Thursday, May 31, 2012

That Dame's Got Spock's Brain!

I'd like to take a moment to say a word in defence of "Spock's Brain". The episode, the season premiere of season three, is infamous, many people consider it the worst episode of the series. It is silly, to be sure. But it makes me smile. How could I not smile at all the lines where McCoy desperately rasps at Kirk about "Spock's . . . brain! His brain, Jim . . . it's gone! His brain!" Also, you get to see a full shot of Nurse Chapel's panties;

Every once in a while, I guess Roddenberry used his own wife for fanservice. I do appreciate the fact that no attractive woman on Star Trek ever wears more than a tiny skirt and the tops are often the sort where modesty wouldn't be accommodated by bad posture. But as a fellow pervert, I probably would've sat Gene down and put it to him, "What's the point exactly of a short skirt when what's underneath looks like the trunks of a 1911 strong man?"

How can one not smile when Spock assists McCoy in the surgery to put back his own brain? It's all very silly, but it's not obnoxious bad like "The Omega Glory". At least there's not a really broad statement about the superiority of American white men.

"Spock's Brain" isn't even the worst episode of the third season I've watched so far. That honour belongs to "The Paradise Syndrome". It's been pointed out that "The Paradise Syndrome" relies on stereotypes of stupid Native Americans, but I ask how can you tell the Native Americans in the episode are especially stupid when we see Kirk, Spock and McCoy casually strolling about a planet when they've just remarked they have only thirty minutes to get back to the Enterprise in order to stop an asteroid from destroying the planet? Or when Kirk goes missing, we see Spock telling McCoy they need to get back to the ship in order to stop the asteroid and have to give up on searching for Kirk, it apparently never occurring to him that even one of the over four hundred members of the Enterprise crew could be left behind to search, maybe with a shuttle craft?

Meanwhile, the alien Native Americans (there's a term to wrap your mind around) are stupid because one of them can't figure out how Kirk's shirt is laced on, and they take him for a god for saving a child's life. Some characters are born for stupidity, others have stupidity thrust upon them. How much difference does it make in the end?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Web Schedules

The first garden spider of the year. It seems like I've been seeing them earlier every year. This one is currently tiny--I'm afraid I had to tear down his web to get the trash cans to the street, but I let him get to a nearby leaf first.

More pictures I've taken lately;

Mainly to-day I've been working on my comic, the first chapter of which, by the way, will be online next Saturday, June 9.

I'm going to be doing this comic a little differently--I can no longer afford to go years concentrating exclusively on a comic, so to accommodate my school schedule, I'll be doing this one in segments. This summer, June, July, and August, I'll be putting a new chapter up every two weeks, and that'll be Part 1. Part 2 will begin in January 2013, consisting of chapters I've done at a much slower pace over the fall. I honestly hate to do it this way, but I'd hate to put school on hold, too. So I hope this works out. I guess it'll be pretty much like television seasons tend to be nowadays.

Twitter Sonnet #390

Orthopaedic octaves buttress bad songs.
Squeaking scotch skins the Goliath's bathtub.
Uranium rights midnight drugstore wrongs.
Bigamists bow to the five dollar sub.
Broccoli arms span the astronaut's garage.
Health beats horror into a cheap starship.
Native Nibelungs deny gnome's mirage.
Pigs call porcupines for extra ketchup.
Telephone holes inhibit slow sunlight.
Minotaur traffic trampled red signals.
Gangrenous Otter Pops prove Lime was right.
Space's suns rise and set round Orson Welles.
Storage weeks can withstand cluttered closets.
Night conceals armies of Farrah Fawcetts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Paris When It's Parallax

In The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower, characters played by Audrey Hepburn and William Holden fall in love with each other. In Paris When It Sizzles, the two characters who write the screenplay for The Girl Who Stole the Eiffal tower, also played by Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, fall in love with each other. In real life, according to Wikipedia, William Holden was in love with Audrey Hepburn and she wasn't interested in him during the filming of Paris When It Sizzles. The romance buck stops with reality, I guess. Which adds an intriguing element to this light post modern romantic comedy. A film about pointing out the phoniness and cliches of the movie industry turns out to itself be idealised. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, in all the business to show us how fake everything is, the movie ends up with a dull deficiency of characterisation, but it has its good qualities.

I was reminded of 1965's Pierrot le Fou, which came out a year after Paris When It Sizzles, and also discusses the ways in which cinematic language manipulates the audience, how we've been trained to respond to certain plot patterns and musical cues. Pierrot le Fou does this with more solemnity, while Paris When It Sizzles cynically tosses out its observations in the process of serving us with what seems to be exactly the sort of shallow, hackneyed plot it's criticising.

Many of the cliches and concepts of fiction criticism Holden's character, a screenwriter, discusses with the typist to whom he dictates his newest screenplay (Hepburn), are things I'm very familiar with from reading actual film and literature criticism--the necessity of switches, the reliability of the "prostitute with a heart of gold" character, how My Fair Lady is essentially Frankenstein. But while Holden speaks of these things with bitter fatigue, he condemns New Wave film and method acting, two things the movie presents in satirical form--Hepburn's character talks of meeting the director of a New Wave film about people who get together to play Scrabble and never play Scrabble because, the director says, film should be about what doesn't happen, while Tony Curtis has a small role in the movie as a method actor, displaying all the "ums" and scratches that Holden accuses such actors as using to destroy the rhythm of a screenplay.

By attaching these experimental forms of cinema to Hepburn's character, they become the objects of Holden's character's jealousy and one starts to see Paris When It Sizzles as a soapbox for George Axelrod, the real life screenwriter of Paris When It Sizzles, and his bitterness towards modern ways of filmmaking. He presents the old fashioned screenwriter as a drunk, completely disreputable, so he can dig his way to redemption, along with traditional studio filmmaking, by the end of the film, winning Hepburn's heart, a barometer for the audience's, in the process. Except, of course, Holden didn't capture Hepburn's heart in real life and in less than decade after Paris When It Sizzles the traditional studio film would be a thing of the past.

The movie does have its good points, like I said. Holden's performance is sort of monotonous, but I could happily listen to Audrey Hepburn read the phone book putting random emphasis on words in her peculiar way. The movie's funny, too, in pointing out the cliches of traditional film. A cutaway seems to Hepburn too obviously implicit of coitus, but Holden points out we don't actually know what happens after the dissolve, saying he chooses to believe the characters are playing Parcheesi. Which leads to the classic line from Hepburn later; "After last night's Parcheesi game, I'm yours forever." There are funny cameos by Marlene Dietrich and Frank Sinatra. But mostly the movie reminded me of a hipster who can be very funny criticising media but, when it comes to it, is creatively impotent himself.

Monday, May 28, 2012

On the Edge of Sex

After watching so many Italian films from the 50s and 60s about the harsh lives of prostitutes and hustlers, it was kind of fun to watch the silly, lightweight 1963 comedy Yesterday, To-day, and To-morrow (Ieri, Oggi, Domani). The film's comprised of three short films, each starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, and each having to do with a romantic relationship between the two being complicated by trivial or absurd developments. I would've liked the film's characters to have had a little more to them, but a lot of mileage is gotten just from having these two attractive movie stars being so diverted from their goals.

In the first story, Loren and Mastroianni are a married couple whose only income is that which Loren makes illegally selling cigarettes. When authorities come to repossess their furniture for Loren's failure to pay up on debts, the couple hides their furniture in other homes. When it seems Loren might be arrested instead, they discover that Loren can avoid prison time so long as she's pregnant or nursing a child, which leads to Mastoianni's stamina being tested as he's required to impregnate Loren constantly. Somehow Loren manages never to look dirt poor or like someone who's given birth to seven kids in rapid succession.

It's the longest and weakest of the three stories--it's no fun seeing Loren pregnant, however unconvincingly, and there's a lot of business about everyone in town helping the couple for no apparent reason.

The second story, the shortest, involves Loren driving Mastroianni around in a Rolls-Royce. She's the wife of a wealthy politician and spends the vignette trying to seduce Mastroianni, while meanwhile she's amusingly unaware of what a bad driver she is, hitting the rear of every car she stops behind much to Mastroianni's consternation. They both look great in this segment and the comedy's mild enough you can just enjoy the coolness.

In the third story, Loren's a call girl and Mastroianni's one of her clients. The story opens with the best bit in the movie; a young man training to be a priest accidentally spies on Loren arranging plants on her balcony while only wearing a towel.

I suspect Loren must have very small nipples.

But I don't know--the movie ends with one of the most frustrating strip teases in history. Though I imagine it would've been ten times as aggravating if I thought there was any chance of Loren getting naked. But not only do I know Loren's always been morally opposed to this, there's a punchline I saw coming a mile away that I knew would make her stop just before removing her bra.

Great, thanks. It's hard to laugh at Mastorianni's frustration when you so sympathise with it.

The movie was released in 1963 but for some reason it won the Academy Award for best foreign language film for 1964. Which is well for it, as in 1963 it would've been up against Fellini's 8 1/2 and Kurosawa's High and Low. Though I would say 1964's Onibaba was a superior film.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Disguises Becoming the Form of Intent

I ate lunch at Denny's to-day, which is next to the Wal-Mart, which I walk past almost daily and where I think I'm seeing some of the negative reaction to Obama's support of gay marriage in the increase of guys calling me a "fucking faggot" when I walk past (I think because I wear a hat). While eating lunch at the Denny's, I caught bits of an old man who was possibly a minister or priest explaining a lot of things to an elderly couple. I couldn't tell if he was using crazy religious stories to justify intolerance or tolerance but the bits I heard were intriguing. Something about an entire tribe of virgin women, something about how black people donate blood and most people don't care, how God split humanity into tribes, something about how we have an extra organ in our bodies, something about infections, which are made up of "basically vitamins and amino acids."

It was rather appropriate I was reading the rest of the latest Sirenia Digest, which I'd printed out for myself. "HIGHWAY 97", a good Dancy story where the sanest person around is a talking dog who sings hymns followed by a footnote to a story in the Digest's previous issue, "Cages". This footnote dealt with legal and religious concerns regarding the humanity of severely genetically modified people. I would suggest, legally, a jury would find the man who killed such an individual guilty of murder on the grounds that the entity he killed was in all respects human at one time and had to all appearances retained human intelligence.

Speaking of not being sure who's who or what's what, I watched a 1988 production of Twelfth Night. I'd started watching another one from the BBC in the 80s but the performances were so remarkably bad I had to stop. I had to choose between that one, which had period appropriate costumes and scenery, and the one I watched, which had good performances but had Victorian costumes and sets. I guessed I couldn't have everything.

This one had Frances Barber as Viola, who Doctor Who fans may recognise as the lady with the eye patch in the recent season. I'd also seen her as Goneril in Ian McKellen's King Lear from a couple years ago, and in all cases she puts in a very good performance, though, actually, close to the same performance in each case. But not bad.

In fact, aside from the anachronistic mis-en-scene, the only problem I had with this Twelfth Night--which was directed by Kenneth Branagh (the production of the play, not the video)--was Feste, the Fool. It was decided the Fool in this case would at all times seem world weary, wise, and bitter, and these are all qualities that are present in the character as written. As Viola observes, "This fellow is wise enough to play the fool; And to do that well craves a kind of wit." But I feel like she ought to be delivering the line with some surprise, as though it's an insight she's suddenly had into this man. Anton Lesser plays Feste less like an agile entertainer and more like a reclusive inventor. His singing is painfully 80s rock ballad-ish;

But, this was my other option;

I think I made the right choice.

Twitter Sonnet #389

Simulated dog cries strike the night cloud.
Wicker arabesques scratch the old blackboard.
With laser thorns, new roses rip the shroud.
He who rides the pogo stick shall be Lord.
Bottled mousse chains enslaved the blonde Tribble.
Same swords centre flashback camera coverage.
Shields go out after the hundredth nibble.
Concrete consecrates nuclear cleavage.
Yoda's greatness lies not in war but soup.
Rebel carnivals hide at the bookstore.
Water warped wood takes a billiard cue loop.
Sleepless Jupiter tongues Venus's poor.
Rubber blood donations shoot cheddar spice.
If you butter your toast, better think twice.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Road to Hell Paved with Cops and Cash

She looks so peaceful when she's asleep, but Ida Lupino not only starred in 1954's Private Hell 36, she co-wrote the screenplay. She plays Lilli Marlowe (perhaps a nod to "Lili Marleen"), a nightclub singer whose lust for wealth leads already reckless cop Cal Bruner (Steve Cochran, namesake of Steven Patrick Morrissey) to steal from a crime scene, though she doesn't know it. The only one who does know is Cal's partner, Jack Farnham (a Howard Duff improved greatly from his appearance in The Naked City), who's torn up with existential noir angst from the knowledge. It's a good little B-movie noir.

Oh, yeah, Dorothy Malone's in the movie, too, as Jack's wife who's mainly there to worry him about how they don't have as much money as they'd like to support their kid.

I've yet to find a movie that uses Malone as well as she was used in that tiny scene as the bookstore clerk in The Big Sleep. It's a shame, because she was so gorgeous, and had such nice mischief in her eye.

Lupino is great, as always, coming off as very sharp, psychologically more together than "loose" women were generally allowed to appear at the time. When she does get some idea of what Cal's done near the end, she asks, hey, why not, cops work hard for less money than they deserve anyway. In one line she brings in the moral ambiguity that somehow wasn't quite working with Duff stewing over having to play by the rules when he has a kid to worry about.

This movie doesn't really make any missteps, though. Lupino sings at one point, and you can hear the cigarettes over her frequent inability to hit the right key, but maybe Lilli's not such a great singer. She sure looks great, though.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Worlds Small Enough

I saw this beetle on the way back from my parents' house last night. I see them on the sidewalk at night every now and then. This one was alive because I saw it wiggling its leg but they don't seem to move much.

A lot of ducklings have graduated to young duck--they don't seem to know bread is edible yet and mostly just stare at it when I throw it while the one or two older ducks still around make grabs for it. These young ducks stay together in big clumps.

The lizard's complex world of shadow and grass blades.

Finally, here are some flowers;

This last one I took at school while waiting for class to start;

I started the third season of Star Trek last night with the first episode in production order, "Spectre of the Gun". Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Chekov, and Scotty are caught in a recreation of the O.K. Corral shootout. The episode wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be--Chekov has a rather adorable subplot where he falls in love with an illusory woman in the saloon. Also, Shatner premieres in this episode a slightly fuller, fluffier toupee.

But it was impossible not to think of The Gunfighters, a Doctor Who serial from a few years earlier. I don't know if the makers of Star Trek got the idea for "Spectre of the Gun" from watching The Gunfighters (as they very obviously got the idea for the Borg from the Cybermen), but I did notice The Gunfighters, considered one of the weakest Doctor Who serials in the history of the series, was more interesting than "Spectre of the Gun". Although the accents were obviously more authentic on Star Trek, the Doctor Who version of the Earps and Clantons--and especially Doc Holliday--were better performed and written with more nuance. They were more like assassination robots on Star Trek which, to be fair, they were intended to be as they are illusions created by an alien race to test the commitment the Enterprise crew has to peace. Sort of an interesting idea, but one that was already played out better in the first season episode "Arena".

It mainly emphasises again for me the superiority of writing on Doctor Who, especially when it comes to the integrity of characterisation.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Paper Kids

For all his apparent obsession with analysing the negative impact non-traditional families had on children, Nicolas Ray really didn't seem able to get past an artificial idea of childlike innocence. It's one of the things that diminishes Rebel Without a Cause, and it's an even bigger problem in his first film, They Live By Night, a Bonnie and Clyde-ish couple on the run story. It's beautifully shot, expressionistic noir black and white, and the two young leads are remarkably vulnerable. But the film loses its way with a rather mundane plot about a young man being destroyed by choosing the wrong side of the law.

Farley Granger as the young man, Bowie (pronounced like "booey" in "Bababooey") comes off very much as a blander prototype for James Dean's character in Rebel Without a Cause. Granger's not committed to the performance like Dean was, so it leaves bare Ray's rather uninteresting equation of boy's mom gets divorced, boy heads to ruinous bank robber lifestyle.

The main reason to watch the movie is Cathy O'Donnell, who plays Keechie, Bowie's girlfriend. He describes her when she wakes up one morning as looking like a kitten and, damn, she sure was that cute.

But she also gives a much more effective performance than Granger. The innocent girl who runs away with the first guy she falls for, and the young wife whose 1940s maternal and housewife instincts tragically kick in, Keechie's not the most excitingly written character, either, but O'Donnell kind of breaks your heart. She manages both to come off as credulous and smart. When things go wrong, the looks on her face show complete understanding of what's happening even as you know she was never really equipped to deal with it.

I just want to hug her.

Granger, meanwhile--looking at Wikipedia, I see I've seen him starring in two Alfred Hitchcock movies, Rope and Strangers on a Train, and on each occasion I've seen him in a movie, I've totally forgotten about having ever seen him or heard of him before. This guy cannot make an impression.

Twitter Sonnet #388

Fillings falling are in lieu of tooth rain.
White and hollow jaws stroked drool cookie ink.
Brunnhilde knew not to feed Pop Rocks to Grane.
Decade crosses scratch the sides of sin's sink.
The same blue belongs to torches alone.
Knee jewels need no Naples but take Venus.
Accattone vanished in a live Rome.
The squid asteroids rent a record Linus.
Textures tranq the free pastel turkey's plan.
Reserves allot automatic almond.
Sobbing Red Bull cans spill for the green man.
Infected wire art goes uncaptioned.
Tapioca codifies Skittle might.
Cold shores tilt pinball tides after midnight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"There is No Point Saying this Again"

So far this is the only video on YouTube from the Morrissey concert I went to last night;

That's the most people I've personally witnessed rushing the stage to hug him, though that's been a practice among his fans for more than twenty years. Maybe they tried extra harder because it was his birthday, May 22. Which is also, as he told the audience, the day of Saint Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes, which does seem strikingly appropriate for him.

For a guy with so many songs about being alone, I noted with some amusement that I appeared to be the only one who'd come to the concert alone. No-one even bought the tickets for the seats next to me, or they never bothered to find the seats--the numbers on them were these little brass embossed things that were difficult to read when the lights were on, impossible in the dark. Otherwise, it was a nice venue--the same venue, Morrissey, remarked, in which he began his solo career. It was the first time, I think, I've seen him in San Diego when he didn't seem upset by the acoustics.

He performed a lot of his most popular songs, starting with "How Soon is Now?", and also getting to "Everyday is Like Sunday" and "You have Killed Me". He changed the lyrics slightly for that last one--Instead of "Pasolini is me, Accottone you'll be," he sang, "Pasolini is me, Pasolini you'll definitely be." One always has the feeling he's singing to someone specific with statements that only have meaning between the two of them.

He performed two of his new songs, "People are the Same Everywhere" and "Scandinavia". The lyrics to "Scandinavia" are strange and provocative, expressing outrage at the whole of Scandinavia for the massacre in Norway before expressing a love for the whole of Scandinavia. This has apparently provoked some outrage, I guess simply for the fact that someone would sing about what happened. There are no official lyrics online, but has this audience transcript.

The combination of love and horror is certainly not atypical of Morrissey's work. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. It seems a little unfocused. I may need to wait until I've seen official lyrics. It certainly didn't seem to go over well with the audience--among the otherwise screaming and standing people, many sat down or went to the restroom during the song.

I'm pretty sure someone shat their pants near me, because that's what the stench was like, but otherwise I enjoyed myself. Morrissey concerts I guess have gotten to be a bit of a touchstone for me, since I've been seeing him once every couple years for nearly a decade. There's a strange feeling of continuity and a reminder of all the things that have changed in my life, heightened by the fact that this venue was in a part of town I lived in ten years ago. I parked a mile or so away, and up a hill, so I had to walk through old familiar streets. I saw a Taco Bell and a Jack in the Box I remember having to get quick meals from on my way to work in the morning, or when I was dashing between my two jobs. I sure eat a lot healthier now, yet it seems like I used to get sick less back then. Maybe I ought to go back to fast food.

There are a lot of bars, sex toy shops, and strip joints in the area, one place having a sign that said, "The only gentleman's club in San Diego that sells liquor" which was rather surprising to me. Maybe liquor licenses are really expensive around here, or maybe the place is the mayor's personal harem.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Feline Missile Solution

When sabotaging nuclear warheads, most people neglect to bring a cat. This is just one of the many ways Gary Seven is more on top of things than most.

I watched the first episode of Assignment: Earth a couple days ago, a 1968 spy series. The twist was that Gary Seven was a human raised on an alien world and given alien technology to use in general espionage for justice.

The show features Terri Garr as Seven's kooky Earthling secretary Roberta. Apparently Garr was extremely upset by the shortness of the skirt she had to wear, but if I were her, I'd be more concerned about looking like a sherbet vender from the Renaissance.

It's hard to say much about the quality of the show from one episode. I do like the cat, especially in humanoid form;

Seven comes off as cool, despite the fact that he accidentally blows his cover with Roberta and she's easily able to figure out the combination on his safe which conceals his teleportation device. Still, he does have fake IDs which all use his real name;

A technology surpassing even that of the Enterprise crew, as shown when Kirk and Spock are of course immediately taken into custody and their devices confiscated, because that's what always happens when they try to pass undetected in an undeveloped culture or in Earth's past.

Oh, yeah, "Assignment: Earth" was the season finale of Star Trek's second season in addition to being a backdoor pilot to the unproduced spy series. But you'd hardly know it; Kirk and Spock are pretty constantly sidelined. There's a pretty hilarious Captain's Log entry while they're captured, which apparently Kirk just makes with his mind.

I think my Japanese final went all right last night, but even if I failed, my grade was good enough I'll still pass the class. To-night my only class is taught by one Morrissey-sensei. He's always at a different venue when he comes to San Diego, this time at the Sports Arena which wants twenty dollars for parking. I think I'd better get going soon so I can park in the closest residential area.

Monday, May 21, 2012

When Spear Meets Grail

I guess I'm not the first person to say Richard Wagner's Parsifal is entirely about sex. Sex and guilt, or a devastating confrontation with one's own inadequacy, and I'm not just talking about impotence. The thematic conflict of the opera is between a sexual existence that respects truth and a sexual existence that fears and avoids truth. It was Wagner's last completed opera, which is no surprise to me as the understanding of self loathing on display could only have come from a smart person with enough years behind him to have inevitably faced his own unworthiness.

I don't for a moment think the sexual subtext was unintentional. Wagner takes the Arthurian story of Percival and makes Parsifal's quest one to recover the Spear of Longinus rather than the Holy Grail. In fact, the Grail remains in possession of the Grail Knights throughout the opera, and significance is made of the separation of the Spear and the Grail and how it is at the root of general chaos and confusion. The two artefacts comprise a set, both of them drip with the life sustaining blood of Christ.

Dripping of its own accord with blood underlines the Spear's phallic quality and one sees it as a potent symbol of Christ getting fucked. Which brings a sexual element to his story--Christ didn't just die for everyone's sins, he was raped for them. This comes with the complex of damaged masculinity which is personified in the opera by King Amfortas, custodian of the Spear and Grail. The wizard Klingsor not only steals the Spear but wounds Amfortas with it, a wound that won't heal and eventually renders Amfortas totally unable to face the Holy Vagina or Grail.

Klingsor castrated himself in an attempt to join Amfortas' knights since he had difficulty adhering to the required chastity. Obviously this didn't fly with the knights, and Klingsor is understandably bitter about being denied his goal after going to these lengths. That his revenge takes the form of stealing his enemy's masculinity and turning it against him is rather appropriate.

So much of this opera is about what to do with a penis, but by far the most interesting character is a woman, Kundry, whose seduction of Amfortas allowed Klingsor to take the Spear. She's introduced at the beginning as a "wild woman" who serves the knights with sincerity, travelling to Arabia for a balsam to ease the pain of Amfortas' wound. Gurnemanz, an elder knight who serves as the opera's deliverer of exposition, says that Kundry is cursed. In the first act, we see the curse take the form of a mysterious self hatred. When she's praised for her goodness in bringing the balsam, she fiercely denies ever having done anything good. In the second act, she reveals that she once mocked God, and has since been bound by the curse. She's trying to seduce the virgin Parsifal, to violate his chastity and render him vulnerable to Klingsor, as she tells to him the facts of her curse. At the same time, it's obvious she has a real affection for Parsifal.

Wikipedia quotes Nietzsche as saying, "Parsifal is a work of perfidy, of vindictiveness, of a secret attempt to poison the presuppositions of life - a bad work. The preaching of chastity remains an incitement to anti-nature: I despise everyone who does not experience Parsifal as an attempted assassination of basic ethics." This seems like a fair reading, unless one takes the Spear and Grail as symbols of a healthy sex life where the self-respect of neither participant is diminished, though this might be a creative reading, and the sexual quality of the artefacts may have simply been a statement of a divine sexuality being superior to any mortal, physical sexuality.

In any case, I can't agree with the position that Parsifal is a wholly bad work. Nietzsche also apparently praised the music, which is indeed amazing, but I would also say the complexity of Kundry's character has psychological layers quite apart from any promotion of chastity. I think it's certainly valid to read the opera as a quest for self-acceptance and harmony in conflict with unavoidable self-hatred.

I chose carefully in my first exposure to a production of Parsifal, googling to find the best one on DVD, and I was sold on this production from the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1992 when I read it had very traditional sets and costume designs. So it's actually set in the middle ages instead of on a space ship or in a pizzeria. And it's absolutely gorgeous, particularly the scene where the flower maidens attempt to seduce Parsifal.

I support the idea of ballet and nudity in opera, though I'm not sure any of them were actually naked. Closeups on a couple reveal bodystockings. Personally I'd be more embarrassed to wear fake nipples than to be naked on stage. But otherwise, again, an absolutely gorgeous production.

Twitter Sonnet #387

Sacrilege plagues the old nude organist.
Underwear supremacy was revoked.
Blurred rainbows belch boiling cannabis.
An Elvis saw a Block face a big bloke.
Axial zippers seal belly buttons.
Horus hogwash wafts over Brando's brain.
Wonka redecorates for rich gluttons.
Finally God's new wrists break for all the grain.
Tommy gun tomato tombs teleport.
Nutrients nationally are squashed straight.
Snake squirrel hybrids have built the strongest fort.
Old portcullis pens seek an inkwell mate.
Pepper figures stalked the hundred month year.
Copper rainbows poison top soil beer.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


The bridge frog to-day. After he swam away from me, I saw three bird swimming nearby, another new kind, I have no idea what and I didn't manage to get a good picture of them. I almost thought they were large ducklings, but they had dark grey, parrot like blunt, curved beaks. They had white circles around their small black eyes and as I watched, one dove underwater and swam like a penguin before coming up with a fish or a small frog the other two birds immediately tried to get from him.

I also saw some ants to-day.

I don't know what they got, but it's not getting away, that's for sure.

I need to study for my Japanese final exam to-morrow. I've already been going over flash cards--I just took all the flash cards I made for the different tests this year and put them together in one big bundle. I think it's the flash cards more than anything else that have helped me this year. I'd never used flash cards before this year--turns out they work like a charm for me. Before I even look at the study guide, I always just memorise all the chapter's vocabulary words.

Anyway, I'd better get back to it.