06 July 2005

Choose Your Own Adventure

Man, I was looking around, and I found something really cool! I totally have to share it with you, because everyone would really dig it. It's sorta weird, but pretty interesting, and maybe you'll get a kick out of it. So, anyway...

If you would like me to have found an article about Roald Dahl, turn to page 27.

If you would like me to have found this image:
turn to page 172.

If you would like me to have found some article at McSweeney's, turn to page 67.

If you would like me to have found some new record at a record store, turn to page 88.

In connection with the new movie of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the New Yorker posted an article about Roald Dahl (since New Yorker links expire after a while, I've mirrored it here, swapping the image files for ones stored on my own gallery site). I found this actually a really cool article; a lot of stuff about the man as a man, his good and bad points, and a nice little bio.

I find the thing about how his widow opens up his writing cottage one day a year for children to explore really cool; I know that growing up, I would have loved to see this. He was probably my favorite author during my childhood, and I love the way that even though the adults seem somewhat bored with looking, the children see the magic and wonder. I especially love the "Look! There are the BOOKS!" section.

It's kind of funny, though -- like the author, I've tried reading his adult fiction, and it doesn't really do the same thing for me that the children's work does. I've got the Tales of the Unexpected book compilation (which compiles most of his other, shorter books), and they tend to get a little boring after a while; I think there's only so many twists you can read in a row, to be honest. Some of them -- actually, most of them are clever -- but as the article mentions, he just doesn't seem to have any real empathy for his non-child characters. They're almost like brainteasers than actual stories. But, his children's books (or, books like The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar that are halfway children's/halfway adult) are exquisite.

It's a little disheartening to find out that Dahl was somewhat anti-semitic, or a bit of a bully, though I suppose we all have our faults, and I think you sometimes get some of that, especially in reading about him; I recently read (Spoilers for the new movie in there!) that the main reason for his dislike of the Mel Stuart version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was that he wanted Spike Milligan as Willy Wonka, and while the studio paid lip service to this and auditioned him, their decision to go with Gene Wilder (the right one, in my opinion) soured him on the film project and he'd talk about how dissatisfied he was with it.

Still, though, the man wrote a lot of my favorite books growing up and had a profound influence on me; we're willing to cut adult authors a lot of slack for their personal behavior, but not children's authors, which is always somewhat odd. And I disagree with the complaints put forth by Eleanor Cameron and Ursula K. LeGuin (although, I suppose that might be par for the course, as I'm one of the only people on Earth who can't stand her writing, so I suppose it makes sense that she'd be dead-set against someone whose writing I loved).

Hmm, I guess this is a little short; maybe I should pad this out a bit.

If you want me to pad this out with another thing about books, turn to page 175.

If you want me to pad this out with a thing on a Japanese movie, turn to page 172.

I've had these CDs for a while, but I've been digging Terre Thaemlitz' Rubato series of cover CDs, where he takes music by electronic artists that influenced him deeply and does solo piano arrangements in a rubato tempo. The first (and so far only) three (although I'm not sure if there will be more -- I hope so!) are Kraftwerk, Gary Numan and DEVO. I personally think the DEVO one is the best, though they're all very good; the Kraftwerk one is probably the least successful because Kraftwerk's music is already pretty close in structure to solo, classical piano, but it's still cool.

Thaemlitz also has a bunch of his own solo work as well, and his webpage has a lot of his writings; since he's genderqueer (he seems to identify more as trans, although his website uses the "he" pronoun, so I'm using it too, but this article seems to explain where he's coming from on that type of thing), most of his writings -- especially the essays that come with the Rubato discs -- are about gender and sexuality issues, although he has essays on other topics -- for example, Post-Modernism in Dave Berg's "The Lighter Side Of..." cartoons for Mad Magazine, Music and Technology, and being insulted, as a child, by a member of Cheap Trick.

I haven't actually heard any of his non-Rubato records, though I'd like to; I hope there's also plans for more of the Rubato ones, too. Perhaps an Eno one would be pretty interesting (and maybe not so far-fetched given Thaemlitz' love of ambient music). Or maybe someone else with an electronic flair?

For instance, someone like Moloko, turn to page 88.

For instance, someone like Negativland, turn to page turn to page 110.

I used to collect Mad magazines (I've got almost all of them; mostly just the comic issues I'm missing, and a couple of the first magazine issues, along with loads and loads of memorabilia), so I have to admit that I got a kick out of Spy Vs. Spy, The Unused Treatments. I know Achewood says that McSweeney's approaches humor like a man in a labcoat with tweezers, but I kind of like that aesthetic sometimes. I like the long, drawn out scenarios with way too much put into the motivations for the two spies. The last one is particularly good, really.

Hm, you know, it's kind of lame to do a post on a thing found at McSweeney's, just because they're so short, and well, I figure everyone who'd want to see it has probably seen it anyway, so...

If you want me to add an aside about Roald Dahl, turn to page 27.

If you want me to talk about another author, turn to page 175.

Yeah! It was pretty cool -- I went to a used record shop yesterday and found a cheap copy of Moloko's Do You Like My Tight Sweater?; I just listened to it, and, it's OK. It's not great, but there's some cool stuff on it, like "Day For Night" which was in an episode of Blue Jam and --
Just then, he wasn't watching where he was going and fell into a pit. The pit wasn't very deep, so he didn't get injured. However, as darkness fell, the witch who had dug the pit as a trap came upon her prey. She used her magic to pull him from the pit and while hovering in mid-air he disappeared!

Upon re-appearing, he found himself tied like a roast on what appeared to be a long dining room table, with an apple in his mouth. It looks like he won't be getting any more records anytime soon!


After Lee linked the RSS plugin for Firefox a week or so ago, I found, through Paul Collins' blog a good use for it! Mainly, it's the blog for the editors of Seattle's Good Alternative Weekly, The Stranger! The Slog is really frequently updated (too much so to, say, make a LiveJournal Feed make much sense), but often worth reading -- somewhat more so for Seattlites, but there's some cool stuff for folks all over, and, hey, Dan Savage is a frequent contributor, being the editor of the Stranger and all, so that's something you typically can't go wrong with. Unless you, like, hate Dan Savage. But you shouldn't!

Just then, a bucket-ful of money came from the heavens and made him rich beyond his wildest dreams. Also, inside the bucket was a Reuben sandwich fresh from Michael's Cafe in Palm Springs, which has the best Reubens he'd ever had in his entire life. He then realized that he had done everything right, and that it would, indeed, be a good day.


I really dig Negativland. There's a new interview with Don Joyce and Mark Hosler in this week's Onion AVClub, where they talk a lot about their views towards copyright law and their own particular stance, and I think they raise a lot of good points. I tend to be somewhat closer to Negativland on the IP-Law-Scale, though maybe not quite as far as they are (I do find myself typically agreeing with Lawrence Lessig; or, well, it turned out that he was basically saying a lot of the stuff I was saying for a long time, just way more eloquently; for example, he doesn't use constructions like "way more"), but I'm much closer to them than, say, the big content producer companies. But I still think that whether or not you agree with them, they're not really folks that can be dismissed; I think people still have to engage their arguments even if you think they're wrong. I just picked up the new album -- I haven't heard it yet, but it does come with a 64 page booklet of 3 essays that I'm really excited to read (what can I say, I love reading about copyright issues), a whoopee cushion, and a CD that's 100% samples -- their only album that doesn't contain anything recorded by them. There's also a new video that they've released via BitTorrent (I've actually got my client open to help seed if they need it!) which is very cool, too (I especially like the scared musical notes), and the CD itself has the "Gimme The Mermaid video (hosted here by Illegal Art, who're also hosting the wonderful Superstar by Todd Haynes) -- though for the song, you'll want the Fair Use book & CD combo about their U2 combination EP and lawsuit.

Speaking of which, I know it's really old, but I just have to mention their previous project, Death Sentences Of The Polished and Structurally Weak, another combination book/CD. This might actually be one of the most powerful things they've ever done (maybe even more so than "We Are Driven" from Free). Negativland went to auto yards, and went through the wrecks, looking for notes and documents; when they found them, they'd take a photograph of the car they came from. The book is made up then of, one one page, a photograph of the actual document, an easy-to-read transcription of it, and on the facing page, a photograph of the source-wreckage. It's an unimaginably beautiful and sad work -- sometimes it seems obvious from the wreck that no one could have survived that particular accident, and so these are little glimpses into the world of someone who is no longer alive, and died in a very unpleasant, terrifying way.

Negativland is also hosting a streaming version of a This American Life segment on the project before the book came out. In it, you can hear Richard Lyons (a/k/a Pastor Dick, Dick Vaughn and a few other characters) talk about the project and you can hear him and his cohorts going through the wrecks, smuggling cameras in (as the yards actually don't allow photos to be taken) and looking at this stuff. It's just really interesting and sad -- it's modern archaeology.

But man, that's kind of a downer, really! A beautiful downer, but still a downer! It's usually not good to end on a down note, is it?

If you'd like something about happy music, turn to page 143.

If you'd like something about another blog that has quite a bit about Seattle Politics, turn to page 109.

Last week, as I mentioned, I saw The Ditty Bops here in Seattle, and MAN it was good. They're one of those bands that I've been trying to convince everyone to check out; their first, self-titled album is one of the best, if not the best album of last year, and I typically will point it out when I'm at a record store to the person I'm with and tell them it's good and that they should get it, but it's difficult to get someone to buy a CD blind. However, when I took my two friends to the show, as soon as the show ended, they both bought the CD, and I was all like "SEE?! SEE?!" And it was wonderful. If you'd like, they're taper-friendly, and as such, have a few shows on Archive.org -- I particularly recommend the shows from Cafe Du Nord (great sound quality, AND it has "Angel With An Attitude" which is just a magnificent song), The Music Mill, and The Independent. Also, there's some Mountain Goats shows, too!

Also, I saw this (QT, sound) over at MeFi, and it's actually really well done....Circuit Bending is something I've always wanted to try....I'd been thinking about writing something about this for here for a while, but I basically decided to when my best friend sent me this link. This is something that I basically am wanting so bad....I think there are about 3 types of people....Sort of strange news that I just saw -- David Lynch...

The room spins and it turns out to be everyone's worst nightmare -- he's caught in his own mental TIME WARP!

Over on the Criterion Forum someone posted a thread (need to be logged in to see, but accounts are free) asking about Japanese Avant-Garde films, including Emperor Tomato Ketchup (which folks might know because it was a Stereolab album), which I've always heard of but never seen (I've heard it's rather disturbing, though -- but I'm not sure how true that is; admittedly, it doesn't exactly sound like a walk in the park), and Funeral Parade of Roses, where that image comes from.

I haven't seen that one either, but I love the still from it (there's four more stills on the Criterion Forum page, including more with words). Apparently, it's a retelling of Oedipus Rex (or, for PDQ Bach fans, Oedipus Tex) only with the sexuality toggled, so instead of a future king killing his father and marrying his mother, a trans club kid kills his mother and in order to sleep with his father. Also, it stars an actor who was later in a Kurosawa picture (Ran) in the lead role. The film was promoted and considered the first Japanese film to deal with gay culture, and is said to have inspired some shots of A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick. This also seems to be a film that's sort of a cult item among the trans community as well as the film geek community.

Granted though, I suppose I should maybe write about something I actually know, not just something that sounds interesting.

If you would like me to mention something along the queer/trans line, turn to page 53.

If you would like me to talk about another obsession other than film, turn to page 67.

Hey, you know who one of my favorite authors is that no one seemed to give a whole lot of credit to? John T. Sladek. He did a lot of really hilarious sci-fi novels; I love Tik-Tok, a parody of Asimov's I, Robot type stuff, or The Mueller-Fokker Effect (so named to cause people embarrassment when asking for it in libraries or bookstores), about a man whose conciousness is put on a special type of paint in a situation that ends up going Very Much Awry. (One funny thing about that one -- the President in that particular novel, written in the late-1960s/early-1970s, is Ronald Reagan, clearly intended as a joke.) The good news is that it looks like his stuff is finally drifting back into print (unfortunately, posthumously). I think this first one to start the new wave of In-Print Sladekage was Maps, a new collection of short work, including "The Lost Nose", an... unpublished... eeeergh, I'm sorry, I've got a really bad headache; I'll have to finish this later.

Just then, his head started vibrating, and exploded, painting the slanted walls of his upstairs room in a most interesting color; one you wouldn't expect to come from a human head. And in such copious amounts!



Blogger Lee H. said...

That has to be the most ambitious post EVER. :D

Lots of cool stuff in there, though- the Japanese film stuff is intriguing, and I'd actually read the Roald Dahl article already- I love it! :D (Though, like you said, a little disappointed in a couple of his meaner real-life traits.)

Will have to explore the rest of this as time allows...

12:52 PM, July 07, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Heh, that took me way too long to write. I tried my best to make sure it actually works, too, heh. It's been forever since I've read any of those, so I might not have had the format/conventions _quite_ right, but, you know..8) (I think it might loop back too much, but well, there's only, like, 6 nodes, so...)

I'd really like to check out some of that stuff, too. They seem to be a font of band-related things, though -- aside from Emperor Tomato Ketchup (and I think there might be another Stereolab album that takes its name from another one of these films?), there's also Godspeed You Black Emperor, although I don't think that's an experimental film so much as just an obscure documentary). The other two films mentioned in the thread were Nanami: The Inferno of First Love and Song of the Stones, though neither of those had stills with a speech balloon, so....

And yeah -- it's always sad to learn one of your favorite artists isn't really a Kind And Wonderful Person, but i suppose everyone's got their dark side... me, I like to kick dogs![1]

[1] Not true.

1:22 PM, July 07, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

I'm completely sold on seeing Funeral Parade Of Roses, now. (Emperor Tomato Ketchup, not so much.)

This is why I DON'T hang out on the Criterion forums... I'd be even more broke due to my DVD habit than I am already! :D

9:27 AM, July 08, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Yeah -- Emperor Tomato Ketchup has always been on the sorta list of "This might be interesting to see, but I'm not sure"; some of the stuff and some of the imagery sounds like it might be cool, but it also sounds like it might be sort of Pretentiboring and/or shocking-for-shock's-sake, which I'm not a fan of. (Though if I found a copy, I'd probably rent/download it; maybe buy if it were cheap enough.)

Funeral Parade of Roses, when I saw those stills (did you check out the other three? They're pretty amusing too) I thought "Heh, that should be pretty dang awesome." When I started doing a bit of research on the film, I started thinking "Man, I really need to see this!" It's too bad it looks like it's a bit harder to come by than Emperor Tomato Ketchup and stuff like that, though. And, hey, if it turns out that I like it, I could always, you know, name a record after it, so I could be like the Cool Kids.

But yeah -- I am totally a fan of the Criterion Forums which leads to me, apparently, not being a fan of having money. (Speaking of which -- have you seen the art for Criterion's upcoming issue of The Man Who Fell To Earth? Striking! I've always wanted to see that -- apparently it's the film that Philip K. Dick based the titular film in VALIS on.)

12:21 PM, July 08, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

have you seen the art for Criterion's upcoming issue of The Man Who Fell To Earth?

No, I didn't! I've got this movie on a standard DVD release (MGM, I think), but in places the picture quality is pretty dark and shadowy. I'm sure the Criterion one will be better-looking.

It's a great film, but one that takes a lot of patience to watch. It's VERY slow-paced, but that works by making you feel as though you're living with the characters. David Bowie rocks as the main character.

And yes, I saw the other stills of Funeral Parade, and read the reviews of it... it does sound VERY cool.

12:54 PM, July 08, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

I like slow-pacing, providing it's done well (which sounds like it is; sometimes it's just glacial -- I was really disappointed with Tony Takitani, mainly because it's based on a Haruki Murakami short story and I adore Murakami, but the film was so... slow and... it had its moments, but not nearly enough to carry the film; but other times, it's all about Feel and that is so wonderful. It's actually one of the things that drives me nuts with some modern filmmaking -- people are often afraid to linger on shots, and that is silly and stupid. Lingering is wonderful.)... and, hey, when I read VALIS, I always thought that I wanted to see/make the film-within-the-book, so when I found out it was The Man Who Fell To Earth, that basically popped up on my "To See" list.

Anyway, I think the plan is to run to Scarecrow Video today to see if they have Funeral Parade Of Roses -- it's apparently not listed on their website, but they sometimes have stuff in person and it might be listed under something else (there's a few alternate titles I've seen, in addition to the Japanese title), so, hey. If I find it and watch it, I'll totally let you know how it is. And if it isn't, well, I guess I'll say that it's not available at Scarecrow, heh.

5:07 PM, July 09, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Also, found this: a review by the same guys who did that excellent review of Save the Green Planet that introduced me to that film. So, uh, yeah, I'm pretty excited.

Also, this spoiler-laden review makes it sound pretty cool, too, though I wish I hadn't found some of those spoilers, but oh well.

5:15 PM, July 09, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

Let me know if Scarecrow has Funeral Parade... if they do I might try to get a copy through you, if you don't mind. Amazon.co.jp has it, but ordering off their site can be tricky. (I've done it before, but if I can avoid it, all the better!)

5:18 PM, July 09, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

No problem -- I'll keep an eye out for a purchasin' copy as well as a rental copy. I found that YesAsia has a copy, too, but it's ~50 bucks. It's expensive, but they've got good service and their site is in English.

Hm, let me check -- CD Japan also has it, too, but for a little cheaper (hooray for the one country where exchange rates are actually semi-decent). I've ordered through them before, too (They are my hookup for Polysics CDs, usually), and they're really good, too, although you have to sign for the package (which can be a downer).

Scarecrow'd probably be the easiest, though, so I'll keep an eye out, and at the very least, price it for you.

5:26 PM, July 09, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

(heh, and Tom Lehrer's "Oedipus Rex" just came up on shuffle...)

5:29 PM, July 09, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

(Man, sorry to post like fifty times in a row, but also, Super Happy Fun has it for $13, if you don't mind a boot.)

5:52 PM, July 09, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

My last post on this, at least until someone _else_ says something, heh:

Anyway, on the Scarecrow Front, good news and bad news.

Good news: They have it for rental, and I have rented it. It is sitting about 3 feet away from me on my footstool thing. (Turned out it wasn't in the online catalog probably because it's actually a boot. I can't tell which outfit put it out, though, it was in a pretty generic case, and the DVD is just the title (the "procession" variant) in a old cursive font, perhaps even "Cursive" from Win 3.1.)

Bad news: They do NOT have it for sale. I checked all over. (They do, however, have the complete films of Fatty Arbuckle for sale.) I suppose I could probably get them to order it, but I figure by that point it'd be more expensive and take longer than just ordering it from amazon/cdjapan/yesasia/SHF. But yeah -- since it is already a bootleg, depending on the quality of it (I'd assume it would be a bootleg of the extant DVD, but from the look of it, it could actually _predate_ the real one; also -- the back of the case said "85 or 89 minutes", iMDB is saying 105 mins -- I do not know yet if this is a) an error or b) an edited version), I might run off a copy. But yeah -- I'll probably watch it either tomorrow or Monday, and I'll let you know how:
a) The film is
b) How this _copy_ of same is.

But yeah, I'm all "w00t" w/r/t actually finding the thing.

2:50 AM, July 10, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

That is too cool you actually found a copy! :D

Definitely let me know how it is once you've seen it. Amazon Japan is selling it for under $40, so if you say the movie is halfway decent, I'll probably get it either there or from CD Japan.

And I bet the one you have is edited down... every reference I've seen says the film is 105 min. long.

11:34 AM, July 10, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

That's kinda what I'm thinking too, but I'm crossing my fingers when they typed up the sleeve, they were thinking of another film. Like, I dunno, something else was right there and they got confused. Perhaps there's a 85 minute bootleg out there that's listed as 105, heh. Still, though, I'll be watching the time counter.

12:57 PM, July 10, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

OK! I have just watched it.

First off: This version of the film was ~100-101 minutes, however, there were a few tape glitches, and it looked like there might have been credits chopped off at the end. So I don't think this is an edit or anything. The 8X figure is right out.

Secondly: I'm not going to bother making a copy of this; the quality was really bad -- it was a DVD-R (put out by Five Minutes To Live, actually, but really, really old -- the DVD menu was, well, basically what you'd expect from really early authoring software) taken from an N-th Generation VHS copy with loads of tape errors and whatnot; blurry picture (the stills are obviously taken from the new DVD) and white subtitles that don't seem to translate everything. So, yeah -- just get a real version.

But, OK, the film: It is really good. If it didn't cost 40-50 dollars, I would totally have been happy had I just blind-bought this. I've only seen it once through, and I think I'm going to have to see it again (er, I know I'm going to have to see it again) but it's really well done. And, uh, yeah -- it's pretty obviously an inspiration for Kubrick on ACO. It'd be really interesting to do a Double Feature of the two movies, I think.

I'm not going to go too much into the structure or whatnot, but it's very well done. There's only one bit that I think could have been trimmed a little, and the beginning is a _little_ slow. It's not my New Favorite Movie, but it's damned good, and I want to see more of Matsumoto's stuff. (Apparently there's a 4-5 DVD box set in Japan -- all but one disc, apparently, are subtitled.) It's really well made; I don't get any sort of "exploitation film" vibe from this at all. I'd love to see a better print of this, though, which means I'm basically putting the japanese one on my Non-Literal Wish List. I wish there were a (legit) US version; apparently Criterion is doing a Cult-Film Sub-Label -- this would be perfect for that (if not Criterion proper).

If you dig this, I also recommend Branded to Kill by Seijun Suzuki (available on Criterion) and to a lesser extent its remake-sequel Pistol Opera, also by Suzuki (it's good, but a little over-indulgent). But yeah -- I totally want a real copy of this. It is outstanding.

I'm real bad at figuring how much people want to know, so feel free to ask me questions about the film -- I don't want to do spoiler stuff, but I tend to prefer to go into films basically semi-blind (in fact, I probably would have preferred not to know the Oedipus thing), but I know other folks aren't that way (my mother for instance, enjoys basically knowing how it's going to end and watching how it unfolds -- while watching Big Fish for the first time she asked me a question and I was all "Well, um, you'll find out in an hour...", but she wanted to know, heh). But yeah -- excellent film. There's a lot to say about it. (One thing I thought was interesting/cool: The trans people are all way more glamourous/sexy than any of the biological women in the film. As one of them says (in a reall amusing scene which also happens to be pretty ACO-y) "Men don't stare at JUST women", and they make that point pretty well.)

Anyway, though, yeah -- this is definitely a film to check out. I should post over at Criterion Forum thanking them for turning me on to this.

4:33 PM, July 10, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

OK, I gotta see this. :D And yeah, I'll pas on any more info since I want to see the film.

BTW, all of Five Minutes To Live's DVDs have those really BASIC menus. But the films are still of decent quality.

6:18 PM, July 10, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Speaking of 5MTL, they've got a bunch of those at Scarecrow -- not all of them; my SO is annoyed that they don't have the 5MTL Andy Kaufman stuff -- they had 2 versions (Original Generic Sleeve and New Fancy Sleeve) of Emperor Tomato Ketchup, and something that really caught my eye on the "New To Us" shelf -- the C.H.i.P.s Tape. I don't know if this is somethin' to uh, actually buy, but I'm pretty sure it's in the "Something To See Once In Your Life" category.

4:07 AM, July 11, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

the C.H.i.P.s Tape. I don't know if this is somethin' to uh, actually buy

I applaud your gift for understatement. :D

Come play it at my house, if you'd like to see my clawing my own eyes out.

3:12 PM, July 11, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

But it's an hour of the best Freeze-Frame endings!

I will eventually rent it, probably, and end up getting bored probably like 15 minutes in. But still.

I would like to see the bonus thing though. That looked like it might be interesting, and I'd like to see their Christian Propaganda DVD Series, but then again, I tend to watch TBN for fun, so.... (The Children's shows are great for stuff that's so fucking creepy. I might make a post about those.)

3:16 PM, July 11, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home