Monday, January 11, 2016

Is There Life On

Earth without Aladdin Sane?
Yes but we'll have to work a little harder for it.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Rite of Passage

New phone for Christmas. First phone I've had that does more things than make phone calls. I took my first selfies during a walk with Jade at the park today. Tried to get us and a pretty cool tree. I'll get the hang of it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to deal with tear gas, pepper spray, etc.

I've posted these links a few times over the years - once for our friends in Iran who were non-violently protesting and being oppressed by their government, again for our friends in Egypt, and now tragically, for our friends in Ferguson, Missouri.

Tear gas and medical info for protesters

Wiki pepper spray/tear gas info

How to deal with tear gas

Another How to deal with tear gas

Wiki how to deal with riot control agents

On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014

But I'll Miss You

Philip Seymour Hoffman is perhaps now in a box with wings on it, with tiny pieces of pizza inside.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hey, Austria is stupid about pot too! Love, USA

An Austrian man grew "up to" 3 - 4 marijuana plants a year for 8 years in an area where no other human being could ever possibly come across them.  This strikes me as an extremely small operation with absolutely zero danger to the public in so much as a visitor, hiker or other person stumbling upon a marijuana plant = danger.

A 59-year-old Austrian zookeeper has been sacked after planting and cultivating up to 30 marijuana plants in a rhinoceros' cage over an eight year period.
The elaborate operation was discovered at the Hellbrunn Zoo near Salzburg after a tip-off from one of the keepers' drug clients.
The man was the only human allowed in the enclosure, which allowed him to tend to his plants without suspicion.
The rhinos never ate the cannabis plants.

Elaborate?  I think your definition of elaborate is elaborate.

Zookeeper sacked for growing drugs in rhino enclosure

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Movie Recs

A bunch of movies I've seen recently, no spoilers:

Pacific Rim - I love Guillermo del Toro but can't help wondering when this speed o' light editing fad is going to go away.  Soon I think all a movie theater experience will entail is being strapped into a kind of Clockwork Orange eyeball chair and staring at a screen for 30 minutes.  The sound in the theater was so loud, my chair vibrated non-stop.  They charged extra for that.

The Painted Veil - A British couple and their marital struggles in a cholera stricken Chinese village in the 1920s

The Maid (La nana) - One woman's wins and losses over her personal demons.  If you like slow paced stories, this will be a good fit.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - This was sweeter and sadder than I thought it would be.  I wish they would have included the dog more at the end.

Lawless - I was looking forward to this too much I guess because it disappointed.  All I could think was Sam Peckinpah wannabe.  But "Screenplay by Nick Cave" is not something you see everyday.

Cloud Atlas - I liked the people/time relativity aspect but the makeup effects were distractingly awful. I would need to watch it again to get more out of it I think but not sure when I'll have another 5 hours to spare.

Hotel Transylvania - A good surprise.

For Your Consideration - Christopher Guest and his usual suspects never fail to deliver.

Searching for Sugar Man - Documentary chronicling a South African journalist's quest to find out what happened to Detroit musician Rodriguez, who is bigger than Elvis in S. Africa.  Money is the root of all evil.

Plus more that I've forgotten - intentionally or accidentally.  If I don't write them down immediately, I'm likely to forget.  And I never write them down immediately.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hell Hath No Fury Like Upstream Color

Spoiler Alert:  I have seen Upstream Color twice.  The first time I purposefully avoided all reviews so I could watch it without expectation or bias.  I read one lengthy explainer before the second viewing which I wish I hadn't.  So if you haven't yet watched the film and depending upon your preference, you might not want to read this post.  But please, come back later after you've watched and share your thoughts.


If I was forced to categorize the film Upstream Color I would put it under Love Story. But it's more than that, obviously. Like an actual love story, the movie is about how we identify as individuals and as couples. The first portion is a depiction of two men of ill will who use a rare worm from the soil of a colored flower to drug a victim for personal gain. They target a film editor, Kris, rob her of her free will and personal wealth then use her for medical experimentation with a pig before erasing her memory and dumping her at the side of the road. As a result of Kris's lost time, which evokes alien abduction comparisons, she loses her job and is left penniless.

While each man involved in the heist works alone, they are working in concert, as is made clear by the end of the film. A pair of lesser involved boys who appear to be friends are paid for their services in the form of a heavily diluted drug from the worm which allows them to briefly lose their individual identities and function as one. It's a high for the kids and I found myself feeling the vicarious thrill while sympathizing with the trepidation expressed by one of the boys who, when asked if he's ready to temporarily give up his individuality, answers "No."

We next meet Kris about a year later. She seems more fragile, less confident and highly withdrawn. She meets a man named Jeff on a train and they are strongly drawn to one another. It's is Jeff's determination and self-confidence which overcomes Kris's inability to respond to her own emotions and they become lovers. In the course of their developing relationship, it becomes apparent that Jeff too has undergone an episode of lost time and that the pair is linked by more than spatial relativity.

Kris explains her experience by revealing that she suffers from mental illness and takes prescription medication to manage it. Jeff eventually admits that a substance abuse problem caused him to embezzle money from clients and lose his broker's license. Each character has built up a plausible scenario to explain away the bizarre episodes they suffered. I love the gender insights apparent in their explanations. The female character internalizes the loss of her identity and believes that something must be wrong with her on a fundamental level and so obtains the mental illness diagnosis and treatment.  The male character externalizes the loss of his identity and attributes it to a temporary cause, substance abuse, which allows him to function relatively normally and retain a sense of personal strength.  He was broken but he fixed himself.  Whereas Kris was broken and can only be made to function at a minimal level through the use of medications.

We are periodically shown a pig farm run by the man who conducted the medical experiments on Kris and the pig and in fact we see that same pig in the drove.  As Kris and Jeff share childhood memories, the issue of individual identity is again called into question when each accuses the other of stealing stories, e.g. both remember being held underwater by the same neighborhood kid.  The concepts of collective memory and morphic resonance both jumped into my mind at this point and I couldn't help trying to connect them to the drove of pigs.  In fact the pig farmer regularly holds out his hand near the pigs and is able to observe the lives of the humans connected to them.  It's clear the pigs are resonating the experiences of their human counterparts and the farmer is absorbing them through his outstretched hand.

When the pig connected to Kris becomes pregnant, everything starts to unravel.  Both Kris's pig and Jeff's pig become agitated and violent - behavior which transfers to their human counterparts.  At this point we learn the disturbing source of the colored flowers and the rare worms which inhabit their soil and are used to drug victims such as Kris and Jeff.  The farmer uses a catch pole to lock Kris and Jeff's pigs away from the drove and then scoops up their litter of piglets into a burlap sack.  He drops the sack into a river where the piglets drown and over time, their carcasses rot, emitting gasses which flow into the water, giving rise to the colored flowers upstream.

Meanwhile the barriers which had previously allowed Kris and especially Jeff to function normally abruptly break down.  Kris learns from a doctor that the procedures performed on her have rendered her incapable of bearing children.  She begins a frantic search for what must be her pig's missing piglets, desperately pleading to Jeff, "I've been looking for them everywhere!"  His response is not the expected, "Looking for what?" but a telling, "Looking for who?" which is the first glimpse into Jeff's acknowledgement of the unbelievable truth.  He knows, without Kris ever saying, that it's a who that is missing, not a what.

As Kris and Jeff evolve into a greater state of acceptance of what has happened to them and their connection with the pigs on the farm, it's apparent that definitive action must be taken.  That action comes not from the traditionally strong male character, who at this point is at a low level of functionality, mindlessly chewing salad greens at a table, but from the female whose newly found sense of purpose manifests in the form of maternal vengeance.  She crosses the plane from resonance to reality and shoots the pig farmer to death.

At the farm, Kris and Jeff find the records of all the other people who have been similarly victimized and contact them by mail.  The group assembles and begins a new life as caretakers of the pigs to whom they are connected.  The people are shown interacting with the pigs lovingly and it's evident that there will be no more drowning of piglets in the river.  The point is made clear at the end when the search for colored flowers upstream turns up empty and the rare worms from the soil can no longer be harvested.

So, a love story.  Involving identity, what it means to be an individual, how we identify in pairs, whether our memories are real, collective, individual or erased, and how we cope with our experiences of things such as mental illness and regret based upon gender and instinct.

I'll be watching this film again.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

We Don't Remember Days

or how to spell words we just wrote 4 seconds ago.

For sale at The Dollar Store in Columbia, SC on April 14, 2013.