Saturday, April 30, 2011

Back to the Table

Twitter Sonnet #257

Converging cups quell an outpour of bees.
Heat puts undead lizards into slumber.
Pinwheels polish minty paste emerald trees.
Black holes gobble more than we can plunder.
Teeth and trees accuse pink gums in the air.
The last of the fake milk has to go out.
Wistful wood cubs construct a whole new bear.
Spawning dolls know what blank eyes are about.
Grey moustaches make a mechanic great.
Dentists deplete artists of plaque manna.
Horses charge a church howitzer debate.
Skies darken for mother sleigh of Santa.
By Christmas Catapults the damned are hurled.
Nyssa's nipples will change the underworld.

I didn't manage to finish Tom Jones last night, either. I feel guilty about it, as I do feel a movie should be watched in one sitting, whenever possible. When a filmmaker puts a film together, he or she is making a sequence of statements in literal and sensory ways, and each link in the chain is affected by what comes before. Pausing a film and coming back to it, one can keep up the line of plot, but it inevitably damages mood and the sensory story. This is why there aren't chapter selections on David Lynch's movies, when he has any say.

But I get too resentful watching Tom Jones. I'll make up my mind to muscle through, and then it has one of the characters look directly at the camera or something. Ugh. It's like someone at a party telling a joke that's not particularly funny, but saying it confident everyone will think it is. The kind of shit this movie does is experimental in an Academy Award way. It's like Picnic, the Best Picture winner with William Holden and Kim Novak. Transgressive, but only in a way everyone's tacitly agreed is okay to be transgressive, and not much more than that. I acutely feel like there are better things I can be doing with my time.

And like Picnic, Tom Jones has actors I like--Albert Finney, Lyn Redgrave, Julian Glover.

I ended up just playing more Fallout New Vegas yesterday, which also has a good cast, even better than I thought, actually. Before I checked the imdb entry last night, I knew about Rene Auberjonois, Ron Perlman, Felicia Day, and Danny Trejo. But I also see Rob Corddry's in the game, Zoe Bell, Michael Dorn (reprising a Fallout 2 role), and Dave Foley plays a character called Yes Man who made me laugh even before I knew whose voice it was. Wil Wheaton, Mattew Perry, Wayne Newton, and Kris Kristofferson are also in the game and Alex Rocco plays a gangster I shot last night. He delivered his last line rather perfectly, the somewhat cliche, "Let's dance" before the rather quick and bloody four person gun fight ensued.

One of the things I especially like is how different the main plot is from the last time I played it, from the saved game I lost when my hard drive crashed. Different because I made different choices and my character has different stats. Because my Speech skill is lower this time, I wasn't able to talk Benny into meeting me alone so I could murder him, so he stayed alive a lot longer, necessitating Mr. House giving me a different quest. I decided to side with House again because he's voiced by Rene Auberjonois but I can see there are whole different quest chains for siding with the Legion or NCR or who knows what other factions.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Inanna in Space

I love when the Doctor's female companions don't wear bras. On Wednesday I finished watching "Terminus", the last serial to feature Nyssa, and actress Sarah Sutton seemed game to make Nyssa's last appearance as memorable as possible. From the Wikipedia entry;

* In this serial Nyssa drops her skirt in part two for no apparent reason and remains in a slip for the remainder of the story. According to the script she was feeling ill and trying to loosen the pressure on her stomach, but this is not clear on screen. In an interview for the book Doctor Who 25 Glorious Years, Sarah Sutton, who played Nyssa, suggests it was deliberate Fan Service:

'I still smile when I remember how the Production Office kept getting letters of complaint about Nyssa being too covered up. So that's why when I left the series in "Terminus" I decided to drop my skirt as a parting gesture to all those fans who had written in. 'Mind you, it caused such a stir at the time, and as I'm still being asked about it when I am interviewed, I'm not sure it was a wise thing to have done!'

From where I'm sitting, it was very wise.

And it was a good serial in other respects--I loved the mythological feel of these sickly guys in skeletal armour at the centre of the universe conveying the dying to the care of this strange, tall, wolf headed guy.

I'm also liking the new male companion, Turlough, a lot better than Adric. The fact that the actor's giving a much better performance is certainly a big part of it, but I also rather like the idea of a companion who's a bit morally sketchy.

Later on in England, Prince William and Kate Middleton got married, and I stayed up too late watching it live and snarking about it on Twitter. I applaud Prince William for not wearing a toupee, but he's got a really weird hair situation now. I suppose he'd probably look really strange if he shaved it all off. Maybe he could get away with wearing a steel skullcap like Merlin in John Boorman's Excalibur.

I was also up late playing Fallout: New Vegas. Since I cancelled my World of Warcraft subscription, New Vegas has very easily taken over the video game slot in my heart. For those wondering why I didn't watch a movie last night, the past couple nights I've been trying to get through Tom Jones, but it's hard because it turned out to be really lame.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

As Little as Possible

Very short on time right now. I need to get to class pretty soon--I'm turning in a paper for my anthropology class, the writing of which yesterday felt a bit absurd.

The assignment was to write about an article, essay, book, or something else and discuss how aspects of the piece relate to things about anthropology we've learned--I'd gotten approval to use Inside the Victorian Home.

The thing is, the paper is to be no longer than two pages, double spaced, fourteen point font, and the teacher told us he would look more favourably on papers that are only one page. He also told us to use the standard five paragraph essay format. Which basically sounded like he was asking us to do something physically impossible. My paper just barely spills over into a second page and my last paragraph is one sentence. I don't think I need say it's hardly one of the best things I've ever written.

I followed a raven around yesterday, but they so don't like being photographed. This is the best picture I got;

It's like they can detect my interest in them. I find bees a lot easier to take pictures of, actually.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cold Human Company

I expected The Vampire Lovers to be a fun, campy Hammer horror film, but I found it has some real heart. The movie is partly truly wonderful lesbian softcore porn, but Ingrid Pitt, in the lead, creates a great character that quite harmonises with the milieu.

To be sure, there is a lot of silliness, like the guy in the cheesy grocery store Dracula costume who shows up inexplicably now and then just to smile or frown depending on how things are going for the vampires. There was a very cheesy--but very hot--bit where topless Ingrid Pitt chases a girl around a bed before they end up in each other's arms.

Yet, it's the really heartbreaking longing exhibited on Pitt's face that elevates the whole movie.

One feels compelled to contemplate her attraction to Emma, the girl, the second long term victim of the vampire Mircalla--Pitt's character. She seems to have three kinds of victims--beautiful girls she befriends and kills slowly, beautiful girls she makes out with and kills immediately, apparently just to sate her appetite, and guys who get in her way.

Emma is a sweet, pretty, kind of dopey kid. Beyond her prettiness, one wonders why Mircalla seems to be so into Emma, but I guess it emphasises the nature of Mircalla's relationship with humans. Her lust is her only connexion to humanity. In one of my favourite scenes, Mircalla shrinks from chanting priests in a nearby funeral procession, afraid and clearly angered by the spirit and philosophy behind the Christians. She begs Emma to hold her, even though Emma admires the beauty of the procession. In her innocence, she doesn't know to hate Mircalla for existing in antithesis to Christ. And Mircalla clings to Emma despite knowing the shallowness of her sympathy--Mircalla needs a connexion, and the absence of hate in a beautiful body is as good as it gets.

Mircalla is by far the most sympathetic character in the movie--I never for a moment wanted the "good guys" to win. When she's hunted to her coffin at the end, it's a bunch of men with their righteous phalluses there to punish the sinful woman, who seems especially vulnerable--Pitt spends most of the movie in a totally see-through white gown without underwear. Really, thank you, Ingrid Pitt. You were a terrific lady.

I caught a few things Francis Coppola used for his Dracula movie, including the bedroom scenes where Mircalla's first long term victim is mounted by a shadowy giant cat, reminding me strongly of Dracula's wolf form finishing off Lucy. I'm starting to compile quite a list of movies with things Coppola unmistakeably took for his Dracula film;

1) The spring action coffin rise from Nosferatu.
2) The independent shadow from Vampyr.
3) Conrad Veidt's performance from The Thief of Bagdad--most noticeably the moment when Veidt calls, "Winds!"
4) Tears turning into diamonds from Cocteau's Belle et la Bete.
5) The sideways falling from Cocteau's Orphee.

I feel like I'll probably find out about more.

Twitter Sonnet #256

Noodle Christ bread infests tomato sauce.
Lactating eggs numbly feed marshmallow.
Pizza memories take on heavy moss.
To-day the fifth dye brought us all yellow.
Sweet oesophageal larvae hum an ad.
Nuclear lipstick gashes throat paper.
More Tootsie Roll than a pop ever had.
Cutlery devils spin round a tapir.
Random water enlivens any crop.
Babies drink in ignorance of the mice.
American flies stick to soda pop.
Tom Jefferson's balls were a pair of dice.
Salt cans slide into a chrome tooth paste tube.
Mathematic mind masters pink plush cube.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shadows Painted on Eyes

Before last night, I didn't think I'd ever seen The Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky's 1975 film. But intense deja vu came over me as I watched it last night. Try as I might, I couldn't think of when and how I saw it before. Which is oddly appropriate, as it's a movie about memory, along with the sensual diversity of life and the strange bits of impressions that make the building blocks of human personalities.

Tarkovsky accomplishes this with a lot of unbroken shots as the camera moves between waypoints of what would have been brilliant static shots. In these strings of film, they're breathtaking and serve to emphasis a strange ghostliness of memory, as in this ingenious shot;

Small things like the bottle falling mixed mysteriously with things like a burning house. There's slow motion footage of foliage, and a great scene of a woman washing her hair and the ceiling falling apart. Now and then, the voice of Tarkovsky's father can be heard reading poetry coupled with imagery that's often only related in an abstract way. One poem refers to things "words cannot repair" which is coupled with a scene of Alexei's mother going to her printing press workplace to check proofs because she's afraid there's a misprint in a published book, only to find that what she'd taken as a misprint was simply a word that she couldn't believe was used--we're not told what this word was.

Many scenes seem to be shot directly from Alexei's POV, suggesting perhaps the entire film is itself the mirror into which Alexei peers, the jumbled memories and sensations a reflection of his current personality in his face.

The movie begins with a hypnotist apparently curing a young man of his stutter by planting the suggestion that she was drawing all the tension out of him through his hands. This scene seems to provide the motive for the rest of the movie, as if to show that this problem of common human madness can be solved.

Tired of arguing with his mother, Alexei says to her over the phone, "If I'm to blame, I'm sorry," upon which his mother hangs up on him. His mother in his memory and his ex-wife in the present are both played by the beautiful Margarita Terekhova, who also, as Tarkovsky points out blatantly with visual juxtaposition, resembles da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci.

She seems to represent the perennially longed for and yet unreachable woman, tied also to a childhood Alexei longs for when, as he says, life seemed open to possibilities. His present life, in his run down old home, seems much narrower than the memories shown of the forest he grew up in, where Tarkovsky's palette seems to borrow its soft darks from da Vinci along with the halos shots often give to Alexei's mother.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Critical Jelly

I sure miss the fourth Doctor.

I gorged myself on gummy bunnies and Doctor Who yesterday, watching one of the surviving episodes of "The Daleks' Master Plan", the first episode of "The Tenth Planet", and the last two parts of "Mawdryn Undead". Which was a good serial, oddly complicated. It felt like three serials mashed into one--a serial about the Black Guardian mixed with a serial about some ancient space vampires mixed with a serial about Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart endangering everyone by meeting his past self.

I guess it was nice seeing the Brigadier again. Though, since the part in "Mawdryn Undead" was originally written for Ian Chesterton, it rather didn't feel like the Brigadier, more like the actor who played the Brigadier playing another character entirely.

The multiple layers of story worked well I thought--the show never felt like it was on autopilot for a moment. I loved how the undead guys panicked when they realised there were two Brigadiers and switched in a moment from being villains to being genuinely concerned for the Brigadier. Maybe the complicated plot helped prevent the writers from getting any of the characters in a Master type rut.

It's nice seeing Nyssa wearing different outfits for each serial. It's weird how the Doctor and Tegan wear the same clothes in every episode. The third and fourth Doctors weren't like that, and neither were their companions, except Leela, and there was at least a logic to that.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Masters, Slaves, and Better Ideas

And the bunny takes her place on the foretold day to witness The Birth of the thing from the water.

Twitter Sonnet #255

Red air crushes coats millions of years past.
Three decades of stale white cake pills vanish.
Frosted web makes dehydrating repast.
Irradiated rubber jams English.
Lead pipes beat the crap out of nukes to-night.
Blood stained faucets ruin the tap water.
Plumbers throw up mushrooms after they fight.
Three hundred cows rotted in the larder.
Sushi fate selects a fatted blowfish.
Glowing autumn wounds drop from a grey limb.
Avocado dip shines in radar dish.
Pear man wonders if apple man sees him.
Two moustaches make a hairy face X.
Luna orbits the blue egg of kleenex.

HBO has a new fantasy series, A Game of Thrones, based on a novel by George R.R. Martin. I've never read the book, but I saw someone on a forum a while ago call Venia's Travels a George R.R. Martin ripoff, which kind of made me wonder if I'd like Martin's books. Having watched the first episode, I'm guessing the person who made the comment is probably one of those people who think that fantasy fiction that's any darker or more violent than a Disney movie is a novelty. I know this isn't the case, which is probably why I found the pilot episode of A Game of Thrones more boring than a lot of people will.

I have nothing against shock value, except I'm pretty jaded, so shock value alone just isn't enough for me. A Game of Thrones does have a lot more than that, but it's lacking one very important element--characters who aren't dull as dirt.

The show starts off badly with a long opening shot of three unknown guys in uninteresting clothes, a shot that's not even framed or angled in any particularly interesting way, and we stay with this shot for what seems like a minute before switching to a shot behind and above the guys riding into a conspicuously cg corridor. How about a little water on your porridge.

But things improve as the riders enter a really lovely, snow covered forest.

Unfortunately, this is followed by some fairly standard tracking shots of guys running in a forest as a blurred monster rushes by in the foreground. By the time two of the guys are dead and we move into opening credits, I know we're meant to be thinking, "Wow, what an opening!" But all I thought was, "So I wonder if this thing will ever get off the ground."

There are lots of great visuals in the episode. Though I suspect future episodes will, like Boardwalk Empire, relegate things more and more to smaller and cheaper sets and less interesting locations due to time constraints on those scouting the locations. There won't be as much scheduling for weather like in this pretty shot;

The very fact of a fantasy show with explicit violence and sex kind of made me want this show to be good. And I love both Sean Bean and Lena Headley, though Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles convinced me she's better off playing a female Clint Eastwood badass than some aloof Queen. But so far everyone's playing a type rather than a character. My favourite sequence involved a young, delicate little princess forced to marry a huge, beefy savage king. Though neither of them received any characterisation--it's porn. Instead of a cable guy and a housewife in lingerie, it's a pretty princess and a brute who ravishes her. Though I guess the fact that she has a moustache is kind of a twist.

Probably not something that was intended. Once I saw it, I couldn't stop seeing it. Together with her dark eyebrows, the obvious wig did nothing to diminish the porno quality of the sequence.

I may well watch the second episode, though, to see if there are more good visuals, and because I know Jane Espenson writes a later episode. Who knows, it could get better.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

You Broke Out of Your Room to Show Us Your Diary

I grinned when I heard Morrissey's autobiography is going to be published as a Penguin Classic. I first heard about this through Judith Flanders' Twitter, the author of Inside the Victorian Home She considers it a travesty; "Morrissey a Classic Penguin??????????????? Dear God almighty."

And I thought, of course she would hate Morrissey. Her book is really useful, but I talked here already about how it's filled oddly in spots by evidence of her hang-ups about sex and men, mostly in the form of her denying she has any. Maybe I'll write a book about birds and mention now and then, out of the blue, that I'm absolutely not afraid of ghosts.

While I do think it's certainly premature to call Morrissey's autobiography a literary classic, I don't think it deserves the label any less than Andy Warhol's, which is also included in Penguin Classics. I kind of hope Morrissey's book will be a great "fuck you" to the whole concept of autobiography and actually include little or nothing about his life. As one of Morrissey's heroes, Oscar Wilde, once said, "The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography."

I love Morrissey's work to death and I think his lyrics are often brilliant, though I'm not sure I'd be interested in reading his autobiography. I know I'm probably in the minority among his fans on that one, though. Hell, I'll probably read it anyway.

I finished watching "Snakedance", the Doctor Who serial, yesterday, a serial I mostly really liked. I loved the idea of seeing how a religion established in a previous serial has evolved in another culture. The especially ugly actor playing the prince was really good, too, not just because he's ugly in just the right way--rosy lips and pale skin--but because he gave a genuinely interesting performance.

There was also a long sequence where the Doctor and Nyssa were locked in a cell that seemed like the writer was telling us, "Look how great it is without the sonic screwdriver! So much quality time in captivity!"

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Life of a Smile

People with facial features that seem to give them an expression at all times--like Humphrey Bogart's sad eyebrows or Abe Vigoda's perpetual frown--make me wonder if the impression they make on others creates a sort of feedback loop. People reflexively taking Bogart as sad may have made him sadder than he might otherwise have been. By that rationale, Gwynplaine of The Man Who Laughs would've been a very happy fellow, though in the story he's miserable and this take seems to have a great deal of credibility.

Made in 1928, it's mainly a silent film, though it uses some early sound technology and does have its own soundtrack, including a song with vocals, but none of the actors speak. Conrad Veidt plays Gwynplaine, who's scarred as a child at the command of James II for the actions of his father, a duke. The novel upon which the film's based has Gwynplaine's face slashed through the cheeks like the Joker in The Dark Knight, but Veidt, whose image in The Man Who Laughs inspired the Joker's look as he originally appeared in the comics, portrays the wound as an actual, perpetual smile, as though the wound caused the muscles to freeze somehow.

It's rather effective, especially as Veidt's teeth are sort of gruesome, long, thin and curved. Having them constantly bare along with the ambiguity it lends to Gwynplaine's emotions gives his face the quality of a bare skull, which probably captures better what is disturbing about a Glasgow smile than makeup effects of the time could have. There's also the sense that the wound may be as much psychological as physical.

I was surprised how much of the movie is devoted to the hedonistic Duchess Josiana, though. Not that I'm complaining. She has Gwynplaine brought to her room at one point and touching his deformity causes her to swoon. I love it.

Twitter Sonnet #254

A lone Dalek stands silent by a train.
The neck of a cognac bottle watches.
An old syphilis mill grinds a gross grain.
Digitless Albert Brooks can't strike matches.
Pointed curled finger makes recursive sound.
Trolleys saturate soggy green bread lake.
New notes arrive from every frog in town.
Infant armies install regimes to bake.
Foam pins fail to puncture a velvet lid.
Faux silk pumpkins cushion petal fingers.
At low blade fan auctions it's bad to bid.
Slug suds quickly consume metal wringers.
Squishy wet rag purses squeeze loudly shut.
Sly ether winds itself a spectral nut.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

All Kinds of Birds

I can't remember not having seen Star Wars--the first one, A New Hope, I mean. I don't remember the first time I saw it, I think I came out of the womb having seen it a few times. I guess a lot of people feel that way. I sort of remember seeing Return of the Jedi the first time--I remember feeling disoriented by the speeder bike sequence.

I've watched those movies so many times, yet I managed to squeeze out some feeling for the first one last night when I watched it. I got caught up in the tension of the trench run, and by the end of the movie I felt a renewed sort of bond with Luke, Han, and Leia. I suppose it's easy to point at their chemistry as the most important thing the prequels are lacking, but it is really true. You don't have that feeling of being in the thick of things with a few vulnerable, cranky kids in the prequels.

Some kids were celebrating 4/20--apparently an unofficial pot holiday--at the river yesterday. The old busy body across the street called the cops on them, of course, the same old guy who yells at me to slow down when I'm driving ten miles per hour under the speed limit. All he needs is a shotgun and a rocking chair on his porch. He already has a big Yosemite Sam moustache.

The kids made the ducks nervous, and an old lady had rained bread crumbs on the ducks like she was Flo Rida so they didn't have their usual enthusiasm for my bread. But these are the pictures I got anyway;

Last night, in Second Life, I wandered around a rather impressive monastery for St. Michael and St. Francis.

Not exactly scripture, eh? Well, not for this species, anyway.