The Peeve

Went to see The Grudge with Drella today up in Marin. To quote Crow T Robot: “This movie’s really not very good!”

It wasn’t awful, I guess, and there were some genuinely creepy things going on. Especially at the climax. And I did like that they kept it set in Tokyo, and explained adquately why there’d be so many Americans involved in the story. But it just didn’t hold together at all and just seemed silly. A bunch of horror movie scenes strung together with a bare minimum of real plot or sense at all.

And there were some scenes that were just laughable. In particular the one where Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character does a web search for stories with the name “Tohio” occuring in the year 2001, and instantly comes up with not just one but both of the stories that are relevant to what she needs. The bit where a woman’s in the elevator and sees the ghosts of Tohio and his mother on every single floor was pretty silly too — I kept expecting them to go, “Um, lady, could we just… okay and the… could you stop the elevat… okay, but…”

When we were out in the mall waiting for Drella’s ride to come, a young Asian boy came crawling past us on the floor. (We’d been standing next to the kids’ play area). He stopped, turned and looked directly at both of us. We both got kind of a panicked look on our faces and backed away slowly; hope we didn’t traumatize the poor kid.

Free at Last?

This is the first weekend I’ve had that I can remember where I wasn’t either at work or feeling like I was supposed to be at work. It seems that this entire year has been one long crunch mode. Over and over again I’ve turned down offers to go out and do stuff, because I just didn’t have the time. My Tivo is hemmoraging perfectly fine programming that I just don’t have time to watch. I’ve got a stack of videogames that I said I’d check out when I got time, a stack of DVDs I’ve bought and haven’t yet unwrapped, and (most daunting) a stack of books that I’m determined to read to make myself more literate.

And this weekend I did nothing. Yes, I spent a lot of it just sitting and staring. Everything seems like too much effort; even watching a movie. I just wanted to be. I’ve been in that weird state of hyper-boredom — plenty of stuff to do, but not wanting a part of any of it, and still desperate for something to happen.

I did finally go see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and I thought that it was just amazing. Except for Gwyneth Paltrow, but she gave it her best shot. There was just so much that the movie got dead-on right, that it seemed like it came directly out of my subconscious — that is exactly what a ray-gun is supposed to look and sound like!

Other than that, though, nothing. And it’s been driving me nuts. Maybe I’m still just decompressing. I hope it’s over with soon.

Signs from the cab seat

Last night, in celebration of the game’s finally going into CQC (something quality control, meaning that the game’s almost done), I went out to a bar with Alex and Bailey.

As the night wore on and we drank more, the conversation turned to a religious “debate.” I can’t say that it was all that deep, considering we were in a bar and had been taking full advantage of it. But it was fairly impassioned and belligerent, anyway. Alex is a “devout” atheist, Bailey’s agnostic, and I consider myself a Christian. It was the usual kind of discussion I’ve had with atheists in the past — I don’t believe that I’m “fooling myself” by believing in God, and I don’t think that the foolish and evil things said and done by people in the name of religion invalidates the entire notion of faith and spirituality. I’ve tried to conceive of a universe where God doesn’t exist, and it just makes absolutely no sense to me. There’s just too much beauty and too many people doing good things without realizing that’s what they’re doing.

We eventually got kicked out of the bar (because it closed, not because we were arguing) and started to make our way home. The last thing I said, as far as I can remember, was, “I can’t explain why I believe the things I do, I just do.”

Bailey and I shared a cab, and as I got in he handed something to me. “I just sat on this; the people in the cab before us must’ve left it. Do you want it? Ironic, huh?” It was a small crucifix, like you wear on a necklace. I should try to find a way to return it to its owner, but I can’t even remember what cab company it was. Instead, I’m thinking I’m going to find a chain for it and wear it myself.

No hay venda

Another night, another long-winded movie review. I watched Mulholland Drive last night, even though it was way way too late. I kept thinking I should cut it off, but it was so compelling I had to keep watching.

I’ve been hearing about the movie for years, but all I’d heard was that it was “long, obtuse, and nonsensical, but it had two chicks totally making out with each other.” I wish I hadn’t dismissed it so quickly, and I’d seen it sooner. Granted, I’m not the target audience, but the sex scenes weren’t all that spectacular, and definitely not the most memorable thing about the movie. And maybe it was just the sleeping pills talking, but it all made perfect sense to me.

This has turned into something of an unintentional movie festival, since the last few movies I’ve watched have all had similar themes: passion, obsession, desire vs. reality. The story, such as it is, has already been told hundreds of times before, but where Lynch’s genius comes in is making it relevant to anyone, instead of just another True Hollywood Story. Not everyone has had a dream of going to Hollywood and becoming a Big Star in the movies, but everyone knows what it feels like to have a dream deferred. It’s never a slow, inevitable decline into disappointment — you wake up and suddenly realize that you’ve been crushed. You’ve lost everything, to the point where you’re not even the same person you once were. And Lynch tells the whole story like a dream, “distilled movie,” where you’re not bogged down in a predictable story but having images implanted directly into your brain.

This movie made me realize that for all the artifice and obscurity, David Lynch is surprisingly sentimental and traditionalist. He does innocent characters better than anyone. Never mocking them, never reducing them to caricature, but genuinely following along with excitement as they start out on a new adventure and get wrapped up in the intrigue. They’re completely earnest. They’re naive, but not stupid. And when they lose that innocence, it’s always sad, never an inevitable part of growing up (although Audrey Horne from “Twin Peaks” might be a case of that). His stories have a clear delineation between good and evil — his villains are compelling but never sympathetic; they’re cold and inscrutable, or petty and venal. They are the ones who are caricatures.

When Betty and Rita are listening to the singer perform “Crying” at the theater, they’re genuinely moved. Their emotions are completely real. Even though they’ve just been told by the MC that none of this is real, it’s all artifice, it’s all a recording. It’s all real to them. And when the singer collapses but the song continues, it’s genuinely tragic. It’s not a case of “well, we warned you not to get too wrapped up in it.” It’s an incredibly powerful scene and an amazing message: don’t limit yourself, don’t hold back, don’t be afraid to really feel something.

With all the shallow, faux-cynical, and self-consciously ironic movies we’re drowning in, it’s refreshing to realize that the most sincere-yet-not-maudlin filmmaker we have nowadays, is the one who has scenes of violent masturbation, fatal auto accidents, severed ears, and dancing midgets.

Now I’m going to have to buy the soundtrack, just for “Llorando.” And Naomi Watts was absolutely amazing. It’s so cool to see an actress who just “gets” it. She had to be all over the place in the movie, from wide-eyed innocent to spent and embittered, and she played every scene perfectly. My friend Alex tells me that in real life she’s as dumb as a bag of hammers, but I have a hard time believing that. I suspect he’s just jealous because she can do a better American accent than he can.

What was that all about?

Well, I’m blaming last night’s little panic attack episode on a combination of job stress, lack of sleep, and reading my friend’s very dark and cynical short stories right before I tried to go to bed. And, of course, the typical self-indulgent whining. But hey, this is a blog, after all.

Job situation is almost somewhat looking up: a ton of bugs got magically whisked away from me today, and the end is (supposedly) in sight. I’m already planning what I’m going to do with my time off. It involves sleeping, seeing more of the city, going out with friends, and the sweet, sweet healing power of booze.

Plus, Rachael got me tickets to the Pixies concert in Berkeley later this month! How much does that rock? Well, it rocks a good bit. And it rocks hard. This time I’m going to stop concentrating on how old I am and just focus on how old they are now. A while ago my friend Chris pointed out that Frank Black is looking more and more like Divine every time he sees him. Ha ha! Take that, so-called rock “legends!”

Plan for tonight: watch Mulholland Drive while waiting for the Tylenol PM to kick in. Seeing a David Lynch movie while under sedation. What could possibly go wrong?

Desperately Optimistic

Well, if this is a journal, and the whole point is for me to become a better writer, then I guess I have to write down the bad stuff as well as the good.

I’m always hearing from people that I’m grouchy, or surly, or cynical, or hard to read, when I think anyone who really knows me knows that I’m completely the opposite. Several years ago I got into a nasty fight with someone whose opinion I had previously respected, and he told me “you’re just so hard to read.” I stewed on that for a while, and eventually told my friend Bret, and he replied, “No you’re not! You’re like a wire! A tightly-pulled wire. The slightest disturbance just vibrates throughout the whole of your being.” Finally, someone who gets it! I wish he and I talked more.

Usually, I think Candide was a cynic. This isn’t just the best of all possible worlds, this world is pretty freaking awesome on its own, no qualification necessary. There’s just so much beauty and wonder in the world, and so many people who do good things so easily, without giving it a second thought. I’m desperately optimistic; clinging to the idea that everything is going to be okay despite all evidence to the contrary.

Except when I can’t. Because now I’m thinking that everything I’ve assumed or taken on faith is wrong. And I was a sap for believing it. The people who I always assumed had it all figured out, are just as miserable as everyone else. Not only was I naive to believe I could have all the things I wanted; I’ve been wanting the wrong things. Nobody has that perfect life. Nobody accomplishes anything. Nobody is truly happy, or even content, because there’s always someone else to pick away at it, or that desire that’s always just out of reach. Each of us is completely alone, doomed never to have true insight into anyone else, only passing time with each other to kill time until we’re dead. And as proof of that, everything here can be dismissed as self-indulgent, whining, crap instead of genuine emotion, or even a genuine panic attack.

I’m not sure what brought this on, whether it was job stress, or lack of sleep, or too much sleep, or staring at myself too long in the mirror tonight, or something I read before trying to go to sleep, or realizing that this year has passed without my paying attention to it, or going outside and seeing the fog roll in just over the roofs of the buildings as if it were pressing down on everything, or worrying about the election, or wondering whether next year would be the same as this one.

All I know is that I’m looking at a picture of myself from 15 years ago. And I’m back in Georgia at a friend’s house, and I’m holding my puppy, and we’re both smiling, and I vividly remember that day, and how I hadn’t started smoking, and how I had so many dreams of what I was going to accomplish, and whom I was going to love, and how I was going to raise my kids, and the kind of man I was going to be, and I wish to God I was back there right now.

Go Team Venture!

“I dunno. They just do that.”

Cool things seen tonight: The Venture Brothers, which didn’t get me at first, but now I think it rocks all kinds of ways. Granted, anything with Patrick Warburton in it is guaranteed to be at least entertaining, because he’s just the coolest. At first, I’d dismissed this series as just another “Jonny Quest” parody with the prerequisite “Dr. Quest and Race Bannon were totally gay!” jokes. But it’s a level higher, and it’s hip and just plain funny. It’ll be interesting to see how long it can keep it up. For now, it rocks.

Last week’s episode, Dr. Venture was given a truth serum and when asked his name, he traipsed around the room turning on lamps and saying, “Reading from the top: Lisa Carol Fremont.” Genius.

Another thing seen: Resident Evil: Apocalypse. I liked the first movie better. It wasn’t “good,” but at least it knew what it wanted to do: kill people in ingenious ways, all set to techno music, while showing as much of Milla Jovovich as possible. And yes, she’s wicked hot. So hot and so comfortable in her hotness that she’s game for anything and is willing to go into movies and get all bloody and dirtied up. And indeed, she does kick much ass in the new movie. And yes, you do get to see her naked; I was thinking that they wouldn’t show it since we’d already seen topless zombie hookers earlier. After the two Resident Evil movies and Zoolander, I’m liking Milla Jovovich so much I’m almost willing to watch The Fifth Element again.

But there’s just something missing. They went more cheesy action movie than cheesy horror movie. And so much of it was just by the numbers. And while it was a nice nod to the videogame that they included Jill Valentine, they just made her nothing more than Sultry Look Cop. I wished they had just gone ahead and cast Parker Posey in the role and let her have fun with it. Still, these are probably the best videogame-to-movie adaptations that have been done yet.

And I just saw on Yahoo! that there was a blast and mushroom cloud reported over North Korea. Kind of makes cartoons and zombies seem insignificant. Mercy. I thought we were allowed not to be scared of the bomb anymore, and we just had to be scared of jet planes, sarin gas, anthrax, assault weapons, genocide, xenophobia, and the Patriot Act.

When the Child was a Child…

On the drive into work this morning, I kept thinking about Wings of Desire for some reason. It’s really a beautiful movie overall — very European in that it has absolutely stunning sequences but kind of meanders and doesn’t hold together all that well, plus it has an American TV personality (Peter Falk) playing himself (more or less).

Still, while I like the central love story and the theme of angels wanting to live as humans, what really got me was the opening. There are scenes of people all over Berlin living lives of “quiet desperation;” we hear their worry and their stress in voice-over. And then, we see strangers walking up and putting a hand on their shoulder, and their thoughts turn to hope and peace. And we see that there are angels all over the place, watching over us all. It’s just a beautiful segment, both in concept and in the way it’s presented.

I think the reason I was reminded of it is because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’ve always had someone appear for me at the moment I needed them the most. Every time I’ve hit a low point, I’ve had someone come along and pull me out. Every time I’ve been lonely, or hopeless, or just hating myself, someone has appeared and talked me through it, or took my mind off of it, or just said, “You know what? You are who you are, and that’s fine. It’s no big deal. Everything’s going to be okay.” And most of the time, they didn’t even realize what they were doing at the time; how significant it was.

No, I haven’t been drinking tonight. Why do you ask?

Hum along

It’s after 4 AM and I’m still wide awake, so what better to do than get on the internet. I was just outside and noticed that San Francisco, or at least my neighborhood, has a weird hum to it after dark and everyone’s gone to sleep. Kind of a hollow, airy rumbling, much like the hallways of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. For all I know, it’s either the fog rolling in, or the sound of thousands of bongs being cached simultaneously.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten links to various livejournals from various different sources. I know I’m late to the party, what with its being 2004 and my just discovering the whole livejournal thing, but still I have to ask — what the hell? It seems to me the textual equivalent of Jame Gumb dancing around naked in front of his mirror. This is stuff you think and then immediately dismiss; not post up on the internet for millions of people to see.

But then, it gets to be 4 AM and you’re a raging insomniac and it kind of makes sense to write this stuff down. You see why someone would want to post his mood (tired and maudlin) or what music he’s been listening to (The The: Dusk). And the bit of maudlin introspection said music triggered in him: that record gets to me like few other records can. I haven’t listened to it all the way through in years, but every time I do, by the time I get to the last song “Lonely Planet,” I’m left over-emotional. Like a caffiene buzz, but from feeling and remembering stuff. Maybe it’s the late hour, but the last lines are exactly what I’ve been thinking over the last two or three months:

I’m in love with the planet I’m standing on.
I can’t stop
I can’t stop thinking of
All the people I’ve ever loved
All the people I have lost
All the people I’ll never know
All the feelings I’ve never shown.
The world’s too big, and life’s too short
The world’s too big, and life’s too short
To be alone… to be alone.

Also, happy birthday to my friend Alfredo. We were roommates my freshman year of college, and I think we managed to get one of those lifelong friendships all covered in one year. There are very, very few people I’ve ever met who I’ve gotten along with so well, so quickly. Just one of those people who’s such a good guy, it comes through instantly. And it sounds like he’s happy, and nobody deserves it more than him.

This must be how Puff-Daddy lives

I had an inordinately cool weekend, which is especially remarkable when you consider that I didn’t even realize it was Labor Day weekend until Monday. I had to work for a while on Saturday, but left “early” to go to a dinner party with some people from the Straight Dope Message Board. I hadn’t met any of the people before outside of posts on the board, but they were all extremely open, friendly, intelligent, and cool. I learned quite a bit about San Francisco history and was forced to re-think my previous assessment of San Francisco natives, that they’re all basically cold and unfriendly.

I ended up hanging out at The Phoenix hotel (which just rocks; I’d never heard of it before — it’s a 50’s style motel, palm trees and a pool and everything, right in the middle of the Tenderloin) with a few new friends until 4 in the morning, just shooting the shit. Cool people, every one of them. I’m looking forward to getting to hang out again.

In other news: Bjork’s new album sucks.