Friday, September 30, 2011

Neighbourhood Fascists

I was pleased to see yesterday the ducks had gotten back some of their courage.

It seems like there are an awful lot of episodes of Star Trek about teenagers getting godlike powers or otherwise decent people being corrupted by the sudden gift of godlike powers. I watched the first season episode "Charlie X" last night, which was a fairly accurate if somewhat broad portrayal of teenage fascism.

See, I can watch old American Sci-Fi television, too.

I found on my English essay rough draft the teacher had marked the places where he noticed I'd used British spellings. This is actually the first time a teacher has raised the issue with me since third grade, when it was an actual spelling assignment. I remember taking my paper to the teacher and asking her why it was marked wrong and her telling me, "We don't spell it like that in this country." I hadn't actually thought there could be a reason the way words were spelled in my C.S. Lewis books wouldn't be considered legitimate. But once my natural priggish instincts were aroused, I decided to use British spelling from then on. Though, of course, only that particular teacher cared. Soon I just used British spelling because I thought it looked better. It never occurred to me another teacher would care.

I meant to bring it up with the teacher at the end of class, but I was too busy flirting with a girl who wears a hat that looks almost exactly like Sylvester McCoy's. Is there a reason I only seem to be interested in girls with hats? Maybe it's a narcissistic thing, since I wear a hat.

Anyway, "Charlie X" was decent, except for an extraordinary number of those shots where there's extra illumination on people's eyes. I bet there's a technical term for those shots. The Morticia Addams shot.

They didn't even care about continuity, we'd seen Kirk from the side fully lit and then there's a cut to this close-up. So for gods' sakes, look at his eyes, people, they insist.

I was in the mood for Star Trek because George Takei was talking about it on The Howard Stern Show last week. He revealed that Shatner improvised a lot of his lines, but that apparently wasn't as bad as what he saw John Wayne doing on the set of The Green Berets. According to Takei, Wayne basically took over the movie from Mervyn LeRoy. Which is pretty amazing--LeRoy had been a prominent director since the 1930s. But Wayne would show up to set not only with new lines for himself but lines for other actors. I see IMDb credits Wayne as one of the directors--I wonder if this was arranged after the fact.

Twitter Sonnet #308

T-shirts serve a vulnerable master.
The eyebrow curve measures every owl.
English disintegrates in Math Blaster.
A frood reclines nude on glowing towel.
Imitation grapes reform the city.
A lurking seed reveals the big bag lie.
Cube cardboard's a harbinger for kitty.
Now even canvas hats are worth a try.
The watchful shadow tumbles off the couch.
Identity spins a crazy mobile.
Pockets of rice and beans look like brain pouch.
I think mustard juice might just go global.
Plastic traps fold under clouds of sugar.
The milkless dew drenched the bone dry cougar.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Straining Against a Skull Cell

What a strange face Peter Lorre had. Sensual bug eyes, soft flesh and dark lips. But it wasn't just his face, it was that tired, plaintive, grasping manner of his. And the voice, of course. Hearing him in Fritz Lang's 1931 German film M demonstrates it's not merely the accent that accounts for the strangeness of Lorre's voice. No-one sounds like him.

He captivates in his long monologue at the end, and you compulsively try to decode it despite the fact that it's a rather simplistic take on the criminally insane mind. The movie seems to, ultimately, be an anti-death penalty argument, but it's constructed of so many fantastic elements and relies on so much fairy tale logic, it feels more like a strange dream than a coherent argument about justice.

Made in the early days of talkies, there are a few eerily silent sequences. Like a police raid on a thieves' basement pub--the revellers revel silently, police cars pull up outside in total silence.

When police lean on the common criminal harder because of the child killer played by Lorre, the organised criminals decide to catch the killer themselves. They have beggars who follow the man once he's identified, one of them surreptitiously slapping a chalk letter "M" on Lorre's coat to make him easier to spot. Then, sort of like a marathon runner who figures a flying machine would involve running somehow, the film decides the thieves would trap the killer by cornering him in a building and then breaking in, tying up the night watchmen, and getting the job done without setting off alarms, just like they were pulling a heist. It's like old Dungeons and Dragons rules and the mage has to cast Fireball on a lock to get the chest open.

It then clearly becomes a commentary on a public and system that endorse the death penalty as the thieves put together a mock trial for the killer played by Lorre. The argument is too broad and simplistic to hold water, and I say that as someone who's anti-death penalty. The movie's saved by its maybe accidental strangeness, and one can contemplate the disturbing yet oddly sympathetic portrayal of a child killer in a dream world.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Living with the Life

I wanted to try making my lunch to-day, so I bought a bunch of materials yesterday, only to discover last night that the fruit flies had somehow gotten into the loaf of sourdough bread I'd bought. I'm so tired of these things. I guess I'll probably try using hamburger buns for my sandwich to-day.

Here are some pictures I took yesterday;

I thought this branch looked like antlers.

I wondered at first why these leaves seemed to be floating in the air. It took a moment before I spotted the big spider and his little friend;

A guy walking past asked me what I was taking pictures of and I said, "Just a really big spider."

"Oh, that's a garden spider," he said, as though it was nothing to get excited over. I do see lots and lots of them, but I don't know, it still seems exciting. At least I know what they're called now.

The ducks have been traumatised lately by work men coming and trimming the weeds clogging up the river near the bridge. I suspect a lot of duck nests were casualties.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Green were My Teeth

I didn't have my camera with me a few mornings ago when I saw around a hundred people sitting at a bus stop singing "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" led by a man on electric guitar. It seemed a good enough reason to watch The Big Lebowski again last night.

Anyone who dismisses the capacity for comedy to paint nuanced and insightful portraits of humanity should have a good look at this movie. I've known so many guys like Walter, guys who have to be the voice of authority, even if they don't know shit. And then, every now and then, they do know something, and you're sort of taken aback as they give you the actual facts in the same manner they come up with bullshit. And the greatest thing about the movie is that you love Walter. He's just one of a rather large cast of characters, all of whom are well drawn, none of whom are shown to be better fundamentally than any of the others. And there we can see the wisdom of The Dude's passive philosophy.

I'm feeling pretty passive to-day myself--I only just now finished my morning coffee, which I put off for a few hours because of my dentist's appointment. Though of course my teeth were hopelessly stained once again. The dentist, trying to figure out what could have stained them, asked me what mouthwash I use. "Listerine Advanced," I said.

"Ah, that's not it then . . ."

"I drink coffee. Could that be it?"

"Maybe . . . but I'm not going to tell you to stop drinking that, I love it myself," she said.

"Could it be alcohol?"

"No . . ."

I thought. After she'd been scraping my teeth a bit I said, "Most days, all I drink is coffee, water, and green tea."

"Ah! That's it," she said. "Green tea. It's really bad. I mean, it's good for you, but it stains your teeth."

Rather surprising, at least to me. Green tea has such a subtle colour. Usually. During Comic-Con, Amee and I ate at a sushi restaurant I'd never been to before and when I ordered green tea I received this;

It tasted like freshly mown lawn.

Yesterday was another busy day at school. I had a test in my Interpersonal Communications class which I was in the middle of studying for on a bench at school when I heard a voice above me say, "Look, I'm wearing my bowler to-day!"

It was the hatter girl, walking by quickly. With her boyfriend.

"Oh!" I called after her. "Looks nice!" Oh, well . . .

Twitter Sonnet #307

Optimistic tights recall a nice plague.
Rocky Racoon holds up yoghurt boom box.
Eloquent Death has a nice shapely leg.
Too fitting are her chess Queen print black socks.
Black shirt sleeves swim ghoulishly in the wash.
Red stars desperately cling to distant wax.
Klingon gas stations are hopelessly posh.
Poison rats come in convenient meat packs.
Blue books are distributed by clay hand.
Sylvester McCoy's hat becomes a girl.
Spider-Man seduces an unformed land.
The oracle hot fish begins to curl.
Cheap X-Ray nudity's sold to Apple.
Some walls are too fast for hooks to grapple.

Monday, September 26, 2011

For Your Health

We've got fruit flies here again. I didn't think I could find white wine to be more disgusting, yet the fact that it's an effective fruit fly trap actually seems to make it seem moreso. I read online about a trap people made by taking one litre plastic soda bottles, cutting off the top at around where it begins to taper, and turning it inwards to make a funnel. You put the white wine or other sweet liquid at the bottom of the bottle and the flies that fly in are unlikely to fly out, due to the funnel shape of the opening. I guess it kind of works like arrow slits in castles. Or it's supposed to--the flies didn't seem interested in going into the bottle at all, though maybe that's because there was a small, open dish of white wine next to it, the kind we've used in previous years to drown the bastards.

They seem to be worst in the middle of the day, so I've been going out to lunch for about a week. Which has cost me more money than I probably ought to be spending so I hope these things die out soon.

Last night for history class I read about the U.S. meat packing industry in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century and Theodore Roosevelt's crusade to introduce tougher government regulations for the industry. Sounds like it was long overdue, as Roosevelt was motivated partially by having witnessed firsthand during his military service soldiers dying from eating poisoned meat. Apparently rats and rat poison often got mixed in with the meat. Apparently in some cases people, due to factory accidents, got mixed in with the meat.

Roosevelt successfully got tougher, but considerably watered down from what he wanted, regulations passed through Congress. The chapter concludes by saying, "Not until 1968 did another generation of reformers, spurred by Ralph Nader, find it necessary to launch a new campaign to strengthen the inspection system. And in the twenty-first century, the health of the nation's meat remains a widespread concern."

Oh, great--The End, question mark. It's one of those times I'm very glad to be a vegetarian.

The last time I talked about PETA here, it was to talk about their attempt to end the Punxsutawny Phil Groundhog Day ritual. And I remarked how PETA really needs to learn how to pick their battles. I mean, let's try and end institutionalised animal torture before we go to work on widely beloved traditions.

Well, it seems like the only consistent thing about PETA is kookiness, as now I'm reading they plan on launching a porn site. This might drive another nail in the coffin of their legitimacy as a public interest organisation, though I'm quite sure their new site will get a lot more hits than their old one. Who knows? Maybe it'll have a positive effect. I know I'll be checking it out--I love porn, and I love kooky porn. I was fascinated last week by this photoset I came across of a topless paramedic.

There's nothing about the pictures to suggest they're porn except the fact that the woman's topless. In some countries, that's not even porn, just kind of odd. I love the paragraph promoting the main site;

The connections between health and female beauty are many: from ancient fertility goddesses to the modern theory of genetic health. If this connection is real, it would follow that any healthy society should revere female beauty. It should also worry us that there are no such societies today. This is one of the reasons we created Body in Mind. We wanted to show what such a society might look like, a sort of blueprint, or inspiration for a healthier tomorrow. We know female beauty can motivate us towards our values, including health. It inspires us, it uplifts our souls, and this positive mental state has been shown to directly influence physical health. A topless paramedic might not be the most practical solution, but it's way more practical than trying to live without positive images of female beauty. Let Hayley-Marie jump start your heart.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Only Water in the Forest is the Flash Thunderstorm

I guess I forgot to comment yesterday on how it was revealed in the new Doctor Who episode that the person in the space suit who killed the Doctor was indeed River Song. Was it really a revelation? Had anyone not figured that out yet?

I like River Song, but I still wish we could've seen her and the Doctor getting to know each other better before it was decided she was the great love of his life. Or a great love, I guess it's fair to say they haven't explicitly said she was the only one. Why does it seem that way? I suppose because they give it all the cosmic meaning and only show the relationship in loudly high or low points--all which actually makes the relationship seem curiously adolescent. Which, considering the show is made for kids, might be appropriate. I don't know. This is why I still think River doesn't come close to Romana--they never actually say Romana and the Doctor are in a romantic relationship, and one could argue that despite things like them affectionately calling each other marvellous in State of Decay, they even weren't in a romantic relationship. Even then they seemed closer than River and the Doctor. More symbiotic.

I didn't put that video together--I wouldn't have put in the text and I would've uploaded the clips in their proper aspect ratio. But I don't have time for that to-day as I just realised I have a lot of school work to. I need to read a lot of my text book for my Interpersonal Communications class, which so far is really astounding me with how much time it can spend stating the obvious. Did you know most people have more intimate relationships with their children than their cab drivers? Four pages from this book have made absolutely certain I understand this fact. Maybe as much time spent on Doctor/Companion relationships would be more worthwhile.

I wonder if there's going to be an explanation for the fact that River needed to be in a space suit when she shot the Doctor. Maybe he gets out of it by dressing as a cosmonaut. I guess that would take us back to their left wing/right wing dichotomy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Do They Call You Again? Proctor? Docker? On the Tip of My Tongue, Sorry, Could You Tell Me Again?

I don't think I've liked a single episode of Doctor Who Gareth Roberts has written except "The Lodger" which I watched when I was drunk and I see I wrote at the time, "I don't know if 'The Lodger', the episode of Doctor Who I watched, is actually as good as it seemed."

In this new episode, "Closing Time", Roberts seems to have gone out of his way to include things people have been complaining about--children, the Doctor constantly saying, "I'm the Doctor." It also has another bit where the Doctor refers to "the Doctor" as being his name, which always irks me. It even ends up being on his nametag when he goes to work at a store, which is actually sort of charming, and I could see how he might have talked people into letting him use it, but it seems to me like it would be more likely he'd use John Smith.

But that's small potatoes when there're some real standout moments of bad writing in "Closing Time". Like when Craig, charged with the simple mission of asking questions of the department store staff about any unusual occurrences recently, decides to deal with his anxiety about asking awkward questions of strangers by getting very close to a salesgirl, leaning into a rack of lingerie, and telling her he'd like to discuss women's wear. Over the top? Just slightly.

There's also the Cybermat which comes back to life when the Doctor underestimates its ability to do so despite the fact that he's quite familiar with the little things. I did sort of like how miniature Cyberman technology hasn't gotten much more convincing than it was in Tomb of the Cybermen and Revenge of the Cybermen.

This doesn't come close to making up for the fact that we have another whiney No One Appreciates the Doctor! episode. Haven't we composted this dead horse? And then there's the end where the Doctor quickly tells Craig about his plan in earshot of the Cybermen so the Cybermen could quickly foil it before showing themselves to be considerably less threatening when a transformation into a Cyberman is shown to be a lot less scary than we've been led to believe up to this point.

Matt Smith's performance in the episode was good, though. I am looking forward to next week's, which looks like it'll involve chess. So I'll have that at the very least.

Twitter Sonnet #306

Telescoping blue top hats fade from sight.
William McKinley lounges in a bath.
And in the end, erotic cakes are right.
Colonies yield to beige walrus moose math.
Muscle Mujer snaps magazines in two.
Wistful banana bunches lure the fly.
The formica plane slowly fades into
The shade of the Argosy Bookshop's lie.
Cherry nymphs sleep in small vodka bottles.
The anklet coin skulls grin with golden teeth.
Turkeys hang mistletoe from Yule wattles.
Driver's licenses hold rainbows beneath.
Glass horses burn with the afternoon dawn.
Floral patterns mark where aircraft have gone.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Ink is Here for Your Balls

Infection spreading in my History class. It's weird how my most horrific drawings come out of boredom.

In this case, I was doing an exercise I learned in one of my first high school art classes where you draw without lifting the pen once. It's useful when you're suddenly overcome with the feeling of not wanted to stand up, raise your antennae, or switch on.

We were going over early twentieth century U.S. economy as you can see. I'm surprised I didn't lose my mind in the previous class period when the duration was dedicated entirely to baseball. Is there anything more boring than baseball? It can be interesting when I hear certain people talking about it, people enthusiastic about it who have a gift for making something interesting--Keith Olbermann, Artie Lange. But just listening to statistics and dry facts about this arbitrary arrangement of ball hitting and running is cartoonishly mind numbing. It's like someone standing in front of an audience just repeating the words, "Brick wall," over and over. Actually, that would be more interesting. In any case, I think perhaps we ought to have spent at least as much time on the Spanish-American War.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"I Have a Cat"

The first essay for my English class is a movie review and I decided to write about When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. He's having us do endless outlines and preparatory topic sentences--the sorts of things I hate doing. It reminds me of my high school art class when the teacher had us all do thumbnail sketches for every assignment, even if we were just copying another picture. I remember once we were supposed to copy a painting of a snowy landscape with a red barn at the horizon. I can't remember if it was me or Tim who drew the required three thumbnails as putting the horizon really high in one, really low in another, and tilted in the third.

Now for this essay, I came up with an outline that bears no resemblance to my first draft, though I honestly didn't do it on purpose.

But I considered it a good enough reason to rewatch some of Mikio Naruse's other films. Last night I watched Ukigumo again which, despite being one of his most popular films, I think may be my least favourite of the Naruse movies I've seen. It has in short supply the qualities I think make his other films great--instead of subtle storytelling and nuanced performances, it's a broad melodrama. It didn't surprise me it was one of star Hideko Takamine's favourite movies with Naruse, as the whole thing is kind of about Takamine the martyr--the good girl who has every bad thing happen to her and people don't realise how much she means to them until it's too late.

Yet, looking at my post from the first time I watched it, I talked myself into liking it a bit more.

In Indochina, Tomioka's attitude was cool towards Yukiko. He spoke casually insultingly to her, making her tell her age in front of strangers, telling her she looked older. There's an ingrained assumption of his superiority to her. In Japan, after the war, they both go through a complicated series of humiliations as their roles are broken down by circumstances in their world. While their relationship was hardly equitable by objective standards before, at least they had the comfort of knowing what was expected of them. But in post-war Japan, where Yukiko is forced to become a prostitute and eventually finds herself financially far better off than Tomioka, nothing seems to work right. The two love each other, and are irresistibly drawn back into each other's company, even as they find themselves bitter towards one another and completely at a loss as to how to interact. Yukiko's forced to realise she's smarter and better equipped to survive than Tomioka, and that she resents his endless string of superficial affairs with other women. He's in the uncomfortable position of depending on Yukiko more than he feels he has a right to, and knowing that she's a smarter, more able person that he is. It's painful and humiliating for them both, but they can't escape because they love each other.

Well . . . when you put it that way, me, I guess you have a point. It's really weird how I can't remember this impression, I genuinely feel like I'm reading someone else's blog.

Last week, I watched Naruse's earlier film, Meshi, which I liked a lot more. It's a much more understated tale and I was particularly impressed by Setsuko Hara's performance this time having seen her in such a diversity of roles since the first time I watched Meshi--from the innocent girl in No Regrets for Our Youth to the damaged vamp in The Idiot.

In Meshi she plays a housewife who finds her relationship with her husband growing stale. The whole movie's about that relationship, and yet, fascinatingly, not once in the movie do husband and wife explicitly acknowledge the problem to each other. Watch this scene of Hara's character with a group of friends she hasn't seen in a long time and notice how subtly we're told that her marriage is in trouble;

A lot of it is Setsuko Hara's performance. We can read a lot in her face for our knowledge of the problem, and yet we can also believe her friends might not be picking up on it. That sort of thing can really connect an audience to a character. Naruse's tendency to use only one camera, too, makes us focus on people. Every cut makes the next shot seem really important somehow.

I was rather charmed by this clip I just came across of Hara from the filming of No Regrets for Our Youth;

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another Hasty Post

This is the outfit my avatar wore to the chess tournament on Saturday. It's called Dream Thief by Caverne Obscura, though the mask, as usual, is by Siyu Suen. How someone can make an outfit called Dream Thief that doesn't include a mask is beyond me.

The pictures were taken at Donna Flora's new winter collection site, outfits from said collection visible on the wall in the background.

Twitter Sonnet #305

Surprising seltzer aligns gut printer.
Hat monitors approve the only sash.
The last giraffe here was a bad sprinter.
The new one's been given bubble gum hash.
Milky marijuana drags the lactose.
Operation surgeons misspell sergeant.
Inedible grass weaves green thanatos.
Kirk Douglas ran a police department.
Split arrows are difficult to shoot twice.
Cymbals crash and the breaker fly is dead.
Monoliths never have to break the ice.
Obsidian mattress makes a bad bed.
Battery cases won't permit a dime.
Scalp mounted snail clocks give vertigo time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What They Don't Guess About Peter Parker

This was inside a bathroom stall at school last night. It's the theatre/art section of the school where my Communication class is for some reason.

All of my classes got out early yesterday for different reasons, so I spent a lot of time loitering around campus. My first two classes are normally forty-five minutes apart so yesterday I had an almost two hour gap. I considered going to a nearby Starbucks or something, except I keep hoping to run into a girl who talked to me while I was taking pictures of a tree a few weeks ago. She told me she wanted to applaud me for wearing a "real fedora and not a trilby like everyone else."

"Isn't a trilby just what they called fedoras in the U.K.?" I asked.

"No," she said and explained a trilby had a much smaller brim.

She went on to tell me that she was an apprentice hatter so I said, "I bow to your superior knowledge."

She told me she normally wears a bowler, though she wasn't wearing one that day for reasons she didn't explain. Then she walked away saying she'd just wanted to compliment me on my hat. It was only later I reflected that I ought to have tried to keep the conversation going--she spoke with the same vocal inflections as me, I wonder if we grew up watching the same movies and reading the same books. Of course, it's possible that if I do run into her again I'll find out she's hugely into Twilight or something. But it's proving a lot more difficult to run into her again than I'd thought--I figured she probably walked past that same spot every day at around the same time going between classes and it would be easy to spot a girl in a bowler. But who knows why she wasn't wearing a hat that first time and maybe she's continued refraining from wearing it for the same reason. And although I remember her being cute, she was holding a thermos in front of her face to block the sun and she was wearing the same black tank top and jeans a million other girls wear. It's entirely probable she's seen me plenty of times since, but I have no way of picking her out. So unless I start going up to every slender blonde girl and asking, "Are you the apprentice hatter?" I basically have to rely on the impossible--that a girl would approach a guy cold twice. It's clearly my turn and I might have walked past her a dozen times now without saying anything. Que mala suerte. I have a million natural conversation starters, too--"Where were you an apprentice hatter?" "Have you been to the Village Hat Shop downtown?" "Share your views on hats in the media." While she, meanwhile, can't have much more than, "I see you're still wearing a hat! Kudos!"

So instead I mostly sat around reading Spider-Man comics. I've been reading the original issues of Amazing Spider-Man again. Every time, I think how no adaptation for film or television has really captured the flavour of those comics. I mean, how much better would Spider-Man 3 have been if it had ended like this:

I don't think we'll be seeing any of this in the new movie either. It's hard to step away from the emotion massage for Spidey to throw sand in the air while he jumps around.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fool Who

A very tiny baby lizard from a few days ago.

One of the things I watched last week but didn't have time to talk about was the 2008 production of King Lear with Ian McKellen as Lear. And McKellen was good, though somehow not the revelation he was as Macbeth. In fact, by far the best part of this King Lear was Sylvester McCoy as the Fool. He plays him almost exactly how he played the Doctor, and yet I like it. He even plays the spoons. I put him with John Hurt and Peter as my favourite Fools.

Which makes it all the more disappointing that this production chose to add a scene of the Fool being hanged to explain the often commented on unexplained disappearance of the Fool halfway through the play. I know Lear has a line near the end where he seems to refer to the Fool's hanging, but in this case I prefer to think of the Fool actually slipping off at some point to a blue police box.

The actresses playing Goneril and Regan were good. Romola Garai as Cordelia chose to portray her as more reckless and brash than other interpretations I've seen, which made sense to me--just because she has better character than Goneril and Regan doesn't mean she's perfect. Philip Winchester as Edmund was maybe the biggest disappointment, portraying him as a two dimensional villain, though the crap lighting runs a close second in terms of disappointment. I had to squint to see some of these performances.

Winchester's an American actor, I see, though he chose to use an English accent despite the costumes suggesting the play has been moved to nineteenth century Russia. Which says . . . well, nothing, as usual when Shakespeare productions do this sort of thing. And in this case nothing really did come from nothing. Which reminds me of one of my favourite Onion articles; "Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended".

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cleaning Half the House

Plenty of pollen out there now so if you were thinking of just staying inside the hive, it's not the day for it.

I wanted to address a few things to-day. First of all, I know I've said this at least twice before, but I think it bears repeating--if you send something to my hotmail e-mail address, there's a very good chance I won't see it. This is why you see my yahoo address (setsuled at yahoo dot com) linked to everywhere instead. I still look at my hotmail because that's where my Live Journal notifications go, among other things. But last week when Tim sent something to my hotmail I thought for sure it hadn't gotten through until I realised hotmail hides its junk mail folder under a tab. So while I normally think I have no junk mail, I usually have around twenty items of junk mail, some of which are inevitably not junk mail, but hotmail deletes it after a day just the same. So if you've sent something to my hotmail and didn't receive a reply, don't take it personally. Just be sure to e-mail my yahoo address in the future.

I realised after yesterday's post that the previous Doctor Who episode written by Toby Whithouse, "Vampires of Venice", had also reminded me of Curse of Fenric for having aquatic alien vampires. I guess he really likes that serial?

I read Caitlin's first story and Sonya's poem in the latest Sirenia Digest. The story was more about its language than its plot, often the case with Digest stories these days. The fun is in ruminating on how bits of the dialect of the characters in the future setting evolved from our current English dialect. Sonya's poem wasn't bad, kind of default, though one could say eXistenz is sort of a default David Cronenberg film, and that doesn't mean it's bad.

I read the Digest kind of reluctantly this month, I admit. A mutual friend of Caitlin's and mine had posted about having done an H.P. Lovecraft parody years ago, and a short while after this post Caitlin had written a long rant in her blog about how Lovecraft parodies are always terrible and shouldn't be done. This had seemed rather pointlessly cruel to me for a lot of reasons--the mutual friend doesn't post very often anymore, and the post about the Lovecraft parody had seemed to me her attempt at drumming up confidence for herself to post more, or just trying to reflect on something positive she had accomplished. I thought about how much she seems to adore Caitlin and it all left a sour taste in my mouth. It occurred to me Caitlin's post was probably just a coincidence--it is the hazard of writing a blog of your not necessarily thought out opinions, I can certainly attest to, that you'll sooner or later hurt people's feelings without realising it. Caitlin's certainly not the sort to examine her vitriol before spewing it. She's been raging against electronic publishing for weeks while continuing to ask people to pay ten dollars for a pdf file of two or three short stories. Though I think most subscribers understand this money is really more like donations to make up for a career that really doesn't pay as much as it ought to. I'm sure if Caitlin didn't need the money she wouldn't ask for it.

I've always felt like the people who are often intentionally caustic are just the sorts who most need people not to give up on them. So I make an effort to take a broader, more complex view of things. It's not always easy, though, I have to say. Though I think it's easier than most people think.

Twitter Sonnet #304

A twine octopus embraces chalk glee.
Vincente Minnelli's sheets spin like a fan.
A paper grin's pasted to a zombie.
Nothing warms the heart like a lasting ban.
Thin toy ice conceals a green Ed Asner.
Slick blue fur sells cigarettes on the Thames.
CGA renders four hue Trent Reznor.
Cyan knights fight purple tentacle femmes.
Slashes stroke honoured 'H'es' half clean house.
Robot arms sometimes forget about love.
Well done french fries signal a deal with Faust.
Who knows what serviced labyrinths ghosts think of?
Dry ducks back away from the Queen's biscuit.
Phosphorescent cake is just not cricket.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

So Long as They Still Make Labyrinths . . .

That's three minotaurs now for Doctor Who. Four, I guess, if you count the beast from Battlefield;

Which I think the new one actually resembles more than he does the Nimon from The Horns of Nimon, which the Doctor says it's related to. I was also reminded of The Curse of Fenric for the use of the characters' faiths relating to the monster, though this new episode, which is called "The God Complex", has a very nice twist on The Curse of Fenric's idea. I also loved the diminishment of the idea that the Doctor is a hero (even though he is one).

Anyway, I love minotaurs and labyrinths, and I love stories set in hotels where you never or rarely get a hint of the outside, so this was a very good episode for me. I couldn't help feeling the character of Howard is based on Howard Stern;

He kind of looks like him, right? Maybe it's just a coincidence. I know Stern likes Being Human, the series created by Toby Whithouse, who wrote this episode of Doctor Who, but I think Stern watches the American version. Speaking of Howard Stern, it was kind of nice hearing him stick up for transgenders at length in an argument with a psychiatrist who thinks Chaz Bono is a bad influence on children. Among other things, upon being challenged on it by the psychiatrist, Stern said he'd be concerned about his kid if he or she came to him and said he or she was a gender different than their biological sex, but Stern said he'd support their decision once they were sure and he'd be happy for him. I hadn't actually thought much about Chaz Bono being on Dancing with the Stars, but maybe it is a good opportunity for dialogue.

It was a good Doctor Who episode--I think the only thing I didn't like was a moment when a beeping noise was used in the musical score. That's really not something you should use for background music when there could actually be an electronic device making that noise in the show.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Burnt to Zero

I watched Pale Flower last Thursday, and I'd planned to write about it on Friday before the blackout happened. Then one thing after another led to me writing only short posts or posts about something else, and I've seen and read more things I want to talk about. Nothing in the past week has stuck with me like Pale Flower, though. Few movies I've seen in my life stuck with me like Pale Flower.

Muraki's a high ranking yakuza who's just gotten out of prison. Played by Ryo Ikebe with unbreakable poise, he drifts back into the yakuza lifestyle of gambling and drinking pausing only to have wordless, rough sex with the woman who's waited for him. She's not the woman around whom the movie revolves--that's Saeko, pronounced like "psycho", which I don't know whether it was intentional or not but it's certainly fitting. Muraki first sees her looking very out of place playing a Hanafuda game with a bunch of yakuza. His subordinate teases him about his interest in her, and Muraki dismisses it as ridiculous that's he's attracted to her, though, played by Mariko Kaga, she is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen.

We soon see that Saeko can only access her emotions through dangerous thrills--she wants Muraki to take her to a game with higher stakes even though she loses constantly. It's hinted that she belongs to a wealthy, established family--why the worldly Muraki would gradually become so obsessed with a foolhardy heiress is the centre of the movie.

I first heard about the film through Roger Ebert's review of it, and he's pretty spot on about it, I don't think there's a lot I can really add. Though for some reason he doesn't mention the young man who attempts to kill Muraki, only to later severe his own finger and present it as a gift to Muraki as an apology.

After this, Muraki takes the young man under his wing as a sort of brother. It's the warmest, the most gentle we ever see Muraki, he appears to bear the kid absolutely no animosity for trying to kill him. Perhaps because he feels more connected to the act of killing than the feeling of being threatened--so he identifies with him.

So what may only be a childish phase of psychosis in Saeko meets an ingrained way of life in the older Muraki. She's never killed anyone, and he seems eager to introduce her to the excitement of committing murder, knowing she's equipped to respond to it. It's taking a virginity from her more satisfying than having sex with her, which he clearly seems to sense when he backs off from making out with her in one scene. As a point of connexion, though, it ends up being a unique Hell--the human need continues after the flame's exhausted. It's like a small machine being overloaded by a huge battery, killing it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Real Living Things

I almost walked face first into this guy when I was walking to the store at around three o'clock to-day. I'm not used to seeing them out this early in the day--I thought he was dead until I blew on him lightly and he wiggled his legs.

Remember that comic I was working on during the summer? I know I said I was going to try to sell it, but I changed my mind and put it online to-day. It's called The Garden of Live Flowers after the chapter in Through the Looking Glass.

I guess I decided whatever little I might gain in the unlikely event of getting a publisher in this oversaturated field wasn't as attractive as people actually reading it because it was online rather than gathering dust on shelves of mostly deserted comic shops with the other one shots not tied into anything that even most hardcore comics fans don't buy. So enjoy.

Twitter Sonnet #303

Curious soft vertical blocks the night.
Sewage swamps disappoint no fly glutton.
Filmy CD cases foil eyesight.
Dim yellow light drifts around the button.
Brash bedrooms invade with static sock force.
Plastic wheels turn for feety pyjamas.
Circular toes dictate a circle course.
Unblinking eyes require no commas.
New grass stabs through skeleton web shadow.
Blank black pizza's foisted rudely forward.
Ancient brick brought us the great fake meadow.
Vibrating chins signify no coward.
The paper cup spotlight sharpens a gaze.
The dizziest man can go many ways.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Ink You Have

Naturally, I ran out of black ink on the day I have two essay assignments due. I hope my teachers like blue or dark grey ink. Oh, I have a feeling they won't.

For my history class, I'm turning in an assignment on leisure and entertainment in the early twentieth century. I chose to write about movies (surprise). The book talks about D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation and Intolerance as the epic, feature length films that changed the industry, so I decided to write about the Charlie Chaplin/Mack Sennett movie Tillie's Punctured Romance, a feature length comedy that came out in 1914, before both D.W. Griffith movies. Which I guess the book didn't mention because . . . well, I don't know why not. Comedy is so often given short shrift. Sure, it was feature length, but the drama, we must have the drama.

I haven't seen Birth of a Nation but I can say from experience Tillie's Punctured Romance is a better film than Intolerance, as impressive as Intolerance is. Though I guess I wasn't so impressed by Tillie's Punctured Romance when I watched it in 2004. It might have suffered from the fact that I was watching a lot of movies directed by Chaplin at around the same time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When Things Stick Inexplicably

This tiny frog was waiting for me on the wall next to the front door when I got back from what seemed a particularly tiring night at school.

I was disgusted but not surprised to-day when I watched the video of the Tea Party crowd at the GOP debate cheering at the idea of letting someone die who doesn't have health insurance. One reason it didn't surprise me was that I'd heard the sentiment expressed in my history class yesterday.

It's a U.S. history class, and we've just gotten to the Industrial Revolution and are talking about rampant capitalism creating enormously powerful businessmen like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie and how society began concocting the philosophy of Social Darwinism. This being a philosophy designed to make it seem good and natural that a small percentage of the country enjoyed great wealth while a far greater percentage lived in poverty and worked in hazardous conditions.

The teacher asked the class for opinions about how much of a role the government should play, and inevitably there were several guys who felt the government shouldn't help the poor at all, that everyone ought to pull themselves up with their own bootstraps or perish. "Maybe it's not fair," said one guy. "But life's not fair."

There were people who pointed out that, in America, not everyone has the same opportunities, some people have to put their dreams aside to take care of their families, some people grow up in areas with low quality education. But enough people were unabashedly putting forward the most brain dead, callous Tea Bagger arguments I finally had to speak up despite the fact that I hate class participation, particularly when it means arguing with people who are obviously immune to rational argument.

"At the very least," I said, "the government ought to pay for healthcare. In a government for and by the people, it seems obvious the first priority should be to see that the people stay alive. To the fellow who said that because life's unfair it's therefore fitting the government should also be unfair--just because life's unfair doesn't mean your government or economic system needs to be."

Hands went up all over the room and I received one angry counterargument after another; "Who's to say it's right to tax people to keep other people alive?" "In countries, like England, with socialised healthcare, there are long waiting lists and people die because of them." "People think the U.S. government was created to take care of them, but it wasn't at all."

And, of course, since these are all old arguments no-one with intelligence seriously puts forward in ideologically mixed company, I easily handled them all; "Who's to say anything's right? Who's to say it's right for people to die because others weren't taxed? Even assuming this would require increased taxes. As for England's healthcare, whatever problems they might have with waiting lists, their healthcare system is still ranked well above the U.S. healthcare system and people are healthier in England than in the U.S. And as for whether the U.S. government was created with universal healthcare in mind, that's simply not an argument. The Constitution has been amended many times. There's nothing wrong with changing the government if it means better serving the people."

After this, the only reply I got, and I think it was because the class was running out of time, was from a guy in the front row who, I swear, sounded exactly like Christian Bale in American Psycho; "The human race is, what, three thousand years old?"

The class laughed and the teacher replied a little dryly, "I think it's a little older than that."

But the guy completely missed the teacher's tone and seemed not to understand the class's laughter and said, "Whatever, it's something crazy long like that. And there wasn't government back then and the human race survived, so I think the human race will survive."

This is why I didn't want to participate to begin with. What does one say to something like that? I thought about, "I'm sure the guy dying of bubonic plague in the fourteenth century would be thoroughly comforted to know a percentage of the human race would certainly survive." It hardly seems constructive. But could I possibly keep from sounding sarcastic and condescending when I explained we might want to set the bar slightly higher than ensuring the survival of some humans?

Like I said, these were arguments no smart right winger tries to make anymore unless he's in a friendly environment like Rush Limbaugh's or Michael Savage's shows. The fact that these ideas proliferate, despite having been decisively repudiated, is maybe the scariest thing.

Ron Paul and Rick Perry both expressed disapproval for the cheers at the GOP debate, but these rich, comfortable guys are really far away from their ideological base, not really grasping the implications of much of what they say. Ron Paul vaguely suggested that the Church care for those who weren't covered by health insurance. And how exactly is the Church going to get funding for that, Paul? Taxes?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Persisting Rooms

Now I'm just lighting candles for fun. Nice little satanic setup I had there, huh?

Last night I dreamt about the next Doctor Who episode, apparently inspired by the trailer at the end of the latest episode. I dreamt there were copies of my grandfather in the creepy hotel seen in the episode trailer, from different periods in his life, and three copies of the Doctor, as well, one of whom was from just before the eleven hundred year old Doctor in the season premiere. He was going through a hardcore hippy phase, had very long hair, was wearing a floppy green canvas bonnet and a threadbare overcoat and he was travelling with a whole family of hippies.

I must to school again.

Twitter Sonnet #302

Dark elf love handles succumb to fell mitt.
Squares spell the end of the curly letter.
Grey cultists need someone to baby-sit.
Stilt walker's a long distance bed wetter.
Real werewolves google the Morrowind kind.
Wolves on two legs can't work a skate diner.
Tacky necklaces bring down the tooth mine.
But rock molars profit the tooth miner.
Soft rectangles of yellow sugar shake.
Quick names convey incidental nonsense.
Big heads do more than keep Nazis awake.
Flammable visions ignite at expense.
Every second sees a new burrito.
Only the worthy bean is called pinto.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In the Old Books

I guess it's weird how little my life has changed since September 11, 2001. I live in the same place, go to the same school. I went to Parkway Plaza mall early in the morning that day, a mall I still like to go to, and hung out reading William S. Burroughs until they decided the mall, like everything else, would need to be closed for the day. The world, meanwhile, seems to have changed a bit. It seems less innocent, or maybe I'm just less innocent.

Of course, malls in those days had bookstores. To-day I watched Friday's episode of Dantalian no Shoka, a show that has had persistently good writing but has rarely been as visually interesting as it is in the new episode.

The whole episode features fluid animation that looks like it was done in pencil on sketchbook paper as an indication that the characters have entered the world of a certain book.

I strongly suspect the episode had a guest director, maybe even Kazuya Tsurumaki as the animation and look of the characters reminds of FLCL and Top O Nerae 2. I'd like to see a whole series like this. This is the first episode of Dantalian no Shoka that really felt like a GAINAX series.