Monday, February 28, 2011

In Tinsel Town, They Eat Tinsel

If I learned anything last night, it's that I officially can't digest cheese anymore. Oy fucking vey.

But I felt fine while I was eating the macaroni and cheese at my parents' house last night while watching the Oscars. As usual, the broadcast was an embarrassing exercise in awkwardness, narcissism, and tone-deafness, lacking this year even a really good host. Well, truth be told, Anne Hathaway was adorable. I've always liked her as an actress but now I want to hang out with her. I hope this is an indicator of a relatively fun Catwoman.

Right from the beginning, watching her and James Franco, I observed to my sister, "She's okay, but he's completely falling flat." My sister thought he was high and I don't think she's wrong. Danny Boyle should've been nominated just for keeping Franco clean long enough to make a movie.

I didn't see most of the nominated films this year, as usual. I was happy to see Christian Bale win--whatever you might think of that tape where he's going into a rage over an incompetent PA, the guy kills himself for his craft. There really aren't many actors who deserve recognition more than him.

It was weird seeing Trent Reznor in the context of winning an Academy Award. He's so healthy and respectable looking. I miss the days when he'd have gone onstage wearing torn fishnets, flour, and lipstick. Now he looks kind of like a young Harvey Weinstein.

But no-one looked more out of place than Bob Hope, projected as a green spectre on glass like one of the ghosts at the end of The Haunted Mansion, telling old, bad jokes with new names inserted by someone doing a bad, obvious impression. In a night of douche chills, that was a bucket of ice.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dream Dragons

I've never quite understood compulsive liars. It seems obviously hollow to garner any praise or develop any relationships based on lies. But such people certainly exist, and on the internet the methods a compulsive liar can use to feed his or her compulsion are numerous and easily achieved--unless they're seeking to elude someone who can track IP addresses, one needs simply a different name and they can become a different person, and there are ways of evading even sophisticated means of detection. So I take it as a fact of life that someone I've "just met" may in fact be an alt of someone I've already met. Now and then I even fancy I can detect some hint of someone who I might have known under a different name trying to reforge a relationship with me while ignoring all the baggage we might have or using a different name to spread trash about myself or my comic in different forums. I don't particularly care if that happens--I don't easily become invested in friendships online, and if something more than casual acquaintance builds through a genuine exchange of ideas--which really can't be faked--I wouldn't mind, though I suspect that can never happen as unspoken issues and resentment have a way of restraining people whether they like it or not. And my comic speaks for itself for those willing to read it properly. Those who can't figure this out on their own would probably have trouble understanding a lot of works of art. I'm more annoyed by the idea of people posing as me, or other people being taken as alts of mine, which is why I periodically like to stress here that I don't use alts with the intent to deceive anyone. If I'm posting somewhere under a different name and I'm talking to someone who knows me here or elsewhere, I like to make it clear I'm me. Though, unless it's Second Life or WoW, I always register myself as Setsuled.

But I enjoyed Billy Liar, which I watched last night. At first I thought Billy Fisher, the character of the title, was simply a completely deluded young man, dreaming of himself as the ruler of a country while stuck in a small town, not getting anywhere with the novel he's supposedly writing beyond deciding how his name ought to appear on the first page. I quite sympathised with the characters around him, exasperated by the self-absorption that prevents him from helping anyone else, doing his job, or being true to one girl.

As the film progresses, though, it becomes evident how the environment and people around Billy have contributed to his psychological crippling. He goes out with two girls, neither of whom he seems particularly to like, because he hasn't the guts to break up with either of them, all but begging them both to break up with him. He day dreams about being dictator of a fictional country called Ambrosia, about gunning down people who irritate him. When his grandmother dies near the end of the film, he pictures an enormous military funeral where he delivers a eulogy mentioning how his grandmother had discovered penicillin. It's the only way he can articulate to himself what she meant to him--he can only see value in himself and others in fantastic extremes--his daydreams are a way of escaping from the impossible real life. The smaller steps necessary to attaining success are far more frightening.

He tells his friends and family that the reason he's quitting his job at a mortuary is that he's gotten a job writing scripts for a famous comedian named Danny Boon. When Billy manages to speak to Boon in a hotel, I expected Boon to totally brush him off, but instead Boon tells him he doesn't employ scriptwriters, though if Billy's in London Boon would be happy to hear ideas he might pitch to him. Which sounded to me like an incredibly generous thing for an established comedian to say to guy who'd just come in off the street, but it's not as grand as Billy had wanted so it seems an impossibility to him.

When at a dance hall later Billy tells his third girlfriend, Liz, that he wrote the song the band starts playing I assumed he was lying but it's later revealed to be the truth. So Billy isn't all surface. Liz, played by Julie Christie, comes across as a remarkably wise and intelligent young woman who sees through Billy and wants him to succeed. She represents one force pulling on him while the other is the one holding him in his small Yorkshire town, given voice by the adults in his life who constantly berate Billy for his uselessness and above all for his lack of gratitude. It's a world of people seeking validation by crushing the ego of the weakest link.

In a way, the movie can be seen as Star Wars if Luke Skywalker never left Tatooine. It was a good, English New Wave film. With the French and Italian New Wave films I've been watching, it occurred to me last night that New Wave really is the cinematic answer to the beat literary movement--they have the same gritty, episode feel of a Kerouac novel, of a protagonist moving from place to place encountering new characters.

Also yesterday, Tim showed me the new trailer for Skyrim. I'm looking forward to it, even though the graphics only look slightly better than Oblivion. The Oblivion engine would be good enough for me, anyway. And something about the Elder Scrolls visual style I like is that the people generally look like they're wearing real, credible clothes and armour instead of the lingerie of most fantasy games nowadays.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

So Many People

Twitter Sonnet #237

Violet metal pyjamas freeze to skin.
Blue jays decry noisy construction work.
Flesh lips rot in a bird's recycling bin.
Wrestler clergy have no undisclosed perk.
Kool-aid shrines implode in affirmation.
Two brutal birds bushwhack one thrifty stone.
Plexiglas ore poisons vegetation.
Gas seeps into apartments of the bone.
Shrouded bank vaults melt in a bright green cloud.
Raisin mermaids permit dried cranberry.
Commie bonnets never seek cash out loud.
Vanished islands thwart the useful ferry.
An ant's extra thorax makes him a freak.
Every third drone's psychosis is unique.

I watched Atom Egoyan's 1994 film Exotica last night. It's a fascinating film about sexuality that, in the end, might convince viewers that it was never actually about sexuality to begin with. But it's by exploiting our presumptions that the film seems to communicate its statement.

My favourite example is a scene where Bruce Greenwood's character with Christina (Mia Kirshner), a woman who works at the strip club Exotica and regularly gives him lap dances, exchanges ritualistic dialogue about how he needs to be around to protect her. Christina's dressed in a school uniform and Elias Koteas, as the DJ, continually ruminates on the mic about the appeal of school girls. Later revelations in the film tell us that the relationships these characters have are quite different from how they appear, yet it still seemed to be a commentary on sexuality to me. It's like eating vegan mayo making you think about what's distinctive about the flavour of real mayo.

The movie's filled with isolated characters attempting to find connexion through ritual. A subplot features a man named Thomas almost having a sexual encounter with a man who buys a ballet ticket from him. Thomas chickens out, but later he recreates the experience repeatedly by selling ballet tickets on the street to guys he eventually goes out with.

Thomas is involved in an exotic animal smuggling operation, and his conversations with Greenwood's character, Francis, who's auditing him as part of an investigation into the smuggling scheme, is dripping with loud subtext, like so many conversations in the film--Thomas' pet shop is too warm for Francis, who asks that the heat be turned down, adding he can understand why odd temperatures would be necessary for the animals. Thomas says that actually the animals are surprisingly "hardy." Francis almost defensively says he never said the animals weren't hardy.

Sometimes I found this stuff over the top. I'm on the fence about whether or not I like the big switch at the end--I kind of would've liked something much weirder, a bolder statement on human psychology, but I bet the way it is fucked with the minds of a lot of squares.

What I liked was how the film was ultimately about people vainly trying to find a way to live in a world they're not really connected to, seeking to build something to replace that feeling of connexion with these rituals and calculated words. "You never asked to be born into this world," as Francis says at one point. He can't help but wonder sometimes, "Who did?"

It's a nice looking film. Christina dancing to Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" is great for its sexiness and depth of meaning. I don't think I liked it quite as much as Egoyan's Chloe, though.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Degrees of Successful Digestion

Slept in 'til 11:30am to-day. For pretty much the same reason that led to my old nocturnal schedule--when I worked 'til ten, I didn't want to go to sleep just a couple hours after work. And when I got out of class at ten last night, I didn't want to go to sleep just a few hours after class. Also, I broke one of my own directives to myself and played chess after 1am. I don't play as well that late, and it gets me wound up so it's harder to sleep. But I was just so damned antsy. Maybe it's all this soy I've been eating.

I had a soy latte yesterday--I haven't had a latte in, I think, at least a year. I used to get them all the time but, again, I'm not good with the milk now and soy lattes are a bit more expensive. I wonder if rice milk lattes are any good.

I think the soy staved off hunger a little, though I also got a muffin and a bag of chips during class breaks--my anthropology class is three hours long and the teacher gives us ten minute breaks each hour. I find I rather dislike being stuck there for three hours at a time. I think I'll avoid such classes in the future in favour of shorter classes on more days of the week rather than just one big gob a week.

But my anthropology teacher gave me permission last night to use Inside the Victorian Home for the two page paper that's due in April. Two birds, one stone.

Talking about what he expected for the paper, the teacher complained about how so many people write at a fifth grade level. Mind you, this is the same teacher whose e-mail I posted here to remark on his extraordinarily bad grammar. But while he may want to avoid walking barefoot around his glass house in the future, he's certainly right. In my history class last week, the teacher had students take turns reading aloud from an article he'd printed out and everyone needed help with at least twenty percent of the words they came across while some people stumbled at almost every third word. I don't know how these people do their assigned reading. I don't how they got through high school.

Though, of course, I've wondered if I'm not just looking at it the wrong way. Maybe I just happen to be exceptionally good with the grammar and vocabulary and what not. I should be appointed ruler. Maybe I'll receive a dose of humility when I take a math class.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Breakdown of Pop Castes

I so don't want to go to school to-night. Eck. And I have to work on a group project to-day. I hate group work..

I spent some of this morning watching music videos on YouTube. I'd heard Lady Gaga's new single, "Born This Way", was a rip-off of Madonna's "Express Yourself". It is similar, I suppose, though it actually reminds me more of TLC's "Waterfalls". Both videos have comments claiming the Gaga song sounds nothing like either.

Really, I don't think "Born This Way" sounds any more like Madonna than "Alejandro" sounds like "La Isla Bonita" and that bit in "Bad Romance" sounds like "Vogue". It's enough like Madonna to flatter Madonna. But it also means that Lady Gaga isn't the Madonna of this generation. This generation can't have a Madonna. It's too scared.

What people so often mistakenly refer to as originality is independence. Lady Gaga doesn't have a voice--she's not ripping off Madonna's songs, she's filling the Madonna post. I think we can to some extent blame the internet--no-one can express an idea without a million people having a soapbox to make wisecracks, and then there's an even greater number of people who instinctively feel that because someone can make a wisecrack about something, that something is therefore worthless. It's a self-preservation instinct. It means we're increasingly dependant on modes established in the pre-internet world.

I'm not particularly a Madonna fan, but her best songs have some real fight in them. That song "Vogue" isn't just about how great it is to dance, it's a commentary on the glamour aesthetic. Gaga's "Born This Way," feels less like an ode to her supposedly misfit fanbase than a pander. Everything about Gaga feels like she's operating on a theoretical idea of an eccentric pop artist--I tried to articulate it to my sister when we watched the Grammy red carpet and saw Gaga come in on that egg palanquin. It's like something you'd see established in a sitcom where it's the main character's job to handle things for a pop star--"Okay, jeez, Gaga, we gotta get to the Grammies, just--" "No. No wait. I need to go . . . in an egg!" "You what?!" [studio audience laughter].

It gets me, too, that her fans don't feel insulted being called "little monsters." It's not the "monster" part that bugs me as much as the "little." It's like when Barbara Walters was criticising Bruno and the pranks he pulled on people and she said one doesn't treat "little people" that way, meaning non-celebrities. I suppose I can understand wanting an idol to believe in, but I don't see how we can have living idols in the age of Twitter.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Bottle of Shadow

I dreamt last night I attended a lecture Howard Stern was giving to sixth graders at the mall, mainly about radio. When I left, I decided to go rollerblading all over town and noticed I was twice my normal size, putting me on equal terms with the cars on the road. There was a group of guys who seemed to resent me for it--they wore blue flannel overcoats and top hats and I kept seeing one at a time, each walking a schnauzer in the middle of the road, and I could tell they were deliberately trying to be obstacles for me. But I managed to get back to the mall parking garage without crashing into any of them.

Twitter Sonnet #236: Liquor Edition

Hand buzzers fall from a laughing fawn's bag.
Gaslight warms the veins by bloodstained white brick.
Life lurched lyrically for drowsy real lag.
Scottish barley plays our old favourite trick.

Civil war ships labour to sweeter land.
Sugar escapes islands to sink the French.
Molasses liquefies on the hot sand.
Just one bottle makes a servant a mench.

Oak casks constrict on the native spirit.
Burnt Halloweens drift through cherry night sky.
Candied ochre dowses minds with merit.
Sickle maize moons shine like a sleepy eye.

Tinsel broth scorched the pale platinum throat.
Liver ground soil's sewn with a burning moat.

I watched The Searchers again last night. The context of watching it while reading about the brutal conquest of Native American civilisations for History class didn't so much get me thinking about the unfair portrayal of Native Americans even in The Searchers, a movie in part about recognising racist attitudes in white American culture towards Native Americans, as it did get me thinking about the isolated perspectives people had. It occurred to me that the people I read about in the 1700s knew less in several important ways than I do about people I'd just read about in the 1600s. It's hard to really imagine the weight of the fundamental indoctrination put into place by so many years of proliferated Christian and Imperial ideas to support and explain the existence of the American colonies.

This adds a great deal to the impression of Ethan Edwards, in that famous final shot embodying a sort of farewell to an archetype, a hero built on a foundation of beliefs antithetical to the virtue he's meant to champion.

I was noticing, too, how the movie isn't just bookended by these distinctive shots of dark foreground contrasting with bright, vast background. They're present throughout the film, creating a sense of proscenium, emphasising the nature of the story as a commentary on a story, while also emphasising stark contrast, reflecting the subject matter of racism, and isolation, and reflecting the misfit nature of the main characters.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Veracity of Blood

I went to have a look at the river's most recent swell from the rain and felt really bad for not having any bread for the ducks when they started following me around, clearly expecting something.

I was thinking about piracy a lot yesterday. The chapter I read yesterday from my history text book was about English sugar and tobacco plantations in the West Indies of the seventeenth century and the attendant institutions of slavery and piracy. I was continually reminded of Captain Blood as I discovered a lot of the movie's plot--and even more of the novel upon which the movie was based--had basis in fact. White political prisoners were shipped from England to the West Indies as slaves to work the sugar plantations, and they did sometimes escape and become pirates. The movie changed the location of the plantation where Blood was enslaved to Port Royal from the book's more likely location of Bridgetown, probably because it sounds like Jamaica at the time was more scenic than the deforested Barbados.

The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie starts in Port Royal, some might remember. I was watching that movie last night, the first time since I saw it in the theatre. I enjoyed it a little more than I remember--it's a fun, easy adventure movie. I couldn't help wishing it'd had more teeth--It is a Disney movie, but that didn't stop Treasure Island from having a real sense of danger to it.

But mainly I was bothered by just how clean cut everyone was. I just can't picture Jack Sparrow robbing and really threatening innocent people.

To-day I read this story about Somali pirates killing four American hostages to-day. I don't think murder is ever justified, but I can't help seeing these guys' point of view. Large, foreign companies come in to plunder fish an leave toxic waste. It's no wonder ignorant, violent young men would turn to violence as a solution. With the juxtaposition of Somalian starvation, four rich Americans showing up in a yacht to hand out bibles is tragically obnoxious. I don't think they deserved to die, but I can't help seeing this as two tides of ignorance crashing into each other.

Yesterday I was thinking I'd like to see maybe an all out pirate noir. I want a Marlon Brando pirate. Genuinely dangerous and complicated characters in a hellish existence. Maybe a Coen Brothers pirate movie. There's a real human story to be told.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Internal Organ Ambassadors

I went downtown to have lunch at Pokez yesterday, a restaurant where I know I can get a massive vegan burrito for under five dollars. I never wanted to become a vegan, but milk products seem to offend my digestion nowadays and when I had a hard boiled egg last week I felt like I'd eaten a big rock, a feeling that stayed with me for about five hours. Though bread made with egg and milk doesn't seem to be bothering me.

Maybe I'm just losing my taste for dairy products, as I don't feel particularly sad about avoiding them. Anyway, I got some great vegan mayo recently--it's made of water, canola oil, cornstarch, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, soy, lemon juice, xanthan gum, onion powder, rosemary, mustard oil, turmeric, and paprika. Somehow all that adds up to something that tastes like a slightly fruity mayo.

I accidentally put paprika on my oatmeal yesterday, grabbing it instead of the ground cinnamon. It wasn't bad.

With lunch to-day, I watched the last episode of "The Creature of the Pit" Doctor Who serial. I see it was actually filmed before "The City of Death", so maybe that's why the writers felt no compunction about including so much comedy. I liked it--even really gratuitously silly bits like the Doctor, hanging on the edge of a pit, pulling out a book on how to climb Mount Everest, discovering the book's in Tibetan, and then pulling out a book called Teach Yourself Tibetan. Though I would've thought the Doctor spoke Tibetan--anyway, he claims to know every Chinese language. I wonder how he picked those up.

"The Creature of the Pit" was another to feature a lot of well drawn supporting characters, though I wish Adrasta had been more than a snarling, two dimensional villain, as her makeup and costume were fantastic.

This was one of the best looking serials. Though I suspect this dress made Romana miss her old boobs.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Each Corner's Animal

Twitter Sonnet #235

A round, smiling wolf bounced down a green hill.
German signs were read uselessly in Thai.
The ink vanished again on Acme's will.
Wedding rice grains impregnated the sky.
Na'Vi sacrificed their own to the sun.
Aztec spacemen conquered the blue assholes.
Fire snakes and birds make cg men run.
Starving survivors ate their own tadpoles.
Pirates cannot pillage purple forest.
Quartz rays reflect the man's impulse to steal.
Tentacle plants are snubbed every harvest.
An enigma to Rubik was the wheel.
Soil saturated with rum might burn.
But it's tequila dirt that gets the worm.

Yeah, more Avatar hating from me. Twitter set me off by recommending I follow Jim Cameron. He can follow me.

Last night I finally got around to watching The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. It wasn't bad. A lot of what keeps it from being empty camp is just how ice cool Peter Weller is. I read on the Wikipedia entry he partly based his performance on Adam Ant. I never realised how much he looks like Adam Ant.

The story itself moves along as a nicely unpredictable pulp adventure. Ellen Barkin's damsel in distress character was a little annoying, especially since I could see the narcissistic little boy fantasy the movie was tapping into. Which, again, is why Peter Weller manages to make the movie work. He can be a brain surgeon, race car driver, physicist, and rock star without seeming full of himself. He somehow gets across just how cool it is to be each of those things.

With breakfast to-day I watched the first episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, a Gainax series from 2002 that somehow escaped my notice up until now. The first episode, which credibly conveys the little world of the old shopping arcade from the perspective of a couple kids who grew up living in it, was tremendously refreshing for its focus on real character rather than just a handful of stock types for viewers to jerk off to. Sadly, that's become one of the things that distinguish Gainax--from Panty and Stocking to FLCL to Kare Kano--Gainax's shows feature an uncommon attention to character building.

I also watched this to-day;

Draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hypnotism Wagon

One of the snails wandering in yesterday's rainstorm.

I went through it to Tim's house where I found him frustrated by his downed internet. He didn't even have Fallout New Vegas on his hard drive anymore because he'd needed the room for the Rift beta--an MMORPG he tells me isn't bad, but probably won't draw him away from WoW. He has been talking about switching to Guild Wars 2 when it comes out, though, something that's been tempting me, too, as it's subscription free.

There's not much else to say about yesterday. Here's my attempt to draw Jo Grant and the third Doctor from memory;

I think I did much better with Jo. The Doctor's not even wearing the proper outfit--he looks like a Doctor, I guess, but one that never existed.

Here are a few more recent doodles from my notebook;

Wircelia takes bad notes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lord of the Crabs

Yesterday was very long--I got up early and I had class until 10pm. The teacher for my last class was very sick and said he was going to let us out early, but instead kept us all three hours, the last half hour of which he spent reading to us posted traffic and courtesy signs translated into English from other languages to illustrate the differences in how things are expressed in different languages. He was showing how there's no such thing as a perfect translation, something I'm rather glad to see being taught. It's something that's too often overlooked.

Afterwards, I watched the first part of The Return of the King with dinner. I wish that screenplay had been more carefully written. There are lots of lines that rub me the wrong way, and I notice more of them each time I watch the movie. Legolas saying, "Game over," has bugged me from this first, but this time I got stuck on Gimli saying, "He can't hold his liquor!"

Am I to assume they've been drinking pints of liquor? I know they have brandy in Middle Earth. But I feel like mead would've been a more appropriate beverage for the great hall of Edoras. Anyway, I don't think brandy should be so frothy.

I also hate the lighting when Aragorn finds Eowyn sleeping later in the hall. It really flatters her with that cool blue, fur trimmed blanket, but for "not yet dawn" that's some real blazing moonlight. Then, of course, Aragorn steps outside for one of the worst day for night shots in recent film history, though I kind of forgive the film for this after hearing how dangerous it was to film at night in Edoras.

There's still so much I love about those movies, though. Return of the King is probably the weakest, but I adore Minas Tirith. Gandalf riding through the streets gets me every time.

Of course, all the little anachronisms in the Lord of the Rings movies can't begin to approach World of Warcraft's levels. I had to pretty much accept from the start that WoW's basically a junk drawer of unfinished parts. As I've said before, mainly like a minigolf course.

I'm still working on getting the companion pets achievement with my hunter. The other day I got the daily fishing quest pet, the little crab, which happens to look exactly like my hunter pet crab;

It's like I have the daddy crab and the baby crab. I named the crab after Artie Lange, which made me lament failing to name my monkey pet Bababooey. I went for the King Lear reference instead and named him Gloucester. Oh, well. At least he's not blind.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Smile That Dripped Time

Twitter Sonnet #234: Musical Diva Edition

Red leprechauns captured radio rock.
Convincing chords dropped a running houyhnhnm.
Hundreds of fleas can fit in a tube sock.
Strange elements form a dark stratagem.
Strange moss taints the empty Windows task bar.
Roots grip the edge of an icon's grid point.
Crosswalk vines choke a centaur bike's sidecar.
Fetlocks were used to replace an arm joint.
Balloon animal arms can lift Santo.
Happy sausage filling bursts through the skin.
Killers shall be licensed by a Mento.
Tiger candy pancakes boil within.
Music circumcision snips sound penis.
Scottie beamed furs from wet-nurse to Venus.

Last night I watched The House That Dripped Blood, a movie that drew me entirely by its rather impressive cast; Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Denholm Elliott, Jon Pertwee, and Ingrid Pitt. Pitt looked gorgeous, though not quite as good as she did when reunited with Pertwee for the Doctor Who serial "The Time Monster".

Though Pertwee, in The House That Dripped Blood, was already dressed rather as he would be as the Doctor;

I wonder if frilly shirts were a perpetual clause in all his contracts. In this case it made sense because he was playing a movie star known for portraying vampires--and this was made back when it was generally understood vampires dressed this way. His role seemed to me like it was originally meant for Christopher Lee as it seems to be poking gentle fun at Lee's career playing Dracula, though I've learned the role was in fact originally offered to Vincent Price.

The House That Dripped Blood is an anthology film, the best segment of which was the one in which Lee does appear--as the high strung father of a strange, sheltered little girl. Though, honestly, none of the stories are particularly good. Scripted by Robert Bloch and based on original stories by him, they come off more as fun schlock.

Not bad looking schlock, though. The titular house creates a nice, distinctly late 60s haunted house atmosphere. The above composite, false perspective shot reminded me of The Children's Hour.

I went from watching a film with the seeds of Doctor Who to a Doctor Who serial with the seeds of a future film--"The City of Death" featuring Julian Glover--General Veers from The Empire Strikes Back and Walter Donovan from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There's even a scene where he causes a man, through special effects, to rapidly age to his death in a moment. Which I guess says something about karma in fiction.

Generally speaking, it was an exceptionally good serial, mostly written by Douglas Adams--and, I realised, the second Doctor Who serial, after the pretty good Destiny of the Daleks, to air in my lifetime. There's a lot of nice location shots in Paris and some well used humour, though the Wikipedia entry again quotes critics complaining about it at the time. Even the positive quotes seem to indicate the narrower imaginations Who's critics had at the time, like this quote from Jacqueline Rayner in reference to the unprecedented location shooting; "you're suddenly, almost violently, made aware this is happening in our world... with people just getting on with their business and two Time Lords walking through it. I don't think I've ever experienced that with Doctor Who up till now... it's the tiny touches of mundanity amid the fantastical that lift the story even higher."

She is right, though. It's also one of the serials to benefit from creating effective supporting characters for the leads to react to, in this case a detective named Duggan, whose tendency to solve problems by punching them is continually mocked, praised, and criticised by the Doctor and Romana. One of my favourite exchanges is between Romana and Duggan, after they've broken into a cafe for no apparent reason;

ROMANA: You should go into partnership with a glazier. You'd have a truly symbiotic working relationship.


ROMANA: I'm just pointing out that you break a lot of glass.

DUGGAN: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

ROMANA: If you wanted an omelette I'd expect to find a pile of broken crockery, a cooker in flames, and an unconscious chef.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Beastly Symptoms

I really wish I hadn't read the Wikipedia entry on bladder cancer last night. Now I have to wait more than a month to find out if I have it. I sure wish the urologist had seemed less concerned. This shit's going to be a distraction, I can already tell.

I was listening to the Ikiru soundtrack yesterday morning and since then the theme has been repeating in my head. I keep wondering, if I do have cancer, whether I could live up to Watanabe's example. Would he have spent three hours a night on WoW or Second Life? Well, I guess there was that scene where he played a lot of pachinko.

The sky's overcast to-day and it's been raining off and on. During one of the lulls, I took five stale hamburger buns to the ducks. They seemed happy to see me, though they wouldn't venture onto the land until I was done, when they followed me around a little as I took some more pictures of the area. I love the flattened look created by the light through total cloud cover.

When it started raining afterwards, I hung out with Snow, who was huddled on the back porch.

Then, for some reason, he decided he needed to challenge the rain and ran out into it.

I wanted to mention how great last week's Sym-Bionic Titan was. Set entirely in a swamp as Ilana, Lance, and Octus investigate the latest alien threat, the episode has some brilliant subtext as the characters discuss dating and Princess Ilana's somewhat sheltered past in that regard. Then the alien, whose ship looks remarkably like a sperm cell, infects Ilana with something that slowly begins changing her into a monster, a fact she feels some evident shame about and attempts to hide, an apparent metaphor for adolescent sexual maturity, really nicely executed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Spear of Destiny

Guess who had his prostate checked to-day? Me! I'm the lucky one! I also had my genitals fondled, though it won't be until late March that I'll have a fibre optic implement snaked up my urethra. This despite the urologist not finding anything wrong in his other tests. I guess he has to dot every i, cross every t, and spit every penis.

I guess it's to check for bladder cancer. He seemed really stumped by the amount of blood in my urine that day, and he seemed outright alarmed when I told him I normally get up to pee around three times a night. Is that really strange? It doesn't seem like it could possibly be.

He asked about whether I'd had a history of kidney stones, I said I hadn't and that they'd checked for them with a CT scan when I had my first UTI.

"I wouldn't want to put you through another one," he said, "because of the radiation."

"Yeah, not to mention they're expensive," I said. "And the last one was before I had insurance."

"Oh, so you probably had to pay like a thousand dollars."

"Er, seven thousand, actually."

He seemed shocked, and a little disbelieving, "No, that . . . that's wrong, that can't be right. There's something wrong with that."

"I'll say."

To think the man who'd just penetrated me would turn out to be so innocent. Seriously, though, in case anyone's wondering, the prostate check wasn't that bad. It just felt sort of like I needed to take a massive shit. I hear they're important for guys to get who're around fifteen years older than me, so take it from a 32 year old with a mysterious ailment--they're nothing to be scared of. And it probably lessens the trauma of any potential future prison sex you might have.

I had a busy day to-day. The clinic was across town, and I had to make my way through rush hour traffic to get to class--I almost didn't make it, despite leaving the clinic with three hours to spare. I probably shouldn't have stopped for lunch.

I also had to do some reading for class earlier in the day. The teacher had assigned two chapters for us to read, but one of the first things he did when I got to class was ask us, "Did any of you manage to read both chapters?" Most people seemed not to know how to respond to this question en masse, except me--I replied automatically with a somewhat indignant, "Yes."

He ended up covering just one of the chapters, assuming most of the class hadn't managed to read both. What the fuck? The chapters were each around fourteen pages, and we had four days to read them. But even putting that aside, why even assign them if he's going to assume we didn't read them?

Last night I watched the first episode of Eagleheart, Chris Elliot's new show. It's nice to see him on television, and Adult Swim seems like the perfect fit for his humour. It's also nice to see Maria Thayer of Strangers with Candy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Siphoning Hunger

Twitter Sonnet #233

A shy, satisfied Klingon conquered bread.
Soft loaves of victory rise in the steel.
Stainless walls hold the yeast of doughy dead.
Desert surrounds half an old lemon peel.
Chutzpah's all a decent dress requires.
Trophy finger nails replace the sequins.
Pink paper fills pockets of vampires.
Hell hides clone armies of Anna Paquins.
Ancient surgeons hide in a youthful mob.
Walking lipstick people resent dolphins.
Slow nebulae sheath a tasteful pink blob.
Nostromo's Mother sent cards to orphans.
Maraschino sloughs from lace artery.
Hair's washed with acid from a battery.

I've seen nine Bette Davis movies now (not counting the first twenty minutes of Now, Voyager) and I saw my favourite last night, All About Eve. It's not a perfect film, but it's certainly a sort of grand film.

Although the ending wonderfully makes of the film a single piece, mostly All About Eve feels rather like two movies spliced together, with aging theatre star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) at the centre of one and theatre critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) at the centre of the other. Aspects of the two movies, in my opinion, even sabotage each other to some extent.

The story of Eve Harrington's gradual, parasitic relationship with Margo is amazing entirely because of how it reveals Margo to be the most intelligent person of her social circle, the only person who senses imminent doom in the form of her ambitious and ingratiating understudy, but is considered too irrational to overcome the "good sense" of her friends. Only Margo can see through the blanket of delusion everyone's woven about themselves entirely with politeness. Everyone knows at some level that Margo's getting too old to continue playing young parts, but only Margo can really face it while everyone else lets propriety keep up the fiction until it becomes cruel. Only Margo can see the portent of the unnaturally subservient position into which Eve's placed herself--everyone thinks it's Margo's jealousy that causes her to see anything sinister in Eve's motives, but it is precisely Margo's ability to see past her own ego that allows her to see Eve's attachment to the star ultimately has little to do with tribute.

In one of his many great, well delivered lines of the film, Addison says to Eve, in response to one of her typically, extremely humble assertions in reference to her acting ability, "I think the time has come for you to shed some of your humility. It is just as false not to blow your horn at all as it is to blow it too loudly . . . We all come into this world with our little egos equipped with individual horns."

Eve Harrington is actually the weakest point in the film to me. She's played by Anne Baxter, who has none of the extraordinary star quality the other characters see in her. One wishes she and Marilyn Monroe, who appears in a very minor role, had been switched in casting. And for the sake of Margo's story, Eve's reveal as a cut and dry con artist, who'd purposely fabricated elements of her past, is less interesting to me than a story of an unselfconsciously ambitious young actress, someone who at first only seeks to supplant her idol on a subconscious level, pursuing a subtler sort of cutthroat path that would perhaps mirror Margo's past.

On the other hand, Eve's unambiguously wicked character serves to make the George Sanders storyline more delightful. Addison DeWitt is both thoroughly evil and totally sympathetic. It's impossible not to like him, largely due to Sanders' performance, and possibly also because he's so ruthlessly honest with himself. It put me in the mood to watch again the version of The Picture of Dorian Gray where Sanders plays Lord Henry.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Ducks are Outside

I watched the first episode of Welcome to the NHK with breakfast to-day. It's another series that seeks to deal with the NEET/hikikomori phenomenon head on. I think one could gain real insight into Japanese cultural evolution by observing that anime of the 80s and 90s tended to centre on young men stressing about their college careers (Maison Ikkoku, Ah! My Goddess), while anime lately, when it's not about high schoolers, centres on lone young men reacting against society (Code Geass, Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, Death Note, etc). Welcome to the NHK, rather than taking the somewhat tangential approach of Eden of the East, introduces its hikikomori lead rather amusingly, the show in general coming off as both zany but with credible enough characterisation. But I'm so used to starting an anime only to find it to be intensely bland, or vapidly moe, that I'm having a hard time opening my heart to this one.

I went to feed the ducks afterward, but found that they were all on a side of the river where I couldn't easily throw bread to them. I think they were scared off by the extraordinary number of dogs out to-day and the shirtless middle aged guys pathetically rowing a huge red boat around the little body of water. I threw bread vainly against the wind, trying to reach this lone mallard;

I took a few pictures, though;

I ran into Snow afterward;

That's one maniacal yawn, I must say.