Micro Plugs!

Noted for posterity, a handful of teensy tiny movie reactions.

Halloween Party: I can barely remember now what thedeadlyhook and I played for our annual Halloween video fest. I think we started with Phantasm, and then it turned out that nobody had seen Jason X so we had to fix that right away, and I was pleased and surprised that everyone seemed to enjoy Halloween III: Season of the Witch because it's one of my personal faves. The gaps in between were filled with random episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, as well as lots of snacks and the Hook's trademark Ghoulish Goulash.

Cloverfield: Selected from our Netflix pile on election night because I thought it would make a perfect sendoff to the Dubya era, and did it ever. Truly an ideal time capsule of the past decade: Pandering, grandiose, fear-mongering, self-absorbed, incompetent, incoherent, badly executed, and just plain stupid. Given that the central conceit of the movie is that we're seeing all this via a guy who can keep his video camera consistently level and focused even while he's running for his life, literally not a single frame of the movie is believable, which has to be some kind of record.

The Happening: This, on the other hand, was surprisingly good. I don't think it had much of a lasting impact - one day later, I'm already having trouble remembering much about it - but I enjoyed watching it, and I'm starting to think that Shyamalan just can't catch a break these days.

Silk: A polyglot horror/sci-fi movie made in Taiwan with an international cast. Although it starts to lean a little more on stock J-Horror imagery towards the end, for the most part this is a really fresh and original take on the ghost story and paranormal investigation. Very highly recommended for fans of The Stone Tape and Nigel Kneale-style hybrid tales of science and supernature.

Knight Rankings

Taking a minute out of my post-Alternative Press Expo catchup to post something that, as usual, is strictly for my own amusement.

I think I've gotten everything I need out of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, but having read the beginning and end of the book, I'm still slogging my way through the very tedious middle section. (Nominally this revolves around the adventures of Sir Tristram, but as far as I can tell it consists entirely of jousting.) As of this moment, here's a snapshot of my impressions of some major Arthurian characters.

Accolon: Surprisingly sympathetic.
Agravain: Gawain's least memorable brother.
Alisander: A chump.
Arthur: Just wants to be liked. Slightly pathetic.
Balin le Savage: My favorite.
Breuse Saunce Pite: Best name.
Dinadan: Apparently more accomplished as a satirical poet than as a knight.
Gaheris: Gawain's second least memorable brother, distinguished by Oedipal murder of mommy.
Galahad: A fucking bore.
Gareth: Of the beautiful hands. Really gets a raw deal at the end of the story.
Gawain: Flawed and fascinating. Probably the most developed character in the whole sorry saga.
Guinevere: Kind of a bitch. A character ripe for reimagining.
Isolde: Passive trophy girl.
Kay: Kind of a bumbling dick, and thus funny.
Lamorak: One of the three great knights of the Arthurian era, but now completely forgotten.
Lancelot: A problematic example of greatness. I'll never forgive him for killing Gareth.
Lynette: The bitchiest damosel in the world. A pity she didn't end up with Gareth.
Merlin: Weirdo.
Morded: Craven opportunist.
Morgan le Fay: Kind of awesome. A rock 'n' roll femme fatale who gets away with it.
Morgause: Unhappy ending to an undistinguished career.
Nimue: Also kind of awesome, and apparently super hot. Serves Merlin right.
Palomides: The Good Saracen. Highly entertaining.
Pellam: The Fisher King, and a dick.
Pellinore: Another favorite. Mighty giant, hopeless pursuer of Questing Beast, apparently killed offscreen by Gawain's posse.
Percival: Yeah, whatever.
Questing Beast: Surreal awesomeness!
Sagramore le Desirous: Second best name after Breuse Saunce Pite.
Tristram: If you ask me, a raging asshole.

Granted, King Mark of Cornwall is such a mustache-twirling villain that you can't really root for either side in his extended Saul-versus-David feud with Sir Tristram. But I'm finding myself surprisingly sympathetic to the vendettas that Gawain and his brothers wage against the other great knights of the Arthurian era.


So very tired... Lots more page pencils to finish up... groan. In the meantime, I'll take a moment to jot down a couple of very very random observations.

Atlantic blogger Ross Douthat, the nice young conservative you could take home and introduce to your parents, may just have identified a grand unified theory of John McCain's policy stands:

This has always, always been a problem for McCain: His strongest instinct, when confronted with any domestic-policy problem, is to find a black hat to pin the blame on and then punish them for it, rather than looking for the smartest possible solution.
-- Ross Douthat, The Limits of McCainism

Omigosh, that totally explains it! Soft money donations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, earmarks, mixed martial arts... I guess McCain's political career really has consisted of a series of fierce crusades against relatively trivial symbolic targets. Well, with any luck, one month from now nobody will have any reason to worry about his eccentric decision-making process.

Meanwhile, The Hook and I have been NetFlixing our way through movie history. We just switched over to all-horror mode for the month of October, and although we were unmoved by The Howling, we're thrilled to bits by Wolfen and think it fits very nicely into the historical gap in the "socially relevant urban horror" genre between Kolchak and The X-Files.

Before this, we were going through a phase of 1970s psychedelia and existentialist fantasy. I think we'd give a modest thumbs up to the youth-gone-amuck yarn Wild In The Streets, and The Gardener, AKA Seeds of Evil, is worth checking out just for the illuminating behind-the-scenes docs and commentary. The Roger Corman-produced Gas-s-s-s was kind of weird and random, but the costumes were great. A big raspberry to El Topo, hearty recommendations for Zachariah, and wild raves for Malcolm McDowell's surreal semi-autobiography O Lucky Man!.

Whew! Sorry, only have time for a brief laundry list. But if anyone feels like talking cult movies, I'll be right here in the comments.

The Cuteness! And/or Weirdness!

For thedeadlyhook, conclusive video evidence that baby boars are the cutest critters imaginable:

And while I'm at it, a few embeddables from the Adult Swim Video library:

Robot Chicken: Sir Mix-A-Lot provides King Arthur with some ergonomics advice.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The universe is our bathroom!

The Adult Swim Video collection includes some pretty awesome full episodes, such as the Sirens episode of Aqua Teen and Venture Brothers yarns like Twenty Years to Midnight, but listing all my favorites would detract from the urgent business of scouring YouTube for more baby boar footage.

WTF Next?

You know, I try not to talk politics on this journal (although obviously I'm not always successful). But now that John McCain's not only effectively stopped talking to the press, but is actually trying to cancel this week's scheduled debate, I'm starting to wonder if we might be about to see the biggest meltdown in U.S. presidential politics since, well, Ross Perot. The hope of witnessing history in the making, it springs eternal...

Micro Post!

Two little artsy things:

Google Comics: It seems that Google has commissioned professional Explainer-of-Comics Scott McCloud to do an online comic book explaining the whys and wherefores of their new Web browser development project. It's an interesting example of comics-as-infomercial, not unlike the project I was working on last month, and perhaps a fruitful avenue for the comics medium itself.

Sixty Minute Monsters: As a warmup for the new semester, I've been doing little one-hour Photoshop illustrations of bestiary creatures and whatnot. I've only done three of these so far, but I'm aiming to do a new one every day until I run out of time or ideas, and you can see 'em over on my eponymous art blog.


Astonishing but true: Today's the eleventh wedding anniversary for me and thedeadlyhook. As I never get tired of mentioning, we unwittingly tied the knot on the scheduled date of Judgment Day according to Terminator 2. Kisses to my sweetie!

Closing out this week of unexpected free time and accordingly prolific journal-posting, here are a couple of thoughts on one of our common interests...

The Hook has always been a big fan of movie musicals, particularly classic ones like The Music Man and your various Marilyn Monroe and Fred Astaire features. Over the almost two decades we've been together, I've absorbed some of this musical love by natural osmosis - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes being a particular favorite, and not just because of Jane Russell. But there are also a handful of musicals that I grew up with that Hookles had never seen, and over the past week or so we've had a little bit of a NetFlix-enabled nostalgia party. A couple of observations follow.

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Startling True Science Facts!

I learned two things today! Guess that means I've used up Wednesday's quota already.

Via Unqualified Offerings, summarizing a subscription-only New Scientist article: We all know that giving people drugs that do nothing can often make them feel better, thanks to the "placebo effect." (And thanks to the British sketch comedy show Smack The Pony, we know it doesn't work if you tell the patient it's a placebo.) Now it turns out that some actual painkillers don't work unless the patient knows they're being given a painkiller. Apparently the researchers are calling these "placebo amplifiers" - in other words, drugs that work better than placebos if you believe in them, and do bugger all if you don't.

Meanwhile, you may already have seen yesterday's New York Times article, which reports that crows and related birds can recognize human faces and react based on their past experiences with the person in question. That won't come as news to anyone who's seen Dario Argento's Opera, but the details of the research - in which scientists wandered around wearing caveman and Dick Cheney masks, being variously kind or annoying to the neighborhood crows - are pretty amusing. More surprising, to me anyway, was the finding that crows communicate their findings to one another; mistreat one bird, and it'll warn all its friends about you. So that's what all that cawing is about!

Otherwise, a slow week here. Just finished up a humongous art project, and I've got classes starting next week, so this is my tiny window for goofing off. Ever since San Diego Comic-Con, thedeadlyhook and I have been conducting a kind of rolling nostalgia-fest: She's immersing herself in '80s Marvel comics and Modesty Blaise novels, and I've been wallowing in all the compilations of vintage 2000 A.D. strips I picked up at the show. I'm pleased to report that classic Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock are just as excellent and weird now as they were when I was ten.

Speaking of which, tomorrow's new-comics haul should include the latest issue of Mark Millar's "Old Man Logan" story, a post-apocalyptic Wolverine adventure which suggests that the "Cursed Earth" arc of Judge Dredd made as lasting an impression on Millar as it did on yours truly. And I'll shamefully admit that, as of last issue, I may suddenly have an Amazing Spider-Man monkey on my back. To my shock and surprise, Spidey's controversial post-mindwipe status quo strikes me as kind of fascinating, and I'm loving the ultra-dynamic John Romita JR-and-Klaus Janson artwork...

It's Okay To Kill Skrulls, Cause They Don't Have Any Feelings

Well, I'm glad somebody's saying it. Over at the metabunker, Matthias Wivel remarks on a really weird aspect of Marvel's Secret Invasion summer crossover: That according to writer Brian Bendis's interpretation of superhero ethics, it's totally okay for the heroes to slaughter intelligent aliens, because the traditional "code against killing" only applies to Homo sapiens.

Bendis has never struck me as having much talent for, um, whaddayacallit, "characterization." But this goes beyond character voice and attitude to the fundamental premise of the characters and their world. It's like watching bloody-minded 12-year-olds running a role-playing game in which everyone has the costumes and powers of a Marvel superhero, but they act like they're playing Grand Theft Auto. I think this latest issue was the last straw for thedeadlyhook, who's now sworn off SI altogether. Between this and Grant Morrison's take on the Kirbyverse in Final Crisis, this seems to be the year for totally OOC comics.

EDIT: There's some good followup commentary about Wivel's post over on the Newsarama blog.

EDIT AGAIN: Just read the latest issue of Incredible Hercules, which wraps up its own version of the Secret Invasion crossover, and it was FREAKING AWESOME! Way to take away the bad aftertaste. And now, back to work...