how much fun can you have for $199.90?

Walked into discount store today with $200 of someone else’s money to buy booze. Came home with much booze, mixers, some pirate costumes and ten cents change.

I think it is all sideways from here. Fun ahoy!

Batman Begins

Well, heck. They finally made a good Batman movie. Colour me surpised. I mean, the Tim Burton ones looked cool, but I never gave a damn about any of them.

I had avoided Batman Begins after being told it was based on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Which, while good, wasn’t something that inspired me to go see a movie of it.

Turns out it wasn’t, and this was all to the good.

The reason BB succeeds, I think, is that it takes a fundamentally ludicrous concept and says “Right, somehow we need to justify this ridiculous shit and make it make sense, heck, almost believable.” Escaping from the campy cartoon nonsense that characterizes Batman (and most comic adaptations; really, different mediums should be used differently for storytelling, even with the same concepts at core) is what made BB interesting – that and creating a new villain.

And they pull it off. A good script helped immensely by a really good cast in understated roles. By the time Bale has become Batman, we can almost believe it. (It has come to my attention only recently that Christian Bale is actually an actor as opposed to the usual dancing slab of meat that passes for a Hollywood male lead.)

(Huh. A quick bounce around IMDB reveals writer/director Christopher Nolan did Memento (haven’t seen, but realise it’s meant to be good), The Prestige (very clever but inessential – again Bale is good) and is filming The Dark Knight, presumably a sequel.)

It will be interesting to see if the sequel can sustain the inventiveness, or if it will be dragged down by the franchise’s self referential cliches.

snippets of whatever

This morning I figured out something really important about my planned non-fiction book, and scrawled it all over an envelope that was to hand. Pieces fell into place, the process reaching a point of new order, the steps along the path seen clearly from the destination.

Perhaps the main thing is realising that I can actually write it.

***

Reality television is car wreck television. Vicarious emotion for the dead in their homes.

***

Fox morning news is still brainwashing. Or from another planet. I never want to live there. In the snippet just before they were talking approvingly about what a General had just said about Iraq: namely, to “quit complaining”. The anchors found this “very sensible.”

I wonder what ate their souls, and if it hurt.

***

I probably shouldn’t watch tv drunk and alone and stuck in the Hutt. But why the hell else would anyone watch tv?

Hit'n'Miss Aotearoa #9: The Stumps


Undulating Ungulate Proudly Presents: Hit’n’Miss Aotearoa #9: The Stumps

Right then. What to say about The Stumps? They’re nice guys who make loud noise, which they describe as “improvised psychedelic doom noise rock”. Sounds about right.

Well, okay then. Here’s some of that from Valve last September. It was cool, it was loud, I liked it, here it is.

If you’re digging on this, you might want to head along to see them tomorrow at Valve…

eedjit

Anyone remember The Bell Curve? It came out a few years back, and copped a lot of flack for racist interpretations of IQ data.

One of its authors, Charles Murray, is back with this three part series of opinion pieces about intelligence and education policy. It struck me as a pretty fascinating mixture of hard nosed realism and total blindness to his own value system; and it is his blindness to his own assumptions about universal values which allows him to make the proclamations he does.

The crux of his faith is in the mechanics of intelligence testing. But “intelligence is whatever intelligence tests measure” (that from a psychologist named Boring! 🙂 ) – and Murray is forced to rely on a semi-mystical quality, g, which effectively represents one’s genetic intellectual ability. He appears to hold this g above all else in determining human worth and capacity. (The parallels with Brave New World are stark – one can imagine Murray endorsing a world where Alpha, Betas and so on are identified by their g and educated only to that level that their g indicates is worthwhile.)

If this key value judgment is incorrect, then his argument folds. And I think it is: human diversity is humanity’s strength. G may be an important element in humans, but raising it to primary importance is unbalanced.

Having said that, many of his comments criticising the education system and its ill thought out goals and functioning are actually pretty worthwhile, in terms of a misallocation of resources, noting that people get pointless degrees to get jobs rather than useful ones to advance humanity (although, again, his notion of what is important and advances humanity is a matter of taste), and his alternative ideas are interesting if repugnantly elitist. But if the world is broke and someone needs to fix it, shouldn’t we be identifying and training a competent elite to deal with it?

So yeah. An interesting read. On the whole, it reminded me of reading Richard Prebble’s book I’ve Been Thinking. Lots of seemingly commonsense criticism of what is going on, but massive reservations about what he wants to do about it.

Pyongyang

Strangely in keeping with our recent discovery of berserk cults of personality in the modern world, or at least Turkmenistan… I read a fascinating graphic novel the other day – Pyongyang: A journey in North Korea by Guy DeLisle, a French Canadian dude who spent a couple of months in the most sealed of countries working on animation. Here’s some of what stood out.

The only book he took in with him was 1984 by George Orwell, and it seems completely appropriate.

North Korea is a country where people work six days a week and volunteer on the seventh. Where propaganda trucks and vans go around blaring to provide encouragement. Where the only time the hotel has power and light is when important foreigners come to stay. Where posters of Kim Jong Il are on every wall, and everyone wears a button with either him or his father on it.

The cult of personality around Kim is pretty ferocious. Apparently Kim was born atop a mountain beneath a double rainbow and a shining star. In his first golf game he hit 11 holes in one. As aa student he published 1200 works. At one point Delisle visits, with the ever present guide and translator, without whom he effectively is not allowed to travel anywhere ever, the International Friendship Museum, which is inside a mountain and capable of surviving a nuclear strike. It covers 50000 square metres, has 150 rooms with 10 metre high ceilings, which feature 211688 gifts from 174 countries. “The purpose of this grandiose display is to convince the masses that the entire planet is in awe of their adored Kim.”

As the book continues the overall effect is pretty bizarre and surreal. The endless songs to Kim, slogans to his greatness engraved in mountainsides, the epic scale and disarray of projects, all combined with a prevalent atmosphere of fear, presumably of the camps that officially don’t exist and no one talks about; and also of invasion, as they are primed for war at any time, led to expect imminent attack. Apparently Kim has gone on record stating that only 30% of the population needs to survive to ensure continuation of a virtuous society.

“there’s a question that has to be burning on the lips of all foreigners here…
a question you refrain from speaking aloud
but one can’t help asking yourself:

do they really believe the bullshit that’s being forced down their throats?”

[…]

“To what extent can a mind be manipulated? We’ll probably get some idea when the country eventually opens up or collapses.”

This stuff is happening right now on this planet. Fuck a duck.

Also: yay comics. And the library. And freedom of speech.

Stonehenge Aotearoa

On the way back from an awesome wedding, we stopped in at Stonehenge Aotearoa, outside of Carterton. It is not an exact replica of Stonehenge. It is a stone circle, it is a similar size and look, but it is designed to be a functioning astronomical device for its geographical location.

The henge itself is somewhat underwhelming to view. To get the real effect one would have to stay overnight, preferably at a solstice. But the overwhelming part was the information encoded in it. We were treated to a brilliant two hour exposition from Richard Hall – One Who Knows, and combines that knowledge with passion and a real ability to communicate – encompassing astronomy, Maori, Egyptian and Bablyonian symbolism and stories, the functioning of ancient civilisations, the importance of mapping time, what the stars used to mean to people and how they were used, the original symbolism of the zodiac, what words used to mean, the bizarre and awesome acoustic properties of stone circles, history and a whole bunch more. Utterly fascinating and totally worth the trip.

As a random aside, apparently most astrological star charts in use are a thousand years out of date. By the analemma at Stonehenge Aotearoa, I am actually a Libra.

yeeah

two thirty in the am. a quiet friday night in has turned to carnage. fun, bottles and glow sticks left in the wreckage of the lounge. so it goes. a deep fog over the city, lights shrouded beautifully. a calm and pleasant damp in the air.

the gods of the internet and international post conspired to deliver a book today, beauteous thing.

here is a quote from the random page turned to at a prior moment

“Well, what is writing about?” And William says “Well maybe I didn’t have my answer then, but I’ve thought about it a lot since and I think that writing is about making it happen.” […] – the fact is that what does one do then? “What does one make happen?” becomes the next question.

from Here To Go – interviews with Brion Gysin.

Robert Anton Wilson passed on

We just lost a hero.

It amazes me how much it seems possible to love someone I have never met, and how strong the sadness felt at his passing.

:'(

triumph of the will

Spontaneously this evening we cleaned and rearranged the kitchen.

You probably had to be there.

But seriously. This place has been a student flat for decades. We’re talking deep, sticky filth. Things changed colour. We filled two huge boxes of stuff and things that were everywhere but never used. We found Things. Something smelled incredibly awful but luckily it went outside at some point.

Now we have a nice kitchen.

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