehow this makes the pirate element more satisfying when it shows up in the form of Spanish pirates, who sack the town while Blood and his slave cohorts steal their ship.

There are lots of nice ship battles and a credible feeling variety of locations, creating a sense of a world. Flynn has a nice swordfight with Basil Rathbone, which doesn't have the same insane fervour of the duel between the same two men in the later Adventures of Robin Hood, but is still pretty damn good. I appreciate Rathbone a lot more in these roles, too, than I do when I see him as Sherlock Holmes. When everyone around him, including Flynn, still seems to have a lot of broad, silent movie gestures, Rathbone's performance is a lot subtler, more naturalistic. Though I wouldn't want to sell Flynn short--once he gets going, his smile's infectious. And Olivia de Havilland's particularly gorgeous in this movie.

Twitter Sonnet #228

Black cloth conceals steamed vegetables and foam.
The smell separated from its rice stinks.
Microwaves beam for their indifferent home.
Tom says "Don't have to live with Jar Jar Binks."
Fireworks teleport jelly babies.
Composite log bow's a bad lobster trap.
Narcolepsy's also called Dark Rabies.
Most thugs now find postmen easy to sap.
Twenty mile veins circulate iron.
All closed exits are free on Saturday.
White is the bread of the Wonder Lion.
Butter guts are strewn on the croissant way.
Significant neckties ignite the page.
Inky toupees must bow to wooden age.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Caffeine Carrot is Pulled Away Again

Looks like I have another urinary tract infection. At least it's not my imagination this time. Unless I've just been on one big, mundane, mildly frustrating hallucinatory journey. Though things certainly seem to be going a lot better than last time. I went to the Scripps Clinic across town, which my insurance seems to cover, though I don't know how much of. But even if it ends up not covering me at all, this is still going to be a lot cheaper than last time because I didn't get a CT scan--there wasn't even a question of it. Where the Grossmont ER had automatically put me under the machine after finding out I didn't have insurance, this place just took a urine sample, asked me questions about symptoms, and the doctor prodded my belly. And he figured out it was either UTI or bladder cancer--the latter only being the case if the sample came back without bacteria from the lab an hour hence. Since I haven't heard back, and that was five hours ago, it looks like it is, indeed, UTI.

Hooray, my insides are infested and disgusting!

I asked the doctor what he thought might be causing these UTIs and he said simply, "Bad luck." That's it. Nothing about food, hygiene, exposure to toxic waste. Medical science just doesn't know. This didn't stop my mother, when I called her, from telling me it was because I don't exercise enough and I wear too much black. I'm more black cloth now than man, twisted and evil.

The antibiotics were around half the price of last time, too. I'm daring to hope this'll all be cheaper than my school books, though I guess that's not saying much since my school books were nearly 300 dollars. This is with managing to get one of them for 99 cents and another for 14 dollars on my Kindle. I'm probably going to end up buying a nine dollar parking permit, too, since I'm not supposed to exercise with the antibiotics.

They ought to just give me a standing prescription for ciprofloxacin. So just since Christmas I've had a cold, a stomach flu, and now a UTI. You're not gonna stop me, you fuckers!

Continued Grand Adventures of My Health

I've been pissing blood all day. Feel a little cold and weak. The party just don't stop. I'm off to a clinic. I hope my insurance covers me.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Insensitivity of the Sensitive

I felt kind of bad for having complained about my Anthropology teacher's poor spelling and grammar when, last night, he explained to the class that he had a disorder that prevented him from spelling properly much of the time. Though the fact that he was quite comfortably writing words like "ethnology" and "Whorfian hypothesis" on the board, he seemed suspiciously more like someone who might simply not be a particularly good speller. He alluded to having worked in some kind of therapy field, and I kind of wonder if his "disorder" is simply part of a meme to prevent assholes like me from criticising making fun of him as part of the grand crusade for everyone's self esteem. And, of course, his syllabus is one of the few I've seen to specify that grammar will count for around 30% of the grades on our papers.

But he does seem like a nice guy and enthusiastic about the subject he's teaching. He really made me feel like I'm going to enjoy the class. He talked about cultural relativism and ethnocentrism, some concepts that have long been of some particular interest to me. He quite patiently and engagingly explained to the class the concept of perceived reality being fundamentally shaped by culture. Though later, when he kind of mockingly referred to the large portion of the U.S. population that does not believe in evolution, I think he may have lost a few people in the class. I certainly agree with his position, but unfortunately I think we're past the point where we can shut down creationism with a gently sardonic presentation of the facts. I'm afraid we're at the point where some cultural sensitivity must be observed with the creationists if we ever want their minds to be open.

I liked how the teacher kindly considered how many of the students in the class were first time college students out of high school. I've been marvelling at all the really young people around me. The teacher of my American History class looks like he may be younger than me. His class looks like it's going to be by far the easiest, despite his terribly serious demeanour. I rather liked how his class is starting with people coming across the Bering Strait land bridge and native American civilisations, pre-European colonisation. Though I don't know why I was expecting to hear about pilgrims and Thanksgiving first, like it's 1954.

From all the religious oppression, sex, violence, and nudity yesterday, I felt rather comforted about the history I wrote for Venia's Travels. I still felt like I fell short of the right amount of violence, despite how shocked the quivering mass on the Something Awful forums were. Though I guess most of the people there were part of that blushing group of very young, new college students I saw at school yesterday.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

If I Had Prepared Twenty Years Ago . . .

Twitter Sonnet #227

Gatorade falls from an acid white sky.
Three bites of potato's short victory.
Punchy red eyelids revenge a black eye.
Salt crackers sink under the factory.
Tight abs swallow the man's belly button.
Garrotting scarves can stop a mean bird's fall.
Emergency air-dough smothers Muffin.
It's more than one sweet brick makes pastry wall.
Good blueberries vanquish the presumed bad.
Salty power dimmed the energy drink.
Dasani's effort at hydration's sad.
Some liquids stand just at the solid brink.
Smiling suns see steam trains flood acid track.
Tinker Bell shot Porky in iris black.

I did make it to class last night, the second day of Japanese II after I'd missed the first one on Monday. The teacher is a very nice Japanese woman who seemed very understanding when I explained to her what happened and she gave me a copy of the class syllabus. I'd only managed half a cup of coffee yesterday, and was still a bit hazy from lingering sick effects, and I hadn't taken Japanese I in around ten years, but I sat myself right down in the front and felt quite tranquil as information flew at me during class to find little purchase in my comprehension.

Though I think I remember Japanese II going like this at first the last time I took it before dropping it. I got a B in Japanese I, which was an extraordinarily good grade for me to get in anything, but the jump from Japanese I to II was pretty steep. The idea seems to be that Japanese II students get a Japanese teacher to whom they need to make more of an effort to reach across the language divide to. At least this time I understood most of what she was saying throughout the class, "Mite kudasai, sou desu . . ." Though it was all stuff I'd picked up from watching anime and Japanese movies. I don't remember learning any of those words in Japanese I. I remember the first day of Japanese II, last time I took it, consisted of me wondering what this, "kudasai" word was the teacher constantly used, with every breath it seemed. Now I know it means "please," and seems to permeate Japanese like crazy. I don't know how I didn't learn it at any point in Japanese I.

But I feel like I can do II this time. That might just be the chutzpah of a sick brain talking, but we'll see. To-night I have History and Anthropology, which I think'll be cake in comparison. Uck, I can't even think of cake without feeling nauseous. Or alcohol, for that matter. Or World of Warcraft.

Playing video games might seem a natural thing to do when you're sick. I know I got in a lot of Final Fantasy I when I'd have the stomach flu as a kid. But somehow the idea of WoW seemed daunting. Even listening to Howard Stern seemed to be complicated enough to make me feel vaguely panicked. I guess considering all this I should feel pretty good about getting, I'm pretty sure, around 80% of the hiragana right on the quiz at the end of class yesterday. Though this was after brushing up on it on the weekend and being refreshed on it throughout class beforehand yesterday.

I will persevere . . .

I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit with dinner last night. I hadn't remembered how grainy that newest DVD special edition print is. It's pretty annoying, as one longs to see the crisp, clean lines of that animation. There's a real feeling of a vast world in that movie, owing mainly, it seems to me, to the wonderful attention to characterisation, and also to that absolutely singular animation. I've gone on about this before already, but I never get tired of the beautiful, alien spectacle of painstaking, hand drawn 3D animation. It has so much life that cgi doesn't have--it hits something in the brain, I think, that recognises the mind of another living creature in the movements.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Things We Don't Know About Birds

It's amazing how one sip of coffee can instantly begin to counteract two days of caffeine withdrawal. The lingering nausea in my stomach says, "No," but my brain drowns it out with a resounding, "Yes."

I'm going to go to school to-night if I don't throw up within the next couple hours. I haven't vomited since yesterday morning, but this lingering nausea has me a little worried. And the fact that I was able to sleep despite only half a potato and a single cracker for dinner. I had an entire bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, though. I went to the bank and the grocery store and I seem to be making everyone believe I'm okay, so maybe that'll create some kind of reality feedback loop.

I wanted just a nice, sweet, colour Alfred Hitchcock movie yesterday, so I watched The Birds. It amazes me how most of the screenshots I see from the movie in articles about it tend not to be some of the really gorgeous images that fill most of the film. I particularly like this shot of Melanie in her boat crossing from the left side of the screen to the right;

I can feel exactly what the weather feels like. I'm not quite sure if it's a matte painting or just a sky and landscape that happen to look like a painting, but it's beautiful in any case. And Hitchcock's movies let you appreciate their beautiful images rather than kind of obnoxiously rubbing your nose in them like a lot of modern films.

I think a lot of modern viewers probably find the first half of The Birds terribly understated, perhaps even dull. But I love the quiet, weird power play between Melanie and Mitch. This is what M. Night Shyamalan really didn't understand when he was making his Hitchcock inspired The Happening. Both films feature inexplicable acts of nature threatening their lives, but The Happening never comes together because the conflict between its protagonists is too superficial, too sitcom--Zooey Deschanel maybe cheating on Mark Wahlberg, Wahlberg . . . I don't know, I think his problem was his weirdly breathy delivery.

But the catastrophe in The Birds feeds off the character stories that dominate the first half of the film, a conflict between self-control and expression of natural needs and desires. The superstitious woman in the diner accuses Melanie of being evil, of bringing the birds--Melanie, who may have danced naked in a fountain in Rome, a sudden and shocking intruder into Mitch's family life even as he himself let the genie out of the bottle by flirting with her at the pet shop, where he pretended he thought she worked at the store. He said he was doing it because he wanted her to feel what it was like to be pranked after he'd witnessed one of her pranks on an earlier occasion. Of course this is exciting veneer for a flirtation, whether he realises it or not. She maintains a transparent fiction about loathing him, though she's clearly not deluded about it herself.

Everything becomes more serious when this game is brought to Mitch's mother's doorstep. Melanie meets Anne, Mitch's former lover whom his mother couldn't abide competing with. Not, as Anne said, because she was possessive of Mitch, but because Lydia, Mitch's mother, couldn't stand the idea of someone else providing the love for Mitch she couldn't.

It's the traumatic circumstances of the attacking birds that thaw Lydia's exterior--I would say the latter half of the film is really more concerned with her arc as the circumstances force her to resort to the basic humanity she perhaps felt she lacked.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Doing Better than Hyman Roth

It's now nearly 5pm and I haven't vomited since 7:30am. I think that's the longest stretch I've gone since I started puking yesterday, though I still feel pretty nauseous. I threw up blue liquid this morning, despite not having had anything blue to eat or drink. I googled to find out what this meant, and aside from comments helpfully suggesting that one man whose wife was having a similar problem was blowing Smurfs, a couple people also indicated it was a sign of appendicitis. So I thought it prudent to call my doctor, who got back to me later in the day to tell me I was okay if I could keep fluids down, which mainly I've been able to do, except I threw up some Gatorade yesterday. But I'm starting to feel some cautious optimism. I'm eating Saltines.

How fucked would I be if it is appendicitis. I bet my lousy health insurance wouldn't cover it to any significant degree. And I have those lovely voices singing in my head, "This is what you get for being such a fuck up. If you'd figured out a way to make money by now, you could have proper health insurance, or maybe you'd live in a country with real healthcare."

I'm getting sick a lot more often than I used to, it seems to me. There was the cold before this, then the anxiety stuff, and the UTI before that. I don't think I got sick once in my 20s. This is bullshit.

I watched The Godfather when I had the UTI, so I figured it was fitting to watch The Godfather part II this time. That movie's a lot more sepia than I remember.

I watched it and episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in dribs and drabs between puking and sleeping. I suppose it's no wonder I feel so low on energy when the only food I've kept down since yesterday is a little oatmeal and about four crackers. I sure hope I can make it into school to-morrow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stomach Does Not Want

Twitter Sonnet #226

Gold runs green down papier-mache mountains.
Extra monkey clings tight to his old name.
Real and fake lands quake for one-eyed captains.
Mine carts bearing misfits seek a loud vein.
Liquid tartan's refreshingly Celtic.
While the Greek plate pita's buried in rice.
Tofu sinks in a thick sea of garlic.
Cookie fortunes are too often advice.
Moving corpses make their killers ashamed.
Island hermits can fear a cocoanut.
The innocent dairy is often blamed.
For crimes of the poisonous halibut.
Breakfast can take three hours to consume.
Now hoping nausea does not resume.

To-night was supposed to be my first night of class, but instead I have a stomach flu. Apart from how rude it seems to expose other people to the virus, I barely made it to the toilet after eating one Saltine cracker made me suddenly need to throw up for the second time to-day. There's a real chance of me throwing up all over my desk if I go. It took me three hours to get down a bowl of oatmeal this morning before it came back out again somewhat unexpectedly while I was taking a shower.

So, yay, I'm really sick and it wasn't my imagination, this stomach flu that could've done its business with me any fucking time over the past couple months without disrupting my school schedule. But whatever.

Thinking of the timeline of this thing, I may have caught it from my dentist, who'd told me she'd just been sick, or from the blueberries I had in my oatmeal on Friday, when I first started feeling what I thought was indigestion. Or maybe I caught it from Snow the Cat, who I saw had thrown up on the fence a couple days ago. Here seen on that same fence yesterday with a twig he was carrying around for some reason;

But cats throw up all the time, and supposedly its rare for virus transmissions to go between cat and man. Maybe I caught it from this spider in my bathroom;

He was the biggest I'd seen in some time, bigger than a quarter.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Planet that was a Key and Glorious Age and Jar

I finished watching "The Pirate Planet" to-day, a Doctor Who serial I'd been looking forward to for quite some time, as I knew it was written by Douglas Adams. It turned out to be one of my favourite serials of the series so far, by a long shot. It may be my single favourite. I'd read some people were unhappy with the amount of comedy in the episode, yet I found it to be a serial filled with more effective tension than most of the others. Even though the Doctor is yet again saving an entire civilisation (the Doctor actually makes a nice little joke about it, in fact), the plot had a sort of internal integrity to it the other serials frequently don't have, particularly those by Robert Holmes which always feel like they're being totally made up as they go a long with little or no fidelity to things previously established. In this one, when the Doctor reveals the complexity of what's happening, and his plans on how to combat it, it all satisfyingly fits together, and the Doctor feels genuinely brilliant, instead of everyone else around him just being sort of dumb for a while.

I'm liking Mary Tamm as the new companion, Romana, and she had a nice line when her telepathic allies temporarily lost their powers--a cool something like, "So much for the paranormal. Back to good old brute force, I suppose." The cliff-hanger at the end of the third episode was one of the most satisfyingly resolved--something it seemed impossible for the Doctor to escape resolved with a perfectly reasonable answer to another question presented in the same episode. A lot of the obstacles the characters come across are both reasonable to be expected from an evil pirate government and are settled by means acceptably within the characters' abilities. So all the stakes felt real, consequently the events are a lot easier to get swept up in, however absurd they are. The fact that the antagonists are space pirates therefore comes across as funny rather than just ridiculous.

I wish there had been more episodes written by Adams, though I'm pleased to see he becomes script editor for a little while.

My heart really went out to Rachel Maddow on Friday's Real Time;

See the latter half of the clip.

Yes, Steve Moore, the facts are the facts and you're clearly afraid of them coming out of this woman's mouth.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Regulating Love and Information

I'm still thinking about the mysterious and sudden departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC yesterday. One of the highest rated programmes on the network, one of the signature programmes upon which nearly all of the network's other shows are clearly modelled, on the face of it this decision makes little sense. As replacements, the bland Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell and the obnoxious Ed Show don't appear to cut the mustard in terms of ratings or content. The two main theories for Keith's departure seem to be that Comcast is responsible, as they recently acquired NBC, or that network executives still bear a grudge with Olbermann over his refusal to apologise to them for contributing to three campaigns of Democratic politicians.

To-day, information has come out that Olbermann and the network reached a deal similar to Conan O'Brien's that restrains Olbermann from commenting on his departure and prohibits him from working on television for a period of time. These two incidents together paint for me a picture of clueless, petulant brutes in charge at NBC. They didn't know how to handle Conan O'Brien, didn't have the patience to let his show grow and build an audience, and now they've fired Olbermann over what sounds to me like pure, petty jealousy. Because the apology they wanted from Olbermann was for not toeing the line--it wasn't for any ethical violation or damaging PR. Olbermann's contract allowed him to make campaign contributions, his only crime was in not telling his bosses first. A level-headed boss would say, okay, Olbermann made a minor procedural transgression, but nothing good would come from fighting over it. It's only a desperate need to be acknowledged as a superior that would generate this kind of grudge against Olbermann, who gets the kind of respect it turns out money can't buy.

Most of yesterday afternoon I had what I think is indigestion, possibly from the mountain of black pepper I dumped on the pea soup I had for lunch. Alka-Seltzer seemed to help, but I can't help thinking about how I keep getting "sick" just before events I'm anxious about--Comic-Con, the conclusion of my comic, and now the start of school on Monday. I feel like a three headed monster--part of me feels totally calm about school, part of me is telling myself that I'm freaking out and making myself feel ill, and part of me feels genuinely ill. I don't know what to think of what I think sometimes.

To-day I've been practising writing hiragana and katakana, two of the Japanese systems of writing, in preparation for class on Monday. I figured I needed some review since I took Japanese I something like a decade ago. But I was a bit annoyed to find neither of the text books I bought for my Japanese II class tells me the proper stroke order for writing the characters, despite the fact that both books are also used for Japanese I. Googling for the information online, I predictably found a few sites that wanted money for the information, but they're all undercut by Wikipedia, which has handy charts like this. People spend a lot of time criticising Wikipedia's flaws, but sometimes it's worth noting what an extraordinarily useful thing it can be, particularly for a free service.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sprite Pyramids

Twitter Sonnet #225

Bolts of rat hair flutter by the tin jack.
Amber liquid smiles on the nova.
Cherry red flares signal blackened tarmac.
The sweet smell of paste precedes Jehovah.
Chattering grains of clock hands resign late.
Microscope felt follicles sweat with joy.
PiƱata Nerds hail on the House debate.
Orange men cry the tears of a little boy.
Carrot calves prop tuber wrought abdomen.
Ferns droop over side scroller window fish.
Plastic torso sheathes gut aquarium.
Ghosts hide at the skirt of Lillian Gish.
Crinoline of eternity shades death.
Fresh fruits and vegetables seek out Macbeth.

I went into the backyard to photograph the first lizard of spring, but he'd already run off by the time I got out there. Maybe he saw the coming of Snow.

Last night I dreamt I became trapped in an extremely unpopular mmorpg based on the old Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting of Ravenloft. By unpopular, I mean there were apparently no players. The graphics looked like a very old, single player 3D Ravenloft game I remember playing.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Yesterday the dentist told me my teeth looked good, which is something I don't think I've heard from a dentist in . . . ever. And all it took was fourteen fillings, deep cleaning, and a four times a day regime of brushing and flossing book-ended by Listerine. Isn't life too short for all that? Though I suppose it could be shorter.

One of the things reading about Victorian London has caused me to think about is the sort of comic precariousness of mortality. All these smug advice books from the period were telling people how to live longer while the air was filled constantly with soot (it was impossible to spend much time outdoors without acquiring some "black"), the wallpaper was often poisonous, the baby food was drugged, and the houses were usually freezing due to the inefficient heating system of the fireplace. Meanwhile a significant portion of the population spent every waking hour cleaning up after the other portion and were discouraged from reading novels or being curious. While those not of the servant class lived a precarious balancing act to achieve just the right balance of respectability, and it occurred to me that the happiest person would be totally undone by the indignities of aging which ends in death.

I suppose some of my anxieties about my own life may be feeding into this a bit. I've always had this vague feeling of being cursed never to "earn" a living regardless of how skilled, talented, or hard working I might be. I suppose this feeling probably comes from the fact that it's been true so far. So while I'm hoping I don't fuck up with school this time, I know that even getting a degree is hardly a guarantee of a career, and meanwhile I'm better off than most people, certainly better off than most of the Victorians.

I watched the second to last episode of Twin Peaks last night, which leaves only the final, David Lynch directed episode, which I actually found myself curiously afraid of which, I have to say, is a bit exciting. I only recently read about how most of the final episode was rewritten by David Lynch, though he took no screen credit for it. And I love how apocalyptic he made it--he took this quiet, proper, respectably unadventurous detective show the other writers had turned Twin Peaks into and bludgeoned it to death with the most nightmarish hour of television I've ever seen. I feel the shadow of doom in little things leading up to the episode, like when Audrey talks about the Savings and Loan secretly financing the Ghostwood project and I think, "Oh yeah, so that's how she ended up at he bank . . ." And I get a chill. I'm really looking forward to watching this episode.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Okay, Who Stepped On the Butterfly?

I just received an e-mail from the ominously named "Michael Blood," instructor for the anthropology class I'm taking. Or rather, I received two e-mails from "Blackboard," an online bulletin board service for the college. The first e-mail informed me that "Upda" had been added to the course. It took me a moment to realise "Upda" wasn't the name of a South American tribesman or something but rather that the word "Update" had been degraded somehow for some reason. The second e-mail bore an announcement that Blackboard exists, and this was followed by an e-mail directly from Blood which reads, in part;

The college has scheduled multiple 1 hr learning sessions for
Students who have not mastered utilizing this on line format. If you
Have not used BLACKBOARD in previous classes and feel comfortable
With your skills in doing so, I strongly recommend you attend one of
The 1 hr classes available throughout the first week of classes (via
The link below).

Now. I realise he's not an English teacher. But is it too much to expect a certain standard of professionalism from teachers of any stripe? The standard reply I used to get to this from teachers was a variation on, "You're still a student, I'm not! I've earned the right to be sloppy!" It's all the more irritating knowing that he's likely to impress upon us the need to adhere strictly to MLA format on our papers. While the students may be underlings of a sort, it seems to me such a hierarchy is only good insofar as it facilitates learning, and sloppiness like this can only inspire disrespect.

I'm pretty sure this is the same teacher I had when I failed the class in 1998. I'm really going to need to swallow my sense of superiority if I'm not going to get sidetracked this time. Oh, but, it's so hard.

Maybe I ought to bear in mind this chess game from yesterday;

The guy I was playing against resigned, but I'd moved twice without noticing my pawn threatens his Queen. Pretty silly of me--but my mind was too busy on the more complicated things. Look what a nice, but thin, net I've got advancing on him. Normally when I overlook something obvious it's one of my own pieces hanging out in the open. I find it hard to think offensively and defensively at the same time.

I finished watching "The Ribos Operation" to-day, one of the nicer looking Doctor Who serials I've seen, in terms of sets and costumes. I saw that the show had gotten a new production designer during "The Talons of Weng Chiang," which seems to have manifested in a trend toward the less garish. It's such a shame it was all filmed on videotape or this serial would look absolutely gorgeous. I particularly liked the costume and makeup for this seer;

I was extremely pleased to learn to-day that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Catwoman in the next Christopher Nolan Batman movie. When I heard the finalists for the part were Hathaway, Jessica Biel, and Keira Knightley, I began petitioning the gods vehemently for Hathaway. It's true I haven't seen her in many good movies, though she was fine in Brokeback Mountain and was one of the few good things in Tim Burton's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. I do admire her acting talent, almost as much as her gorgeous breasts and the fact that she doesn't mind taking her clothes off for a role. Though I guess that's probably not going to be relevant in The Dark Knight Rises, regardless of what that title suggests to the gutter minded among us. I know Christian Bale was lobbying for a Rated R Batman movie after Begins, but sadly I think his creative input regarding aspects of his films apart from acting is unlikely to be taken for some time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yellow Light and Orange Light Cause Madness

Twitter Sonnet #224

Froggy metal arms hug a pink palate.
Double feet snap at the ankle edges.
Any hand may wield Akane's mallet.
Palms of all stars can push shark nosed wedges.
Golden planets are loud in the dryer.
Frozen ginger ale hits cracker plateau.
Smokey sunset contacts Richard Pryor.
Missing pages arrive from Jean Cocteau.
Barley rain soaks soldiers across the board.
Flashback dissolves ruin shower curtains.
Johnny Reb was just expelled from the Horde.
Beware the army of false Tim Burtons.
Bronze eggs exaggerate their cheap basket.
Omelette ore gilds the yolk income bracket.

And that's good advice. My friend Snow has really had his ear to the ground lately;

I spotted him in loaf mode amongst some potted plants in the backyard after I got back from the river, which, after about a week without rain, is almost back to its normal size.

A rather nasty argument broke out amongst some of the male ducks;

I don't think anyone's walking away from that with their dignity.

This is a newcomer--she remained at the edge of the crowd so I never got a really good picture. Her bill was smaller than the others', her feathers grey and her head was slightly larger.

Here's a picture I took of the sunset's reflection from the rooftops of downtown San Diego yesterday;

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Cherry Pie Miracle

Someone dropped off a bucket of lemons here a couple weeks ago. They're just starting to go bad, so I decided to slice one up and use it to dust, like they did in the Middle Ages. It occurs to me the research I did for Venia's Travels will probably crop up at odd moments for the rest of my life.

It's nice not feeling like I'm in a chemical plant, as I do after using Pine-Sol or another store bought dusting fluid. It doesn't quite smell as lemony in here as I thought it would, but it's nice that I don't have to leave the house for a couple hours to avoid a headache. It's probably a good thing there hasn't been an ant problem here in seven years. Or I guess I can learn to enjoy the company of ants like David Lynch.

I watched episode 25 of Twin Peaks last night--I forgot how charming David Lynch was, in his role as FBI chief Gordon Cole, with Madchen Amick as Shelly Johnson. Even though the episode's not directed by Lynch, it has good moments--though I've always suspected that when Lynch was on set as Cole he was pretty generous, shall we say, with creative input. Because episode 25 feels so totally different from the seven or so episodes preceding it, mainly in that character actually becomes important again for a moment. Audrey, who had been a sort of anonymous good girl for several episodes, got some of the eerie naughtiness back she'd exhibited in early episodes (though not nearly enough) and Cooper got back some of his childish wonder. I also dig Ben Horne's reformation in this episode--I love Richard Beymer's business with the carrots, how it's unspoken that he's using them to quit smoking by providing himself a placeholder for the unconscious gesturing he'd previously done with his cigars. Billy Zane's character's still hopelessly boring and slightly obnoxious in a typically Billy Zanish way, but I like how Ben automatically whips out a congratulatory carrot for him from his jacket.

Now I think I'll go out to lunch and read some more about the Victorians. Though it occurred to me, with school starting next week, I'm not going to have enough time to work on a comic for several months, so there's probably no need to rush this research. Still, having started I don't feel like stopping, and I feel like I probably shouldn't be spending all day playing chess in Second Life. I'll probably spend about two more weeks researching--fitting it in around school work when I can--and maybe write some scripts, and then drawing whenever I have time. I feel like overloading myself would ultimately be counterproductive on all fronts.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fools On Hills

Futurama - Don't date robots from John Pope on Vimeo.

I read this article about an epidemic of decreased sex drives in Japan to-day a few minutes after watching the last episode of Eden of the East, an interesting correlation, not just because Eden of the East featured yet another chaste, Almost Romance with a variety of sexual accidents (mostly involving guys ending up naked for convoluted reasons), but also because the show turned out to be about NEETs.

It seemed to me writer/director Kenji Kamiyama wanted to write a sort of bittersweet ode to NEETs but felt compelled to couch it in the trappings of a conspiracy thriller, either to make it marketable or because he believed he could use this to really discuss the worth of NEETs in Japanese society. As it is, the two aspects never quite come together--the thriller aspect is pretty hopelessly muddled, particularly in concern to the motivations of the amnesiac protagonist, Takizawa. We never learn why he started the series in front of the White House, naked, with a gun, and he's saddled with an almost meaningless plot about how he deliberately made himself seem like a villain in order to be a hero. This may have been an attempt to draw upon the Code Geass audience, but without the foundation of Lelouch's strongly established character, Eden of the East's main plot dissolves into hazy mess.

The minor character, Pants, is far more effectively drawn, despite appearing in only two episodes. When one day his pants are carried off from a clothes line by a gust of wind, he decides to use this as an excuse not to leave his apartment for days that eventually turn into years. He's the most interesting of a variety of NEET supporting characters the show validates by demonstrating their ability to avert a national crisis through Internet forum communication, led by the vague manipulations of their messiah, Takizawa.

Although Saki, the female lead, is often drawn wearing a huge overcoat under which her sticklike legs resemble table legs, she's still a somewhat fetishised character with her unquestioning, almost automatic love for Takizawa and the precious portrayal of her unsuccessful job interview. Her sexless costume almost reminds me of the philosophy behind the many layers of kimono in old Japanese women's attire--that the more the body is concealed, the sexier it is. But more important is that automatic, unquestioning love. See, I don't think it's that the Japanese are losing their sex drives, I think it's more to do with a widespread preference for masturbation. It's a generation of people who have no faith in the old, popular delusion of finding a "soulmate," usually taken to mean a person who compliments one's personality in every respect.

I've never met a girl I've felt that way about, and I've never seen a couple who demonstrated the "soulmate" ideal to me, unless maybe it's like the shallow couple Woody Allen passes on the street in Annie Hall. Maybe this is why I've developed a genuine fondness for people whose personalities differ from mine in a number of respects. It's probably why I end up liking a lot of people who think I'm crazy or an idiot.

You know, reading The Idiot right now, it's weirdly hard to call myself an "idiot," without feeling like I'm patting myself on the back.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Untapped Potential of Savages

Twitter Sonnet #223

Apples depart from the hive of glasses.
Impaired vision misses the gelatine.
Forty hours contain eighty classes.
Dry time sews through bugged paraffin.
Spriggan aprons dissolve into a shade.
Sly blueberries wait in shadows of bloom.
Honey's lost in boiling white lemonade.
The chlorophyll hardware burns in flush gloom.
Broken hermit cacti yawn at your gun.
Blurred orange lizard faces move out of reach.
Gin and juice rain's boiled by the low sun.
Dizzy invaders stagger up the beach.
Normandy's snail invasion slipped up slope.
Seaweed of truth wraps the sushi of hope.

I finished watching "The Invasion of Time" to-day, the last Doctor Who serial to feature his companion Leela. Her tenure seemed much too short--I don't even think she and the Doctor ever made out, making her the first female companion since Zoe I'm relatively sure the Doctor didn't have sex with. Which is too bad, as Leela was much sexier than Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, and Sara Jane Smith put together.

Reading about the chess game in Blade Runner to-day, I was happy to find out that, although J.F. Sebastian's and Tyrell's boards don't match each other (though it's pretty hard to tell with their incredibly stylised pieces), the final moves were taken from what's known as "The Immortal Game," a game played between grandmasters Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky in 1851.

I like this, not just because it's good to see a legitimate game between fictional characters for once, but also because knowing that Sebastian was correct when he said, "Checkmate, I think," highlights Tyrell's wounded pride for losing a game it seemed he had well in hand when he invites Sebastian up with the patronising, "Milk and cookies kept you up?" No doubt he was inviting J.F. up so Tyrell could spend some time putting him in his place--which Roy was counting on. So it establishes that Roy already had some insight into Tyrell's character, that he accurately perceived short-sighted arrogance in the man who would create sentient beings with brief lifespans.

It really is hard to tell anything about the configuration of the pieces on that board, both because of the angle and the heavily stylised pieces, but it does like J.F. has indeed lost both of his rooks while Tyrell still has both of his in their starting positions. I do love how well the lighting works with all the gold in Tyrell's room.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Spitting Tulip Opening

I'm running a little late to-day, having been caught up in six games of chess starting when I was eating breakfast and lasting for five hours. So much for my ambition to get some cleaning done.

I watched episode 22 of Twin Peaks last night, the one directed by Diane Keaton, and it was about as bad as I remembered. Lots of weird dissolves and the stupid motif of rows of identical guys in uniform. I'm also disappointed to find that the chess game Cooper's playing with Windom Earle isn't a legitimate game, so I've read. It hasn't exactly gone off the rails yet, but I've noticed the three opening moves have changed slightly, episode to episode.

Here random pieces appear to be missing. It's also retconned a few episodes later that the dead man's hand is pointing at one of the unmoved white pawns, for whatever reason.

When Cooper says he played chess with Earle every day for three years and never won, I know it's supposed to make me impressed with Earle, but mostly I just think that's pretty pathetic for Cooper. This is coming from someone who loses 90% of the time--but the thing is, when you play the same person over and over, no matter how good they are, you get a sense of their personality in chess. Sooner or later you beat them.

Though maybe that just goes for the players I've played. I've never played a grandmaster. I found this match between Sting, the singer, and Gary Kasparov rather fascinating;

Not so much because it was an exciting game, but because it was interesting to see the solid foundation Kasparov built when he didn't have any real opposition.

Last night I got caught up in the "Lawn of the Dead" minigame quest in WoW, wherein you strategically plant a number of killer plants in order to fend off zombies. It was actually really absorbing, and I got a goofy, singing pet sunflower out of it;

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Useful Leaves

At Grossmont College to-day, it looked like several of the trees had only just gotten the autumn memo about how their leaves are supposed to be changing colour.

I was there to buy books for the classes I'm taking starting on the 24th--eleven units in the form of three classes, Japanese 2, Anthropology, and American History. I'm forced to take American history, which was really disappointing. America seems so boring, maybe just because I've lived here all my life. You'd think European history would be more important, especially as there's a lot more to it. Oh, well, I suppose I ought to be thankful I'm only studying a two century old country.

I rather liked the speech our current president gave yesterday;

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Though I found a lot of the applause kind of off-putting. This could be due to my disconnect from modern audience oriented entertainment--like American Idol and The Oprah Winfrey Show, where I think applause has taken on a role as an all purpose indicator of approval, even in terms of solemn observations. And of course presidential speeches generally have a certain expected rhythm of applause. But a roomful of people applauding when Obama notes the surviving members of a victim's family just seems weird to me, however you look at it.

Anyway, it's a really good speech. One of the right wing trolls in Huffington Post's comments section predictably called the president's speech opportunistic. This is a pretty standard criticism levelled at Democratic leaders who are good speakers--I remember my right wing economics teacher in high school grumbling about President Clinton coughing slightly at just the right moment during a debate.

Under this lies the basic resentment that a politician may take pride in coming across well. As though everything about a politician should be expected to be pure and without the taint of ambition. It's funny how you don't hear this sort of criticism about other professions. If someone does a job well and hopes to advance in their career because of it, people don't usually see anything sinister in it.

Obama's speech was mostly very simple--hitting key points about how we should work together as a nation, how we should look out for each other and recognise that altruism as good when we see it. The most important thing about the speech is that it gave people what they needed--these things which their own logic certifies as true ratified for being spoken by someone who's an accepted leader. That is the job of a good leader in a free society and Obama deserves to be commended for it regardless of whether or not he desired to be commended for it.

Here're some ravens inspecting pine cones at the college to-day;

They flew away when they noticed my interest;

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cat Ecstasy


It's time for

Twitter Sonnet #222

Cross hatched horse hair bedevils a beetle.
Craters make sinks for butter pools on bread.
Foam yeast is vanquished by lancing needle.
Grainy pink horizon hides the seabed.
Tubs of soy lard comprise a real thick lake.
Bipedal bulls worry a bug eyed wolf.
Giggling volley ball dogs spike a Corn Flake.
Raisin hooks were seen on Mock Turtle's hoof.
Identical crustaceans confound aim.
Pugilist pirate friends freeze arm in arm.
Tony the Tiger just looks like he's tame.
Cartoon carbs cause warhead looms to disarm.
Golden fleeces smother Jeopardy! fans.
Kim Jong-Il is cool 'cause he wears Ray-Bans.

We have Snow in San Diego, but he's a cat here.

I've managed to get all the Alliance cats with my Horde hunter, with the exception of the white kitten. I have a feeling earning the 50 pets achievement is mainly going to involve getting enough money to buy pets from the auction hall. WoW is often about numbers, as was pointed out in the rather good Zero Punctuation video to-day;

Normally I listen to Howard Stern while playing, but a couple nights ago I got a particularly fitting soundtrack. I ordered it from Amazon, from whence things are delivered to my parents' house. When my mother asked what I'd gotten, she hung her head in some despair when I replied, "The Who Framed Roger Rabbit? soundtrack." She told me how annoying it was when I used to play that soundtrack over and over when I was a kid.

I do find Roger's version of "The Merry Go Round Broke Down" pretty annoying now, outside of the context of the movie, but for the most part the soundtrack's still a pretty satisfying fusion of jazz and classical orchestra. There's something uniquely manic and high strung about Alan Silvestri's 80s scores, too.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was the first movie soundtrack I owned a copy of--it opened a whole world to me. After that, I'd use my cheap grey metal brick of a tape recorder to catch bits in movies where there were minimal sound effects and dialogue. I distinctly remember doing that for Back to the Future, and the full Silvestri score for the first film in that series has only just recently been released.

I think Roger Rabbit had quite an effect on the animation industry in America. I thought of it when I was watching one of my other favourite things from when I was a kid, Darkwing Duck, a few nights ago. It was the third episode, wherein I was rather amazed to see the villain Bushroot apparently commit a double homicide. The show kind of glosses over it with some cheesy jokes, but that somehow made it eerier.

There's a self-conscious zaniness, as in Roger Rabbit, though it's generally less effective in Darkwing Dark. But the episode seemed like it was meant to be a parody of a superhero story concerned with a sympathetic, downtrodden villain, yet the humour usually falls so flat that the story of Bushroot's thwarted scientific ambition and unrequited love is actually sort of effective, helped a bit by the fairly unique performance of a voice actor with the fascinating name of Tino Insana.

Anyway, it turns out "The Merry Go Round Broke Down" isn't just for kids. It's also for whatever entity this is meant for;

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Leaning on Shadows

I watched the new Criterion edition of Night of the Hunter last night. I was really excited when I learned Criterion was releasing the film, as I had always been a bit ashamed of my old MGM copy which, despite a case claiming the film was presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio, turned out to in fact be in pan and scan. Part of the reason for this may have been the film's unusual aspect ratio for American film--made in the early days of widescreen, when standard aspect ratios had yet to be established, Night of the Hunter was filmed in 1.66:1, which isn't very wide, but you'd still be losing a substantial bit of the image through cropping and in any case fuck up the compositions of a film legendary for its gorgeous visuals.

Influenced by silent films produced several decades earlier, particularly German Expressionist films, a lot of the film looks like it was cut out of black construction paper and pasted to a lamp. This starkness of imagery is mirrored by a story comprised of finely distilled components--of character, plot, and themes. Robert Mitchum single-handedly embodies religious and sexual hypocrisy as well as delusional psychopathy while Shelley Winters, over the course of, I think, less than a month runs a path from lost and grieving widow, seduced and deceived woman, religious zealot, and finally a martyr for a sort of basic, naturalistic decency in the face of delusional and destructive logic.

This idea of the basic goodness of nature seems to be the force of good standing in opposition to Mitchum's bludgeon of a more abstract and cold sermonising. His famous "LOVE/HATE" knuckle tattoos bespeak a philosophy that brooks no middle ground.

It makes sense then that, as a contrast, Lillian Gish, the film's apparent epitome of what director Charles Laughton considered good, would sing along with Mitchum the eerie hymn as he stands outside the house, waiting for a chance to steal and murder. It's also the only perspective that makes sense of the child John's sudden sympathy for Mitchum's character at the end.

Like much of the film, the children work both as a visceral reality and conspicuously artificial stylisation. There's something almost Victorian about the way the filmmakers insist on their purity, and yet one of my favourite scenes in the film is when Mitchum shows the little girl his knife.

There's something very authentic about the way she at first seems weirdly offended by it, but then, slowly, she approaches wanting to take it. She clearly never sees him as any kind of villain and although the initial sight of the knife is a little unnerving, if "daddy" says the knife's "cute," then she's interested in it. That we've already established the knife as a phallus in the scene at the burlesque show where Mitchum compulsively stabs through his pocket with it makes the later scene take on an even more disturbing subtext.

All the stark black shapes of the film's visuals help emphasise the strangely interior quality of the story. It feels cut off from society, almost like the psychological effect of Sylvia Plath's bell jar--the struggles between the characters have the festering reality of passion and logical houses of cards manifested after a long period in solitary confinement.