Wednesday, December 31, 2003

I'd wish everyone a happy new year, but since half of America is going to be exterminated by Al Queda at midnight on the dot Eastern time, there isn't much point. I should clarify, not the better half.
I saw Return of the King again last week. To my undying shame, I actually understood a couple words spoken in Elvish.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

ORANGE CHRISTMAS REFLECTIONS

It's sort of hard to ignore the war on terror when you're at ground zero. I've been wondering one thing, though. If this raise in alet was caused by intelligence chatter, the likes of which we haven't seen since before the September 11, 2001 attacks, doesn't that mean the government is in fact acknowledging those attacks were predictable, anticipated, and could have been prevented? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Some last-minute shopping to do? Not getting jack shot from your so-called loved ones? Well, if you're into fine art, Gary Panter has a deal for you. His originals go for thousands in galleries, but right now he's selling 6" by 8" originals, "You provide one-to-three words and the artist will free associate thereupon." Go to his shop for more. I'm getting one. "Use Once & Destroy," of course.

Monday, December 22, 2003

I'M DREAMING OF AN ORANGE CHRISTMAS
I landed at Dulles airport yesterday. Apparently while I was in the air, the feds raised the terror alert level to Orange. Coincidence? I think not. But I made getaway before the so-called security even knew I was there. So long, suckers!
AND SO, A NUMBER OF HALF-ASSED THOUGHTS ON LORD OF THE RINGS...

Getting progressivly more half-assed, as it slowly dawns on me that I'm on vacation.
I AM A COLOSSAL GEEK

Okay, so I went and saw Return of the King on the nerd shift. Midnight, last Friday night. It finished four days later, and by the end, only 28 of a 400-plus member audience survived, the rest having succumbed to dehydration, toxic shock, despair and the cannabalistic depradations of stronger and more determined survivors, such as myself.

This movie has been praised all over as the movie of the year. My thoughts, more or less at random:

Of the more than 130 films about killer spiders, I believe this is the first that was actually any good at all, let only contained a believable -- and to be honest, fucking horrifying -- giant spider. Holy fuck. What an unbelievably tense scene. And it had a bigger than fuck spider. The one thing missing was the personality with which Tolkien imbued Shelob. I would have loved to see some subtitles as the thing menaced the midgets.



I couldn't believe the wholesale slaughter of elephants. Ivory must be at a premium in Middle Earth. Even my friend, a refined and compassionate woman, cheered when the pretty elf downed Babar. Was I the only one who felt any sympathy for those poor beautifuls beasts?

It was nice to see the Nazgul actually do something for a change. I guess that it was true to the books that their big show was to make the characters talk about how much other people feared them, but it was nice to actually see them cut loose and do rad shit like pick people up and throw them, and bash the fuck out of the Enemy. Um, I mean, the heroes. To be fair, their rides did all the work, and the minute one actually got down and started mixing it up, a girl shoved a sword through his face. But after two movies where all the the Ringwraiths did was scream like women and stab midgets. Fuck, if Sauron had me working for him, you can bet I would have done more than dress like a Dickensian stereotype and shreik nonsensically against the vertically challenged.



I thought it was pretty badass when Eowyn wasted the Witch King, even though the drama and momentum was damaged when the movie cut away to something I don't remember. That was disappointing.



Also disappointing was Aragon's public display of affection with Arwen. I could see him going for the Arwen of the books. God help me, I even realized that in my time, I've subconciously praised luminous brunettes by comparing them to her. I'm not sure that last sentence is going to survive into the next draft. But in these films, we're expected to believe anyone would choose a chubby, pontificating Liv Tyler over the welcoming and vivacious Miranda Otto? Fuck that. Sure, Arwen is an older woman, one who has presumeably laerned more in her thousand years of life than how to speak like priss. But she's also his fucking cousin, and now that I think of it, she never actually kills somebody, and her big action set piece involved running away from the Ringwraiths and then luring the morons into a river, which accomplishes the amazing feat of them coming back in the next movie, on even cooler rides than before. Yeah, Arwen, she's a real fucking catch.

I hope in the extended version, we get to see Faramir acheiving what is to my mind, the greatest triumph of the trilogy, which is to say he gets to marry Eowyn, the woman who is by far the best of the three women who live in Middle Earth, actually, does get to marry one of those three women (does extinction awaits man?), and best of all, gets to retain his top-ranking hereditary title with a thousand years of history and lineage behind it, while being only slightly demoted, presumeably to grow fat on the fruits of a life funded by the public while doing nothing for the rest of his days.

Can a man die with dignity when he is running around, encased in flamed, screaming insanely?

I was really rooting for Gollum, whose evil plan to sow discord among the Hobbits was straight out of Beverly Hills 90210.

One of the eighteen endings of Return of the King was awesome, as in what has to be the prettiest homoerotic reunion in all of fantasy, Frodo is joined on his bed by each survivor of the Fellowship in turn, each looking more beatiful, and hair breezing in slower motion than the last. It has to be seen to believed. Gimli opens his arms expectedly, like a mother welcoming his bitch back to maximum. And then fucking Legolas walks in wearing a headband. And finally Aragorn walks in wearing a white towel.

Gandalf whirling around with a stick and a sword was pretty cool, too, although I must have skipped the twenty pages that must have been devoted to it in the books. Perhaps they were in song. But it was badass on screen, making me wonder, how come we don't see that sword and staff two-handed combo more often?

Sloth from Goonies was the leader of the evil troops for the first battle. For a while, I dismissed this bloodless bureaucrat of an orc, but then, when he casually stepped out of the way of a house-sized boulder catapulted to his position, I gained a bit of respect for him. The he promptly went back to spitting over-disciplinary, even astrategic orders, and I again concluded that I was a better villain than him.

It's interesting how the institutionalized extended editions have shaped, and damaged Jackson's work on this series. Those seem like the real movies, and the theatrical versions come off like an edit of its eventual extended cut. Jackson was screwed by his reliance on these extended editions, completely dropping Sauruman from the final film, leaving a what the fuck happened to the heavy of the last two films vibe hanging over the third. Much of Return of the King comes off like the third act of David Lynch's Dune, where the story just started being summarized rather than completely told.

Speaking of Lynch, I thought of him when Gandalf rides up the sevel levels of Minas Tirith. And he was dramatically shown riding up one level, then a second, then a third, I realized, Christ, they were going to show him ride all the way up. Man.

Okay, I give up.

In conclusion: Miranda Otto!

As much as the Lord of the Rings, both films and books, deserve serious public mockery, I'm still such a geek for the shit I can feel my virginity growing back when I re-watch the trailers. Peter Jackson got these films right. The imagery in the films was exactly as I imagined when I read the books, and when it wasn't, it was better.

I disliked the constant denobling of the characters and their motivations. The books contain a sense of destiny, of great times coming to pass, and the characters accept their role in these times and seek to claim the destiny as their own. I liked how Aragorn determidy did his duty. I liked how debate was futile, how the choices were between action and destruction. I liked how Faramir and the Ents had convictions, and stayed true to them. I liked how the Hobbits accepted their quest, and entered it full-knowing the dangers and consequences. That was lost in these films, I'm afraid, as most of the characters joined the quest by accident.

Because Jackson has created a billion dollar blockbuster series, his real acheivement has been obscured. An independent, talented filmmaker, one even whose zombie movies betray a PBS or Merchant-Ivory tone of character, a man whose first two films had puppets, managed to create a massive, principled epic on his own terms. Though computers paid a large role, they were used to complement a filmmaking style that coould have been utilized a hundred years ago, where foreshortening and trick photography create a solidity the pixel villains in other films lack. And Jackson has created an epic of imagination. I realized half-way through Return of the King that I was craning my neck, trying to see what was lurking just off screen. What Jackson has acheived in these films is good for all the little guys, not in the least low-budget filmmakers.

I think Jackson's saving grace is because, as William Blake said of John Milton, he is of the Devil's party. His fascination with the grotesque and his warped sense of humor helped create a dedication to detail on the enemies less twisted filmmakers would have shorted. There's a clear line from the zombie baby in Dead Alive to the orcs in Lord of the Rings.

Sometimes it seemed like his attention worked against him. Listening to the commentaries on the dvds, it's clear he didn't want to introduce any characters he couldn't develop the way he felt they deserved, so there aren't any obvious red shirts marched out for cannon fodder. A lot of peripheral characters were eliminated from the trilogy. But the side characters add a sense of depth, of a word spilling off the borders of the screen, even if they just showed up, got a name check, and were run through.

And props for casting Christopher Lee. I think it's cool that as Lee is pushing 90, he's played the heavy in two epic trilogies, if one wants to include Star Wars. Man, that fucker is cool.

People are going to miss these films. Before the movie started, in the line for the bathroom a couple morons were sadly reading the poster, saying, "I can't believe the journey is ending."
I've disliked the propoganda misuse of the Lord of the Rings films in the War on Terror. I've been so corrupted by opinions and editorials that I honestly cannot discerne if Peter Jackson has intentially layered the films with this subtext, or if I only see it because others claim to.

Andrew Sullivan, for example, has made a number of outlandish comparisons, from comparing Bush to Frodo when the first movie came out, to the "Men of the West" cheer that goes up at the final battle on Return of the King being an appropriate rallying cry for the war. I don't undertsand the self-pity emenating from the most powerful nation in the world identifying itself with ludicrously outnumbered film characters.

Do neocons really look at the impoverished terrorists in the middle east and see an overpowering, outnumbering superior enemy force? I suppose only a country as massive, strong and reckless as ours can feel like such a self-pitying underdog.

One argument I've had with friends is about the current state of American freedom. I've heard sensible people argue that America is no better than the Taliban. No, I would say, a country that only cirumcises men is at least that much better than the Taliban. We're not living under a fascist regime.

But the Iraqis are. We've established a bona fide military dictatorship on the far side of the world.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Regarding www.justinsimmons.com...

I have some stories about the guy, back when I knew him as a dangerous psychopath using the name "Reverend Victor Rehcana." I'll get to those at some point, when I have the time and the stomach to wade through that sewar again. In the meantime, it is entertaining to fantasize about the careers that will be damaged or ended for those foolish enough to have been photographed with the man.
Your Michael Jackson Snideness of the Day

Well, no suprise that the King of Pop has been charged with drugging and molesting children. It is only my appreciation for his fine album Off the Wall and my sypathy for his childhood friendship with a rat that prompts me to give him this free advice: Keep your fucking family away from the media.

In this story, Jackie and Jermaine Jackson leap to their eccentric brother's defense, with approbation like, "My mom told him this a long time ago รข€¦ said, 'One day they're going to pin something on Michael. Something that he loved the most is children. They're going to use that against him.' "

Thanks, guys. I predict that soon, very soon, LaToya will come forward and sell Michael out.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Thursday, December 11, 2003

A beautiful dose of reality from David Frum at National Review: Dean’s combination of weakness in foreign policy, ultra-permissiveness in social policy, and stinginess in fiscal policy isn’t “centrism”: It’s the politics of the dinner parties of Brentwood and East Hampton, of people who read Vanity Fair and don't need an SUV because their grocer delivers.

I couldn't give a fuck about Dean, but I'm amused by the concept that someone who owns a $40,000 car is part of the suffering poor. Is this class warfare, pitting the top two and three percent againt the top percentage of income earners?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

It's 12:46 am, Pacific Standard Time, and I'm at work. I wish death on everyone.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Right after the end of Arrested Development on Fox, there was a PSA encouraging abused women to escape from their situation. I didn't catch the name of the production organization. It occured to me. I assume advertising isn't cheap, so advertisers are going to choose their time carefully, to make sure it reaches its target audience, right? So, was I watching a show that statically appealed to, and thus had a reachable target audience of abused women? God, I wonder if some of the other advertisers pursue that demographic as well.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I missed the big story earlier this week. My Monday at 12:16 pm entry, featuring a mongoloid embracing a cocoon, was taken from the website of Creative Growth Arts Center, who provide creative art programs, educational and independent living training, counseling and vocational opportunities for adults who are physically, mentally and emotionally disabled.

I was browsing through the web site, and found these paintings by Terri Bowden:





I'm a little nervous about Michael Jackson popping up in scarifying artwork by mentally disabled artists. I wonder if it's a cultural phenomena, or is the King of Pop meeting these outsider artists? BTW, these painting are titled, "The Bad Thing That Happened Part 1," "The Bad Thing That Happened Part 2" and "The Bad Thing That Happened Part 3."

I think this needs to be investigated.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Monday, December 01, 2003

My Rissman was delivered today. I completely underestimated its 46" by 61" dimensions, thinking it displayed wide, rather than tall. It is tall. Very tall. I don't know where I'm going to put it. Luckily, December is a good month for re-arranging my apartment. I should throw a party in January to show off the new floor plan and artwork.

Once again:


Spiraling Galaxy

By the way, Dorothy's husband Benton Peugh is also a talented artist, and art installer.