Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Black Hole Tuesday (you'll see what I did there soon)

It's been a while. I know. I'm sorry. I don't have a legitimate excuse for this other than the fact that I thought the PGCE had turned my brain to mush. Turns out I was wrong because, ever since I finished earlier this month, all I've been doing is thinking. And thinking. And thinking. An' boy, I gotsta tell ya, there ain't no'n' like the thinkin's t' make ye feel stoopid.

So, neutrinos, right? I thought I had a bit of a grasp on what was happening with those things when, bam! There came another one. Luckily (or unluckily, I guess) I have a couple of scarily intelligent physicists in my life - some tangentially, one opposite-of-tangentially- and they explained it to me in the kind of simple terms that cross your eyes and push your tongue out to drool position. One told me it was one thing, the other told me it was not that thing, then I read something that told me that it was sometimes that thing except for when its not due to some impossibilities. What this ill-articulated experience told me is that I know very very little about physics and that disturbed me more than it would a normal person. See, something big is happening to a field that I have a great interest in but inordinately limited knowledge of. I feel like science is this big creature that's spinning and spinning (with big boots on too) and people are being caught up in it and sipping ambivalently celebratory champagne with only the occasional motion sickness whilst I get stomped on in its path, forever a smear on the already grimy plane of humanities. I love me some literature, but when is something new going to be written that changes the discourse with which we articulate the very fabric of our existence? And I'm not just talking masculinism or post-structuralism here... I'm gonna go with "never." I feel angry and more than a little frustrated now.

Then I went to sleep in the baby hours of this morning and dreamed that I had to be operated on because I had Heart Strings that had calcified due to disuse and had to be removed (I kid you not). My brain is one sarcastic bitch. I don't believe in dreams symbolising anything other than the fact that I have an over-active subconscious, but I do sometimes think about my dreams and take on ideas that they bring, so today I decided to give a fuck. Turns out, it was a good day for it. I went into Braamfontein today to review a little cafe for my Job (in which I play The Actual Writer IRL) and then came home to watch the parliamentary proceedings for the Protection of State Information Bill (one of the most misunderstood but nonetheless diabolical issues circling the interwebs today) and after I'd gotten over the shock of the seemingly standard routine of  inter-honorable-member heckling, I really enjoyed it. I asked myself "why" a couple of times:
First answer, after about 5 minutes: I'm a sick, sad little puppy who takes her amusements where she can get them.
After 15: There are people who really care about this country and not just for their political safety.
After 30: I'm one of those people!
By the end: I now know more about my country than I have in the last many years and I give a huge fuck. Watching these people argue about this seriously epic issue, at times turning on their parties for the sake of moral rectitude, has shown me some ill-dressed, unwashed glimmer of hope that is something that is going to keep me from fleeing for the fjords as I have been quietly threatening to.
This all happened because I dared to watch the news, which I hate doing on account of my desire to kill all the things, but I went out of my comfort zone and wrought the stinky/spiky/rabid/apostrophe-abusing yet comforting rewards. And this was all after doing some mind-numbing reading to find out what the Protection of State Information Bill really was and what it meant for us. Also something I pretty much never do when it comes to local political affairs. Yaaay, knowing stuff.

How does this have anything to with physics, you ask?
Well, I guess I don't really have a neat and clever answer to this, but I do know that the past 24 hours have made me sit a little straighter, if not taller, and they have made me hunger for knowledge again and not just sulk at the reality that I don't have enough of it. It's all about enjoying the fact that there is so much to learn and how bloody important it is to learn as much of it as possible. Not for everyone, I'm no romantic, but at least for myself. It's hard and it hurts to admit all this to myself because the reality still reflects a world in which I am ignorant of too much, but I can fall asleep now and have bizarre dreams knowing that tomorrow, I can pick up a book and know more.

Guess you're not so glad to see me back now, huh?

Well, tough. You may have to get used to it.

Peace, skulls and Ouma's Buttermilk Rusks

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Why Sucker Punch needs some meta-violence up in this bitch

By that, I mean that the stupid movie needs to be sucker punched. In the face. (Incidentally, it would be the only sucker punch the movie would see since there are no sucker punches in Sucker Punch)

I will start off by addressing an early crit that this blog received. The question begged: why am I writing a crit on a "popcorn film that has a pg 13 rating?" [sic] My answer, dear readers, is that I am a true lover of film. There are some wonderful popcorn movies that aren't going to have any textbooks written on them, they aren't going to garner any intellectual discussion and they are wonderful to watch. A couple that spring to mind are the Batman movies (the ones that count, anyway), almost anything in the 80s, and cheesy horrors like the Scream series. What do these have in common? They keep it simple. They contrive a formula and they stick to it. This is why I will never write a crit on any of them (though you may read a review on Scream 4 once I've seen it). This movie tried to get all deep and shi', so it must pay.

Allow me to rate it objectively:
This can be broken down thus:
Visuals (including costume, make-up, effects etc): 7/10
Characterisation: 0/10
Plot and script: 0/10
Action: 3/10

I've judged it according to what I expect from a movie like this. Please, don't get me wrong, I didn't include any ratings on theme, rhetoric or genre for a very very good reason. I went into that movie expecting some shallow stuff, what I got was something different.

Let me go into my initial expectations a little further. A good friend (with whom I share an uncannily similar taste in movies and slightly less similar view on popular culture/memes) told me about the movie a while back, describing it as a steam punk-y action film with hot, badass chicks. Now, I watch me some trashy movies (my hard drive holds more John Hughes than is natural for this decade and Clueless may or may not sit beside them) so the simplicity of this movie did not offend me before or after watching it. Initially, my biggest worry was that the steam punk presented in this movie would make dear Jules Verne claw at his coffin and that I would have to henceforth stomach skanky girls with pigtails and bronze goggles prancing around me at clubs (hypothetical clubs; the ones I'd go to if I had a life and infinitely more patience) and tattooing cogs onto their shoulders(dammit, that actually sounds fugging cool) between their cherries and swallows (not so much with the cool). I now laugh at myself for letting that be my biggest worry...

Now, I must just say that I am not going to discuss the psychological elements of the film because I am not enamoured with the process of annotating the holes in a sponge. That aside, here we go:

It starts off with this beautiful scene. The screen was not adjusted as it usually is when the feature begins and so I was wondering if this was indeed the movie or just another trailer. I found myself thinking hmm, I think I'm gonna have to see this movie if it isn't the one I am here to see already. As it turns out, it was the movie I'd paid to see and I got a little excited. The beginning comprised of a harmless and quasi-haunting rendition of "Where Is My Mind?" sung by the competent but unremarkable Emily Browning (who also takes the lead role as Baby Doll) in a more than pleasing staged palette of greys and doves. There is a pretty little thing on a bed and you as the viewer are beginning to formulate all sorts of possibilities for what the situation is and where this may go. The super-duper thing about this movie is just about every formulated conception of the plot is correct, just as none are... You see the problem with this, right?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The scene evolves into another action filled one in which our protagonist undergoes the typical hero-genesis-device and loses a loved one, consequently loses her shit, loses her aim and then is perceived to have lost her mind. Fair enough, remember, we are not here to see the wheel reinvented. Onward. We now see the little girl dragged off to a mental asylum and another bell goes off in our heads as to convention, we are simultaneously placated and intrigued. There are evil men, a reluctant (hot Russian with Transylvanian accent) matron and some girls. This is where the bells start to chime a little to loudly, and as you see the previously sobbing and sopping girl's head with its perfect make-up and hair the bells turn into vulture cries and you know that they are circling above what had the potential to be an incredible movie. Now, understand that too perfect make-up is a very big bugbear of mine when their placement is not relevant or effective but it is all the more annoying in this case as it brings me to a crucial fault in this movie: it lacked in contrast for most of it, and then it made these little switches in which it's all contrast and zero contiguity. We are presented with multiple levels of narrative and their appearances only alter at the sartorial level, this pretty much undermines the entire point of the film - that being that your mind can be your own means of empowerment. Why on earth would you not use face smeared with mud/mascara/hair as an establishing device? Why? Oh, because that would make sense? Oh okay.

Basically, the movie is about a girl who is abused in many ways and gets sent to a mental asylum where she is lobotomised. At the moment of lobotomy (when the needle - held at an angle that would do little more than clear her sinuses - is inserted) she is transported into her subconscious and undertakes what I'm sure we are supposed to see as an exploration of her id. This is where it gets a little too pointless. She is sent to a realm in which she is able to reframe her experiences at the asylum over the past few days as a new addition to a troupe of dancing girls/whores (I mince chickpeas not words, people - deal with it) and she plots a painfully derivative scheme to get them out of the club that they are forced to work at and tend to, scrubbing floors in heels and false eyelashes. It is discovered that she is a fabulous dancer that all the guys go crazy for because - wait for it - she is actually going deeper into her subconscious as she dances, drawing on every sci-fi/fantasy trope she could just to give the creative team a chance to make pretty scenery and blatantly stolen character tropes mesh with hot chicks in awesome costumes, I mean, er, so that she can subconsciously vanquish the baddies which has a pseudo-metaphorical tie to her sub-reality so that she can get a whole bunch of vacant hussies killed, I mean, er, so that she can... um... oh I don't really know and I'm fairly certain Zack Snyder didn't either. But apparently it's about empowering women! Because shaking your barely covered groove thang in front of a bunch of highly essentialised male characters and then killing them in your dreams is so bad ass! Or maybe that part comes in the "epic climax" (well, one of them) when she gives the big bad boss a bit of a cut in the shoulder (okay fine, it's age restricted, but I'm fairly certain the Harry Potter movies had more righteous violence going on) or was it when she did the ultimate pansy move of kicking a guy's balls in a crescendo of feminist hells-yeah? Bollocks, I tell you.

Regarding the title. I kept waiting for both the metaphorical sucker punch and the literal, because seriously, who uses a fairly cool title like that and doesn't take full advantage of it? Zack Snyder does, apparently:"There’s a mechanism in the movie that sneaks up on you. We sort of plant the seed of this thing, and then at the end of the movie it kind of comes back around. I think that in some ways, that’s what the sucker punch is. But also you, the audience, have like a preconceived idea when you look at Baby Doll. You think she’s innocent and sweet, that she’s capable of only a certain amount of things. But I think that’s a mistake. So that has something to do with the title, too." So, apparently even the metaphorical element requires some "like" serious excavation to recover. On his last point there, by the by, if what's supposed to smack us on the face with regards to our pouty protag is her kinda self-less, unexplained but totally expected act, um... I give up.

On the whole, I am mildly offended as a simultaneous masculinist* and feminist. It offends everyone (maybe I should be finding a point of self recognition therein?), but by mistake which is one of the worst things about it. It also just abused its potential. They had an incredible creative team, those action vignettes were gorgeous and those costumes NEED to find their way to my closet, the music was pretty cool if a little obvious and the editing was pretty damn good. But as if it were for an entirely different movie, they had this jarring directive team, a first year BA student for a content consultant and this script that really makes me wonder if the whole movie wasn't some sort of outreach programme.

I think that if I were to describe it in just one sentence, it'd have to be: "Pretty and pathetic, just the way Snyder sees girls."

I don't really apologise if this offended you, but I do hope you will continue to read my stuff.
My next one will probably be about the role of the female heroine in late 20th, early 21st century film which will be a little less vitriolic and a bit more cohesive. I hope.

Peace, skulls and crisp green apples,

* Masculinist isn't recognised as a real word apparently. That's mildly disturbing.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

My tattoo's nerdier than yours

A couple of weeks ago I started on my nerdtastic tattoo. It was sore, but not too bad. A bit like a swarm of bees stinging me repeatedly at a steady pace. This sounds a little dramatic, but considering the lack of surprise usually inherent in the sting of a bee, this was quite an acceptable pain. Also, instead of squillions of bee stings embedded in me making me all swollen, I have awesome ink. Bonus!

It sat in my skin in this form (intentionally faded in bits) for a few weeks and then last night I got it finished. I have to say that I was rather anxious about the shading because there was no nifty transfer that I could appraise before the dude took my blood and replaced it permanently with the inking of a design that existed purely in his head. So, to make the visual artist wriggling somewhere deep in side of me a little more at ease, I made him draw the number 29 (we'll get to that in a bit) on the bottom book about 8 times before he got it right and then proceeded to micromanage his decisions perhaps a little too fondly. Whatever, dude, in the battle of my skin versus his artistic authority, guess who wins every time? Correct. I wasn't a bad client though, I don't think...

Anyway, so I now have THE spiffiest tattoo known to mankind (assumption: I am mankind) and I'm rather sad that the weather is too cold for strappy tops.

When my tattoo guy went away last time, he told me to think about what I might want in that bottom book. I'd like to say I ummed and ahhed about it, but really it took me all of three minutes to decide that I have to have the number 29. This is not so much a particularly interesting and beautiful number (although aesthetically speaking it really is) as it is the title of my favourite Shakespearean sonnet. I'm not an outrageously loyal fan of the man's work in general, but this sonnet has a very special place in my consciousness (not my heart, because that might hinder its function - I prefer my arteries to be artery-shaped, not word-shaped) and unless it turns out to actually be about slaughtering kittens, I'm proud to have it on me forever.

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
It kinda makes me a little squishy inside.

I also added a little keyhole into the spine of the book which I suppose you could call my little nod to postmodernism. It's my little avenue through which my tat does not have a fixed meaning, so that it may change as I do. In this, I don't have that sporadic sprinkling of panic in which I'm all "doubleyoo-tea-eff, mate? What if you don't like this when you're fifty?" Another way I avoid this is by not really having some deepandmeaningful story behind it, it's simply a way in which I tie my inside up with my outside by using some truly beautiful images, the symbolism of which will never get old or mehsome.

This brings me to a broader rant on tattoos these days. [Jeebus, I sound old] I look at people with their Hello Kitty tats and their zombie pin-up tats and my first thought is "man, that's cool," my second is "but dude, the permanency factor..." and my third is "I can't frigging wait 'til the next trends roll 'round, it's gonna be fun watching you get turned into a pick 'n' mix of sad, consumer-driven iconography." Sure, I would love a skull-shaped cupcake with cat ears, will I want a skull-shaped cupcake with cat ears in 20 years' time? Not so sure... I may be being far too harsh here, though, perhaps these kids are so forward thinking that they are assuming that laser tat removal surgery will be a DIY job with no scaring involved by the time they hit some semblance of maturity, in which case - wow, I applaud their optimism! Ahem... [To me, an attitude like this is a bit like using abortion as a birth control measure as opposed to, you know, being responsible.]

Tattoos can be beautiful things, and heck, they really don't have to be deepandmeaningful in my eyes, but they do have to be personal. In order to be super-spifftastic tattoos (in my not-so-humble opinion) they really do have to be both. If they're not beautiful *and* personal (oh oh, and correctly spelled), they're this:
WARNING: content includes the very detritus of humanity.

I must admit, though, this site has given me many hours of despairing laughs, so I guess these people have found some use in life. They who amuse me shall be spared. Sort of.

I'm afraid I don't have a pic of the finished product just yet. I will upload one as soon as I do. Also, bitchiz be warned, the needles used for shading are far less sore than the big ones used for lines when you're actually getting tattooed, but holy popculture reference, Batman, the aftermath feels like a Balrog is licking my arm. Ow! Terrible night's sleep (pain and slumber don't really mix all that well) aside, I totally love it.

Thanks for reading. I promise to have something a bit more interesting (and better structured) to say next time.

Peace, skulls and cheese on toast,

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


So, I just got a Kindle (geddit? Kindle - kindling - firestarter? Myeah, wha'ever). Was given to me by one of the most important peeps in my life, aided by other awesome peeps (making it even more special). It's quite possibly my most awesome material possession to date. Within a few hours of having it, I had almost 800 books in (on?) it (haply they are not all kosher). I was grinning like a bloody fool/Charlie in that Chocolate Factory of his at the thought of having Clive Barker by my side when I am feeling twitchy and a wee bit cuckoo, Lewis Carroll when I am a lost child, Neil Gaiman when that child begins to grow or Christopher Moore when I feel like a laugh with an as yet un-met friend. The first thing people ask me when they hear me squee at them about this new bundle of joy is "so, will you still buy, y'know, real books?" While I take umbrage at the purist judgement of ebooks as unreal, I do understand where this question is coming from. Before I got my Kindle I felt that it was a sign of the end; that this evil contraption (okay, maybe I was a little green jello) was a big ol' "fuck you" to centuries of printing achievements and the resultant intellectual advances.

What I have discovered, however, is that my will to buy hard copy books is far greater now. I don't feel that reticence I used to feel when walking into a book store. I don't feel like I am about to spend too much money on something I may not even read through. In recent years I fell into the boring drill of only buying what was recommended to me/ was on my varsity reading list/ constituted some antiquated cannon. Now I can download a book that catches my eye in a store/article/movie and read until I either don't want to any more (worst case scenario) or want to finish and adore and smell and hold in person - thus driving me to buy it. This will mean that my "real" book collection will continue to grow at the same -if not faster- rate that it did pre-Kindle but will be more treasured for its considered acquisition.

So wah.

I do realise that I am in the minority here, and that does sadden me. But not as much as the sales on Danielle Steele novels and the prevalence of her kind sitting dog-eared on sad saps' bed-side tables after clogging up the aisles of once reputable book stores. And not as much as the price of a hard cover book, the proceeds of which the average author will only ever see a fraction of. I'm all viva la revolucion or whatever, but in the end, there needs to be a change in attitude and practice in the printing world for me to truly get on their "ebooks baaad" bandwagon. Until that seriously unlikely day: Heil Kindle!

[Also, I might as well get this over with now, I "suffer" from something called Fibromyalgia. Long story short: pain for no real reason, especially in my hands. My Kindle will seriously change my life in that I can actually hold it for faaar longer than a "real" book (especially since I am of the "be kind to the spine" school of reading).]

So, um... yeah. Haters gonna hate, but I still have a Kindle ^_^

Peace, skulls and chocolate cake,