zustifer: (lady of your acquaintance: embarrassed)
Thus far this year I've finished McTeague (Frank Norris, 1899), and begun Mrs. Bridge (Evan S. Connell, 1959). I picked them both up in the free box at the art center, and am/have enjoyed them rather a lot.

McTeague is an awesome civilization-vs-unreasoning-beast story, which starts out as sort of a slice-of-life turn of the century San Francisco piece, eventually veering into something much more violent and surprising. Good stuff.

Mrs. Bridge is so far about a bored 1940s housewife, throughout her unsatisfying life, as she remains mired in her mannered little stodgy ways.

Huzzah for free books, is what I say.
zustifer: (Boring)
Things I have read lately include:

I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick (illuminating)
Assassination Vacation (recommended to me by unpleasant. Pretty charming)
Oryx and Crake (pretty firmly up my alley. Except for a couple of tiny things, quite great. Also includes several mentions of Alex the parrot)
Yotsuba &! #5 (not the tower of wonderfulness that the previous editions were, but still cute)
zustifer: (czech alligator is smug.)
I've been reading some mass-market kinda stuff lately, which is weird for me (I mean, I could be rereading Dune for the ninth time! Christ!).

Firstly, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which was in a box of free books by the side of the road (I also got a medical dictionary from 1937 and a cheesy pre-The-Onion-books satirical book about Spam). I think I'm glad I read this, but I was also fighting the annoyance to a not-inconsiderable extent. I identify with the difficulty in creating things and behaving unselfconsciously, but good lord, the self-absorption.

Secondly, The Blind Assassin, which I paid fifty cents for at the Salvation Army. (It is obvious that I am not that confident in the goodness of books by people I've never read.) This is turning out to be really interesting. I am not done yet, but I am enjoying it a lot so far. It reminds me a bit of Mr. Velocipede, although she may or may not actually enjoy it herself.
I would also like to note that I've seen the cover for this a fair number of times, and only now have I realized that the girl depicted is not missing her right arm. Somehow I'd always read it as a little scarf hiding a stump, rather than a dress detail. Oh well! (In my defense, the edition I've seen the most of is zoomed in a bit and cuts off her right hand nearly entirely. And her dress is featureless black.)

Oh, and then I guess I also was reading The Flamingo's Smile, which is another book of Stephen Jay Gould's collected essays. Some fun stuff in there, although one of the most fun was the titular one (Flamingos, since they filter feed by dipping their beaks into water upside-down, have morphologically upside-down beak structures. This is neato).
zustifer: (comics: Ted Forth)
Inconsequential media doings of late include finishing up Zodiac for probably the fifth or sixth time (still good, and amusingly Bostony. I didn't pick it to read for that reason; it was just around, but still it taught me that the Watertown Mall used to have a bar in it. At least I assume it was the Watertown Mall; the Arsenal Mall is also possible, but much less likely due to 1.there not being a long-standing arcade in it ever and 2. it never being mentioned that the building has historical value, which I can't imagine Neal Stephenson ignoring). (I don't know what any of the polluting local companies are, except for Fotex, which is pretty obviously Polaroid.) Stephenson is just a fun writer, though. Even when he's talking about the rise of the banking system (I should finish the final book of the Baroque Cycle).

Last night we watched the second dvd of a two-dvd set of Bowie videos. Now, most of the good ones are in the first dvd (I believe; although there were a couple of really nice ones on the second, most notably the Gus Van Sant-directed 'Fame'), but, man, the changing styles were not always kind to the poor guy. There was some cruel buffeting by mullets, 90s mini-beards, and hideous turtlenecks. I would also like to warn future music video directors/editors to never ever use movie footage in a music video, even if the song is on the movie's soundtrack. It's for the good of the people.
zustifer: (Krell door)
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), Sidney Lumet. Jan 1, 3:45 pm. View count: One.

Solaris (2002), Steven Soderbergh. Jan 1, 6:30pm, and Jan 2, 10am with commentary. View count: Two.

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (the first movie we've seen at our local theatre, the Rafael): I am sadly, sadly deficient in Sidney Lumet's work; I think apart from this one I've only ever seen Network and 12 Angry Men. This had a few structural annoyances (a perhaps overdone structural partial-inversion) and some fairly obnoxious I! Am! Cutting! Rapidly! With! Gunshotty SFX! kind of stuff, but each was ignorable.
    The awesome part of this movie was the awesome part of every Lumet movie I've seen: characters. He seems to get these excellent actors and give them these complex, deep, badass parts that they then play the heck out of. Everything a character does is development.
    Along these lines, I must record my favorite shot. The setup is that Philip Seymour Hoffman's wife is asking him for money, and she's standing in front of him waiting to be given it. Between the camera and her, however, is a room divider, a partial wall separating the entryway from the dining room or something, It's painted sky blue. Philip Seymour Hoffman takes the money out of his wallet, and hands it to her, his hand disappearing behind the wall. He draws it back empty, and gives her another bill, passing it into the nothing-space behind the wall again.
    Oh, it's just so good. His money just goes away into nothingness. This is an important character reinforcement, too.
    I don't want to spoil this, because I believe the structural semi-backwardness is because of a particular revelation, so it's fairly important. It's a heist-gone-wrong movie, that much is advertised, but it is a rather deep and meaty one, characterwise. There's also the fun element of being able to feel the director's age; the older characters are more active and morally unshakable than the young whippersnappers. It's nice to see.

Solaris: I'm glad to have seen this, although I really want to see the first version from the 70s (Solyaris) now. IMDB says the Soderbergh version is a full hour shorter than it is, which makes me think that perhaps it could fix the biggest issue I had with the remake: we didn't get enough time with Protagonist and his personal Solaris experience. I like the story as more of a dreamlike realitybender, but this version was all about a straightforward choice between fantasy and reality.
    Taking the movie on its own merits, though (Cameron (producer) said on the commentary track that Soderbergh's choice was to make this about emotional resonance rather than philosophical, which definitely comes through), there were still a few problems. [Spoilers, I guess, if you care] When the wife (the Irish second-in-command from Ronin, btw) first shows up, we don't know she's dead in real life. We don't even know she is the image of his wife. We just know she's very spacey and weirdly semi-aware of things. This makes Protagonist's sudden decision to essentially space her (I wish he had actually done so, rather than used some kind of escape pod) pretty unintelligible. We get it in retrospect, of course, but that's just not the same as feeling his revulsion with him; there's too much going on for the viewer to just feel it as-is. And then he is converted to thinking of her as a real person almost instantly, with no visible thought or mental wrestling; it feels like he just snap-decides to retreat from reality and that is that.
    I've been reading a couple of Pirx the Pilot books, and I'm pleased to see the commonality. George Clooney is a good Lem protagonist, a quiet, maladjusted, square-jawed professional.
    Visually it's quite nice; the right lessons were taken from 2001, almost to the extent of some serious homage. The camera is nice and restrained. The casting is good, a small cast that includes Pvt. Toffler from Ravenous (amusingly, the first we see of him, he's listening to an Insane Clown Posse song (you can tell because they mention juggalos!), and I seem to recall that chmmr looked them up once and found that they had religious underpinnings. In Ravenous, he's humming and 'composing a religious hymn' throughout. This is only fun for me personally, I think).
zustifer: (Krell door)
[Update: askmefi got it in like four seconds. Ordering now.
Amusingly, and, true to form, I'd forgotten about the overarching romance plot where the protagonist's girlfriend joins the parasite club. Goes to show.]

Um, hey, internet, does any of you remember a short(?) scifi story wherein:

A guy moves to a planet for some reason, and finds that almost everyone there is unusually happy, and is host to a reddish jellylike parasite. It can be a tiny mole-sized dot, or a big drapey amoebic blob of semitransparent stuff that covers large parts of the person's body, and dissolves it slowly. The guy is grossed out by this, but is told by everyone who has the parasites that they feel great because the parasites pump euphoria chemicals into them, or maybe it's just that they make the people feel connected to everyone else with the parasite. The parasites have probably made some sort of psychic link with the other parasites, and the humans get to share in this? Maybe this isn't true. I can't exactly remember the draw.
The guy eventually goes to a cave outside of town which is where people go to die, when they're mostly consumed by their parasite, and inside is this gigantic seething mass of red ooze with bones visible inside it. The people are not alarmed by this because the parasite absorbs them and their consciousness somehow continues inside it, so they have contact with everyone else it has absorbed. They regard this as some kind of concrete afterlife, and the guy also eventually comes to regard this as a good bet in terms of immortality.
zustifer: (Default)
I just reread Galactic Pot Healer (it'd been... uh, since college?) and unlike the somewhat unsympathetic reviewer at PKDfans (trying to find an inspiring message in a PKD book? Are you quite serious?) found it rather unusually accessible and generally pretty terrific and fun. The thing that it made me want to do, though, was to take the community college ceramics course I was meaning to take (is it too late to sign up? I guess not!) and make the Public Service Announcement pot the protagonist encounters. (This pot is found as an artifact underwater, but it shows in sequential panels the protagonist's actions. The last panel has an explicit written warning in a speech bubble or something - which may end up too long to actually fit on the pot and which I might just skip - and also a little note at the bottom reading 'This has been a public-service message.' [metaparenthetical note: when I just now went to check the exact wording of the message, I opened the book immediately to the right page. This is the most PKDian thing that has happened to me in recent memory, which means I totally should sign up for the ceramics course. That and also the empire never ended, and I should keep an eye out for hot 70s teenage girls who will tell me what to do via complex symbols.])

The pot was awful.
zustifer: (comics: creeper)
I dunno if this is really John Constantine; looks more like David Bowie to me. It is probably a safe assumption that it is not David Bowie, though.
I just got finished reading a few of the Hellblazer TPBs that I never got around to looking at for whatever reason, and this one was pretty great. The nazi plot was a little eh, but the Bruce-Wayne-takeoff character was super fun (and he'd been introduced in an earlier plotline, too, so I got to feel all caught up). Good art, good writing, a bit of the old ultra-violence, some primo crazy eyes, and a small helping of Teh Gay. Although it is Teh Very Cynical and Manipulative Gay, but that is probably exactly what it should be. I will take it.

Semirelevantly, this is so true.

(I figured that Creeper was more appropriate for this entry than Nivlem, even though it's got a lot of Batman, because it's all about looking at stuff.)
zustifer: (Dr. Phibes)
Yesterday I stopped in the middle of reading an Iain Banks book and instead read the entirety of this book (The Boy Detective Fails). I'd picked it up with the Barnes&Noble gift cert my grandmother gave us (took the relatives long enough to give us such sensical gifts), on the recommendation of Jackson Publick (one of the Venture Brothers guys (Makes total sense.)).
Iain Banks was pissing me off with his halfassed intrigue (I mean, I enjoy some of the guy's work an awful lot. Then there's the rest of it) and endless pointless PROTAGONIST HAS AN ERECTION, LET'S TALK ABOUT IT sequences.

So anyway, The Boy Detective. Very amusing book, probably six hours worth of reading, but pleasant. The comparison that's just hit me is sort of a David Byrne-influenced Chris Ware universe. Like, the deadpan sad-little-people Chris Ware with a core of engaged people-are-amazing-and-interesting David Byrne True-Storieslike attitude, instead of Chris Ware's ambivalence. There are a couple of points where there are some lovely wry humorous protrusions into the story (page 86, the police show theme, f'rinstance) that really made it for me.

The book does sort of gradually slide from downbeat (which I was enjoying) into a happy ending that didn't quite come together properly (I mean, it technically tied up the loose ends, but character-wise I dunno), I thought, but then that could be me. (I realised not too long ago that I generally value story-universes for their possibilities rather than their actual events, which is why I read the Dune series repeatedly and pretty much always when asked why I liked some scifi book will say 'the universe was awesome.' So, anyway, that is maybe why the ending was unsatisfying to me, because I was hoping for some more meaningful occurrence to manifest itself, since I knew it was possible.)

I do also enjoy a good downer. Sometimes it takes more guts to not allow things to come out okay, and sometimes the opposite (the example I always give here is of Baron Munchausen. I maintain that it was more courageous for Gilliam to allow the story to end happily, knowing his tendencies and given the rest of the film. There's the money thing, though, too, which is contrary). I had a big discussion with a school chum of mine a couple of months ago regarding Pan's Labyrinth, which he despised. He mostly had perfectly good reasons (the trailer did not reflect the film well, so he developed erroneous expectations; he dislikes downers; he dislikes unclear motivations; he dislikes lack of attention to mise-en-scene detail (he's a screenwriter)), but, while I agreed that his problems were present, they did not bother me. I'll be an asshole and paste the conversation, since I already said this:

Cut for thematic spoiler for Pan's Labyrinth )

So, in short: I will be reading more of Mr. Meno's work. I also eagerly await season three of Venture Brothers. Iain Banks can go play Civ for a while though. ('Complicity', incidentally, had a very Civ-like game in it, which gave me the small measure of amusement I derived from the first half.)
zustifer: (Ubik)
From mmcirvin, and the tensor, and madeofmeat, and doctroid.

Teh Bookmeme! )


Nov. 29th, 2006 06:53 pm
zustifer: (Philippe's Mouth)
As if we didn't know, Jonathan Lethem can play the game too.

I read his Fortress of Solitude a little while ago, which started really well but ultimately fell off. It is possible that that was his intent, but I had a hard time telling. It ended up feeling like the first half of something, maybe, sort of like all setup and no payoff.

Today I am spending on Anansi Boys. It's so Douglas Adamsy it's all over you screen.
zustifer: (Default)
Hey, I didn't even know about this: psychology-dedicated wiki. I guess it makes sense for fast-changing disciplines to do the wiki thing. Though I don't know how far they've really gotten. The really ideal thing would be to have papers, or at least abstracts, inline. It's hurtful to have credits for people who've written on a concept, and not even have a damn link to a summary of the work.

I'm rereading Feersum Endjinn which is much awesomer than I'd remembered (and supplied the nagging name I knew I had for the big iron ant I got at Target), such that I may have to pick up all the Iain Banks books I don't have. He is a prolific fellow; I think the last time I checked on him was in college, at some used bookstore, so I probably never really had a sense of the volume of his work.

So I s'pose that's another thing (back catalog of Iain Banks) to add to the list of 'when I get a job,' along with a new computer, the Saturday Night Live commercials DVD, and possibly a DS lite. Sigh. Don't half want things, do I.

Whenever I think of the state of having enough money to do something, there's a high probability of the "Man... when I get some money..." line from Denis Leary's 'Drugs' track of No Cure for Cancer running through my head a lot. So I clipped out the operative bit (with some context-cushion) Just For You (also for my auditory OCD or whatever it is). (Those of you at work or something, if you care, there's a single 'fuckin', which is pretty delicate for Mr. Leary.)

* out-of-context mimi smartypants quote. Not that there is really a context here.
zustifer: (mycon)
Hey, anyone know a lot about the Harry Potter universe? I'm wondering about the difference between photos and paintings. Photos seem to be mostly non-autonomous little video clips; can they ever react to events outside the photo? Are they imprints of the subject's personality, or are they more rigid recordings of events?
Paintings can learn, and be given tasks (I know they can learn, to keep abreast of current events if nothing else, and much is made of their gossipping and disapproving of things). They seem to be more like automatons with the personality-snapshot of their subjects. As far as I know, I've never seen reference to a painting which existed at the same time as its subject; is that because of the (relatively) free will of the painting, and thus its ability to diverge from its original subject? Is a painting like a little self-aware homonculus? Is it always somewhat limited and simplified, or can it attain more complete awareness?
And, are all paintings connected, or just ones within sight of each other or those specifically joined to one another?
And, finally, if a singular latinate word referring to an animate corpse ends in '-ius', the plural is then '-ii'. I am looking at you, Ms. Rowling.
zustifer: (Barbara)
Huh! I had no idea that Neal Stephenson was referencing a nursery rhyme. And moreover that MAD knew about it too.
zustifer: (Five)
Hey! Hey! Look! An actually somewhat-decent partial Prisoner comic, unpublished, by Jack Kirby! Scroll down a little more than halfway, past the ...novelisation covers? Patrick McGoohan's frightening forehead gets a little Hulk-ish sometimes, but it's usually a pretty fair likeness. Although the first spread there, after the title page, all the buildings are way crammed together. The square isn't nearly that small. Also, note the awkward parrot pasted to the bottom of the frame! And Patrick McGoohan's extra-long left arm on the first page!
There's a graphic novel based on the series (somehow) out there now, but it's pretty awful. I could never bring myself to own it, and I have one of the Vampire Lestat graphic novels. Sigh.
zustifer: (autism)
Yesterday Travis & Kelli were over for a little while, and at one point we hit a Barnes & Noble. There, I came upon a really great thing: a book about autistic famous people, intended for autistic kids.

Me: Ha ha, look! It's a simplified Temple Grandin! Standing next to Isaac Newton and letting herself be hugged by some kid! It's hilarious because autism usually entails oversensitivity to touch!

(Here I imagine briefly an alternate cover version with each figure standing carefully apart from one another, possibly fiddling with some small objects.)

Sadly, I think the book ended up being mostly about just non-socially-normal people (actually someone mentions on the amazon page for it that most of the subjects had Asperger's. I'm willing to accept the spectrum viewpoint and not worry about it too much, but it IS a bit misleading); they had Dian Fossey (can't really find anything linking her to autism or anything like it) and Alan Turing (okay, he probably was on the autism spectrum, but there wasn't a SINGLE MENTION of his being gay or anything, whether because that wasn't the kind of Different Like Me the author was shooting for or because he kind of committed suicide because of how harried/forced to undergo hormonal treatments he was, is unknown) and Einstein (also okay) and Andy Warhol (sure, maybe, but posthumous diagnosis is a little dicey) and Kandinsky (who they were saying was a synaesthete. Mighty autistic there, captain) and I don't remember who-all else. Regardless, as some reviewer complains, Temple Grandin is the only currently living role model. Pret-ty lame, Milhouse.

It didn't exactly end up being very compelling. Possibly the best part is the weird off-balance cover, and/or the dead empty eyes of all the expression-free people. It's Flat Affect Theatre! It's okay, autistic kids don't have eye direction detection anyway; just make all the eyes blank and no one will even care! Also, man, this cow. Not working.

I wish it had talked down to the reader a little less. It also seemed not altogether autism-oriented. I remember in the social relationships book Grandin did with that other guy, she was constantly mentioning how important it was to be exposed to new things and to try things that seemed frightening. How much more useful is this than a vague 'work hard in school!' and how much more applicable is it than 'Temple Grandin lucked out and is incredibly good at discerning things neurologically normal people can't! Maybe you're not entirely useless, but honestly we don't know!'

Oh, we do have fun, don't we.
zustifer: (gigagush)
So, the potent combination of Revolution Controller and some Philip K Dick short stories before bed seem to have borne fruit, albeit kind of boring fruit. I had a dream about a little device that was supposed to evoke those mono-viewmaster-oid things, you know, they sell them at tourist traps all over the US (I had one as a child, which was shaped like a little television). The original contains a little wheel of slides/transparencies, which you next-button through while pressing your eye up to an eyehole in the back of the device (making sure that you're facing a light source). The one I dreamt of had a USB port in the bottom, and some kind of LCD screen inside it. They were still very cheap, and people would give them away to their friends in lieu of sending them a cd of travel photos or whatever. Their capacity wasn't very great, but that was sort of the point. Kelli wanted some to put a minicomic on, to give away at cons, which dream-me had never thought of, and was impressed at the ingenuity.
There are obviously still some problems (LCD screen right up in your eye = crap), but, oh well.

Homeopape, conapt, autofac!
zustifer: (trilobite cordania)
That Interpol video I linked a bit ago, the frightening puppet one, its song just came up in my playlist. It's so much more varied than I can remember their work being; it's clear why it's the single. It has a few different themes (it even sort of does the 'Grunge Song' thing, only more with brightness/rocking-guitarness instead of loudness/quietness, although there is a chunk of that too), the singer is better miked, and there's even some instruments I don't think they usually use. And my favorite, a thing I don't know the musical term for, but it's the counterpart of the tenser-said-the-tensor effect (where a beat is left unexpressed at the end of a verse/phrase, and that makes you want to continue the tune anew); it's where an extra beat is crammed in, usually in this case kind of conversationally (descending in tone/pitch), which really melds well with the sort of half-singing that the singer does. I'm inherently a sucker for that kind of thing, and also occasional syncopation inside a mostly very regular beat-structure.
Sometimes it is good when bands try to make a single, I guess.

I have all but for the last few pages (which are recap and advice for animal interaction) finished the Temple Grandin book I've been reading, so now I can read something written by a normal-language-using human and regain my abilities to speak in other than declarative sentences. It's an awesome book, though, and actually quite up-to-date and well-thought-out.

Oh, and this past weekend there was a Night Court marathon on, and since I fondly remembered not getting it when I tried to watch it in elementary school, we watched a few episodes. It's actually pretty well-written, and there were some notable guest stars. First, Cute Woman! Who was actually in three episodes, I see. Anyway, I recognised her from a 1/4 face shot of her being herded up to the bench, which impressed even me. Second, there was Gomez Addams, who is apparently still around and doing things, which is good, since he was pretty terrific. Anyway, at one point he was telling the story of a mental institution romance, and he said something like, "And our song was playing on the phonograph, over and over. (dreamy expression, long pause) (singing, softly and with emotion) Baaarney Google.... with his goo- goo- googley eyes... "
First of all, very well-played. Second of all, hey, that's a Spike Jones song you've got there! Huh, how about that, I said to myself.
Three days later, it's still playing in my head.


zustifer: (Default)
Karla Z

February 2012

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