March 9, 2010

Contributing to the memeflooding

I know, I know, I'm just being a viral marketing tool.

But I can't help it.

Please, please let this not suck.

Oh please.

So far, so good.

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October 11, 2009

I am seriously jealous of my nephews

...because they got to go Pumpkin Chunkin' this weekend. Better than that, Joe actually got to fire a pumpkin cannon, the lucky kid!

jojo chunkin'!

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September 27, 2009

Images for Sherlock Holmes story 'The Dancing Men'

I spent some time over the past couple of days reformatting some of the Sherlock Holmes stories from Project Gutenberg for use on my iPhone (I read in Safari, using the file:// framework addition hack via Cydia). In any case, I was not surprised to find that the Gutenberg version of the Holmes story The Dancing Men, available here as part of the collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes, did not contain the graphics of the 'dancing men' cipher messages that are central to the story. I was, however, surprised to find that I couldn't find a complete set of the messages on the internet (at least, not with 5 or 10 minutes searching - I'm lazy). However, I did get four of the six messages. Since one of the missing ones (message 2) was short, and the last was created using the others, I spent some time creating a full set of graphics for the story using cut and paste.

Since Gutenberg assures me that this tale is out of copyright, I offer this image set of the Dancing Men cipher images for anyone that might find it useful.

Here they are displayed separately:

Message 1:

Message 2:

Message 3:

Message 4:

Message 5:

Message 6:

E / N / V / R:

(Thanks to for the originals I used!)

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September 15, 2009

Quiet time

Apparently some large butterfly types enjoy kipping for the night on stone steps, like the ones in the park near my house. And also, apparently, iPhone cameras are completely useless in the dark, maybe even to Holga values of useless.


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September 11, 2009

There is hope for the future.

It comes in two flavors and both are WIN.

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September 10, 2009

Return what you have *stolen* from me

Me with one of my favorite recent acquisitions - a printed-on-canvas version, lovingly and meticulously reconstructed, of the Map from Time Bandits. Woohoo! Now I need to get it framed. Which is odd, really, since I have all my framed items in boxes two years after moving in because hanging things on the (rented, plaster, concrete-backed) wall of my apartment

The story behind the map and how to get one can be found on BoingBoing.

The MAP!
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August 20, 2009


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July 28, 2009

It's that kind of day...

I think I gotta call for it!

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July 26, 2009

Marketing done right

I pretty much never say "Hey, I wish I'd been there to get hit with this marketing ploy," have to say it now. Mad props and jealously, especially for anyone who actually got to play the cabinet version of Space Paranoids.

Flynn's ftw.

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July 25, 2009





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March 31, 2009

It worked for Star Wars, frak it

So it worked for a fatally bad Lucas movie. I think it'd work for Battlestar Galactica too. I dunno about you, but Ron Moore's sudden "oh it's all the Divine and unknowable" turn, after four years of a good science fiction show with hard explanations, fair on made me sick. So if I wasn't so goddamn lazy, I'd either try it myself or set up a website appealing to those with skills.


I mean, seriously. You've got four years of footage. The first hour or so of the finale can probably stand fine on its own if you cut out a lot of the flashback crap-ola. The second hour? Yeah, well, here's your chance to show us you're not the white-flag-waving type, and try to actually give us some satisfaction. Pick some stuff Moore and co. didn't explain, and explain it. Personally I like the singularity->time travel option, a la B5's War Without End, but what do I know.

Seriously. Somebody. Save this series from sticking in my craw as the most ever let down by its ending piece of really awesome television in history. Please. I'm begging you.

Battlestar Galactica: The Real Frakkin' Finale would do fine.

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February 16, 2009

New York Subways are a great convenience for all.


Even pigeons, who wait for trains in the tunnels like everybody else.

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December 25, 2008

Envy and Poverty

Good lord. Blade Runner looks unbelievable on a 65-inch HDTV in Blu-Ray. I predict I will be poorer next year, because I'm going to have to have one of these things (and this Blu-Ray disc set).
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December 19, 2008



...more sneaux.

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December 16, 2008




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November 26, 2008

This is too cool not to 'me too' link

Tilt-shift photography is cool. Tilt-shift video is cooler. Tilt-shift video of a monster truck arena is just...well...awesome.

Metal Heart from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

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November 15, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Well, it's a Bond movie. That's what I can say for it. Also, Dame Judi is as awesome as ever. As for the rest of it...damn it, we need to get Q back. Pronto. The only things that come remotely close to being a Bond gadget in this film are the Aston Martin DBS we see only in the opening sequence, which is (as a friend noted leaving the film) "not so much bulletproof as bullet-absorbent" and a Sony-Ericsson cell phone with omniscient capabilities.

But that's it.

Honestly, if we wanted to see someone dealing damage and practicing escape & evade with a completely wooden face, we could just make another Bourne movie. Where's the snark? Where's the moments of trademark humor to lighten the fare? Where's Q? Where, in fact, is anything resembling a plot?

Not here.


And not even a trailer for Watchmen. We had to sit through the fucking awful shilling for both The Day the Earth Stood Still (WHY, GOD?!) and the Tom Cruise vehicle Valkyrie. To say I could care less about either would be a lie. Ah well, the new Star Trek trailer was good ;)

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October 10, 2008

I love black humor.

From a Minuteman II LCC (Launch Control Center), via Jim Kirk's excellent page on Ellsworth AFB:

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September 12, 2008

I'd always wondered how new subway cars got into the system.

Answer: On a really big truck.

New car arriving

New car passing


For you subwayphiles, this is standing on the corner of 215th st and 10th avenue, under the elevated 1 train. The truck is (slowly and carefully) heading east into the 207th Street Yard of the MTA. The number (I think it's 9048, but I was using a cell camera in low-light with bright light sources, which is why it's all blurry - sorry) would indicate that this is an R160B car, intended for service on the N, Q and W lines - but the pictures of the endcap of the R160B on that page differ slightly. The center end door is different; there's no offside end window on the one in the reference picture, etc. However, the car shape looks right, and the numbering indicates this is one of the 260 Kawasaki 'B' (non-motorman?) cars from 'Option I' of the order, the first additional run of the cars - so it might look different. Also, it's likely that this end of the car is an intercar join end, with no motorman's cab, which is why the one in the reference pic looks different.

I love the New York Subway.

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September 3, 2008

I knew I was just another in a crowd...

...and the crowds' versions are better:

McCain-Tigh Collage

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September 2, 2008

Frak me

They're right:

John McCain


Saul Tigh

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July 25, 2008

My Hero.


Mo. Mo? MO.

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July 15, 2008

Hellboy II - The Golden Army

Hellboy was a great deal of fun, and cast extremely well. I went to see the sequel with high hopes.

They weren't rewarded. I think I enjoyed this movie more than my compatriots with me did, but it wasn't a great movie, and barely failed to be a good one. If I had to pick the single factor that hurt this movie the most vis-a-vis the first, it would simply be the loss of Professor Broom (which happened in the first movie, so don't scream SPOILER at me).

John Hurt, as Broom, brought a central anchor to the constructive madness that was the BPRD and crew. His father figure counterbalanced all of the inanity; or at least, each inane component of the movie seemed to lean away from him in a separate direction, making a circle of nuttiness. At the center, though, counterbalanced by all of it, he stood in benevolent control.

Not so in this one.

Tom Manning, Jeffrey Tambor's annoying but basically worthy FBI front man, had enjoyed a vindication of sorts in the prior movie. He and Hellboy, initially completely adversarial, had bonded by the end in a satisfying close to the movie's relationship plots. In this one, however, he's back to being ineffectual and almost contemptible, and there's no explanation as to why. It feels all wrong.

On the plus side, Ron Perlman is doing his usual excellent job as Red. Selma Blair is back as Liz, and despite getting a bit of a second-tier role, she's working hard at it and pulls it off. Abe Sapien is now both acted and voiced by Doug Jones, and it's better than the David Hyde Pierce voice-over from the first due to the better coordination. The monsters (trust Guillermo del Toro) are excellent.

The problem is the plot is not handled well (the plot itself is well built and could have provided all the requisite chases, escapes, successes, failures and dramatic tension required) as its timing seems off. The BPRD, rather than being a team chasing down a resolution, is more a chaotic soap opera worrying about its own self and only incidentally giving a crap about the whole saving the world schtick.

Anyway, that's as far as I'll go. I don't think I wasted my money, but Iron Man, The Hulk and WALL•E were all better than this movie.

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July 7, 2008


First things first: this is not a movie you need to see on a big screen. Period.

Having said that...

I enjoyed it because Will Smith is doing his usual good job. I just wish they hadn't handed him such a crappy movie to do it in. The upshot is that Hancock is divided into thirds. The first third is the 'drunken superhero bum' third, completely foretold by the trailer. The second third is the 'cliched redemption story' which the trailer also gives us the basics of. The final third? That's where everything comes apart. Completely.

I'll just say this: I enjoyed the first two thirds of the movie enough to not feel like I wasted my money, but honestly...the final third feels like it was pulled wholesale out of someone (not a writer)'s fundament during a panicky eleventh-hour rewrite. It's that incoherently bad.

I'll try to do this without spoilers. Basically, either adroitly avoid a backstory for a character like Hancock, or give us a consistent one - i.e. one we can believe in within the context of the movie. Don't just...Jesus, I don't know how to put it...wave your hands around weakly and mumble buzzwords that make no sense even if we extrapolate.

How about having villains that are within the context? As it stands, the final villains are too weak to be thrilling or scary, too grim to be funny, and have too little screen time for me to give half a shit. This is exemplary of the movie - where some movies are an 'action comedy' or 'dramatic comedy' or even an 'action drama' and pull it off by sprinkling scenes of both types throughout, Hancock tries something...different. Namely, the first third is 'comedy,' the second third is 'action,' and the final third is 'drama.' Er, well, the second and final thirds are a bit mixed. But there's complete ham-handedness when it comes to switching gears here; we can usually tell from the framing shot if a scene will be (check one, please) Drama, Comedy or Action. And just determining where we are in the runtime will be usually enough of a shortcut.

The characters? Well, other than the aforementioned villain problem, they all make sense for what they are - with one ENORMOUS exception, which I won't tell you but will be so obvious you'll retch. Ask yourself: what is this person's motivation? For anything they do? If you can figure it out, tell me - I want to know. I honestly couldn't figure out why they do anything they do, *or* why I'm supposed to be sympathetic.


Will Smith is funny.

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July 3, 2008


zOMG. That was quite probably the best movie I've seen all year. Including Iron Man. I can't begin to explain how much fun that flick was. I strongly recommend that you borrow kids to take with you, or to see it during the day when kids are there - not because you need them, but because the only thing that could have been better would have been to see kids laughing and responding to it rather than the smattering of adults in the theatre late on a weekday night.

I caught the following tropes/references on the first time through, and this is just a smattering of the total I'm sure (some minor spoilers):

  • Cockroaches and Twinkies will survive us.
  • Macintosh II boot chord.
  • Almost all of 2001, including:
    • Red-lit camera lens on:
    • Potentially hostile ship control computer
    • Also Sprach Zarathustra all over da place
    • Secret Orders to the computer
    • Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal
  • Possibly a Silent Running homage
  • All kinds of Apple references besides the boot chime (an iPod, Macintalk, etc.)
  • Galaxy Quest (hint: ship's computer)
  • Classic Star Wars scene (hint: I had everything under control until...)
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home reference (hint: "Computer...?")
...and these, as I said, are but a few.

Wow. And the short beforehand? As close to a Looney Toon as anything I've seen since the originals.

That was a good night at the movies.

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June 6, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - SPOILERS

Finally saw the new Indy movie. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be the following: It was a perfectly good Indiana Jones movie that someone had slowed down to between 60% and 80% normal speed. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with it that a fan-based cut, a la The Phantom Edit, couldn't cure.

I give Ford full marks, because he's doing Indy just fine, with just enough of a nod to aging to be funny, and not so much that he's explaining his slowness or hamming for the cameras. All the 'slow bits' of the movie are between Indy's antics. Sequences go on too long (mine carts in Temple of Doom-style); jokes that are obvious are spun out explicitly to their detriment; and...there's these silences. I mean, seriously - there are whole seconds of the movie, sometimes up to fifteen in a stretch, where there's no musical score or explosions. I mean, Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.

Shia was just annoying enough to make sense, and not too annoying (to me, at least). It was great to see Marion. The Indy/Marion reunion fight was expected, but damn, I would have preferred if she'd hit him again. I have no idea what the 'Mack' character was supposed to be - crap, I understand Denholm Elliott's gone to the Last Crusade in the sky, but surely they could have gotten John Rhys-Davies? Or maybe him plus Marion would be too much to swallow?

Wait. This is Indiana Jones. And I just swallowed that whole movie.

So, in the end, I had fun - but it sure would have been an awesome movie if it had had all the same sequences and been 25 minutes shorter.

We won't even go into the actual main plot.

Okay, okay, I will. See, the first movie made sense there was a race between Good Guys (outnumbered and plucky) and Bad Guys (goosestepping and monolithic) to find an artifact of great and obvious power. One side wants to exploit it; the other wants to preserve it. Perfect. It changes hands several times, there are hijinks, and Indy and Marion work really well together. Nice:

The second movie...ugh, let's skip that for now. Suffice it to say that Crystal Skull, as another reviewer described it, is the third-best of four IJ movies.

The third movie - great! Another artifact of great importance and purity, and this time it's a race to find it - with the Good Guys still being chased by Bad Guys. The bad guys look like they have the upper hand - but the artifact itself is more powerful than both, and since the Good Guys have purer motives, they escape unscathed and unenriched. Great!

This movie? This is confusing. There's an artifact, except that it really points the way to a bigger set of artifacts. The Spaniards took it, then Ox took it, and now it needs to go home - where? Um, sorta hard to tell. Then the Rooskies are after it - why? Because it means 'power.' But without the easily-contextualized 'vulnerability' of the Ark or the Grail - i.e. powerful symbols of light, threatened by darkness - the tension just isn't there. We have no idea what we're looking for in this movie; we just have faith that Indy'll tell us. Even Indy seems at sea, relying on mystic brainwaves and the mumblings of his mad buddy to figure out what to do next. Wait, what? This is Henry Jones Jr., damn it, while he may make it up as he goes along, he ALWAYS knows what's up with the artifacts!

And then...ugh...the ending. I had such trouble with it. Here's why. First of all, if the Crystal Skull People (CSP hereafter) had been waiting all this time for the skull to be returned, why is their first act to destructively vamoose? They spent thousands of years teaching the inhabitants, and then somehow became separate Crystal skeletons sitting on chairs? What? And when the Spaniards showed up, they let them grab one of their heads? But when the head comes back (where it was originally) suddenly they're bad-ass and incomprehensible?

Um, makes no sense whatsoever. I didn't even understand what the KGB chick was looking for. If she doesn't know how to use one skull, what good will the others do her?

Yeah. The Roswell/aliens thing would have been an awesome Indiana Jones side-joke, wink wink, but it would have been more Indy if the 'real explanation' was something both more terrestrial and more mysterious. If the CSP had been caught up in the same quest we go on in the movie, and been beaten out by the obstacles - perfect. But no, there's a big fat McGuffin which was even sillier than the end of Fight the Future - and that movie won no prizes for making any sense at all, even in its own milieu.

Ah well.

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March 18, 2008

The Chichester Macbeth

A week ago last Wednesday evening I took a trip to Brooklyn and left my world. A friend and I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Paul Harvey Theater and saw the Chichester Festival Theatre's production of Macbeth.

Just to get this out of the way: that was one of the (and possibly the) best production(s) of Shakespeare I have ever seen. I just know that I'm still openmouthed, days later, when I spend any time thinking about the show.

The Production

I have some small background from long ago in technical theater. As a result, probably the first thing I see is the set and lighting design. I never worked in sound, so although I'll notice extremely good, very interesting or abysmally bad sound work, I won't really register good, solid production work. One of the first things you can analyze about a Shakespeare production is the choice of sets. The original stagings at The Globe Theatre were, if history is to be believed, minimally built and propped, eschewing realism for production flexibility. As Shakespeare migrated to film, however, increasingly realistic (or even location) sets came into use as the technology made this possible. Modern theater productions, with their access to advanced staging technology, have a dizzying choice of styles. Some shows remain minimalist; others make clever use of a limited number of detailed sets, and some become interpretive - using scenery and props deliberately different from those which Shakespeare and his troupe would have had.

There are a few reasons a show might go the interpretive route. One is that the adaptation of the show to a 'new' or 'non-period' production is, in itself, one of the dimensions in which modern productions of Shakespeare can differentiate themselves without changing the actual text of the play. Sets and costumes can be used to evoke particular sets of imagery and ideas in the audience; in fact, mere hints, when done skillfully, can serve as 'shorthand' for entire realms of transposition.

This is the path that Rupert Goold appears to have taken. When you file into the theater to be seated, the set is visible, with no curtains. The Paul Harvey theater has a low stage, with seating rising from the stage and the front seats on a level with the performer's floor. For this show, a single room has been constructed on the stage. But even before that is clear, I have to talk about the lights.

The entire height of the stage area, reaching all the way to the arch of the proscenium, is bared. The walls of the room at the bottom extend upwards to infinity, painted matte black to deaden them out of view, but no curtains or drops are used. As a result, the room that the stage contains would normally soar upwards, an open cathedral-like space.

Instead, hanging down to almost head height by cables, are a dozen or so shaded lamps, reminiscent of 1940s hanging lights. The theme, indeed, is one of the early middle 20th century, with grimy white tiled walls and, at the back of the stage, a doorway barred by sliding gates in the style of an early elevator. An industrial looking refrigerator looms against the back wall, a primitive-looking television set atop it, a call button for the elevator bracketed to the wall next to it. Across the stage, around the corner of the wall and past the doorway, there is a large metal work table (almost a counter) and an old-fashioned steam radiator sits against the tiled wall nearly at the stage left border. The walls end both stage left and stage right in a blank space where doors would quite conceivably be in this notional room. The lights, though - the lights take this soaring space, and by hanging the illumniation down to such a low level, coupled with the height of the tiled walls, manage to instantly convert this airy room into a basement. It's definitely a basement.

it might be a basement kitchen, or even bathroom, but it's a service room. At the front of the stage, displaced to the left, is a sink. It is a period sink, porcelain, deep, with two faucets; it rests on a spindly metal frame. The important thing to note about the sink, however, is that the back of it (which faces the audience) is unfinished; the edges are rough, and we can see the plumbing passing through it to the faucets. By this simple and subtle touch, the entire swath of air between the audience and the actors is transformed from open space into a definite wall - albeit one which is invisible to us. You can see the mirror half of the room which isn't there, just because the sink is so obviously mounted to this nonexistent barrier - the roughness of its back shows that.

And with that simple shortcut, a huge open space is transformed into a tiled basement.

Not just any tiled basement, though. There are all manner of cues, from the size and style of the tiles to the radiator, that evoke all the movies we've seen of World War II Britain or even buildings in the Eastern Bloc from the 1950s to 1960s. The fact that we know that Macbeth is set in Scotland pulls up the file of associations with the U.K. and wartime, however.

The opening of the show is violent, loud, and begins with warfare - and warfare involving artillery, with no doubt. The television lights to show us uniformed figures dodging through ruins - and Macbeth and Banquo come through the elevator entrance onto stage, wearing BDUs, carrying heavy packs, and with slung AK-47s.


Yep. Definitely AK-47s.

Oh-kay then.

Over the rest of the show, this space will become a kitchen, a torture chamber, a villa, a piano bar, a morgue, a hospital, a formal dining room, and even a train - all without making any change to the space itself other than the presence and dressing of two wheeled tables, themselves transformed from dining surface to kitchen counter to gurney. Brilliant.

The Cast and Acting

The first person onto the stage is perhaps the most well-known; Macbeth, in this production, is played by Patrick Stewart, with all his considerable skill. I have to say, though, that my two favorite moments of the show were both made so by acting, not tech - and neither involves Mr. Stewart. The assassination of Banquo is done on a train - and the train is created by the cast sitting in lines, at an angle opposite that which the tables are always placed (to emphasize the difference) and all in unison swaying as lights and sound are used to bring the train to life. It's a simple scene, but it's done amazingly well. The second, and one of the best single pieces of a performance, is when Ross arrives in England to meet Macduff and Malcolm - there to tell Macduff that his family has been murdered by Macbeth. The few minutes of this scene were absolutely exquisitely done. Michael Feast (Macduff) shone.

I'm not a huge theater fan, but I loves me some Shakespeare. Always have. I have an informal gradient in my head for judging what 'level' of Shakespeare I'm watching, and it goes like this.

At the lowest end of the spectrum, there's the 'reading' Shakespeare, where no matter what tech magic or staging and blocking wizardry, the show feels like two or more people reciting their lines in predetermined order, around a table. If there is any emotional content, it is individual; there is no emotional interaction.

One step up is (pardon my own purely descriptive labeling) is the amateur level. In a production of this quality, the actors are, in fact, reacting to each other in a comprehensible (if not necessarily believable) fashion. Usually, this means they have at the least managed to work in plausible stage motion, and are able to work on their stance, blocking and body language while also delivering lines. Moving up again, there is a 'professional' production. In this, all the elements finally appear and are interactive - line delivery, stance and motion, and technical elements. I should be convinced that I'm looking at a group of people, all working together; and I should have at least a notion of the scene they're trying to convey to me, as separate from the actual people and props on the stage. I might not buy it totally, but I should be able to get a picture of it, and it shouldn't have any noticeably dissonant elements.

After this, there are two ways that the production can attempt to lift the whole thing up a level. One is to appropriate a particular time and/or place in which to set the production; this might be the original setting of the play, or it might be some other time period and venue. If it is using the original setting of the play, then the technical production (sets, costume) and the secondary acting (language, accents if necessary) will matter a great deal. The process of 'transporting me' into the scene will depend heavily on how well these are done, because I don't have a 'picture' of Shakespeare's Scotland in my head. The original play is more notional than representative. If a production has exceptional work in these 'convincing' areas, then it will rise to the level of 'excellent Shakespeare.' It will transport me successfully.

There is another way to lift the production further, and that is to give it a unique flavor. This is even more difficult; in addition to just convincing me that I'm watching a scene in a known setting, a production may attempt to make a point by creating its own particular flavor. This is extremely hard to do; the actors are now tasked with not only making me believe that they are real people talking to each other about real things, but they have to convince me that they are in fact part of a self-consistent world that I have no direct cues for. The best fiction creates a believable world; the best and more ambitious fiction creates believable but unreal worlds, managing to make believability trump realism.

This production made a specific choice, as far as I can tell, to set the production in an unreal but describable alternate Scotland. It is Scotland; but it has some modern technology (vis. assault rifles and pistols, televisions and EKG machines and refrigerators). It is not our Scotland, though; and the ways it differs are what are fascinating. There is a flavor of fascism, not a specific regime, but fascism as it is known by the modern news viewer. The AK-47, weapon of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc]. The 'wartime' set, applicable to either wartime Scotland or Cold War Eastern Bloc, again. The costumes involve uniforms, and there are three major types - and what they are is informative.

In the initial scene, where Macbeth is returning from fighting an external invader (a 'legitimate war') - he and Banquo are wearing outfits which (other than their weapons) are very close representations of U.S. World War Two gear. immediately, when they return to their homes, they change into formal uniforms. The serving soldiers remain in a formal but gray/green outfit, reminiscent of the Soviet Army; the nobles however (especially the royals) change into a jet-black uniform strongly evocative of the Gestapo. At one point in the show, there is dance; the initial dance is a very German almost-polka, but some of the participants break into Cossack kick-dance. Again, 'Nazi' and 'Stalin' come to the fore.

What truly lifts this Macbeth, for me, though, is that in almost every case where I was most strongly pulled in I was pulled in by the actors, and by their interaction.

Completely pulled in.

I learned things about Macbeth (the play) that i hadn't known. At least five or six times I had to smother an 'Ohhhh.....' watching them. This show hit a level I have only seen once or twice - exquisite acting not just rising above the technical hinting, but incorporating it and making it absolutely integral to the end product.

Fun Bits

Food is all over this production. Mr. Stewart, showing his chops, delivers his 'briefing' to his assassins while making a sandwich late at night in the kitchen. He builds us up to wondering is he going to actually eat that? How will he do it without interrupting flow? Then, because he can, he does eat the sandwich, and he does actually finish a critical line while talking with his mouth full. Just to show us that he knew what he was doing, and yes, it would be funny. But he does it without losing the character of Macbeth - who is a man going mad (not driven mad) but going mad, poisoned by ambition. ,p> In the middle of the play, at the interval, we see Act III scene IV, which ends with the ghost of Banquo appearing to Macbeth at dinner. Macbeth cringes from the ghost, causing consternation among his guests; just prior to the ghost's appearance, he sees three of his serving girls move past him with daggers clutched behind their backs.

Immediately following the interval, that scene is redone, with Macbeth's whispered asides to his assassin completely replayed by the actors, but at twice the speed - and in silence. And this time, although Macbeth returns to the table, the girls have no daggers, and the ghost does not appear to us the audience - but he flinches, this replay showing us the scene from his guests' point of view. It's very, very well done.

During the assassination of Banquo on the train, as soon as the deed is done, all the various other passengers huddling in their seats rise and remove overcoats - and are revealed as the main cast, moving into set for their next scene. It's a simple trick to save time and cast members, here deliberately shown us, and again, it hammers home the elegance with which the play is being staged.

Damn, it was good.

Posted by jbz at 10:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2008

December 7, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

I don't expect anyone of the four people who read this blog to care about what I think about this movie.

Because it's my blog, I'm gonna write it up anyway.

I ended up crying at the end. Noting that I was sitting alone in my apartment watching the movie on a Macintosh screen, wearing headphones, slightly too cold because I hadn't reset the thermostat and surrounded by junk from my ongoing attempt to move to another city, my first thought was "This frigging movie made me cry, and considering that I'm single, it's a fucking waste."

Stranger than Fiction is a metaliterary film. Note how I slipped that pseudointellectual term in there? Good, because it's a metaphor. No wait; it's a pun. The film is both, in fact, metaliterary and pseudointellectual. It's so damn pseudointellectual that Dustin Hoffman plays a professor of English literature whilst Emma Thompson plays an author of significant works thereof. The movie is about writing, and about living, and what to do when doing both when you have too much or not enough information about what you're supposed to be doing.

Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell, is (at the outset of the film) the most routinized and boring individual ever seen, at least in this movie's world. True to form, he's an IRS auditor. Everything is going along fine as the narrator explains to us, over the movie's beginning minutes, what Harold's life is like over the course of one of his boring and identical weekdays.

The next day, Harold starts to hear the narrator too.

Not all the time. Just when he (as we the viewers know) is 'on script.' When he starts looking around for the voice's owner, talking back, or trying not to do things the voice is explaining that he's doing, it disappears, only to resume with a slight air of edgy impatience when he finally goes back to toeing the storyline.

This would be a run of the mill man-hears-voices story, save for two things. The quality of the cast (which, to my amazement at my own words, does include Will Ferrell) and the (ha!) writing. You see, Harold's in trouble. At one point, the narrator used the phrase 'imminent death.' While Harold (with the assistance of professor Jules Hilbert (Hoffman), to whom he was referred by a most bemused Linda Hunt, tries to figure out whether he's in a tragedy or a comedy and what he should do, the story - with the assistance of a pissed-off and meddlesome wristwatch - starts to loop about somewhat gleefully.

I won't say this is on par with or even in the same league as If On A Winter's Night a Traveller for metafiction; however, this is a movie. It's operating under a severe handicap of both form and time. Within that handicap's constraints, I must say, it does a really really nice job. The parallels between the ending of the story in the movie and the story of the movie made me smile while sniffling.

See, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), the author of this ongoing story/book/narrative, starts to have thoughts about what it means to live, as she thinks about what it means to write - and she starts to think about the characters that she's written and how they lived.

And it all changes.

I recommend this film for a good date movie. If you're a secret sentimentalist like me and weep buckets at a good Merchant/Ivory production, rent it with a bowl of popcorn and a good bottle of wine. Or whisky, which I can recommend from personal experience. Don't expect much that's important to come out of this. But as the film ends, think about what I just said in the previous sentence.

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November 20, 2007


Go to this url and watch the 'World of Warcraft Commercials.' They have Flash viewing or download.

"I'm William Shatner, and I'm a shaman."


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October 29, 2007

Nature has her say

Via Defense Tech:

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October 13, 2007


So the Fest locale has suffered a bit of an infestation. As it were.


...note that this isn't even all of them.

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August 6, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

"Somebody made me what I am. I'm going to find them."

The Bourne Ultimatum is the third installment of the highly popular series of summer action/adventure movies starring Matt Damon, loosely (very, very loosely) based on the books of the same name by Robert Ludlum. It was released August 3, 2007 in the U.S. market after a relatively short (for today's film industry) publicity campaign, relying mostly on the interest garnered by the first two movies to pull in audiences. The strategy seems to be working so far, most of the way through the first weekend of release; the movie is way up the box office charts.

It's difficult to review the third film in a series of three without offering spoilers, if not for the film itself then at least for the prior two. I hereby punt the attempt at retaining secrecy over the first two films; I have to assume (if you continue reading this review) that you've seen the first two and are interested in how this one compares to them. I will, however, attempt to be very clear about when the spoilers (for the first two) start showing up, and offer a bold face warning. Oh, yeah - be warned, there appear to be a lot of scenes in the trailer on the internet that don't actually show up in the movie. Not big plot-laden scenes, but it sure looks like there are some stunt/special effects scenes they decided not to use; and there are some voiceover scenes which are either lines from prior movies or are just plain not there.

There are, of course, things I can talk about prior to getting into how well the movie fits at the end of the trifecta (I really don't want to say trilogy because that term is so loaded, these days). For example, the filming, from a technical standpoint.

The Action

There's lots. Lots and lots and lots. Hoo boy. This film is essentially a 1:51 chase scene, with varying levels of plotline and ancillary violence thrown in along the way. Somehow, it manages to retain a PG-13 rating - I don't know how. Probably because there's no sex or bad words in it, just unending amounts of violence and property damage. If you think James Bond is a dab hand with a vehicle chase, that may be true, but if you think he's a whiz at vehicular mayhem, give over, Jason Bourne has it all over 007.

"Sir? Sir, he just drove off the rooftop..."

...stop whining, that was in the trailer. Anyway, if action is what you crave, then that's what you'll receive. Chases on foot, on scooters, in cars, you name it.

Lots of people get the bejeebus beaten out of them by Mr. Bourne during this movie in ways which are deliberately ambiguous as to their survival chances. If that was reality, no, they'd most likely be dead. In the movie? We don't know. We don't have time to wait and see, places to go, cars to steal, people to threaten, information to jack, countries to hop. The film starts in Russia, then shows us Italy, jumps to the U.K., then it's Spain, Morocco, etcetera, etcetera, faster than you can figure out what airport/ferry port/railway station you're looking at. Good thing The Hunt For Red October started the trend of that particular "THERE IS A COMPUTER PRINTOUT HAPPENING IN THE LOWER RIGHT SO READ IT NOW YOU DOLT" sound effect. You know the one, in military type use, when it's printing letter by letter? Yeah, that one. They use it. A lot. Because they have to tell you where we are.

The Filming

The filming is probably this movie's weakest part. There's one simple reason for this, and I will hereby sum it up in one mostly-made up word: The Unsteadicam. The Steadicam is a wonderful invention (see the node for more details). The problem is that someone, in recent times, discovered that a sense of extreme tension and urgency could be 'heightened' by having a camera jerk around as if the camera holder was themselves running and/or zooming in and out frantically. Probably it was one of those wankers responsible for The Blair Witch Project. For that alone, we need to hunt them down. But ever since then, movies with DRAMATIC TENSION have been giving in to the temptation to jiggle the POV like movies in the '50s and '60s used to go ga-ga for vaseline on the lenses when the female lead showed up and wanted a smooch. It's really getting out of hand.

No, really. I was almost motion sick during The Bourne Ultimatum. Twice. This has never, ever happened to me before during a movie. Except once. I'll give you one guess.

Other than that horrendous problem, the filming is fairly workaday. Good pans, some inspired work on rooftops in Tangier, and some so-so work during New York crowd scenes. There were a couple of scenes, one early in the movie especially where Bourne is trying to lead another person around via instructions in a cell phone, where although the gist of it came through fine - no small feat given the number of players in the scene - the technical challenge was such that there was really nothing left over to show me the surroundings. I could follow the action, but had no sense of where they were or what their surroundings were, or even felt like.

That, of course, may be deliberate. The edgy, technology overlaid over emphasized cultural cues scenery may be the movie's way of picturing 'the grid' which the principals have been talking about since episode one - if you show up on the surveillance systems of the U.S. and allied intelligence agencies, you're on 'the grid.' Every location on 'the grid' has an almost European style and look to it, a cool leather and metal design that would be perfectly at home in a very high end shopping center - but the architecture on which it is hung gives you the only clue as to where you are.

The Story - SPOILER ALERT (Not big ones, though)

Okay, skip here if you haven't seen the first two.

There is one very well done bit - remember the scene from the end of The Bourne Supremacy where Bourne calls Pam Landy at her desk in New York? Well, that scene is in The Bourne Ultimatum - and let's just say that context is everything. I don't know if they knew, precisely, how they were going to use that scene in the third movie when they filmed it for the second, or if some extremely clever writing went on to make it fit - but it worked quite well, let's just leave it at that.

The story is a bit of a problem, for me. It's as if they took the first two movies and smashed them together. There's a great deal of 'more of the same' down to the people we see (you'll know what I mean - at one point, I groaned and said "no, what is that person doing here? Come on.") Some of it is deliberate - Jason finds himself on the other side of some of the scenes he's been in in the first two, line-wise at least, and that's...interesting, I suppose.

There is a nod to current events in the plotline. It's not subtle. It's not even all that well handled. I thought it was completely unworthy of David Strathairn, who is a far better actor than the role he was handed here - but ah well. There aren't many complex roles in Bourne movies. There are cutouts, placed carefully on a lethal and fast-moving obstacle course which Matt Damon/Jason Bourne navigates with superhuman persistance, skill, lethality, and (I couldn't help muttering) healing power. I mean, damn, this guy gets beat the hell up.

There is closure of a sort. It's a Bourne movie, though, so despite Damon going on record and saying he personally is done with the franchise, he also notes that another actor could take it up (sorry, I don't have a reference. Google it, you'll find it.)

In sum? Exhausting, fun, a bit repetitive, but a great way to spend some quality time in air conditioning on an August weekend.

Thanks imdb!

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July 10, 2007

Anyone can cook!

Ratatouille. I have become a slave to Pixar's brand of humor, sanitized though it may be, because somewhere inside their compound of runaway mad supercomputer/desktop mules and LSD-derivative spatial visualizers there are indeed those who are slaves to the pretty.

Ratatouille is pretty. In the stolen words of Eddie Murphy, "It's prettah! It's SO-O-O prettah." Damn right. It doesn't try to push the limits of human modeling and tumble into the uncanny valley; it picks a style taken straight from recognizable caricature and drags it into modern 3D. Anyone who has read one of the Madeleine books will recognize the facial structures, which is appropriate since the thing is set in Paris.

We won't ask why the rats have American accents. Hey, at least most of the non-evil humans do too.


Never mind.

The plot is just long enough (not complex, long) to keep me exactly the right amount of interested in what's-gonna-happen. The imagery - unbelievable. I saw this movie the day after seeing Transformers, and it's like being served the two ends of the spectrum of modern effects and animation. Two entirely different but completely believable (believable as in visually consistent and convincing) worlds that pull you in. Personally, I think Ratatouille had it somewhat harder, because (as the cute sigil said at the end of the credits) it was 100% animated; no motion capture, no live action. They had to make all that not just funny but buyable strictly using what was in their noggins, and get it down onto film via electrons with rendering times in the hours-per-frame for the final product.

Damn, I'm glad that our economy, fucked as it is, presently supports that sort of activity.

I won't tell you what it's about, save to confirm that yes, it's entirely kid-friendly. There's some teensy violence (some people get tied up, albeit entirely offscreen in true cartoon fashion) and there's some scary-ride type stuff. Threatening gestures? Sure, from silly-looking people, but mostly...chases. Good ol' fashioned cartoon chases. Looney Tunes are way more violent than this.

And good God, they got Peter O'Toole to voice the food critic. SALUD!

Two paws up.

(The usual Pixar short beforehand, 'Lifted', was hilarious.)

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June 3, 2007


Wrote this review of Paprika for my other lack of life:

Paprika is an anime film, original title Papurika in its home market of Japan where it was released in 2006. It was made by Satoshi Kon from a story originally drawn from a 1993 novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui of the same name. Released by Madhouse Pictures, the film draws on well-known vocal talent, including voice actors from the Cowboy Bebop series and the iconic Ghost in the Shell films. It doesn't really resemble them, however.

Paprika is a story a story, that won't work.

In this movie, a team of psychiatrists has invented a device called the DC Mini. This much we learn almost immediately. The function of the device is to allow one person to intrude into another's dreams, observe, and record the events therein on computers for later study and analysis. Did you ever see the Dennis Quaid vehicle Dreamscape? Well, sort of like that.

But not really.

See, someone's stolen some of these things. The DC Minis, I mean. And there's this underground dream therapist, named Paprika, who is helping people using a DC Mini - but she doesn't really exist. Maybe. And then the stolen DC Minis start to invade people's waking psyches, causing damage-

...and then it gets really confusing.

But the beauty of it is that it only gets confusing for the characters. All the chaos and insanity (literal insanity, we're dealing with psychiatric patients here) that the makers of this film stretch and employ every last trick of anime to depict, as well as invent a few, is something that we the viewer never quite lose track of. The characters spend a great deal of time trying to figure out just what the hell is going on at any particular moment, and while we the viewers may spend a lot of time in the early part of the movie doing the same thing, once we are given enough information, we never feel like we've been left behind the characters. We're with them. The levels of confusion, as it were, bind us tightly together; we feel their dizziness and their struggles to comprehend, and it brings us into the action, behind the fourth wall.

There are some points in the movie where that fourth wall is metasyntactically shattered. Does that sound like a jumble of terminology? Don't worry, you'll know precisely what I'm talking about as soon as it happens. The whole film is like this. I was forcibly reminded (in a good way) of If On a Winter's Night a Traveler at some points.

And did I mention it's unbelievably gorgeous? While the animation is not as smooth as Ghost in the Shell or some of the more recent Hayao Miyazaki creations, the imagery is luscious. Coupled with music that runs the gamut from scene-relevant and absorbing to absolutely soaring1, the movie begs - cries out - to be seen on the biggest screen it can, with the best sound system possible.

There are some disturbing bits in it, which is only natural as it is a film which plumbs the deepest depths (literally) of its characters' psyches and drags them kicking and screaming into the outer world. Inner demons meet traditional Japanese apocalyptic scenes, here, and unlike movies which try for the complete mind game but don't pull it off (*cough*Total Recall*cough*The Usual Suspects*cough*) this one manages it not just once, but multiple times. And unlike Akira, it isn't a mind-numbingly exhausting cycle of endless destruction, but 90 minutes of thoughtful metaphor and explosive beauty.

Worth seeing.

p.s. the music from the film was composed by Susumu Hirasawa, and he has made a couple of tracks from the film (including the closing credits theme and outtakes from the track which helped make the preview so memorable) available for free on the internet. You can get them here.

If anyone other than me buys the soundtrack, do me a favor and listen to 'Mediational Field' which is what it sounds like 'Runner' is outtakes from. Is it me, or is one of the melody sequences incredibly evocative of Nik Kershaw's 'Wouldn't it be Good'? Heh.

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April 25, 2007

Nobody does dystopia like the British.

Finally saw Children of Men. Nobody does dystopias like the British. I wonder if it has to do with watching an Empire recede across the sands. If so, I wonder if the U.S. will get as good at it in the coming years.

Fuck, I'm a depressing wanker.

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March 3, 2007

It's not my fault.

Well, okay, it is, but I was led astray by bad example.


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December 15, 2006


Frakking frak mrmtrmbl sunuva frakkin' frakker Battlestar Galactica cliffhanger son of a...


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December 14, 2006

No, wait...

I like this one. shit...

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No, really. I shit you not.

It's a QT movie. Deal.

From here.

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December 4, 2006

Identify an Illustration?

Via mefi, I saw a link to a work by one Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius. While surfing a page containing some samples of his work, I came across the following image:

Lord Darcy?

I immediately thought I could identify the scene as being one from the story "Too Many Magicians," by Randall Garrett - one of the Lord Darcy stories. Here are my questions:

1. Am I right?
2. Is there, somewhere, a complete illustrated Lord Darcy? WHERE?!?!

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July 21, 2006

There is only one chance...

...and that is if nobody, I say again NOBODY says anything even RESEMBLING the word "dude" anywhere NEAR this. Because if the people involved are trying to go back to the feel of the B & W comics, I will believe there is a God.

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June 28, 2006

Otafuku Rex.

Thank you Screenhead. Check it.

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June 12, 2006

JB joins the JAMMs

Sorry - I have to fix my E2 references Macro, so some views of this may be mangled slightly with hardlinks and these things.

I'm The Doctor.


The United States has hairy-chested heroes (well, with their chest hair pomaded out) with Big Fucking Guns. In space. They split infinitives in the name of manifest destiny made steel, or duralloy, or transparent aluminum, or what-have-you, and they go as representatives of something Greater Than Themselves. They have rules that they are handed down by elders for the good of All, and they break them when needed - but it's a show when they do. Going places requires sturm und drang, and enough people to run a small town all fiercely concentrating on their jobs even if they have iron bananas sticking out of their ears, or blue light bulbs burning their retinae into their skulls.

Still, it's all great fun, of course. It's just that it's so...much. That's us all over though. Never do something simple like walk out the door. Make a plan, draw up a committee, have a budget, tax the nation, allow twenty percent for shrinkage, never buy one when you can have two for twice the price. Slip quietly out and have a peek at the endless reaches of the universe, maybe with a friend or two along? Naaaah. Better build a Dreadnought, Dick and Jane, because we're gonna damn will bring home along for the ride and damn the gas mileage.

Then, of course, there's the other method.

I have been a part- Whovian for many years, albeit not a very knowledgeable one due to my lack of consistant access to public-access television broadcasting here in the benighted colonies. As such, my experience with the first quarter-century of The Doctor is extremely fragmentary, made even more so by U.S. stations' tendency to show Who episodes in four half-hour slivers. Given that I didn't have a television in my home until I was of age to imbibe, much of my fascinated adoration of The Doctor's wanderings is hazy. It is part and parcel of a sort of muddled confusion of bad sets and costumes, inexplicable storylines made worse by interchangeable backdrops and planets which all looked like a Cornish countryside instead of southern California, and continuity errors which would cause Uwe Boll or Ed Wood to blush.

No matter.

The Doctor represents an entirely different sort of approach to Out There (capital letters included free of charge). While many folks have lambasted the new Doctor Who series, as reincarnated by Russell T. Davies in 2005, I find it captures this alternate approach beautifully. While US-ians have had heros with beat up spacecraft of dubious reliability, and have had heros with no particular destination or home in mind, we've rarely had one with both. Add on top a delighted air of wonder at it all that (so far) both Christopher Ecclestone and David Tennant have managed to pull off with different emphases yet identical open-mouthed glee, and you have...something different.

"Either you're with those who love freedom...or you're with those who hate innocent life."

"All inferior creatures are to be considered the enemy of the Daleks and be destroyed!"

"Well either you're with us...or you're with the enemy."

"We obey The One...we are the superior beings!"

George W. Bush and the Daleks, Dr. Who on Holiday by Dean Grey

The Doctor isn't a representative of a steely-eyed collective. He's not the tax man. He's not your mom. He's not here to make everything nice and pretty and paint the picket fences white. He's here for a few reasons, likely only one or two of which he'll share with you (if you're lucky) and of course because he can be - so why the hell not?

The TARDIS, the most constant character on the show (it doesn't regenerate - at least, not nearly as frequently) exists solely to wander not just space but time. The Doctor, who doesn't own so much as have a relationship with it, picks destinations by looking up at the sky and pointing at a star before dashing off into the callbox with the sudden happiness of a ten-year-old who has been told there's an entire flock of penguins in his bedroom and they really want him to come teach them to rhumba. No battlecruisers for him. There are plenty of warships and empires and Federations and Evil Death Rays and monomaniacal baddies in the Whoverse, but they're all...them. The Doctor doesn't even carry a weapon. Nope.

See, The Doctor is a nerd. Yeh. He carries a screwdriver.

"Who has a sonic screwdriver?"

"I do!"

"Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks 'ooh, this could be a little more...sonic!?'"

"What, you've never been bored?"

Captain Jack Harkness and The Doctor ( The Doctor Dances)

Well so okay, it's a sonic screwdriver, but that's another story.

Anyway, that's about it. Sure, there was a bad bit we won't talk about where he's involved with the military, and is exiled on Earth to save on scenery budgets, but really, let's move on. He traipses about the universe armed with the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife and his wits. This makes...wait a minute...this makes MacGyver look like a fucking piker. He didn't have a time machine, fer cryin' out loud! Much less one that needed not only repair but psychotherapy once in a while, usually at critical moments.

No wonder he ended up back in the arms of the military, where things are predictable.

Oh, yes, I was talking about music. See, there's a lot of it that talks about the Doctor. Why? Why so much about the Doctor, and so little of it (that's any good, really) about That Other Show with big primary-colored toy food and miniskirts? Well, That Other Show is great for namechecking. You have instant Geek Cred if you know enough about it to know your TOS from your TFF, or to know that the Impulse Drive has nothing to do with the word ' impulse' other than as a clever reference (Ha! Betcha didn't know that, didja?).

But the Doctor, now, that's different. The Doctor awakens an instant yearning in us all. At least, many of us. I think. I hope. Or I'm weirder than I know. But at least some of us, or there wouldn't be such a massively great response to music that is designed to make enormous crowds roar and sway and thrash their heads to the words of four-foot-tall Hoovers with terminal throat cancer. Nope nope. Try this: put on the theme to That Other Show. You can find it, of course. The one that has the pretty woman with the steel banana in her ear singing, even. See what it evokes in you.

Okay? I'll wait.

Great. Now go find a copy of Doctorin' the Tardis, by The JAMMs. Put that shit on. No? Okay, take the Dean Gray track mentioned above. Put that on crushingly loud. Crank it. Blare it. Listen to your head vibrate in tune. Now listen. Listen to the theme.

Maybe it only works if you've seen it, I don't know. But there's this appeal, which the new version of the show is perfectly positioned to proffer tantalizingly forward. BAM, here's the call box. Open the door. Walk inside. Keep your cool at the origamicybergeometric unfolding of spacetime inside, just to prove you're an openminded badass. Nod slightly, grin halfway, ask "what next?" and pray he grins back and points at an angle off into the sky without looking and says,

"That one."

Walk the fuck out of your life and the planet's miserable stagger. Wander. Go Walkabout. Put footprints on a world that no human's ever seen. Hell, find a world that no living creature has ever seen, and dance a jig on the surface - let the next group of thinking protoplasm bags to come across it spend six months trying to figure out just what the hell your footprints mean.

Find wonders we haven't room for down here. Look at them. Swallow your tears and fears. Live the danger.

But don't wait for The Guv'mint to take you there, with its rules and regulations and small-town-starships. Fuck that.

Walk into the box.

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May 26, 2006

12:00 12:00 12:00

...then 12:01, and time for X-Men: The Last Stand. It seems the Thing To Do when discussing this movie is to stake out one's ground first, so let me do that. I like comic books. I like the X-Men. I in no way have read even a meaningful fraction of the X-Men series, much less its multiple spin-offs. Ergo, I have a tenuous at best grip on what can laughingly be called its 'continuity.' I liked the first X-Men movie, and wasn't so thrilled with X2. I think Bryan Singer is overrated by those who discuss his directing.

I'll try to hold any spoilers until later, and label 'em clearly.

Okay? Okay.

Cheap escape: I liked the flick. Highly entertaining.

More depth: From what little I know, this movie takes the notion of continuity from the comic sense and laughs while wiping its ass with it. There's even holes when considered strictly as the third of three movies in a vacuum. But like a magnificent drunk, the movie just stumbles with divine grace across these holes and somehow stays upright through momentum. It's a summer movie, for Gawd's sake, it's not supposed to make sense. There's actually a story of sorts in there; one that connects with the prior two movies, so in that we are lucky. Looked at with one eye closed and the other squinting, it looks almost like it was planned as the third movie in an arc trilogy. Almost.

There are noticeably more explosions, effects, asskickings, and general mayhem moments than in the first two. Part of that no doubt reflects a higher budget, but part of it also reflects much less of a tendency to get angsty about the personal stressors of mutantdom. The stress is there and still plays a significant role in the story (if not the most critical!) but much less time is spent trying to coach marginal actors into producing believable expressions of personal conflict underneath DRAMATIC MUSIC to display INNER TENSION. More time is spent having said characters display their Issues by blowing the ever-loving shit out of some piece of scenery or even (in this flick) some hapless homo sapiens or even mutant who happens to be in the way - which, really, is what it's all about.

All hail the pyrotechnics teams.

Okay, some minor spoilers below. Nothing you wouldn't get from a close examination of the trailer, I promise.


Still with me? Okay. Some pluses and minuses. Here's one of my biggest peeves - Nightcrawler does not appear anywhere in this film. Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot. He was perhaps my favorite mutant; I was ecstatic when he showed up in X2, and they even did it right, making him one of that movie's high points. For God's sake (heh) he even bamfed properly! Give those people cigars! And then...what? He's just not there. We don't even get a throwaway line explanation of what the hell happened to him. We even have a scene in an abandoned church for God's sake! His stomping grounds! But nope. No Nightcrawler. POINTS DEDUCTED.

We get a completely nude Rebecca Romijn. This is never bad. :-)

Ian McKellen is a splendid bastard. Truly he is. Despite wearing what looks like a padded vise around his head, his eyebrows manage to perform some 47 percent of the acting duties of the entire cast. Watching him tailor his physical gestures (degree of exertion, type of motion) to his various Magneto exploits is a treat to behold. Finally, we get not one but at least two Magneto-vs.-Xavier debates-with-pointy-words-and-tone, and just being able to pull two actors of Stewart and McKellen's caliber into the project speaks well of this flick. They rock.

There were a great number of Inexcusable Movie Cliches, even for a comic book flick. Honestly. Helpless-housewife-locks-car-door-in-the-face-of-unimaginable-power. R. Lee Ermey's Drill Sergeant Voice. Jack-Ryan-Style Fake-IR-Satellite-Realtime-Video Taken-From-Ten-Feet-Up Live-In-The-White-House. A President who can only speak in four-word-cliches. Sometimes the cliches even overrode the movie's sensibilities - for example, Magneto's army. Because the army is Bad Mutants, there's some reason that 95% of them have to look like Biker Gang rejects and be wearing clothes straight out of Deliverance. Uh, I call bullshit on this one. Eric Lensharr would not be delivering his speeches of self-defense and actualization to a bunch of intensely racist backwoods types. He'd be able to find a bunch of self-interested as well as urbane types who had a better place to hang out than behind Cousin Bob's Trailer.

More good-natured jokes about the outfits, which is good. Hank McCoy wearing his 'old' outfit and bitching about how it used to fit him was a good follow-on to 'You'd prefer yellow spandex?'

On the plus side as well, the storyline they chose fit in extremely well with Magneto's character and backstory; his motivations were COMPLETELY believable, and his actions throughout were (mostly) self-consistent and understandable. The 'with us or against us' meme was developed well, and they didn't spend too much time (as I feel sure Singer would have) 'exploring the issues this would have raised among the Xavier community.' Nope, too busy with the asskicking and general Armageddon.

Technically, the movie was midrange. There were a lot of effects, but the CGI got fairly sloppy at times, especially at the end battle. Almost Lawnmower Man-ish, which made me shudder, for certain things. It was inconsistent, though; some of it (Magneto and the Golden Gate) was awesome - I don't know if it reflected a budget disparity or just rushing in some parts to get it done. Jean Grey's dynamic makeup (CGI as well?) was good. We didn't see nearly as much of the Mansion this time, making it seem like less of a 'special place' - we saw some of the school part, but not a lot - and in fact the sets weren't all that great. They were fairly generic. I can't think of any that stand out.

One thing that would have tickled me is for one of the young 'uns to have poked a button in the X-Jet during our pan past them in the passenger section, causing a 'call' light to bong at Storm's station resulting in guilty embarrassment. That would have been funny.

Final kvetch: there sure are an awful lot of mutants out there. Makes you wonder how Charles kept everything so quiet and why he even needed the Machine to find them if there were that many - even if they were mainly 'pawns' as Magneto put it.

Okay, done rambling. I enjoyed the flick, and will probably see it again. I liked the final scene; I thought it was the right 'comic book series' ending. Oh, and advice: stay after the credits.

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May 23, 2006

Me? I'm an Emo Memewhore

...say that ten times fast.

But I like this. Gettin' blazed involves buttons, man...plushies...buttons...yeah...

o/~...I am a one-man wrecking machine...o/~

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May 18, 2006

Mechs & Gravs & Plasma Guns, woo hoo!

Battlefield 2142 looks like it's gonna crush any attempt to run it on my iMac. :-)

Mechs. Wheeeeeeeeee!

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May 10, 2006

The Proposition

The Proposition (2005) is an Australian film, set in the Outback in what appears to be the late nineteenth or very early twentieth century - my Australian history is, well, nonexistent (sorry J). If I had to commit the cardinal sin of review-by-comparison-and-modifier, I'd say that this movie comes closest to Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven but with a greater historical relevance and even greater moral ambiguity.

The imagery is savage - not only the violence, which is graphic and meticulous, but not casual (never that), but the landscape. The Outback is shown as a vast, gloriously wild and unforgiving place, with Europeans struggling to eke out a life there by imposing their civilization's habits upon the land. As they place frame houses on ground flat for hundreds of miles in every direction, their customs too sit perched awkwardly atop the dusty soil, unable to put down roots. The faint traces of life in the Outback, to which one might attach oneself, are visible; there are Aborigines living there who have been there, we can tell, since time began. However, the constant presence of racial contempt that the European society brings with it prevents it from truly putting down roots in this place.

This latter point is made most poignantly when one character dismisses his native houseman in order to prevent the latter's being caught up in the cycle of violence that is approaching. As he approaches the gate, the settler calls to him to only half-ironically wish him merry Christmas. Turning, he removes his shoes and drops his pocket handkerchief next to them, replies "Merry Christmas, Cap'n," and trudges through the gate - clearly commenting that these trappings of Europe will be more of a hindrance than a help outside the garden fence.

The acting is really quite good. Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce, John Hurt and Emily Watson all shine, but everyone in it holds up their end. As has been noted by other reviewers, the costuming and makeup is so total (in terms of grittiness and filth, at times) that it can be difficult to identify actors - which ends up making their performances all the more powerful.

I recommend it highly. Be warned that the violence is not cartoony, is highly bloody, not only bloody, and very effective - but also absolutely necessary.

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April 28, 2006

Rapt raptor rapaciousness

I (and friends at work) have become addicted to the live video feed (RealMedia, yuck) of a family of Red-tailed Hawks at MIT. Mom, Dad, two li'l ones, plenty of dead pigeons for lunch.


Seriously, though. I have an entire desktop of my four GNOME desktops devoted to this feed, which at 450K/sec can fill it up nicely. I keep wanting to scritch 'em on the head.

I once spent a summer volunteering at the Cornell University Raptor Research Laboratory, which at the time was in Ithaca NY on Sapsucker Woods Road (it has since relocated to the wide open spaces of Idaho). In between the hearty physical labor of mucking out an entire converted dairy barn worth of gravel-bottomed cages, I was privileged to be introduced to the world of falcons and hawks by a couple of the men who cared for them - and it was an incredible experience. Gyrfalcons, Peregrines, Red-tails, even an enormous Bateleur Eagle vulture from South America. Kestrels, Owls, and more in the rescue clinic. These are beautiful, deadly and somehow pure of form and function creatures. They're not that bright, but that's okay - they're not meant to be. They're streamlined in both shape and deed.

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April 26, 2006

Remember when MTV kicked ass?

It was before this video's time, but this was a throwback, because this video does kick ass. Ah, good Bowie. There's nothing like it.

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April 20, 2006


No, not those turtles, THIS turtle!!!


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April 12, 2006


Video remix. With anime. Me like.

The Elvis works well with anime. Color me surprised, in primaries with large eyes and pixie face. (Well, okay, it's really Elvis vs. JXL...)

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March 23, 2006

Remember, remember, the fifth of November...

V for Vendetta receives a thumbs-up from me. Adapting graphic art to a movie is not easy. Adapting Alan Moore's work is bloody difficult and has so far resulted in everything from the mediocre to the disastrous as far as I'm concerned. Add to that the complexities of a portraying a protagonist whose face and body are never seen, and a story which could easily fill a five-hour movie if done faithfully - and it gets hinky, to quote a certain U.S. Marshal.

To my surprise, the chopping and reworking, while visible almost immediately to anyone who has read the book, came across as almost apologetically tender as well as (pardon the term) graphic. Surgical, really. Big chunks of the story were missing, yes, but their excision was handled with deferential care. While they were obviously missing, their absence was not papered over with out-of-place shoddy add-on justifications. There simply hadn't been room (in movie terms, 'room' translates to 'minutes' which translates to 'money').

Ditto the additions. There are, of course, additions to the film which don't come from Moore's book. I'm sure some people will consider them revoltingly offensive - why add contemporary reference points to this story, when it is a classic by itself? That is a perfectly defensible position, and I would hardly say that the story would not be more faithful had they been left out. However, once the excisions had been made for time's sake, then props were needed - and the use of some contemporary references allowed the audience's imagination to 'fill in the gaps' without nearly as many screen minutes being dedicated to 'backstory', which itself would have been damaging to the flow.

This doesn't make the movie a 'great movie' or even a 'good movie.' It makes it, for me, an understandable decision, and makes the adaptation one which was (in my opinion) pulled off well given the limitations. I will say that it failed in one respect - it fit within the confines of its limitations so well that it drew attention to those very limits, rather than hiding or misdirecting the audience's eye away from them as a masterful stage show might. This of course is the magic of the Wachowski brothers' act - they are special effects men, and their first creation, the Matrix, was defined by its ability to live entirely within a box and make you believe that the world itself existed within a tight and narrow place.

So no, I didn't have any feel for the world outside where V for Vendetta actually showed us in its footage. On the other hand, we're never shown that in the book, either; that's the point. Britain stands alone. England Prevails.

And in the end, the backdrops and thrusts and drops and platforms holding up the stage are what Codename: V really wants us to see - right before he sets them aflame and kicks them over.

I enjoyed the movie.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason the gunpowder treason ever should be forgot.

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March 9, 2006

Moments I Regret Not Understanding Japanese


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March 6, 2006

Where's my Nemex

Every time I see a new 5 I'm minded of Shorn Associates' standard road kit.

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February 2, 2006

Bird, bird, the bird is the word

GSgt Burghardt offers up the salute. Rock fucking on, Sergeant, and thank you from a fat-assed civvy here at home - one with (gasp!) liberal tendencies to boot. Stay faster and stay lucky, and keep that finger ready.

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February 1, 2006

Today, his master lies dying...


(Not that I have anything against Tartakovsky; I don't. But why?)

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December 27, 2005


This is a review of the 2003 film Kontroll that I wrote for a website on which I spend too much time.

Kontroll was made in 2003, in Hungary, by Nimrd Antal. It is his first film. It was re-released in the United States in April, 2005. An American ( Zone 1) DVD is now available.

Everybody hates us. That's just the way it is. - Bulcsú

Tell me a story about trains.

Underneath the City, there is another world. One which winds between the roots and sinews of the world we build; one where the human obsession with authority over people, place and time is played out to the fullest. In the Underground, it all dances to the System's tune: people, trains, escalators, gates, lights, day, night, go, stop - all of it.

The Budapest Metro is the oldest in the world. It is a zoned system; for those of you who have never taken a zoned European-style subway, you purchase a ticket at entry, and (in some) pay a fare based on your trip when you exit. One thing is constant, however - you must retain your ticket or pass, or else you are subject to Kontroll.

There are inspectors in the subways, who rove the system and require passengers to present their tickets or passes in order to prevent what New Yorkers call 'turnstile hopping.' In the Budapest Metro, they are called Kontroll. Being stopped is being 'Kontrolled'.

In this world, they move in 'crews' - groups of five. We follow one in particular - a young man named Bulcsú. He isn't like the others - in the opening scene, we see him waking up to the flicker of massed flourescent lights as they ting on, his arms crossed in his leather jacket, his head against a pillar. He is sleeping on a Metro platform. As the first train of the day thunders into the station, he rises slowly and wearily, not noticing his slow nosebleed.

Thus begins Kontroll.

It's not a comedy, though it has hilarious moments. It's not a thriller, though there are chases, escapes, and confrontations. It's not a romance, despite a man and a woman finding each other in the System. It's not a mystery, despite deaths and killers.

It just is.

We watch Bulcsú and his crew - the Professor, Muki the narcoleptic, Tibi the new guy, and Lecsó - work the System. Rivalry with another crew takes its toll. The sudden rash of 'jumpers' in the system takes its toll. The passengers - the job itself - take a toll; we watch as the crew becomes more and more battered as the film goes on, legacy of scrapes, accidents, or too often assault. There is a tormentor in the system, who ambushes Kontroll with spray cans of shaving cream before running; he is their Unicorn, named Bootsie - none of them have ever caught him.

Bulcsú finds a young lady in the System - one dressed in a bear costume, unexplainedly. She dances in and out of his flourescent-flickered existence with a smile and a flick of a dirty, ragged stuffed ear. Although the primary rivalry is between Bulcsú's crew and that of another Kontroller, really, the tension is between the people and the System. We watch it work on each of them, through the film. Some are hiding in it. Some are fighting it. Some just exist in it, caught in its strands. In one excellent montage, we watch the various denizens of Kontroll talking to a company psychiatrist, therapy for witnessing a particularly nasty incident involving one of their own.

Bulcsú keeps seeing an owl in the System, unsure if he's hallucinating.

We watch him wander the system at night, sometimes alone, sometimes not. The dirty steel majesty of silent trains is juxtaposed with the imperfection and mystery of ventilation fans at the end of a tunnel. At one point, he walks slowly until he reaches the literal end of the line, before turning, moving steadily back into his maze world.

The System runs, and endures. The people inside it fight, move, hide, play, wander, live, and die. The continual low-level violence, even if it is manifested between people, is really the friction between the soft flesh of the human and the hard ceramic and metal of the System they move through - pachinko with blood.

Whether the Kontroll crews are part of the system or simply inhabit it is one of the questions you may find yourself asking. They live between the people and the System, it sometimes seems - subject to pressure from both sides. But do they mitigate the sharp edges for the people moving through, or do they amplify them? Are they paying a price in blood for what they do, or for where they are?

The soundtrack of the film is perfect. It's by the (now-defunct, apparently) Hungarian techno band Neo, and is both atmospheric and relevant. It fades in and out, intermingled with the screeches, moans and wails of steel, unidentified hums and clicks, sudden flickers of light and general inchoate roar of technological purgatory that is the soundscape of the modern subway system. If you do go hunting for it, you may be able to order the CD from Hungary ( may have it).1

The story, if there is one, progresses as we would imagine the status board of the subway system does, throughout the day. People move around the System, running towards and away from each other. Sometimes they meet at intersections. There are two plot threads that move, however haphazardly and with however many detours, towards resolution. We never leave the subway system.

The movie ends when it should, how it should.

I recommend it.

Kontroll (2003)

(International title: Control U.S. Release, 2005)

Director: Nimrd Antal
Country: Hungary
Run time: 1:46 (on the Hungarian DVD)
Language: Hungarian (with English subtitles)

Note: if you like this film, you might wish to check out the movie Metro (Subway) by Luc Besson.

1 Warning: the "really kick-ass track" that can be heard during the crew's platform amble and Muki's Bruce Lee imitation (also in the preview trailer during the same scenes) is not on the soundtrack CD (filmzene)! It is the track "Everybody Come On" and is to be found only on Neo's previous album Lo-Tech Man, Hi-Tech World. The soundtrack CD is from Warner-Magneoton Hungary.

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August 25, 2005

Touched by his Noodly Appendage - MARK II

One advantage of working where I do - I work with all manner of people who are way better at everything I try to do than I am (er, well, except being an Op...yeh...that's right...don't fire me). Thus, the inimitable tigert took my poor attempt at graphical humor and created a way better version.

Gaze upon his noodlyness as he rocks, and be amazed.


There's also a PDF version for your delectation.

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August 24, 2005



Woo. I am t3h awful with t3h bits.

All hail snorp for the idea

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Bill Moyer (no S) is my hero.

Here's why.
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August 21, 2005

In completely other news, Friday nights are awesome.

If only, that is, because Battlestar Galactica has been managing to keep up the level of tense drama which has characterized it so far.


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August 10, 2005


From the 'wet cats are funny-lookin'' department crossed with the 'OMFG how do these people still have skin????' department, we bring you...

...bathing cats.

(via the excellent Bitch, Ph.D.)

July 29, 2005

Holy cow. Um, there, yes, land THERE.

Drink me.

(or use me for fuel, breathing, food, etc...)

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July 10, 2005

Especially with the home-improvement homage... Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I completely enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Smith - and not just because I can't help enjoy looking at Ms. Jolie anytime she's on screen. By God, I enjoyed watching Brad Pitt, too. The flick (it's a flick, folks, not a film) is good, entertaining, funny enough and action-packed, requiring not too many brain cells - in fact, better if you don't bring those. Excellent July fare. Buy a large Coke, maybe sneak some rum into it, and have at that fucker.

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June 29, 2005

The Bathroom Litmus Test

This is something I've long used but just managed to put into words today when talking to some folks around the lunch table. It's in the Images category because it refers to television and film - it describes an off-the-cuff method of determining how believable an environment I've been shown is.

This applies not to a simple scene, but to a whole reality or vision of reality. This is more important in some cases than in others, naturally; however, the metric itself always works for me. How much weight I place on the result may vary. To wit, I always find myself judging the 'completeness' or 'reality' of an onscreen world by how readily I can picture its inhabitants using the bathroom.

This is something we all must do, as humans. Even if no humans are present (rare but occasionally true) then my own human sensibility forces me to at least envision some form of body maintenance that even if not done in private is likely done regularly, requiring a form-standard accoutrement or set thereof.

But back to the main point. When those 'other people' on the screen, or even the main characters, aren't in the shot - can I in my mind's eye envision them using the loo? Washing up? Stepping back out and saying "Now where was I...?" If so, then the litmus test has scored high. As I mentioned above, this isn't always important. In Flash Gordon, for example, it's almost irrelevant that there aren't really bathrooms that I can picture - or that if I try, I come up with almost entirely dysfunctional gold-and-red-and-chrome versions (yes, I grew up on the Dino de Laurentiis version). It doesn't matter because reality isn't important to that movie, and there's no 'jarring' because that test scores low.

Tim Burton's Batman, however, was a problem for me. I did enjoy the animation of what was clearly a comic book. However, Batman was always explictly set in what was a 'real' city - one whose other inhabitants were American humans. They worked, played, walked, screamed, took the subway, and, yes - used the bathroom. But in Burton's movie, I just had trouble imagining the bathrooms as anything other than elaborate sets - that is, while I could see what they looked like, I could never imagine how one would get to them from where the action was taking place. I could imagine characters stepping out of view, into a confused backstage area, and then dropping out of character until the scene where they magically showed up in the bathroom.

Star Trek: TNG scored somewhat confusingly, but low, on the BLT. I mean, we know the Big E has heads, after all. But really, we never see anyone use 'em. And we sure suspect they're carpeted in that same incredibly frustratingly soothing shade of...what is it, plum/pink/beige/grey? Can you actually imagine anyone pissing in such a place? Furthermore, why is it that NONE of them ever have to run off behind a five-branched, purple and orange thorny meta-apple tree and come back out zipping up sheepishly on these away missions? Come to think of it, how come those pants don't have any form of fastener whatsoever? See what I mean? On the other hand, Starfleet is too relentlessly practical - they probably all have little implanted transporters that just beam the crap right out of their anterior colons into the matter converters, where it's turned right into yummy Tea, Earl Grey, Hot. So it's hard to score that one.

Picard: "Number One, what was that strange hum?"
Riker: "I'm sorry sir, that was a Number Two. I had the Tyvorian Tacos for lunch. My implant needs to be cross-connected to selector B to compensate for variations in the surrounding fartyon field."
Picard: "Make it so."

In contrast, Babylon 5 not only had heads, it had public toilets and we actually have scenes of major characters having plot-critical conversations while using said conveniences. There were even running jokes about the fact that one of the alien races on station were very picky eaters - and would only eat the (long) dead. Their bathroom facilities were the subject of much terror and hilarity depending on one's proximity to said facility and the time since their last use. Actual toilets. As the two men above were actually leaving the bog, after having zipped their uniforms and washed their hands, a female tech came in, salutes were traded, and she headed off to a stall. See? Sane, normal, everyday traffic - litmus score off the scale.

Yes, B5 rocked my world.

The Chris Nolan Batman Begins has an incredibly high bathroom litmus score for me. People walk around Gotham, and damn it, they use bathrooms perfectly normally, even if I can't see 'em do it. I can even point with confidence off the side of the scenes and say 'yeh, there's probably a can right over there. It's a living room, for pete's sake.'

And that's the bathroom litmus test.

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June 26, 2005

My cat is a whore.

My cat is a whore.
Originally uploaded by jbzimmerman.
As shown here.
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Them tig ol' bitties o' JUSTICE... BACK, cuz.


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June 17, 2005

Batman Begins

Pleasant surprise. Batman Begins is, in fact, a quite enjoyable movie. It's a movie first, yes, and Batman second; Batman is Batman in all his Darkness, and the fact that they don't actually introduce him until the second half makes that introduction all the better. Christian Bale does an excellent job of the playboy Bruce Wayne, if a slightly wooden job of the tormented Bruce Wayne; he's got the physique to make it believable, and this time around we don't have to put up with muscles on the batsuit. It's way too tech for that, while still being the batsuit we know and love. I was wrong about Liam Neeson, he does a quite nice job as well. Michael Caine is perfect. Gary Oldman is really just a tad too creepy to be Gordon, but that's probably just my own associations.

Gotham, in this go-around, is based on Chicago, which makes perfect sense - all manner of nice bridges, elevated trains and underground roadways to produce dark spots, rusty ironwork and interesting skyline features. Of course, it's been digitally modified, with tri-level monorail trains and other nice touches - but it's a much more recognizable and functional looking city than the Gotham of the Burton movies. It makes things flow better; they don't look like forced-perspective escapes from comic book frames, anymore, but like actual movie scenes.

Recommended. A new favorite treatment (for me) of my always-favorite superhero. Plus, Morgan Freeman, I mean, really, how can you go wrong?

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June 8, 2005



...and Morgan Freeman, which makes it even funnier.

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May 27, 2005

Can't stop the signal


That. Was. Awesome.

No power in the 'verse...

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May 3, 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy has this to say...

to be read in a snotty British accent

...on the subject of American remakes of Douglas Adams' works as films: these tend to come off about as well as the first, long-awaited flying lessons of the baby elephantsnail of the G'Gugvntine Jazzolta. The other inhabitants of the Jazzolta are both too polite to explain to the sentient and extremely adorable baby elephantsnails that large, rotund shelled creatures with nothing that resembles wings or gasbladders are unlikely to conquer the four and a half standard gravities of their planet's field when they leave their inexplicably cliffside perched nests for the first time, and too fond of the extremely tasty innards of said baby elephantsnails to warn them in any way other than by standing around beneath the cliffs near the sharp rocks below halfheartedly waving small signs which read, in very small type, don't jump. It should be noted that wearing bibs and bringing vats of melted butter to these selfless warning vigils is highly thought of.

Back to the films. In this particular case, the film reminds this particular viewer of nothing so much as an elaborate, intricate and mind-numbingly faithful reproduction of a famous sculpture which, when approached closely, one discovers is so very similar because it is in fact a hollow vacuum plastic mold and was in fact most likely purchased for five cents from an extremely large sculpture-sized gumball dispensing machine. While from a distance, all of the features of, say, Rodin's 'The Thinker' or 'A Fallen Caryatid Holding Her Stone' are there for the viewing, on close examination the interesting granular surfacing of the marble turns out to be instead the rough frills of the plastic escaping the two halves of the hotmolding device, and the dark color, rather than the oxidation of age, is in point of fact a greenish purple shade produced by mixing the two least popular tinges of plastic dye which, fortunately for the vendor, were on sale quite cheaply that afternoon at the supplier's house.

The Guide continues: This movie is quite clearly a loving paean to Mr. Adams' memory. It contains all manner of inside jokes that only HHGTTG fans will get, as well as several attempts to produce humorous situations and visuals mixed with attractive special effects that 'n00b' audiences will find captivating. Unfortunately for it, the two are horribly mismatched, resulting in a movie that noobs will find full of incomprehensible in-jokes and that aficionados will discover is crammed full of ridiculous non-Douglasian bits which serve only to remove the Adamsian funny with the subtlely of No. 2 grit sanding paper wrapped around a large granite block in much the same way a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster's lemon slice is wrapped around a large gold...but you get the idea.


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April 27, 2005

Kung Fu Fighting

Heh. Well, Gong fu (titled here as Kung Fu Hustle) is, in fact, funny. Really, really funny. Not only that, but it managed to have a plotline more interesting than the one promised by the trailer, without being any less funny. Sight gags, cultural references from all over the map (from classic Chinese folk tales to The Shining, with the recent Spider-Man movie and Star Wars lines thrown in) and, of course, loads of Yuen Wo Ping choreography (read: ass-kicking) and special-fx based whoop-ass.

Loads of fun.

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Ooooooooohhhhh. Happiness and a warm gun.

I hate doing the fanboy, but I find I must.

I've waited for this. For a long time. With others like me out there.

Now I have seen a taste of what would have been ours this month, but was moved to September.

And it looks gooooooooooooood.

Heeheeeheeeheeheeheeheehee. All our BDH in the BDM, you fucking rock. Even Cap'n Tightpants, though I don't swing that way my own self. And yes, Jayne, let's be Bad Guys. Hoo-yah.

NOTE OF WARNING: There be spoilers in them thar trailers - not enough to tell me how the movie goes, but enough to tell me what it's about, and again, heeheeheeheeheeheehee.

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March 25, 2005

Huh. A miracle.

A good West Wing episode. I'd given up hope.

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Just saw Katsuhiro tomo's new anime Steamboy at the Kendall Cinema. I hadn't realized tomo wrote the 2001 anime version of Fritz Lang's classic Metropolis, but it makes sense - the whole never-ending crash of apocalyptic destruction at the finish, coupled with a final sense of wtf? is his signature. It shows up in fine form in Steamboy as it first did for me in what is probably his best-known film, Akira.

Anyhow, enough erudite-looking linking. Steamboy isn't as viscerally exciting as Akira, which may be due to its being set in an alternate 1866 England rather than a post-WWIII Tokyo. Those reserved English, you know. This caused some of my worst discontinuity in the film - although the period-but-altered London was rendered beautifully, the Japanese dialogue was jarring enough (I saw the subtitled print) to continually tap me on a mental shoulder - and it pulled me out of immersion. Perhaps this is an anime I should see dubbed; I will, to see if it makes a difference.

Like Akira and Metropolis, the theme is one of mankind facing the power of science and discovery - and discovering whether or not its philosophy is up to the challenge. In this case, however, as the title suggest the technology involves cams, gears, pistons and boilers. The fiction we are asked to swallow is a metallurgy that far outstrips reality, apparently - and a small piece of Macguffin called the Steam Ball - a cannonball-like object that contains near-infinite pressurized steam. It's the movie's version of the FTL drive; how it does it and where it came from are not really explored, nor are those questions really bothered with. The consequences of the availability of this power are what drive the plot.

The plot is fairly standard. Two sides, which may or may not be good and evil, with a young boy and his ideals between them. There are some great cultural jokes, some obvious, some less so (but still obvious). And, of course, there's the animation. Oh, boy, is there the animation. It's huge. It's sweeping. The entire purpose of using steam tech appears to be so they can have enormous Rube Goldberg mechanisms that fill entire cathedrals with movement and detail, meticulously animated through the wonders of caffeine, obsession and lots and lots of CPU power. CGI is used incredibly well - there are very, very few times you can point at something and definitively say "Ah. CGI." Rather, it's used to expand the scope of the animation, and to fill out fast-moving scenes, so that there are many more three-dimensional pan shots, rotational camera movements, scene shifts than one would normally see in animation. The background, in this film, escapes the static animated backdrop - it's really animated, here. Things move in it. Little, tiny things, moving, everywhere. The entire scene will rotate dizzyingly a couple of times early on - until your brain realizes that 'real movies' do that all the time, and stop noticing. Then you'll say to yourself in the middle of the movie "HEY!"

Did I mention that it's pretty?

And there's steam. Everywhere. Gigantic clouds, contrails, wisps, streamers, dribbles, spouts, jets, plumes, explosions. In good form, it isn't computer generated with particle effects; nope, it's good ol' hand-drawn steam, except...this steam has continuity (as a friend pointed out) waaaaay too good for hand-drawn alone. It never behaves improperly, even when it's been onscreen for fifteen or twenty seconds, dissipating and spreading. Computers. Yep.

In the end, the film missed its mark with me a bit. The disconnect between guttural Japanese soundtrack and reserved English scenery was a bit too wide. The traditional tomo apocalypse seemed a tad flat, with only steam power to back it up, when we're used to the power of entire universes being born or robot slave armies revolting. The situation was almost quaint. Finally, there simply weren't enough people in the movie! For a film set in the middle of London, the demise of which was the driving danger throughout, it was remarkably devoid of imperiled civilian masses. We saw plenty of small buildings destroyed and damaged, but somehow it felt like they'd been conveniently emptied for the weekend engagement - and this robbed the whole thing of drama.

Still, it's frakking beautiful. What it really felt like, I must say (and which the closing credit still shots lent credence to) was the elaborate 'origin story' of a colorful comic book hero (Steamboy himself). The lack of really memorable masses in the film, with the exception of a small number of people who would obviously show up later in Steamboy's career; the provision of Steamboy's trademark gear, the foundation of his ethos and his training, etc.

In a way, it's what The Rocketeer really wanted to be, but didn't have the budget or imagination for.

And yes, I'll own the DVD when it shows. It's so damn pretty.

Posted by jbz at 1:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack