Sunday, February 26, 2012

Far East Existential

To Live
1994.  125 minutes. China. Directed by Zhang Yimou. Watchdate: 9/21/2011.
In To Live, Zhang Yimou uses the magic incantations of puppetry intermingled with the proletarian instinct for survival to enchant and animate a story built from layers of dramatic irony and historical circumstance. The scenes featuring shadow puppetry are imbued with a lively, raucous joy. Their imagery is mysterious and sensitive and there’s a real sense of melancholy when the puppets are threatened (and finally lost) during the Cultural Revolution.

Other striking moments for me included the abandoned battlefield that Fugui and Chungsheng wake up to after the Nationalist retreat followed by that terrific shot where the Communist army literally engulfs them. I would also single out those shots when Fugui’s daughter looks at herself in the mirror wearing Maoist garb and ponytails, seeing herself as a potential wife with this completely different sense of beauty.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Persistent Popularity of Monster Trucks

Of the few visitors to this betamax, a significant number have come in search of monster trucks. The top ten search terms that have directed individuals to my site include a total of four monster truck related phrases: monstertrucks, monster trucks, monster truck rally and monster truck show. Taken together, monster trucks account for a significant proportion of traffic to this betamax. All of this is due to a offhand joke I made about Harry Potter. I used a monster truck image to illustrate the joke. But given these analytic results, I have decided to give the people what they want:

A Gilded Planet is a proud sponsor of the Demolition Derby. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Find Your Way Home Again

Behold The Supremes as they speak to our innocence
preserved by isolation and sweet harmonies’ balance
Do we remember the original or the copy? Are they the same?
the fake fake or poplar tree name brand memory game

Finding a reference book after the apocalypse
I feel as if I'm getting lost in these depths
Watching the parody before the target
You should feel no need to explain the Monet

She flew the bomber at night when no one could see
Poisoned by the singing yawn of manly responsibility
A feminine violence unknown to the little dudes
Outside of wartime without fasting or feuds

I sing of the bodies undeadened by goblets
They walk near cars that ride on the couplet
Some call them zombies - oh no they are right
We view them anothering from our Dreadnought

in hardware honey dew guarding our youth
we discorporate our voices as a goof
The baby, the farting and the earthquakes
The zombies, the children and the urn cakes

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Starry Diaspora

Nostalgia for the Light
2010. 90 minutes. Chile. Directed by Patricio Guzmán. Watchdate: 5/19/2011
Patricio Guzmán explores the mysteries of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, where astronomers can get a better view of the stars than anywhere else, where the bereaved search for the preserved bodies of Pinochet's victims in the shifting sands, where inscriptions survive from Pre-Colombian indigenes.

In a brief but profoundly thoughtful documentary, Guzmán allows the cosmological and the political, the anthropological and the astronomical to intermingle and cross-pollinate rather than being artificially walled off from one another by different academic departments or different specialty television networks. A elegy for Chile's painful past but also searching meditation on the nature of time, memory and truth, Guzmán asks us to reconsider what is meant by the term 'history.'

I couldn't be more encouraged to watch a documentary that so eloquently demonstrates the power of the sort of contemplation proposed by Big Historians such as David Christian and the geologist Walter Alvarez. The future is unknowable, the present is fleeting and so the past - the history of everything - is all we have. That's a paraphrase of Alvarez, but an astronomer interviewed in this movie says something very similar. On top of it all, the Atacama Desert is a uniquely gorgeous setting to film.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Unusual Contraption

i think
and my thoughts cross the barrier into
the synapses of the apparatus

it can do such wondrous deeds
for the you and for the me
but what I cannot shake
and what hints at things to come
is that thoughts cross back

in my dreams
the sensations of the apparatus indulge
the libido of my intellect:

i search for
those lost apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment
once observed and understood
the warmest bulwark
for the you and for the me

but now instead
as the offspring of knowledge and imagination
a part of a much larger system
i am
assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning

we have recorded our smiles as
we eavesdrop on our own thoughts
without hearing ourselves listening

we will soon have a God
a real one this time
and we will make it with our own hands

P.S. - Some language in this poem is borrowed. The original sources are Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism by Steven Connor along with a movie,  I Heart Huckabee's (2004) and two video games: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (Firaxis Games) and Deus Ex (Ion Storm)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

L'âge gras

Cisco Pike
1972.  95 minutes. USA. Directed by Bill L. Norton. Watchdate: 9/9/2011.
God I love that 70s American vintage badass style especially when it not only involves Gene Hackman and Kris Kristofferson BUT ALSO our man Harry Dean Stanton. Gene Hackman plays a narc with a secret and Kris Kristofferson plays a fallen pop idol turned drug dealer. They tangle and the result is exceedingly pleasurable and disturbing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bruce Pharaoh

Music for the Greatest Gregory You Know
Tap your foot on the upper trough of the toilet; welcome the dogs as they run in from the yard and then try to make your knuckles bleat.
Sounds for a Young Draftee
Cry out in a malthouse. Try to remember the first time you accurately understood what sex meant in a mechanical sense. If you own maracas, shake them during both these actions. If not, snap your fingers.

Asphyxiation Sonata
Four onlookers bury their heads in large bowls of appetizing salad while a couple discusses the terms of their impending divorce in the foreground. Waiters and stewardesses enter and exit seemingly at random. Sometimes the waiters pop open champagne bottles and this causes the couple to shake their heads rhythmically like spinning plates. Unbeknownst to anyone but the reader, there is a large tub of polenta under the table the couple shares.

Hermione Spins (trans. needed)
Monster trucks rev their engines vaingloriously while a small girl crawls into a nearby doghouse and attempts to start playing a vinyl record on an ancient gramophone. There are professional photographers shooting the monster trucks from a very distant vantage point.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Writing on the Cell Wall

The Skin I Live In
2011. 117 minutes. Spain. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar  Watchdate: 12/5/2011
It's hard to know where to begin. Pedro Almodóvar has created a movie utterly unlike anything else I've seen of his yet completely grounded in the ideas and themes that obsess him. He's found a fresh, exhilarating and elegantly unbound approach to exploring his obsessions. I've watched a lot of Almodóvar movie this past year, and it's so wonderful to see him working his kind of magic in a completely new way. Aside from the excellent performances of Elena Anaya, Antonio Banderas and Marisa Paredes, aside from the beautiful look of the movie - its intricate production design, its fabulous costuming, aside from the brilliant soundtrack - what I admire is how Almodóvar deftly discovers his tragicomedies (or comic tragedies)…it's this high wire act balancing farce and melodrama, pure suspense and sheer laughter, pathos and satire. I'll highlight a few of my favorite parts of the movie that won't spoil anything: the tiger costume and the chase sequence in which it is used, the strange creepy dreamy orgies in the garden, and the handwritten story wall. It's probably the best movie I've seen that came out in 2011 aside from Melancholia.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Silent Evidence

One part that knows is not my nose.
You see how homophones distract
from clever little pointless tracts
I write so lorem ipsum goes
away from bright rectangle apps.
I want to come each time in gaps
so I can feel so white like code
that switches text before you know
to look for plates and spikes that show.
This time there'll be no failure mode.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Know It When I

The Lovers
1958. 90 minutes. France. Directed by Louis Malle. Watchdate: 11/4/2011.
To call this a story of a bored housewife who takes a lover would be doing it a great disservice even though it sounds accurate. I found it riveting and sexy due to a committed subtlety. Malle explores the tension of intimacy and the intricacy of hidden emotions but cleverly hides his work in a conventional narrative. The best part is the ending, so full of burning doomed ambiguity. I think that's what ultimately damned it with the censors. But this is just a no-nonsense great movie.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chapter 122

"He comes to a gateway in the brick wall," Allie said. She took a long drag lying about in every stage and in a vast a hole in the darkness. "Sheets; in tanks, in boilers, in axles, in wheels, been to Hell," Jacob said, wrenched into eccentric and perverse the smile in his voice. "And I suppose mountains of it broken up, and rusty in its age walked to the bed." Allie let out a small bubbling in her youth; bright fireworks of her pillows as if she'd claw her way into them: steam-hammer; red-hot iron, white-hot iron, cold-black iron close to her ear. "This is a place to make a man's head ache too!" "And that's fine. But you don't do this very like me before I was set up. Because I'm the one honest man in this run in families. Your servant, sir." "Yours, we're married."

PS - This prose poem (a literary style that is so hot right now) is a mash-up of Charles Dickens' Bleak House and Jacob's Shadow by Andrew Hammond, a fake novel embedded within the 2000 video game Deus Ex.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Support the Millionaires Tax

"The causes which destroyed the ancient republics were numerous; but in Rome, one principal cause was the vast inequality of fortunes." - Noah Webster

Wealth disparity in this country has grown to vast proportions. If we want to save our democracy and secure our investments in the future, we must reverse this alarming trend. We simply can't keep turning our back on education and expect a prosperous tomorrow. Keeping this in mind, I ask anyone who will listen to sign on in support of the Millionaires Tax both because it will bring funding back to California's public schools from kindergarten through higher education and it has the capacity to start translating the agitation of the Occupy movement into public policy that will reshape the conditions of economic power in this country.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Just Like [Ghost Pepper] Zombie Crackheads Again

In Vanda's Room
2000. 170 minutes. Portugal. Directed by Pedro Costa. Watchdate: 4/13/2011
I had to stand up for a considerable portion of this movie's nearly three hour running time because it was physically taxing to watch and I had to resist what it was doing to me. Standing up against it seemed to be the only way. Costa follows up on a woman who starred as the sister in his last movie, Ossos. Her name is Vanda and she has convinced him to dispense with the phony scripting and story and instead just shoot a bunch of footage of crackhead zombies in their decrepit homes that are under assault from bulldozers serving the gentrification agenda of Lisbon in the 2000s. The noise from the bulldozers is fairly constant, just like the constant likelihood of Vanda or her friends to take a break from long conversations to smoke more crack.

These zombie bodies persist along doing what zombie bodies do (smoke crack, have conversations, look at the sun in weird glasses, smoke more crack) while the 'story' unfolds in the background (the 'story' is about the demolition of an old neighborhood). Costa resists the imposition of meaning on his zombie movies that are mostly focused on violence, disruption, disorder - the ruptures that attempt to pull his zombies out of their death marches.

PS - While I maintain a love-hate relationship with Pedro Costa's work, I would hazard to guess that most people I know would absolutely hate this movie. You've been warned.

Monday, February 13, 2012

But What Kind of Convention?

I wish this weekend in San Diego had looked more like last weekend in Moscow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Top Ten -ologies of the Everlasting Moment

10. Philology
9. Morphology
8. Teleology
7. Etiology
6. Scatology
5. Codicology
4. Olly Olly Oxen Free
3. Metrology
2. Horology
1. Chronology

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rats Off to Claire Denis!

I Can't Sleep
1994. 110 minutes. France. Directed by Claire Denis. Watchdate: 3/6/2011
Based on seeing this movie - unfortunately the only feature I got to see at last spring's Denis retrospective at the PFA - I revisited my thoughts and feelings on White Material, eventually coming to the conclusion that Claire Denis may be the most compelling cinematic storyteller working today that I have seen. Her only competition thus far for my preferences would be the Coen Brothers, and I Can't Sleep suggests that she may be more inventive and daring then they could hope to be. She makes movies in a completely different idiom, mixing a rhapsodic cocktail of dark absurdity, humane and naturalistic conflict, political paradoxes, and fears, loves, dreams realized, satirized, undulating in imitation of the earth.

In I Can't Sleep, every character is at once sympathetic and repulsive, and humorous asides infest the plot and take it over like so many termites. I have rarely been so simultaneously surprised, horrified, amused, disgusted, intrigued and provoked at the movies. I would say more but I wouldn't want to spoil the shivers of sheer frightened delight you will inevitably have when you see it. Rats off to Claire Denis!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ghost Pepper Zombie Crackheads

as if another glass
for this extremophile.

We praise Prince for
his pansexuality and
the queeny fixins
thereof. I gave him
a violet for violence

in the gun can held
in each hand of KUKA
industrial robot arm
that I first saw deep
in the televisual hub

there appeared a
pitched bullet of
Ghost Pepper Zombie
Crackheads. This
raised the sonic

interest rate which
left Prince maqued
with danderous
slavey footprints.
This pure play of virtuoso

gave glam to Our.
And we dod praise
Our. Such CEOs
earned a celebrity
premium that Our
may have approved.

We found out that he was an
A-List Loon of the kind

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Art of the Pregnant Pause

2011. 100 minutes. USA. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Watchdate: 9/19/2011
Drive is a contemplative action noir with an 80s European aesthetic and a 70s American attitude (or perhaps sensibility might be the better word). It strikes an unusual balance between the visceral and the detached. The cast is pretty good: Albert Brooks is particularly inspired in this joint. It's one of the better 2011 movies that I've seen.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Future of "Public" Higher Education

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

No One Can Be Happy But Me

To speak coherently is human
to talk nonsense divine
or should you say divoon
Let's write a speech about captivity
in the backseat of a peach sedan
the address will say
‘No one can be happy but me’
but with certain exemptions and earmarks
such as a
dirty nickel plated excursion towards
Ah yes aimsol that cloud of lost souls
where is discovered (question mark)
overfabricated words & found languages
aimsol aimsol aimsol ah ah ah
She monstratiated supraneously inberscene
the pudgelled cublic, the ondis martenotes
Fitz boocomon plup aimsol
Givvord umbrel zune fortuna
Cree griega aimsol zune canonical
'Now where is that speech, then,' asked he of the loud sweater,
dragging John Vivien Nancarrow after him by his coattails,
and jabbering the entire time. "Here, Onlor Gulch Auditorium,
give the speech, don’t sell yourself short—
—proud married couple—bought them gifts—all fitz absurdity—
—this way, sir—where's the bugs?—all in jest, I know—forget it—
—war is war—bitter better bug powder—you know my name—
—better odds tomorrow—monstratiate this under the hill—but the umbrel—
—dear rascals."

the outsider walked slowly before arriving at the threshold. There he stood, regarding her

Monday, February 6, 2012

February Resolutions

I missed out on making New Years resolutions, so I have decided to make some resolutions for February.
  1. I will post here every day.
  2. I will read a poem every day. (I have already failed this resolution.)
  3. I will read Heart of Darkness. I never read it when it was assigned in AP Lit back in my senior year of High School. It was assigned in a class I was taking this semester, but I dropped the class. But I'm still going to read it, by reading 2-5 pages every day until I finish. It's short so I think this is my most manageable resolution.
I'll check back in March to see how well I'm doing. How your face did grow, we'll never know...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Seeing "The Body Electric - A Scientific Fiction..."

Last Friday, I went to Oakland Art Murmur and saw a terrific exhibit at Johansson Projects that matches up perfectly with the technomystification I am encountering in my research on time in Victorian Britain.
The exhibit was multimedia and included text, imagery and video. Some of the components were styled as old-timey advertisements (or perhaps disclaimers would be the better word) while others were paintings, prints or comic strips. The exhibit's theme explored an imagined historical fear of electricity transforming and bedeviling the human body and spirit.
These poorly captured screenshots of the free program that I picked up at the gallery do not begin to do the exhibit justice. It's difficult to describe the curious excitement I felt in viewing the gleeful antiquarian anachronism of the work. I highly recommend checking out Follies of the Digital Arcade.

PS - Here's some better images I grabbed from their website:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Elemental Creep

1962. 152 minutes. USA. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Watchdate: 2/24/2011
By channeling the elemental creep, Peters Sellers causes convulsive combustion deep in my guts, cries of uncontrollable laughter seared permanently deep in the bastion of my physical memory. An engineer like Kubrick builds soulful demons and then forces them into covalent orbits. The reactions are priceless. My inner optimist shrieks with horror when contemplating his work, but he probes our darkest impulses with unflinching humanity.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Power Relations

A billy club
got jabbed in
my belly. (I mean
to say: I wasn’t
following orders.)

For crowds that link arms,
police gangs use arms.

And was the ground we stood
ground of the public or private?

Who made the ground
(our belly) that way?
Ask the one percent.

“Move! Move! Move!
"There is no one percent!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Dozen Snazzy Dresses and a Car

I Am Cuba
1964. 140 minutes. Cuba. Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. Watchdate: 12/29/2011

Holy God! Sweet Jumping Christmas! Perhaps it's my unfortunate ignorance of early Soviet filmmaking and my total lack of knowledge of Eisenstein and that school, but this movie moves in a way like nothing I've ever seen before. Purely based on its dynamism I wish to fill it with stars! The difference between photography and motion pictures is the motion. Though that seems self-evident, it takes a movie like this to really make the implications of that clear. Why does no one seem to use a camera like this anymore? I don't mean copying this style, but the mobility of the camera is just on another level here and I'm wondering why so few movies of recent times (at least that I've seen) ever achieve that kind of mobility and dynamism - or anything close to it… it's just in a different league. Even when the camera is still, the placement is so brilliant you'd never expect it and yet it gives such interesting views on the subjects. If this is cinematography, I wonder what all those other movies I've been watching have their DPs doing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lying About Occupy Oakland

I haven't written much about the Occupy movement both because I'm lazy and because I haven't thought of anything original to say about it. I have taken a baton to the stomach, I have participated in actions that have stopped (at least for now) further fee increases that would make the UC system even less affordable, and just a couple of weeks ago I took part in a largely unreported occupation that restored funding to the Anthropology Library (we had to do the same thing over two years ago before Occupy Wall Street was a national catchphrase). But so far, I haven't been able to articulate anything that anyone else hasn't already written better than I could. That still remains the case, but I think that writing about how CNN and the New York Times failed utterly and deceived their readers in "reporting" on Occupy Oakland this weekend is worthwhile even though someone else has already described what they did. Because the message must get out there: believe almost nothing that you read in CNN and the New York Times. They lie, they plagiarize and they have no credibility left.

Last weekend, shit went down in Oakland. I wasn't there, but the mainstream reportage I've seen only confirms the increasingly hollow and pointless role the press plays in helping anyone understand the events of the world. The problem is not that press coverage of what happened is biased. Press coverage will always be biased. There is no escaping it. Initially, press coverage of Occupy Wall Street and the movement that coalesced around its message all around the world suffered from a novelty bias. Now that the novelty bias has worn off, reporters have fallen back on the most pernicious bias of all: the laziness bias. It's what Aaron Bady calls stenography journalism.

I'm about to do what they have just done. I'm going to be lazy and outsource the work of explaining this to someone else. But the difference between me doing that and them doing that is that it's their job to actually cover the damn story and not simply rewrite the Oakland Police Department's press releases. Remember what a job is? It's that thing that the Occupy movement is pissed that there is not enough of for everyone. Working reporters should be happy they still have jobs in the face of a massive recession and the rapid decline of their industry. They should not, under any circumstances, do this:
 [W]hile I had an obstructed view of those events – and I know what I did and didn’t see – it’s very easy for you, when you read a news article like CNN’s, to not see the most important clause in the article, the last one, “city and officials said.” This indicates for you (or should) that CNN is essentially doing to OPD’s press release the same thing that desperate college students sometimes do with wikipedia articles: copy and paste, and then change just enough words so that it isn’t plagiarism. CNN was not there yesterday, so they only saw what the Oakland Police Department told them to see...They turned “12 pm” into “around noon” and they copied down OPD’s crowd estimates exactly (ABC7 guessed 2,000; I would have guessed about a thousand), and slightly altered the wording to cover their trail. After that, to their credit, they found the time to copy and paste text from the Occupy Oakland twitter feed and web site. And then they called it a day and went home, apparently; while real journalists were still being arrested while doing their jobs, the good people at CNN were finished putting the imprimateur of “objective” journalism on OPD’s press release, and laughed all the way to the bank. 
As Bady points out, CNN is not alone in failing all over the place on this story. The Oakland Tribune did essentially same thing, and our country's "newspaper of record," The New York Times, turned in the very same brand of lazy reporting (ever since the NYT helped the Bush Administration lie us into the Iraq War, they have continued to fail their readers on a regular basis and few people are willing to call them out on it).

It's time for everyone to start labeling this sort of journalism for what it really is: plagiarism, which is a form of lying. CNN, the Oakland Tribune and the New York Times released reports on Occupy Oakland with the implicit understanding that they sent reporters to investigate what happened and then tell us about their findings. But they clearly didn't do that. They took the work of others and rewrote it and while they gave some attribution, that doesn't get them off the hook for plagiarism because all they did was rewrite the reports of others. They added no work of their own. Yet they still added their byline to it as if they had really done original reporting. This is plagiarism; this is deception; this is lying.

I do not claim to be a reporter. I was not in Oakland this weekend. But based on the available evidence, neither was CNN or the New York Times or (absurdly) the Oakland Tribune. Many are worried about the "death of journalism." If this is what passes for journalism in our time, I say let it die.

PS - To articulate what I think of flag burning and the other sensational parts of the Occupy Oakland story this weekend that I haven't mentioned, I will once again defer to Aaron Bady who seems to get it about right:
I’m not going to defend things like burning of flags or vandalizing city hall; I wouldn’t have done it, I wish they hadn’t done it, and I think it was stupid to do it. I don’t think it accomplishes anything, and it feeds into the story that people like Reid and De La Fuente want to tell about Occupy Oakland, making it seem like Occupy are the violent ones...That said, the “assault on City Hall” was virtually the last thing that happened on Saturday. It wasn’t the cause of the police reaction, as the National Lawyer’s Guild noted: it was a response to the actions taken by OPD and the city of Oakland. You can still think whatever you want about it; you can be appalled at the protesters who did it, if you like. But it wasn’t the cause of the days events; it was the coda to the night’s events, if that.