Yearly Archives: 2005

Next year

Plans for next year:

  • Go to the Commonwealth Games
  • See Sigur Ros
  • Observe the beginning of peers turning 30
  • Visit friends in Mildura
  • Do the Sydney Biennale
  • Witness at least two weddings
  • Have a child
  • Support Pen finishing basic training and attaining her Masters
  • Possibly buy a home
  • Possibly visit Adelaide

Etc.

Bits

Why, if i lived in Europe, I’d be Michael Levey.

When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a plaster flamingo.

Is there a word that’s equivalent to “babbling” for listening?

I prefer music to songs, novels/comics/movies to stories.

I imagine that there will still be chocolate-chip cookies in a thousand years.

Numbers that my pocket can prank call:

  • 000—Australia
  • 112—international
  • 911—culturally-dominant
  • 08—???
  • …—what else?

The future isn’t jetpacks, it’s fluoro textas.

Forget make believe, try found believe.

I don’t believe in the possibility of inauthenticity.

I and everyone I know reads too little to have an opinion on canon.

Simon Schama’s new book on the French Revolution has 45 pages of sources and 46 pages of index.

Free public barbecues, replacing the ones that took coins and always got vandalised, are an example of people ceasing to think only of the short term. How many things are like that? (Needle exchanges, says Penny.)

Rivers End

Pen and I are going on honeymoon from today till January 2. We are going to Rivers End, a holiday cottage just past Kilcunda, between the mouth of the Powlett River and the wind farm.

The eight hectare property sits behind dune banks and woodland. The cottage is an architecturally designed two bedroom holiday home “representing excellence in Eco Tourism”, with a resident community of butterflies, echidnas and wombats, with visiting kangaroos, wallabies, owls, rare parrots and water birds.

The two bedroom cottage (queen bed, two singles) is completely self contained with a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, spacious bathroom, CD player, TV with good reception and a DVD player. It has a wood fire, an outdoor Japanese spa bath, and sundeck.

Can’t wait to get there!

See you in the New Year!

All I want for Christmas

Four years ago:

I need someone. They have to be intelligent, articulate, slightly quirky is good, and interested in men. I need one in the Carlton area who drinks, enjoys cinema, literature and fantasy. Ideally a down-to-earth type, practical and sober, but with an wry sense of humour.

One of my sisters hangs out with my parents when she needs free food because she’s spent unwisely. I, apparently, hang out with my parents when I’m lonely.

All I want for Christmas is a way to meet someone.

That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever read.

Somewhat ironically, the first time I remember seeing Penny (literally, only seeing her) was seven days after writing that, at a New Year’s Eve party.

Enoteca

I spent this afternoon working leisurely in Fitzroy’s “drink library” and cafe, Enoteca, on Gertrude, near Smith. Embarassingly I found out about this on The Age‘s weblog:

Enoteca wine shop/bar [...] has open Wi-Fi. And aside from the coffee and wine, they’ve got the best collection of single malt whiskies we’ve seen in Australia.

I counted 27 brands of scotch, with various expressions of each. I tried the Lagavulin 16 year old, Talisker 18 year old, Bruichladdich 10 year old, and, on shop whisky enthusiast Carly’s recommendation, Ardberg 10 year old. Tasting while working and wired—it was all very Generation Y. :-)

I’ll group my thoughts with those from my previous scotch samplings this year:

Glen Elgin (Speyside)
Very smooth—so much so, the character has all been smoothed away.
Glenfiddich (Speyside) Special Reserve 12 year old
My introductory single malt, I now find it a bit rough and watery.
Strathisla (Speyside)
It was smooth, but sat on the tongue like syrup, with a lovely pure whisky flavour. Recommended.
Glenmorangie (Highland)
Smooth, straight whisky flavour, but a bit watery, and had an alcohol spike to it. Reminded me a bit of Glenfiddich.
Ardberg (Islay) 10 year old
Softer, gentler version of Laphroaig—Carly maintained it was peatier, but I couldn’t taste it.
Bruichladdich (Islay) 10 year old
Strong but not spiky, more alcohol than scotch outer flavour, surrounding a fruity core. Recommended.
Lagavulin (Islay) 16 year old
Enticing smell. Fairly straightforward scotch flavour. Nice afterburn: starts in the mouth, moves to the throat, then fades.
Laphroaig (Islay) 10 year old
Smoky, complex, powerful. My favourite.
Laphroaig (Islay) Cask Strength 10 year old
Divine. If I could afford it, I’d favour it over regular Laphroaig.
Laphroaig (Islay) Quarter Cask
Also divine! Powerful and fascinating. And expensive.
Talisker (Isle of Skye) 18 year old
Darker colour, strong smell. Not as smoky as Laphroaig, but stronger, tougher. Recommended.

I still need to try some Lowland and Campbelltown whiskies. I’ll definitely be returning to Enoteca for that—I was told if Carly isn’t around to help that Jamie is also hot on the scotch. (Note that Enoteca also sell bottles to take away, not only glasses to drink in.)

What else have I been loving recently?

Herradura Anejo tequila (which you can also get at Enoteca)—Thorne introduced me to this a few years ago: forget what you think you know about tequila.

And any kind of slivovitz, a Central European plum brandy that’s just lovely—and cheaper than cognac.

King Kong Spoilers

Couldn’t have said it better myself:

Penny Arcade on spoilers and King Kong

Have you seen The Passion yet? :-)

On the other hand:

This isn’t the first time I’d observed some tiny scene in a movie and felt like I could extrapolate the film, somehow. King Kong was a movie about a monkey making his crazy way in the big city. I’d never heard of any Skull Island. Hair was also this way. I was with it. They were dancing in the park, it was the Age of Aquariuuuuuuus, I knew about that, and then bam—on the plane to Vietnam. I also thought I had a pretty good fix on The Sound of Music, indeed, the hills were alive with it, but they go right from singing about whiskers on kittens to a bunch of Goddamn Nazis kicking down the door. These are pronounced shocks to a young man such as myself, frail of constitution, given to bouts of tremors and glossalalia even on a pristine summer afternoon. The idea that even The Sound of Goddamn Music played host to a writhing core of evil was simply too much for a mind already taut with those horrors which, if named, would spring as if from the very sounds of their naming unto a sleeping world.

The spoiled/unspoiled binary is deconstructed. (Again.)

Do you see what I see?

I’ve been making a list of what I’ve read and seen (and sometimes heard, etc) since 2001—after realising how little I could remember I’d seen at the movies in 2000. It’s not hard to do and the pay off can be large and unexpected—but is at least always satisfying. Last year I started incorporating a simple rating system with my list, like Mark Bernstein does.

Or did. In a footnote(?), he explains:

I’m about to bail out on my ‘rating’ system; not only is it too coarse, but there’s just no way I’m able to decide whether this is a nice little movie with a clever trick—Memento, say—or a great little movie—Manhattan, or Fried Green Tomatoes. I’ll know in a couple of years whether I want to see it again, but I don’t see a good way to judge that now. Fortunately, I can sit on the fence.

Mark’s simple rating system goes: worse…bad…good…even better…really good. Which means:

A “really good” movie might be Apocalypse Now or Casablanca or Buffy Season 3—a movie that you’re likely to want to see many times, a movie that obviously changes the way you look at movies. In some years, no new movie is “really good”—but because we’ve got many years of backlog, it’s still a useful category. A “good” movie would then be one of the best movies that appear in a year. A bad movie eats time; a movie that is worse is pernicious.

I have a simpler rating system: didn’t like…okay…likedreally liked. I have no interest in making finer judgements—I’m not even interested in having different grades for things I didn’t like! Generally I can trust myself to know what rating I’ll give a book or moving picture.

I used to give different labels to my ratings (not recommended, non-recommended, recommended, highly recommended) but I worried too much about who exactly it was I was recommending these things too. Then again, at some level I over-value my opinion and think in terms of things that are bad, classic, etc. So I do find myself thinking about the edge cases as Mark does. Dog Soldiers is structurally clever and succeeds at the very difficult task of maintaining a high level of suspense over a long period, but is it really a classic? And at least a little perspective is good: some films you come out thinking you liked, then realise they were only okay; but don’t like upon rewatching. I find some reassurance by visually lining up titles with the same rating and saying, “yeah, those are on the same level”. And I try not to worry about it too much. Time will change my opinion regardless.

Mark also questions his ratings for another reason:

This scale worked then; it doesn’t work now. I’ve seen seven consecutive “good” movies. How can this be?

I don’t have an interesting (Mac-only) authoring system like Mark, but now that I’ve got a lovely XHTML (strict) page (formatted with CSS), it’s easy to pull my stats too. I installed Brian Slesinksy’s wonderful XPath Checker Firefox extension and consulted the indespensible Zvon to work out how to ask how many movies/TV series I’ve seen this year (so far):

//ol[contains(@class, "seen")]/li

The answer is 98. (Down by a fair chunk on last year. Life has been busy.)

//ol[contains(@class, "seen")]/li[@class='reallyLiked']

Forty-nine! I’ve really liked half the things I’ve seen (with a slight bias perhaps by rewatching some things). I liked 23, thought 19 were okay, and didn’t like seven. Wow.

But do I feel like abandoning my ratings? No. I find it hard to write much about things I’ve read and seen, even a paragraph. Next year I plan on writing nothing about anything new; it’ll be all old, all the time, here, inspired by my attempts to grapple with Babylon 5 and the Star Wars trilogies. So the least I can do, after investing time in a novel, collection, comic, book, movie, or TV series, is give it a basic grunt of approval or disapproval.

Harry Potter and Film Literacy

AKMA opines on the new Harry Potter film:

Goblet of Fire, excellent, though so much was cut from the book that non-book-readers must be bewildered by some developments (Pip and I took a long time explaining various elements to Margaret)

As does Dave C:

Whether it’s possible to follow that throughline without knowing the book is debatable, but at the very least you’d have to know the first three movies really well.

But Jim Roeg, who hasn’t read the books or seen the other films, says:

I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night. And I liked it.

I haven’t seen the latest Harry Potter film, but I find it hard to believe that I couldn’t understand it (even if I hadn’t read the first novel and seen the first film). I think it’s time we took a stand against people who read books—people like Kurt Vonnegut—who think it’s acceptable to flaunt their film illiteracy and encourage it in others. This reversal of the phenomenon where a film is used to quickly “read” a book is disturbing. Get off your paper crutches people—learn to watch.

And if you don’t fully understand a film the first time—perhaps you should go see it again. Would you expect to fully understand Jane Eyre after two hours with it? (Okay, three hours, given Harry as a springboard for this post.) Or even after a single read?

Remember, it isn’t big to be proud that you can only understand the written word—without pictures—on paper, and it isn’t clever.

Doctor Who (2005)

Ten stories.

Well, let’s see. I liked it. It was good, but not great. It was Season 1 Xena, not Season 1 Buffy or Babylon 5. I really enjoyed the performances of Chris Eccleston and Billie Piper, they really kept me going. I enjoyed the politics of the season, which I think Lawrence Miles managed to nail after watching the first episode. I really enjoyed the overarching investigative themes:

  1. Why does the Doctor do what he does (which we’ve seen before, but was good anyway)
  2. What does it take to be a companion? (my favourites aspect of the series)

I thought the series referenced the old series and the books in interesting ways that didn’t get too fanwanky. And I enjoyed the references to pop culture. I loved the character of Captain Jack and the dynamic he brought to the show. I enjoyed the Bad Wolf story a la Season 7 Buffy‘s fan feints. I liked the monsters; I liked the general treatment of the old enemies and I liked the Family Slitheen.

It had two absolute classics: The End of the World (Mark Fisher explains) and The Empty Child (creepy-as, then joyous). Rose wasn’t as good as An Unearthly Child (the first episode), but was better than The Power of the Daleks (the first new Doctor), Spearhead From Space (new format), Castrovalva (no more Tom Baker), and Enemy Within (don’t ask)… There were only two clunkers: The Unquiet Dead (derivative of everything include the new series at that point) and Dalek (a bit too Trek).

So why have I come away feeling disappointed?

Season 11 has (I recall) only one classic story, though none are bad. Season 25 has two classics, one howler, and one hmm-er. Yet they don’t disappoint.

Why have I come away feeling disappointed at the 2005 season of Doctor Who? I didn’t think think many of the stories really developed sufficiently—I missed the serial format. The music was boring. I’m going to miss Chris E. I wish they’d get away from bloody Earth. British seasons are too short. There’s a bit too much sonic screwdriven plotting. It’s a bit white
male. But that’s not why I felt disappointed.

I’ve got a feeling it’s because good episodes (The Long Game, Boom Town, The Parting of the Ways), and ultimately the whole good season, fizzled. I’ve got a feeling it’s because the hero wasn’t heroic enough.

Ten stories:

Rose
The Doctor fails to negotiate with the Nestene Consciousness and is neutralised.
The End of the World
The Doctor foils Cassandra’s plans.
The Unquiet Dead
The Doctor can only stand back as Gwyneth stops the Gelth he foolishly unleashed.
Aliens of London/World War Three
The Doctor blows up the Slitheen.
Dalek
The Doctor doesn’t do anything.
The Long Game
The Doctor convinces Cathica to kill the Jagrafess.
Father’s Day
The Doctor inspires Pete to accept his death.
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
The Doctor is extremely lucky “just this once”.
Boom Town
The Doctor is saved from Margaret’s plan by the TARDIS.
Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
The Doctor keeps his options open and is saved by a deus ex machina.

Only in four of these ten stories does the Doctor save the day. In three or four he seriously stuffs up. Only in Rose and The Doctor Dances do the stories make his failure work.

Perhaps I just don’t know how to read this season—if so, I hope to be shown how through compassion, not argumentation. Or perhaps this just isn’t my kind of story—but I don’t know what kind of story it is, to justify the Doctor’s failure.

Or perhaps it just doesn’t work.

(I liked it. So why have I come away feeling disappointed?)

What do you think?

The Prime Directive

The Prime Indirection:

Star Trek, the manifesto of dead-centrist liberalism. Which could also be called compassionate fascism. The credo of which is: “Yes, But.”

It is a dour joke in the campy original Trek: The prime directive is a rule which exists only to be violated. The answer to its assertion is Yes, But. The answer to every assertion of its kind is the same. Star Trek’s demurely braggadocios liberalism acknowledges the irony at its heart through the invention of the prime directive. Liberalism’s doctrine is that doctrine exists only to be wrong; plans exists only to be impractical; method exists only to be violated in response to any task to which it might be conceivably applied.

[...]

Wagon Train To The Stars was Gene Rodenberry’s famous pitch. That is: a fantasy of space exploration modelled on a narrative of frontier settlement that was in the deepest possible denial about the criminality, acquisitiveness and murderousness of the history it was producing into fiction. Manifest Destiny proposed property without proprietors for the proprietors without property, but the romantic fictions of the conquest of that land not only acknowledged the people in it already, but built their whole panache around them, as part of the scenery.

Read it all. (Don’t go on to read what she has to say about Buffy.)

Mirrormask

Speaking of Dark Crystal, thinking of Labyrinth: see Mirrormask (now showing in Melbourne at the Nova). It is like them.

It’s better than I expected. I haven’t liked much of Gaiman’s work outside his run on Sandman, but this was very witty and scary and clever. The actors all give fine performances. And seeing Dave McKean’s art moving, further blowing away the idea of fantasy movies merely building worlds…

How It Ends: Dark Crystal

One thousand years “before” the movie Dark Crystal, a seemingly perfect race caused the Crystal to shatter and were themselves split into the Skeksis and the Mystics. What happened, and why?

I think perfection is a myth, a dead end. You can stop changing, but the environment won’t. Perfection isn’t the way of Life. But perhaps the ur-race were not so perfect—they realised they had lost something vital and had a plan to get it back.

They deliberately split the crystal and themselves. Lived a thousand years each as two people: one given to debauchery, the other to introspection. Hoping, in the end, to form a synthesis, something that could absorb the contradiction, something alive…

(See also: Grant Morrison, fiction suits; Babylon 5, “sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective”.)

All of which rescues the movie from ideas of Destiny and the Fall…