Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Facebook is worth joining

One of my close personal friends posted this: the remaining stock at a shuttered rubber vomit factory in Chicago. Click to enlarge!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Moving to the village...

The offspring's last day in Lincang.

I got a sunburn sitting out on the third floor dorm balcony in the perfect Lincang weather having a half English half Chinese discussion with Kaede and Wang Yong about slang, Chinese college students vs. American college students,  and debating whether the construction men building a path below us were going to be able to finish their cementing before the rain started.  It was move in day for the students in the teacher’s college we’d been living in, so we wandered down to the front gates where dozens of vendors had set up stands selling dorm room necessities like comforters and bug nets, along side many Yunnanese street food vendors.  I had a Dai minority spicy pancake, a hot dog wrapped in another rice pancake, and a jelly tea drink, which you can choose whether to chew or let slide down your throat.  I felt like I was at a Chinese state fair.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Within the Genre of No Genres

It wasn't Tulkinghorn, or the New York Times Bestseller List, or even HBO that finally convinced me to read A Game of Thrones. It was Poppy Z. Brite.


"Shut up, Hitler!"

Spin-off series about a shape-changing humanoid robot full of tiny Time Agents?


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Clive on cats that look like Hitler...

Not really.
When my friend the late Alan Coren was told by his publisher that any book would sell more copies if its cover suggested that it was concerned with sport, cats or the Nazis, he personally designed the cover of his next book with a large swastika taking all the space except for the title, Golfing for Cats.
A chunk of the column is about BBC 4's new EuroCrime import, Montalbano.
A fine figure of an actor, Luca Zingaretti has a jaw which looks as if it needs to be shaved every half hour and a skull that looks as if it has never needed to be shaved at all. He is thus a fine example of the most employable category of thespian law-men, the natural baldie. Kojak, Murder One, The Shield – somewhere in this profusion of justice-related opportunities for bald actors there is an equation lurking. Could it be that baldness equals brilliance?


Two more...

Strike Back 3. Torchwood: Miracle Day 8.


Harry Potter in Lincang

"Watching our childhoods come to an end."


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Comfort music


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Amodovar > Melville : Bandaras > Delon

Here's one of my co-blogger's favorite film writers, on a director whose influence on other filmmakers far exceeds his fame with moviegoers. A key influence on Pedro Almodovar's latest is obviously George Franju's "Eyes Withou a Face." But we can also add Almodovar to a long list of directorial Melvilians that includes Jean-Luc Godard and John Woo.

Here’s how Banderas described his recent shoot with Almodóvar:
There’s no point to giving your opinion…. How many times did I hear him say, “The ideas are my business. Be happy with acting them correctly.” of the key influences in the contemporary cinema—especially the more commercially viable specimens of the European cinema—is Jean-Pierre Melville, whose film “The Red Circle” Almodóvar asked Banderas to watch—as a result of which, Théate writes, “the actor did everything he could to resemble Alain Delon,” Melville’s star. Banderas explains:
Like him, I didn’t want anything to be read on my face. I had to become the opposite of myself—glacial, calculating, everything restrained and economical. It wasn’t always easy.
I think it’s safe to say that Melville’s name will be invoked on several forthcoming occasions in the next little while; last year, it was also often cited regarding Anton Corbijn’s film “The American,” and, at that time, I wrote here about the connection. In the sixties, Melville wasn’t very happy with the way the cinema or the world was going, and his films are laced with his aching sense of loss. I’m not sure whether those who borrow his styles now—even when they do so with a comparable nostalgia for an earlier era of cinema—catch the same pathos of untimeliness, because, unlike Melville, they haven’t personally experienced the era they miss. He saw a whole world vanish before his eyes—and, ironically, was credited with encouraging and abetting the revolutionaries in their plot (i.e., the French New Wave).

Read more.
C.I.: TOH.


As discussed...

From the FAQ at StraightBourbon.Com -- and they should know:

1. What is bourbon?

There are strict laws governing just what a Bourbon must be to be labeled as such. For example, at least 51 percent of the grain used in making the whiskey must be corn (most distillers use 65 to 75 percent corn). Bourbon must be aged for a minimum of two years in new, white oak barrels that have been charred. Nothing can be added at bottling to enhance flavor, add sweetness or alter color.

Download the BATF regulations governing bourbon here.

5. Why is this whiskey called bourbon?

It takes its name from Bourbon County, located in the central Bluegrass region of Kentucky. It was formed from Fayette county in 1785 while still a part of Virginia and named to honor the French Royal Family and was once the major transshipment site for distilled spirits heading down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. Barrels shipped from its ports were stamped with the county's name, and Bourbon and whiskey soon became synonymous.

6. Is Jack Daniel's a bourbon?

Jack Daniel's, is not considered a bourbon because it is charcoal-mellowed -- slowly, drop by drop, filtered through sugar-maple charcoal -- prior to aging, which many experts say gives it a different character. The process, called the Lincoln County Process, infuses a sweet and sooty character into the distillate as it removes impurities. But up to and after the charcoal filtering, the Jack Daniel's production is much the same as any other Bourbon. Jack Daniel's and George Dickel are two fine Tennessee Whiskeys though neither can be called bourbon.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Facebook is sometimes good

One of my many, many close personal Friends posted a nice quotation, probably from this volume, which as an impressionable youth I read several times:

‎"All art is dedicated to joy, and there is no higher and no more serious task than to make people happy. True art is only that art which provides the highest enjoyment. Supreme enjoyment is the freedom of the mind in the living play of all its powers."
this is invisible text
-- Friedrich Schiller


Monday, August 22, 2011

Clive sez:

People in a certain time comport themselves in a certain way, unless they are in a television series gone wrong, when they comport themselves in only one way: the wrong way. Much heralded by some bonehead of a publicist as the British answer to Mad Men, The Hour (BBC Two) has some nice clothes but the people wearing them are uniformly desperate to discover a character to play in the bundles of paper they have been handed. Dominic West, with the Suez crisis looming, looks exactly like an actor who would be more at home in Baltimore with a few thousand black actors and a script that sounds like nothing on Earth. The script of "The Hour" sounds like anything on television, and that’s its trouble.

More here.



Connie Willis takes best novel(s), in a move that will make some of our readers happy, and HG favorites Inception (Chute) and the final two episodes of last season's DW (Tulk) sweep the drama awards... Lev Grossman gets the Campbell for a book that I liked a bit.

Detailed analysis from the invaluable Abigail Grossman is here. Cool quote, disagreeing with my position while referring to films that I have not seen but will try to:

Of course, the best known voting bloc in the Hugos is the Who contingent, who have turned the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category into the least interesting of the night. What is interesting, however, is how the votes break down. "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" started in first place and held that position until the third round of counting--not, in itself, a particularly encouraging statement about either the category or the state of genre television. Meanwhile, the highest-ranked Who episode was actually "Vincent and the Doctor"--a more deserving winner than "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang." Regardless of which of the nominees won, the entire voting fandom should hang its head in shame over the fact that The Lost Thing has an Oscar, but not a Hugo.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Twofer: "Torchwood," "Strike Back" Reviews

The shows go up simultaneously, at 10 p.m. on Fridays. This week, so did the reviews: Torchwood, Strike Back.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Narrative Element

The Good Soldier - A Tale of Passion (Ford Madox Ford)
- Highlight on Page 189 | Loc. 1981-87 | Added on Thursday, August 18, 2011, 07:03 AM

I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it may be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may be a sort of maze. I cannot help it. I have stuck to my idea of being in a country cottage with a silent listener, hearing between the gusts of the wind and amidst the noises of the distant sea, the story as it comes. And, when one discusses an affair--a long, sad affair--one goes back, one goes forward. One remembers points that one has forgotten and one explains them all the more minutely since one recognizes that one has forgotten to mention them in their proper places and that one may have given, by omitting them, a false impression. I console myself with thinking that this is a real story and that, after all, real stories are probably told best in the way a person telling a story would tell them. They will then seem most real.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TV-auteur news

Three U.S. networks, including at least one cable channel, are vying to buy "Hit and Miss," Sky’s first original program for Sky Atlantic. Chloe Sevigny stars as a transsexual hit-woman in "Hit and Miss," which is currently filming in Manchester. The show is executive produced by Paul Abbott, who wrote BBC drama "State of Play."
Sevigny is good casting for this because she "looks like a guy," acording to one source.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Prequel? Teaser? Teasing Prequel?


Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Torchwood: Miracle Day" - Episode 6 Review on IndieWIRE

The Face.

The text of this one is grossly garbled in a couple of places; fixed shortly, I hope.


Quote of the Day

From an amusing New York Times essay (by David Orr) on the ascendance of George R. R. Martin:

“A Dance With Dragons” is relentlessly entertaining, and it does honor to a best-­seller list previously dominated by the cornball sadism of Stieg Larsson.

(By the way, there are spoilers here, properly announced to be sure, but we're quickly coming to the point where the plot of the Martin books are so engrained in the culture that it will be assumed that everyone knows what happens.)


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shammi Kapoor 1931-2011

Always an energizing presence. "The Indian Elvis" had many, many great musical numbers (the surreal "O Haseena Zulfon Wali" from "Teesri Manzil" is probably the most famous) but this Holi celebration blow out is the most startlingly free and unselfconscious. Portrait of a man going decorously ape in public.


Sky/Cinemax series "Strike Back" reviewed on IndieWIRE

Defending civilization, one hostage crisis at a time.


Friday, August 12, 2011

"Ineffable beauty and concord"

Two quotations. I think the second puts the first in persepective. Still working on exactly how.

This first, from a review of a book about VN:

Nabokov is a famous writer, but he deserves to be infamous as a disseminator of unhelpful dogmas about writing. His worst ideas, invariably, were about ideas. “Caress the details! The divine details!” Nabokov said. This is sound advice, if a little vague. What is not sound is this, something Nabokov also said: “Style and structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.” Nabokov dismissed Henry James as a “pale porpoise” and Joseph Conrad as a “writer of books for boys.”

Nabokov is a towering genius; it is in the nature of Zeus to throw thunderbolts. Still, thunder echoes. Nabokov didn’t believe in great ideas, but he did believe in patterns. And so Nabokovians believe in patterns, too. They believe in them messianically. They think the thrill of discerning a subtle pattern is the highest sensation that art, and possibly life itself, affords. Here is [admirer Lila Azam] Zanganeh: “To observant men, these Nabokovian patterns, magically, will offer the inkling of an ‘otherworld,’ the ineffable beauty and concord of which is cause for infinite happiness.” The most compelling statement of this position appears in Nabokov’s book on Gogol, where he defines art as “the dazzling combination of drab parts.”
Then this, from the Amazon page for Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End:
"Of the various demands one can make of the novelist, that he show us the way in which a society works, that he show an understanding of the human heart, that he create characters whose reality we believe and for whose fate we care, that he describe things and people so that we feel their physical presence, that he illuminate our moral consciousness, that he make us laugh and cry, that he delight us by his craftsmanship, there is not one, it seems to me, that Ford does not completely satisfy. There are not many English novels which deserve to be called great: Parade's End is one of them." -- W.H. Auden



Clive's back

" still takes Sweden to make a true Wallander (BBC Four). The British have had a go by casting Kenneth Branagh in the same role, but even with the area around his eyes further abraded with sandpaper he still comes over as Red Skelton when compared with Krister Henriksson in the all-Swedish original...the man whose face is the silent version of a howling dog."


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Filmmakers Insulting Each Other

“Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung-fu film.” -- Werner Herzog

“Kubrick is a machine, a mutant, a Martian. He has no human feeling whatsoever. But it’s great when the machine films other machines, as in 2001.” -- Jacques Rivette

Artists occasionally do make good critics.

See also: Authors being harsh.

“Dostoevky’s lack of taste, his monotonous dealings with persons suffering with pre-Freudian complexes, the way he has of wallowing in the tragic misadventures of human dignity — all this is difficult to admire.” -- Vladimir Nabokov


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Insanely popular in China"

The offspring is majoring in Justin Bieber Studies.


The Clash

How many thousands of bloggers have posted this, recently, do you think?

Of all the good old stuff I've been wading though, of late, this band holds up way better than most. Tight, as we used to say. Very tight, indeed.

Album version.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Parental unit "still standing" award

The word "steadfast" is perfect for him. And not only as a writer.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Situation Thriller

Elmore Leonard has a good line about improving his writing in the early days by "learning to cut the stuff readers tend to skip." But how on earth is that to be determined? The writer's only possible reference points are his own reading habits. "I cut the stuff I tend to skip." If that's the case it's a good thing I've never tried to write a thriller.


"Torchwood: Miracle Day" - Episode 5 review on IndieWIRE

Sacrifices are called for.

And for Torchwood completists.

UPDATE: Starz/BBC long-term deal.


Friday, August 5, 2011

At least it's not for a caretaker....

From the Boulder Colorado, Craigslist:

The Historic Stanley Hotel seeks Housekeepers and Housemen. Come and work in a beautiful environment and earn great money!

  • Location: Estes Park, CO
  • Compensation: Compensation based on experience.
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.


Weekend fun

Article here. Quote:

Pakistan's classical music scene was decimated in the 1980s, he said, when the dictator General Zia-ul-Haq crushed the local film industry, known as Lollywood. Several hundred musicians, employed to record film scores, lost their jobs. As the son of a hobbyist film producer, Majeed felt the loss personally. "Demand just collapsed after Zia," he said. "That guy dug the grave of Pakistan." 
The cull forced many musicians into less lyrical trades, where they remained in obscurity for decades. Majeed found his cello player running a tea stall; others were selling clothes or electrical parts. Mubarak Ali, a shy 48-year-old violinist, was selling vegetables from his bicycle, earning barely £2 a day. 
Now Ali's life has been transformed. At his home – a cramped two-room dwelling he shares with his wife, daughter and ailing 103-year-old mother – he lovingly lifted his cloth-wrapped violin from a case on the shelf. Then he pointed to a new fridge, DVD player and wooden bed. "Sachal paid for this, this and that," he said. "God bless Sachal. And God bless Majeed sahib."


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Looks cool.


UPDATE: More on the WETA wizards.

Serkis pics.

Armond White:
More than a prequel, better than a reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the most exciting installment of that series since its beginning in 1968 and—are you ready?—it is easily the best American movie of this corrupted summer. Rise succeeds on modest B-movie terms (terms confused by Hollywood’s blockbuster mentality, where action-exploitation films now carry the weight of exorbitant budgets, studio expectations and adolescent notions of prestige). Director Rupert Wyatt brings glory back to the B movie.


A storm-roiled teacup

The context is the announcement of the Booker long-list, a third of which consists of books that could, stretching only a little, be called mysteries or thrillers, and the endless battle between litfic and genre readers, now splintering into skirmishes between the SF and thriller camps. And a further context is critic/novelist Philip Hensher's long-expressed contempt for Dame Stella Rimington's thrillers -- she's the former head of MI-5 ("M" if you will) as well as the head of the Booker panel this year, which has just failed to nominate Hensher's new novel, which was touted as a clear favorite.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Thought for the day about foreigners...

Christopher Shea of The Wall Street Journal writing about an article in The New Yorker about a woman named Elisabeth Badinter, apparently France's most influential intellectual (All of this is behind firewalls, so you'll have to take my word for it. Sorry.) She sounds horrid. She refuses to visit the United States for two reasons: "public disapproval of smoking" and she was "attacked" at Princeton. The story of the attack, as related in the New Yorker by a participant:

Badinter was saying all sorts of banal thing about how the French were sexier than Americans, better at sex, how American women washed too much, how they were embarrassed by bodily odors, by oral sex. We asked hostile questions, like, “How can you say these things off the top of your head?” That it was traumatic for her is very odd. We were simply distressed by her talk.
As Shea, who's my hero of the day, points out in the WSJ:
“How can you say these things off the top of your head?” Whatever you say about American intellectual life—and there is much negative that can be said—it’s a non-trivial distinction that that question gets asked, of sweeping thinkers, here but not in France.