Sunday, 31 May 2009

On How To Be Human

"...there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it's not impossible that some of these people in SUV's have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he's in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way...

Most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred..."

-- David Foster Wallace

...from one of my more valuable RSS feeds, How To Save The World.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Travelling While Introverted

Kottke, I think, offered up a link to Confessions of an Introverted Traveler and it made me think of all the photographs I have without people in them. I often patiently waited for everyone to step the hell away from things before I took shots I was happy with, and even then it was a pretty small window of opportunity.

Here I present shots complete with what I was thinking when I took them.

You are all ants. All tiny ants. Here comes the hoof of mechanised progress.

Nice way to screw up my shot, asshole. Now turn in profile for the next two minutes so I can get another one without Australians in it.


There must be some point at which the body of the vehicle kind of breaks off and sags over the wheel until it can't move.

That's some good symmetry right there. And no-one is tall enough to block my shot.

I was getting too much glare earlier from everyone's shiny, shiny pants.

Hey there, crossy. Whatcha thinkin ?

Saturday, 16 May 2009

My Six Favourite Online Comics

Most online comics are terrible. Just really, really terrible. But because there are so many of them there are bound to be some that generate glimmers of hope from time to time, others that represent real talent, and finally a tiny number that (like comedian George Carlin) actually have something to say while being insightful and funny. Here are six of those.

Unashamedly geeky, poorly drawn, and a dead-on reflection of geek culture.

Simple and squiggly with a pleasantly vulnerable sense of humour.

Basic Instructions
An ironist against the world.

Although it's discontinued, the hundreds of archived comics are distressingly good.

Dinosaur Comics
Verbose dinosaurs discuss densely intellectual topics like stoned frat boys.

A Softer World
Typestrips over photographs. Whimsy with a sting in the tail.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

1001 Films To See Before You Die

Years ago, when I was churning out films reviews for the magazine, I stumbled across a book: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. I pulled the list from a website and started crossing off the ones I'd already seen. That was 100 down: these were common films, like Star Wars, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Princess Bride, although there were a few, like Dog Day Afternoon and The Sting that fell outside the mainstream.
I began to mix foreign films in with my regular rentals: Caro Diario, Ran, Tokyo Story.
After a while I started to recognise films from the list when they appeared in film festivals and special screenings: The Battle of Algiers, The Son's Room, Our Hospitality. I sometimes saw films that weren't on the list (Twentieth Century) just because they were old.
I started working my way through entire oeuvres: I have now seen every feature film by Woody Allen (there are 40), Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin. And I still have gaping holes in my list: I haven't seen From Here To Eternity, The Jazz Singer, or There Will Be Blood.
I've only just now passed the 300 mark and it is becoming more difficult to find the 701 outstanding films. Even Videon comes up short on the 1922 print of Le Souriante Madame Beudet (although it will gladly supply Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.) I torrented The Wages of Fear, complete with subtitles.

I have some new favourite films from the list ('favourite' being Top-20 rather than Top-5): Kind Hearts and Coronets, Glengarry Glen Ross, Duck Soup; although many of my favourites on the list were firmly in place before I knew it existed, while others (Love and Death) I discovered on tangential paths.
Of course there are many films that I don't think deserve to be in the top 1000 at all, like Gangs of New York and Meet the Parents, while some, while worthy, I watched only as long as I could bear: Leni Riefenstahl's documentary/propoganda piece Triumph of the Will was both as bombastically impressive and as gallingly repetitive as I've heard Mein Kampf is, and I may go to my grave having only seen part of Last Tango In Paris.

None of this has helped me recall actors' names. I sometimes triangulate to the point where I've constructed half a Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon before I remember that, yes, that guy was Tim Roth who was in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and played Mr Orange in Reservoir Dogs, and no, he wasn't in Braindead, that was a Kiwi actor who looks like him who was in Mercy Peak and probably Shortland Street for years being a doctor or something. Then I wind up on IMdB for half an hour and discover that, holy crap, Jake Busey was in The Frighteners and I'd had two actresses mixed up in a '90s B-movie since I first saw it.

It is impossible to watch two hundred old movies without forcing other people to do so alongside you. Ikiru was a particular surprise, while Dead Man really required a more alert audience than it received, and I challenge anyone not to like It Happened One Night.