January 31, 2006
The Truth Machine
A few years ago I read The Truth Machine by James L. Halperin. It was written in 1996, and is a science fiction novel chronicling the development and creator of a 100% accurate truth machine, and the effects of that machine's existence on human civilization. Since it takes place now and in the near future, quite a bit of the book is based on speculation in current events. Unfortunately, while the book is very good and presents an interesting discussion, the inaccuracies in its assumptions provides fuel against its argument.
The fundamental argument presented in this novel is that mankind's destructive capabilities will reach such a point that privacy, secrets, and deceit will cause an end to the human race. It's a relatively old issue, which rose shortly after the nuclear bomb was invented. Advances in technology and destructive power would soon enable a single person to kill hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions. Halperin argues that the best way for stopping this is for deceit to end. If everyone can be seen to tell the truth, cooperation, productivity, and trust between peoples will increase. Bringing about an end to violence and hatred (although this is also in part due to the medical advances in understanding the human psychosis that results from the truth machine research).
Halperin also argues in favor of a world government, as the current state of affairs makes violence and retaliation the only means of justice between nations. At the moment, that situation is in favor of the United States since the U.S. military and intelligence capabilities are unrivaled. However, I believe that is going to quickly change as it becomes easier to produce and hide weapons, and as the U.S. continues to extend its influence onto others who do not wish it.
Some might read this book and view it as a supporting text for the current administration's "war on terror". That giving up some liberties (or all of them), including privacy and secrecy, are the only way to ensure safety. But it is very important to note that Halperin's notion of openness is a two-way street. If someone accesses your records to find something out, you will know at the moment it happens who is looking and at what. Under such a system, abuses would not be possible, assuming that two-way street could never be circumvented. Unfortunately, guaranteeing something like that is not possible at this time, and so this openness cannot yet be achieved, if one is inclined to agree with Halperin.
Sexy Voice and Robo
Sexy Voice and Robo was published in Japan a few years back and piqued my interest while browsing at the book store because of its interesting storyline. Sexy Voice is a fourteen-year-old girl named Nico who has a lot of spunk and finds herself using her unique talents working for one of the yakuza. Robo is a bumbling man who ends up as her friend, after they meet through a teleclub.
One might compare Sexy Voice and Robo to Harriet the Spy, but these stories are much more interesting, gritty, and they don't presume upon innocence. In fact, the series won the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival grand prize.
Besides the stories, which I found interesting, I also really liked the artwork. Kuroda has a distinctive drawing style and imparts depth and emotion through the lines, and there's a real character to each person and object. Sometimes the drawing is a little inconsistent, but the style remains the same. I did, however, find it sometimes difficult to follow the dialogue because it is not always clear who is speaking. Still, I am looking forward to the next volume of the graphic novel.
January 24, 2006
I was talking to Ellen this morning on AIM and out of the blue she invited me to Brian's birthday dinner, which I just came back from. I think she had ulterior motives for inviting me, be regardless, I went to dinner. I only knew Brian, Ellen, Rita, and Huong. The rest of the people that showed up were friends of Brian's (I think Ellen knew them) but strangers to me. Anyway, it was pretty fun and the food was decent. We ate Vietnamese food at a place called Vung Tau. Brian, Rita, Ellen, and Huong went ice skating afterwards, but everyone else went home. I didn't feel like staying out too late, or like ice skating, so I didn't bother to go.
January 23, 2006
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
I don't recall where I saw a trailer for Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, but I decided that I really wanted it. Today I sat down for about six hours and watched the series through. And it was hilarious but also had a lot of heart and an amazingly well thought-out storyline.
This is one of those animes that actually has a purpose to it and is not putting in extra fluff just to keep you entertained. And the entire storyline is consistent, makes progress each episode, and comes to a conclusion that makes sense given what has been happening. It is a conclusion that is very satisfying.
This series is very funny. Each episode has a theme, like war, or film noir. And then a whole lot of crazy ideas consistent with that theme are mashed together in a crazy way to poke fun. But instead of simply parodying the original, the parodies are incorporated into the new crazy plot. Sometimes it is shocking, sometimes disturbing, but always funny. I think this is also the first anime which has a lot of fan service, but also included a full frontal shot of the boy.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
I recommended The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to Samir, because it is one of Robert A. Heinlein's best works. Unfortunately, Samir didn't bother to finish reading it because it didn't have enough character development for him. When a story is told from the point of a single person, that's not unexpected. But this is one of Heinlein's most important stories, for everything it says and represents.
There are a lot of different ways to find meaning in this book, and there's no way I could cover them all here. But things like freedom, revolution, love, politics, and human nature are some of the subjects discussed either through words or through the plot. And like any great work of science fiction, it remains timeless because it has something to say about the world we live in, regardless of the date. Some things will always remain the same, for as long as we have the concept of "human nature".
January 22, 2006
I took the cats to get their vaccinations this year, but this time I went to Pet Club instead of Petco, as Pet Club is closer and the vaccination team is there in the afternoon instead of in the morning.
Chie got really scared, and pooped a little bit while we were waiting in line. Afterwards, on the way home, he was very scared and ended up peeing inside the carrier, just like last year. Only this time it was a lot, and he ended up rolling around in it, so now he smells like pee. I did give him a small shower, which he didn't like of course, and when he jumped out a few more poop pieces came out. Then he climbed under my bed but I didn't want him to get that place all smelling like pee, since he was still wet. I had to flip the bed and pull him out by the scruff of his neck.
He's doing better now, because he knows I'm not trying to hurt him or take him away, but only after I had cornered him to dry him off a little. Unfortunately he still smells like pee right now.
Asuka and Niea handled it very well, and are not scared of me or anything. So I'm glad for that. At least these shots are good for three years, so I don't have to bring them back until January 2009. The organizers also signed me up for feline leukemia shots, but those aren't necessary for indoor cats apparently. The doctor giving the shots had them give me a refund and didn't inject them with that shot.
Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries
I just watched the miniseries recreation of Battlestar Galactica and I'm thinking that the SCIFI channel has got to be one of the best producers of original content today. It was a great three hours, that played more like a movie than a miniseries. But it is a lead-in for the series that is currently running on SCIFI.
Everything about the miniseries was great. The acting was excellent, the special effects did not look fake at all, something I never liked about Babylon 5, and the video and audio quality on the DVD was first rate. Plus, they delivered a widescreen experience with full surround sound. And they did not skimp on the audio. Dynamic range was pretty good, and it contained some really high SPL low-frequency data which I wasn't expecting for a television production.
The creators also played close attention to accurate spaceflight. The space craft used both primary and manuevering thrusters, obeyed the laws of physics like conservation of momentum, and didn't have any fancy magical technology. The only thing that wasn't obeyed was the sound effects. Ships made swooshing sounds as they flew past, as did ammunition. This added a lot to dramatic effect, but is unrealistic since there's no fluid medium available to produce that pressure, except maybe in the gaseous areas.
January 21, 2006
Batman Begins is an outstanding movie that pays tribute to both the mythology and the movies that came before it. Some liberties have been taken in the story of this film, to provide a background similar to but compressed enough to fit within the shortened time frame of a movie. But it remains very close to the true mythology and I was very impressed by that.
It's clear that the writer is a Batman fan, and two of the best villains were brought to life in this movie. The previous movies had much more comedic characters, but this rendition captures the gothic atmosphere and dark mood of Legends of the Dark Knight, which is also my favorite publication line. The first two contemporary Batman movies also were along this vein, but with a more mischievous approach since they were done by Tim Burton.
The movie features some great actors. Christian Bale has been a favorite of mine since Equilibrium and I think a good choice for Batman. Gary Oldman was not exactly what I was expecting to see for Jim Gordon, but now I see how well he pulled off the young commissioner. Recognizing the future Batgirl in this movie was also a nice thing to include. The inclusion of Lucius Fox was nice, but not exactly in line with the mythology.
With advances in filmmaking technology, this Batman also includes some amazing special effects that never look fake. The older movies had no chance of producing the sort of realistic stunts and visual sequences that this movie had, regardless of budget. In particular, the bats would have been infeasible. The sound effects and background music were also extremely well done. Mixing was perfect and everything sounded very realistic. I think this is a movie that could have benefited from incorporating the rear channel as well as the larger dynamic range of DTS, so it's too bad the DVD only includes Dolby Digital.
Netflix Used Movies
Sometime last year, Netflix made it possible to purchase used movies off their web site, but for members only. I ordered three used movies Wednesday night, and they shipped out yesterday to arrive today. All three of the movies came in their original cases with original cover art, and amazingly two of them have discs that look brand new. The third movie is clearly used, but nowhere near as bad as I expected it to be based on my used purchases from Blockbuster. And of course the cases are in perfect condition since they were stored while the movies were circulated. The pricing is also very competitive, otherwise I wouldn't have ordered them.
January 18, 2006
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Jin-Roh is an amazing movie. The story is intense and powerful, with excellent characters and a great plot. Which is not that surprising given it was written by Mamoru Oshii. The ending is immensely satisfying, if unfortunately not the one you were expecting or hoping for. Although this looks at first blush to be an action film, it is actually more of a stylized fairy tale wrapped around a love story.
The sound production was as good as it gets. The sound mixing was perfect, although tailored for a theatrical speaker arrangement, and the background music features some famous musicians as well as a full symphony. However, the music is not really anything special. It fits the movie, but I don't think it is particularly memorable. The sound effects were also very faithful, and I particularly liked the impact of explosions, sub-sonic rumble for the heavy guns, the raindrops, and other little details like that.
The only bad thing about the movie was the flat animation style of the characters. There was very little depth through shadow or coloration in their clothing or their body. This is a little surprising, given that a lot of attention was given to the other areas. Perhaps that is the drawing style that the original artist used, but it doesn't work as well given the many dark and directionally lighted scenes, or the painted backgrounds. Still, the rest of the movie more than makes up for this shortcoming and you'll probably forget about it once you're into the storyline.
Popping In Car Grille
I saw today that the exhaust grille on my car had popped out. Looks like at some point the front driver-side edge of the bumper had rubbed against something because there were some scratches. And that may have caused the grille to pop out there. It took a while, but I was able to get the grille back into place and get the tabs to latch. I had to jack the car up to make it easier to see and manipulate, as well as reach my arm under to the backside of the grille. But it's good as new now.
January 17, 2006
If I were younger, perhaps I'd enjoy Dracula more. Perhaps not. But aside from some intense scenes and the occassional good acting (courtesy Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins), I didn't much like the movie at all. Francis Ford Coppola is supposed to be a favorite director, especially of males, but looking at his list, I can't say I particularly like any of them. This movie also makes use of more traditional vampire mythology which doesn't appeal to me as much.
The surround sound mix was pretty messed up. So much so that instead of making me feel like I was in the movie, I felt like I wasn't. Some of the camera work was quite annoying when it was supposed to mimic the viewpoint of Dracula. And I think some of the editing was botched once in a while. Plus, the special effects seemed like something out of 1970 rather than the early 90's, although the makeup and some of the other special effects were very stylistic and advanced for the time.
January 16, 2006
I took Yvonne and two of her friends, Cecilia (Floopy) and Ying, to see Brokeback Mountain today. Yvonne really wanted to see it, although I'm not sure how much Cecilia or Ying wanted to see it. It was a good movie, although the love story in it was not really that special. Ang Lee did a great job directing, and all of the actors performed excellently, especially Heath Ledger and also Anne Hathaway, the two of whom you might not expect to be good actors. I think this movie is getting some extra credit for its subject matter, which is handled honestly and brilliantly by the film.
After the movie, we were all really hungry, and went to Fresh Choice to eat since it was right outside the theater. I ate a lot, since I hadn't eaten any breakfast or lunch, and so did Floopy even though she kept saying how full she is. And then she would go get more food anyway. I think she said she was full like ten times, and kept eating more soup and went back for seconds on the salad, and then said she was full some more while eating the ice cream on the way back. She failed at her attempts to kiss her full stomach.
We got lost on the way back though, because I took the wrong exit off I-880 and ended up driving a lot of extra miles before I found a familiar road and got back onto Paseo Padre. I took Floopy straight home but Ying came back to Yvonne's house to play flag stuff and also the piano. Which she was annoyed at for being out of tune and kind of extra-resonant.
And then we had to eat again, because Yvonne told me after we were already eating at Fresh Choice that her mom told her not to go eat anything after the movie before coming home.
January 15, 2006
Yahoo! Messenger w/Shannon & Yvonne
Tonight I went over to Shannon and Yvonne's house and installed Yahoo! Messenger on Soujiro so that I could do voice and video to Luna in Shanghai. Yvonne asked her how to translate some things from Chinese to English, but Shannon had the most fun because she kept saying "bloopy" to Luna and telling Luna to make funny faces. Mei-ling doesn't have a webcam though, and the microphone in the laptop is not that good, so Luna couldn't hear us very well or see us at all. Luna thinks Shannon acts and sounds really cute though.
Later on, Shannon and I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Ron is the most useless in this one, and this is also the movie where all of them appear to have hit puberty. This is actually my least favorite of the movies so far. The story isn't as interesting as the others, I think, and there wasn't really anything new and amazing to see. And most of the important characters had very small roles.
Their DVD player is still having lots of problems. It froze in the middle of the movie, and we ended up having to skip over a couple of chapters to continue watching. The first time, Shannon thought that the first disc ended in the middle of the movie and it was continued on the second disc. Most likely because that's how their VCDs are. But the second disc, which contains all the special features, won't even play. They need to buy a new DVD player sometime soon.
I finished reading Congo last night. I think this is one of Michael Crichton's earlier novels, which may be evident through how he incorporates facts into the story. In his later books, I think I've seen a trend off weaving information more directly into the story. In Congo, information is provided in a tangential manner. Regardless, this is a very good book. The story is compelling and interesting, based on a lot of cool information to give it realism and intelligence.
January 14, 2006
Netflix Swag (Sundance 2006)
Netflix gave us our preparation kits for this year's Sundance Film Festival, including some show tickets and maps and Park City informational pamphlets. But they also gave us a cool OGIO backpack (Street Sector-Z, with Netflix embroidered on it), a hat and scarf with the Netflix logo, and also a Netflix fleece pullover.
Today was also an open house where friends and family of Netflix employees were welcome to check out the new building we moved to. A lot of family members and children showed up, but not as many as I think they planned for. There is no doubt a lot of leftover champagne and apple cider and sweets.
Samir and I checked out the new theater, because I wanted to see where the speakers would be. The speakers are located in the walls, or within alcoves in the walls, and hidden by the fabric. The projector is above the ceiling acoustic treatment panels. There's a lot of equipment in the rack, from Crestron and other manufacturers, including gear from Lexicon: MC-12, LX-7 and LX-5, and RT-20.
January 13, 2006
Scarface has everything an excellent movie should have, but for myself, I found it a bit boring to watch. Al Pacino gives an unbelievable performance, as do the supporting cast like Michelle Pfeiffer. The story and ideas are complex, extremely detailed, and contain a depth that explains the longer length of the movie. Gladly, that length is not trying on one's patience. It seems that no expense was spared in making the movie as realistic as possible.
Despite all that, I just didn't seem to find the story that interesting. Al Pacino's character goes through some amazing stages and there is a whole lot to the movie. And I certainly appreciate all of that, and normally I would rate this film highly. I can't really explain why I was a little bored while watching it either. I found myself somewhat bored watching The Godfather too.
January 12, 2006
The Twilight Samurai
Tasogare Seibei is a contemporary samurai film about a poor samurai named Seibei Iguchi at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. Although poor, Seibei is content because he lives with his two daughters and senile mother. His colleagues make fun of him because he is poor and cannot afford to keep himself clean and must always work to support his family. By chance, Seibei is reunited with his childhood friend who has now grown into a young woman.
This movie is narrated by one of Seibei's daughters after she has grown old herself, and tells the story about how happiness and love came into their lives because of a turning point in Seibei's career as a samurai and his reunion with the woman, Tomoe. It is a great story, and although slow moving it kept my attention throughout the film.
Unfortunately, the DVD production quality on the U.S. release I saw was pretty poor. I think the movie could have been much more enjoyable to watch if more money had been put into the U.S. release. The video quality was not very good, and the audio quality seemed like that of an old film. I find it hard to believe the movie was made in 2002.
Email to Susie Suh
I wrote an email to Susie Suh's representatives regarding the large FBI anti-piracy emblem that appears directly on the face of the physical compact disc I received as a replacement from Sony BMG. The email content follows:
I just received my replacement non-XCP damaged Susie Suh CD through the Sony BMG replacement service (it took quite a long time, I'm sorry to say) and I thought Susie might be interested in knowing that on the CD itself, the top has a large FBI Anti-Piracy emblem. It's so large, in fact, that looking at the CD makes one think this CD is an FBI Anti-Piracy CD, and not a Susie Suh CD.
If it were my CD, I'd be a bit annoyed at this fact, since that certainly isn't the first thing I'd like someone to think of or see when looking at my CD, or to have the thought "FBI Anti-Piracy" so closely associated when someone thinks of me or my music. Unfortunately, that's the first thing that hit me in the face when I got the replacement CD. It's not the greatest thought association to have in my head.
Today was Bryant's birthday. Several of us treated him out to lunch at Sato Sushi, which was his requested restaurant. Besides me and Bryant, Ellen, Stephen, Thomas, and Sergio were there. Scott and Jeannie couldn't make it. We learned, although I think Bryant already knew, that Stephen is planning to ask his girlfriend Michelle to marry him. It's okay for me to write this because she already knows that he is planning to do this. She just doesn't know when or where.
January 11, 2006
Nueve Reinas is a con-artist movie from Buenos Aires. The two main characters are played by Gastón Pauls and Ricardo Darín, and they give excellent performances, as do the majority of the actors. There are a few street cons presented early on, but that eventually moves into a major con job filled with twists and unexpected players. The story is engrossing and the con is both complicated and intriguing. The only problem with this movie is that there are a few slow parts, and once the con goes through, there are several events and motivations that don't entirely match up. If you don't think about it too much, then the movie is just fine.
January 10, 2006
Susie Suh Replacement CD
I received my replacement CD of Susie Suh yesterday, after several weeks of waiting since I sent the original back sometime in Novemeber. At least I got it back, although I was sort of starting to wonder since it was taking so long. The length of time is no doubt a source of annoyance for some people, but I did have a copy of the CD for my car and the tracks imported to my computer anyway.
The XCP reference is gone from both the CD and jewel case, replaced by a fairly large FBI anti-piracy warning label. On the CD itself, the label is larger than any indication of Susie Suh herself, so you might be inclined to believe the CD is an FBI anti-piracy CD. I wonder if Susie Suh is aware of this and if she has any opinions on that matter. Perhaps I should stop by her web site and ask.
The Boondock Saints
The Boondock Saints is billed as an action movie, but it's really a very funny action-comedy. Two Irish brothers in New York City become vigilantes, but they're really lucky ones who succeed by being absolutely crazy and fearless. Willem Dafoe is a very funny gay cop who has fun with the cops and with himself. You won't find a whole lot of action, and instead it is the approach and comedy that makes this movie stand out.
Kitties are Home
Alla picked me up from the airport on Sunday morning, and when I got home I took a nap because I can't sleep on airplanes and so was really tired. Afterwards, I went to Shannon and Yvonne's house to pick up the kitties and turtles. Chie was still hiding under Shannon's bed, but Asuka was coming out more. And Mei-Ling said Chie is the friendliest. Probably because he listened to Buddha's teachings with her one time.
I gave Yvonne her presents: a L'Arc en Ciel CD, three mangas, and a Prince of Tennis chibi keychain. I gave Shannon a Naruto mousepad, Leaf headband, and a magic trick. She and Yvonne really liked the magic trick, but when Shannon tried it on her mom, she didn't trick her.
The kitties and turtles are glad to be home. The turtles can swim around in their tank again, instead of being stuck in the little terrarium with sometimes-dirty water. And all of the kitties are happy and back to their old habits. They slept with me on my bed all next to each other last night.
Shanghai is Cold
Over the new year, I visited Shanghai which was my first time in China (excluding Hong Kong). I stayed at my dad's place because he has an apartment/office there, and went because I wanted to visit Luna. Shanghai is a lot like New York City, only more so in the ways I don't like New York City. It is even more crowded, dirtier, and noisier. Buses were frequently packed way past capacity, and no one obeys simple traffic rules like driving in one lane or not running red lights. So it is also pretty dangerous because you can be easily hit by a motorist and people can steal easily on the buses.
Despite that, the city planners have done a good job in many ways. There are separate lanes for bicycles and motorcyles in many areas, and raised or subterranean walkways for crossing busy streets. You can also find completely underground strip malls. And the traffic cops are doing their best to enforce good and safe pedestrian and motorist behavior in many places.
The biggest problem for me was the extreme cold. Temperatures hovered very close to 0°C or only a few degrees higher for the majority of my stay. I ended up getting sick on Wednesday or Thursday because it was raining heavily at freezing temperatures with strong winds and I got very wet while walking around. Plus, my dad doesn't like to use the heater so even on the 23rd floor when it is so cold outside, he had the bathroom window open and the heater set to 18°C or 20°C in the main room. So I would be really cold when there, and also when sleeping. He only turned up the heat later after I got sick. It was warmer to leave and get on the bus or go to the shopping mall.
Food is cheaper there, and of course there is a great variety of authentic Chinese food available. But if you decide to visit one of the new Western chains such as Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald's, or Burger King the prices are the same as what you'll find in the U.S. (The same goes for any other imported brands of clothing or electronics.) But the menus are very different, and more like restaurants rather than fast food joints. You will find yourself waiting for a table at Pizza Hut, and the menu is Chinese-flavored at all of these places. I did really like the food at Ajisen Ramen though.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi have a strange sort of competition going on though, with Coca-Cola clearly spending much more on advertising. Both of them have created "teams" of celebrities to promote their brand, and you can find their faces pasted all over the place individually or as a team with their respective company brand in the background.
While I was there, Luna and I visited the TV broadcast tower, which is the 3rd tallest tower in the world or something like that. We also went to the museum which was featuring the paintings of many renaissance artists, but Luna wasn't interested in seeing any paintings. Plus the line was really long. Instead we looked at the gemstones, which she really liked. Shanghai also has a really cool aquarium with lots of different types of fish and other ocean and river life. The introductory exhibits are not that exciting, but later on you go down deep into a really long underwater tunnel so you can see all sorts of animals up close.
One thing that I did get a chance to do was visit a HiVi store and listen to a pair of Swans 2.2. These are amazing speakers featuring ribbon arrays for the tweeter and midrange, and four woofers. What I heard was excellent. Unfortunately, no one in Shanghai knows how to sell speakers. The room was acoustically horrible, and the salesmen did not know what they were doing (the DVD player and integrated amp were not configured correctly). The salesmen didn't even turn off the nearby television or close the doors into the rest of the mall. The room was glass walls and a hard floor, although there was a suspended ceiling. The speakers are rear-ported, but were placed way too close to the wall.
The sequel, Beethoven's 2nd is unfortunately not particularly funny, entertaining, or interesting. The story is extremely basic. The characters are simple and exhibit stereotypical behavior and personality. I found myself not paying attention to the film at times. There's no growth or depth to this movie, and really nothing to recommend it.
The Brothers Grimm
The Brothers Grimm is a fantastic adventure featuring the humor of Terry Gilliam. His vision of the original brothers Grimm fairy tales is very well executed, and mixing the different fairy tales all together makes for an fun environment. But the story itself is not particularly interesting, or very funny. Although there are some highlights such as the acting of Peter Stormare. It is also interesting that just the majority of citizens were played by people who are of whatever ethnic background Gilliam was aiming for.
Little Manhattan is a younger perspective on first love through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy. He falls in love with a girl in his class from the other side of the tracks in New York City. The story is basic, but not oversimplified and more realistic than your typical romantic movie because it does not cling to the standards of the romantic-comedy genre. Still, there isn't a whole lot special here unless you find the acting performances of Josh Hutcherson and Charlie Ray enticing.
A Chinese Tall Story
I saw another movie with Luna this past Saturday: Ching din dai sing. It also wasn't that good, but there were some goofy entertaining parts. It seems like this movie is a mixture of traditional Chinese folklore and parodies of contemporary pop culture. And the angel flight reminded me a lot of a similar scene in Barbarella.
Also interesting was that A Chinese Tall Story also starred Nicholas Tse, who was in The Promise. In both films he played a bishonen crazy/goofy person. Except A Chinese Tall Story is deliberately a comedy, rather than an action film.
Luna noted that the composer for this movie was someone famous from Japan. But she could not remember the name. The web site lists the composer, who is indeed famous and explains why Luna really liked the music. I also like the music of Joe Hisaishi.
January 1, 2006
I saw Mo gik with Luna today at the Peace Cinema. There were only a few movies to choose from, and she picked that one. It was a very expensive movie to make, and apparently is shooting for awards in the foreign film category in other countries, but it was a very confusing and strange film. Even if you could understand Chinese.
A goddess gives two different people a chance to make a deal, and both of them accept. But a lot of things do not make sense, such as why one man volunteered to have himself set on fire and afterwards he becomes the servant of the evil ruler. Or why the evil ruler never just kills his enemies, but instead keeps tying them up. There is supposed to be some sort of time-manipulation aspect to the movie, but I couldn't figure it out.
Plus, there are a lot of goofy things going on, such as the funny hand staves of the evil ruler, or the corny lines that some of the actors say at times. I'm not sure if it was really meant to be campy or not, but I think it probably was because sometimes it was so blatant.
The special effects were impressive, except for when it was clear that they were fake. Which was most of the time. In that regard, the special effects were not well done at all. It was very obvious when a blue- or green-screen had been used, and the action movements of some of the superhuman powers were rendered imprecisely.
If you like the martial arts aspect but couldn't care less about the story, then this film will probably suit you just fine. There is a fair amount of combat going on, and at times it is fairly impressive since all of the main characters have superhuman abilities.
Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand
Calvin gave me Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand for Christmas. I really liked Samuel R. Delany's other books, but Stars is much more complicated prose and a much more alien environment. The book is written from the viewpoint of and for an audience of a person who is familiar with that universe, so it will take some time and deep thought to catch up and understand what's going on. But there is a very rich story inside this book. I wish things were explained better though; it reads more like memoirs than a normal novel and so whatever is left unknown to the narrator is also unknown to the reader.
Something that confused me at first was the notion of gender. Gender (not sex) has taken on an entirely different meaning in the world presented. It speaks well of Delany's skill that the protagonist Marq Dyeth comes across as a female, based on contemporary views, but is in fact male. Once this notion is accepted in your mind, then the whole concept of gender can be grasped.
There is also a great deal of cultural experience that can be found in this novel. With the many different worlds, people, species, and cultures that are presented, so much of the different cultures can be seen. This is also a little hard to follow, as the book assumes and audience familiar with how things are. And some of the mores and ways of thinking may be hard to grasp or even anathema to many readers with less open minds.
I do think to fully appreciate this book, a person needs to read it multiple times. But I doubt I will do that, since it is such a difficult text to absorb.