I do memes

Aug. 17th, 2006 11:30 pm
From, originally, on my friends' list at least, [livejournal.com profile] buffyannotater:
Here are the rules: Answer all the questions with the song titles of one band/group/artist. Multiple albums are fine (recommended, in fact). State the band/group/artist you're using in the subject line. Perty simple.

Use songs whose titles answer the question, not songs whose lyrics do. Not all of us know these songs, so it's not as fun.

Covers are NOT legit unless it is on a normal (non-live) CD.

For a true 10 questions challenge, do this without the aid of the internet/CDs/outside sources.
1. Are you male or female?: "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man"
2. Describe yourself: "Baby I'm A Star"
3. How do some people feel about you?: "Why You Want To Treat Me So Bad"
4. How do you feel about yourself?: "U Got The Look"
5. Describe your girlfriend/boyfriend/interest: "Another Lonely Christmas"
6. Where would you rather be?: "Alphabet St."
7. Describe what you want to be: "The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker"
8. Describe how you live: "Computer Blue"
9. Describe how you love: "Shy" (erstwhily "International Lover")
10. Share a few words of wisdom: You know, I'm actually drawing a blank on drawing wisdom from Prince song titles. Lyrics, sure, but titles? Uhhh . . . "Let's Go Crazy"?

Also from [livejournal.com profile] buffyannotater, and more interactive, try to determine my favorite:

1) Television drama
2) Television comedy
3) Movie
4) Band
5) Novel (I'm going to accept any of three for this)
6) Painter
7) Pie

Good luck!
Ben Ratliff:
SEVERAL weeks back, someone directed me to a Web site to see a clip of George Clinton and the Parliaments, in you-will-freak-out tones. I looked on the Internet at youtube.com and found my way to it. I was freaked out, though not just by the music.

There is Mr. Clinton, in 1969, on "Say Brother," a television show produced by WGBH in Boston. (This is early Clinton, even before Funkadelic's first album; the Parliaments would soon become Funkadelic.) He is wearing a purple jumpsuit with crossed suspenders over bare shoulders and a kind of rounded Mohawk, a shaved band of scalp below a bulbous crown of hair.

The band plays a series of vamps. The first builds on Sly and the Family Stone's "Into My Own Thing." "What is soul?" Mr. Clinton yells, in the middle of the song. "What, brother?" responds the band's other lead singer, Fuzzy Haskins. "Soul is the hamhock in your cornflakes!" Mr. Clinton intones.

After a break, the Parliaments stretch out at length, playing their acid-Motown for almost 10 minutes, going from vamp to vamp; at a climax, Mr. Clinton rolls on the floor. The band becomes a mob of rising fists and shaking hips. The sequence ends with the guitarist Eddie Hazell detuning his strings and distributing a cloud of feedback, with various band members whacking cymbals.

I am not a collector of music, or of video. I have had friends play me the best clips from their music video collections, in full, collectorish, this-will-freak-you-out mode, and enjoyed it. Still, I don't really love music on video, per se. It reduces a performance so brutally.

But a missing link of performance history as potent as that George Clinton thing? Even if on bad video? It's hard not to keep looking.
That's right, I scooped The New York Times.

In related news, I went to see The Constant Gardner at the fifty-cent movie theater the other day. The movie itself was made more interesting by the tourettic fellow a couple of rows behind me. But what stuck with me was the preview for The Family Stone. I've long complained about the producers' attempt to piggyback on the success of a well-known brand, though perhaps I should not overestimate the confusion created. After all, one of these things is not like the other:

The Family Stone

Wall-to-wall white people

(Pace Tavon, that is.)

What I hadn't known until I saw the trailer, though, is that at some point in the movie lily-white Luke Wilson counsels ceramic-complected Sarah Jessica Parker, "You have the freak flag . . . you just don't fly it," co-opting the other founding father of the black bohemian bourgeoisie, Jimi Hendrix.

But Rachel McAdams is cute.
I did not mean to give the impression in my last post that the women sitting behind me during North By Northwest were the only, or even the worst, people I've heard talking over movies this summer. To be sure, they annoyed me much more than the woman attending my second viewing of Spider-Man 2, whom I heard from across the theater wondering why Peter Parker didn't just move back in with Aunt May. I had, to be fair, wondered much the same thing myself, though perhaps not as loudly. But they were not nearly the irritant that the elderly lady sitting a few rows behind me during Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind was. Every ten minutes, she would bleat, "This is stupid." And then, apropos Jim Carrey, "I never liked him anyway." The same two statements, ad infinitum. I kept attempting to send the telepathic message, You're in the dollar theater on a senior discount. What do you have to lose by just walking out? Unfortunately, my telepathy is not very convincing.

I would like to take this time to affirm my belief that shooting people who talk in movie theaters is immoral. Even (though less so) if you use a silencer.
Last night, I went downtown to see North By Northwest, preceeded by two of Chuck Jones's Merrie Melodies, at Cinema At The Square. I knew that the people behind me were trouble when, during "Little Beau Pepé," one of them loudly exclaimed "Oh my God!" when the black and white cat rubbed up against the freshly-painted ladder and ended up with a white streak down her back. I don't know what sort of cultural illiterate is surprised when, during a Pepé Le Pew cartoon, the cat ends up with white paint on her, but I hope that some sort of LiveJournal community exists to make her feel ignorant. These women continued to offer helpful commentary throughout the movie: when the bad guys have propped an intoxicated Cary Grant behind the wheel of a car on a precariously windy seacoast road, another woman said, "I think they're going to drive him off the cliff." And when the movie got to the establishing shot of the Indiana cornfield, and one of them said, "That's no man's land," I wanted to turn around and say, "For the next ten minutes, the movie will take place with practically no dialogue. Let's see if we can do the same." But I didn't, because I'm polite, genteel and cowardly.

North By Northwest is still one of my favorite movies; I was reminded last night that it, much more than the novels, set the framework for the James Bond movies. And there were some lines I didn't remember. Cary Grant saying to James Mason, Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau "The three of you together -- now, that's a picture only Charles Addams could draw," at least had the ring of familiarity, but I have absolutely no recollection of ever before seeing Mason, captured by Leo G. Carroll and watching as the park ranger shoots Landau, saying, "That wasn't very sporting, using real bullets."

On a completely unrelated subject, I was tickled to read today's New York Times Magazine and find that it contains an "On Language" column by William Grimes which mentions Chez Panisse but not Alice Waters and a Food column which mentions Alice Waters but not Chez Panisse. I don't imagine that the Times is running some sort of hidden contest where you're supposed to match obvious pairs, setting "Curtis Sliwa" with "Guardian Angels," or "The Bell Jar" with "Sylvia Plath," or "colossal embarrassment" with "U.S. Men's Basketball Olympic team," and then counting the pages in between the references for some sort of Kabbalistic frisson. Perhaps it should.
I met [livejournal.com profile] rahael at work yesterday and we walked over to Leicester Square to see Shaun of the Dead. I think I laughed more during that movie than at any movie I've seen in a theater since Soapdish (admittedly, I don't see many movies, especially comedies, in theaters). I am very happy that the movie was such a delight because, well, let's just say that ten and a half pounds seems a bit steep for anything that provokes a response less than ecstasy. I'll get the DVD (in America, presumably at Target) for less than ten and a half pounds! And since our evening viewing, at one of London's premier film-going locations, drew only nine people, I am convinced that it is time that theaters moved to a market-based pricing system. Why should a movie like The Chronicles of Riddick, which was hated by even [livejournal.com profile] buffyannotater, cost as much to see as Prisoner of Azkaban? I'm sure there are some people out there so driven to be the first to see Azkaban that they'd be willing to pay 10 quid 50 or more, but might be willing take a flyer on Riddick only if it were in the two-bob range. The airlines concentrate on capacity, on filling every seat on the airplane as efficiently as possible, and have developed a wealth of strategies for getting their seats filled at the prices people want to pay -- why should movie theaters not seek to maximize the capacity of their theaters?

The theaters could even adopt the techniques of internet commerce. I sat through twenty-two minutes of advertisements before Shaun of the Dead actually began. Certainly, some of this advertisement money must have subsidized my ticket somewhat (and I think Pearl & Dean, the ad brokers for London theaters, would be happier if their ads were being seen by more than nine people at a time). Perhaps the theaters could make the cheap cineastes sit through ad after ad before the movie, but offer a premium service where one could pay through the nose to just start watching the damn movie already.

Anyway, an extremely funny zombie caper. Spoilers for "Shaun of the Dead" )

Exiting the theater into a crisp London evening -- the temperature must have had dropped fifteen degrees since the day before -- and noting the general listlessness of the few people we passed walking through Chinatown, I saw a slight post-apocalyptic side to the city last night. A group of kids way in front of me smashed a beer bottle and the sound reverberated down Gerrard Street. The cords of people stacked outside De Hem's staring vacantly into the pub -- are they just Dutch footie fans trying to catch a glimpse of the Euro Cup, or are they . . . the walking dead?

I hope that [livejournal.com profile] rahael stores a few blunt objects in her garden shed. Just in case.
Sunday: 22:26/15:32 (acrostic); Monday: 4:02; Tuesday: 4:41; Wednesday: 7:47; Thursday: 11:14. I'm quite backed up on these things, being pleasantly diverted.

My birthday has been very successful; my thanks to all those who extended their best wishes, with a special thank you going out to [livejournal.com profile] aliera9916 for the gift. It is greatly appreciated! I was well-gifted this February 14th: [livejournal.com profile] rahael gave me the third season of Homicide (I may force her to watch the Steve Buscemi episode before she goes). My mother presented me with Angel Season Three, the Vh1 (Inside)Out documentary on Warren Zevon, and Rashomon. I thought I'd seen Rashomon before, but I read the description on the back of the DVD and it sounds nothing like what I remember! (Rim shot.) My father got me the new Elmore Leonard novel and, proving that if he reads my friends list, he doesn't delve into the comments, The Da Vinci Code. I'm looking forward to indulging myself with all of these -- I have the feeling that Dan Brown's novel is going to be a guilty pleasure (or at least guilty).

But before I get to those, I have to finish Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I just reached December 7, 1941, on which a ton of stuff happens, the least of it being the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Is that a spoiler?) Chabon seems to have a better grasp of the comics world than I do (check out his treatment for the X-Men movie); there are lots of little in-jokes capable of producing chuckles in people who can recognize that twenty years after the novel takes place, there would be a comics character named "Wolverine," etc. There are probably in-jokes too obscure for the likes of me, too; I'm rather desperately seeking a site with annotations. I'd start in on it myself (I picked up rather quickly that Sammy Clay's extremely goyishe friend would introduce him to rather more forbidden foods from the fact that his name is "Tracy Bacon"), but as the only portrait of the obsessive annotating fan Chabon presents is of a Nazi sympathizer, I'm not sure the job would do me credit! I'm quite enjoying the novel, but I am reminded of [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk's theory of the spatchcocked woman. I never really got the impression that Sammy would be homosexual, but being that the novel contains two young male protagonists with healthy sexual desires, and only one female character of any personality whatsoever, it seems like simple supply and demand. It's like all those hobbits running around with no sexual outlet other than each other and occasionally Boromir.

Speaking of perpetual bachelor hobbits and their "nephews," [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk also recently asked about movies that change public consciousness. I've been wondering of late whether or not the recent rise in support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military can be attributed to the success of the Lord of the Rings movies: it's hard to deny to homosexuals the right to defend their country when they've been shown to do so well carrying rings to Mt. Doom. I wonder if The Return of the King, in which Pippin catches a bouquet, for christ's sake, will have a similar effect on support for gay marriage.

Of course, not every viewing of The Lord of the Rings will produce more progressive politics; [livejournal.com profile] londonkds points to John Rhys-Davies's thoughts on the effects on Britain of the prodigious reproduction of Muslim immigrants. I wonder, though, whether I cannot blame this all on Steven Spielberg. Rhys-Davies did make his name in Raiders of the Lost Ark playing Sallah, the best digger in Egypt, whose fourteen children save Indiana Jones from the massed submachine guns of Belloq's German handlers. How different his prejudices might be had Spielberg bothered to rewrite his script to include lines such as:

We're going to need shovels, pry-bars and ropes.
And condoms, Indy. One should never be without a condom!
And 50:45 in the Acrostic. I hate the Acrostic.

Keep an eye on [livejournal.com profile] dripperquills.

American Movie Classics, having long ago ceded the title of the cineaste's cable channel to Turner Movie Classics, and not even pretending anymore to live up to its name, showed Army of Darkness Friday night. I caught it about 40 minutes before the end (because AMC now shows commercials this means there was maybe 25 minutes left of actual movie), and because I'm a sucker for Bruce Campbell, I stuck around. I was surprised by how deeply it influenced Peter Jackson's presentation of the siege of Helm's Deep: the massing hordes of inhuman attackers; the patient archers waiting for the command to fire; the storming of the barricades and the retreat to the keep. The rush to shore up the gate of the keep against the ram was lifted by Jackson almost directly, as was the arrival of mounted reinforcements (the men of Henry the Red in Army of Darkness, Eomer's Rohirrim in The Two Towers). Not to mention the siege ladders and the steam-powered Oldsmobile death machine. Ok, some bits Jackson left lying where they were.

I admit that there are only so many ways to besiege a castle, but I suspect direct homage. Jackson and Sam Raimi have had similar career trajectories, moving from cheap, quirky, funny B-movie horror to big-budget productions, and they shared some actors along the way (though this is mostly due to the restricted size of the pool of actors in New Zealand). It's probably good that the homage didn't run too deep: had Campbell played Aragorn, Cassandra Claire's Secret Diaries would not have been parody. Still, I can't help but wonder how much better the trilogy would have been. "Hail to the King, baby!"
Gary Farber points to this article:
Smart soldiers decided to flee the Rings battle
Digital warriors thought for themselves - and their first thought was to run away


CanWest News Service

Monday, December 15, 2003

It's the greatest and most spectacular battle in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But filmmakers faced one surprising challenge - how to keep the computer-generated soldiers from fleeing the battlefield.

Director Peter Jackson had laid down his requirements for the Battle of Pelennor Fields - the climactic engagement in The Return of the King in which the heroic defenders of Middle-Earth face the overwhelming might of Sauron and his armies of Darkness. Jackson wanted the computer-generated antagonists to have absolute authenticity on the big screen and to be indistinguishable from the real actors.

Computer wizards responded brilliantly, not only with Sauron's swarming armies but with such additional lethal adversaries as the massive winged Fell Beasts and the giant elephant-like Mumakil. The next step was to ensure that the confrontation itself have detail and authenticity.

"I want battles like nothing anyone has ever seen on screen," Jackson said. I want every soldier fighting for himself - you have to come up with something."

Special effects designer Richard Taylor says this led to the writing of a "massive" principal code for the battle to give more than 200,000 digitized soldiers and some 6,000 horses distinctiveness and individuality.

"So to create these individual agents, there was a code that was especially written and developed," Taylor says, adding that it was like being involved in a living work of science fiction.

"It was the fact that you could get a computer to think for itself, that you could get 200,000 agents within the computer to think for themselves.

"So each of these computerized soldiers is assessing the environment around them, drawing on a repertoire of military moves that have been taught them through motion capture - determining how they will combat the enemy, step over the terrain, deal with obstacles in front of them through their own intelligence - and there's 200,000 of them doing that."

Basically, all the necessary information for decision-making was fed into this network of computers without determining for them whether they would win or lose.

But this attempt to ensure that they acted spontaneously almost sabotaged the the battleground sequences.

"For the first two years, the biggest problem we had was soldiers fleeing the field of battle," Taylor said.

"We could not make their computers stupid enough to not run away."

So some extra computer tinkering was required to ensure that the trilogy's climactic battle worked the way Jackson wanted.
It's a good thing Chris Columbus doesn't have Jackson's FX people, or a Dobby who had been programmed with an instinct for self-preservation would have deserted Chamber of Secrets and worked out a development deal with Miramax.

It seems that I've been fleeing a number of battlefields of late. If it's good enough for the forces of Mordor, it's good enough for me. Suffice it to say that my strategy is to sympathize with those who embrace sympathy.
From [livejournal.com profile] shadowkat67, a meme.

1. Name 10 favorite actors you'd see in anything:(Of course, this list is suspect, because for all actors other than Cary Grant there pretty much exist a whole ton of movies I haven't/wouldn't see them in. Of course, I should point out that I am doing this meme more in the spirit of posting something rather than giving it the benefit of too much serious introspection.)

2. Name 10 favorite actresses you'd see in anything:
  • Katherine Hepburn 9 more )
(Of course, this list is suspect, because especially near the end where I get into the sexy brunettes I may not be listing based on actual talent.)

3. Name 10 TV shows you'd love to have the complete episodes on DVD:
  • Hill Street Blues 9 more )
(The amount of television I have watched seems to have affected my ability to count.)

4. Name 10 Films you'd love to have on DVD:5. Name 10 books that you love and are your favorites at this moment in time:
  • Crosstown Traffic, by Charles Shaar Murray 9 more )
8. Name 10 songs that you love to listen to and can think of off the top of your head that you'd want a CD compiled of:
  • "Que Sera, Sera," Sly and the Family Stone 9 more )
9. Name 10 Musical Artists whose music you love and would take with you if you could only pick ten:10. Name 10 favorite examples of Islamic architecture (this is not actually s'kat's suggestion):
I don't usually gakk stuff -- but then, when you come right down to it, I don't usually post -- but this bit of [livejournal.com profile] ponygirl2000's is too good to pass up. Though I tend to denigrate the conspiratorial mindset, I have to admit that the possibilities of historical figures having met under strange circumstances sends my mind to some interesting spaces. The fact that Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Sly Stone were all in London soon after the 1970 Isle of Wight festival makes me wonder about secret recordings of late-night jam sessions. (In fact, Jimi had made tentative plans to jam with Sly on the night of September 17, but he didn't feel like going and instead died.) That the Unabomber studied math at Harvard at around the same time as Tom Lehrer was teaching there makes me reflect on the different manners in which one can release one's cynical and anti-social impulses.

Indeed, I'm not sure that Alan Moore has done anything that exotic in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series takes a similar idea of a group of figures from history and literature banding together for adventures. From various television cartoons, I remember Al Gore's Action Rangers and Leonardo Da Vinci's Fightin' Genius Time Commandos (all good things ultimately spring from The Tick). In any case, this game of Moore and ponygirl is one I have played before. I remember wandering among the tombs in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence thinking to myself, "Those interred here would, should the resurrection occur, make a kick-ass A-Team." Galileo would be the MacGuyver of the team; Michaelangelo (whom all the women go crazy for but he has his eyes squarely on the mission) would be the artful one; Dante (admittedly buried in Ravenna despite having one of the largest tombs in the church) would have the inside track to the post-apocalyptic landscape; and the conniving Macchiavelli (who has a bit of a complex over everyone else having such wonderful monuments while he got chucked into the floor) would be the team's wheeler and dealer. But this is not the team I want to outline today.

I once had the idea of writing a novel based on the idea that Francis Bacon, still seeking a return to royal favor, faked his death in 1626 so to be available to serve on missions for the British Crown, which he undertook with the assistance of his recent secretary, Thomas Hobbes. This would be its sequel, sort of its Forty Years After. I have decided to eschew the parameter that I can choose figures from anywhere along the space-time continuum and have focussed on Restoration Britain, though I have fudged some ages. In any case, I present the Order of the Squared Circle, Defenders of the Crown and Anti-Papist League!

The Leader: Thomas Hobbes, philosopher, traveller, garrulous arguer, suspected atheist, possibly the worst mathematician ever known. His loyalties to both the crown and to the Cromwellians were suspect; his loyalties to himself never needed any such scrutiny.

The Team: Aphra Behn, playwright and actual spy in the service of Charles II. In another age, one might say that anything a man could do she could do better, but considering the men with which I've surrounded her, one can see that that is faint praise indeed.

Peter Blood, physician and swordsman. A fictional creation of Rafael Sabatini's, made famous as the debut starring role of Errol Flynn. Might be, technically, a little young for inclusion. He distrusts the Catholic tendencies of Charles II, but is willing to defend the rights of free Englishmen up to slavery and death.

John Wilmot, The Earl of Rochester, poet, nobleman, favorite of the King. Famously dissolute. Not afraid to wield his blade, but is more cutting with his verse. Might be considered a little young for inclusion, but Dumas includes a young but clearly adult Rochester in Charles's court in 1660 in Le Vicomte.

The Recruiter: Oh, I don't know, Monk or Clarendon or someone.

Minor Villain: Christopher Wren, whose dastardly and insane plan to put London to the torch so that he can have the space to erect large buildings must be averted at great peril to our heroes.

Subsidiary Villain: Marco da Cola, from An Instance of the Fingerpost, an Italian gentleman and adventurer, curious about all things scientific. Or, just maybe, a Jesuit agent secretly trying to suborn Charles into the Catholic faith. Not easily disposed of, but really just a front for the true villain of the age, the General of the Jesuits, a man with the determination and the resources to rechart the course of history itself.

Major Villain: do I really have to say?

Hmmm. I'd have to read Pepys to really pull this off. Is it any wonder that I started dating someone whose speciality is 17th-Century English History? Saves me all that research.
I'm not sure how I got to this link . . . I think shiver's friends' list was involved, and there may have been Harry Potter fan art. It's all a bit of a blur. In any case, I'm denying everything. For the record, I rent at Blockbuster, where they don't carry these sorts of films, which sound pretty tawdry and unappetizing anyway, and where they don't carry a lot of more appealing films either, such as the Cary Grant/Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Gunga Din. But without further disclaimer, I present True Porn Clerk Stories.

There are some interesting questions about the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act here. So, if parsing the intricacies of statutory law is what you're interested in, click away. Meanwhile, I really have to figure out how to set up a filter so that Graffiti doesn't see this.
Happy Independence Day to that small fraction of my small readership that celebrates it. I'm still not sure why the British don't take the day off to shoot off some fireworks and yell, "We're right rid of those bloody wankers!" (In my mind, all British people talk exactly like Spike in lackluster fanfic.) The Canadians could all go cook outdoors and raise a toast to not being in an even larger country.

Anyway, I'm not feeling particularly independent. While my immediate family (those providing approximately 50% of my genetic material) has decamped from Cleveland for various locales, the 25% crew seems to be breathing down my neck. My prodigal uncle is visiting my grandmother. I did not meet this uncle until my Grandfather's funeral, when I was twenty-five; we didn't really hit it off. Now, I don't really get along with very many among my extended family, but at least I know they're family. I figure that if you skip the first quarter-century of my life, I'm not obligated by "family" to sit around and pretend that you're not one of the most boring people ever. But all of this is really just an excuse to avoid my Grandmother's cooking. (You know, when you come right down to it, I'm just a little tiny ball of resentment and bitterness.)

So I'm considering escaping. Going for a long drive. Getting away from it all. Hey, Scroll! Doing anything for lunch tomorrow?

In the meantime, I'm going to celebrate this July 4th by catching X Men 2 at the local dollar theater (all shows before 6 Pm 50 cents!); reading some more Goblet of Fire; maybe, just maybe, seeing a firework or two; and finishing it all off with my annually planned but rarely executed viewing of 1776. I've got an hour before X Men.



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