Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Hot Day for an Apocalypse

Looks like it's only 90° outside to-day, so that's some reprieve. It figures something would happen that would leave me without air conditioning and with heat generating machines during an extraordinarily hot summer weekend. I heard it got up to 121° in Death Valley.

I spent most of yesterday driving around--the gauge in my car said it was 107° outside. As I got closer to the sea it got down to 87°. That's how I used to spend my spare time before gasoline got so expensive--I love driving, and I love shopping malls. That's something most of my friends really can't sympathise with. I love microcosms, I think is what it is. Here's a picture from on top of Horton Plaza yesterday;

That's the convention centre at the end of the street where Comic-Con is held.

I was standing next to this;

Maybe the caption ought to read, "You're not alone. Think of all your friends at the gym." That dangerously depressed guy sure is fit. But I guess everyone is in good shape, at least at the malls I was at yesterday--University Town Centre and Horton Plaza. Less so at Horton Plaza where there are plenty of homeless folks about. At UTC I felt pretty out of place among apparently an entire population of GQ and Maxim models. The lunch I had there certainly didn't seem like it would put me on the road to that physique--I ate at an Indian place I'd never seen before, cocoanut veggie curry, sautéed eggplant with potato and onion, and white rice. It was pretty good.

The UTC food court, which Westfield seems to be rebranding as "Cafe Terraces", has an ice skating rink, which I figured was a suitably absurd thing to be in close vicinity to on a day like yesterday.

I wanted to see a movie, either World War Z or This Is the End, but I didn't want to plan out the visit so I never looked at show times before getting to my destination. I went to three malls yesterday, each with a cinema, and was almost exactly five minutes late for World War Z at each one. So I finally ended up seeing This Is the End for which I was just ten minutes early.

I wonder why no-one's managed to make another Ghostbusters. The attempt has been made often enough but no-one's yet managed so nice a combination of contemporary comedy and fantasy. This Is the End along with Shaun of the Dead may be the closest anyone's managed.

The thing about Ghostbusters is that it's not ironic. The characters know the threat is quite serious and the ghosts, while at times cartoonist, are not caricatures of something else. The rules of the world in Ghostbusters aren't set by the comedy, the comedy happens within those rules, even as it feels spontaneous, which I imagine is very difficult to achieve.

This Is the End at times achieves this, though it deviates into irony a few times. But the decision to have the actors playing versions of themselves, and setting it within the world of Hollywood phonies, ends up helping the verisimilitude somewhat. The story between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, of two friends driven apart by one's more successful career and new friends, feels about as sitcom-ish as Shaun's relationship with his girlfriend in Shaun of the Dead but like the Edgar Wright movie, Seth Rogen's film is helped tremendously by naturalistic dialogue. The characters have debates that feel like genuine patterns of thought, the best one occurring when Emma Watson is resting in the next room and the men have a conversation about rape that she overhears part of and misinterprets.

What works so well about the scene is that it's sort of an illustration of how Hollywood people and critics discuss rape. Jay starts off by awkwardly mentioning that Emma is the only girl among them and how they ought to make her feel comfortable. When Seth asks him what he's talking about, Danny McBride says the guy's talking about rape. Then they start arguing about which of them is actually scumbag enough to rape someone, at which point Emma, having heard what sounds like them deciding who gets to rape her, comes out with an ax. These phonies creating a bad situation out of nothing shows how the clueless neuroses of people debating the mechanics of artistic expression can backfire.

Danny McBride and Michael Cera are the standouts in the movie because they have the advantage of playing unabashed creeps. Cera isn't in the movie long but each scene he has as a completely degenerate womanising cokehead is funny. I loved a moment where he blows cocaine into a guy's face like pixie dust and giggles at the guy freaking out because he's never taken cocaine before.

McBride is the asshole everyone else in the movie only he's not phony about it. Jonah Hill plays a constantly cooing ego-stoker but when he's alone we hear how the person he supposedly likes best is the one he doesn't hesitate to ask God to kill. McBride, meanwhile, without compunction cooks all the rations and seems willing to kill anyone just for the fuck of it.

The last third of the film loses its way somewhat in disconnected cg action but there are still several funny moments. Not a bad movie.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Then It Doesn't Matter Which Way They Go

Every time I think I've seen the worst Alice adaptation . . .

This seems to be an adaptation not so much of the books as a hazy conception composed mostly of the American McGee game and the Tim Burton movie stapled to a big wad of Twilight.

I was thinking yesterday about what the Alice stories mean to people who adapt them. They almost never seem to get past square one, adaptations usually featuring scene after scene that seems ultimately to say, "Look how weird!" And then the filmmakers insert their own ideas for the meat of the story. Gulliver's Travels seems to suffer from the same thing. It's true in both cases a lot of the delight in reading the books is in wondering at the strangeness of the situations and places. In the case of the Alice books, it's also true a lot of the delight is in at turns sympathising with and adoring Alice's frustrations and interpretations. But I feel like most people adapting the books are primarily digesting them as things fascinating for their inscrutability, useful as backdrop but hardly substantial as stories in themselves.

I was listening to "Very Good Advice", the song from the 1951 film, in my car yesterday. It comes around two thirds of the way through that film though the line from which the song takes its chorus and title comes from near the beginning of the book as Alice finds herself suddenly shrunk and frustrated in her attempts to reach the key on the table above her;

'Come, there's no use in crying like that!' said Alice to herself, rather sharply; 'I advise you to leave off this minute!' She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. 'But it's no use now,' thought poor Alice, 'to pretend to be two people! Why, there's hardly enough of me left to make ONE respectable person!'

As in much of the book, the point of view here seems to be more Lewis Carroll's rather than Alice's, partly because the paragraph gives us some background on the girl and partly because it provides the adjective "poor" indicative of a viewer's opinion. This is relatively common in children's fiction where the author feels he or she must do some of the work in instructing a child in how to interpret the material. At the same time, though, I think it conveys a bit of Carroll's personality and intentions with the work. Certainly he has a great deal of adoration for his muse but I suspect he's attaching qualities of his own strangeness and awkwardness to that of a child, this "curious child" who so often fails to follow through on what she knows is good advice. This sets up the conflict between Alice, who is fundamentally unsure of herself and yet assertive, and all the people she meets in Wonderland who always seem to know what do and generally seem to disapprove of what she's doing.

This is why most of the adaptations make a mistake in portraying the people of Wonderland as Alice's friends. As Martin Gardner points out in The Annotated Alice;

It is noteworthy also that, of all the characters Alice meets on her two dream adventures, only the White Knight seems to be genuinely fond of her and to offer her special assistance.

Gardner points out the White Knight is often interpreted as a representation of Carroll himself. The Knight's good intentions with frequently disastrous results are not unlike Alice giving herself very good advice but failing to follow it.

The 1951 film has a record number of songs--the most of any Disney film--and their longevity is reflected in Robert Smith's cover of "Very Good Advice" for the Tim Burton movie as well the use of "In a World of My Own" in a recent commercial.

I would say Jan Svankmajer's 1988 film is my favourite adaptation but this aspect of self-doubt in Alice would seem out of place in Svankmajer's portrayal of a more confident and predatory girl, at least without some more time spent fleshing her out. The 1951 film, as Walt Disney himself noted, suffers from too many cooks in the kitchen and Alice's inability to find purchase as a coherent character is a result of this and the primary flaw of the film. But I do think it works as a series of shorts and the "Very Good Advice" scene explores one aspect of the book rarely addressed. Though perhaps it resonates with people in that, from the McGee version onwards, much of the story involves Alice questioning her sanity. It's too bad that this problem tends to be resolved in the form of Alice proving herself and thereby becoming normal and well adjusted, often attended by the assimilation of Wonderland's denizens as an inoffensive family.

Twitter Sonnet #522

Decoy cat ears can fool the homeless Sith.
Temples of old terror waffle new fright.
Magazine glasses check out who you're with.
Egrets have swans they lead into the night.
Spreadable dice will give condiment odds.
Yellow shadowed rye holds judgement at bay.
Silver strands of scalp shampoo the wig gods.
The soup can't guess what Gamera will say.
Wobbling helicopters tranqed the cop hat.
Arabesques of disco water smell old.
Cruising clouds of smog can't boss a big cat.
Graham cracker cardboard isn't very bold.
Safety pins will fasten no bent diaper.
Pies are solo when spaces are hyper.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Heat Lamp, Day . . . Three, I Think

This house is turning into a giant microwave. Macrowave? Probably not, that probably means something else. Anyway, the dehumidifiers made it 90° in here all night. Well, until around 4am when it got down to 86°. We can't even open windows lest we allow any outside humidity in. But I did finally open my bedroom window anyway, just making sure to keep my door shut. I put a fan in front of the window and another one across the room--with my ceiling fan that made three and me in shorts on top of my sheets. Then, of course, the noise of all these fans made a problem but I may have gotten as much as five hours sleep.

If only I could move everything I need to work on my comic out of here to somewhere with an air conditioning. If only this had happened two months ago when I had to be out of the house much of the day anyway and there was nothing I couldn't get done at the library or somewhere as good as here.

I finally got around to watching the second episode of Game of Thrones last night in which Daenerys bests the guy she's forced to have sex with by making him really enjoy it. I think this may have been intended as an empowering moment for her. It helps to remind myself this is a sexual fantasy, maybe it's just difficult because it's not my sexual fantasy.

Otherwise, the show continues to have nice visuals. I liked the schoolyard taunting gone horribly wrong between the Prince and the other kids by the river. And poor Sean Bean having to kill a dog. It's a shame to hear he doesn't stick around for the whole series, he is really good.

I'm feeling really sluggish, I must say.

There's a working refrigerator with ice I've been availing myself of. Last night I squeezed a whole lime into a glass, added about four fingers of cocoanut milk and much pineapple juice then put it all in a shaker with crushed ice. The result was pretty wonderful. No rum--the thought of being trapped here at night, unable to drive because of the alcohol, was just too unpleasant. I ended up eating dinner at Denny's. I went to one I used to go to pretty regularly after finishing up working on something at 2 or 3 am. Ah, the old nocturnal schedule, something I definitely can't go back to in these conditions.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Water Killing Air

It's 97° Fahrenheit outside and 90° inside. It was 81° throughout the night all because of the five or six R2D2 sized noisy machines in the kitchen aimed at the ceiling in an effort to dry the stucco and insulation and what-not before it's to be demolished. Sleeping and drawing in this is difficult. This is Stray Dog weather.

Drew Z. Greenberg wrote a second season episode of Clone Wars, "Lightsaber Lost", in tribute to Stray Dog. It's a shame the writing in the fifth season, which I finished a couple nights ago, wasn't of the same calibre.

I kind of liked the penultimate arc which featured a group of Mandalorian terrorists, led by characters voiced by Jon Favreau and Katee Sackhoff, teaming up with Darth Maul. It was cool watching them get all the galaxy's criminal organisations under their thumb in order to take over Mandalore and it was equally delightful watching them fighting each other before Darth Sidious showed up to finish them off.

The final serial of the season, though, had writing so bad I assumed the credited writer, Charles Murray, was a pseudonym for George Lucas. But this Murray does have an imbd page. Tim, who watched a featurette on the arc, told me they'd hired Murray because he was seen as a specialist in crime drama, which I guess refers to the one episode of Criminal Minds he wrote. It's perhaps debatable what makes a writer a specialist in the crime genre but I think one of the requisites would probably the ability to craft plots that aren't so obtrusively stupid that they thoroughly sabotage the story.

Charles Murray's arc, about Ahsoka being framed for a terrorist bombing of the Jedi Temple, depends on;

1. Ahsoka suddenly being best friends with Barriss Offee who hasn't been on the show since season 2.

2. Ahsoka being charged with murder for apparently killing in prison the terrorist she herself apprehended.

3. Ahsoka trusting Offee more than Anakin, her master and the guy she's with in 90% of all episodes in which she appears.

4. Tarkin (a somewhat entertaining cg caricature of Peter Cushing) calling Ahsoka a liar for saying it was another Force user who Force-strangled the terrorist because Ahsoka didn't mention sensing a Force user in the vicinity. If Ahsoka was lying, why wouldn't she say she sensed another Force-user? Assuming saying another Force-user strangled the terrorist somehow precluded the idea that Ahsoka had sensed another Force user.

5. Tarkin, of all people, zealously intent on putting a commander to death for killing a terrorist during interrogation.

6. A terrorist who attacked the Jedi temple for ideological purposes not taking credit for the attack.

7. Anakin, who believes in a strong military and unforgiving tactics, just letting Asajj Ventress go for no apparent reason.

And that's just scratching the surface. The models and animation are really good, the action sequences were nice, and I did feel something at the end during a fragile conversation between Anakin and Ahsoka, but I think it was mainly because of their history in better written episodes. It helped that they had very little dialogue in the moment because certainly whenever they opened their mouths in this episode they didn't have much to say reflective of their established personalities.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's Wetter on the Inside

This morning I woke to a rain shower in the kitchen. A fierce and steady downpour that originated from a busted toilet pipe upstairs. I waded upstream through the spray of water to shut the thing off and spent much of my morning longing for breakfast and coffee as I sopped up water with as many towels as I could find and set out pots and pans to catch some of the yellowish ceiling water long after much of the damage had of course already been done.

I blame the late administration of caffeine on the fact that my phone appears to have been destroyed. Of course my clothes were soaked through so I took a quick shower and tossed the clothes into the washer only to ask myself some minutes later, "Where's my phone?" And I remembered it was in my pocket of the pants spinning and soaking.

When I first fished it out, it didn't work at all. Now I get a blank white screen and glowing buttons when I put the battery back in but no functionality. I suspect further drying will not help.

But, yes, I am happy about Proposition 8 and the Defence of Marriage Act being defeated. I hope to join my gay friends in swooping in on the now defenceless institution's soft white belly, tearing it asunder and feasting on its quivering wet pink bowels or whatever the worst nightmare of the right wing is. Maybe I'm spewing divisive politics here but, hey, I've been trying to control an indoors that suddenly felt like outdoors in Guatemala all morning.

Twitter Sonnet #521

Pterodactyl redactions dismiss fate.
Paper Rubik's Cube hats solve head colour.
Angry marinara eyes ever wait.
Banks hold bald Brazilian bats in squalor.
Balloon bottoms peruse sand dollar mud.
Croquet canyons are crushed by deep water.
Screeching time cops won't apprehend Paul Rudd.
The third grade air is thick with old solder.
Purple brain matter hugs Tsurumaki.
Furry curry's too long in the cupboard.
Dye bus terminals make hobos cocky.
Kare Kano corrodes L. Ron Hubbard.
Kitchen showers waylay the bean bucket.
Bubbled stucco's a symbol of "fuck it".

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Fear in All the World

A guy answers his door to Marlene Dietrich who opens her coat to reveal a blood stained white dress before she says, "Johnny, you love me. Say that you love me. You do love me, don't you?" So begins 1950's Stage Fright, as far as I'm concerned one of the greatest movies of all time. It has several elements that alone would have made for a good movie--starring Jane Wyman a couple years after her breathtaking performance in Johnny Belinda, co-starring the magnetic, demoniacally funny Alastair Sim, featuring gorgeous musical numbers for Marlene Dietrich, and directed by Alfred Hitchcock at the top of his game. All these elements are used to tell a story about human treachery and trust that's provokingly murky in an excellent way.

Shot in England, Wyman's the only performer with an American accent, though she plays a Brit, her accent explained by a remark about how she was educated in the U.S., something I was slightly thrilled with since movies before 1960 or so often don't take the trouble to make sure everyone has the right accent. She plays Eve Gill, an aspiring stage actress whose childhood friend and object of her unrequited affections, Johnny, comes to her and tells her the story of Dietrich appearing at his door. He begs Eve to hide him from the police.

Dietrich plays Charlotte Inwood, a successful performer of great renown for whom Johnny has a desperate and great affection. It's for this reason Eve thinks Charlotte is manipulating Johnny into incriminating himself for the murder of Charlotte's husband. To prove this, Eve bribes Charlotte's maid, Nellie, to feign illness so Eve can fill in temporarily as "Doris", Nellie's cousin.

Eve also manages to befriend the Detective Inspector, Wilfred Smith (Michael Wilding) in charge of investigating the murder of Charlotte's husband. The two kiss for the first time during a dialogue they exchange about the trustworthiness of people and Eve absently remarks how one can never know what's in a woman's mind.

The movie shows men can be deceptive, too--her own father--Alastair Sim--is a cool hand at it after years spent smuggling brandy. He playfully drops hints in the detective's presence about the lady's maid scheme he's helping his daughter with.

With all this, one might think the humorous scene of Sim at a garden party shooting plastic birds to win a doll is a bit of a tangent except the way in which Sim finds he can't win the doll by shooting the birds--one has to con the proprietor out of it--reemphasises the main theme of the movie. Everything about Sim's gleeful and grim manner serves the precise comedic reflection of the tragedy that makes up the last part of the story. And it's so characteristic of Hitchcock's comedy--Cary Grant's sadism in Suspicion, Grace Kelly's morbid lust in To Catch a Thief, the polite inconvenience of a human corpse in The Trouble with Harry--it's all a teasing reflection of the world's amorality, the same amorality that allows people to do truly terrible things.

Stage Fright, with its tautly suspenseful and funny plot at its surface about Eve navigating waters of artifice, makes an intricate statement about the fundamentally illusory nature of human morality and society.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dreams on Cold Silver Pools

My perception, and it may be just my perception, has always been that Kate Beckinsale really likes sex. Something about her playful, sort of dazed manner and smirking suggests it to me. It added an interesting element to the 1998 adaptation of Through the Looking Glass which is actually not bad, mainly because it has good actors delivering dialogue straight from the book.

Particularly nice are Penelope Wilton and Sian Phillips as the White and Red Queens respectively, though for some reason this version omits the famous exchange about running as fast as one can just to stay in one place. The actors counteract some of the over the top music and production design.

Beckinsale works perfectly well despite being in her twenties and delivering dialogue from the book saying she's seven and a half years old. She's sexier than the Alice in the porn version.

No, she doesn't seem quite like the Alice from the book. None of the adult Alices from the various adaptations do. Though I think part of the reason filmmakers are so often compelled to cast Alice older is that children are generally no longer intellectually equal to the character or the book. It's a work now that really works more for an adult reader. And I think a lot of people reading really want the possibility of sex to go along with the affection Carroll has for the character. But sexual maturity is only one of the reasons an adult Alice has a different perspective--and therefore fundamentally creates a different story than--a child Alice. The book is about the absurdity of the adult world through the eyes of a child. In adaptations featuring an adult Alice, it's just a woman meeting some confusing people, it's less clear what's fundamentally different about her and them. That's probably why Tim Burton felt compelled to inject a prosaic coming of age story into his adaptation with an adult Alice.

Ian Holm, who played Lewis Carroll himself in the 1985 film Dreamchild, here plays the White Knight. I love Ian Holm but I think I actually liked Gary Cooper better in the role. Holm lacks too much warmth. I think Liam Neeson would actually be perfect in the role.

Maybe it's just because I mainly associate Holm with Alien and Brazil. I thought he was fine as Bilbo but I would say he comes off as a particularly self-centred Bilbo. Which isn't inappropriate, particularly in the scenes where he's showing Ring addiction. But I think I actually like Martin Freeman's warmer take better, though he doesn't have a single line in the trailer for the next instalment of The Hobbit;

Freeman is almost the best part of these movies in spite of Peter Jackson. Maybe it's inevitable--the movie does come from a world even further removed from the philosophy that cherished the gentle which Tolkien was already working against the grain by espousing.

While eating lunch to-day I read "FLICKER", a story in the new Sirenia Digest, a ghostly tale about a man obsessed with a silent film. Caitlin includes a quote from Guy Maddin which I liked, despite the fact that I don't think much of Maddin as a filmmaker;

Over eighty percent of silent films are lost. I've always considered a lost film as a narrative with no know final resting place--doomed to wander the landscape of film history, sad, miserable and unable to project itself to the people who might love it..

Caitlin's story certainly has something of that impression. It's something I come up against rather often, too, as I'm always adding more films to my "to watch" pile and I generally do that just by looking up filmmakers and actors and their filmographies. It's frustrating how often I'll read about some important work in a director or performer's career that can never be seen.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chess Soup

I oughta schedule a day where I just stare at space. I may be too impatient for it. To-day's chess tournament went all right, especially since there were enough players for me not to play and instead just concentrate on organising. I don't quite multitask fast enough for my satisfaction. Or maybe the software doesn't. Second Life still seems to crash for me two out of ten times whenever I upload an image. Otherwise, there were really no problems except the difficulty in communicating with the Russian players. Second Life has translation scripts but, while it's probably better than nothing, it's less than perfect.

I was streaming music, mostly Tom Waits, and one guy kept saying, "Maestro . . . this real music."

I said I loved Tom Waits and he said, "I love Chopin." I'm still not sure whether he was saying he liked the music or hated it. He ended up winning two out of five games but first place was a three way tie between three other people--Celia (co-owner of the Queen Alice Chess Club), my friend Rose (who sponsored the event with 3000 lindens in prize money, which is around twelve dollars), and someone I'd just met who I think was Russian. It just occurred to me I don't think there was a single person playing on the same continent as me. I think everyone was Dutch, Belgian, or Russian. I think this is a reflection of the greater popularity chess enjoys in continental Europe. It's also the reason I had to start the tournament no later than noon. I made some effort to get to bed early--it really is weird how things keep coming up that force me to be up early.

To-morrow it's back to drawing all day . . .

Twitter Sonnet #520

Citrus tartan saturation bends hair.
Tangled pipelines linger in legacies.
Simulated candy eyes the sweet pear.
Photo conduits clog the agencies.
Diabetic batmen melt over cake.
Colossal salad bar lawyers grow faint.
Graph paper pulps in Geometry Lake.
Pineapples plead with the cocoanut paint.
Golden cocoanut sprinkles the sought dough.
Celery vines break as they twine tightly.
Plaid portcullis imprisoned the hobo.
Lonely lapel lids are blinking nightly.
Platinum pretzel rods submerge in lead.
The talking confetti king's in your head.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stumbling in Space

I'm clumsy in a way to-day that tells me I have a hangover but all I had last night was a glass of Armagnac. Maybe it was the less than eight hours sleep, though I've functioned much better on the same amount in the past. Whatever the case, I spilled half my oatmeal this morning, accidentally ground two pots worth of coffee beans, and played really lousy at to-day's chess tournament. Hopefully I'll have myself together by to-morrow at noon when I'm organising my own chess tournament.

A couple French women whom I met at the Second Life birthday party--they teach French in SL--recommended the Armagnac to me. They mentioned bordeaux and I said, when it comes to wine, I'm more of a Cognac person and one of them said, "Ah, that's too far north. Try Armagnac." Armagnac is a brandy made in the Armagnac region of southern France. I got the cheapest bottle at BevMo, which turned out to be Marie Duffau. I'd say it has a slightly cherrier flavour than cognac.

Maybe this is a good time for Clone Wars to be cancelled. I'm just over halfway through the fifth season now and I find it is the best season in terms of visuals and the worst in terms of writing.

The season's comprised almost completely of arcs that feel, in terms of format, like individual old Doctor Who serials (it's fitting, I suppose, David Tennant guest stars in this season). The somewhat surprising success of the previous seasons is probably the reason for the far more sophisticated computer models and lighting and more nuanced and complex facial expressions on the characters. I'm part way through the best looking serial of the season which tells the story of a squad of droids on a a mission for the Republic.

The group comes out of hyperspace among a number of comets reminiscent of the comets in the old Star Tours. They crash land on a barren desert planet of white sand and orange skies.

It looks like old early Star Wars concept art and is very cool. Unfortunately, the serial, like the others of the fifth season, features things that remind you of why the first two prequels were so bad. The droids are led by a tiny frog alien who speaks like the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.

A caricature, much in the way Jar Jar comes off as a minstrel show, though not as racist. It highlights that it's not only the racial connotations of Jar Jar or the Japanese sounding Trade Federation guys that diminishes the Star Wars universe but the fact that Lucas is so closely identifying something in the galaxy far, far away with something in ours. Similarly, the first serial of the season fails for being a thin allegory for U.S. intervention in foreign wars.

The story follows the Jedi Ahsoka Tano lending instruction--though not direct aid--to some rebel forces on a Seperatist controlled world. The Jedi Council is very firm in forbidding Ahsoka from directly aiding the rebels, whom the planet's establishment call terrorists, because they have to respect the sovereign rights of this world's government.

That kind of thinking may make sense if the planet's government weren't publicly aligned with and supported by the faction with whom the Republic is already in open war with. This isn't like deposing Saddam Hussein or trying to prop up a minority in Vietnam. This would be more like liberating Nazi occupied Poland.

What made the first few seasons of Clone Wars work so well is missing--a sense of spontaneity and the impression that anything that can happen in a chaotic galaxy at war could happen here. There was a refreshing free-ranging imagination at work that's just lacking in this final season.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Trying to Fix Your Eye

Here comes a Vertigo nerd post. I warn you for possible spoilers ahead (in case you haven't seen Vertigo) and, of course, the nerdiness.

A couple days ago I finally got around to watching the Vertigo blu-ray. I'd been hesitant to watch it since reading this post by Robert Harris who worked on the original restoration of Vertigo in 1996. I recommend reading the post and the comments--it gives you a good idea of the work that goes into restoring an old film.

Harris does say he's 90% pleased with the blu-ray. But I was put off by his apparent dissatisfaction with "the corporate world" with budget concerns that inhibited the restoration from being all it could be. In a more rational world, the movie that was recently voted by critics around the world in Sight and Sound as the greatest movie of all time would receive carte blanche in terms of preservation. But in this world, one suspects people at Universal were too aware of the fact that they'd be bringing in the same amount of money on the disk whether it's 100% or 90%.

I think the sound may actually be the best improvement. The new foley created for the 1996 restoration was at times a bit hammy. I thought the echoing rooftop gunshots at the beginning were interesting and I kind of appreciated the distinct sound of breaking tiles when Madeleine's body hit the roof. But the sound effects in this new release sit more organically with the rest of the mix. More impressively, the effects and music no longer sound like they're in a different dimension than the dialogue. The dialogue no longer sounds like it's a radio programme playing in the corner of a live orchestra.

The two moments I noticed problems with visuals were two that Harris specifically mentions;

A single problematic shot of Mr. Stewart at Carlotta's grave after his release from the hospital, exhibits extreme fade at the top of the frame. For our version, without digital tools, we were forced to go to separations, which ran out of register.

The ride to the mission at the end of the film, has problems with black levels and skin tones, and as handled, there is no way it could not.

For me, the shots actually seemed to flicker. This didn't happen on either of the DVD releases I've seen.

I would point out that Scottie actually visits Madeleine's grave not Carlotta's, but that's an understandable mistake.

Speaking of Carlotta, though, one thing the very sharp visuals of the blu-ray caused me to be more aware of is the mismatch of two different Carlotta paintings in the scene where Scottie first witnesses Madeleine viewing the portraits.

First we see this (these are cropped screenshots);

Then, after the sequence showing from Scottie's POV his comparison of Madeleine's hair and bouquet with those of Carlotta, we go to this shot;

It's clearly different. I think my eye always caught on it before but I never quite consciously realised why. But now I see several big differences to indicate this was probably shot on an entirely different day--the bouquet is different, Madeleine's purse is positioned differently, the paintings and furniture in the next room are different, and Madeleine's hair is in a rougher, heavier updo. And, of course, the portrait is quite different. My guess is this shot uses a temporary portrait while the newer one was being prepared--when Vera Miles was originally to have played Madeleine/Judy, Hitchcock had already had the portrait made to her likeness so it's understandable that the final portrait would be a little behind schedule. But once he had the shot with the better portrait, I don't understand why Hitchcock would have used the old one at all. He could have recycled the same footage.

Anyway, whatever faults the blu-ray edition may have, it was rather cool watching it in 1080p. I can actually make myself some decent wallpapers straight from screenshots now.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Finding Places in Pages

I found this new bookmark on the way to the clinic this morning. Seems appropriate for a novel with a protagonist named Crowe, though I don't know if it's a crow's or a raven's feather.

The trip to the clinic was a followup to last week's check-up. I just needed to have my blood taken for a lab. "Don't be nervous," the nurse said as she prepared my arm and saw my sweaty palm.

"Oh, I'm not," I said. "It's just really hot outside and I walked here."

She seemed shocked, "Where did you walk from?"

"I live just across the river."

"You mean the riverbed?"

"Well, it's a whole river with water and ducks and everything."

She didn't seem to believe me. She said, "When I lived in Riverside [a neighbouring town] it was a dry riverbed."

Yesterday I drew two pages of comic and inked one of them. It was the best day I'd had drawing a comic since I can remember. I don't know how much of that is to do with the quantity of naked women on those pages. In case anyone's wondering when they'll see this comic, I'm hoping to have it ready about a week before Comic-Con starts (July 18).

I was sorry to hear about the death of James Gandolfini yesterday at the rather young age of fifty one. The guy had an extraordinary talent for bringing an audience into the mind and heart of his character. This is why he was so inextricable from Tony Soprano though he gave fine performances in several films. I plan on watching True Romance again soon, it's been a very long time since I last saw it. Jeez, maybe I ought to have watched it when Tony Scott died.

I stalled out in watching The Sopranos at some point last year around five episodes into the final season. I guess the final season seemed a bit meandering and unfocused to me. The several episodes taken up with Tony's dream sequence didn't help--I actually rather liked the dream sequences in previous seasons but this one felt like a waste of time. It was a drawn out way of eventually only telling us things we already knew.

But I watched "Johnny Cakes" last night, the eighth episode of the season. It wasn't a great episode--it is nice the story of Vito explores what it means to be gay in the particularly old fashioned and macho world of the mafia. Tony's story of almost cheating on his wife with Julianna Margulies was a little dry and the subplot with A.J. was just lame as every plot with A.J. is.

Still, all in all it's been a good show and I'll try to muscle through the rest.

Twitter Sonnet #519

Dilated dalmatian spots discern void.
Expensive alligators behold hats.
The shaved vaudevillian's not humanoid.
Penelope Cruz displaced the old bats.
No flat Coke can diminish a new Squirt.
Triangle men manage in orchestras.
The pink mallets have got to stay alert.
The Ark's fury found all of the extras.
Radio crossed waffle irons watch us.
Doppler lingerie ingrains blurry lace.
Pictures hitched onto the seen image bus.
Maelstrom wigs drain blood from the judge's face.
Dry black bookmarks are strewn on paths to blood.
Caterpillars fall prey to Elmer Fudd.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Role Defining Costume

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's . . . a Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957)*. "Let me tell you I've been on my feet since seven while you were snoring," says Amy Preston, the eponymous woman, to her teenage son as he and her husband eat breakfast.

"I never said you didn't work, Mum," her son replies, "Nothing's organised. You work like a horse but you never seem to get anywhere." Indeed, the family flat is crowded with dirty laundry and dishes and other unfinished chores as all the while Mrs. Preston bustles about, ever busy. It's for this reason her husband, Jim (Anthony Quayle), feels justified in his affair with his secretary, Georgie (Sylvia Sims). The movie is a well made, rather dated, and sort of incidentally charming film that daringly, for its time, discussed infidelity and divorce.

Quayle and Syms give fine performances but their characters aren't particularly interesting. The movie attempts to be even-handed by showing Jim tormented about the impending break with his wife. Georgie talks about how a woman should try harder after marriage, not just make all the effort to be pleasing to a man beforehand. Georgie is such a dull, perfect little 1950s wife that it's difficult to find much sympathy for Jim, who really seems to be leaving Amy and his son entirely for his libido.

Yvonne Mitchell plays Amy and while the dialogue about how her looks and figure have gone isn't exactly supported visually one can't help loving the absurdly, repeated thwarted woman. She's irretrievably disorganised, continually burning meals and forgetting tea kettles, but always giving one hundred twenty percent effort.

When she invites Georgie and Jim to talk over their situation, she decides to spend the day beforehand getting ready in order to compete. So she pawns her engagement ring and gets her hair done and buys some whisky so they can have a nice civilised discussion. Of course, it rains and her hair is wrecked and when she gets home she absently gulps down straight whisky while commiserating with her neighbour.

Some of this stuff is pure, tragic slapstick. She decides to add a tablecloth to the table after she's already poured the drinks and after some careful manoeuvring she succeeds only for the table to break and the glasses to tumble to the floor. She cries and collapses in bed which is where Jim finds her when he brings Georgie home.

Although the movie takes some pains to show how Jim would reasonably want to leave Amy it's hard to see him as anything but a limp douchebag for even thinking about it.

But the movie's nicely, expressionistically shot and it's easy to enjoy Amy for her own sake.

*I was going to see Man of Steel yesterday but couldn't work up the enthusiasm.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Loud Air Conditioner Dream

Very tired. I had to get up four hours early to take my grandmother to the airport, for which I had to be up at 7:20am. And I'd already gotten myself back to getting up at 11am, which may not be wise since Comic-Con is right around the corner. But fuck it, I'm a night person. I went all spring getting up at 9:30 am and after all that time I still find myself with more energy after the sun sets.

Before going to bed I watched a little bit of the 1985 Alice in Wonderland TV movie. I wasn't quite prepared for how bad it is. Pour Shelley Winters in feathers, squawking and rolling on the ground. Sherman Hemsley's execrable musical number in a mouse suit. The almost twenty minutes spent on Alice getting through the little door at the beginning with hardly any dialogue from the book. It's all only slightly better than the Star Wars Holiday Special and less morbidly compelling.

The only moment I liked at all so far is Sammy Davis Jr. Singing "You are Old, Father William," using Carroll's actual poem for lyrics instead of the brain dead Steve Allen stuff sufficing for the other musical numbers. If someone could isolate Sammy Davis Jr.'s vocal track and give it some decent musical accompaniment, it might actually be kind of a cool song.

Oh, wow. The top YouTube comment on this video . . . the stupidity is of such breathtaking proportions;


why is the catapillar black?

why is he wrapping?

why is she dressed like a german?

Why's he look like a colonial?

Because "catapillars" are clearly Caucasian.

Wrapping . . . ? German . . . ? Colonial . . . ? This person's four for four. There's something stupid in each point. I can only hope the 16 "likes" and no "dislikes" on this comment are ironic. Oh . . . but I know they're not.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Getting Something Like Home

I'm continually amazed by the tendency humans have to blame their own rotten moods on other people. I think this is ultimately the point of John Hughes' 1987 film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. As a comedy, the film is somewhat weakly written though its stars, Steve Martin and John Candy--Candy in particular--make some of it work anyway. But it's the insight into human behaviour that really makes this film worth watching.

Martin plays Neal Page, a successful man in marketing who's commuting from a big building in New York to a big home in Chicago where his family, comprised of three perfect little kids and picturesque pensively beautiful wife, anticipates his return home for Thanksgiving. The gods decide to inflict all manner of hellish delays and detours upon Mr. Page, including cancelled flights, dodgy cab drivers, missing rental cars, and broken trains.

Candy plays Del Griffith, the man the gods have assigned to accompany Page on his journey. Griffith is a travelling shower curtain ring salesman, a gregarious, impoverished, low class fellow standing in contrast to the wealthy and fastidious Page.

I'm very sorry to say it seems that The Canadian Mounted is not a real book. But John Candy enjoying the book in an airport lounge is such a wonderful image.

Griffith had inadvertently stolen Page's cab earlier and so when their flight's cancelled and every nearby hotel is fully booked Griffith offers to get Page a room at a hotel where he knows the manager. Of course they end up sleeping together.

Well, in the same bed. This is the first of several instances where the two of them are thrown together as they try and make their way from Wichita to Chicago. The comedy in the film is generally forced--it doesn't make sense that Page doesn't see before he gets in the shower that all the towels are wet and scattered around the room, nor does it make sense that he fails to see Griffith's socks in the sink before he uses it. It doesn't make sense that the fastidious Page, tramping the long distance back to the car-rental place after he found his rented car missing from his space, would expect to be able to get a car after he's thrown away his receipt.

Neither Page nor Griffith is a really extreme personality, neither of them is a caricature. They both exhibit genuine concern for each other and aren't oblivious when they push each other's buttons. Page's main character problem is simply his inability to get home and in one scene where he snaps and yells at Griffith about how Griffith tells boring stories and is generally obnoxious, Griffith's reply, his "I'm an easy target" speech, isn't so much about Griffith's worthiness as a human being as it is about how distant he is from the real cause of Page's woes. The movie ultimately is about not allowing one's own unrelated needs to harm the people around us.

Twitter Sonnet #518

Aqueduct Hawaiian shirts can shift leis.
Cherry juice can gyp the congested vamp.
Thirty babies abandoned Helen Hayes.
And so that's why an infant is a tramp.
Delirious dachshunds decide the route.
Ambiguous ambergris melts by flame.
Clarity clouds the ruddy clownish lout.
Numbered spades enervate a can-do dame.
Pringle fingernails tessellate too bad.
Repetition breaks the bed for Elsa.
Galvanised knots tremble on the dead lad.
Risk owes mystery to a shaded Tesla.
Cheaper storms roil in unpainted egg.
Sweetened terrain's tramped by the rubber leg.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

In the Books

Congratulations to Caitlín R. Kiernan--she's been given the Bram Stoker Award for her novel The Drowning Girl. It's hard for me to imagine a more deserving recipient of an award named for an Irish born writer of the wonderfully and evocatively weird.

I've been reading Caitlin's The Red Tree lately, switching between it and The Arabian Nights. I've been so busy lately I haven't had much time for reading but I have enjoyed the 85 pages of The Red Tree I've read so far. I remember thinking how with some writers the prose is sort of haunted by the author. As in, the author is the spirit whose moods affect everything and in the sort of primal, uncompromising way one attributes to the personality of a possessing spirit. All of her characters seem a little angrier than one might expect in reality, much as Lovecraft's characters tend to seem more anxious. It's an anger that seems tied to an awareness of life having cheated the person horribly along with the awareness that other people, however attractive they may be, can never satisfy that void.

I'm at a scene where the protagonist, Sarah Crowe, is exploring the cellar of an old house and it's a scene that reminds me of the best bits in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

I'm not very far into Arabian Nights either, though part of the problem is I also keep finding myself going back and reading bits of Paradise Lost and The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon lately. There are just too many great things in this world to read for a slow, busy reader like me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

With Great Power Comes Pugs

Last night I dreamt my friend, Tim, who's recently moved into a new apartment, was at his old place going through his closet at the back of which he found a live, adult panther and a pug. Both animals tore past him and went out his window to fight the two gorillas and two grizzly bears kept in the neighbour's yard. I felt like the panther was winning by the end of the dream but the pug had been injured in scrambling through the window and ran with a limp.

I may have to see Man of Steel. I do want it to fail because I don't want there to be any more Zack Snyder movies. Hearing him talk at Comic-Con was enough to convince me he's as much of an unimaginative, lazily overconfident, misogynist douchebag as his movies make him seem. But I'm far in the minority as there's a sometimes amusing chorus of people who clearly want Man of Steel succeed, perhaps the most embarrassing being Garth Franklin at Dark Horizons. On June 11th, he wrote;

With 32 reviews counted, Rotten Tomatoes has scored the film 72% and a 7.5/10 average rating. That average rating is actually one of the best of the year so far, and on par with "Star Trek Into Darkness" which scored a higher tomato-meter rating.

Over on Metacritic, it's on 63/100 which is on par with films like "Spring Breakers" and "Les Miserables," and just above recent Summer blockbusters like "Iron Man 3" at 62/100 and "Fast and Furious 6" at 61/100.

That's some rose coloured glasses. One of the best ratings of the year so far? When This is the End scored over 80 before its release? Right.

Of course, Man of Steel has fallen to 57% at Rotten Tomatoes, most of the reviews confirming my impression from the trailer that the film would be self-serious and dumb, a particularly lame combination. Though I'm noticing comments on articles about the movie are generally positive. As a reaction just against my own schadenfreude, I'm compelled to see it to give it a fair shake.

Though the positive comments about the movie have generally focused on how much it kicked ass. This one from someone named Josh on the Dark Horizons review gave me the sense the movie may have gotten Superman wrong in a way very typical of 21st century western culture;

Superman is not a protector in this movie. He's a weapon of mass destruction with good intentions. He doesn't exhibit the slightest concern for anyone but those closest to him, and makes no effort to avoid or minimize collateral damage. I could excuse the murder, if they'd made me believe for a second that this guy gave a shit about the sanctity of life. Instead it's just a button at the end of an action sequence with five seconds of denouement, and then its quips and cutesiness.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Seems We Have a Bit of a Naval Battle

Perhaps an unconditional appreciation of humanity is a little obnoxious sometimes. I was a little frustrated by the first fifteen or so minutes of 1956's The Battle of the River Plate and its depiction of British naval officers caught by Nazis and both parties treating each other in a relatively casual and friendly manner. This is a movie by the legendary writer/director duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and it's helpful to have seen their Life and Death of Colonel Blimp which more satisfyingly explores their viewpoint on human nature and resistance to portraying even Nazis as two dimensional monsters. The Battle of the River Plate partly comes across as simply an innocent old war movie where the stakes in battle are vaguely more serious than in football. And yet, it also features amazing realism and attention to detail and there is at least one very intriguing character.

Peter Finch plays Captain Hans Langsdorff of the Admiral Graf Spree, a heavy cruiser of a sort which, as we hear in the film, the British referred to as a "pocket battleship" for its extraordinary, treaty defying armament. As the movie opens, Captain Langsdorff is meeting with the British captain of the ship his had just sunk. The British captain complains about the fact that his ship ought not to have been engaged due to it being in Portuguese waters in the manner of a man disputing a parking ticket. It's a little difficult to believe anything as violent as the sinking of a ship and the deaths of scores of men had just taken place.

The British captain is soon joined in crewmen's quarters aboard the Graf Spree by a collection of other British prisoners and we see an almost affectionate relationship between the British prisoners and the German crewmen emerge.

This friendly portrayal is perhaps reflective of British culture. It's interesting to note that the U.S. Navy would not allow the Nazi flag to be flown on the U.S. ship used to portray the Graf Spree in the film so a British ship was used when the Nazi flag was flown.

Other than the American ship used for the Graf Spree, a remarkable aspect of the film is its use of authentic ships in copious amounts of footage. Only when ships are shown being sunk do we see models.

And Powell and Pressburger get some really beautiful shots of these ships, too. Two of the British ships were in fact the very ships that took part in the real battle portrayed in film, which was a 1939 engagement between three British ships and the Graf Spree.

The damage done to the British ships does begin to show something like the violent effects of actual warfare as young men have their limbs blown off and officers suddenly find themselves surrounded by dead and mutilated men. The captured British aboard the Graf Spree serve as a storytelling device in that we remain with the British POV throughout the battle--Powell and Pressburger never used subtitles or had English dialogue stand in for German in their films. So all the damage we ever see inflicted on the Graf Spree during the battle is the shaking of the prisoner quarters and their roof caving in.

The British chase the Graf Spree into a harbour in neutral Uruguay where the film becomes a story of political manoeuvring. A young Christopher Lee has a tiny role as a bartender.

Anthony Quayle does a fine job as the commodore heading the British ships but as I said the really interesting character is Peter Finch's, though he's only in the film for a few scenes. His final moments are subtle and restrained and there's a nice reference to Wagner that reminds one of some of Powell and Pressburger's better films.

Twitter Sonnet #517

Latex harvests are decoys to clothespins.
Grains of coin were discharged from the vendor.
Hell hath choruses of Teddy Ruxpins.
Dried old paste alone can't hold the fender.
Lead crocodile egg cartons stop sound.
Avalanches of Starburst warped the deal.
Orchid fingers scrunch a fertilised ground.
Suggestive petals make the reference real.
Guillotines can lean sympathetically.
Executions avidly just peg gifts.
Uranium grins hypothetically.
Monsters see over tables wearing lifts.
Graceful fountain drinks now gurgle sweetly.
Pillows stacked in the door bend completely.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fate Sewn in his Cloak

It has great atmosphere and a wonderful story but I think the most remarkable thing about 1996's Arcane Sorcerer (L'arcano incantatore) is that it has stride for its period. I mean, like a samurai whose casual walk tells you he has almost supernatural familiarity with swordplay, Arcane Sorcerer is a period film impressively comfortable with its period. It's as though it was actually made by people from the eighteenth century.

The movie opens with priests interviewing a young man, Giacomo, who, having been coughing up "filth and worms" for days seems to be possessed. We don't see him as he talks to the priests because he's hidden entirely in a shadow. He tells his story to them which forms the bulk of the film, beginning with how he was expelled from seminary school for impregnating a young woman, an upholsterer, and forcing her to have an abortion. How he then sought audience with a witch, who spoke to him from behind a mural with two holes cut into the eyes of an owl.

She arranges for him to become assistant to a defrocked priest who lives in exile in a remote tower. In Giacomo's journey by carriage to the Monsignor's tower he finds himself in the company of two gossiping clergyman, an old woman, and her grand daughter who had just recovered from an illness that had seemed fatal. It's Friday so the old woman begs the indulgence of the clergyman for the anchovies she had prepared in a jar for the journey.

"Of course," says one of the men and she happily distributes some to them before the carriage stops to change horses. All this is done with such solid artistic tread--especially in the last ten years, it's rare for anything "period" to happen in a movie, like eating fish on Friday in a Catholic country, without feeling like a conspicuous announcement. Here, the sight of the fish and the men gobbling them up feels like a natural part of the milieu and incidental stimulus for the kind of story Arcane Sorcerer is.

Giacomo finds the defrocked priest's former assistant, Nerio, has just died under mysterious circumstance, perhaps involving black magic. His wide eyed corpse is wrapped in linen on the kitchen floor when Giacomo arrives and the porter cautions him not to touch any part of the body as they take it out and bury it in a crude grave.

The Monsignor's home is filled with books accumulated over a lifetime and a big part of Giacomo's job is just to comb the shelves for whatever titles his master desires for the evening.

The Monsignor tells Giacomo that the curia misinterpreted his researches into Satanic literature as a genuine interest in the black arts. This mirrors the question of Giacomo's self-worth and fundamentally the movie seems to be a spiritual battle we know from the beginning the protagonist is destined to lose.

The witch, as collateral, asks him to give her the tarot card he keeps sewn into the lining of his cloak, a card which once belonged to his deceased mother. The little girl on the carriage gives him a message from his mother in purgatory and draws a flower on his hand to protect him from the Evil One. Later the Monsignor tells him how throughout his life there have been episodes where he has come across individual Tarot cards, each episode gathering strength to his impression of black magic.

Giacomo certainly doesn't seem a particularly heroic fellow but, like a good noir, one feels dread witnessing his existential downward spiral.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Updates from Various Lives

Last night I had a very vivid dream of talking to Roger Ebert on a veranda at sunset in a lightly forested tropical region. He said many things to me but the only thing I remember is, "The trouble with wisdom is that it makes you think you're old." Those are the exact words--not that wisdom makes you feel old but that it makes you think you're old.

It's been a long-ish day. I went to the clinic because some family members had urged me to get a shot for the hepatitis A that was found to be in frozen berries sold by Costco which I'd eaten a handful of a month and a half ago. My doctor told me to-day they don't give shots to people unless it was less than two weeks after eating the berries. So he just took my blood pressure which he called "Perfect."

"What's perfect blood pressure?" I asked.

"Yours!" he said and added, "114." He told me 70 would have been more perfect.

I hadn't visited a doctor since 2011 during a weird three year period of medical troubles. Hopefully my luck holds out.

My grandmother's in town from Tennessee and has pretty much nothing to do if I'm not with her so I guess I'm going to be short on time until she leaves next week. I wish I could divide myself into two people and leave one of them home working on my comic.

My friend Cosmin has set up a parcel for Second Life's tenth birthday celebrations. The parcel is exhibiting chess in SL and my club, The Queen Alice, is represented, though nothing I could do would convince him to put the "the" in front of the name. "It's supposed to be like a ship, like the Queen Elizabeth," I said. Cosmin's German, maybe this little bit of English weirdness doesn't translate. But he's done a nice job and I'm happy to be part of it.

I contributed the magnolia which I purchased from a tree maker named Nadine Reverie.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Yesterday's Con

I was cleaning out the trunk of my car yesterday which has mostly remained undisturbed for ten years. I've used it just as storage all this time--among all the pre-prequel Star Wars books, various sketchbooks, and presumably destroyed Nintendo games I found this;

It has some water damage on the upper right but otherwise it's in decent condition. 1995 might have been my first Comic-Con, I'm not sure. I've gone annually for at least ten years but it was sporadic before that. In 95 I was a sophomore in high school. I have no memory of what I did at the 95 Con. It might've been one I went to with some friends from school, in which case I'd have spent most of my time in the anime theatres. I remember relatively clearly seeing Tenchi Muyo for the first time at the Comic-Con.

Inside the book is the usual rundown of special guests among whom we find a youthful Neil Gaiman;

Youthful--wait a minute, I'm 34 now. Damn.

The only other names among the guests I recognise are Harvey Pekar, Stan Lee, and Sam Keith.

Every year, the Comic-Con book has a lot of full page artwork from various comic book artists celebrating whatever anniversary it happens to be that year. In 1995 it was the 100th anniversary of the Comic Strip, the 40th anniversary of Mad magazine, the 50th anniversary of Katy Keene, and for some reason the year was a celebration of villains;

Here's why superheroes should never take sculptors into their confidence;

This was by an artist calling himself "Dire Wolf". I do wonder what became of most of the artists who contributed work.

Here's one by Vampirella co-creator Trina Robbins;

Twitter Sonnet #516

Questions arise when arrow magnets burn.
Box shaped hearts confound love's comedian.
Melted plastic hammers drip on the fern.
Broken glasses grant blurry Albion.
The butterfly broccoli crawled out of sight.
A styrofoam scalp tore from chopstick plugs.
Soggy takeout trickled a soy sauce blight.
Stone and steel don't love you as much as pugs.
Isolated icicle socks can't chill.
Ornate network cables adorn the king.
Senate pastry chefs chose to sign a bill.
The Gingerbread House is softly blinking.
Nine pale tomatoes stacked across space-time.
Eyeball business brought toucan crinoline.