Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Church In a Church

The recurrent theme in the first season of Broadchurch seemed to be witch hunts. It's a murder mystery with a large cast, much like Twin Peaks which influenced it, but one of the things that makes it different from Twin Peaks is that it features people coming together to hate individuals they feel are guilty of the murder or of other things. Not knowing who the killer is prompts the viewer to examine the validity of the mob response. Oddly, this is one of the things that makes the show feel smaller in scope than Twin Peaks but at the same time it's interesting and helps make the mystery genuinely engaging. The performances on the show are good though some of the melodrama, particularly involving cheating husbands, feels a little cheap. But that may be a personal thing for me--I simply don't understand what's so hard about avoiding steamy secret love affairs. I seem to avoid them all the time.

Several people are accused of paedophilia because the murder victim is a child. Scenes of one character facing an angry mob over the subject distinctly reminded me of a first season episode of the British version of Being Human. Considering a number of high profile celebrities in Britain--Jimmy Savile, Pete Townsend--have been caught up in paedophilia scandals it's maybe no wonder writers are interested in the vigour with which the public turns on these figures.

I kind of wish more of the people on the show had actually been guilty of a thing or two. Particularly in one case where it turns out someone had actually done something very noble and is protecting someone else by keeping quiet while the world thinks he'd made a horrible blunder. I would have pointed writer Chris Chibnall to the effective central point of tension in Kurosawa's Stray Dog, Toshiro Mifune's very real guilt about allowing his gun to be stolen.

But there is plenty of ambiguity to chew on, especially in the final episode though in it the show opens a can of worms it doesn't quite take the time I felt it ought to have in exploring. But it gives you something.

Twitter Sonnet #631

Gentle cobweb mantel holds a candle.
Tangled thin roots make rings of hard breezes.
Horseradish meteors crack and kindle
A sequinned metal vein drips and teases.
Tin can kidneys contribute a pure rust.
Diamond knuckles carve circles in the mitt.
Quartz and sapphire made eggplant stone dust.
Watching the wheels go round and round the pit.
Great muscles dominant the small shop stool.
Barbers pile senselessly by the Seine.
Alkaline bonnets negotiate school.
Puzzle foreheads lock into a vast plain.
Clamshells hold delicate DVD pearls.
Reflective disks delight all boys and girls.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Apple Core

The curb next to where I parked this morning for school. Trees were dropping these purple petals everywhere.

Class started at 9:10 and I got out of there at 9:30. The final was only twenty questions and I think I knew all but one or two of the answers. I'll definitely miss my physical anthropology class though I don't think I did as well in it as I would have if I'd had it in the evening. I've determined I'm just not wired for daytime. "Night time is my time," as Laura Palmer said.

Guys were at my apartment working on patching the ceiling so I went to Napoleone's Pizza for lunch where I sat and read Bleak House while eating. Napoleone's is in National City, near Chula Vista--Tom Waits worked at Napoleone's and lived in Chula Vista. I don't know Chula Vista very well so I wandered a bit in it. I saw this huge raven in a parking lot.

She picked up that whole apple core and flew away with it. I wish I'd gotten a better picture.

So next week my mission is to finish colouring the third issue of Casebook of Boschen and Nesuko. I've had all the pencils and ink done for a month. Hopefully distractions will be at a minimum.

A couple days ago, I coloured while listening to Destination: Nerva, one of the Doctor Who audio plays featuring Tom Baker as the Doctor recorded just a couple years ago. Written by Nicholas Briggs who voices the Daleks and Cybermen on the new series the writing isn't nearly as good as the TV show in any era. It feels like fan fiction, beginning with the Doctor and Leela just after the events of the The Talons of Weng-Chiang and follows them as they track an alien transmission from a manor house in the Victorian era. They wind up on Nerva, the station featured in The Ark In Space and Revenge of the Cybermen. A Victorian English gentleman endeavours to make an alien culture into another British colony and puts the Doctor in the position of persuading the aliens that humans eventually grow out of the madness of imperial Britain. It's not bad though a bit broad. But Baker lends all his familiar charm to the performance though he sounds a bit older. Louise Jameson, however, as Leela sounds exactly the same, like she travelled in time from 1977. It was nice Briggs gave her a very proactive role in the drama, her abilities as a warrior frequently influencing the story's direction.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Weird Petals Life Plucks

When you can trust nothing else, you can trust whiskey. Bourbon or scotch, generally, but you get the feeling any variety would suit the people in 1946's The Blue Dahlia. Maybe everyone needs anaesthetic after being hurt so many times. The one seemingly trustworthy connexion the protagonist makes in the film comes out of nowhere, in the night, like a fairy tale, and is all kinds of suspicious. With a screenplay by Raymond Chandler, this is more of a clever and exciting crime adventure film than film noir but it has plenty of noir elements, most significantly in its portrait of existential wilderness.

Alan Ladd is navy pilot Johnny Morrison who comes home at the beginning of the film to find his sauced wife Helen (Doris Dowling) partying with a bunch of people he doesn't know, including a well-to-do gentleman named Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva) who's a little too friendly with her. Johnny and Helen are living with the memory of a dead child which may explain Helen's heedless lifestyle until she confesses to Johnny the child died due to her inattention while she was partying.

Chandler was off the booze when he started writing this script but soon had to start drinking heavily in order to finish it. Which may explain how on the one hand alcoholism is faulted for the death of a child but on the same token characters happily ask for things like "Bourbon with a bourbon chaser".

Harwood owns a nightclub and the title of the film comes from both his obsession with the flower and the name of his club, The Blue Dahlia. In my favourite sequence, Johnny, on the lam while he's under suspicion for his wife's murder, is approached by a conspicuously dishonest guy outside the club who asks him if he's tired of carrying a suitcase around, offering to take him to a place where he can get a room. Once they get there there's a really neat, quick series of clever moments from Johnny getting shaken down, to covering for the guys shaking him down, to aiding in an arrest, to getting a hotel room.

There are a lot of moments like this in the movie where what looks like one thing turns out to be another and then another. There are a lot of people who might have killed Helen, we're presented with three strong suspects--I won't spoil for you the killer's identity. Maybe the most intriguing of the three, though, is Buzz (William Bendix), Johnny's friend from the navy who has a plate in his head and has frequent memory lapses and mild auditory hallucinations. In a world where you can't trust anybody, this big brute, who antagonises any "copper" who comes close, is especially lost in the woods. He can't even trust himself but he's always ready to fight for principle.

Veronica Lake plays Joyce, the unlikely trustworthy person who offers Johnny, a stranger, a lift on a dark rainy night. He tells her it's not wise for her to take chances on strangers like him. She says, "It's funny but practically all the people I know were strangers when I met them."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Days of Future Hats

I went through three trailers for X-Men: Days of Future Past to get a screenshot of Jennifer Lawrence in this fantastic hat. I was fine with her take on Mystique before but now I'm in love. Michael Fassbender also gets a cool hat though, like Mystique's, he only wears it for one brief scene.

So hats. But otherwise? A really good movie, the most solid of the X-Men films and a worthy follow-up to X2--I don't acknowledge the existence of the Brett Ratner directed X3 and it's a relief that this new film pretty much doesn't either aside from carrying over a few cast members--like Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde about which I most certainly have no complaint.

More than anything, Days of Future Past shows what a difference a decent director can make. It's of course a great assembly of fantastic actors but it's Bryan Singer who shows us how great they are by putting together an action film where the action is a real and vital part of the lives depicted on screen. The themes at play are again whether or not humanity and strange, exceptional beings can co-exist. Yet mostly one is wrapped up in the relationship between Professor X (James McAvoy/Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Michael Fassbender/Ian McKellan), and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Dealing with time travel, the film features the older versions of the characters and the younger versions introduced in First Class, which is not a bad film but not half as good as Days of Future Past. We never see Rebecca Romijn in the film because she possibly never existed in the timeline we see--having been killed for her DNA when she was still Jennifer Lawrence in order to make the rather effectively terrifying Sentinels. Thinner, faster, and stranger than their comic book counterparts, you genuinely fear for the mutants fighting them even though Blink's teleporting is as impressively fast and dynamic as Nightcrawler's in X2--rather a shame Alan Cumming so hated the role and won't return.

A few reviews complain about a lack of a "clear villain" while others praise the film for having all the characters possess valid points of view even if they violently disagree with each other. I would say the critics in the latter category are a lot more mature and get a lot more out of their fiction. It is indeed a strength, not a weakness, that we understand the passion with which Magneto declares war on humanity. A scene where Mystique discovers autopsy files on mutants is rather powerful and one certainly doesn't fault her for feeling as she does afterwards.

Twitter Sonnet #630

Obstetrician octopodes don't steal.
This bowl knows just nothing of the forceps.
Idol pregnancies make God statues real.
Octopus Jesus had sixteen triceps.
Never sigh nerves save the foil baby.
Folded stations orbit jelly giants.
Choirs of fibre lift the oat navy.
Badly parked car whales make easy clients.
Dystopia Charles was never Chuck.
The blue gymnast took over Vietnam.
Nixon built a wooden duplicate duck.
Bub was born before pads and CD-rom.
Extra boots have no useful freezer box.
Lilliputians improvise beds from socks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Coexisting with Willing Parties

Here's your Setsuled's POV shot of a cat, Magda, the stray who hangs around my apartment complex. Where my hand is is the extent of my reach--upon seeing me, Magda trotted up to a spot behind some elevated shrubs where I couldn't reach and proceeded to roll about on her back and look at me perplexed as to why I wasn't petting her.

I hadn't seen Magda in over a month--the family who lived across the hall from me and who mainly seemed to take care of her moved away and I assumed they took her with them. But now she's back and she looks a bit thinner but I suppose she must be getting food from somewhere. Maybe mice, bugs, and lizards. I'm considering leaving food out for her but I'm not sure where to. My little patio isn't part of her usual rounds. It'd be easier if she'd let me pick her up and show her where my patio is. But as the song goes, I can't get next to her. I even tried the "slow blink technique" that's supposed to make cats more comfortable around you. Maybe it just made Magda comfortable with staying a discrete distance from me. I tried the same technique with the lions at the zoo last week and got about the same reaction.

To-day's the last day of my health class. This day did not come too soon. What'll I miss most? Having weekly assignments to define words like "gratitude" and "courtesy" or having gender stereotypes taught to the class as fact? A couple weeks ago, the instructor told the class about how women are much better at multitasking than men. That's true enough, if you only read the headlines of articles like this one at Huffington Post which says, "Women Are Better Multitaskers Than Men, Study Finds". The article itself, while still couched in leading rhetoric, will tell you what every other article on the subject will (sometimes grudgingly) tell you about the 2013 study--the only study these articles seem to talk about. They'll tell you that in most situations men and women were equally bad at multitasking but in a couple specific tests women were only 69% worse at tasks that men were 77% worse at. This isn't something you ought to teach in class about the fundamental differences between men and women. The headlines of these articles really ought to read, "No-one's Good at Multitasking So Try and Avoid It If You Can". Because I'd say talking men and women out of texting while driving or riding bikes is much more useful than stomping a wedge through gender politics.

The general bent of my health class instructor's lectures on the differences between the sexes actually leans more towards misogynist. She repeated the idea that men think about sex constantly, saying that they can't help it, and that women shouldn't "withhold sex" from their boyfriends just because they're mad about something else. In 2014, a college professor has implied that men should expect sex from their girlfriends as a right. Am I really so in the minority in feeling insulted by the idea that I wouldn't mind having sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with me?

Of course, this pales in comparison to more violent acts prompted by misogyny in the past couple weeks. The shooting in Santa Barbara that left seven dead and the attack on two members of an all female pop group in Japan bear some telling similarities and differences. Three of the people who died in Santa Barbara were stabbed but one can't help but consider the two women in Japan who were attacked would certainly be dead now if the perpetrator had been able to get his hands on a gun. And maybe four fewer people would be dead in Santa Barbara if the killer had had more trouble getting his hands on a gun.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Who May Force a Shot

An honourable man finds himself in the middle of a complicated drama in the all but lawless old West, a drama where ranchers use guns and patriarchal tradition to muscle their way through life. Considering one of the best things about it is its complexity and psychological layers, it's a little disappointing there are only two kinds of women in 1947's Ramrod. Well, only two women--a good boring one and a bad muddled one. But Joel McCrea delivers an engaging performance and there're a lot of beautiful compositions.

This film reunites the stars of Sullivan's Travels, Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Lake is the bad girl though only according to the film's moral stance on women. She plays Connie Dickason whose father wants to force her into a marriage with Frank Ivey (Preston Foster), a cut-throat, ambitious rancher.

Connie wants to marry another rancher but, when he flees town after Frank and his gang threaten him, Connie ends up deciding to run his abandoned ranch on her own despite Frank's determination to take all the grazing land for his cattle.

McCrea plays Dave Nash, a hired hand and drifter with a deep sense of justice. He's torn because he hates the underhanded and vicious Frank but he understands why ranchers would be upset with Connie's initial plan to have sheep on the land which ruins it for cattle.

It's in its portrayal of Connie that Ramrod feels sort of like two completely different creative voices are working on the film. In some scenes, particularly the ones where Lake's hair is down and looking very 1940s, it feels like we're meant to sympathise with her desire to run her own life. In others, particularly where her hair is up in a more truly late nineteenth century American style, it seems like we're supposed to regard her schemes as a horrible cold-blooded ambition.

Bill Schell (Don DeFore), a hired gun Dave brings on as part of a group of men to work and protect Connie's ranch, is an illuminating counterpart to Connie and forms a crucial part of the film's moral philosophy. When Connie learns Bill picked a fight with a man just to shoot him dead, she lets him in on her plan to stampede her own cattle and make it look like Frank did it so the doggedly law abiding Dave is finally pushed into taking the law into his own hands against Frank. Bill, who hates Frank too, is all for the plan.

Bill's introduced in a shot dangerously close to violating the Hays Code, in bed with another man's wife, but I guess the shot passed because the actress had her feet on the floor.

Moral transgressions by Bill are shown to be charming and there's an implicit affection between him and Dave even though the law abiding Dave knows full well the sort of things Bill is up to. But Connie stampeding her own cattle is a horrifying betrayal of everything good and holy in Dave's book. So the movie finds him leaning towards the good girl, Rose (Arleen Whelan), who, sixth billed, spends the movie tending wounds and looking supportively concerned.

Dave's struggle between adhering to the law and doing what's right is the best part of the film. The elderly sheriff played by Donald Crisp is friends with Dave and at one point Dave is forced to sadly realise, in a good line, that he'd made a mistake leaning on the law when really the law was, "just an old man." It's a shame women aren't allowed in the moral ambiguity club.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Best Flower

To-day just got away from me somehow. The excuse I'm giving myself is that Sunday's are supposed to be lazy, at least according to Calvin and Hobbes. I watched Gilda, I watched Alien, I watched part of King Vidor's Solomon and Sheba before I realised the file quality was just too low to tolerate. I kept meaning to do something more productive and kept not.

For lunch I reheated some quinoa I cooked last night. It was the first quinoa I'd made in a few years--it's a lot easier on the stove. A reminder I've only dared do something as simple as use a stove as recently as two years ago.

Quinoa in the microwave is a ridiculous exercise. I remember I did it on New Years with the Sci Fi channels annual Twilight Zone New Years marathon on the TV. I don't even know if Sci Fi still does that. I think I went through five episodes of the Twilight Zone endeavouring to cook one small bowl of quinoa which needed constant attention because it kept starting to boil over.

In the pot last night, it was a simple matter of letting it come to a boil then simmering for fifteen minutes while it absorbed the water. I meanwhile sauteed some mushrooms and onions to add to it. The leftover quinoa I had to-day with some microwave cheese and green chili pepper tamales.

According to the bees, though, nothing beats this flower:

I saw this at school a couple days ago. Of a whole shrub of this particular flower (I don't know what it's called) the bees were going just mad over this one.

To-day I also got sidetracked by a discussion in Second Life with several European friends about morality and European politics. I learned to-day there's a National Front in France very similar to the one in England. The Brit in the room wasn't sure if one was an offshoot of the other. I found it rather funny that an isolationist group might spawn chapters in other countries. I wonder if they have an agreement to fight each other once all their mutual enemies are disposed of.

Twitter Sonnet #629

Farm-fed Force users have no lightsabres.
Drum trap jaws pull sagittal crescendos.
In oyster orchards Pearl Woman labours.
Tabasco is the sauce of tornadoes.
Fish monger Monopoly assets slip hands.
Triforce napkin holders make spoon mistakes.
Clipped plastic wings shiver through the wave bands.
The room's elephant's just in the out takes.
Yellow absinthe questions retreat through corks.
Salvaged raccoon masks adorn the cashiers.
Walking gull-wing flagship corvettes bend forks.
Simply shut down all the garbage mashers.
Quinoa kingdoms absorb rivers and streams.
When feet growing from backs walk the gut dreams.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pushing Ahead Into the Dark

Millions endlessly serving a collective whose character is defined by individuals endlessly seeking to sate selfish, physical needs. Are they insects or people? Shohei Imamura's 1963 film is called The Insect Woman in the west but the original title, Nippon konchuki, にっぽん昆虫記, leaves sex out of it, the literal translation being something like "insect as a symbol for Japan." Japan is spelled にっぽん instead of the normal 日本 to emphasise the old fashioned pronunciation "Nippon" instead of "Nihon". The film is a relentlessly brutal account of a woman's life from birth to old age in which she's continually reminded that human society is comprised of people taking advantage of one another.

The film begins in 1913 with her father (Kazuo Kitamura) registering her birth at a government office where employees laugh at him for actually believing the child is his when his wife gave birth only two months after their marriage. The father, Chuji, is a poor tenant farmer in an agricultural system that was still essentially feudal--he and the other farmers work the land for a landlord who commands an authority not unlike a medieval baron. When the landlord expresses the desire to essentially take Chuji's daughter, Tome (Sachiko Hidari), as a second wife, most of the cynical farmers think Chuji and Tome are crazy for trying to refuse. But Chuji and Tome have an unusual relationship.

Here Chuji squeezes and sucks a blister on Tome's thigh. She writhes on the floor in a manner resembling sexual excitement--she's been sleeping with her father since was a child. "Does that mean we're married?" she asks him when she's a little girl and he laughs and tells her it does. It's not explicitly clear if the two actually have sex. Oddly, theirs is perhaps the most loving relationship in the film. They seem at least to be emotionally honest with each other unlike every other relationship Tome has in the film as we follow her through decades living in Tokyo.

She falls for a guy she works with at a textile mill. He's a communist and reads aloud communist propaganda to the workers while they're at the looms but they all gossip and the machines are too noisy, drowning him out completely, so Tome shuts off the machines. The guy shyly asks why she did that and she says it's the only way they'll hear him. He awkwardly reads a few lines of the propaganda before turning the machines back on--there we see the real depths of his ideological commitment. It's a falseness in his personality that Tome soon learns extends to his commitment to her.

It's a pattern that manifests in the government, too, as the end of World War II means the end of the faith Japan's people were taught to have in the emperor. A war in Korea that follows soon after is a reminder the Americans aren't what they say they are, either. "I thought the Americans were supposed to be peaceful," says Tome as she and some friends watch war planes fly past above.

Eventually, Tome finds herself working at a brothel where in one striking scene three women, in order to please a client who wants a virgin, take some blood out of the refrigerator to warm it. One woman accidentally boils it and ruins it but shrugs and bares her arm to draw fresh blood remarking how silly men are for wanting virgins anyway.

When prostitution is made illegal in 1956, and the madam of Tome's brothel goes to prison, Tome quickly assumes the leadership role, using her skills as a war time union leader to reorganise the women into a call girl network not unlike the ones still operating in Japan to-day. Now in a position of authority, Tome soon rooks the women far worse than their previous madam ever did but most of the money she makes goes to her husband, Karasawa (Seizaburo Kawazu). She calls him "Father". Of course he takes advantage of her.

Again and again, government institutions, religious institutions, and family institutions are revealed to be convenient fronts for sexual and/or exploitive relationships. There are some counterbalancing examples of sincerity but they seem to be malformed for having grown in such a world--Tome's relationship with her father is one example and a strange faith Tome has in a "mountain goddess" despite the fact that she joins an exploitive Buddhist cult which eventually leads her to the brothel. But she keeps a scroll representing the goddess in the rafters of one of her homes. At one point, water leaks through the ceiling and the scroll to fall on her head, giving the impression of the goddess weeping over her.

Friday, May 23, 2014

There are Greater Apes

All my running water to-day seems to be hot which I suppose means another round of plumbing repairs is imminent. At least the dehumidifier's gone so I got my first night of decent sleep in days. Or I was getting it until midnight when it sounded like someone dropped a cannon ball on the floor above me. Since this was followed by manly coughing and stomping and water running through the pipes I'm guessing this noise was from my upstairs neighbour's boyfriend. Something about getting up to pee at midnight or 1am, I've figured out, requires him to do something that sounds like a fifty pound lump of cast iron being dropped on the floor. In my entirely auditory observations, I'm calling this an example of Sonic Gender Identity Assertion--he separates himself from his relatively quiet girlfriend by making as much noise as possible. I'm not exaggerating when I say the gorillas at the zoo are quieter.

Did I mention I also went to the zoo on Wednesday? This is the female gorilla who would approach the glass where a group of early 20-somethings were gathered and then put her back on the glass. "With that kind of attitude you know it's a woman," said one of the guys. "Yeah," I thought, "and with an attitude like yours, an attitude like hers is what you deserve."

Anyway, I took only 75 pictures at the zoo. I'll post them at some point, probably. To-morrow I want to get back to writing about movies again now that I can watch one without competition from the big hot noise maker. The machine, I mean. The humans are a problem yet to be solved.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Outdoor Salt Water

Lying awake in bed with the noisy dehumidifier making my apartment into an oven I decided to try and see things from my upstairs neighbour's point of view. Maybe she has anxiety issues and she got the fish tank in an effort to bring more calming influences into her life and now the thing's turned into another massive source of stress. She probably has a dehumidifier up there too. So she has it just as bad as me and she probably has a lot of dead pets. My landlady said, in spite of what my neighbour originally said about the tank just exploding on its own, it had in fact been placed on a completely inadequate wooden fixture. My neighbour hasn't made any effort to apologise to me but she is covering all the repair bills.

Guys were just here putting plastic over everything when I got home yesterday. I'd received a 24 hour notice of workman entering my home about seven hours earlier and I'd wanted to ask the landlady at precisely what time I should be expecting people--as the notice just said any time between May 21st and May 28th--but I didn't feel like raising a stink. Might as well let them get it all over and done with as soon as possible. So I went back out to more adventure. I ended up taking over 300 photos yesterday. I'm posting forty-five of them to-day--the rest, maybe to-morrow, maybe just on my tumblr, we'll see.

I think I may finally need a new camera--I can't seem to get that black spot off the upper left corner of the lens. Most of these pictures are cropped.

Part of the reason there's so many is that I was endlessly enchanted by the bizarre, smooth shapes worn out of the rock with the tidepools in the crevasses containing so many complex collections of crabs and shells.

Julie Dixon on Facebook tells me these are "Conspicuous Chitons". They certainly were conspicuous--they were everywhere.

Once they gave up trying to get more bread out of me these seagulls started poking through the pools.

Hermit crabs.

This was a flat shelf that extended out several feet. Underneath:

The tiniest crab in the world.

Even an egret was there.

For some reason there were these two flowers on the rock where I sat last time I was there.

Twitter Sonnet #628

Stately beans grew pale above the sandal.
Dry sunlight read Republican bank notes.
A bill's fake if it shows Tony Randall.
And yet Lincoln about this never gloats.
Unbidden fish tumble through the eyebrow.
Knowledge notched the spear for a gold apple.
Doughnut bracelets squeeze the maiden ship's prow.
Sea light shines up in a loving dapple.
Gorillas wait for the pink bottomed hat.
Ice protein Prometheus stole the funk.
The mango manga's for hentai fruit bat.
Hey, Golden Gibbon, there's leaves in your bunk.
Social tigers chew on living banter.
Five hundred cards fill up the decanter.