Thursday, March 31, 2005

Spreading It Like Sickness

Because I needlessly over-research things before I write, here's some more information I've gathered on "The Ring" and its various incarnations. The review, by the way, should run in tomorrow's Nexus.
  • When they were first doing promotion for it, they just left blank video tapes around Los Angeles with the movie — Samara's movie — in bars and restaurants and bus stations and in video stores. No explanation. No mention of the studio or the actual film. Nothing. And I like that.
  • Later, they made a dummy site for the fictional lighthouse that Rachel researches and then visits. You can still see it here. Notice how obviously Anna Morgan has been photoshopped into the picture.
  • Verbinski decided to lace the movie with a visual ring motif. Furniture, blankets, clothes and other stuff feature circular patterns in order to emphasize the big ring in the movie — the image of the top of the well as Samara would have seen it. This doesn't exist in the Japanese movie. The ring reffered to in the title, "Ringu," is the ring of the phone for your "seven days" call after you watch the tape.
  • The reason people's faces look all blurry in photographs after they've seen the movie is because Samara is watching them. And since she's underwater, she's seeing them all distorted and watery.
  • After people see the tape, they absent-mindedly scribble over the faces of people in books or magazines. They're not just marking over the faces, though; they're drawing Samara's hair.
  • People discuss the movie like an urban legend, but the tape is actually a literalized urban legend. Literally, it's this weird thing you see and you're forced to pass onto someone else, even they won't initially believe it. And I really like that.
  • There's an interesting article here on the factual basis behind the Japanese "Ringu." It's lost on anyone who has only seen the American version, since the Japanese film sets up the Samara character, Sadako, differently. In "Ringu," Samara's mom is a psychic who throws herself into a volcano when a reporter accuses her of being a fraud. (The reporter promptly dies — Sadako's first kill.) Apparently, a remarkably similar incident actually happened to a woman named Mifune Chizuko in 1886.
  • And maybe the weirdest part of all this "Ring" madness is that Hideo Nakata has practically based his entire career off the seires. The story first appeared as a novel in Japan. A director filmed a TV movie version of it and released it in 1995. (The film is supposedly awful and features Japanese model as a nudity-prone Sadako.) Since then, it's been remade or sequeled ten times.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Moesko Island Lighthouse

NOTE: Since so many people are finding this post my searching for the phrase "Moesko Island" — nearly fifty a day, by the count of Freestats.com — I thought I'd drop links to two other "Ring"-related posts that you might not find otherwise: "Spreading It Like Sickness" and "Rewind, Rewound."

So I'm writing a review for the "Ring" sequel for Brenna to run in Artsweek this week. I didn't hate it as much as I thought I might. Sequels generally disappoint, and while I think I could have lived happily without seeing this film, it didn't bastardize the original. It seems like the people behind "The Ring Two" actually understood the original, even if they did break the rule of Samara only showing up by popping out of TV sets when some unlucky fucker's seven days are up.

Most anyone who knows me knows I really liked "The Ring," even if a lot of people didn't care for it much. It genuinely scared me and I find it hard to believe it only got a PG-13, even with its lack of gore or raunch. In the neverending fight against writer's block, I re-watched the original when I got home from work. Whether or not you thought the movie worked, I think it's beautiful. The look of it — this gray-blue haze, like some low-lying rainstorm. IMDb says Gore Verbinski looked to the paintings of Andrew Wyeth for visual inspiration, and you can really see it. There's something crisp and cold and vaguely lonely about these and I get that from the movie. (See Christina's World, Wind from the Sea and Fed, all by Wyeth.)

Anyway, watching it again, I realized that aside from being a neat little horror mystery, this movie has a theme of art and creativity and creation in it. All the main characters are make things that could be considered art, in one way or another. Rachel, the Naomi Watts character, is a newspaper reporter and a writer. It's her propensity for words that drives the film's central investigation. I know a news story isn't generally considered art, but it's definitely a creative process — and one that ultimately leads to her survival. Journalism versus Evil: Round One, as bygone Artsweek editor DJ Fatkid headlined my review for the original two years ago. Rachel's ex-husband, Noah, is a photographer. Before he finally believes Rachel's story about a cursed video tape, he uses his camera to conduct his own little investigation. The creepy son is a little artist too. In his first scene, he's drawing a morbid little picture with crayons. He keeps doing this throughout the movie, and one of his doodles eventually provides a pivotal clue for Rachel.

And then we have Samara. Oh Samara, the little dickens who re-affirmed my general fear of children, dead or not. In the movie, we learn that Samara had freaky psychic powers, even before she died. She could create images on negatives just by thinking about them. She burned a perfect image of a burning tree into the wall of her bedroom. And she, after all, is the one who put the images on that damned video tape together. (You could also say that Samara is a bit of a sculptor, too — whatever the fuck she does to people sure leaves their corpses in a memorably horrifying state.)

The most interesting artist figure, I guess, would have to be the film's director himself. Not Gore Verbinski himself — though "The Ring" sure springboarded him to bigger and better things — but the idea of a director — the director as an abstract figure. "The Ring" suggests that a film is so powerful that it actually can kill a person — make them feel an emotion so profoundly that it overrides every other bodily impulse and shuts the whole system down. When Samara emerges from the TV to kill one of her viewers, it's like the person has gotten so into the movie that the lines between art and life completely disappears. They let the art in, and when Samara reconfigures their corpse into some horrible death posture, they become art themselves.

Maybe I'm overthinking this, but it got to me, this movie. It did before. It does now.

By the way, here's the first picture I ever took with my digital. Last Christmas, I drove out to the edge of where I lived and snapped some shots of this creepy area where people's area stops and it turns into countryside. They always reminded me of "The Ring." Just a little bit.

Friday, March 18, 2005

How Do You Follow a Perfect St. Patrick's Day Dinner?

Once there was no more corned beef, potatoes or cabbage and I had drank three Guinesses, I finally had the talk with my parents. That talk.

Results pending. I hope I didn't make a mistake.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Nudge

I never do this, but can I please direct your attention southward to the wonderful line of dialogue that has developed out of the comments attached to the post "Deadly Youth." Maybe it's finals stress. Or maybe it's the best thing that ever happened. And for the lazy, I'll provide a transcript.

Anonymous:
I care nothing for the Marvel or Capcom universes. If they really wanted to make a game that would grab my attention, they'd propose what would happen if the universe of ABC daytime soaps fought the Muppet universe. Now that's worth spending quarter's on.
Me:
Uh, what if the world of My Little Pony took on the world of Tranformers?

What if Adult Swim took on The TGIF line-up from 1992?

What if Greek mythology took on your third grade class?

What if my floor freshman year took on the Twelve Tribes of Israel?

What if the characters from every SNL spin-off movie took on the four food groups?

What if the "Creature from the San Andreas Fault" fought Mothra?

What if Death itself fought that one time in when you were slow dancing in junior high and you got a boner and had to keep dancing with the girl pressed up against you until the boner subsided?
Kristen:
amazing choices drew.

i want to play too:

what about if your recurring childhood nightmare took on your recurring teenage fantasy? i know you can picture exactly that. or my recurring teenage fantasy? or the precocious young hispanic kid's future recurring teenage fantasy?

what about if all the back to the futures rumbled? there'd be like 45 different michael j. foxes and lea thompsons to choose from.

or ... what if the periodic table of elements battled the periodic table of sex poster that they sell in bong stores?

or ... all the fancy little dogs in paris vs. our editing seminar last year? i picture them all pouring through the windows and door in their little t-shirts, devouring all the strange girls.

do more.

love, kristen
Me:
answers to kristen.

1) if that happened, i'd be having sex on a train with a mermaid and i'd be drowning and the train would be going out of control. i think. weird video game.

2) i could not picture your recurring teenage fantasy because you did not know me in high school and therefore your life must have been too boring to have real fantasies.

-OR-

it would involve a mermaid and me and some weird re-creation of the greenhouse scene from "sound of music." no wait -- that already happened.

-OR-

precocious hispanic child would team up with wolverine and they'd both be wearing wedding dresses and they'd have to fight me and a mermaid, both wearing suits. not the best game for children, but it has potential.

3) the mind boggles trying to think about how many michael j. foxes and lea thompsons would be selectable. i think the character selection screen would be confusing and repetitive. however, we could call it "back to the future: mcfly melee," and that makes me happy.

4) what? stay out of bong stores.

5) i think this is your best bet. i think the yappy dogs, led by linda ronsdstadt II and alphonso van floof, would be fairly evenly matched against the girls from our writing class, led by that airhead girl who wore earmuffs and that sassy girl who i liked but who i suspect did not like me.

tourney, of course, would be the boss and his weapon would be the red pen of permanent omission.

and what? the dogs had t-shirts?

how about this: all the STDs in your body grow to the size of elephants and you have to fight them with mops, brooms and three castmembers from "kids incorporated"?
Anonymous (I think Nate):
what if the staypuft marshmallow man fought new york?

no.
Kristen:
1) mermaids are super hot.

2) they probably were mostly wearing little sweaters and the occasional dogberet but i just really love little dogs in little t-shirts.

3) i gotta dig deep for the next round.

k
Bri:
This is the greatest thing I've ever read...

What if that one person you really REALLY wished you hadn't hooked up with took on a flock of your friends who have inexplicably turned into kindergarteners?... Under-water?

What if David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust took on David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth?

What if my weirdest sex dream (this is Bri, by the by) took on Drew in a suit and the precocious young Hispanic kid in a wedding dress? (I know now that the background would consist of bleachers with Wolverine in a wedding dress--knitting--sitting with a suit-wearing mermaid filing her nails on one side and the Mad Hatter sipping tea with Brandon the wonder dog who is smoking a phallic cigar on the other side.)
Anonymous (Sanam? Nate again?):
What if a giant asteroid was going to crash into earth and a ragtag band had to fly to it and blow it up?

No.
Kristen:
ok, so Mr. Belvedere, Dr. Ruth, Chef Boyardee, and lovable tough guy Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump round out a killer tag team equipped with Nerf sports gear where every Nerf ball is soaked in people-disintegrating chemical compounds and studded with pitbull teeth.

vs.

all the skeletons in your parents' closets have emerged, donned St. Pepper's-reminiscent psychedelic marching band gear and initiated a parade of shame and doom, shaming and dooming all in their path!

speaking of Chef Boyardee, how about the stale smell of Spaghetti-Os that permeated my pre-school goes head to head with the person i become when i black out drinking?

or

your underwear has to beat a snakecharmer at tetherball.

and up-down-left-right-select gives you the ability to fart the top 20 Cingular Wireless ringtones.

k
Lauren:
what if the extra half an hour i am gonna have to spend staying late at work, because i've been reading this blog, to come up with kiss ass tag lines to write in a letter i should have written this morning inciting a certain pissed off donor to still love project angel food...fought all of the creative intelligence in this blog dialogue...

if they tied blogalogue and my undercompensated guilt trip would each be worth $6.50.
Lauren:
i will suggest one more...

"I know you are but what am I."

vs.

"I'm rubber and you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you"And a capper: what if the video game was that all the female characters from "Tiny Toons" had to fight a monster made out of all your elementary school art projects?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Punctuation Round-Up

I hate History 4A. I hate studying. I hate finals.

As a result of these three hatreds converging on one night — my last before I'm done with this shitbag quarter — I have spent the last hour procrastinating. Instead of the boring stuff I hate, I read all about boring stuff I like. For your edification, I've collected this knowledge here. Now learn something.

[ Ye Olde Missing Letter ]


Among many other things, a subject that came up during a talk I had with New Megan was the letter Thorn. The way Megan told it, Thorn is the name of a symbol for the th sound — either way you can pronounce it, whether voiced like in "the" or voiceless like in "thick." Though we still use the sounds — lispers more than others — we don't have the symbol, which in its day looks kind of like this: Þ

It's a vertical line with a loop coming out of the right side, just lower than it would on a P. Neat, huh? The interesting part about all this is that a certain influential printer named William Caxton decided to substitute Y for Þ, for reasons I will surely never understand. Because of that, it was standard practice to use Y to make the th noises for a while. This has all but disappeared except on quaint, folky-like store signs, like "Ye Olde Whorehouse" and stuff like that. People mistakenly pronounce "Ye" like yee when it's actually just a fucked-up way to spell "the."

Neat, huh?
[ And, Per Se ]

As near as anyone can tell, the ampersand was born around 63 B.C. when a scribe named Marcus Tullius Tiro created the first system shorthand we can find record of. As a speaker of Latin, Marcus' word for "and" was "et." Whether he joined the two letters together or whether that was already standard practice among writers at the time, we're not sure, but the oldest form of the ampersand is a fancy way of writing "et."

If you look in this picture below, you can easily make out the individual E and T in the classical ampersand on the right. The more modern, more familiar one on the left, however, has changed quite a bit.


The name of the letter comes from a recitation of the phrase "et, per se and," a mishmash of Latin and English that basically translates to "et, which by itself means and." For a while, the ampersand was treated like a quasi-letter and stuck onto the end of alphabets. People slurred "et, per se and" into "ampersand." (And there's a phony etymology for the name of the symbol which traces it back to the phrase "emperor's hand," but don't believe it. Believe me instead.)

And I know inventing shorthand is technically a big accomplishment, but I'm way more impressed that Marcus Tullius Tiro has gone down in history as the inventor of the ampersand.
[ The Tragically Short Life of the Interrobang ]
Apparently having decided that English punctuation didn't pack enough punch, New York ad exec Martin Specktor introduced a new end punctuation — the interrobang — to the printed word in 1962.



This mark, which looks like a malformed P with a dot under it, is actually an exclamation point and question mark combined — hence the name. "Interrobang," by the way beat out other suggestions for the name like "rhet," "exclarotive," and my favorite, "exclamoquest."

Specktor even concocted a name for the upside-down interrobang that would rightly precede a Spanish sentence expressing both surprise and interrogation: the gnaborretni, which is "interrobang" backwards.

The interrobang fared better than you might think. Supposedly, it showed up in some magazine articles and print advertisements. Remington brand typewriters even included an interrobang key for a few years. As you probably could guess, however, the mark ultimately faded into obscurity. Today, the standard practice for punctuated a surprised question is to use ?! or !?. There's no rule saying which order you have to use, but it's generally not considered a trait of formal writing.

And I'm totally not shitting you. This has to be the only instance of fad punctuation I've ever heard of.

I just like that the first sentence I can think of that would actually make good use of the the interrobang is "What the fuck?!" And that is exactly what people should have said when someone tried to explain the interrobang.

There's a Light and I Can See It

I hate this — almost as much as I dread what I'll have to do when I go home.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Deadly Youth

"Hey mister, how come you always pick her?"

I wash my clothes at Fiesta Laundry now. Like I've said before, I enjoy being there because I never see any other college students. Young marrieds, sometimes, and some weird aging hipsters and Hispanic mothers who yell at their kids — but never any people who look like the typical UCSB student.

What really draws me to Fiesta Laundry — which, honestly, isn't as much of a party as the name might imply — in the arcade nook. It almost looks like an afterthought — this row of four arcade machines shoved in the back in the corner, presumably because Mr. and Mrs. Fiesta didn't order enough dryer units. However they got there, they're there and I feed them my spare quarters — likely at the expense of future laundry loads, I know, but that's the future and not the now and-it's-my-money-so-drop-it. I used to play video games a lot when I was younger. I still do — just not as often, mostly for the sake of getting my work done and not seeming like less of a dork. Video games, it turns out, are still a lot of fun.

So I play this one in particular: Marvel vs. Capcom 2, the one-on-one fighting game that proposes an answer to the question "What if all the characters from the Marvel universe — that being the one with the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, etc. — took on the characters from the Capcom universe — that being the one that gives us Street Fighter, Mega Man, Resident Evil, etc. Granted, nobody probably ever asked that question before this game suggested an answer, but it exists nonetheless.

The game offers sixty selectable characters — I'll kindly explain to the uninitiated that that's a lot, especially considering the original Street Fighter only had eight. My favorite character is B.B. Hood, a little girl in a red dress with a picnic basket. Little B.B. hails from the Darkstalker series, a sort of re-envisioning of the Street Fighter with all the characters in movie monster drag. (Ryu's the vampire, Zangief is Frankenstein's monster and I could swear that Ken is cross-dressing as the succubus.)

B.B. Hood, of course, is a the Japanese fighting game designer's take on Little Red Riding Hood. Instead of running from the Big Bad Wolf, she wants to murder him. Instead of skipping to Granmda's, Grandma is dead. And instead of cookies in her basket, she keeps a stash of firearms, knives and grenades. (I love you, Japan.) She also has this little puppy with a red bow that follows her around and yaps. Though I have yet to make Puppy Goo Goo do anything cool, I'm sure a certain sequence of buttons will make him tear out the opponent's genitals or something.

Easily, however, the best part about playing as this character and spraying the likes of Chun-Li and Captain America with machine gun fire is that no matter how well I can do against the computer, there's always a little hispanic kid who comes in, plunks in a single quarter and makes short work of poor B.B.

"Um, you know what you could have done there? If you wanted to do better?" He then demonstates a series of button taps and joystick wags that I can't follow. "And that will do her combo reverse and you wouldn't have died so fast."

Thanks, kid. Thanks a fucking lot.

"And then, another thing you could do, you could pick somebody else."

I hate you, kid.

"Because she's not very good. She's one of the not very good characters."

Death and pain, child. Death and pain. I must walk away now, I figure.

"Hey mister, how come you always pick her?"

Because she's pretty. Because I'm twenty-two and if I want to play as a certain video game character on the basis of her being pretty, I can. Because I've been playing video games longer than you've been alive, I'd guess. Because I went to a geography bee in the seventh grade solely because Street Fighter gave taught me the location of world superpowers by showing a little plane that flies to each country and then announcing the name of said country.

And then I say happily, "Gotta go check my laundry!" And then I walk past my laundry because I know it's not done and sit on a bench and read the Independent. I figure I could start doing my laundry during school hours.

Video games, it turns out, are still a lot of fun.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Ten Thousand Balls of Yarn

My parents called me Wednesday night, but I was at the dress rehearsal for "Cabaret," watching a pigtailed Palmy Palmerston twirl her legs in an entertaining fasion. When I got the message — "Just calling to say hi!" — I naturaly assumed something bad had happened, like my bank account taking a turn for the worse.

The next night I finally called my parents back and they told me the cat had died. I immediately thought back to a conversation with my parents I had during my last few days in London. They told me that they had bad news and I assumed then that the cat had finally kicked the bucket. She was fifteen then — and that was a year and a half ago. Instead, my mom and dad informed me that the departed loved one was my grandmother's sister, who had been like a second grandma for me and my brother.

I dno't feel especially sad. I guess having once mistaken my dead relative for a dead cat kind of shut me off to the idea of missing the cat. If I think about the cat, I end up thinking about how much more I miss Gigi. When I go home on Thursday, I might feel sad when I realize the cat won't be there, waiting to greet me with an indifferent stare — a look, I honestly believe, is cat language for "bring me food or fuck off" — but I can't say for sure until then.



This is the only picture I have of her. She was a good cat, I guess, though if you look at the list of her accomplishments over her nearly seventeen years, it doesn't amount to all that much. Then again, the net result is never all that important.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

But the Grass Still Looks So Beautiful

See the forest for the trees. See the dead rat for the perfectly green grass beneath it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Conrad the Feeble

And while I write an eight-page paper on The Castle of Otranto, the roommate is out having a good time, eating dinner, proposing to his girlfriend.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Meet the Muddlefoots

As I do every day around 5:30, I was thinking about "Darkwing Duck." On the show, Darkwing's meek alterego, Drake Mallard, lives next to an annoying family. The father is Herb Muddlefoot. The wife is Beaky Muddlefoot. The two sons, if I remember correctly, are Tank and Honker Muddlefoot. Now, judging from the enthusiastic response my last grammar-related post drew, I feel I can benefit from much feedback to this question:

When speaking about Drake Mallard's neighbors as a group, should I call them the Muddlefoots or the Muddlefeet?

I mean, the plural of "foot" is "feet," but should this rule extend to proper names? Input, please, you grammaticians and associated pickers of nits.