Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Endurance of Verbs

This was in the bathroom stall at the mall yesterday. Some wars are fought quietly, in plain view. I was sort of thinking about learning to draw Charlie Brown and the kite eating tree to put next to Matt, maybe with Charlie Brown saying, "Not if he has anything to say about it."

Snow's been coming around again. Here's a picture I took a few minutes ago;

He seems to be in good spirits, in fact I can't discern any psychological impact from the loss of his tail. I wonder if he has phantom limb. He seems happy anyway.

Now I have a stupid amount of Japanese homework to do. I don't know how I'd do this if I had another class or a job--before to-morrow, I have to write a journal entry in Japanese, do two work sheets and memorise a song in Japanese about conjugating verbs. The one I'm memorising is to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic", but I see there are a lot of different versions on YouTube, like the one on this vlog;

Let's see, the one I have to memorise goes, "Au, atte, matsu, matte, toru, totte, yomu, yonde, asobu, asoide, shinu, shinde, kake, kaite . . ." Oof, I almost got all of it. Shit, this isn't going to be easy. The rest (looking at the book now) is, "kesu. keshite, isogu, isoide." I got my work cut out for me. Don't ask me what half those words actually mean.

Here's the latest daddy-long-legs in my bathroom;

Monday, January 30, 2012

Blank Street

There's something mysterious sometimes about bad acting. Watching Ruby Keeler in the 1933 Busby Berkeley musical 42nd Street on Saturday, I marvelled at how consistently she fails to engage in the story. It's an ensemble piece, but she's probably closest to the lead, and rather puzzling in the role of the newcomer on the Broadway musical scene who impresses everyone with her raw ability. She seems to dance decently, though we don't see her dance much, but her singing is weak and as disengaged as her acting. Here the director of the film's fictional stage musical production gives her a desperate pep talk while she regards him with all the receptiveness of granite;

She seems to understand he's speaking English words, but her comprehension doesn't seem to go beyond that. And mind you, I'm talking about Ruby Keeler's bad performance here, not the actress she's playing. Ginger Rogers has a small part in the movie as part of a comic relief pair of chorus girls, but even in this tiny part her personality vastly outshines those in the more leading roles and it's no surprise her name soon eclipsed the others in the world of movie musicals.

She plays "Anytime Annie" in this essentially pre-code film. As one guy remarks, "She only said 'no' once and then she didn't hear the question." Her character eventually sleeps with the production's financier but instead of using this to get a leading role, she uses it as leverage to recommend Keeler's character for one. I suspect there's an irony here in that I think Keeler got to her position through sleeping with studio execs. But there's such a lack of passion in her performance it's hard to imagine she cared enough about her career to go to these lengths. It may be more like a studio exec wanting to see his girlfriend become a movie star.

She's so bland that during the middle of the production she's inexplicably replaced by this lady we'd never seen before;

She never speaks or sings, but she does a lot just sitting there, yowza. The movie, of course, has some terrific musical numbers and really great costumes. Bebe Daniels as the outgoing star is introduced in this sort of Grecian thing;

There were lots of great frilly, flowy, see through gowns. I like this more button up number, too, though, that Keeler wore;

Keeler's also outperformed by her outfits.

Twitter Sonnet #349

Fall gratitude's whiskers dust a pistol.
Yosemite Sam greets noon destiny.
Desert fingers write cactus epistle.
Chia Pets were a grassy blasphemy.
Condor foreheads nest on balloon Easter.
Brute pairs team up on near empty old urns.
Short sleeves fool the lobster leg's left sister.
Operatives know the devil's turnip burns.
I still can't believe what all signs have said.
To-day you may not steal the Nerf stirrup.
Murder's illegal if you're not undead.
Recall what I said about the turnip.
Oatmeal void spreads beigely on your breakfast.
Adventurers thwarted the fish harvest.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Criminal Knowledge

A couple months ago, I was talking about anime with some people in Second Life and a woman nearby volunteered, "You're talking about Japanese cartoons? I've been to Japan. Everyone's a paedophile there." This is of course a rather unfair generalisation and misinterpretation of an aesthetic phenomenon, but there's certainly an issue with sexualised, childlike imagery in Japanese media. I watched the fourth episode of Nisemonogatari to-day, a series which, like its predecessor Bakemonogatari, is largely a rumination on pop anime trends. The episode, which aired yesterday in Japan, dealt with the vampire little girl, Shinobu, who lives in the shadow of the teenage male lead, Araragi.

That's literally the state of affairs, but just by saying it you can see how the metaphor functions and how it comments on the use of childlike images in anime. Bakemonogatari/Nisemonogatari is based on a series of novels, the first of which were skipped over but the events of which have nonetheless transpired for the characters. Before the television series began, Araragi had been turned into a vampire by Shinobu, who had the appearance of an adult woman at the time. Somehow, events transpired that led to Shinobu inhabiting the body of a child who's trapped in Araragi's shadow while Araragi has ceased to be vampire, though he's retained some vampiric powers, most notably accelerated healing.

The latter portion of the new episode consists of a dialogue between Araragi and Shinobu, who can finally speak, for reasons unexplained, after spending the first series mute. The two seem oddly affectionate with each other and the discussion leads to Shinobu mentioning that she will never forgive him and he will never forgive her.

Like the vampire girl in the also studio Shaft produced Dance in the Vampire Bund, Shinobu is not really a child, in fact she's four hundred years old. Here, though, this is used to make an interesting comment on the nature of the childlike people who populate anime. It's not children that attract the average otaku, it's innocence. They're own innocence, in fact--the otaku seeks the solace of their own innocence revived by having it reflected in an ideal woman/child. And--here we go again--it's the draw of the Apollonian innocence to make palatable Dionysian knowledge*. It's nice we don't know what Shinobu's literally referring to, if anything, because now we can see the forgiveness she's referring to is the return to innocence that will always be withheld but the promise of which keeps Shinobu in Araragi's shadow like a carrot on a stick.

The episode is currently fansubbed on YouTube here.

*I have promised myself to avoid using the word "dichotomy" for a few weeks.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Whips and Habits

I love the treatment of Christianity in Japanese movies and television. In spite of the fact that Christianity's been in Japan for centuries, it seems to be perceived still as a darling, fetishistic novelty. Though 1974's nunsploitation film, School of the Holy Beast (Seiju Gakuen) takes it all a step further. It's an intensely charming film and I could not stop smiling while I watched it.

The story follows a young woman named Maya, played by the extraordinarily gorgeous Yumi Takigawa.

But the movie is filled with beautiful women, possibly the single greatest concentration of beautiful nuns ever conceived of by the human mind. Maya's joined the convent in order to investigate the murder of her mother, who had been a nun there some years earlier. The world of the convent, Maya finds, is filled with covert lesbian relationships and discipline that always seems to involve being topless.

And, like Flower and Snake, this movie also features a rose whipping scene.

I guess that was big in the 70s Japanese S&M scene.

This is the first nunsploitation movie I've seen, though I can't imagine it'll be the last, as I can't seem to say "nunsploitation" without grinning.

The best frame of reference I had was Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus, which dealt with repressed (or irrepressible) sexuality in a group of nuns more seriously and really much more richly. I suppose it could be considered a precursor of the nunsploitation genre. But the tongue is more firmly in cheek in School of the Holy Beast, when it's not other places.

Then, as now, genitalia couldn't be shown in Japanese film--I thought this was a kind of creative work around--we see this woman's tongue flicking between the other's fingers while the other writhes in ecstasy.

That's the only Caucasian in the movie, though a nun named "Natalie Green" shows up from France at one point to crack down on this notorious convent. No explanation is given as to why Natalie Green is clearly Japanese. What's weirder, though, is the movie's only male character, a bishop who is revealed in one scene to have suffered both at Nagasaki and at Auschwitz in World War II. These facts are just casually tossed out in conversation, rather impressive given the complicated layers of "what the, how the, why the fuck?" it introduces.

So there's not a whole lot more I can say except this was some of the most fun I've had watching a movie in my life.

Friday, January 27, 2012

If Bad Can Be Drawn . . .

Sleep deprived yesterday, I just watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit with dinner and, gods help me, I started thinking about it in terms of Nietzsche's perspective on the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy. As a matter of fact, I think it might be a prime demonstration of the dichotomy, particularly to disabuse people of the idea that Apollonian automatically means stodgy and cold and Dionysian means wild and crazy. Because in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it's the Toons that exemplify Apollonian and the humans who exemplify Dionysian.

Roger's philosophy, and the implicit philosophy of Toons in general, is that the fundamentally unreal quality of Toons has the power to heal and enrich. Judge Doom, the unnatural Toon, goes against this philosophy not only through murder but also through other real world methods and goals--using money to buy out elections, and pursuing the plan to develop freeways. And it's Doom, the Apollonian creature who invades the Dionysian world, who creates a way to kill Toons, immortality being one of the most fundamental aspects of the Toon's power that distinguished the Toon from the real world humans.

Eddie Valiant is shown as one who once believed in the power of the fantastic, but when reality hit him in the form of his brother's death, we see a demonstration of Nietzsche's assertion that knowledge kills action. Even the fact that Valiant abuses alcohol ties him to the god of wine.

If the film had kept its original ending, where Roger dies, not only would it have been a true film noir, it would have helped emphasise how precious fantasy is when reality can always threaten to overrule it.

The use of realistic consequences in Roger Rabbit and films noir in general would also show the value of Dionysian conduits in works of art.

Twitter Sonnet #348

Watches drink money at the cafe.
Distant libraries translate an hour.
Meteor spotters saw Morgan le Fay
Taking a slow cartographic shower.
Twizzler shibari is too slick to hold.
Red Vine bondage is firm as Loki's flame.
Stagnant noisy tubes are slain by the bold.
Fake reflections are people in a frame.
Machines like to peel their own banana.
Magnet signs slapped the wrong super market.
Song noodles worked with Carlos Santana.
Stench comes from starch sculpture Davy Crockett.
Broken plates point the way to outer space.
The best martini wins the caucus race.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sometimes a Sexual Metaphor is Just a Sexual Metaphor

A lot of actors and filmmakers talk about how awkward sex scenes are to film, and usually the finished movies reflect this awkwardness. Not so with 1974's Flower and Snake (Hana to Hebi), a movie where it feels like the cast and crew had been filming three sex scenes a day for years. Compared to other exploitation films of the period, even, the sex scenes in this film are remarkably uninhibited, even compared to other Japanese "Pink" films, the softcore pornographic films that actually dominated Japanese domestic cinema in the 70s. Flower and Snake is chock-full of shibari bondage and S&M humiliations like forced enemas and public sex acts. It all comes off as silly, sexy fun.

The story follows Makoto, a young man who lives in his mother's sex shop/porno studio. He has a fear of sexual intimacy that stems from an incident when he was a child where he shot and killed an American soldier he saw having sex with his mother. But he enjoys watching the filming of a shibari video taking place in the basement when the film begins, and goes upstairs to jerk off, tossing his used kleenex into one of three buckets already overflowing with such tissues in his closet.

Please enjoy this screenshot.

Meanwhile, Makoto's boss, Senzo, is having trouble with his wife, Shizuko, played by the gorgeous Naomi Tani.

She refuses to sleep with him, for reasons that aren't explained, and prefers to spend time with her maid and snips the old man's prized roses when he tries have sex with her. He's sensitive about his flowers and also about the sight of blood, which inspires her to slap him across the face with the flowers' thorny stems. Later, she places these same flowers in a vase with water and remarks to her maid how the flowers are beautiful now because they absorbed a man's blood.

Senzo finds out about Makoto's home life and orders him to kidnap Shizuko and "train her."

I think some people might wonder that I can be disturbed by Robert Mitchum sexually assaulting Marilyn Monroe in The River of No Return and yet regard the forced sex and bondage in Flower and Snake as silly fun. It's because from start to finish, Flower and Snake is clearly a sexual fantasy based on the dom/sub dichotomy. The story is really just a garnish for scenes meant to get people off. As such, the progression isn't so much from unhappy home lives to trauma, but from personal barriers, to sexual release, to general symbiosis. The men in the film are portrayed as weak and needy while Shizuko comes across as a woman who ultimately attains satisfaction as a sort of slut goddess.

It's not a long movie, just over an hour, and seems designed to stroke male self-esteem (among other things). Though apparently it was partly due to actress Naomi Tani's personal crusade that the movie was made at all, though according to Wikipedia, the film differs from the source material significantly, a book written by Oniroku Dan, "Japan's best-known author of S&M fiction." The film is remarkably natural and at ease with itself, but I never would have expected there to be so much drama behind the scenes about artistic purity.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Binary Isolation

This is Brunnhilde, my latest Skyrim character, wielding Glamdring, which I got from a mod. I had to abandon Lysithea, my magic user character, when I used a master level Illusion spell on an unnamed monster and he automatically resisted it because he was of a higher level than the spell was capable of effecting. I realised then how poorly designed magic is in Skyrim, because if I then had any expectation of my character being effective she would have to train in armour and physical weapons anyway. I may go back to her if someone makes a decent mod for magic in Skyrim.

Reading Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy yesterday, it occurred to me that making video games is an exceptionally Apollonian endeavour while playing video games is an exceptionally Dionysian one. I thought back to my perspective on video games as art, which is that video games contain art but are usually not, in themselves, art. This is based on a perspective on that nature of art I think now I may have originally gotten from Nietzsche, who saw art as illusions created by a human mind for an audience. The reason I said video games are rarely art is that the illusions created for video games tend not to have meaningful harmony with the gaming experience. That is, even when a game has a good, well written story, or beautiful design, one can imagine appreciating these things just as well by observing them without playing the game. So the two aren't really related, in fact the two tend to sabotage each other. Changes to the gaming environment to facilitate better play usually tend to lead to less interesting art when separated from playing--like Super Mario Brothers. Changes to improve the story lead to less freedom in gameplay, or less impact the gameplay has on the story, as in the case of BioWare games. I like what I see in terms of the complexity of dialogue trees in BioWare games, but again, one can see enjoying them just as much reading them without having a character who is also levelling up in certain skills and defeating enemies in a certain way in combat. One can achieve something else by role playing their character, by creating a story for themselves and essentially treating the canned dialogue as prompts, but then you have a work of art created by the player using aspects of the game has tools. This does not make the game itself art any more than the aircraft carrier Enterprise made Star Trek IV a work of art. It's a tool that helped facilitate art.

So far the only video game I've seen that qualifies as art to me is Robot Unicorn Attack because through the act of playing the game, one receives an impression one wouldn't otherwise receive. A certain futility and hopeless optimism. It's here the Apollonian, the design of the game, meets the Dionysian, the playing of the game. It's when the two meet that Nietzsche says good art happens. I suspect that the addictive quality of video games comes from its severe polarisation of Apollonian and Dionysian--the game environment is so perfectly Apollonian, an illusion complex enough that you can interact with it, and the act of playing the game is so perfectly Dionysian--you actually have direct input on what happens. But the two aspects are spiritually disconnected, which makes video games ultimately less fulfilling than art. Not unlike addictive drugs--one is compelled to continue use because of the purely Dionysian quality and also because of the hope that the pure Dionysian will at one point connect with the purely Apollonian, a goal that is always tantalisingly out of reach.

I love this bit from the end of the section of The Birth of Tragedy I read yesterday;

While the transport of the Dionysian state, with its suspension of all the ordinary barriers of existence, lasts, it carries with it a Lethean element in which everything that has been experienced by the individual is drowned. This chasm of oblivion separates the quotidian reality from the Dionysian. But as soon as that quotidian reality enters consciousness once more it is viewed with loathing, and the consequence is an ascetic, aboulic state of mind. In this sense Dionysian man might be said to resemble Hamlet: both have looked deeply into the true nature of things, they have gained knowledge and are now loath to act. They realise that no action of theirs can work any change in the eternal condition of things, and they regard the imputation as ludicrous or debasing that they should set right the time which is out of joint. Knowledge kills action, for in order to act we require the veil of illusion; such is Hamlet's doctrine, not to be confounded with the cheap wisdom of Jack the Dreamer, who through too much reflection, as it were a surplus of possibilities, never arrives at action. What, both in the case of Hamlet and of Dionysian man, overbalances any motive leading to action, is not reflection but knowledge, the apprehension of truth and its terror. Now no comfort any longer avails, desire reaches beyond the transcendental world, beyond the gods themselves, and existence, together with its glittering reflection in the gods and an immortal Beyond, is denied. The truth once seen, man is aware everywhere of the ghastly absurdity of existence, comprehends the symbolism of Ophelia's fate and the wisdom of the wood sprite Silenus: nausea invades him.

Then, in this supreme jeopardy of will, art, that sorceress expert in healing, approaches him; only she can turn his fits of nausea into imaginations with which it is possible to live. These are on the one hand the spirit of the sublime, which subjugates terror by means of art; on the other hand the comic spirit, which releases us, through art, from the tedium of absurdity. The satyr chorus of the dithyramb was the salvation of Greek art; the threatening paroxysms I have mentioned were contained by the intermediary of those Dionysian attendants.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Right Words in the Right Books

I'm so glad I decided not to take more classes in addition to Japanese II. Just from last night I can tell it's going to be really tough all by itself. Taihen.

What's more, it turns out I need to buy new text books. The text books for Japanese classes haven't changed in nearly a decade and all of a sudden they changed last semester, catching me off guard. The teacher, in her imperfect but earnest English said, "If you have old book, I'm sorry, I don't know what to do." It was kind of sweet when most teachers just casually require students to pay hundreds of dollars for books that might not even be used in the class.

The class seems to mostly be filled with the usual compliment of messy haired American otaku. I'd say there are around twenty guys and five girls, one of whom was clearly the queen bee of a group of five guys. There was also an Asian girl who kept staring at me for some reason--she was quiet and I suspect she's Japanese and hoping no-one will notice. There always seems to be two or three of those.

The teacher is the same person as the last time I enrolled for the class, and she has the same annoying assistant. He tends to walk around the room, hovering behind people, like he's going to catch people passing notes or something. He wears a short sleeve shirt and a scarf.

I was surprised and very pleased to find that construction had finally finished at the college and the new administration offices and cafeteria were finally open after the school had gone a year without either. I miss the really time beaten old cafeteria with its five mouldering arcade games, but I have to say I think I'm in love with this new one. It feels exactly like a food court in a shopping mall or airport and there are even lots clearly meant for shops. I know I ought to be philosophically opposed to such things, but almost entirely alone among every friend I've had for the past decade, I've really loved shopping malls. Especially indoor shopping malls. I love microcosms.

Twitter Sonnet #347

Olive oil language might some mislead.
Extra virgin doesn't mean extra light.
Lusty and low fat in substance and deed.
Racing sauce in secret and turning right.
Garbanzo overflow bulged past a bean.
Time's breath soaked Oscar the Grouch with spinach.
Some showers are too like baths to be seen.
Blue circles signal Cheerios' finish.
Runny hummus remains cool on the cheese.
Rabbits introduced to space pilots stray.
Only the feds really know about peas.
Horny cables slurp San Francisco Bay.
Dusty fashions pin nose hairs to gold ore.
Butter bricks uselessly melt on the floor.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cavitas Oralis Dentata

Haunting softcore porn, commentary on the objectification of women, statement regarding the essentially sexual nature of dentistry, a collection of strange and significant contexts for prolonged footage of a woman orgasming. There are a lot of ways I could describe 1964's Daydream (Hakujitsumu). It's a muddled film, I don't think director Tetsuji Takechi quite knew what he wanted to do. But there's enough interesting style and mood I can't call it a bad film.

The whole movie is told with dream logic, even the parts that don't seem to be part of the dream that makes up 95% of the film. It begins with a young man, Kurahashi, in a dentist's office who watches a woman, Cheiko, being treated in a chair next to him. Gratuitous footage is shown of the dentist feeling around the woman's mouth and squirting water into it while she moans orgasmically.

The dentist then pulls down the woman's dress and bites her between the breasts. This kicks off the general pattern of the rest of the film, a series of S&M scenes where the dentist is the dom and Cheiko is the possibly unwilling sub, while Kurahashi helplessly watches.

I found myself thinking of Blue Velvet, and like that film, Daydream draws a connexion between the voyeur and the villain. In one scene we see Kurahashi in a playground watching a monkey leashed by a string of pearls. When he looks away, the monkey becomes Cheiko, whom he tries to rescue from her animalistic existence by pulling on the pearls around her neck to lead her out of a small playground hut.

An effort she reacts to by writhing and moaning, again, orgasmically with possible mock resistance. The bulk of the movie has her in the throes of sexual passion, in fact, often accompanied by an atonal soundtrack of synthesiser and shamisen with sound effects of the dentist's drill thrown in. This is broken up twice, incredibly enough, by jazzy musical numbers, when Cheiko is seen singing in a nightclub, again bringing to mind Blue Velvet. But while Blue Velvet featured the positive aspects of the human spirit, Daydream has a more pessimistic attitude, apparently condemning people as helpless in the face of their bestial inclinations.

The longest segment in the film has Cheiko being pursued and tormented by the dentist in an otherwise deserted department store. One spooky moment has a night watchman discovering Cheiko lying naked in a displayed bed. He taps her, discovers she's merely a mannequin, and walks away, only to find she's mysteriously changed position while his back was turned, and we hear the sound of the dentist's laughter echoing throughout the store.

Nice little moments like this are bogged down, though, by sequences that go much too long, hammering in not particularly interesting statements, like one three minute sequence where Cheiko tries to escape the dentist by running down the up escalator.

There are some interesting ideas, some occasionally sexy moments, some occasionally creepy moments, and some decently composed shots. But this movie suffers from taking itself a bit too seriously, as the number of overlong sequences feel like a bludgeon.

At the end, Cheiko appears to discover that the teeth marks are still on her chest, meaning at least one part of what happened wasn't a dream. Though that's sort of like seeing a troupe of tap dancing dinosaurs and an ordinary duck and discovering that the duck was real.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some Spots of Things

My sister's cat, Saffy, in observation mode to-day. I was over there to try a drink my sister had made--it contained carrot, celery, kale, apple, ginger, and cilantro juice. It was really good, sort of earthy, like how I remember chocolate used to taste when I was a kid.

The cat I most frequently take pictures of, Snow, I haven't seen in almost a week and a couple days ago I found out why--one of his humans told me they'd had to have his tail amputated after a dog attacked him. So, I haven't seen him, but apparently the poor guy has just a stub now. He's been out and about, but I guess he's wanted to be alone.

Partly in preparation for Japanese class, which I start to-morrow, I watched Pale Flower again. Well, it was a nice excuse to watch that wonderful, gorgeous movie again. Though, honestly, it's a bit depressing that years after I began studying Japanese I only understood about ten percent of what everyone's saying. I feel like my mental language gears are going pretty hot right now, though. Studying Japanese, watching Der Ring des Nibelungen again, talking to various chess players in SL who want to tell me what certain words mean in their native languages, thinking about English while watching As You Like It--I mean, there are English words I don't even know yet. I don't know if I have room for all this. I may end up speaking Spangermenglese. Well, let's face it, that would be pretty ambitious, too.

Since talking about the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy a little while ago, I've been re-reading Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, of course wondering the whole time if I'm really getting Nietzsche properly in an English translation. Can a translation really suffice in something as specifically worded as a philosophy text?

I simplified the dichotomy as being craft and passion before, and while that might not be strictly inaccurate, it is misleading. It might be better to say Apollonian is art made by projecting one's creativity externally and Dionysian means using oneself as fodder for art.

Again I'm finding I love what Nietzsche has to say about the dichotomy, particularly in how the two forms feed off each other.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

In and Out of Suits

Why, who cries out on pride
That can therein tax any private party?
Doth it not flow as hugely as the sea,
Till that the wearer's very means do ebb?
What woman in the city do I name
When I say that the city-woman bears
The cost of princes on unworthy shoulders?
Who can come in and say that I mean her,
When such a one as she such is her neighbour?
Or what is he of basest function
That says his bravery is not on my cost,
Thinking that I mean him, but therein suits
His folly to the mettle of my speech?
There then! how then? what then? Let me see wherein
My tongue hath wrong'd him, if it do him right,
Then he hath wrong'd himself, if he be free,
Why then my taxing like a wild-goose flies,
Unclaim'd of any man.

As much as I do prefer direct communication in life, I'm a big sucker for stories where layers of illusion and deception potently convey a finer truth. Perhaps because I feel communication is inevitable. Channels are always open, all you can really do is modulate the flow. I'd never read As You Like It, but after watching a 1978 BBC production last night, I think it may be one of my favourite of Shakespeare's plays. It contains the famous "All the world is a stage" speech, and I was delighted by how well the rest of the story illustrated it.

The story involves false identities, a woman, Rosalind, in hiding pretending to be a man. The man who loves her, Orlando, found that he could not speak when she first spoke with affection to him, so overcome was he by her presence. So in the guise of a man, she asks him to woo her as if she were Rosalind. In this manner she also manages her own unmanageably huge feelings. Some of the dialogue resulting is some of the most insightful stuff about relationships and attraction I think Shakespeare ever wrote.

The idea of everyone being a player on the world's stage is illustrated through exaggeration. The business of lovers communicating while one of them is disguised allows Shakespeare to more plainly write the same kinds of shufflings and testings of identities that go into communication as intense as the communication of two people in love.

Rosalind, the most central character in the play, was played by Helen Mirren in the production I watched, and she was by far the best actor in the production, many of the minor characters, particularly the actor playing Orlando, came off as being right out of a high school drama department. But the costumes were wonderful and from the period in which Shakespeare wrote the play, so it wasn't, thank the gods, naked Nazis in a shopping mall or something. Watching it was an extraordinarily happy experience.

Twitter Sonnet #346

Discontinued eggplant sauces turned red.
Tiny white painted shelves drip with ink blood.
Pipe cleaner gnomes too early go to bed.
Festive snowflakes are lethal on the HUD.
Pens and pencils rampage on the war map.
Stapled celluloid nets tangle.
Cartoon honey blitzes the sinus tap.
Awkward spoons can scoop an obtuse angle.
Skeletal cup holders pervert your coke.
Steamy copper arms quickly mine love coal.
Sweaty pig iron afternoons provoke
The backwards tongs of the daisy smith soul.
Snail horns multiply past telepathy.
Back borne destiny transmutes chastity.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Decent Circumvention of Reality

I hate when a movie arguing that stripping liberates women refrains from showing nudity. What better way to show your convictions aren't even skin deep? Viva Maria! is a silly fantasy war film I wouldn't necessarily call inept, I think it's a well made film for people who have a very different sense of humour than me. This one's for people who liked Operation Petticoat.

The story follows Marie and Mary, played by Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moraeu respectively, a pair of burlesque performers who wind up leading a revolution in 1907 Mexico. Marie is from Ireland, and she grew up with her father, the two of them regularly conducting terrorist attacks against the English. Mary is already performing with a travelling circus in France as part of an act with another woman who commits suicide just as Marie comes on the scene, so Marie joins Mary in the act, bringing with her the innovation of stripping.

The troupe travels to Mexico and hijinks ensue. There are a lot of people who would say that because it's a comedy of sorts, the violence shouldn't be realistic or seem genuinely threatening. Though I'm not exactly sure I can call it a comedy--it's labelled as an adventure film, and according to Wikipedia, the idea was to have a straight forward Western where the two heroes happen to be women. I'd have liked to have seen Brigitte Bardot in such a movie, but not this. The lowest point, for me, was when Marie and Mary are captured by a warlord and taken to his chambers in his hacienda. The women prevent him from raping them by staring at him.

There are people who would be delighted by the idea of women defeating the brutish nature of men with nothing but prettiness and willpower but I find it depressing and naive. Sometimes I was able to dig the cartoonish humour, though. This was my favourite shot in the film;

The sight convinces the man to continue on foot.

I also liked Bardot swinging through the trees and carrying a cartoonish, spherical black bomb. But the movie ends up not being especially empowering for the women as they spend the film's climactic battle held captive by the enemy, basically reduced to damsels in distress. So it's a strikingly shallow film, even more so to-day as I read about the Iranian actress exiled from her country for posing nude.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Various Parcels

I have a new health rule for you, Oprah. Maybe try not squeezing your gut into a Victorian strength corset. Assuming what I'm seeing isn't Photoshop. Considering her head's at kind of an unnatural angle, I guess there's a good chance that's not even her body. I saw another cover of O Magazine a couple weeks ago where her smiling head looked like a character at the beginning of a Disney cartoon.

Every single cover of O Magazine cracks me up. There's just something about self worship I find inherently funny. Oprah to me is like a character in a Coen Brothers movie, with the sort of adorable ridiculousness of Walter in The Big Lebowski. This cover might be my favourite so far, though--the statement "Express Yourself" coming from Oprah to her minions is such a gift of unselfconscious irony. Sort of like a woman whose cover photos have more cgi than the new edition of Phantom Menace telling women to be comfortable with their own bodies. Though maybe she's at least not indulging as far as that in hypocrisy.

It was the power supply that went bad in my computer on Tuesday. It was a hand-me-down from Tim, who'd had it for some time before me, but he seemed to find it hard to believe it was the reason my computer wasn't powering on as normally when he's seen power supplies go bad they emitted smoke and a noticeable odour. He talked about once having a fire start inside his computer while he was in the middle of playing Guild Wars.

So I had to get a replacement yesterday. The power supply looks remarkably like an internal organ to me, consisting of a grey metal box with twisting red, black, and yellow wires and cords of varying size coming out of it to attach to various things in the computer tower. One particular fat cord looks distinctly like an artery. And I suppose the function of the power supply is analogous to the heart in a human body. Tim told me that the power supply is one of the few components inside computers that's changed little over the past several decades.

I suppose it's ironic that on the SOPA/PIPA blackout day I watched my Criterion copy of Charade, a public domain* movie I paid around thirty dollars for. Among other things, the Criterion print is beautiful (you can watch the whole movie here on YouTube), though it was hard to tell since I was watching on my old Zenith television that was made in the 1980s. I'd say it's been at least five or six years since I watched anything on that television.

Every time I watch Charade I like it a little more. I found it deeply disappointing the first time I watched it. Now the only thing I don't like are the extraordinarily corny attempts at humour, mostly early in the film, like Audrey Hepburn's broad delivery of a line to the police inspector, starting with an incredulous if you're trying to frighten me followed by a terrified "you're doing a very good job." And Cary Grant, at 59, seems a bit tired in the movie, particularly after I'd watched His Girl Friday the night before. But the movie just has too many good elements to be bad--an amazing cast including, in addition to Grant and Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy. The sets and costumes are beautiful and the movie's soundtrack has always been one of my favourite Henry Mancini scores.

Last night I dreamt I ran into Sonya in a record store. She picked up a pack of around eight audio cassettes wrapped in green paper and told me, "These are my father's." Shortly after that, the lights went out as a film started, projected on the wall behind me. There were a number of people there who'd been waiting for a film to start, though for some reason I think they were expecting an episode of Star Trek and most of them were unhappy when the film shown turned out to be a highlight reel of Jon Pertwee on Doctor Who. I looked around for Sonya, but couldn't find her. I saw someone I thought was Tim, but it turned out to be Brock Peters, who seemed particularly upset Star Trek IV wasn't being shown.

The walls were covered by heavy black drapes, two of which I parted to step outside, where I found the record store to be located on a large platform floating in a yellow and brown, cloudy sunset sky. There was a library there and Jo Grant was with the fourth Doctor standing outside of it. They were both talking about going in when they were approached by another fourth Doctor, wearing his darker brown coat while the first one was wearing the lighter, tan-ish one. The two Doctors seemed to be testing each other and, upon request from the dark brown coat Doctor, the tan coat recited something from a book they were both familiar with. I don't remember the quote, but it had something to do with a word beginning with the letters "R" and "e". When the tan coat finished, the brown coat said, "It seems I was trying harder that time."

We all went into the library and began searching for something. There were three other fourth Doctors inside, already searching. Eventually, one of them went with Jo through a door that opened on the top of a staircase, where orc guards all dressed as Batman stood on the sides of each step, against the railings. Jo and the Doctor walked down the steps and opened a door on the other side of which was just black void. Jo fell out into it, screaming while the Doctor jumped out with a hang glider. He was gradually descending when I woke up.

*Why is Charade public domain? Consult the totally free Wikipedia entry for the answer.