Friday, April 30, 2004

Violence poised in calm
is how I'd describe Kill Bill Vol. 2. Now, don't get me wrong.

When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a 'roaring rampage of revenge.' I roared. And I rampaged. And I got bloody satisfaction. I've killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point, but I have only one more. The last one.

And yes, in contrast with Kill Bill Vol.1, this film has a lot less rampaging. It slides smoothly from the wedding massacre, which we didn't see first time, to The Bride's pre-bridal days. She is still tight, focussed, calm, but strung taut with an inner tension. Her master Pai Mei, brilliantly played, forces her to struggle valiantly and comedically to gain her skills. Cue another brilliant slide from then to now, with all sorts of specific escapades I won't go into because I don't want to spoil it for anyone not in America who hasn't seen it yet.

The way it's put together is the first thing you notice, and the first thing Tarantino emphasises with his titled freeze-frames. And you need them there to let you know when you are in the story, because it's all so damn smoothly done. The characters, too, are smooth - every single one of them sports the trademark sardonic calmness, often linked to the funny use of props. For The Bride, her sword. For Pai Mei, his beard. For Elle, her mamba. For Bill, his... gun. Every single character has balls, and knows exactly where to throw them for the best effect. Samuel L. Jackson gets in for a few minutes, and there's a brilliant appearance by Michael Parks as Esteban Vihaio near the end.

The Bride takes pride of place though, her importance, however, very very much linked to Bill's. For in this film, as she approaches the object of her revenge she necessarily regresses, if that's the right word, towards the person she was and the links she had. Which increases her rage. She's still her own person and out for revenge, but this is more personal than the comparatively mechanical bloodiness of Vol. 1, and all the better for it. It's like the difference between watching someone laugh, and actually laughing yourself. I just felt this film a whole lot deeper than I felt the first one.

So, cinematographically, it's a triumph with all sorts of trademarks, rich colours, an earthy calm quality at the chapel and temple. Fightwise, you can't beat Hatori Hanzo steel, and I just gave you something about the plot and characters above. A little bird told me that Nikki Bell, Copperhead's daughter from Vol. 1, will be returning to claim her revenge in a forthcoming anime. And by that time, someone ought to be have grown up enough to keep the revenge cycle going even further... a family tree watered and dripping with blood.

What a pedigree. Five stars, and I'd place it up there with Lost in Translation in this year's UK releases so far. Go see.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Physics in movies isn't real physics
"Saying that shards of broken glass are razor sharp is an understatement. A shattered window contains thousands of incredibly sharp edges and dagger-like points. It takes almost no force for one of these points or edges to cause a laceration. However, people in movies routinely jump through plate glass windows without receiving a single scratch." Via Boing Boing, a site called Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics which takes an interesting and endearingly pernickety look at how celluloid bends reality. For example, that cool shot following the bomb falling from a Japanese plane in Pearl Harbor was apparently a glaring mistake. Of what kind I don't know.

I'll be glorying in the absurdly awful physics of Kill Bill 2 when I see it tonight. :o)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I found Ubiquity, a photoblog, this morning which was nice, as it's written by my soulmate. "I found Ubiquity this morning" - sounds like a catharsis - but I hope that as his blog grows larger, better people than I will notice it. By way of fanfare, a kid in the school across from my window just shouted "Yeaaaahh!". I poured some more coffee.

Private Eye, the UK's (world's) sharpest, scrappiest, most-litigated-against satiresheet, has had decades of bullish irreverent editors. They're based in Greek Street, Soho, and I have no idea how many actual staff they have. I doubt the staff do, either. But in any case, their covers have always been marvellous. So, for the first time ever online, I'm proud to link you to every Private Eye cover ever published.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Weird word of the week
Afternoon wanderings
Coastal Scene, RysselbergheAnd due to that last post, I'm thinking about London and can't think of anything I'd rather do more tomorrow than wander into the National Gallery and sit in front of this painting for a while, held gently by it as French girls and German boys murmur "ah" and "schon" as they jog quietly through to Monet in the room next door. It would all be lovely.
The next station
While looking at Anonymous Juice just now, I read a short entry about a recording of a woman's voice on the Northern Line of the London Underground. It's always the same woman and this weblog describes her voice perfectly. During the first winter I spent in London, her assertions that "The next station is London Bridge" or "This station is Highgate" were almost a commentary beside my life, with the purposeful nature of London Bridge and the settled, almost bourgeois Highgate.

I'd only add that after I moved and started using the Piccadilly Line more, the different voice there seemed both patronising, and something to patronise. The former because it was more emphatic (otherwise the tourists wouldn't have understood that "This is Piccadilly Circus") and the latter because I was used to passing through famous places and hearing that "The next station is Leicester Square".

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Operation Iraqi Freedom vs. Operation Information Freedom
"Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.
To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings on all military bases.
So says The Washington Post.

The Memory Hole had previously hosted the first 3 images to break the embargo, and as soon as its webmaster heard about the ban, he fired off a Freedom of Information Act request, for any and all photos of such ceremonies from February 1 2003 onwards, to the US's Dover Air Force Base. This was rejected.

"Not taking 'no' for an answer, I appealed on several grounds, and?to my amazement?the ruling was reversed. The Air Force then sent me a CD containing 361 photographs of flag-draped coffins and the services welcoming the deceased soldiers.

Score one for freedom of information and the public's right to know.

To which I'd add: This does not squash the importance or honour of the individual dead soldiers under the democratic necessity of freedom of information. I'd say it actually highlights the importance of the soldiers' lives and our awareness of their deaths. The Pentagon-inspired idea that we shouldn't see these photos for reasons of decency is, in part, a mask for its real motivation: to keep actual US deaths - in an occupation of a country which now can't bear the US's presence - far from the public mind.

PS. A lot of these photos aren't particularly *good*, but if the issue is at all important to you, you should know where they are.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Home from Iraq
Copyright Tami Silicio, via Newsdesigner and Romenesko. And as an aside, here's sort of what they do before you see this.
This is pathetic
This is from a gay personals website:

Does anyone have any idea why this is so ugh?! I *never* forget anyone who I think is hot. This, ladies and gentlemen, is gay horniness made systematic and rendered into html. ;o)

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Run up against a mental roadblock? Just I Ching it. :o)
The I Ching, pronounced "Yi Jing", (also called "Chou I", or "Zhou Yi") is a Chinese book of 64 sections (Hexagrams) which was written in its earliest form many thousands of years ago. Some new-age people say it's for fortune-telling, an unfortunate climbdown from its original, and best, use as a divinatory text. Divination isn't fortune-telling. The I Ching won't tell you your future. But if you're looking for a new angle from which to approach your problems, successes, worries, normal life, it will certainly give you that.


Divination is really an act of arriving at a suggestion of a kind through focused thinking. That's all. Something which will give you a new angle, or maybe just a way of seeing things that will illuminate your thinking a bit more.

To be simple about it: there are 64 sections in the book. Each section is identified by a discrete grouping of 6 horizontal lines - solid, broken, or a mixture - placed one above the other. The solid lines represent Yang (strength, action, solidity) and the broken lines Yin (openness, passivity, flexibility).

Each line is chosen by you, but you don't draw the lines. You arrive at a whole or broken line by having a corresponding number, and you arrive at that number by throwing coins, dividing sticks, throwing dice - to introduce equal probability and ensure an unbiased result. When you've got one line, you repeat the process again, and again, until you have 6 lines.

Anyway, those six lines: each group of six lines points to one chapter of the book. Any given chapter is made up of very simple, general sentences, expressed in terms of change, movement, stillness, resistance, etc. They provide general context. They are nothing in themselves.

But if you, as a person, have been thinking about your conundrum or whatever in an open-minded way for a good 20-30 minutes while throwing your coins or dividing your stalks or whatever, it's highly likely that when you arrive at your chapter and start reading, you'll be open to suggestions. Your focused thinking will make the text you are reading seem astonishingly, and I do MEAN astonishingly!, relevant to your question. It's not trying to lure you in or go behind your back - but a way of focusing your thinking in a different way.

It's as much psychological as anything else. There are resources here and here. Want a copy? Buy a real paper copy; there's nothing better. I'd recommend this one, and this one.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Hail to the Great Watermelon!
Turkmenistan is a weird country. Its President, Saparmurat Niyazov, has absolute rule and is a self-designated ruler for life. His personal views are considered to be law, and since he doesn't like men to have beards or long hair it's illegal to be facially hirsute. Gold teeth are out too. He likes a particular type of watermelon and declared a national holiday in its honour.

Except the totalitarian regime persists far beyond these zany stories, and many human rights organisations are gravely concerned.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Drumming on empty paint-cans. Via MetaFilter. The kid's amazing. wmv file, just over 2 megs, and you *have* to see and hear it NOW.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

...a bunny is for life, not just for Easter. And not just for pie either.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

LOTR: The battle at Helm's Deep was real. *sigh*
One of these guys didn't really existAt least that's what some people here in the UK actually believe. The actual story is that in a survey of over 2,000 adults, many could not tell historical fact from fiction.

Some people believe that: Hitler didn't exist; War of the Worlds was a historical event; Helm's Deep and the Battle of Endor took place in real life; The Battle of Hastings wasn't real; Robin Hood was; Conan the Barbarian was.

People remember Helm's Deep (even though it wasn't real, folks) because it was a big battle. They accept it as fact because it was a big battle. They might even accept it as fact because it was on in cinemas all over the world. And aside from the extreeemely dubious nature of that kind of assumption, that is really worrying. Why?

Black Hawk Down: brilliant film, really took place. Pearl Harbor: Brilliant film, really took place... hmm, ish. At least, it took place in a very different context than the film showed. Enigma: (arguably) good film, really took place. Erm - no it *didn't*. Not like in the film, anyway. Saving Private Ryan: great film, really took place? Hmm. Not *really*, no. Soldiers' bodies are forgotten in the rain. But let's continue: Schindler's List: people believe Hitler didn't exist. That's all too unbelievable. *rolls eyes* The Green Mile: that happened... didn't it? Bridget Jones: that happened. Yeah, of course it did. It's real life after all.

No wonder more and more Americans and Brits are popping pills, going to shrinks and feeling a creeping sense of doom. They expect real life to mirror fiction. They expect to get the happy ending. And they're right to want that. But do we get Hollywood happy endings in real life?

Fiction and reality are being blurred. That worries me greatly. Stories aren't real. Storytellers don't *really* want people to think they're real, either. The *difference* between story and real is where a story's magic lies. Think about it: Helm's Deep gets to be about as exciting as paint drying if you think it actually happened, and real-world battles are thrown into greater relief if you enjoyed Helm's Deep and know that it didn't.

Monday, April 05, 2004

peripathetic BLX 1.0 compliant
BLX I didn't even have to do any work to make it BLX compliant. So very cool.

Friday, April 02, 2004

I'm all up in the air about Josh still... yesterday I was feeling better, but today a big flat grey realisation that... well, that it's not going to be the same anymore.

Of course it won't be. That's just the difference between moving towards going out, and going out not being an issue. But there's a ball in the pit of my stomach. And also a warm feeling that he wants to be friends and I want that too. A bleakness coloured by a thankfulness.

Right now he's on a plane heading to Florida, and when he returns in just over a week I want to turn the weirdness around and make it into [a new type of] closeness. Getting around to different ways of thinking isn't something I'll be able to do until then, until I'm in the same room as him.

Anyway, here's a weird link about banana torture.