Last year I had the opportunity to present a paper to a three-day seminar on publishing at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Spectral Doubling in Suzuki Koji's "Ring" was reasonably well received; especially considering only three or four attendees had seen any one of the Japanese, Korean or American versions of its film adaptation. One Japanese academic thought my structural analysis was fine but felt it was unlikely a Westerner could fully appreciate the horror of the story, unfamiliar as we are with water kami. The darkness, the chill and the damp that are so much atmospherics to a Western audience are freighted with sinister and fantastic significance to Japanese viewers. Now Pink Tentacle points to an archaeological find at Umi in Fukuoka. To some observers the googly-eyed earthenware head is clearly a kappa. Given Suzuki's Ring, this is not what I had expected.
Children and cucumbers may be good for kappa care and feeding. Just keep them away from the wasabi: Even non-Ringu kappa can be terrifying.
Paddle to the Sea Update: We do have water kami, of course. I have been unable to find the film on-line otherwise I would share it will Flea-readers everywhere. Canadians only have to read the words "Please, put me back in the water" to know what I am talking about. This Wayne Omaha tribute leaves me with a lump in my throat. You'll make it to the sea, carved-wooden-guy!
Countless "smitten" Japanese women are in search of eligible South Korean men. Thousands have gone so far as to sign up with a Japan/Korea dating agency to find a Yong-joon Bae of their very own* and some attention from men described as the "Italians of Asia".**
*Yes, I want to slap him too. But he is reportedly worth US$100 so clearly he has got something most of us have not.
**Have these women met any Italian men for purposes of comparison? I think not.
British and the Commonwealth
France, Free French and the Resistance
One of the tables is giving my browser indigestion. Those bar graph results should read: Poland, 88%; British and the Commonwealth, 81%; Finland, 75%; Italy, 75%; France, Free French and the Resistance, 69%; Japan, 50%; United States, 38%; Soviet Union, 31%; Germany, 19%.
While I am pleased by my Britain and Commonwealth result it is an honour to stand with my fellow Pole, John Donovan.
Having just watched another Americanized "War of the Worlds" I have some appreciation of the reasons people are tempted to make foreign stories local and why it is usually a bad aesthetic choice to do so. But then Toronto stands in for so many American cities on television that foreign programming often seems strangely familiar.
Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.
- H.L. Mencken
November 1933 strikes me to have been a rather bleak time in which to have lived. At least there was the demise of the 18th Amendment for which to give thanks and with it the possibility of a more refined culinary sensibility. Shelia Graham took up the subject with noted curmudgeon, H.L. Mencken.
On a related note, is a useful resource in the form of 365 excuses to get soused (Mencken makes the September edition). That end of WWII graphic cocktail graphic ought to be a T-shirt.
But it sounds more like Bossa Nova to me. Either way, this one goes out to Flea-readers everywhere: You all make my day.
This is one of those good news, bad news posts. The good news is that Morena Baccarin is stellar as problem child Adria on Stargate SG-1. The bad news is that her "Counterstrike" appearance follows hard on the heels of the series' cancellation by Sci Fi Channel; this despite a recent ratings bump from instant classic, "200". While Sci Fi has re-ordered Stargate Atlantis for a fourth season only ten more episodes of SG-1 are scheduled to air next year, ending with episode 215. Now MGM is scrambling for alternatives to save the franchise as Sci Fi claims their contract prevents MGM from producing the show for another U.S. network.* Additional episodes, a feature film, tv movies, a mini-series or a third Stargate series are all possibilities. Sci Fi Channel's attitude seems churlish. I imagine continuity issues with Stargate Atlantis might present a problem but present little excuse to prevent MGM from continuing to produce a show two million viewers a week want to watch, albeit for another network.
It is true the series had been flagging. With season ten, Stargate SG-1 is cable television's longest running drama and longest running sf series.** After such a run, fresh ideas are inevitably going to be thin on the ground; perhaps particularly by contrast with the new-model Stargate Atlantis. But an odd and unsatisfying shift in the writing half-way through Atlantis Season 2, and an infusion of new blood for "Fargate SG-1", has made the older show seem new by comparison. Adding Firefly*** to the Gate travel experience with Morena Baccarin enlivens off-world British Columbia scenery nicely.
*MGM claims Stargate is second in importance only to James Bond in its franchise ensemble.
**This according to the linked Variety article. I expect they mean continuous series. Or possibly this is limited to cable. Dr. Who has, of course, been running for decades longer on British broadcast television; albeit intermittently.
***"Inara" is the third Firefly alum to make a Stargate appearance. Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb) appeared in Stargate SG-1 Series 7 episode(s), "Heroes" while Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye) appeared as a lovable Wraith in Stargate Atlantis Season 2 episode, "Instinct".
Weta Workshop designer Greg Broadmore has designed three v. Flea-ish steampunk side-arms of the Victorian future. I am particularly impressed with the look of the Manmelter 3600ZX.
K-Punk asks us to imagine "an alternative history of pop in which glam rock was played on synthesizers." The result is the second album release by The Junior Boys, "So This is Goodbye". I first heard the first album at a record store on Roncesvalles by High Park. After "More Than Real" I dropped whatever I was looking for and walked out with music I had never heard before.* Almost the perfect way to encounter new music; unforced, unfeigned and serendipitous.
Arguably the most important moment in the whole Star Wars saga finds Luke Skywalker on his own looking out over the desert at the setting of the twin suns of Tatooine. In another scene, he explains to Threepio that "if there is a bright center to the universe, you are on the world farthest from it." Lucas is singaling his audience that Dorothy is about to leave Kansas in search of adventure. More than that, he is reaching for the place in any of us who have ever wanted to escape Tatooine. Someplace, anyplace, has to be better than this.
Regular Flea-readers will know I miss England. Not just the catastrophically glam bits of post-imperial London that are my stomping grounds or the majestic and foreign northern wastes of south Manchester. I miss Englishness as much as England. I miss Boots and Tesco Metro and the odd fillings in corner sandwiches packed for journeys by train. I miss black cabs and Silk Cuts** and the Vivienne Westwood tie selection downstairs at Liberty of London. I miss the Norrington Room and Boddingtons*** and shopping for bargains at the Penhaligon's store at Bicester. All sorts of things. It took me years to get there and once there it never occurred to me to leave.
There were a number of things which brought me back to Canada, some too personal to write about on a Friday morning. But one was sufficiently innocuous for this morning's Flea and illustrative of my point (which I am getting to); this being an ad for women's deodorant. I had been living in Manchester for two years at that point. The place has a ruins of Melniboné feel to it. The natives are friendly but it is difficult to trace an organic link between the people and the cyclopean Victorian engineering of the Ship Canal or condos in the ruins at Castlefield. More than that is the constant low-grade spookiness of the place. People may joke about the rain but it is always, always there. As one Texan friend put it, "It is hard to live in a place for so long that is so dark."
By contrast was the deodorant ad. So far from England's grim and exhausted north was a towering American landscape of shining steel and glass and women on the go. Not Melniboné but Barsoom.**** Then I spotted the streetcar and Union Station and some familiar cabs. My first thought was "That's Toronto!" closely followed by "What the hell am I doing here?" Toronto has neighbourhoods and blazing summer sun and Lake Ontario and just maybe the possibility of becoming an interesting place to be.***** In Toronto the future has yet to become impossible. I do not think you can ask much more from life let alone a city.
It is with considerable pleasure, therefore, that I read K-Punk's FACT interview with The Junior Boys. Mark has already underlined his geographical obsession with their music. He describes it as "more middle of the tundra than middle of the road" and "a deeply Canadian record: crisp and white, like the Canadian winter." When I read his blog take last March I thought the metaphor was a bit forced; a result of an Englishman confronted with something Canadian and finding he has nothing whatsoever to say about it.****** But Mark returns to the same theme with the interview and with it an apparent interest in the space of Canadianity. Perhaps it is me that is selling the place short.
The Junior Boys' Jeremy Greenspan considers making music an hour outside Toronto.
Exactly right. And something I have found difficult to explain to people from just about anywhere else (excepting Australians) (and sometimes South Africans). The great empty spaces of Tatooine are not such a bad place to be creative. After all, they had the Cantina Band. Still, I think setting their next project in Shanghai is an excellent idea. If I can come up with the cash I have been thinking of doing the same thing myself. The Junior Boys album is out in Canada and will be released elsewhere by mid-September. I have been listening to "In The Morning" over and over again on MySpace and suggest you do the same.
*I first heard The Streets in the same place.
**Foul as they are.
***People think Mentos ads are great but YouTube will have reached critical mass as soon as someone posts that Ferrero Rocher ad with the ambassador ("Excellente!"). I have been looking for it on-line for years now. Not this one. I am after the English-language version of this one.
****Given half a chance many English people will corner Americans and explain to them how lucky they are to be living in such a young country without stultifying European social conventions; this being the depressive phase of a bipolar condition familiar to Americans who have endured the condescension and cowboy remarks attending manic episodes of the same. This despite America being the oldest republic in the world and most of Europe an undergraduate social science experiment in comparison. Canadians don't get the same flak as they are generally considered to be too boring to be worth having a go at.
*****Plus, cities have a way of becoming cool approximately three months after I arrive.
******Remember, Canada is just possibly more boring than Belgium.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.
One of the most important events which never happened took place on Day 7 following the Martian landing at Horsell Common, Woking.* The engagement of HMS Thunder Child with elements of the Martian invasion force in the English Channel off the Essex coast represents one of few human victories in the War of the Worlds. Thunder Child was an ironclad torpedo ram, presumably a later sister ship to HMS Polyphemus (pictured above). Nothing is known about her Captain or valiant crew.
In H.G. Wells' alternate ending to the novel, the Martians prove to be disease-resistant** and rule the Earth for generations, using humans as livestock. Wells offers a pessimistic appraisal, one of his characters arguing the bulk of the middle-classes would soon accommodate themselves to their fate. Chapter Seven, "The Man On Putney Hill" is worth re-reading in its entirety. Yes, Wells' narrator decides the man is a dreamer, and some of the man's assessment is cold blooded, but when faced with the domestication or extermination of the human species his thinking is not unreasonable. This dreamer certainly does not deserve his treatment at the hands of Steven Spielberg; from working-class spirit-of-resistance to a mad dog fit only to be put down by an heroic Tom Cruise. Thus does Spielberg inadvertantly sum up the spirit of a debauched and degenerate twilight of civilization.
It need not end with a wimper. Some might say Thunder Child's sacrifice was in vain. The Continent could only provide temporary shelter from Martian forces and subsequent encounters with the Royal Navy end in disaster as the Martian Heat-Ray proved a devastating stand off weapon. Such thinking is profoundly mistaken. These last five years I have come to the conclusion that for people lacking a fighting elan there can be no explaining a simple truth: You can always try to take one with you.
"There won't be any more blessed concerts for a million years or so; there won't be any Royal Academy of Arts, and no nice little feeds at restaurants. If it's amusement you're after, I reckon the game is up. If you've got any drawing-room manners or a dislike to eating peas with a knife or dropping aitches, you'd better chuck 'em away. They ain't no further use."
*In June of some year early in the twentieth-century.
**Die you Martian bastards!
The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one Update: Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds still scares three kinds of living Hell out of me. This fan promo video features introductory prog-rock amazingness for Flea-readers who have yet to hear the musical. These interior illustrations from various printed editions of the story are quite wonderful. I wants the Edward Gorey edition especially.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.
Sequential hosts an interview with Marc Pageau, lone Canadian entrant to the Holocaust International Cartoon Contest; if this Dorothy Dixer "interview" format merits the name. The post features the first of four submissions by Pageau that the reality-based cartoonist has chosen to make public. The resulting words and image are at the exact limit of what might expect from someone who thinks a man in a concentration camp uniform is a source of hilarity.
I am not surprised by what the interview reveals. Pageau chose to participate in a competition whose purpose is to mock, belittle or outright deny the Shoah.* In fact, despite my questions he has yet to take the opportunity to clearly state his opinion of what is an historical fact. And from what I can make out this is the highlight of Pageau's career. I cannot imagine what I might feel as a Jewish Montrealer looking at this cartoon, reading the interview and learning how little my family counted to one of my neighbours. To repeat myself, perhaps Pageau's wit might next explore the humour in the massacre of the Roma or medical experiments on gay men and twins.
Some of Pageau's reasoning:
Which would be fine excepting two small problems. First, I imagine most German Jews "shared genes" with the Nazis who murdered them. Second, Iran is Persian, not Arab. But such are mere details to someone whose "anti-stupidity" Crusade finds only one unequivocal target; the "United-Staters" to the south. Pageau attempts to cast his participation as a freedom of speech issue. This is to ignore the rationale advanced by Contest organizers.
Is it possible the Contest organizers actually believe what they say? Perhaps. But if so, The Flea's Law is in effect: Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from existential evil.
Pageau has the freedom to express himself as he does because better men died for his right to do so. He has the ability to express himself as he does because he does not have the misfortune to be a Jew in Hitler's Germany or Ahmadinejad's Iran. But then to some people freedom is best expressed by a hurtful, attention-seeking temper-tantrum; no matter the mockery of the dead, no matter the threat to the living, no matter the embarrassment to their fellow countrymen. The fact is I do not care what Pageau has to say about his motivations; his actions speak for themselves.
And a final thought for Marc, your attempt to colour your actions as Québécois reaction to English prejudice is offensive not only to Steve Janke and myself; it is an insult to the people of Québec who will share my revulsion for your cartoon as soon as they see it. Je me souviens, aussi.
*I quote from the contest page:
So, the Holocaust did not happen, the Holocaust was a long time ago and nothing to be concerned about, the Holocaust is insignificant compared to Muslim suffering, the Holocaust is Europe's responsibility and nothing to do with Persian hegemonic ambitions. With only four impossible things to believe before breakfast the mullahs have their work cut out for them.
Lost in translation Update: So you say it was a Holocust contest? Well that's completely different.
...we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies. I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect. Thousands who had been deceived by their lying newspapers to believe that we were being whipped all the time now realize the truth, and have no appetite for a repetition of the same experience...
- William Tecumseh Sherman*
Major-General William Tecumseh Sherman was an all-time American bad-ass but one of his namesakes is a hero to Canadians. A couple hundred years after the fact it is good to discover once warring neighbours find themselves allied in purpose. This Matthew Brady portrait of General Sherman illustrates something of the man's character; not someone to cross under any circumstances. This August 22, and with at least one Mississauga housewife naming her son Khattab, I want to state for the record my first born son will be named Tecumseh. Though Sherman would also be just fine.**
Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light. Give thanks for your life and your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.
*I would have quoted "That’s a valiant flea that dare eat his breakfast on the lip of a lion." due to the flea angle but I have it out of context and consequently am unsure what he meant by it.
**Not that there is any immediate prospect of such a first born coming into existence; and with apologies to the Parental Units of the Flea for my obvious lack of organizational skills.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance. Now with extra Flea!
I am posting this link to the horrifying end of the Austro-Hungarian battleship Szent István mainly because I am astonished there is newsreel footage of the event. Also, to put an end to all the unfair remarks directed toward Captain Georg von Trapp from The Sound of Music. Landlocked, perhaps... but they so to did have a navy. Along similar lines, I had also never seen imagery of the post-WWII Japanese fleet. Haunting stuff. There is quite a bit of death in the following links so best not to get too gung ho about any of it (excepting this brutal footage of a Deutschland vs Iowa engagement).
Military Channel, YouTube user kcmmdr and the Flea are delighted to present somebody's idea of the top ten* fighting ship classes:
No 10, the Hood class battlecruiser;
No 9, the Deutschland class "pocket" battleship;
No 8, the Essex class aircraft carrier;
No 7, the Bismarck class battleship;
No 6, the North Carolina class battleship;
No 5, the Fletcher class destroyer;
No 4, the Ticonderoga class missile cruiser;
No 3, the Queen Elizabeth class dreadnaught;
No 2, the Nimitz class aircraft carrier, and;
No 1, the Iowa class fast battleship.
But wait, there's more!
Nimitz carrier operations, USS Wisconsin 16" guns considered, Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov doing its thing and some unavoidably sinister Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force footage should be more than sufficient for your immediate cubicle-enhanced naval-viewing needs.
*Minus the Los Angeles class nuclear-propelled fast attack submarine which could put an end of most of the list and then break for tea or whatever it is the Yanks drink in the afternoon.
Just so we are clear. This mock Wii vs PS3 ad is just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wong. Sautéed in wrong sauce, as Tommy Lee might put it. And let's face facts: Tommy Lee knows from wrong sauce.
So, umm, don't watch it.
Writing for The New Republic Online, Elspeth Reeve has attracted attention and criticism for her defense of Ann Coulter. While the Flea's comment section has been a bit muted this August holiday season, I would like to deflect any Coulter-themed bun fights as I have no interest in defending her pronouncements or indeed Reeve's defense of them.
Excepting this bit of the apologia which is spot on.
Reeve's observation has the advantage of being exactly right. First, in the question of the explicit aims of the great ponderous technocratic mass of the Western world's managerial and diplomatic classes. We are fine with Islam provided it is an attenuated strain of the memeplex; an Islam long on colourful folk costumes, possibly some multicultural dance and, we can only pray, cogniscent of the full equality of women. Which is to say to the Puritans among the Ummah, a respect for an Islam which is no Islam at all. Which brings me to the second point of view most often obscured by academics and media authorities alike, that being the perspective of those Muslims who feel threatened not by post-colonialism or poverty but by what we Westerners have become. It is women's liberation, gay marriage and rock and/or roll looming over the Muslim world not the sometimes hokey faith of darkest Red America. The imperialism so troubling to the Taliban is the same which nettled the cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School of the 1920s and continues to vex their latter day counterparts. It is this shared hatred and fear of democracy, whiskey and the sexy which brings "progressives", their equally anti-fun Stalinist allies of convenience, white power morons, latter-day Coughlinites and fascist supporters of Hezb'Allah together in street protest.
I continue to believe it is Britney Spears, not bombs, that will win us this war. If not Britney Spears then her sisters in that monstrous regiment of Madonna, Paris Hilton, Angelina Jolie, etc. and so on until the fight is done.
Which brings me in a round about way to my point. If you are a mullah or self-styled sheik at war with the West it is handy to sum up your foes as "Jews and Crusaders". Such have been the Satans of choice since the days of the Recitation. The Jews certainly present no challenge to the categories of a contemporary Nazi/Taliban worldview. Hezb'Allah policy, for example, is to maintain a state of "open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth." Something to remember the next time Hassan Nasrallah is lionized in the streets of Toronto and Montreal. I expect Hezb'Allah must have missed the memo about how anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism.
No, it is the "Crusaders" who must must worry the wrinkled brows of Qom. Michael Moore and Co. may play gotcha when the President misoverestimates the utility of "crusade" as a metaphor but as Crusaders go he is no Lionheart. Every six months the man thwarts the will of Congress by continuing the Clintonite policy of keeping America's embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv. If anything is slouching its way to Jerusalem to be born it is taking its sweet time about it. The mullahs and sheiks may look at us awry, squint hopefully and see Templars but in their hearts they know it is a mirage. The West has long since stopped believing in much of anything, let alone the idea that a billion or so Muslims should accept the Trinity. Hell, more than half the Western world has yet to notice the emirs and imams have levied war at all. Blood-curdling threats, thousands massacred on morning television and dozens of niche market snuff videos have failed to convince we ersatz Crusaders to take up the sword.
Then there are the Mohammed cartoons. The greatest indignity, the final insult, the square-on kick to the nuts of the jihadi worldview. Sure, to the West this may have seemed some inexplicable street pantomime of rage directed at the Danes (?) and some Danish newspaper not one in a thousand people outside Denmark had ever heard of. Even now I expect fewer than one in ten Canadians could easily point to Denmark on an unmarked map. How the mullahs must have raged. With a knife to our throats we continue to insist jihad represents inner struggle; even with his dying words Theo van Gogh still managed to suggest, "We can still talk about it!" Talk about soldiering on. Sure, hawks of the blogosphere have long pondered just what it is going to take to convince our fellow citizens to take the jihadis seriously. Now imagine how the jihadis must feel.
"I know," some Twelver devil must have thought, "if they no longer care about their Christ we must hit them where it hurts. We will mock their sacred Holocaust... then they will have to pay attention to us!" But not so fast. While the opening of the Holocaust International Cartoon Contest has attracted passing interest in the press I had to "Google Search" to find any of the cartoons in question. And let me tell you what I found was a disappointment. I was expecting Der Stürmer-grade vitriol at the very least but for the most part the contestants have little to offer beyond undergraduate leftist cant (here is the cartoon index by country) [Oops... wrong list! See below.*]. Sure there are some hook-nosed caricatures, I have mainly found those amongst the Iranian entrants, but for the most part the themes are anti-American and "anti-imperialist". As a for instance, the sole American entrant does not even rise to the level of coherence let alone offense. And as for Uzbek-hopeful, Makhmudjon Eshonkulov's suicide-bomber Easter Island moai statue I can only fall back on formal art criticism and suggest he is "taking the piss". I chose a piece by Cuba's Aristides Hernandez-Ares to illustrate this post both because it is graphically strong and because there is something retro about it in these (hopefully) twilight days of Cuban bondage. Plus freedom is surely a heavy thing for all that it costs a buck-o-five.
This CTV review of the exhibit offers no illustration of the would be offending cartoons though it does make mention of one by Indonesian Tony Thomdean showing "the Statue of Liberty holding a book on the Holocaust in its left hand and giving a Nazi-style salute with the other." Yet when I made my way through to the appropriate page on-line all I find is a broken image link. For all the death threats and war whoops and hooplah only fifty people bothered to turn up to the opening of this cartoonish excrescence. It is enough to make me suspect the mullahs lack the courage of their convictions.
*Oops, my bad Update: A Flea-reader writes to observe I am linking to the wrong anti-semitic cartoon contest! Here is the appropriate page, regrettably link-free. This latter fact might underline my belief the Mullahs may be squeamish about publicizing their views too widely to a Western audience. Though it also suggests the Der Stürmer aesthetic may be in full force.
Blue Shirts Update: Is this the face of Canada's only hope for Holocaust Cartoon victory? (with a psychic hat tip to Temujin)
I sent the following email to Québec/reality-based cartoonist, Marc Pageau and all I got for the trouble was a permanent failure notice from his email server.
Flea-readers should feel free to consider the non-Holocaust themed cartoons at Pageau's blog and judge for themselves. Non-Canadian Flea-readers should feel free to consider checking the list for their own fellow countrymen; there is no reason the Pageau on the list should take the contest in a walk. Small sidebar to James, Alan and Jay: You have noticed this fellow belongs to the Blogging Alliance of Non Partisan Canadians, right? Feel the pride in non-partisanship!
Hergé at Le Soir Update: Temujin writes with another update. Steve Janke was on this days ago. It turns out the Marc Pageau of the list is the same as the one pictured above. So, who does this guy work for?
Act, speak, and think like a man ready to depart this life in the next breath. If there are gods, you have no reason to fear your flight from the land of the living, for they will not let any harm come to you; and if there are no gods, or they are indifferent to the affairs of men, why wish to go on living in a world without them or without their guidance and care? But in fact, there are gods, and they do care about men, and they have made it possible for men to guard themselves against what is truly evil. Were there any evil in what awaits us, they would have given us the means of avoiding it.
There is an Islington dinner party game which asks players to come up with a fantasy guest list of famous people from history.* Always at the top of my list is philosopher/emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Reading his Meditations quite literally saved my life. While I have some technical questions for the man, my first motivation would be to thank him not only for having done me such a favour from so many centuries beyond the grave but for having taken the time to set down his thoughts in the first place. One of the most insightful essays I have ever read is Gore Vidal's "Robert Graves and the Twelve Caesars"; a piece in which he points out that the Roman emperors were among a relative handful of souls who have ever lived who could choose to do more or less whatever they pleased; often with unedifying results. With his choice, Marcus Aurelius not only lived a life on campaign in defense of civilization and the Light, he chose to write philosophy while he was at it.
An important difference between signing a petition decrying Israel and signing a petition condemning fascism is that the former is likely to make you popular at faculty meetings and smart Manhattan parties while the latter is adding your name to a jihadi hitlist. So, my profound thanks to Nicole Kidman, Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton, William Hurt, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Dick Donner, Sam Raimi, Sumner Redstone and Haim Saban. By standing up as free men and women they have quite literally put their heads on the chopping block. These latter-day equestrians are all people who, like Marcus Aurelius, have sufficient wealth and social position to do much as they please and precious little incentive to risk that which they have. It is a sad commentary on our times that in stating the obvious these celebrities have also exemplified an ethical act.
Remember how long you have procrastinated, and how consistently you have failed to put to good use your suspended sentence from the gods. It is about time you realized the nature of the universe (of which you are a part) and of the power that rules it (to which your part owes its existence). Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.
*The Flea's more exacting variation also insists on a boy/girl/boy/girl seating arrangement.
She's a terrific actress too Update: The Flea's idée fixe compels me to add some further Kidman-media. China Daily reports Kidman enjoys dressing up while Xinhua, relying on China Daily, reports on her latest pilate related activities. Gripping stuff for the Kidman completists. More pressing is news Hugh Hefner is after Kidman for a Playboy cover.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.
Christian Pearce considers the Rize of the Machines (pdf file). Sure, those three-thousand military robots deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq may save human life now. But it's all badlife at the end of the day (hat tip to the Flea's Network Warfare Expert).
Pearce goes on to consider the low-casualty future warfare that may be promised by the war machines. I think this is to ignore two problems. To begin with, there are the low-accountability fantasies of the Latter-day Lucas Greedo-fired-first school of thought; and the related, and equally misguided, notion it is only moral to defend yourself if you are defending yourself from droids. Second, there is the fact our enemies have already decided fighting the West on the battlefield is a losing option. It is difficult to see how the First Fighting Roombas are going to help you as your 747 is flown into the CN Tower or crippled in fire over the north Atlantic.
Some may imagine it is all black lipstick and ennui treading the boards at Savage or Funhaus. But just try walking a mile in my pointy shoes (especially in a Canadian winter). And yet there are compensations. As a for instance, I have been listening to Abney Park's "Stigmata Martyr" over and over again. That is Magdalene Veen, "last of the Kuiper Bedouins," pictured above, btw. Long has it been since I first traveled the farflung regions of the Kuiper Belt, teaching the locals my weirding way such that I might find Sanctuary (before it was replaced by a Starbucks). Their headman named me "Usul" which was cool once I realized I had misheard him.
Liber Logaeth Update: Please feel free to click over to the other Flea and lend an ear to my second latest musical effort. "Al Azif" is built up from cicada samples plus one June Bug. It turns out conducting insects is much simpler than cat herding.
I am always ready for more vampires. This Dracula Year Zero reboot may be just the ticket.
Bruce Campbell plans to remake Stryker's War. Fun.
Battlestar Galacticsimpsons is self-explanatory.
Some lucky Flea-reader may win a walk-on appearance on both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis (though reading the Flea is no prerequisite for entry). I had planned to fill out the form and kept it quiet so as to marginally improved my chances but then I read the fine print. As a non-resident of the continental USofA I am SOofL. Does my pop culture vigilance count for nothing? Stargate's Canadian production team should know I stand ready for all their cameo needs.
Tim Blair points to some EU propaganda cartoons that inexplicably failed to catch on with kids.
Finally, on a serious note and assuming YouTube is back on-line, here is John Cleese as he delivers Graham Chapman's eulogy. You may be shocked to learn the content is most definitely not safe for work.
This is a bit difficult to read but so accurate I have decided to reproduce it regardless. Normally I would just fiddle with the html to produce a more readable result but that rgb colour triangulation is too much to deal with before my coffee has finished brewing.
Danwei TV's Jeremy Goldkorn and his hard-hitting hard-hat interview up-and-coming Chinese architect, Ma Yansong. Formerly with Zaha Hadid, Ma Yansong now works through his own design practice, MAD Ltd.. While his name has yet to develop Hadid's cache, his work is already familiar to Toronto-based Flea-readers through his winning design for Toronto's Absolute Tower project. His forthcoming "Marilyn Monroe Building" is set to make Mississauga much more interesting than it has any right to be.
Ma Yansong has an Alex McQueen earnestness about him. Great shoes, too.
Now the Super Junior mix with added Flea!
Danny Boyle presents Michelle Yeoh in space, coming in 2007. Note to viral and buzz marketing firms: Basically, you just need the words "Michelle Yeoh in space" and I am going to link your product and/or service. It is all too simple, really. And that is even taking into account if your Sunshine project reminds me of all-time-piece of crap, Solaris.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand recently hosted David Fall, the soon to retire British Ambassador to Thailand. His lecture addressed the "surreal side of the world's negotiating circuit." The Telegraph has a fair summary but I would be delighted to find a copy of text on-line. His adventures in translation deserve closer scrutiny.
These days ersatz progressives march alongside Hezbollah and, in an Orwellian logic beyond the Red-Brown alliances of old, "anti-nuclear" activists support the nuclear ambitions of Iranian Twelvers; the latest farcical impasse for the 18th Brumaire of the postmodern Left (via Harry's Place). Now I find I am in broad agreement with an essay by Andrea Dworkin. Strange days, indeed.
Dworkin wrote "A Feminist Looks at Saudi Arabia" in 1978. It is a simple, and scathing, critique not only of the Carter administration but of the democracies of the West, without exception.
Well, that's depressing. Here is some Dannii Minogue to brighten up the place.
The Flea School for Wayward Expats is now proud to feature a strict course of instruction in ESL (and NSFW). Not sure who this Toshi chap might be though I confess there may be an alias or two I have forgotten (via Agent Bedhead). In related news: The Japanese fashion experience, a totally sweet Japanese cosplay goth pirate outfit and perhaps the ultimate innovation, vinyl kimonos.
Readers of Dave Navarro's blog would not have been surprised by Wednesday-night's double-eviction from the Rock Star mansion as Dave had telegraphed the possibility several days beforehand. Just remember: There are no losers in the Rock Star mansion.* Another place, another time, baby.
This week's Flea high-light was Zayra Alvarez' spectacular cover of David Bowie's All the Young Dudes. Her vocals are bit muddy in places. Umm... who cares? She has grasped the spirit of the thing exactly. Loved the platforms and form-fitting gold jumpsuit - both by Trashy Lingerie - and triumpant top hat from New York Hat Co.. More important, and just as I had suspected, internet evidence of her Spanish vocals show what she can do given the chance. Not only spandex but substance.
Which is not to knock the spandex.
*Especially after T Lee lays down the Tommyhawk and chops their asses from the show. Josh Logan has a Jay Kay soul thing going on which I am sure makes him popular amongst people who enjoy that sort of thing. But it is so wrong for Supernova so so long to Josh. Jill Gioia's fake Heart-fan routine was really getting on my tits. Good riddance. And can someone please explain to me what it is with chicks and Janice Joplin? Caterwauling for the ages; almost as bad as being forced to endure Sylvia Plath.
Agent Bedhead claims Britney Spears has finally lost her mind. Perhaps. All I know is that if I am ever sufficiently wealthy I am already sufficiently immodest as to do whatever it takes to get an AmEx Centurion card. These "black cards" were only an urban legend until American Express decided to oblige a very few of its best customers.
Long have I pondered the maxim, "Do not call up that which ye cannot put down." Certainly the spirits of Prince and '80s Bowie should not be evoked lightly. Not content with a club tour and a new home reportedly valued at $24m, Justin Timberlake has expressed an admirable goal for his new album.
I shall appoint you my executive officer in charge of radishes Update: Magni with hair.
"What time is it, Citizen?"
"It is exactly five seventy-five".
The Flea is no fan of the metric system let alone its impetus in a de-humanizing revolutionary irrationalism that so fervently imagines human lives can be abbreviated into units of ten.* That said, I am now desperate to own a French Republican calendar clock; surely the dernier cri in ironical office decor (examples here).
Fabien Chicha considers the subject alongside some achingly wonderful watches. Must. Have. Revolutionary. Time-piece! He points out the urge to fiddle with time did not end with the Revolution.
Swatch Internet Time does not begin to approach the silliness of all manner of public policy. And I can see some of these Revolutionary fashions making a comeback as soon as the House of Flea is in business.
*That is a sentence horribilis but I am too distracted just now to chop it up into two proper sentences. So, sorry about that.
Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one's enemies Update: Christopher Hitchens considers Leon Trotsky on Radio 4 (via the Drink-soaked Trots).
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.
The continuing miracle of YouTube brings back two kinds of memories. The first is Madonna's first appearance on David Letterman in 1988. Sandra Bernhard was the guest but seems to have had the double-act planned in advance. It is much less interesting than I had remembered it to be. Letterman too is less entertaining than I had remembered though, in fairness, there is a grim fascination to behold what once was Madonna's human face.
Next is Madonna's notorious return appearance in 1995. One of the odd things about memory - let's be precious and call it "cultural memory" - is that this show was so talked about that it is familiar to me even though I did not see it when it aired; let alone this uncensored nsfw clip. Madonna is impressively obnoxious (resembling approximately one-third of the women I have dated; not a bad thing in my opinion). I have not watched Letterman since I was a teenager so it could be I have missed something but this is the only time I have ever seen the man flustered.*
Oh how the tarty have fallen. Here is an unremarkable and unmissed 2005 appearance. Chicken jokes. Seriously.
*Excepting an exemplary Drew Barrymore performance which, thankfully, I did see at the time.
I am not certain how this slipped under my gorram radar: Morena Baccarin may star in Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman. IMDb even has the rumour listed. For her part, Baccarin has reportedly said she wouldn't say no to the part. I should certainly hope not.
This has all come to my attention for two reasons. First there is the release of fan documentary "Done the Impossible" (which should come with a massive multiple spoiler warning). I cannot recommend it to any but the most rabid Firefly fans but, given there is no other kind of Firefly fan, this does not present much of an obstacle. The second reason I have Firefly in mind is down to A Former Servant of Her Majesty belatedly making his way through the series.* This after a couple years of my claiming it is better than Ron Moore's Battlestar reboot. And by better I mean just as good but different.
Which brings me to a small point for Flea-readers who have not seen the show: Be sure to watch the tv series before you watch the feature film. If you watch the feature first I will never forgive you.
Great CGI for a fan film Update: Mosquito speculates about a galaxy dominated by Canadians and Ukrainians. Please. As if there is a difference between Canadians and Ukrainians.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.*
*Various instructions and suggestions for viewing: As the song title suggests, this includes nsfw language. Low contrast nightclub photography indicates the full screen option for best viewing results. And if you have yet to see Mondo New York do so by all means!
Following criticism of his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in 1996, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto asked, "Why should it matter any more?" Of course, if the actions of imperial Japan's less illustrious war dead should no longer matter it begs the question of quite what a procession of Japan's Prime Ministers, cabinet ministers and members of the royal family are paying homage to at Yasukuni.
Writing for the Nichi Bei Times, Ben Hamamoto's "Entertainment Re-oriented - Atomic Pop Part I: It Created a Monster" considers atomic imagery in post-war Japanese pop cinema. This forwarded by the Flea's Network Warfare Expert who points to the "tease" that is the title for next week's follow-up: "Next week is Part II: “The World is Super-flat;” or “What Hello Kitty has to do with The Rape of Nanking”.
Here's a riddle: What Nichi Bei Times article follows the rhetorical convention of framing the atomic bombing of Japan in the context of "Japan's wartime trauma" without giving a passing hint of events leading up to those actions; let alone the "wartime trauma" of anyone living in a 3850 mile arc from the Japanese home islands. I am looking forward to the second part of the essay. It may be too much to hope Hamamoto includes some discussion of the causal relationship not only between Nanking and Hello Kitty but Nanking, medical experiments on prisoners, "comfort women", plague warfare in China, etc. etc. and the bombing of Japanese cities. Oh, those and kicking Gojira in the nuts at Pearl.
*Except the bit about nine members of Simcoe's appointed Legislative Coucil in Upper Canada owning slaves. That is so NOT cool. Still, he banned the importation of slaves into Ontario which helped move events in the right direction. And he built Yonge Street with his bare hands; the longest street in the world. METAL!
Jon Stewart showcases cable news coverage of the end of the world. This is silly season material* but I confess I am vexed to learn about the Rapture Index. I so should have thought of it first. Flea-readers may be pleased to learn the index is down due to lack of occult activity though an increase in liberalism means it is still best to get right with the Lord.
*Excepting the blasphemy; see Matthew 24.
Porchboy forwards a link to a multi-page consideration of the subject of women in the IDF. Well, women of the IDF, at least (more here and here). All prurient interest aside*, I think these images are a testament to the importance of recognizing everyone's potential contribution in a democracy. Whether as medics or in intelligence, or in combat as fighters or officers, these women prove a point. A number of points, actually, all of which should be blindingly obvious. First, on the hand we have a society which not only recognizes but celebrates the rights of women. By shocking contrast we have their adversaries in the pay of the rape cult Republic of Gilead. There is no question whose values we must support. Second, able bodied citizens should not only be allowed but encouraged to find roles in the defense of civilization; just one more thing Robert Heinlein was right about. And third, uniforms are smoking, smoking hot.
Ynet asked two reservists to discuss their experiences of and their belief in the importance of women's participation in the IDF. It turns out there is at least one unanticipated benefit to life in the field.
The linked article has video, btw. Just saying.
*Well, not all prurient interest. Let's face facts.
"Pourquoi pas moi" is a most excellent question. Mareva Galanter was Miss Tahiti and Miss France, apparently. Also, ukulele. With much thanks and tipping of the hat to Gen-X at 40 for drawing my attention to this unaccountably fascinating subject.
I shall be making occasional updates to this post through the weekend. The weekend's theme: l'Objet Petit a.
First up: A Snakes On A Plane necklace... Not only could I not make this stuff up, at $3,900 I could not afford it either. And yet, I wants it.
Early speculation it would be wannabe Jude Law, Keith Michael who would be asked to leave Project Runway proved correct. Though it was illegal pattern-books and not a plagiarized portfolio that ultimately proved his downfull (weasel words are available). I think it is absolutely superb that Runway's producers enforced the rules. Tim Gunn: There may be an opening for you soon across town as Secretary General!
These Storm Large clips would have headlined a Rock Star Supernova post next Wednesday but they are sufficiently unsafe for work I have decided to link them now instead. The boys would be mad not to hire her for the job. She is over the top and a bit panto but in an audition to front Tommy Lee these qualities are both in the plus column.
Enjoying the "goth twang" of The Lost Patrol.
This is not yeye but it does have a '60s feel. Russ Meyer so view at your own risk.
I am a typeface.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.*
*WIth a grateful tip of the hat to Taylor & Company. This one is gold. On a semi-related note, even though Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is a bore pirates are still way cooler than ninjas. I don't even see where there is room for debate on this one.
I had not read George Orwell's "Second Thoughts on James Burnham" (Polemic, Summer 1946). The reference, and the quote, are both lifted from Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for WAR with a grateful tip of the hat. As ever, Orwell has much to say which remains of undiminished relevance to the current scene. In the quoted passage, he considers differing reactions to the progress of the war.
Orwell credits the same worship of power as a reason for later russophile feeling; "among intellectuals it is probably the strongest one."
That and the Villain Chair would mean Flea got game.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.
I had a second look at Alien Vs Predator and it was much better than I had remembered it. The cgi is beautifully rendered and, even though the piece is derivative of an odd pop culture potpourri from Hellraiser to Cube to Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica to the most entertaining of the paperback Alien and Predator novels, it has a popcorn/B-movie appeal. AVP is not so much a prequal as a before to the Alien continuity and as such it does not interfere with any future installment in the faltering franchise no matter what the die-hard fans may think of it. So how to account for the film's poor reception? A second look suggests the mistake was to think of AVP as an Alien film when it is more fun to watch as a Predator movie. Expectations thus lowered it is much easier to enjoy.
My YouTube travels for this post once again lead me to Batman: Dead End fan-trailer, the closest thing to a proper Batman film until Christian Bale stepped into the suit. Outside Grant Morrison and Dave McKean's Arkham Asylum, I have never a fan of the Joker character which I suppose demonstrates how I fail to understand not only Batman but the whole DC universe. That said, I can see why fans have expressed reservations about early casting news from the next Batman production: The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger is reportedly set to play the Joker. Though to me the problem is not the inevitable Brokeback jokes but the hours of my life Ledger owes me for A Knight's Tale and The Order; horrible, horrible work.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.
Talk about judgement. Last week's Rock Star Supernova elimination shocked audience and contestants alike as Phil Ritchie was sent home before Zayra Alvarez. Some of the scandalized think keeping Zayra on is a cynical act by producers wishing for Superstar USA-style rubbernecking ratings. Dave Navarro sets them straight:
That's telling it like it is, Dave. ROCK ON! Anyone wanting to know the score should check out this unaired clip of Navarro's pointed question to Phil during the judging (Update: It looks like this might have happened after Phil had been giving the boot as a gesture pour encouragez les autres).
Small sidebar: Releasing unaired clips to YouTube? Mark Burnett Super Genius.
Chacun à son goût Update: Since critics supposedly got it wrong about Impressionism our civilization has found it increasingly difficult to render aesthetic judgements. Perhaps giving in to Monet was the snowflake that precipitated the avalanche. Perhaps not. Either way it looks like we are reaching the bottom of the hill. I mean seriously, Roberto Cavalli vodka can only mean one thing: The Chavs are at the gates.
And another thing Update: I think Gilby Clarke was wrong about Zayra's vocals being off this week. Her voice has an engaging/frightening/enthralling Björk tonality that really came through on this one. It is precisly this eldritch quality to her voice that allowed her to actualize an insight that may have been possible only because she had never before heard the Tommy Tutone tune; the hard kernel of stalker enjoyment at its heart.
"You know Steve, you’re not very hard to figure. Only at times. Sometimes I know exactly what you’re going to say. Most of the time. And the other times, the other times, you’re just a stinker."
Possibly the best lines from any film I have ever seen. These delivered by Lauren Bacall in her first film rôle as Marie Browning, or rather "Slim", alongside husband to be Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944). Vichy French baddies, shoot-outs and Hoagy Carmichael on the piano. This one has everything. If To Have and Have Not was not already the perfect movie the wiggle at the end would have made it so. Seriously, the wiggle.
This is the first of four Bogart/Bacall films; the others including Dark Passage and Key Largo. I liked Key Largo just fine. It had the virtue of not being set in San Francisco and thereby avoiding noirish atmospheric clichés. But for all that Dark Passage is accused of gimmickry - and boy is it gimmicky - Key Largo has a staginess that I find harder to forgive in a film. At least noir gimmicks represent an attempt to figure out the new medium rather than restaging old conventions; something like the fun, adventurous mistakes bloggers make when they stop trying to pretend they are writing for a newspaper.
To Have and Have Not does not face these problems. The worst that can be said about it is that it attempts to recapture the spirit of Casablanca or that it is tangentially based on Hemingway's least successful novel. Though the worst of Hemingway stills seems to me to be something to aspire to. "I needed the money," was Hemingway's explanation of the book. A reason that is more than good enough in the book of any professional writer.
Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.