Saturday, June 30, 2012

Everybody was Kung Fou fighting (sorry)

Pierrot le Fou is definitely a French film. It's definitely from the sixties. Not what teenagers and politicians think of as the sixties. The actual period, when women's hairstyles looked especially wiggy.

And it's unmistakably the work of Jean-Luc Godard, who was at his peak during that decade. So he embraces the silliness and loads it with a lot of his own baggage. It holds up encouragingly well.

The plot is simple, allowing for a lot of sidetrips. Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) used to work in TV, but he was fired. His wife, a beautiful woman with whom he has no connection of any kind, forces him to stay on the gladhanding and parties circuit. After one particularly vapid party - guests speak entirely in advertising blurbs - he sees that his babysitter for the night has been Marianne (Anna Karina, Mrs Godard at the time), and old girlfriend of his. So he runs off with her, leading a carefree life of robberies and the occasional murder with her that turns out not to be so carefree

If you find it difficult to take this story seriously, rest assured that Godard finds it impossible. Nor does he make much of an effort to sell it on a visual level. The killings consist mostly of men falling over when you hit them, sometimes with a little red paint on their faces.

This attitude toward realism - toggling between lackadaisical and outright hostile - frees him to concentrate on things he does find interesting. For a few scenes the film becomes a musical, one served well by Karina's singing voice. There are also elliptical philosophical debates, and a playlet about Vietnam that Karina plays in yellowface. Like, lemon yellow.

While American directors like Brian Depalma, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino have grabbed onto elements of Godard's style, this kind of go anywhere abandon is still alien to watchers of Hollywood films, for the most part. The addled energy is infectious, and much of the film is exhilirating. The characters are doomed, as Godard has at least that much respect for genre. Somehow even that is worn lightly

Friday, June 29, 2012

Coming attractions Friday Random Ten

I watched a movie tonight. Yup, free library movie rentals, can't beat 'em. It sort of deserves it's own post, though, or at least I feel like giving it one. So that comes tomorrow, the final day of June. Which is, wow.
  1. Todd Rundgren - It Takes Two to Tango
  2. David Bowie - Teenage Wildlife
  3. Talk Talk - I Believe In You
  4. Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
  5. The New Pornographers - We End Up Together
  6. Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - Blue Light Yokohama
  7. Radiohead - Bones
  8. Nat "King" Cole - L-O-V-E
  9. The Might Be Giants - In Fact
  10. The Bird and the Bee - Love Letter to Japan

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Racial expressions

Reading this from Ta-Nehisi Coates struck a cord with me.
All of this is to say, I wonder at the strength and nature of our democratic norms. Was there ever a time where our representatives seriously placed loyalty to democracy over partisan interests? And granting that there was, what was that compromise, that sacrifice, premised on? What undergirded our democratic virtue? Was it the promise that, in a country explicitly understood as constructed for the white man, the majority could never sink as low as the cursed minority? If we grant that the past few decades have been a particularly trying time for our democracy, is it mere coincidence that this happens just as African-American power begins to morph into reality?

This may sound dramatic. Well sure it does, and it is. For a long time I figured that race - and specifically racism - was becoming a marginal force in American political life. Sure it still existed, but no one was standing on the steps of any given state house crowing about "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"

My views on that have been somewhat revised. What you won't see are huge conflagrations like Wilmington and Tulsa. But you also don't see much in the way of pushback over racially tinged decisions like Bush v Gore (2000) and the recent spate of voter ID laws. I think a number of whites in this country believe deep down that they're losing a zero sum game, and that moves that hurt blacks will keep them (whites) from falling too low. Even when this is demonstrably false, the belief is still there.

Monday, June 25, 2012


It's unlikely that I'll ever rise in the middle of the night and start blogging in my sleep.  It might be kind of interesting, although there would also be potential for embarrassment.

So far I haven't gotten up and started writing, either.  Maybe because I'm a sound sleeper.

Dunno, kind of tired now.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Heat-wavey Saturday Random Ten

Judging from the past few days, it's going to be a hot, oppressive summer. Some days folks will find that they can't get to the beach, and whatever fans or ac they have just aren't cutting it. So they'll have an urge to dunk their heads in a bucket of icewater. Ergo, it's a good time to invest in buckets.

  1. Kat Edmondson - This Was the One
  2. John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillen
  3. Fleetwood Mac - Brown Eyes
  4. The White Stripes - Little Acorns
  5. Ladytron - Mirage
  6. Sonic Youth - I Love You Golden Blue
  7. The New Pornographers - Moves
  8. The Beatles - Norwegian Wood
  9. Sarah Vaughan - All of Me
  10. The Bird and the Bee - Birthday

In jest

This is a very fun movie. (The Court Jester, that is.) Kaye's musical numbers slow things down a little, but he's charming enough so that you don't mind much. There's a lot of comedic double crossing, some of it involving a very cute young Angela Lansbury.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Come back to see my etchings?

The discovery that this cave art is much older than previously thought - about 40,000 years old in fact - demonstrates that art can rise in conditions that look like sensory depravation to us moderns. We might not want to try the Paleolithic lifestyle ourselves, but it doesn't seem to stifle creativity

It also raises the possibility that Neanderthals were responsible for the paintings.* It's not yet proven, and early Ancestors (to use Gibraltarian anthropologist's term for our forerunners) may turn out to have made the paintings. But I tend to think that either way, the capability was there. While even some advanced thinkers in pre-history (e.g. Steven Mithen) have in essence dismissed Neanderthals as incapable of symbolic thought, their relationship to our ancestors makes that dismissal questionable. As the Guardian article mentions, 4% of every European's genome derives from the Neanderthals. Not to put too fine a point on it, that means that a lot of them and a lot of us were making sweet, sweet love. And while sexual partners can differ in intellectual achievement, that tends to be a matter of interest, not one half of the couple having an incomplete brain. Also keep in mind that for all the hybrids to survive, they'd have to be cared for. That tells you something about how the two different communities got on.

* Sorry if I seem to be turning into the Neanderthal guy. What can I say? Some guys are hung up on hockey or the French and Indian War. I have this.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Laptop owner's grouse

Okay, what's the point of a cursor lock, anyway? Especially, what's the point of a cursor lock that you can activate without even knowing about it, then spend 2.5 hours fiddling around trying to find a way to undo it? Looking for information on the Internet is just such a joy when you can't move your cursor, don't you know. Now if you'll excuse me I have to scratch my head. Hopefully I can do so without hitting the button that will make my brain explode.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A grouchy (belated) Father's Day greeting

Heard this song on a jazz radio show tonight and had to share it. That's something else.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Face-seeing Friday Random Ten

The other book I've been reading this week is You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers. I don't read many memoirs, but have a standing interest in neurology, so its subject of prosopagnosia attracted me. Prosopagnosia is more commonly known as face blindness, and to be precise it's an inability to process faces in a way that you can reliably recognize them. Prosopagnosics learn to recognize people by hair, clothing, gait, etc and are easily thrown when they meet familiar people out of context. Of course it's not all that commonly known under any name, which is a big part of the problem for Sellers well after she grows up. While she's growing up her parents are... Well, let's just say the early chapters make the book seem more miserable than it actually turns out to be. Overall the book paid off for me. Somewhat ironically I was mutually recognized by a guy I knew in college while finishing up the final chapters.
  1. Morphine - I'm Free Now
  2. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - Fireworks
  3. Todd Rundgren - I Went to the Mirror
  4. The Beatles - You Won't See Me
  5. The New Pornographers - Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
  6. Ladytron - Ambulances
  7. Sarah Vaughan - Words Can't Describe
  8. Sonic Youth - Stones
  9. The White Stripes - I Want to Be the Boy That Warms Your Mother's Heart
  10. Radiohead - High and Dry

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Not much in the way of coherent thoughts tonight. Which would make it a good night to go on Twitter and tweet "Heehee" and "haha" and "aaaaaaarrrgh" over and over again. Someone can do that, if not me.

I notice that Blogger, in the last overhaul, made it a little harder to format paragraphs. Or rather made it so you had to format, where before you could just leave a space between one block of text and another. The change is why I've been doing more single paragrah posts recently

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gaudy read

Header is because I'm reading Gaudy Night now. It's the first novel I've ever read by Dorothy Sayers. I have to hand it to her for not writing down to the audience. Anyone who bought the book hoping it would quickly bear down into the murdery stuff must have been sorely disappointed. But her portrayal of a reunion at a women's college at Oxford is engaging and convincing. Jeez, and these were the second class citizens!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Big wheels

In linking to this I should confess that until very recently I hadn't heard of the Antikythera mechanism myself. Both the machine and my previous ignorance of it are hard to believe, in retrospect. Sure, the mechanism might suffer through today's jaded standards because you couldn't hook it up to other like contraptions to create an Athenian internet. Although that would no doubt make an entertaining alternate history novel. But it did work, in ways that took decades to understand at all, and that we still might not have entirely gotten. It must be that such long distances in time have obscured not only the differences, but also the similarities.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Feats of Friday Random Ten!

This morning I was passing by while a fellow where I work complimented a woman on carrying a stack of medical charts down the stairs in heels. She was pretty nonchalant about it. When I looked I saw that the heels were pretty high.
  1. The Bird and the Bee - Polite Dance Song
  2. Sly & the Family Stone - Poet
  3. Morphine - Buena
  4. Nick Drake - Fly
  5. Finn Riggins - Mahoney
  6. The Beatles - Nowhere Man
  7. Fleetwood Mac - Angel
  8. The New Pornographers - (Your Hands) Together
  9. Todd Rundgren - Breathless
  10. Nat "King" Cole - Straighten Up and Fly Right

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray of sunshine

Oh good, the bitmap shows.

I greatly appreciate DuckDuckGo, a fine and honorable search engine, using the above logo for the day after Ray Bradbury's death. It was a sweet show of respect.

Recently I re-read Something Wicked This Way Comes as part of a book club I belong to. It was great going back. That, The Martian Chronicles, and his many short stories are a deep natural resource we'll (hopefully) always have. See "Picasso Summer" and "Fever Dream" for two very different sides of his talent.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Confession: Not all confessions can be good

I have to confess to a certain absorption in Excel's list of goodies, the spreadsheets and the pivot tables, and the other wacky icons at the top of the screen. It's something I've learned something about while volunteering. There are certain tasks that used to intimidate me that I can now knock off without breaking a sweat. Just because I'm nerdy enough to take to it, really.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Twittering Machine 2.0

This is kind of a fascinating piece of work. There's something birdlike about it, or maybe chicklike, as it hasn't learned what it needs to learn. On another level it looks like leftover scrap from someone's workshop. But you know it's not quite that.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Yikes! Friday Random Ten!

For the first time in a while I watched one of the local library's DVDs tonight. House of the Devil, from just a couple of years ago. It lives up to its synopsis. It's refreshing to see a horror movie that's not too focus-grouped to scare. Of course it's for genre fans and masochists, and the wide overlap of the two.
  1. Fleetwood Mac - Walk a Thin Line
  2. Ladytron - Ambulances
  3. They Might Be Giants - Never Knew Love
  4. Battles - Rainbow
  5. Radiohead - Just
  6. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
  7. The Kinks - Yes Sir, No Sir
  8. The Bird and the Bee - Baby
  9. Sonic Youth - New Hampshire
  10. Nat "King" Cole - This Can't Be Love