Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Dir.Mamoru Oshii
As far as I know, this isn’t based on a manga by Masamune Shirow,
but a film-only sequel to one of the best post-Akira sci-fi anime on the last decade.
With “The Major,” the female cyborg hero of the first film, living inside the ‘net/Matrix/computerverse, the sequel focuses on her partner, Bateau, a cyborg with a human brain, and his rookie partner, Togusa, a human with a synthetic brain.
The plot is police-procedural–investigate the homi- and suicidal impulses of pleasurebots (called gynorgs here), who have taken out their wealthy industrial johns. What is causing this breaking of one of the three robotic laws?
As GITS2 (great acronym!) progresses, it becomes apparent that the suicides, as well as Bateau’s outre responses to them (taking on an entire yakuza den with clever holography and a bloody great fun) are chess moves to draw protag and antag together. The solution to the mystery is a nice inverse on the idea that prostitution–in particular child prostitution–destroys the soul.
In between GITS2 delivers some of the most beautiful set pieces and animation so far in animation. Blending 2D and 3D animation, a painter’s eye for light, an otaku’s attention to techie detail, the film demands repeat viewing. Certain sequences deserve a mention: Bateau’s paranoid attack in a convenience store brings us fully into the subjective view of its cyborg brain; Kosuga’s brain-viral attack that leads into a Moebius loop of a nightmare narrative sends the film off into a Borgesian dimension.
It’s a very restrained film, and chilly in its diagnosis. Yes, the “soul” might be what separates the humans from the borgs (even when that line is blurry), but when soul becomes rare it turns into, in a capitalist system, a commodity

Puffy live!!

Last night I went down to L.A. to see Puffy (known in the States as PuffyAmiYumi) play the House of Blues. My companion: the estimable Jonathan Crow, who says he remembers the day I first played him their debut single (the never-bettered “Ajia no Junshin”) in the car while driving around Tsuchiura. So, amazingly, it has come to this, eight years later. Tamio Okuda’s “idol” group kept on keeping on, and now is poised to go American pop-sub-culture mainstream with the premiere of their Cartoon Network show next month. They’ve scored a hit with the theme song to the Teen Titans cartoon, a level of American saturation most Japanese bands would only dream about.
It helps that they have good songwriters and producers (Tamio, Andy Sturmer, Velveteen), a crack back-up band (known as Dr. Strangelove, aka Tamio’s backing band), and they can actually sing in tune (in harmony), something not often called up in the ‘gambatte’ culture of Jpop.
This concert ended up costing a lot of money. Sure, tickets were $20, but after Ticketbastard service charges, that went up to $32. Then because it was at the House of Blues on Sunset (“located in a cool part of town with no parking”) we had to valet park, a whopping, criminal $15. Fortunately, the tour T-shirts blew and I felt no need to get one.
We waited in a line that stretched down Sunset, and got in just after Puffy had finished their second song. And we turned up on time, too!
Anyway, the band just focused on their most rockin’ numbers. “Jet Police” is a good ‘un, as is “Akai buranko”. In between patter was written up on crib sheets and they were cute in an exchange student way. I expect most new fans assume the two are in their 20s, whereas they’re crackin’ on into their 30s.
They encored with “Ajia no Junshin” which just capped off the night for me. Ahh, pop satisfaction. Who woulda thought I would have ever seen this live?
Because they are promoting their Cartoon Network show, they came back on after and taped a song for a New Year’s Eve concert for the network. We were asked to pretend it was now Dec. 31, 2004 and we counted down to one. A net full of balloons hanging above the crowd failed to break and instead, like a giant white sausage, floated down on to the crowd. It will be interesting to see how that gets edited…
UPDATE: If you’re curious about the “service charges,” here’s the breakdown, for the two tickets I bought:
Total Building Facility Charge(s) US $2.00 x 2
Total Convenience Charge(s) US $7.70 x 2
Order Processing Charge(s) US $3.75
ticketFast Delivery US $2.50
I won’t even pretend to know what the difference is between the “convenience charge” and the “ticketFast” charge. You mean I should pay you money for the use of an online database and sending me a pdf file? It’s not like you even had to use ink to print it out. Nobody helped me, so who had to process this? My judgement? These are bullshit charges that Ticketbastard makes up.

Don Hertzfeldt…poet?

Apart from being the master of stick figure animation, Don Hertzfeldt has been posting poems on his blog made of nothing but spam text. Enjoy.

enjoy the status of platinum today
building vicodin shut
enhanced penis pill is amazing
why arent you watershed goblet
if pizza be the food of love
i can hardly feel the device under my pants


what would your family do if you died?
Allow us to show you our quality operation
see the fish come alive!
mature lesbians rubbing their armpits
Find that special someone!
Tooth whitening of the stars
With exclusive peeing Belgian girls
if you don’t wish to receive these offers, go here

Really, you should check out the rest of the blog. Can’t wait to see the new film, four years in the making!

Shaun of the Dead

Dir. Edgar Wright
After many a year of bad, bad, bad zombie films
(running zombies=wrong! Resident Evil=where’s the gore?), “Shaun of the Dead” gets it so right, and understands its genre so well, that I immediately want to put it up in my list of Top 10 zombie films (including the first two Romero films and Jackson’s “Dead Alive”).
The key is that the filmmakers aren’t making fun of the genre–they’re placing characters from another genre (slacker comedy) into a zombie film. Big difference. I don’t usually like comedy in my horror, but here it works, because the makers are sniggering “Aren’t horror films stupid?”
Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his useless friend Ed (Nick Frost) spend most of their days lounging about the house they rent, playing XBox, going down the pub, assaulting each other with farts. Shaun has a dead end job in an appliance store, at least, and has a girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), but his idea of a good time is…taking her down the pub. With Ed.
No time is wasted setting up the zombies–taking his idea straight from Romero, the zombies are activated by a satellite re-entering the atmosphere–and much of the pleasure of the opening third is seeing how long it takes this workaday drone to cotton on to the fact that the dead now walk the earth. (“Sorry mate, I don’t have any change”) he says to one young flesheater as he walks home from the shops. Anyway, Shaun is too wrapped up in his heartache from being dumped to notice.
The rules have been studied well. There’s a rescue attempt (girlfriend, her friends, his parents), a journey across familiar-now-hostile territory, then refuge in a safe haven (the pub) that slowly turns into a trap. Members of the team get bitten, and slowly turn into zombies. There’s a finale of humans vs. overwhelming numbers of zombies.
The television acts as a reality check and a framing device for the horror elements, like in the original Night. There’s a nice scene where they channel surf and we get to see all the cable channel logos, all with the same “standing by” message. In the end, television culture turns out to be as resilient as the humans.
There’s no holding back on the gore in the latter half of the film, and we get a nice homage to Day of the Dead’s stomach-buffet scene. Thank goodness for that–I had nearly given up all hope.
Apparently, Romero loved the film enough that its said the lead and his writing/directing partner will appear in the upcoming fourth installment of the director’s series, called Land of the Dead.
For sheer pleasure and laughs, you gotta go see this.
(If you have a multi-region DVD player, you can already buy this from Amazon UK. I doubt if the American release will retain its many extras.)

How much caffeine?

Holy moly!

Starbucks must be banking on the theory that the people who buy its coffee don’t just need coffee, they need Starbucks coffee, which packs a higher caffeine punch than many competitors. The Wall Street Journal earlier this year sent samples of coffee from Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and Dunkin’ Donuts to Central Analytical Laboratories. The lab reported that a 16-ounce Starbucks house blend coffee contained 223 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 174 and 141 milligrams in comparable amounts of Dunkin’ Donuts and 7-Eleven coffee, respectively. According to the Journal, the average Starbucks coffee drink contains 320 milligrams of caffeine. (This chart from the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows different measurement levels, including the scary finding that a 16-ounce Starbucks grande has nearly three times as much caffeine as a No-Doz.)

Pop Surrealism? Lowbrow Art? Whatever you say, we likes it.

You won’t be surprised that I’m looking forward to this book, which may already be out. Last Gasp Online Catalog – POP SURREALISM: THE RISE OF UNDERGROUND ART. I’m curious at how much is “surrealism” and how much is wanting a better label. Artists include Anthony Ausgang, Glenn Barr, Tim Biskup, Kalynn Campbel, The Clayton Brothers, Joe Coleman, Camille Rose Garcia, Alex Gross, Don Ed Hardy, Charles Krafft, Liz McGrath, Scott Musgrove, Niagara, Marion Peck, The Pizz, Lisa Petrucci, Mark Ryden, Isabel Samaras, Todd Schorr, Shag, Robert Williams, Eric White, and XNO.
I don’t know if Shag is exactly “surreal” so we’ll see.
Anyway, here’s an interview with the author Kirsten Anderson, who runs the Roq la Rue gallery in Seattle, which done started it all.

Real Estate in Heaven

Fundie fun today with a page of photo suggestions of what your house may look like in Heaven. At first I thought this was a parody, but it’s some guy’s half-serious attempt at a thought (he also runs a Rapture-o-meter). Questions: Does God keep up with Western architectural traditions? Shouldn’t your house up in cloudland look more like those in Jesus’ time? Do you have to pay for utilities? Who does the landscaping? Did they have “mansions” back in Judeah?

In John 14:2-3 we read, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’
The Bible says that each believer will be rewarded according to what good deeds he performed here on earth. I thought I’d speculated on what type of abode many Christians might find when they walk up to their heavenly mansion.

All Entertainment All the Time

Mark Edmunson, a professor at the University of Virginia, has just released a book, “Why Read?” that takes on the modern educational system. In this excerpt, he points out how the liberal arts has been reduced to pure entertainment–education as commodity.

All Entertainment All the time
So I had my answer. The university had merged almost seamlessly with the consumer culture that exists beyond its gates. Universities were running like businesses, and very effective businesses at that. Now I knew why my students were greeting great works of mind and heart as consumer goods. They came looking for what they?d had in the past, Total Entertainment All the Time, and the university at large did all it could to maintain the flow. (Though where this allegiance to the Entertainment-Consumer Complex itself came from?that is a much larger question. It would take us into politics and economics, becoming, in time, a treatise in itself.)

I want to credit this link, but I’ve lost the link page! Whoops.