Sunday, August 22, 2010

A surprisingly effective evening…

…so effective, in fact, that I'm blogging about it! The world must know!

I've had some screwy nights of sleep lately and so, after Mass this morning, and after dragging myself to finish watching David Cronenberg's eXistenZ, I took a looooong nap. Then I had a shower––it's been so muggy and smoggy here lately––and headed out to meet a friend for dinner after not seeing each other for a while. On the way I picked up my laundry. We ate at a restaurant where another friend had left some items for me in the wake of his exodus from Taiwan. (I now have a sap, baby!) I had kimchi beef noodles (!) and we had a nice conversation. Then I swung by my favorite video shop and bought the whole Twin Peaks series at a bargain price (and with Chinese subtitles, if I'm not mistaken), as well as David Lynch's Elephant Man. On the way back home I got more cat food, with a bag of kitty litter thrown in for free, and then I got home to feed Cheetoh. She's "had a thing" lately about climbing up my dresser and, thus, knocking about various items and an icon of Our Lady with Child, so I had to crack down on her––I thumped her on the nose, yanked her out of the cranny, and tossed her out of my room with retributive force. Strangely enough, when I followed after her to seal my point and make peace, she knelt down and purred intensely while I held her. The funny thing is, for the past few weeks I haven't been able to find a knife of mine, but before I headed out this evening, Cheetoh crawled into and then behind a dresser drawer, which led me to extract the drawer––and there was my knife! Good evil kitty, good!

I've had a fairly slobbish bachelor streak lately, so I really need to clean up my room.

One thing I think I can safely say is that I find David Cronenberg's films consistently overrated. And I suspect I would say the same thing about Brian De Palma's films if I bothered to invest in viewing them. I understand how Cronenberg's Videodrome and Scanners truly were ahead of their time, and boasted enduring high-grade gory special effects, but in retrospect, I find them hammy and polluted by stilted acting. I don't think anything's changed in the intervening years, either, since eXistenZ (1999) was just as plodding and insufferably "thought-provoking" as Videodrome. The Brood and SHivers might be more promising, since they seem to be 'straight' horror flicks, rather than pretensious "concept movies" with indulgent visual gimmicks. Speaking of the latter, to this day I still have an ambient dread of the Unheimlichkeit of Cronenberg's adaptation of Naked Lunch, so maybe my subconscious is biased. I admit that Cronenberg's The Fly is a SF masterpiece by all accounts, but I don't think his other work should get a pass just because he struck gold with The Fly. Videodrome was a pioneering cult-classic "mindfuck flick," like the later Brazil, Memento, American Psycho, eXistenZ, The Machinist, Lost Highway, Shutter Island, and Inception, among many others of the genre. Alas I have come to realize how much I generally dislike mindfuck flicks––you know, those movies that "try too hard" and insist by any convoluted means to "raise doubts" in the audience's mind about "reality vs. illusion." Yawn. Give me a concrete story, like The Fly or Memento or American Psycho, with discernible moral and existential stakes. By contrast, eXistenZ is just boring, predictable, and ultimately irrelevant. What's a game and what's real? I don't know, and I don't even care. That's the problem: if, in a movie, the main part of the plot is a total illusion that functions just like a total reality, then who cares where the characters end up? Memento and Shutter Island worked because they were diagetically taut and dealt with a tragic figure who was ultimately protrayed on the real horns of a real-world dilemma. American Psycho worked as well but for a different reason: it conveyed the madness of misogynistic nihilism in an unparalleled way and left us grasping for a way out of the protagonist's mind. Pardon my rambling, but it irritates me how easily some "auteurs" can puff up sensational viewings just with some amateur philosophical tricks and special effect gimmicks. Or maybe I just find unbearable any director who is so self-consciously psychoanalytic with his imagery: slugs as phallus, a gun as phallus, an uplink cable as phallus, etc., etc.

Tomorrow morning I'll be helping the pastor here to set up some software on his computer tomorrow and then hit the gym. And I absolutely must finish an essay revision for a collaboration presentation at a conference in November!

Oh and here's something amazing I read in C. H. Vanderwolf's The Evolving Brain: a diet of fresh (raw and/or cured) fat meat plus water provides a complete nutrition. Despite having no fruits or vegetables or grain in their diet, Eskimos don't develop rabbit starvation and in the early 20th century two researchers mimicked their diet (plus black coffee and tea) for a year without any serious setbacks, one of the men having lived on the Inuit diet for nine years before that study. I guess I'm the type of guy who's tempted to try that diet for at least half a year.

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