Wednesday, March 23, 2011

poor creatures tonight & mine

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Tonight's been a creepy night. Extra quiet. And nothing but traffic and that seems very far away. Earlier I heard an animal squalling in agony outside. Worse than a fighting cat, or a growling coon or anything similarly natural, it was a squall like a pleading of some lesser ranked creature being torn to bits by a quiet master or authority. As if it was taking its punishment, or surprised and petrified, and whatever sounds of pain came from it were muffled as if it wasn't making them intentionally. And then it stopped. The automatic porch lights came on. It was quiet. The lights flicked off and it was me and the glow of my computer. Then my cat began to whimper in his sleep, mew like a helpless kitten. I called to him and stroked his face. He gave a grateful gesture of purring and rubbing his cheeks against my hand. We got up and had some milk in the light of the kitchen. Now we will sleep.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

self-defense in young America

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Casey the Punisher, an Australian kid who finally defended himself from bullies is the latest viral phenomenon since Katy Perry's make-up free twitter picture posted by fellow clown car cohabitant Russell Brand.

In the torture-porn style, handheld video captured by a fellow bully's camera phone, viewers see a chihuahua-size terror punching Casey in the face, until Casey bodyslams the bully and walks away.

From what little I've been following of this phenomenon, the most interesting thing to come from it seems to be the "sheltered pacifist" versus "self-defense is okay" debate.

On one side we have the people who are appalled by a big kid throwing a little kid on the ground. They say things like, "He could've broken the kid's neck! He should've told a teacher instead of throwing the kid on concrete! He should've avoided the situation all together! Two wrongs don't make a right! Child experts say to tell a parent or teacher about the bullies and stay out of those situations entirely!

What a load of soggy Apple Jacks horseshit.

On the other side of the field are people who have actually been bullied sometime in their lives, who say: Way to go! Those kids will leave him alone now. He acted in self defense!

This is the side I'm on.

Stay away from danger...really. Have you ever seen a wounded gazelle in the Serengeti? The lions, they chase the gazelle slowly and attack it in leisure. They drain the gazelle, rendering its limbs unwalkable. Hide injured gazelle, hide! Avoid the lions, tell a bigger gazelle to make the lions leave you alone.

Child experts say...buy our books, please and you will learn by reading them that violence is not our friend, but a gateway to more violence. Communication is the answer. Communicate.

In the 2008 Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, twelve-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is the constant target of bullies in a small Swedish village, until his new and only friend, Eli, helps Oskar find the courage to stand up to his tormenters.

I don't know how anyone who's seen the film could not, at one point, ask themselves why Oskar doesn't tell a teacher about these bullies picking on him every-single-excruciating day in an effort to make the abuse stop. Until we're forced to realize that the stigma of being a snitch turns a kid into a pariah among his peers faster than a bad haircut and a speech impediment put together.

Shoulds and shouldn'ts aside, which are very easy to point and shoot as an outsider, most people lack the experience to fully understand how the world works with children when they invent rules of how to play. Ghetto, playground, fraternity hazing--it's all relative to the region, and thrives in being evasive to figures of authority.

In William Golding's Lord of the Flies, a group of British schoolboys are stuck on a deserted island and try to govern themselves with disastrous results.

The exercises in autonomy among young boys who feel like nothing less than indentured servants subjected to the whims of tyrannical overcrowded school systems are stealth and prolific. Saying things like: tell an adult, is being a traitor to the small government formed as practice for independent assertion.

Telling a child to keep away from danger and be a good little citizen is like telling a soldier not to shoot back when the enemy is firing heavy artillery upon them and an effort to kill or inflict tremendous pain.

Two wrongs don't make a right? Give me a break. This cross-stitch pillow phase in no way buffers terror, or pain of being attacked by an enemy. And how malicious it is to have a friend record the violent scene for the sake posterity?

It's ridiculous, these liberal pacifists and their heal the world mentality. There is a time and place for that when we're not flipping off bad drivers or helping a tripped neighbor off the ground, but when it comes to being beaten to a pulp by a well-established terror, I'd say Casey the Punisher did the right thing by bringing out the well-warranted Judo.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

An art form. Like sculpture.

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I spoke to my mother on the telephone today without getting angry once. She was making pasta primavera while her fiancee mowed her one acre yard filled with fruit trees.

He's good at a lot of things, she said, everything, except dancing. So instead of go to do ballroom dancing (that come free with her gym membership) we've been going to play golf. I did okay until I reach one of those watery places, she said, then I couldn't get past it. I kept hitting and hitting and the ball go nowhere. 

I told her she should get Tiger Woods golf because she was good at video games and it would be fun to play on her giant television.

Remember when you reached the highest possible score on Pac-Man when I was four and we were living in Korea, I said. You got mad because the game was over at 9,999,999 something. No I don't remember that, she said. The Atari's still in your house somewhere, I said. Oh, okay, that's nice. How are you? 

Fine, we're moving into a three bedroom/three bath place where the groundskeeper is installing a cat door in our bedroom window so the bugs won't get in while the cat goes in and out. 

**I don't know if I'm too attached to my cat, but that means a lot to me, even though the utilities are included in the duplex and I know this is really to conserve energy more than anything.

(That was my biggest news. I can't tell if that's good or bad. I suppose it's better than having lots of/or any bad news, or complaining about poverty or marriage or boredom.)


Then she told me about my 20-year-old cousin, her sister's younger daughter, who stopped going to her community college classes without telling anyone, without withdrawing, AWOL, Fs across the board to replace Fs earned the same way at a previous University. This means no refund, again. The crappiest GPA in the world. And a darker shade of gaining even temporary direction into Academic enlightenment.

She says she wants to do hair, said my mother. Hair?

My mind instantly went into judgement mode. I tried to rationalize positive projections into the future of a budding stylist. I thought about stylists in LA, the ones who do hair for runway shows in New York, New York hair stylists in general, and how people from every demographic made a big deal about having good hair. It's a big market if you think about it. An art form. Like sculpture.

I'm conflicted with my opinions about this whole ordeal. I know for a fact that my drop-out cousin is bright, and does not give a crap about anything. She works at American Eagle Outfitters in the mall making seven-plus an hour folding sweaters and her mom's a millionaire who earned every penny of her fortune by working her ass off.

I signed up for college because I had nothing better to do with my mornings than sleep. And went to college for seven years counting semester breaks and summers. Do I do anything with my degrees now? Nope. Have I? Oh yes. I learned a lot from the books I had to memorize, too. But I can see why my cousin feels the ways she feels about school being pointless. Even though she's nowhere near close to paying her dues. She's never read a book. Her only hobby is getting crunk.

Is my cousin a part of a slacker of all slackers generation derivative of my own? Does she see people like me wasting my degrees and think what's the point? Live life, right? Or is it fair to put her in a category at all? What if college really isn't for everyone? Or worse: what if she's dyslexic? If so, then I guess hair school won't care about that.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

dating stereotypes: the hottie bro & his sponsor

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I called a lady about renting our rental today, to give her some details about ambiance and area space. The lady I knew her as a great tipper from the Hollywood wine shop days where I worked for half a year to clear up problems with the IRS. We were known to exchange complaints about our men from time to time. But this time, on the phone, after we decided the house wasn't for her, it was her turn to vent about a guy who wanted "to hang low with his bros."

I separated from my guy friend, she said. We're like not serious, you know, but we do everything together. He told me one of his friends was coming into town and bought them tickets to the game. And then I saw he posted an update on his facebook asking if anyone else was going to the game, that he had extra tickets, so I asked him if he had an extra ticket for me and he said he didn't think so.

Maybe he wanted a boy's night out, I said.

Yeah, she said, but he wanted to hang out before the game, but not after, and I told him I wanted to hang out after the game, and he said he didn't want to feel like his mother was around watching his every move and I didn't like that. He shouldn't have said that to me. That's when I told him it was over.

All I could say was: Well, just give him a couple days to chill out without you and let him buy you some nice jewelry and take you out to dinner after you let him miss you a little bit.

Rated R alert! He doesn't have any money, she said. I pay for a lot of his stuff. He pays for his own food and sometimes mine, but he does cocaine and drinks a lot and last time we went out with his friends he got drunk and put his hands all over these women's asses on the dance floor in front of me and I know he's gonna do that again and get his dick sucked by girls in the hotel dance club and fuck them in a room upstairs with his friends after doing cocaine and I can't deal with that.

All I could say was: If you broke up with him, then stay apart because breaking up with someone before a big night out with his friends will only make him a glutton for revenge and he'll probably end up doing things he wouldn't do if he was taken. Like meaningless post-break-up whore sex. To try to win.

Oh, I didn't think about that, she said. 

I'm picturing the guy to look like someone from the Jersey Shore. Someone much younger than the lady I spoke to. Aside from having low self-esteem issues (obvious from all the work she's had on her body), why else would she put herself through this kind of torture? The guy has no money, apparently craves attention like a starved, weening whelp and squanders what little money he does have on cocaine, booze and pot. Maybe it's the challenge. Or maybe the guy's just really good at telling ladies what they want to hear.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

City of Lost Children--a review

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20 minutes into this movie I excused my husband who was sighing loudly while watching it with me, as if the film itself were slowly extracting his teeth with no anesthetic. I asked him what the problem was. "Nothing's happening!" he said, "This artsy movie is incredibly pretentious and I can't figure out what's going on." This is when, in so many words, I called him a fast food Philistine monkey, started the film over from the start and watched it alone, which I mostly prefer to do these days anyway. Though I do see his point.

Jeunet/Caro's film is pretty straight-forward if you process it and compartmentalize the surreal events that take place with a healthy dose of belief suspension topped with a heaping appreciation for the absurd. First off, there's a childlike strong man, One (played by the prolific Ron Perlman), whose voracious little brother has been kidnapped by a clan of one-eyed, robotic Naziesque henchman called Cyclops.

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While he's searching for his brother, Perlman stumbles across an exploited-orphan thug racket trained by a pair of evil Siamese twins to pickpocket and pillage the town surrounding them dry. Eventually the evil twins need assistance when their main thief, Miette (played by nymphet Judith Vittet), goes awol with the lovelorn strongman puppy-dogging by her side, and forcefully commissions the aide of their former circus ringleader to employ his well-trained fleas to inject a mind-warping serum into the brains of their opponants, turning them into murderous zombies, killing anyone within arms reach.

While of of this is happening a skynest of six cloned mad scientists and their bald dreamless brother, along with their miniscule mother and uncle who's a brain floating in formaldehyde, are kidnapping children for their dreams, so that the dreamless brother can steal their dreams and dismantle his own premature aging, which is due to his stunted imagination from the lack of dreaming.

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The sets built for this film are absolutely breathtaking. The atmosphere eerie and dreamlike. The characters are hopeless and well-buffered to the surviving in a dystopian world. Creating a universe like that from scratch deserves much praise for the courage and gumption involved to make a vision, such as City of Lost Children glow, amid dark-green, phosphorescent seas and steel-gray docklands.
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Rango--a review


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Rango is a great homage to Westerns, and to great films in general, but it is not a movie for kids. If I were a Deadhead I'd say the movie's for people gourd geeked on psilocybin--the hallucinatory agent in magical mushrooms. But as a former/non-stoner the hyper surreal elements playing off the very realistic desert atmosphere are still a mind blizzard to be reckoned with. (Be sure to have a bottle of water on hand.) 

The talking desert creatures for instance: they are not cute; they're horrendously dried-out, jaundice-eyed, dusty and hostile townsfolk critters. The title character's no better; he's a bug-eyed, thin-limbed reptile with a bent neck and slapstick case of the wobble-de-woes. 

During few scenes I couldn't help but think that the childhood version of me would've been terrified with nightmares from the handful of monstrous villains scattered about, bullying propositions of death onto a ghost town's hapless citizens with sharpened fangs dripping venom, miniature firearms at inklings of threat. The vigilante army was anything but reticent. 

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Maybe kids are tougher than they used to be. The Santa Barbara matinee where I watched Rango was filled with tiny children brought by their parents to see what the fuss was all about for this Johnny Depp movie about a funny lizard in the desert getting into trouble. The kids were more than vocal throughout the scariest moments, but for the most part they seemed entertained, though most of the laughter came from adults, aimed at the absurdity of fecal humor and pyrogenic bar violence.


What really makes the movie great are its amazing visuals. The animation is crisp and spectacular, a proud marker of CGI advancement in 2011. 

Compared to last year's "Illusionist" which resembled a geriatric flip book Lolita minus the Viagra fantasy, Rango came, conquered and destroyed any pre-assembled techniques even relatively below par--with substance to boot, minus 3D embellishments that most animated films are superimposing these days, as reliant decoys for insubstantial flash and bling bling dollar sign mass marketing hijinks. Overall, it's pure, absurd entertainment.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

a rant about my library & the experimental process

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Hoarding books has become a past time of mine. It's kind of like shopping, except I'm borrowing a series of stacks around the living/bed room. There are four stacks on a sorry excuse for a couch, and one stack beside me on a makeshift table filled with miniature potted plants
 

I make an effort to pick up titles written by women, but the ones I've actually heard of are scarce, though there are always three copies of Willa Cather's My Antonia scattered around; I'm scared of that book now.

I tried checking out
Ordinary People by Judith Guest, too, but the damn thing wouldn't scan, so I left it at the dock thinking the material's probably dated anyway. Still, it's not very long. Perhaps next time.

The stack beside me is dense. I don't know how many will actually make it into my head any time soon. From the bottom up are DFW's
Oblivion and Girl with Curious Hair, Middlesexthe Vintage Bradbury, Junky by Burroughs, A Book of Common Prayer by Didion, the Crying of Lot 49 (hard to get into) the Remains of the Day and Lorrie Moore's Self-Help.

These books have nothing to do with the books I've bought, which are stacked around the tv. It's a journey more than it is entertainment; and the more books I read, the more I lose my patience with things which seem written with less effort, but win mass acclaim due to the popularity of the author who penned them.

One book which pissed me off recently was
the Body Artist by Don Delillo. Making it through White Noise felt like a conquest, the Body Artist, on the other hand, made me feel patronized. It's one thing in trying to be experimental to work in the realm of some new nuance--extracting narrative, stark minimalism, ignoring punctuation, condensed chronology, atmospheric prose and throwing voices for dialogue, it's another thing all together to warble some stream of consciousness gibberish which only makes sense to no one and present the vomit as high art.

Who cares if you were possessed by the demon essence of a woman who once lived in your sick drawer? If you're not going to even attempt to showcase language, when narrative is ignored, then what are you doing?
 

It used to be fiction was good for a means of escape; nowadays what I'm coming across is an Academic contest of who can make it seem most a treacherous chore to behold and take apart.

This is in no way progress, or a way of preserving the value of words. Sure, play with language as if it's an instrument for sound, but remember--music still exists for that. Why try to merge to the two, when clearly the effort is making a strain on the actual meaning incubated in good prose. Style, even in experimental writing is a concoctive process, not a cop-out meandering of scattered parts.

Back to the bit about the library, I'm sure my habit of hoarding books isn't too big of a problem since I won't always live very close to a hopping place like the Silverlake branch, so I'll keep doing what I'm doing.
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Manhattan Murder Mystery--a premature review

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"Save a little craziness for menopause!"

This is what Woody Allen says to Diane Keaton around the 34th minute of Manhattan Murder Mystery. I'd say their characters say it, but it's hard to imagine they're playing anyone but modestly amplified versions of themselves in this one. The film also seems more improvised than Allen's others, which have more focus on the depth of character relations in ways which they intertwine with a complicated wit.

I have to admit that most of this analysis is a defensive attempt at trying to appreciate a movie that has been annoying from the get-go. I'm struggling to get through it. It's taking me back to the time when I came upon some similar later day Woody Allen movie, before I'd watched a few of the better films: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Deconstructing Harry, Hannah and her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors.

I can't remember what it was, but I remember finding Allen's stuttering nervousness shtick revolting. It's adorable now, in the context of a compelling picture, and maybe when he even tones it down a bit, but so far in MMM, it's just too over the top.

Diane's Keaton is dressed in tremendously oversized clothes, as well, and she looks like shit. These issues combined are so distracting, I can't focus on caring if there's been a murder enough to sympathize with Keaton tripping out because she has nothing better to do.

It makes me feel like a terrible human not to care in a plot if a man next door has killed his wife versus her just having a heart attack. It was probably personal if he did, so he wouldn't be a danger to anyone else. So what's the sense of taking justice into your own hands, if a situation's got nothing to do with you?

Now I'm hoping he murdered his wife, so I haven't wasted 34 minutes so far watching Diane Keaton flip out over nothing but some stupid paranoid flaw in her personality. I know this could be the catalyst for an affair with Anjelica Huston's character, who was just introduced as being the cool opposite of Keaton's frazzled quirky lady shtick, since affairs are a common theme in Allen's pictures, but hell oh hell there better be a murder, or something that makes the next hour and thirteen minutes worthwhile, otherwise I'm going to be hostile.
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