That whole thing about ghosts?

False alarm. I don't feel like doing it any more.

If I'm in a writing mood, I might do another movie review or something.

Oh, and the Jules Verne thing a couple posts below? Turns out there are abridged versions of his stories, published by Vintage. I saw the whole paragraph I painstakingly typed out in full reduced to a mere sentence: "For centuries explorers have attempted to reach the South Pole...". Now I feel cheated, going through such laborious text, more like documentation, lists upon lists of fish and underwater life I never cared about, all the minute technical details which I couldn't even follow, and all the other fat which could have been cut out to make a good read, not just by today's standards (it's not like I haven't read plenty of 19th century literature), and all of a sudden, there are versions available that actually do cut out all the fat! If I ever plan on reading his other books, I kind of feel obligated to find the Collins editions that retain the text complete and unabridged. It's a slog, yes, but at least I'm not being cheated.

What will be written next?

I don't write much these days. I'm still reading books, watching old & new films, and playing some video games every now and then, but it's not like I have the dying urge to write about everything I experience. It always seems bland to me to read a straight-forward review or analysis of something, even when it's humorous. It almost seems cold and mechanic to watch, read or play something and go to your blog and say "this is what I did". Where's the spin? Where's the angle? What am I getting out of it?

This is why I don't write as much as I want to, but I have something in mind which I'm currently preparing. What will it be about? I've seen some great movies lately: Immortals 3D, The Ides of March, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol... I've read some great books: The Hobbit by Tolkien, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, not to mention the entire Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, as well as all the film/TV/animated adaptations, plus a smaller book he wrote called Surprised by Joy, an interesting autobiography and thought-piece on religion. I haven't really been playing many video games, I guess there's Beat Hazard Ultra, an Asteroids-like shoot-em-up which customises itself depending on what music you play to it. This lead me to create two songs for it, which can be heard on my tumblr. But these, I won't be writing about for now. I have something else in mind.

What will it be? I can only give one word as a hint: Ghosts.

Jules Verne

There is no finer example than Jules Verne for a writer who suffered for their art and inflicts it upon the reader.

Case in point: In chapter 38 of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Captain Nemo has steered his underwater vessel Nautilus into a strange isle within the Antarctic. He means to set foot where no man has set before: the South Pole. In this new land, he waits for the sun to shine its rays at noon, to determine his exact position. Apparently, it's been cloudy for the past two days, and this is the last day the sun will shine before it passes the equinox and doesn't rise again for another six months. Let's take a look, shall we?

 Captain Nemo, provided with a reticulated glass which, by means of a mirror, corrected the refraction, watched the sun as it disappeared gradually below the horizon describing an elongated diagonal. I held the chronometer. My heart beat quickly. If the disappearance of half the disc coincided with the noon of the chronometer, we were at the Pole itself.
 'Twelve!' I cried.
 'The South Pole!' answered Captain Nemo in a grave tone, giving me the glass which showed the sun cut in exactly equal halves by the horizon.
 I looked at the last rays crowning the peak, and the shadows gradually mounting its slopes.
 At that moment Captain Nemo, resting his hand on my shoulders, said, -
 'Professor, in 1600 the Dutchman Gheritk, carried along by currents and tempests, reached 64° of south latitude, and discovered the new Shetlands. In 1773, on the 17th of January, the illustrious Cook, following the 38th meridian, reached latitude 67° 30; and in 1774, on the 30th of January, on the 109th meridian, he reached 71° 15 of latitude. In 1819 the Russian Bellinghausen reached the 69th parallel, and in 1821 the 76th by 111° of west longitude. In 1820 the Englishman Brunsfield was stopped on the 65th degree. The same year the American Morrel, whose recital is doubtful, ascending the 42nd meridian, discovered open sea in latitude 70° 14. In 1825 the Englishman Powell could not cross the 62nd parallel. The same year a simple seal-fisher, the Englishman Weddel, reached 72° 14 of latitude on the 35th meridian, and 74° 15 on the 36th. In 1829 the Englishman Forster, commanding the Chanticleer, took possession of the Antarctic continent in 63° 50 of latitude; in 1832, on 5th of February, Adelaide Land in 68° 50 of latitude. In 1838 the Frenchman Dumont d'Urville, stopped by the icebank in 62° 57 of latitude, sighted Louis-Philippe Land; two years later, on a new point in the south, he named, in 66° 30 on January 21, Adelaide Land; and, eight days after in 66° 30 Clarie Coast. In 1838 the Englishman Wilkes reached the 69th parallel on the 100th meridian. In 1839 the Englishman Balleny discovered Sabrina Land on the limits of the Polar circle. Lastly, in 1842, the Englishman James Ross, with the Erebus and Terror, on the 12th of January, in 76° 56 of latitude and 171° 7 of east longitude, discovered Victoria Land; on the 23rd of the same month he reached the 74th parallel, the highest point obtained till then; on the 27th he was in 76° 8, on the 28th in 77° 32, on the 2nd of February in 78° 4, and in 1842 he returned to the 71st degree, beyond which he could not go. I, Captain Nemo, on the 21st March, 1868, have reached the South Pole on the 90th degree, and I take possession of this part of the globe, equal to the sixth part of known continents.'
 'In whose name, captain?'
 'In my own, sir.'
 So saying, Captain Nemo unfurled a black flag, bearing an N in gold, quartered on its bunting. Then, turning towards the sun, whose last rays were lapping the horizon of the sea, he exclaimed, -
 'Adieu, sun! Disappear, thou radiant star! Rest beneath this free sea, and let a six months' night spread its darkness over my new domain!'

THE THING (2011)

(I had this post left hanging half-written in my drafts for about a month. My friend decided to write up a review of John Carpenter's 1982 version, and so I have been compelled to continue where I've left off, which might explain the digression half way through)

I will start on a positive whim, and talk about what I liked about this film. I liked the design of the special effects of the monster thingy--from here on referred to as Thinga-me-bobs--which was impressively sketched out like something from the pages of The Necronomicon, or inspired by the manga Parasyte. The concept of the Thinga-me-bobs was creepy on its own, but then, tragiluckily, they had to go ahead and make a movie about it. I say the special effects were well done, I just take issue with they way they were employed.

Which brings me to what I didn't like about this film, namely: everything else!

The Thinga-me-bobs was quite horrifying, but they lingered on it too long, as if the production team had to pat itself on the back for a job so well done, but the more we see it on screen the sillier it gets. This is due to bad pacing, so let me talk about that for a second.

The Thing (2011) is a slow-paced film, which is good for a horror, for it can linger on the atmosphere and build the world around you. You get to know the characters, and you become more vulnerable to shock via loud screeching beasts from Hell. But this is a very boring film, crippled by sloppy writing leaning on "established convention" as a crutch. I'll talk more about the writing later, I want to bring attention to the actors first, and how they contributed to the aforementioned everything else.

Particularly Mary Elizabeth Winstead--from here on will be referred to as MEW--in the lead role, and who was admittedly the real reason I was attracted to this film. I enjoyed MEW in Scott Pilgrim vs The World as Ramona Flowers. She had a laid-back charm, and seemed to affect the way I interpreted her character in the comics (same couldn't be said for most of the other actors). The only other time I've seen her was in Death Proof, where she talked about peeing on some guy, and it was great.

MEW is distractingly beautiful, and I hope that beauty will never be ruined or wrecked by the likes of Zack Snyder or Brett Ratner or some other creep. And although I never saw that dancing movie she did, I hope her talents are recognised and exploited to full potential in the future. In The Thing (2011), however, I'm obliged to say she was a little too beautiful for this role. She was like a void, sucking in the light from the surroundings, rendering my eyes useless to the scenario whenever she was on screen. In her more grittier, muddier moments, I noticed how she would show her face, and behold, no grit or mud! Her face perfectly made up, her big round eyes glaring at whatever CGI thing is getting at her, no tears, no dirt, just MEW in all her unholy glory.

Her interaction with Joel Edgerton didn't so much lack chemistry, but produce an undesired effect. Edgerton--here on referred to as Edgerton (OK I'll stop that)--is basically an Australian-import with an undeniable presence. He's charming, handsome and buff, a true beefcake of a man. He's basically everything Sam Worthington should be. But then his flirty glances at MEW--who in turn gives a lacking response--end up making him out to be a creepy leering rapist, who you don't want to be caught in the same room with alone.

The Norwegians in this movie were awesome, but like the special effects, weren't very effective.

To get back to the writing/pacing, the first encounter between MEW and Edgerton takes place in a helicopter ride to the Antarctic base. Edgerton gives MEW a creepy glance, she returns it with confusion, he indicates headphones and she responds by putting them on. He asks her about a basketball team, she says she doesn't follow football, etc. Some other characters are in the helicopter, I guess, like the token black guy, but Edgerton warns her of a storm and jokes about being shacked up with a bunch of Norwegians. I don't know how long this scene goes for, but I would have cut the whole thing. Everything it establishes is either already established or it will be. All it really gives us is that Edgerton is creepy, MEW is creeped out, and we haven't even got to the Thinga-me-bobs yet!

There is a difference between slow-paced and boring. I've heard someone else say this before, and it's true. Another thing I find boring: predictability.

Some call it the Jack-In-The-Box trick, also known as The Jump Scare and it's inferior off-shoot The Cheap Shot. It goes like this: stuff is happening, then stuff stops happening, the music dies down, absolutely nothing is happening, but it feels like that maybe--BOO! Gotcha! Hahahahaha!

But seriously, the token black guy--OK, I'll call him Triple A--is looking at the ice-block, intensely, and someone behind him actually says "Boo!", and then laughs. And Triple A says "get the hell outta here fool!" and the guy walks away. Oh and then the Thinga-me-bobs jumps out of the ice-block.

And I'm like "pfffffffff".

I'm not against jump-scares, or even cheap-shots. It's all about how they're dealt with. A Jack-in-the-box will always work the same way, and when you consistently see the action coming to a complete halt, you always know what to expect: something's going to pop out, or a sudden noise hit the speakers, whether it's a scare or a false scare. It's a formula, and it's also a cliché. But they can still be employed with tact, since the whole idea of a scare is that the audience is not supposed to predict them.

For the best jump-scares, I will cite The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin. The mother is on the phone, bearing some horrible news, the doctors can't explain what's happening with her daughter, and she seems to feel distressed over the sudden changes in her daughter's behaviour. She hangs up the phone, then looks up the stair-case with a sudden fright...PUDDUMPUDDUMPUDDUMP! the daughter comes spider-walking down the stairs! That scene makes my heart skip a beat, every time. There are plenty of jumpy moments in this film, but it's also just hardcore horror in every respect.

Cheap-shots are a harder kind to pin down. I would cite Jaws, directed by Stephen Spielberg. Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Brody (Rob Scheider) drive their boat to another boat which is a sight for a recent shark-attack. Hooper decides to investigate, and scuba-dives underneath, against Brody's advice. Hooper finds a large hole, which looks like it's been bitten out. He feels around the hole's edge, and picks out a tooth. It looks like a shark tooth--BAM!

A severed head floats out of the hole. He drops the tooth and comes to the surface gasping for air.

Now that's what I call a cheap-shot!

The Sorcerer and the White Snake

The official Chinatown in Brisbane is in a suburb adjacent to the city called Fortitude Valley. There you'll find a line of restaurants and supermarkets. But the the unofficial Chinatown, where all the Chinese actually are, is in an out-of-the-way suburb called Sunnybank.

Sunnybank is so Chinese their restaurants display menus without English translations.
I'm even intimidated to buy a cup of coffee there, lest I don't know the proper way to ask for one. Their cinema however, located within the Sunnybank Plaza, owned by the Hoyts franchise, is a unique place whereby alongside exhibition of the regular mainstream selection, they also exhibit the occasional Chinese release that no other cinema could find an audience for. This is where I went to see the latest Jet Li fantasy epic 白蛇傳說之法海 (else known as the sorcerer and the white snake).

My personal impression of this film: it was all a bit silly for my liking. The story, while based in a fantasy make-it-up-as-you-go-along setting drawing from traditional Chinese mythology, at its core had some powerful moments. It contained the four elements of a proper epic: romance, melodrama, magic and mystery. The acting was top-notch, quality performances all around from the leading roles to the minute bit-parts. The special effects? They left much to be desired. But here's the problem: this movie was heavily reliant on the special effects. I didn't see it in 3D like I was supposed to, but I'm sure it wouldn't have helped. Quality melodrama and uncanny valley CGI do not mix well in my stomach, and my regurgitation makes an apt meta-metaphor for this pile of pretty colours passing itself off pitifully as a plausible light-show. But that's just my personal impression.

I wouldn't watch this a second time, I wouldn't buy it on blu-ray, but I don't regret the experience. The most interesting part about seeing this movie was seeing it with a Chinese audience, who were all listening to the words rather than reading the subtitles.

There was a scene of light comic relief, where Jet Li--who plays the head arbiter of a monk temple bent on exercising demons from the human realm--hitches a ride in a boat with his protégé to go take care of some demons or something. The boat is driven by a poor medicine man who aspires to run his own pharmacy, and the conversation about aspiration carries over to the protégé who says he aspires to one day become the head arbiter of his temple. Jet Li gets serious and asks something like "and where does that leave me? You want me dead, is that it?" I was half-way across rolling my eyes when I was caught by surprise from the big laughs coming from the audience behind me. I mean proper laughter. I don't know if there was something lost in translation, or if I'd missed some sort of cultural context, but something about Jet Li was apparently hysterical, and so I de-rolled my eyes back to their starting positions. And this happened a few times.

I get easily annoyed whenever I hear someone say they won't watch a film with subtitles. Their typical excuse is they don't feel they should need to use their head as much in reading and watching at the same time. A flimsy excuse to miss out on 50%+ of the greatest films you'll ever see! But now I have to wonder about subtitles: do they properly capture the essence and context of what the characters are saying? Could all of that even be translated into English? Take the above scene, for example. I know the Chinese are deeply rooted in a sense of hierarchy, that there is always a superior and an inferior. Jet Li's underling aspires to one day reach the top, but Jet Li corners him by taking it as an insult, considered to be the ultimate faux pas, pitting the poor guy in a sticky situation indeed. The best way to subtitle this, I suppose, is to translate what's not being said, like: "You wan't me dead, is that it? [Awkward!]"

Although I found the film wholly unsatisfying, I'm glad I saw it in the end. Seeing a movie is much better when you see it with the audience who it was meant for, and I felt like I was involved in something rare. Like a secret.

A couple things.

Scott Pilgrim vol's 1-6 by Brian Lee O'Malley

After reading Watchmen many years ago, I became disillusioned with comic books. I didn't think anything else could achieve the power and intensity that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons achieved in that magnum opus. Every comic I attempted became cluttered, confusing and by the end utterly inane. Superheroes don't mean anything to me any more, I've moved beyond the hero and villain archetypes and craved more dimensional characters, complex narratives and most of all--resonance.

I wish I hadn't watched the film before discovering the Scott Pilgrim books because now I'll have to watch it again, with the realisation of its hollowness and failure. I mean, it all seems so incomplete.

The past few posts were little thought-pieces on the books I've been reading, but then I came up to Scott Pilgrim and decided to hold off posting until I've compiled all the things I needed for a lengthy, in-depth review of the film. Firstly, I'll say the books were brilliant, and contained everything I wanted in reading a comic. I fear that instead of restoring my faith in the comic format it has repelled me even more from the medium, unless anyone can recommend me any other good ones to read.

Secondly, I'll say now that I'm not sure if I'm ready to take on the task of the Scott Pilgrim vs The World film post. To give an idea, here is the outline of what I have planned:

Why the film is a failure: Marketing, as an adaptation, and as a film.

Why I love the film still: A summary of art and pop culture of its time, it's technical achievements, and etc.

A history of art in film, leading up to SPvTW:
(each film mentioned will belong in its own post with a link to it, that I will post beforehand, and an explanation of how they apply to SPvTW).
-Modern Art--Expressionism: Cabinet of Caligari
-Modern Art--Surrealism: Un Chien Andalou
-Contemporary Art--Post-modernism: Contempt
-Contemporary Art--Pop Art/Comic Books: Hulk and Sin City
-Video Games: Super Mario Brothers, Mortal Kombat and Doom

A study of the film's interior logic, regarding absurdist humour, comic-book aesthetics, video-game logic and character point of view.

Character analyses: Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers and Gideon Graves.

And then down in the comments section I'll do a scene-by-scene analysis, including commentary on the shots, technical points, references, comparisons to the books and whatever else pops into my head. So, you know, I'm thinking big, and maybe biting off more than I can chew with this one. Anyway...

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I decided to read this one because I found out about its film adaptation, and thought "just for fun" I would compare the two. Oh boy...

The book is brilliant, amazing, as expected of anything by Vonnegut. It is a great pre-curser to Timequake, pretty much in the same liberal, anti-establishment style but not quite as much of a messy mindfuck on the structural front. I can't resist an excerpt, although I warn that it is a bit of a spoiler. From the start I was wondering what was with all the digressions and the multiple strands of character threads interweaving in and out of the plot. After a while I became desensitised to it and accepted whatever came. Then Vonnegut, about two thirds into the book, explains exactly what he was doing all along, suddenly and brilliantly illuminating everything written before it:
►I had no respect whatsoever for the creative works of either the painter or the novelist. I thought Karabekian with his meaningless pictures had entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make the poor people feel stupid. I thought Beatrice Keedsler had joined hands with other old-fashioned storytellers to make people believe that life had leading characters, minor characters, significant details, insignificant details, that had lessons to be learned, tests to be passed, and a beginning, a middle, and an end.
 As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.
 Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.
 And so on.
 Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.
 If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.
 It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done.

Then I watched the film, which was made in 1999. I felt like I was watching a bunch of children trying to make their parents and peers laugh, but trying too hard, and harder and harder. It was an awkward mess, and as far as an adaptation goes, it just about sucked out everything that was good about the story. All that was left out, left in, invented and re-invented of the story, none of it mattered, because it was just a bad film, which I felt so sorry to see. But considering the comparisons, in its own way the film ended up falling opposite of everything Vonnegut intended to express. The film has no value, skip it.

Immediately after I watched Slaughterhouse Five, made in 1972, also based off a great Vonnegut novel, perhaps considered his best. Like Breakfast of Champions, the film doesn't hold a candle to the book, understandably, it couldn't possibly achieve the wonderful little literary devices that made the book so great. But it was a great film, beautiful, subtle, complex, emotional, innovative, intelligent and entertaining. It should be seen, whether you've read the book or not.


I am doing two things at once. I'm playing My Japanese Coach on the DS, even though I'm only semi-dedicated and more concerned about finishing it, I'm learning a fair bit. I'm even learning a bit of Kanji! Understanding how the vowels and adjectives work are a pain, I kind of skimmed over them but at least know it's all there if I ever feel more dedicated.

Whenever I'm taking a break from learning Japanese, I'm reading through King Lear by William Shakespear. I got through the first act, tried to summarise it in my head, then re-read over a few parts, then realised I'll have to start again. Also, I don't know how he wrote his plays to be so long...

I don't know if I'll finish King Lear, but I have a whole line of other books on my reading list, and even more on my to-buy list. Authors include H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Jules Verne, John Wyndham and Yevgeny Zamyatin. The classics.


I saw these two great movies in one day which I think is significant enough to commemorate with a blog post.

13 ASSASSINS directed by Takashi Miike, screenplay by Daisuke Tengan (who also did Audition)

I had to go all the way out to Dendy Portside to see this one, it was the only cinema screening it. It was in E-Cinema, which is a type of digital projection at about DVD quality. The curtains were separated for Wide-Screen but the movie was in Cinemascope, letterboxed. Have you ever watched a movie letterboxed at a cinema? The subtitles were over the black bar at the bottom, I guess so it doesn't interfere with the image. The sound was in stereo, I think, I couldn't here any sound directly behind me or beside me, just mainly from the front. Miike films aren't really outstanding for their sound-design though, which makes them so much more fun, in a way.

The movie, none the less, hooked me in. Being roughly 2 hours 20 minutes, the first hour-and-a-half or so was a huge complicated mess of information in typical Miike fashion. If you don't concentrate, you'll easily lose track of who's who and what's happening. In most cases a Miike film is designed to be watched multiple times, so I was used to it. I gathered the basic plot was that there was this evil aristocratic overlord who was killing a bunch of people because he felt like it, this is considering that the film is based in the Edo period, a time of peace after many era's of warfare. A badass samurai called Shinzaemon is summoned to take care of the business. Shinzaemon does what he can to gather as many top-class samurai and ronin as he can muster, which is difficult in a time of peace, when a Samurai's services are hardly needed, which is why he only ends up with a rag-tag group of 12. The 13th assassin is a mystery, barely explained in the film, I think he's some kind of Shinto myth or something, but he was really cool, and the most distinct and recognisable character in the entire film.

The last hour or so is a total bloodbath. The bad guy is lured into a seemingly innocent town, but it's really a trap set up by the 13 assassins. The problem is, the overlord has an entourage of 200+ men and this is where things get completely absurd/awesome. This is probably the most impressive Miike film yet, in his signature over-the-top style the brutality just keeps going and going and going. There's one great shot where a river of blood gushes over the roof of a building, and I still don't know what that's all about!

This is one for the Blu-ray collection.

SUBMARINE written/directed by Richard Ayaode

The guy who plays Moss in The IT Crowd has made a movie! What's so special about an actor who plays a computer nerd making a movie? Because Richard Ayaode is also a huge film nerd. This is evident in his earlier television creation Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, a show about bad story-telling. I often talk about jazz musicians who knowingly break the rules they have mastered, but there is another side of the spectrum, is when you unknowingly break the rules you were never aware of. If you watch Tommy Wiseau's The Room or James Nguyen's Birdemic Shock and Terror, there is a strange charm in films that explore the completely wrong way of story-telling. What makes Garth Marenghi's Darkplace such a mindfuck is that Richard Ayaode and Matthew Holness are knowingly breaking rules in a way as if they're unaware of them.

"Rules" are hard to define in cinema, as there aren't really any rules, just guidelines to make sure the audience doesn't become confused, bored, frustrated or unintentionally laughing at a serious dramatic scene. Then you have a "conventional" style of film making that uses and re-uses well established film techniques so that audiences don't have to think or feel too much for themselves. Convention keeps things sterile and can get boring in its own way. Submarine is an unconventional film.

I don't know if it's good or bad to say this, but I am reminded of Stephen Spielberg's early movies, like Duel or Jaws, that felt similar in style to Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Spielberg's stories needed suspense, so who better to borrow from? In the same way, Submarine felt stylistically similar to a Martin Scorcese movie. I can't really define in a few words what that means exactly, but if you watch a lot of Scorcese movies you'll see what I mean. Maybe Scorcese is the master of unconvention?

I loved Submarine, and I must watch it again some time. Ayaode has managed to construct a story out of back-to-back moments that should be nothing but awkward and excruciating, but has made them beautiful and engaging. He employs humour and drama in perfect fluidity. It may be obnoxious for me to say, but the most unconventional thing about this film is how much I invested in the characters emotionally. The most heart-breaking moment is when Oliver Tate, the protagonist, has his heart broken. Etcetera.

I highly recommend this film, I recommend it for all.

BOOK: TIMEQUAKE by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

A word of advice to any one starting out in creative writing: do not attempt to be anything like Kurt Vonnegut! You will only end up hurting yourself.

I am not quoting anyone in saying that, it comes entirely from me, and if anything, it's a memo to myself. Vonnegut is a rule-breaker. He is a writing equivalent to a jazz musician, who has devoted themselves to mastering the rules of music, that it becomes more interesting to hear them being being broken. Vonnegut has managed to twist and turn written language until it has become something entirely and uniquely his own. Any attempt at imitating his work without understanding the basic rules of English will result in superficially copying language anomalies and absorbing them as mistakes.

I wouldn't recommend it even for novice writers. Vonnegut was and always will be better than anyone in this contemporary age.

I feel I jumped into Timequake a little too early as, I later learned, it was his last novel, published ten years before he died in 2007. Then again it is probably the best place to start, as it is all about Kurt Vonnegut and his life, his books, life (in general) and books (in general). Getting Timequake out of the way first will definitely give you a better understanding of all his other written works when you explore them later on. It's just that this book has such a complex narrative, layered and meta, weaving in and out of fiction, non-fiction, and philosophical asides, it may be a little difficult to get into. So you'll have to excuse me if I'm a little bit confusing when I try and summarise the plot here.

Written when he was 73, it often felt like I was reading the ramblings of a senile old genius. The story is framed around a fictitious clambake on a beach at the writer's retreat Xanadu, in summer of 2001, six months after the timequake's rerun ended. The timequake itself was a glitch in the space-time continuum, that happened on February 13th 2001, that caused the Universe to go back in time nearly ten years to February 17h, 1991. Everything in the Universe had to run its exact course as it did before, even with the awareness that it's already been done, there was no free will during those second ten years.

At the clambake were a host of characters, real and fictitious, who were or were resembling Vonnegut's close friends and family, as well as himself. The clambake was a celebration for Kilgore Trout, a fictitious science-fiction writer who was also the alter-ego for Vonnegut, whom he created for his undying habit of constantly inventing short stories. The celebration wasn't for Kilgore Trout's writings, however, but for his intervention into the other character's lives by snapping them out of Post-Timequake Apathy (PTA).

PTA is when free will kicks in again after the timequake is over, but the person doesn't realise it and still acts as if their on automatic-pilot, which results in them falling down or being immobilised like a statue. The story of Kilgore Trout's intervention happens in Timequake One, the first version of this book, which Vonnegut decided to cut out the good parts and scrap the rest. He did all this before, of course, before the timequake hit and now he has to do it again.

In Timequake One, Kilgore Trout wrote many short stories, and Vonnegut relays a summary of a few of them, while providing anecdotes of his own. He relates friends and family he knew in his own life to the characters in the story, and it all builds up to a complex and climactic sequence of events that happened when the timequake ended, and free will kicked in again.

In trying to summarise this story, I realise how much I am in love with this book. It is the finest example of a literary novel I have ever read, and will hope to read again and again as I grow older. It contains everything about the world, life and death. I hope it is read by everybody, at some point in all of their precious lives.

UP NEXT: Scott Pilgrim vol's 1-6

I probably won't do a post on these books, as I'm planning to do a post on the movie. I'm just reading these now as I probably should if I'm going to talk in-depth about the movie at some point. So far as I've read, the books and the movie are quite radically different even if they are the same story.

I will also take a bit of a break from reading and focus on a bit of writing, and other stuff I want to work on.

BOOK: EMBASSYTOWN by China Miélville

Check out this cool picture I found on Google:
Here is an excerpt of the very first paragraph:
THE CHILDREN of the embassy all saw the boat land. Their teachers and shiftparents had had them painting it for days. One wall of the room had been given over to their ideas. It's been centuries since any voidcraft vented fire, as they imagined this one doing, but it's a tradition to represent them with such trails. When I was young, I painted ships the same way.
From reading this you can pretty much gather what you're in for. Unfamiliar words like "shiftparents" and "voidcraft" are not defined, there is no sense of location, time or any of the other five W's. Throughout the prologue, you are only given a sense of mood, but nothing really tangible. Miélville perhaps supposes that the reader will be revisiting the prologue later, when it makes more sense.

After the prologue, there is a preface. Chapter 1 doesn't happen for a while, but here is where you are given background information on the narrator, the world she is from and the reason she is going back. Miélville drops in an outsider character, Scile, the narrator's husband, as a neat way to give a little bit of exposition. Scile is a language academic, and he wants to study the natives of Embassytown and their culture. During his time in the book, he explains everything that the Embassytowners already know, but have never articulated themselves.

What I like about the preface, or the "proem" as it's described in the book, is that Miélville gives you an opportunity to make a choice. If this is your kind of thing, then read on, but if not, then you can put the book down and never pick it up again. You may have a little bug eating away at the back of your brain, a bug called regret, gnawing away at the fact you might have put down the greatest story you'll ever read in your life, but if it's not your thing it's not your thing. That's OK. If you read on, however, then you have just signed The Contract. In my situation my housemate who lent me the book told me I had to read it anyway, not that I wouldn't have if I had the choice.

The sole condition of The Contract is that you are trapped in a binding agreement that you can not put this book down until you have reached the last page. One paragraph after another, the story keeps escalating, and building layers, like a snowball rolling uphill. This book may easily be found in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, but it's real genre is Thriller, but also just happens to be situated on a cool alien planet at the edge of the known Universe, with properly alien aliens.

I still have trouble imagining what the "Hosts" look like, at one point they are described as something like "insect-horse-crab-coral chimeric beasts", but I imagine if this was made as some kind of film (which would have impossibly-high expectations), there would be a creature-shop department employed by people straight out of a lunatic asylum, or whatever politically correct term they call it now days.

There is a kind of technology in Embassytown called "biorigging"--this basically means every technology is actually a live organism. Imagine a large fleshy gun with a mouth and teeth, and when you pull the trigger its mouth opens and howls a flaming projectile. Even the houses are alive, the wallpaper is actually its skin, and through some orifice, like a fireplace or something, is where you have to feed it. I can't help but think that Miélville is probably a huge GWAR fan or something.

I won't go too specific into the strange world of Embassytown and its story, it probably takes about as long to explain as reading the story itself. I'd like to think the story is very much about language and symbolism, about perception and reality, and probably related to Lacanian psychology. If you're not a thinker, you don't have to think that it's really about anything, as the story itself is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. At least that's what it did to me.

In summary, a great read, highly recommended, I should check out more of Miélville's stuff.

Up next: TIMEQUAKE by Kurt Vonnegut.

The following quote is by Phillip K. Dick, when he took a questionerre for Science Fiction writers back in 1969. It is not about Timequake (which was written in 1996), it's about Vonnegut's first book Player Piano, but it may as well be about any of his books:
Question 11: What do you consider the greatest weakness of science fiction today?

Its inability to explore the subtle, intricate relationships that exist between the sexes. Men, in their relationship with women, get themselves into the most goddamn difficult circumstances, and SF ignores--or is unable to deal with--this fundamental aspect of adult life. Therefore SF remains preadult, and therefore appeals--more or less--to preadults. If SF explored the man-woman aspect of life it would not lose its readers as those readers reach maturity. The novel Player Piano is an exception to this, and I suggest that every SF fan and especially every would-be writer study again and again the details of this superb novel, which deal specifically with the relationship of the protagonist and his wife.
(I should note that Embassytown has a fair bit of exploration of the relationship between sexes, although it's such a different planet and different culture, it keeps the characters at their core fundamentally human)

BOOK: THE PROFESSOR by Charlotte Brontë

William Crimsworth has become disillusioned with his homeland, namely England, and chances upon the opportunity to go abroad. He is proficient in the French and German languages, and so he settles in Brussels, Belgium, to become and English teacher for boys. His reputation precedes him, and soon he is a teacher for the more highly esteemed girl's school. His reputation extends further, and a young sewing teacher named Frances Henri sits in as a pupil in his class. Her well-spoken English catches the admiration of Crimsworth, and he pays attention to her, but their acquaintance is soon put to a halt under the jealous eye of the school's directress, Mlle Reuter. Etc etc etc.

The story goes on, but first I'd like to pay attention to why I have read this book in the first place. It stems from my personal fascination with the Brontë sisters, mainly Emily, but I have warmed to Ann also. From what I read in their biographies, Charlotte seems to be my least favourite.

That isn't to say Charlotte is not important, and to understand Emily or Ann, you must understand her as well. After reading Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, I thought to read Jane Eyre (I have so far seen two different film adaptations), but came by The Professor in Ann's biography as the primary Charlotte book, the one that she had trouble getting published, and was not until two years after her death. It was after Wuthering Heights/Agnes Grey were published together, that Charlotte went a much darker route and composed her most popular tale, Jane Eyre, arguably the most popular of all the Brontë sister's books combined.

It is hence speculated that Charlotte took inspiration from her sister's more gothic directions, and so it was in my interest to witness that particular development myself, by first reading The Professor then later moving on to Jane Eyre. Then I want to read Ann's Tenant of Wildfell Hall and finally Wuthering Heights a second time.

My general summary of The Professor is that it is a terrible book but well written enough I ended up finishing it anyhow. It is clear that Charlotte Brontë was a talented writer, but was too absorbed in her own indulgence to engage the reader with a proper story. I quote from the first chapter:

My narrative is not exciting, and above all, not marvellous; but it may interest some individuals, who, having toiled in the same vocation as myself, will find in my experience frequent reflections of their own.

In other words, this could be the most thrilling read since The Complete History of Cement Roof Tiles.

While I say it was well written, which I only point out as a precursor to Jane Eyre, it is clear this book is written by Charlotte Brontë. The narrative is in the first person as told by William Crimsworth, but is obviously written from a feminine eye, admiring her school-teacher crush, fantasising about him as a dignified, honest and hard-working man. Particularly in the way she judges every character by their looks and their fashion. There are paragraphs giving elaborate detail describing facial constructions of every character, and their manners and movements and speech patterns. She particularly likes foreheads, as it is a judgement of intelligence. In Charlotte's perfect world, everyone will have giant bulbous foreheads that swell and throb like hot-air balloons. She has contempt for the fashionable and the beautiful, as they are the shallow kind who concern themselves in the superficial and superfluous, and their foreheads are usually of average size.

Charlotte is also clearly writing from her own experiences. She studied languages in Brussels, and there were letters discovered written by her to a certain Professor Hegel who worked there. Passionate letters, you know the kind, which there has not been discovered any replies. Charlotte has inserted herself into the story as Frances Henri, but takes the narrative further by having them get married.

That's not the end, however, as they both decide to run a school of their own, which turns out very successful and profitable. They come to a point where they can even select their students - only the brightest and richest - and their reputation and profit brings them to near-aristocratic status, all through honest hard work and skill. I should point out that Charlotte attempted to start a school herself along with her sisters, which turned out a dismal failure.

So they sell off the school which thrusts them into the upper-class, and they move back to England with a big house and a nice big garden. There is a pathway lined out by daisies, called Daisy Lane, and they raise their son, Victor, in comfort and joy, and are often visited by their good friend and neighbour Husden.

And it keeps going. Husden buys a dog for Victor, and they are inseparable. But the dog gets bitten by another dog with rabies and William has to shoot it dead. Victor, witnessing the event, becomes upset and William has to teach him about life and death and stuff. The story doesn't actually end until Frances literally pulls the pen out of his hand. Which is kind of genius if you think about it.

I suppose a another small issue I had was all the untranslated French dialogue, and how there is no hint whatsoever as to what any of it means. Charlotte must have assumed that anyone with an education enough to be literate - at the time - would know as much French as she did. I understood the general idea of the conversations, it's not entirely necessary to break out the French-English dictionary (I used Wiktionary for some of the words), but once again we have an example of her self-indulgence.

So there you have it. A terrible book, but well written, but go read Jane Eyre instead.

UP NEXT: EMBASSYTOWN by China Mielville.

First impression: It is very confusing at first. It's a kind of science-fiction where you are thrust into the world it is set, with all these new words and terminology you don't understand. I'm reading my housemate's copy and he says it gets easier as it goes along, but being in first-person narrative you're not expected to know what they're talking about at first, as it seems perfectly natural to them. My general take on getting past this is to absorb the mood of the story the first time, and when things are explained later on, read through it all again.


Feminism, in film theory, takes its humble origins from within the female perspective; but eventually unfolds into an entire revelation about how films are ultimately structured.

It begins by acknowledging that cinema is a male-dominated medium; that male producers, directors, writers etc. assume themselves as the primary spectator; leading feminists to observe the portrayal of females on screen being reduced to a spectacle; and the structure of film attributing specifically masculine traits. These traits are what remain as convention, and thus reduced to a common formula:

There are two bodies, the protagonist (P) and the antagonist (A). P is the central character(s) we follow, while A is the opposing character(s) who move the plot forward. Morals have no decision here, though it is conventional for P to be the hero(es) and A as the villain(s), these roles can be switched, or could even be the same character.

I've declared P and A, and now I must declare S - the supporting role(s). S can be a friend, lover or even an object attached to P's affections. Once established, S is already doomed, counting down their time until they are taken away or destroyed by A to further A's personal motive. Thus, A has invaded P's abode and dominated P through the taking of S, instigating the story. This can, and often will, happen more than once, as it provides reasonable motivation to drive P towards a singular resolution - to rise above and dominate A.

Dominance, logical reasoning and singular goals are associated as traits of masculinity. I will not explore the psychology here, as it irritates me to reference Freud as the only resource for psychological understanding, and things like "castration anxiety" are a bit hard to swallow without a long and detailed map of connection. We must acknowledge, however, the call for a more feminine alternative to film - domestic, emotional and episodic - and for females to be portrayed as subjects, not objects. So too must we acknowledge, as well, that we men continue existing; continue relishing our manhood; and celebrating our traits of masculinity!

And there is no better celebration than CONAN THE BARBARIAN (3D).

The film begins with a long-winded exposition, which I later discovered has no importance to the proceeding story, and felt my caveman mind hassled by too much information to process. Once all that was out of the way, the story kicks in with the title character (the well endowed P) being born amid bloody warfare, right in the middle of a battlefield! Blood splattering, guts spilling and bones breaking; a bold preface for the next two hours following.

We track his progress through childhood as he playfully slays three formidable intruders and learns, through his father (Ron Perlman - the first S), about the Secret of Steel. Progress is cut short when Khalar & co. (A and all his salivary excretions) intrude upon Conan's abode; destroys Ron Perlman and retrieves a hidden piece of McGuffin that will make him a god or whatever, instigating Conan's inevitable singular purpose to rise above and dominate him; via barbaric brute force!

Conan grows into Jason Momoa; tall, dark, handsome and ripped. Alongside his bandit friends, he frees slaves from oppressors; then single-handedly overturns a prison just to extract directions from the warden (one of Khalar's ex-minions), pointing the way toward his antagonist. Khalar & co., meanwhile, have been occupied by searching far and wide for the last vital ingredient to the McGuffin; the pure blood of the female descendent of a long line of necromancers - Tamara (the well endowed second S) - who will later become Conan's love interest, thanks to a conveniently placed sex scene.

At first, Conan uses Tamara to lure Khalar into a fight, but fails to rise above and dominate; which is expected as it's only an hour into the movie. Conan escapes with Tamara, followed by some bone-breaking violence, followed by said sex scene, followed by Khalar's minions collecting Tamara for completion of his McGuffin and instigating further, yet more immediate, motivation for Conan's singular purpose, squaring towards the final showdown.

There is a side-plot with a thief guy I've brushed over, but he scarcely fits into the story here, and is more likely a mainstay for the sequels. There is also Khalar's daughter, also inconsequential, and probably dies anyway. I fell asleep during the falling CGI rocks, so I don't really know.

I had this curious dream where a girl I had a major crush on rejected me for a more muscular man, not unlike Jason Momoa. So I resolved to win her back by lifting weights and pumping iron. Every time I lifted a weight, my arms and chest would tighten and bulge into toned, muscular beauty; but when I let go my body would resort to flabbiness, even more so than I had before. So I kept lifting weights growing bigger and bigger, but letting go getting fatter and fatter. I became grossly obese when I remember feeling anxious, I will never win my dream girl at this rate; then I woke to the credits rolling. I figured Conan got his dominance over Khalar, through blood, guts and bones, or whatever.

I mean, we can't break conventional structure, can we? That would mean there would be no complacency; and if there were no complacency, well, I don't even know what that would mean! We have to have complacency, don't we?

Second top 10

A couple posts down there is a top 10 list of favourite films, the idea was to design alternative posters for each one (I'm working on them I swear), well, I've done a second list of top 10 films that didn't make it on the first list:


Plus a third and fourth list for good measure:

Bladerunner (workprint version), Contempt, Drop Dead Fred, Four Lions, Funny Games, Glengarry Glen Ross, Inglourious Basterds, The Birds, Vampire's Kiss, Whisper of the Heart.

A Serious Man, Caché, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Last Days, Mind Games, The Box, The Matrix Revolutions, The Room, The Trial, 12 Angry Men.

They don't challenge me enough at my work. Not that I want them to.

A quote from Moby Dick

(image marginally related)
I've been reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville lately and I came across this wonderful paragraph which I must share here. I thought about providing context, then twice thought against it as it is most effective on its own, granted I may leave the reader in the dark, as its context is no less curious than the prose itself.

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say, - Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all around; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

To think the whole book is like this.

Top 10

While I'm not usually a fan of top ten lists, I thought I'd compile one of my own anyway. This is a list of my favourite movies, which I've given some thought, and think it should be as flawed and personalised as the compiler themselves. The main flaw is that not all my favourites will end up on this list - there is no P.T. Anderson, Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Charlie Kaufman, Gaspar Noe or Richard Linklater here, nor can I bring myself to include more than one movie from the same film maker, otherwise I would've included Funny Games.

A favourite movie greatly differs from a great movie. Although the two can cross over, a favourite movie is usually flawed, niche, specialised, to your own senses. I think this is why a "top ten favourites" can not be disagreeable, because it's about me. My only problem here is to figure out what order to put them in. I'll go the Roger Ebert route and put them alphabetically:

THE NEW WORLD (extended edition)

The main reason for doing this is that I want to get off my lazy butt one day and design alternative movie posters for all of these, kind of like what the Mondo Collection did, only nowhere near as good, and they'll just be for myself. If I get to complete all ten of these, then I'll do another ten - The Top Ten List Of Movies I Feel Gutted For Not Including In The First Top Ten List Of Favourite Movies. Synecdoche New York will be at the top.


Pay no attention to the DVD's behind, even though they are the ones actually in focus for some reason.

I've had a tiresome week this week, and it's about time I wind down with some raw Nicholas Cage movies - the cream of his crop, so to speak.

First we begin with Vampire's Kiss, a classic vampiric tale about madness and teeth(?). Followed with The Wicker Man, a cult classic remake of a cult classic about a classic cult.

Then we step up to the blu-ray quality. In full high-def immersion, we take on Michael Bay's brilliant parody of the emptiness of Hollywood action blockbuster - The Rock, renowned for being his first foray into the hall of fame that is The Criterion Collection. Finally we round off the night with the ultimate Cage vehicle, the one and only Con-Air. Need I say more? Need I?

I haven't actually watched these movies yet, except Con-Air, back in the 90's, but I can't remember it too well. Should be a night of awe and/or intrigue. In any case, bring your own lube.

HANNA a Joe Wright film

I just came from seeing Hanna, the current better alternative to Captain America - although it came out a couple months ago in USA, when it was a better alternative to Thor - but that's all I can really say about it. The best it can achieve right now is that it's the most "underrated" movie this time of year, among a list of forgettable and mind-numbing comic book flicks.

My short definition of Hanna would be "revisionist popcorn action-thriller". I concede it was well made, at times awe-struck by its masterful technical precision. I loved its look, the gritty reality of the photography, and impressed by the lack of noticeable CGI (for I picked a couple objects with indifferent lighting, but I won't spoil the reader with untrained eyes for such things). And I can not complain for a lack of plot, which moved briskly yet casually, just the way I like it.

To summarise, this is a story about a girl raised in the snowy forests of somewhere in Europe by her father, trained to be a perfect killer and soldier. When she is ready, she flips a switch to set off a beacon for some CIA (or something) agent to find her and hunt her down. The movie kicks off from there and she travels around Europe on a great chase, discovering the truth about herself and the joys of finding independence and freedoms she was deprived of in her past.

My concern is that I did not gain anything out of it by the end, either intellectually or emotionally. Should it be a complement to say you can switch your brain off during this movie, but not required to go all the way off, but more like "standby" mode? Perhaps I have entered the dark side of film viewing, expecting a film to be about something, and if not, then be a riotous piece of camp. This was my same problem with watching The Dark Knight. Perhaps there is something if you look for it, but in my mind, I've had much more fulfilling experiences with other films. Great films.

It makes me think of another film from a while ago, Sucker Punch a Zack Snyder film. What both films have in common, besides sexy action-babe female protagonists, is the point of being cool for no sake other than being cool. The difference is that Sucker Punch fails, because it tries way too hard to impress with established "cool things", and Hanna succeeds, because Joe Wright seems to know what it means to be cool: to be oblivious of the fact that he is being cool. He has a cool story, cool characters, a cool soundtrack (by the Chemical Brothers), and instead of saying "OK let's make the coolest movie ever!" Joe Wright would settle on "whatever bro, yeah". The movie isn't about being cool, and that's what's cool about it.

But for me, cool is not enough. If it is for you, then knock yourself out, you'll love it.

Now I want to talk about style, something which stuck out for me in this movie. There are times when directors will decide to go in an unconventional direction. This is great when it serves the story, to surprise the audience, to move, to express. But then, as I noticed in Hanna, it seems to draw attention to itself. The first thing I noticed in the opening credits is when it felt the duty to mention this is "a Joe Wright film". This is a sign of a pretentious director, whether or not they are good, but it's not enough to simply give themselves directing credit. They have to establish this is their film, told in their voice, the auteur. When Hanna is running down a large tunnel, escaping from this strange facility, lost, all new to her experience, the camera spinning around and the editing cutting quickly up close and out wide, in time to the music, and spinning and spinning, seems to draw too much attention to itself, but pulls me out of the story. It does nothing to truly serve the story. Yes, she's confused, lost, panicking even, I can tell by Soairse Ronan's performance. Her performance is good enough, there is no need for the director to step in and make up for a short-coming that wasn't there. Unless there is really a point, such tomfoolery becomes superfluous.

Watch a film by Martin Scorcese, for instance, and you'll see what I mean. Scorcese makes many unconventional film-making choices, but they all serve a purpose to the story, or the point of. He really does make the best films.

So what did I really want out of Hanna? How could it have improved? I think in the end, all I really want to do is go watch a different movie, and let this one fall in the pile of obscurity where it belongs. It's an underrated, forgettable...thing. I don't think I'll be getting it on blu-ray, but I highly recommend the soundtrack, at least.

New ideas!

I'm all for new ideas. I was thinking, as inspired by my last post, instead of posting actual articles, I'll just post about what I've written up as drafts, or ideas I had for new articles, and then let the reader speculate the discussion in their own minds. It probably sounds like a lazy concept but I'll give it a try, and it may even be all the better as the articles would seem to have more of an air of myth and greatness, the less they are actually seen.

Firstly, I wrote up a quick draft for an article about James Nguyen's infamous runaway hit, Birdemic Shock and Terror. The article was to defend the movie as a great movie, a genuinely great movie with a genuine defence that relies on grounded and consistently reliable film theory - namely structuralism and semiotics. The main reference was to the Whitney character's ringtone on her mobile phone, which I remember has two occurrences in the film. If you know the story behind the ringtone, and about the structuralist theories of "the signifier" and "the signified", you'd understand how mind-blowing the whole movie is, as it's full if these little instances.

Secondly, I wrote up a lengthy draft (two drafts in fact) on the subject of the video game Mario Kart wii, which I have been playing a lot recently. I'm not entirely satisfied with the article, as most of it reads more like an instruction manual, or a FAQ, where I spend too many syllables giving exposition. Such that cannot be easily dismissed as it all plays vitally in the follow-up anecdotes, and felt that's where all the real juice was contained. The anecdotes were all a big lead up to a grand moral, and the article was really less about the video game itself and more about life, and such. By the end, the whole thing becomes a cathartic revelation, and all who read would find total enlightenment, a new outlook on life and new-found determination. It was truly a brilliant article, but a shame about the exposition parts. I also found the anecdotes would little apply after mere days as the game keeps bringing newer experiences after every play, and my growth in skill constantly increases. I'd look back and feel ashamed that I would ever consider displaying crude, unrefined technique I have long trampled out. I don't know. Maybe I'll try a third draft.

I liked the part in one of the anecdotes where I get really frustrated at the game and decide to listen to the CD, "KILL" by Cannibal Corpse, after which I lightly mention within parentheses "because, you know, the time to kill is now". Such beauty in prose - wasted.

Thirdly, something I haven't drafted yet, is an essay I call "Cinema as Invocation". I think modern mainstream cinema is lacking in the primal purpose of art - that is to invoke. I've been feeling lately that I want to make a film, even one with no budget, just some kind of story. I want to know if I'd have it in me, in my bones, to make something great - or at least interesting. I'm pretty sure I don't lack the resources, but I do seem to lack people around me, to motivate and give support. But that aside, I wanted to write this essay on how a film should be composed. Perhaps it's more like a manifesto. The original idea is that cinema is comparable to music, but I couldn't get my brain around how cinema could be like music if music can itself be included in cinema. Michael Haneke, who also advocates cinema's relation to music, gets around this by not scoring his films at all (except ironically in Funny Games). I'm not so much against score, but I'm against score that lacks invocation, or tries too hard and only becomes distracting.

I'm currently reading the poetry of Emily Brontë, who is probably my favourite Brontë, as I like the way she talks about the world she lives in, the moors, the woods, the skies, and all that. It struck me how it's in the specific way she uses language to visually invoke her world in conjunction to her feelings - and that the same actually applies to cinema. In this way, cinema is more akin to poetry. Firstly, the images of film could be compared to musical notes and chords, but when images move combined with sound and music, it's more like lyrics, where you can simultaneously read on paper and read out loud - visual and aural - and let the language dictate the rhythm and melody, all for the purpose of invocation. A film should be like a melody made up of invocations, but it shouldn't fluctuate too rapidly, or too dire. Once the melody is invented, then the story writes itself.

That's what I think anyway. I should explain that invocation could be anything, ranging from nostalgia to excitement to horror. The only thing I think should not be invoked is "you are watching a movie", or my personal peeve "cool, huh!?". This might contradict my defence for Birdemic Shock and Terror, above, as that movie fails to invoke anything but incompetence, but at least that's what it wasn't intending.

All these things left unwritten, and who's going to say anything of value was lost?


Sometimes this blog has a way of getting shot dead. I often forget why I have this blog in the first place. I know my first post is some kind of a manifesto, plus another post which is more Alice-related, but ideas have a way of evolving and I'm sure this blog has turned into some other kind of monster by now.

In my previous post I blindly praised Rango without getting into the meaty specifics and justification of its genius. This is due partly because I'm going through personal motivational issues and also partly because I can't find my notes I wrote in a frenzy at the time of planning that post, and to top that the notes are incomplete (I figured I would just improvise the unwritten parts). I also have notes lying around for a review of Sucker Punch and the general descent of Zack Snyder.

For anyone interested, the second part of the Rango review involved discussions on 4th-wall, Greek chorus, homage, cameo appearances, narrative structure, humour, symbolism and metaphor. And that was just for the story, character designs also play a strong part, and in the case of this movie, they related heavily with homage and cameos. The 'homage' aspect was going to take up the bulk of the discussion, as I was going to do a comparison review with the movie Shiki-Jitsu ("Ritual") directed by Anno Hideaki. They are two very different movies, but they share a fundamental similarity on the significant choices of actors and especially who those actors are portraying.

I guess with a bit of research one could come to their own conclusion with what I was planning to go on about. I know my friend Peter was going to do a review, as he mentioned that it's the first non-Pixar 3D animated major motion-picture that he has really enjoyed, but I guess he's busy right now.

With that out of the way, I can plan my next step in the evolution of this blog. I want to try out some creative exercises. I often think it would be fun to challenge myself - just as an exercise - in making improvements in failed ideas and stories. I've been currently reading some fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, and although they were recorded in another time, probably more spoken than written, I could imagine handing one of those to a University-level creative-writing lecturer as an assignment and getting it back with red scribbles crossing out entire sentences, if not paragraphs. Brothers Grimm stories have become popular again recently, what with the new version of Sleeping Beauty coming out this year featuring Emily "Babydoll" Browning in the lead role. I get the impression that the original texts are more like starting points, ready to be revised and expanded upon, much like what Disney has been doing time and time again, only they can't seem to bare the morbidity and the occasionally absurd bloody violence.

I would also find it interesting as an exercise to try and adapt a story from unconventional sources. Things like abstract non-story video games (Tetris, for example); a piece of instrumental music, or a song/poem with vague lyrics; a photograph or a painting; a joke or anti-joke; a piece of food; an alarm clock, maybe. I'm just trailing off here, listing things in my immediate view, but it's about thinking laterally.

I've always wanted to be a part of a blogging community (a blogosphere?) who operate as a kind of online writing-workshop for stuff like this. I could search for one, but I'm not very fond of random people who post on the Internet, who mostly end up pissing me off. I'd rather do it with a group of friends who have similar interests and who I know can construct a logical argument. But this is hard to organise, I may as well just remain the ever-persistent one-man-band.

I think the real reason for having this blog at all is because I think about things too much, and after a while without any articulation, my head begins to hurt.


Rango turned out to be a pretty good movie.

In this discussion I will have to address two previous posts I made.

The first post is where I made a premature speculation about this film predicting it's going to be terrible, based on my disappointed reaction after a somewhat high expectation due to two names I came across when I first discovered this movie's existence:

1. Gore Verbinski as director, who has always put extreme care and detailed thought in all of his stories.

2. Industrial Light & Magic as the studio, being the forerunners of CGI and special effects, it is exciting to hear of them creating their first completely animated feature.

To me this is a big deal. A big enough deal to say that this could be a contender to Pixar. Then I saw the trailer.

And the groaning began.

Immediately I lost faith. It was a little early to tell, but I thought Gore Verbinski may have pulled a Zack Snyder and jumped the shark in quality. I had two main gripes with the trailer that deflated my hopes:

1. Choppy/snappy non-sequiter type of humour with no context.

2. Another god damn anthropomorphic 'arena'-based animal movie.

While the latter remains true, and rightly so (I'll explain later), the former thankfully stays behind in the trailer, and all its parts have actual context within the movie itself. It's not my place to complain of marketing tactics, as I'm sure the department knows what they're doing, but I found it a shame they had to appeal to the Dreamworks/Blue Sky (etc) crowd.

The second post is where my expectations remained high, due to the Verbinski/ILM factor, I still had a duty to see this film for what it's worth, and I'm glad I did. My expectations were met and I am ashamed I ever doubted Verbinski in the first place.

From an adult perspective one might say that the story is a bit too advanced for children - the target audience - and some jokes and references will go way over their little heads. I must contradict this and say a child could easily enjoy the story on their own level. I remember when I was a child I couldn't remember a thing about the actual story of any movie, as long as there were colourful characters and exciting moments, which Rango is not without.

Here is the simple version, fun for all the family:

A nameless chameleon is thrust out into the Nevada desert and finds his way into a small town called Dirt, occupied by various desert animals and live on a currency of water. The town is currently in a water crisis and the townfolk are bullied by a group of cronies who work for the mayor, who are in turn terrorised by a large eagle. The chameleon adopts a new heroic personality, using his own acting and story-telling aspirations, and calls himself "Rango". Through sheer luck he defeats the predatory eagle and the town rejoices, sending him to the mayor who assigns him as the new sheriff. When the last of the bank's supply of water is stolen, Rango and friends set out on a new adventure to discover the mysteries and secret plots of this town, uncover the dastardly schemes of the mayor and eventually face off against his greatest nemesis - "Jake" The Snake.

It sounds typical enough, but it's a bit more complicated than that. To explain how, I'll have to get techinical, and, well, that's all for another post, another day. 'Till next time.

"My Fairy" by Lewis Carroll

This poem was written when he was 12 or 13, but still remains my favourite of all his works.

  My Fairy (1845)

I have a fairy by my side
 Which says I must not sleep,
When once in pain I loudly cried
 It said, 'You must not weep.'

If, full of mirth, I smile and grin,
 It says, 'You must not laugh';
When once I wished to drink some gin
 It said, 'You must not quaff.'

When once a meal I wished to taste
 It said, 'You must not bite';
When to the wars I went in haste
 It said, 'You must not fight.'

'What may I do?' at length I cried,
 Tired of the painful task.
The fairy quietly replied,
 And said, 'You must not ask.'


 'You mustn't.'

New realisation for THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY

I guess this is the value of reading books on a whim, even if you don't end up finishing them.

What I noticed is that the characters are introduced in the reverse order to the title, which had always bugged me ever since I laid eyes on the film. Although the plotting shouldn't be laid out any other way - Clint Eastwood's introduction incorporates both Tuco and Angel Eyes in the same setting, after which we have been introduced to both of these characters - I always wondered why the title couldn't have been the more appropriate "The Ugly, The Bad and The Good", despite its lack of verbal elegance.

What I recently discovered is that this is a device called "hysteron-proteron", commonly employed by Homer in his epic The Odyssey, where this technique was brought to my attention. It is considered rhetorical, and therefore played for effect.

This, however, was unintentional, as the original Italian title is ordered "The Good, The Ugly and The Bad", however the rhetoric remains, and sets us up for a homeric grandiose epic all the same.

My logical conclusion for The Social Network

I watched The Social Network recently, despite its alleged inaccuracy to the real world and cultural references that will date this movie a few years from now, the film nonetheless was well crafted enough it will become a staple of cinematic history in years to come and its ideas immortalised. So, here are three main ideas/themes I extracted in my viewing:

1. The basis of networking (socially or technologically) is communication via signals (sound frequency or electronic charges). These signals are shrouded in noise - ie unavoidable entropy - and it is only a human mind that has the ability to filter out the noise and interpret the appropriate messages. This was emphasised beautifully by the score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, designed as a melody enshrouded by a noisy drone. Compare the score to the scenes in bars or clubs with a lot of distracting noise in the background, forcing the viewer to listen especially closely to the dialogue (I suppose could be interpreted as a metaphor for each character's level of clarity in thought at the time).

2. The Internet is never perceived as a faceless machine or computer monitor. It is always portrayed on screen as people interacting with a computer. This perhaps identifies the 'social network' aspect of the story's title, but also represents the idea of consequences and reaction. I would also like to note this film has some of the best computer hacking I've ever seen portrayed; it is not treated as some sort of wizardry, but as a logical science. The methods he described of extracting all those photos at the beginning were straight-forward, almost making it look easy, and without any h4x0r mumbo-jumbo like "re-routing the decryption protocols" or "what's behind door #3".

3. Society works on the basis of exclusivity, from elite clubs to a circle of friends to an individual. Such an example was based on the original idea of, being only exclusive to Harvard students. From there it expanded to other colleges and universities, then publicly, and still remains as the greatest means to compete in popularity contests.

The ideas of 1 and 2 relate like this:

1 - The human mind filters noise in communication, unlike a machine who can not filter noise on its own.

2 - The Internet is not a machine on its own, it is people (or as they say in Tron: "Users") who are communicating through the machines.

Therefore: The Internet is group of noisy machines, and the noise is filtered out by the people who use the machines together in a group effort.

Relate this to idea 3: people group themselves using the method of both inclusion and exclusion.

Therefore: A large amount of people (society) functions as both noise and its own filter. Zuckerberg simply enhanced a way for people to filter themselves into a network of clusters. Thus creating 'The Social Network'.

I hope this makes sense when I come back to read it later.