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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Well, I haven't read any of the New York Times's 10 Best Books of 2007. But I do have Alex Ross's blog on my blog roll. Does that count?

I haven't been reading many books lately. Right now I'm reading:

- Martian Time-Slip, Philip K. Dick (Time spent reading: one week)
- A Third Face, Samuel Fuller (Time spent reading: two months)
- The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene (Time spent reading: since Ben suggested I stop reading Roth and start reading this book instead--blogger shows that to be two months and eleven days)
- Swann's Way, Marcel Proust (Time spent reading: about a year and a half)

I love books, but I know I'm not giving them enough time. I suppose it's not such a surprise--what with Rock Band coming out last week. (Best. Game. Ever.) The bigger picture is also not surprising--the bigger picture being that people don't read much in general. The tangible benefits to reading aren't immediately clear. In the long term, I see them to be:

- Become a smarter person (or at least know about more things)
- Become a more interesting person (or at least make people think you're interesting)
- Being interesting can lead to conversations with other interesting people, which could conceivably lead to . . . some sort of business opportunity?
- The first two things could lead to admiration from sexy/literate ladies and/or gentlemen
- A (probably) false sense of superiority over people who don't read
- The option to complain about people who don't read

On the other hand, you could just fake it.

Any benefits that I'm forgetting?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Two diverse comedic devices:

INITIALISMS: If you're talking about something and it boils down to one phrase, you can use this pretty hilarious device. Some examples:

- GOMP: "Get off my property."
- IDGAF: "I don't give a fuck."
- IRDGAF: "I really don't give a fuck."
- LOL: "Lots of luck."

PORTMANTEAU WORDS: If you're describing something and the description turns out to be two words (or more, if you're an expert), you can use this trick. Some examples:

- The classic, from The Simpsons:

LISA: Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for "crisis" as they do for "opportunity"?

HOMER: Yes! Crisitunity!

- Fugly (fucking + ugly)
- Flarm (flabby + arm)
- Skat (skinny + fat)
- Brunch (breakfast + lunch)
- Blunch (brunch + lunch)
- Bluncher (brunch + lunch + dinner)
- Bluncherfast (breakfast + brunch + lunch + dinner)

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Are you ready for your presentation tomorrow?"

"I'm not worried about it. The professor loves me so she'll grade me well no matter what, because love is a powerful feeling."
"So what about jeans? What jeans are good?"

"There's a little saying they have in fashion: 'If it's not Jnco, it's junko.'"

"You're wearing Levi's, man."

Friday, November 16, 2007

The first step in the process of self-creation is self-consciousness--being aware of yourself as an actor and taking control of your appearance and emotions. As Diderot said, the bad actor is the one who is always sincere. People who wear their heart on their sleeves out in society are tiresome and embarrassing. Their sincerity notwithstanding, it is hard to take them seriously. Those who cry in public may temporarily elicit sympathy, but sympathy soon turns to scron and irritation at their self-obsessiveness--they are crying to get attention, we feel, and a malicious part of us wants to deny them the satisfaction.

(Robert Green, The 48 Laws of Power, 1998. p.197. )

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I was at the post office when Journey's "Open Arms" came on. I hummed along.

"Whatchoo know about Journey?" the mail lady asked suspiciously.

"I know that Steve Perry has the voice of a god," I said. "That much I do know."

The mail lady cackled wildly.

"Have a good day!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Andy says:
(Re: this post) Why is Asian cinema of the past ten years so important? What are the highlights? Where are they relative to American cinema?
Chris says:
Asian cinema has broken more new ground recently than any other. They take more risks, they explore strange and original themes, and they do it all very well. There is no doubt in my mind that the next generation of film makers will be profoundly influenced by Asian movies that have gone over the heads of most movie watchers. There's a whole new world of movies out there that many people, even many movie watchers, aren't aware of.

Some key films I recommend:

- Election and Election 2, Johnnie To
- Anything by Wong Kar Wai, of course. Esp. In the Mood for Love
- Yi Yi , Edward Yang (I actually haven't seen this, but it's supposed to be unbelievable. I'm watching it soon.)
- Most Hou Hsiao-Hsien movies
- The Red Lantern, The Story of Qiu Ju, and pretty much anything by Zhang Yimou
- I've seen two movies by Katsuhito Ishii--Funky Forest and The Taste of Tea and they were both really great. Funky in particular is incredible.

The question to me is, why is it so great? I have a couple of theories. First, in Taiwan, a hotbed of film culture, the minimum budget that a movie is made with is $500K, sponsored by the government. This allows film makers there the resources to explore their ideas without worrying about financial stuff, which, as cliche as it is, is one major problem with American movies. It's a business, and there's little getting around that. Someone's gotta put up the money.

My other theory is that the freshness and originality in Asian cinema is manifesting itself now because these countries are becoming more open. It's no accident that with Asian cinema, Iranian and Eastern European cinema are also being held in high regard nowadays. These cultures are also opening up, albeit slowly in some cases.

Re: the relationship between American and Asian cinema: I'm sure that there are some aspects of the Asian movie industry that are shared with early/developing American cinema. I don't really know what they are; I haven't looked into that question much. The main differences as I see them are that American movies as a whole are a business that caters to the lowest common denominator in some ways--think Pearl Harbor or any movie starring Marting Lawrence. Movies are a business in Asia also, obviously, but the hilarious thing is that their audiences are wealthy enthusiasts and the festival crowds all over the world. These amazing Asians directors I mentioned above are largely ignored in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The audiences there are busy watching Black Knight or whatever. I may be wrong about that, but the evidence certainly seems to point that direction.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Movies I watched in October (and brief notes)

Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, François Dupeyron

This was enjoyable. An old Muslim shop owner teaches a young boy some life secrets.

Unknown Pleasures, Zhang Ke Jia

Totally awesome. Disaffected Chinese youth run around and make mistakes. Asian cinema is so obviously the most important cinema of the last decade that I can hardly believe that not everyone knows it.

Kicking and Screaming, Noah Baumbach

Attractive college graduates try to figure out what the hell to do with themselves in pretty hilarious fashion. I liked Metropolitain better for this brand of comedy, but Baumbach is a good director.

Out of Sight, Stephen Soderbergh

I watched this like five years ago, and it turns out that it was exactly as enjoyable as I remembered it. The first Clooney-Soderbergh meeting!

Down by Law, Jim Jarmusch

Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni are misplaced convicts who run around together and don't do much. I still liked it, but I'm not convinced--based on this and Ghost Dog--that Jarmusch is worth the indie hype. I guess I might see Broken Flowers someday.

Michael Clayton, Tony Gilroy

This is quite the slow burner. I'm a Clooney fan, and I'm a fan of corporate thrillers, so I'm susceptible to enjoying this perhaps more than the average person, but I thought it was really good. There are a few especially great scenes. You'll recognize them when they show up.

Into the Wild, Sean Penn

This was good, although just a little too emotional at times. I haven't read the book, but the story is pretty interesting, and there were a couple of really strong moments. I'm interested in seeing what kind of stuff Sean Penn does in the future.

The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson

If you like Wes Anderson, you'll like this. I do, and I did. Hilarious and bittersweet, with a face-punching Louis Vuitton baggage metaphor.

The Straight Story, David Lynch

One of the best movies I saw this month. Not your typical Lynch, but what is? An old man goes on a hell of a journey across the Midwest, and a riding mower is involved. The final scene = tearjerker.

I Know Where I'm Going!, Powell and Pressburger

Enjoyable classic '40s fish-out-of-water! A woman is engaged to a rich man, but finds it impossible to reach him on his island off the coast of Scotland. Jonathan Lethem and Richard Linklater named it as one of their favorite Criterion movies.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Alfred Hitchcock

The only Hitchcock I've seen that has no murders in it. Total screwball comedy that has some pretty hilarious moments. Worth it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Advice for those seeking a life philosophy:
Fortune favors the weak. History is written by those who let things just kind of happen in a frenzy of passivity. Henry Ford, Napoleon, Malcolm X--these men were in the right place at the right time. It could happen to you, if you're lucky. Concentrate on the small things that are out of your control. Worry about these things ceaselessly. Let them consume every part of your being. Focusing on things like "direction" or "the big picture" is a hopeless task.