Category Archives: Any Other Eventualities

What do Mount Rushmore, Tony Danza, and the Anglo-Saxon alliance have in common?

They’re all menaces to society! I guess.

And here I thought my miscellaneous ramblings were amusing. This fellow sees my demented screed and raises me 57 pages of stream-of-consciousness defendant-naming.

Most are obvious blame-throwing targets (NBA commissioner David Stern, Bono). Others, not so much (the architecture of Free Masonry, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). But one thing’s for sure: if you’re not on this list, you’re nobody!

I’ve read it twice now and am still laughing out loud at entries.

Niccolo Machiavelli.

Steven Spielberg.

The Folger Shakespeare Library.

“Kim Jong 11.”

The Hegelian Principle.

Maddox Pitt-Jolie.

The Planet of Pluto. (That one obviously dates the document to pre-August 2006.)

Chubby Checker.

The Colossus of Rhodes.

I could endlessly list my favorites until I’ve just reproduced the PDF itself.

8 Mile Stones

I’ve been tagged by both Pacheco of Bohemian Cinema and Matt of MereO with the Eight Random Biographical Anecdotes meme.

It’s interesting how memes evolve; this one arrived to me in two distinct permutations, similar in matter but different in form. Pacheco’s instructs:

  1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Meanwhile, Matt’s is more terse, and rearranged:

  1. Let others know who tagged you.
  2. Players post 8 random facts about themselves.
  3. Those who are tagged should post these rules with their 8 facts.
  4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

For better or for worse I haven’t seen a single blog that hasn’t already been assimilated by this blog-Borg in its inexorable march across cyberspace. When Pacheco tagged me a week and a half ago I thought, well at least I could tag Matt, but while moving distracted me from the internet last week he preemptively struck. Now it would be too much work to find eight fresh victims, so I’ll just follow Jim’s lead and blatantly flout Rule 4.

But without further qualification, here are eight tedious items of self-mythologizing by Nobody in particular:

1. Until this year I had never seen Pulp Fiction. Sorry to say I was unimpressed, so I can only imagine the “revelation” it was at the time. Unfortunately Willis was the only good actor; Travolta and Jackson were the worst, incapable of making Tarantino’s script sound unrehearsed. Can any human do? Or is his trademark dialogue simply inhumane?

2. Other “modern classics” I haven’t seen are Jurassic Park and Titanic. My flatmates think this is evidence of film snobbery. Then I remind them I see every comic book adaptation regardless of quality and consider Casino Royale one of the best three movies of 2006.

3. BC (before Craig), the only Bond films I’d seen were Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day. AD (after Daniel), Casino Royale inspired me to get the Deluxe Editions of every Connery (and the Lazenby) Bond film and watch them in sequence.

4. For most of my life I intended to draw comic books for a living, but at 15 I realized there was no job security as a freelance artist and didn’t want to live the rest of my life with monthly deadlines.

5. Around the same time, I first entertained the thought of majoring in English instead of Art when I realized I could do a better job teaching my literature class after having to explain to the teacher in class the double-possessive of “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.”

6. At 10 years old my obsession with basketball began, and for the next few years most afternoons and evenings were spent practicing in the driveway. I played in Park & Rec leagues for five years, and on my high school varsity team in 11th and 12th grade.

7. I had piano lessons from the ages of 5 to 10, when I discovered basketball.

8. I was awakened one morning at the age of 11 by a 7.3 earthquake whose epicenter was 30 miles away. (Since it was not in an urban area there were no casualties, but its magnitude can be demonstrated by the fact that the Northridge quake two years later caused 72 deaths, 11,000 injuries, and $12 billion damage with only a 6.7 magnitude.)

Needless to say this shook me up, but I endured the aftershocks for the next few hours with equanimity, comforted as always by the knowledge that the big stuff was behind me.

But three hours after the first quake there was a 6.4 follow-up that felt even more violent since it was only 5 miles away. This contradiction of prior experience kind of traumatized me. Now, it seemed, all bets were off: I was no longer safe in my bed. If you know me, ask me sometime how it affected my sleeping habits for the following months.

Set Faces to Stunned

Google Maps just added Street View! How cool is that?

NASA: Back with a Vengeance

I consider space research self-justifying with no need to generate special excitement for it, but apparently NASA has realized that nowadays if something doesn’t have an intense trailer with dramatic music, it’s not worth caring about.

So what feels like a new Transformers preview disappointingly turns out to be just a publicity notice for a return-to-the-moon initiative:

In case you’re in a library and can’t hear the audio that accompanies the innocuous visuals of this inspiring promo, Clive Thompson at Collision Detection captures the effect perfectly:

There’s all this creepy, minor-key horror-movie music, combined with bleed-in text that ominously proclaims: “We took a giant leap … we stopped … we’re going back.” Then there’s a shot of a lunar vessel approaching and impassively snapping pix through its single HAL-like eye.

Then boom! It’s all action, with a bunch of rovers thundering across the lunar surface like beetles while launch-ships swirl overhead, all set to unsettlingly thumpy action music.

I’m not sure what the term is for this kind of bizarre reverse-influence from Hollywood to the space program, but Justine at Film Fatale wonders:

“We took a giant leap…We stopped…Now we’re going back” To do what? Finish off whatever we didn’t kill the first time around?

Meanwhile, Clive observes:

The whole segment appears to have been shot not from the point of view of us optimistic, yay-for-space-exploration geeks, but from the point of view of some nameless, gentle race of peaceable moon inhabitants who are about to get totally vaporized by a ruthless horde of colonizing, gibbering humans.

My blogless friend Beady Eyes Al (i.e., AL not A.I.) finds it entirely of a piece with the nature of the space project itself:

The pomposity and sheer pointlessness of that advert, like absolutely everything NASA and every other space exploration organisation have ever done, is astounding.

I take his point and admit that I love space exploration precisely because it is 100% gratuitous and therefore — like poetry, music, art, and even sport — uniquely human. To put it too glibly, only pursuits with no survival value give value to survival (cue the Sphinx).

So although I style myself a supporter of minimal government who would prefer public services be limited to road maintenance and a standing defense, I admit space exploration is the one item of unnecessary expenditure I fully support draining gazillions of tax dollars into.

I’m always astounded by the fact that within 66 years we went from not being able to keep our asses off the ground to landing on the moon (and by “we” I mean humans not necessarily Americans). By that rate, frankly, the last 38 years have been an extended embarrassment. At least the Cold War motivated us to accomplish things.

As a kid in the 1980s I was promised flying cars and settlements on the moon by the year 2000, but what do we have instead? Mobile phones and the internet. Tell me, what good is a portable phone if I can’t place a call from the moon? I want my darn moon base!

I appreciate the fact that technological advances shifted focus from distance transport to microprocessing, but considering that we reached the moon with a computer less sophisticated than a basic student calculator, by now we should have colonies on Pluto.

For the first time in the history of the species we have an opportunity for guiltless colonization. By all accounts our celestial neighbors host no animals or plants, much less sentient persons with rights to violate. So unless human rights are extended to minerals, we could satisfy the imperialistic impulse whilst redefining it as the benign cultivation of uninhabited wastelands.

When I started this blog I promised never to let it become political, but on this issue I think we can leave our disagreements behind us (on Earth) and support planetary enfranchisement:

–> Partisan American politics would become a historical footnote. “Red states” and “blue states” could relocate to a red planet and blue planet, so Hollywood actors and New York magazine elites would no longer have to share the same ecosystem with the public they despise.

–> The overpopulation lobby can get behind it. China and India can start having baby girls again to rectify their gender imbalance, finally giving feminists and pro-lifers a common cause.

–> Each religion could have its own planet, so Islam could finally establish a universal caliphate (as long as “universal” isn’t meant literally), while Jews could finally live on a planet off the map of which nobody wants to wipe them.

–> The UK could even solve its prison overcrowding crisis by establishing an Australian style penal colony on Neptune’s terrestrial moon, which could inspire an awesome TV series called “Triton Break.”

–> As we’re always reminded, the environment would be better off without humans anyway. So let’s get our rears in gear and get off this rock!

SAVE THE EARTH:

MARS OR BUST!

Bespoke Film Festival, London

I visited London last weekend just to attend a Sunday lunch for alumni of my alma mater living in Europe, and it somehow turned into a cinetastic three-day field trip.

Saturday afternoon I saw Conversations with Other Women, which played at some film festivals in 2005 and had a limited US release last year, but was just released last month in the UK. Functionally a two-person play with Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart, it uses a continual split screen to reflect the disconnection between the characters — a boundary occasionally breached by one or the other — and their fractured memories. Frequently one side of the screen will show a flashback, like a marginal gloss on the primary text, and the details of a paratextual sequence are sometimes altered as a character’s memory (or account of their memory) becomes clarified.

Saturday night I went to a preview of the new stage production of Lord of the Rings, which is curious as a novelty — how would LOTR be staged? — so its moments of pure “spectacle” are fun: Galadriel, the Ents (on stilts), Shelob (a giant puppet), Mt Doom. But as a musical unfortunately it’s not very memorable.

The problem with distilling three novels into three hours (cut down from its original length in Canada!) is that most of the dialogue is reduced to simply moving the plot forward. Furthermore, “action scenes” on any stage are necessarily tedious and unexciting. For me, film is a better medium for pure narrative while the stage is best reserved for comedy and musicals (because they should be experienced live) and for characterization-based drama with psychological insight.

Thus the best (or only good?) scene in this production of LOTR is the metafictional conversation, accompanied by a song, wherein Sam and Frodo discuss themselves as characters in a Story, and the subsequent struggle of Smeagol over whether or not to betray his master.

Sunday I mostly sightsaw and intended to go to We Will Rock You in the evening because I assumed West End theatres were dark on Monday like Broadway and LA so I was surprised to discover they’re dark on Sunday but not Monday. So instead I went to Ocean’s 13 at the Empire to see what a movie is like in a Leicester Square cinema.

It was a pretty boring movie and it’s become axiomatic that Clooney and Pitt are playing themselves not their characters (Damon being the exception), but I was still surprised by the degree to which the story was a fictional projection (literally) of the actors’ well publicized charity work.

Rather than stealing for their own benefit, the primary recipients of the gang’s new scheme are ordinary pathetic casino patrons. “It doesn’t matter if we win as long as the house loses.” In his movie alter ego, Clooney has become a Robin Hood whose Merry Men trick greedy Casino barons into giving to the poor, whether naive gamblers or a children’s charity.

On Sunday I discovered the Tate had an exhibit on Dali & Film, so I stayed an extra night to spend some time there. Rather than another night playing the hostel game I upgraded to a B&B on Tavistock Place, which I didn’t realize till the next day was literally around the corner from where the #30 bus exploded on 07/07/05. At any rate my room smelled of mold and had the filthiest carpet I’ve ever seen so stay away from the “Goodwell Hotel” if you’re ever looking for lodging in Camden.

After visiting the burial place of Milton under the floor of St Giles Without Cripplegate on Monday, I spent four hours in the Dali exhibit which comprised only half of the fourth floor of the Tate Modern. It is an impressive exhibit of about 150 items from collections around the world, including eight films on continual loop: besides Un Chien Andalou, L’Age d’Or, the three-minute dream sequence from Hitchcock’s Spellbound, a satirical video collaboration with Philippe Halsman called Chaos and Creation, and a couple of Screen Tests by Warhol, the highlights were Destino, a recently completed seven-minute animation derived from records of the 1946 collaboration between Dali and Disney, and Dali’s only directorial effort Impressions of Upper Mongolia — Homage to Raymond Roussel.

When compared with Dali’s extensive storyboards and studies for the piece, also on display, the 2003 production of Destino appears to be a faithful representation of his intentions. The short film is a kind of Greatest Hits of Dali’s personal tropes, incorporating eyeballs, melting clockfaces, ants crawling out of a gash in the hand, bicyclists with bread hats, baseball, and double images into a seamless sequence. In many ways it is the most literal translation of Dali’s paintings to the screen.

Made for TV in 1975, Impressions of Upper Mongolia not only draws comparisons to F for Fake but is also a precursor of the microphotography used in The Fountain. Narrated by a magician-caped Dali who acts as both illusionist and exposer of truth, it begins with a pretitle sequence in which a moonlit landscape is revealed to be a detail of Hitler’s mustache and nose.

The rest of the film purports to document his search for a hallucinogenic mushroom native to “High Mongolia” and the basis of its society. We are given a tour of the people and places of this psychedelic Shangri La, but what had seemed to be his paintings of them turn out to be microstructures on the brass band around a pen — an effect Dali achieved by urinating on it for several weeks. Unfortunately I found myself opening my eyes periodically during the 70 minute film but I can only imagine that my sleepiness enhanced the dreamlike experience of the movie.

After four hours though I’d had enough of Dali and needed to get upriver to the British Film Institute at the Southbank Centre (formerly the National Film Theatre) to get my ticket for Lekce Faust, part of their Jan Svankmajer retrospective. It was a delightful adaptation worth missing Prison Break for, even though I’ll have to miss a party Friday night in order to catch the repeat.

Svankmajer’s Faust is an everyman, reluctant and motivated initially by innocent curiosity. The first act has no spoken lines except an invocation read by Petr Cepek out of a playbook, but his Walter Matthau ordinariness makes his every action interesting to follow. His creation of a claymation test-tube fetus into a baby golem is an early highlight but his interactions with life size marionette puppets depicting Mephistopheles and Lucifer — and Helen! — soon become the norm as stage scenery regularly descends around him irrespective of his geographical location.

The English dubbing, especially for Faust’s puppet servant/jester, sounded too similar to Team America for me, so I’d be curious to see it again with subtitles. Aside from the overdone voices however, the film is regularly humorous but the tragedy prevents it — even puppet rape — from ever becoming silly.

After three full days in London, however, I was not only done but done for, and just made the last train back Monday night.

Once Upon a Time in the Caribbean

The one moment of pure unexpected joy I felt during At World’s End was when the embassies from the pirate fleet and East India navy meet each other on the narrow atoll before the sea battle.

Suddenly a fuzzy electric guitar stabs the air plucking a near duplication of Frank’s theme from Once Upon a Time in the West and is immediately joined by an imitation of Harmonica’s theme, replicating the music of the final showdown in Leone’s film (listen to Zimmer’s “Parlay” here). Dutifully, the camera focuses on the backs of boots and fronts of faces before the six main characters enter negotiations.

Though in some ways the worst of the trilogy, this film moreso than the first two is a celebration of influence across genre, heralded boldly by a sequence of the most Daliesque imagery since, well, X-Men 3.

For a director that, like Alfonso Cuaron, has been systematically mastering genre after genre, it’s about time he exploited his most playful franchise for all its intergeneric worth.

More later.

Don’t be sad, I’ll never be far away

Skeleton of Husband and Father Lies Undiscovered for 22 Years in Garage Loft while Family Lives in Adjacent House.

Prosecutors said they weren’t treating the death as suspicious.

Are you kidding me?! Unbeknownst, my eye!

Local media reported rumors among villagers at the time that he had been in trouble with the East German secret police, the Stasi, and that he had been a critic of the Communist regime.

I dunno of whom I’m more suspicious, the family or the authorities, but there must be more to this story (HT to Matt). I hope the fact that it’s “old” news doesn’t allow it to be swept under the carpet — or conveniently forgotten in the attic, wrapped in a blanket, next to a bottle of Schnapps and some suicide literature.

And speaking of the Stasi (and their very thorough ways) go see The Lives of Others, one of the best films of 2006, or get it on DVD if you missed it.

bergholz-rehbrucke-haunted-house.jpg

One seriously haunted house

Jamie Foxx Aborts Career of Unfunny Comic

This has nothing to do with anything, but it’s too funny not to share with everyone (yes, I believe everyone reads this blog). Browsing YouTube I stumbled on this clip from a four-year-old roast of Emmitt Smith hosted by Shaquillie O’Neal.

When unknown comedian Doug Willams (later called Doug Christie by Foxx) starts off with a tired routine about Shaq’s toe, host Jamie responds with mock laughter off camera. Then it becomes funny… because it’s true! (audio NSFW)

Beware the Ides of March

death_of_caesar.GIF

The Death of Caesar (1867)
by Jean-Léon Gérôme