Jul 312015
  July 31, 2015

The recent outpouring of anger over the slaughter of Cecil has brought to mind Eugie and a fundamental truth about her.

An aside: For anyone who’s somehow missed it, or is reading this three years from now when everyone has unfortunately forgotten all about it, Walter Palmer, an American and human pile of waste paid enough to support a family for a year, to travel to Africa, bribe some officials, and than murder, behead, and skin a lion. To do this, he lured the lion out of a nature preserve where it would be illegal to kill it, wounded it with an arrow, and then followed it about until finally killing it with a rifle much later. The vile slimeball made one mistake. He killed a collared and very friendly and popular lion. He’s stated that there was his error, as it is apparently just fine to kill less popular animals. It also turns out it wasn’t legal to kill lions on the land he lured it onto, and hopefully that will bite him in the ass before this is done.

There’s been a great deal of outrage on social media over this senseless act, but in my streams, it has been controlled—nearing on polite (except when someone wants to use it to point out some other issue). It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a more basic, savage, unrestrained response that I noticed what was missing: Eugie’s voice. Oh, not on the Internet where people go to howl at the wind, but to me. Eugie would have been livid. Her anger would have been fierce, her expression pure. Eugie was a creature of anger. Or as she would put it, she was on good terms with her malice.

This anger was not pointed at me. We hadn’t had a fight in well over a decade. Maybe two. Too long ago to remember. She would snap, when some external influence was ripping at her (cancer comes to mind), but immediately apologize and it would be gone. I was not the target. And her true targets would seldom know it. She was not much for useless displays. Though at home, she would lay in my arms and pull down the vengeance of the universe on the very deserving.

As I said, she was a creature of anger. That’s not a surprise. She had a difficult relationship with her mother, a woman who never understood this culture and why her daughter couldn’t be a good Chinese girl—and considering how I saw her mother reacting to those who shared her background, I don’t think being a good Chinese girl would have helped. Eugie went through foster homes, and once jail—unlawfully as was grudgingly admitted later. Growing up in a racist society was a factor as well: years of “slant-eyes,” the racial slur of choice for central Illinois children in the ’70s. Racism against Asian Americans is present everywhere, yet no one notices it, and it becomes funny, if you are capable of seeing the humor. I met Eugie in a college progressive organization. They were fighting racism on campus, and no one ever said anything about Asians. Apparently it only affects others. Ah, with allies like those…

Back in those years Eugie’s anger was less focused than it would later become. Not wild, not out of control, but not the laser it would one day be. Even then it served her well. It had protected her and gotten her away from home at age sixteen—an excellent age to leave home by the way. Everyone should get out at sixteen, but that’s a matter for another time.

You see, for her, rage was a shield. Nothing could harm her through it. Racist comments were burned away. The crassness and stupidity all around, and a past most couldn’t deal with, she walked through, secure and strong. She had no need for trigger warnings. No fear of uncomfortable realities. Where I face the discomforts of the world bolstered with pride, she did it with fury.

Anger was always her protection, though it was less necessary over time. It became her fuel. It would drive her to do more, learn more, become more. Be smarter, quicker.

People don’t understand anger, or perhaps I should say they fail to understand their own anger. They let it simmer inside, eating away at their mind, their humanity, their happiness, and then erupt, saying or doing something stupid, and then it fades away again. That’s the reaction of children, and children who never grew up. It controls them. Eugie controlled it, or better, focused it.

The internet is filled with angry rants, vicious diatribes. It’s taken anger to a performance art, with screaming and obscenities tossed about as if this has great meaning and will change the world. It doesn’t and it won’t. It’s children with keyboards, even if the children are thirty.

Eugie would use it to create. Have you read her horror stories? None of them are collected currently. I’ll have to do something about that. Each is bestial, harsh. They are heavy and merciless; exactly what horror should be, and almost never is. Each tale was born of rage. In later years, she wrote less horror, but the rage can still be found, in dark fantasies, such as The Bunny of Vengeance and the Bear of Death or light ones, like Trixie and the Pandas of Dread.

Anger is what got her through her cancer treatments, until it no longer mattered. It chased away pain and kept her spirits up. On her last visit to the hospital, she was particularly uncomfortable. She couldn’t breath, and pain was lancing through her. I called a nurse, who proceeded to tell Eugie how she had no say in her own treatment. Eugie’s eyes blazed and she snapped at the nurse to leave. She turned to me and smiled saying that now that she was angry, she no longer felt the pain.

She would joke about how people reacted to us, particularly to her. How often someone would say she was gentle and good natured and kind. She was kind, or could be. But not gentle. Never gentle. It was my job to be the voice of reason, of calm. I was the nice one. She was lightning. She was beauty and intensity. If she was a goddess, she would be vengeance. Because of those perceptions, when she did let the fire through, people would jump. No one expected to see that fire and didn’t want to see it again, except me, but then, I was immune.

She loved The Avengers. It was her favorite cancer viewing movie. There are many reasons for this, but one is Bruce Banner’s secret. When he said, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry,” Eugie cried out gleefully, “Yes!” Someone else understood her, someone besides me. Not that she’d like to be compared to The Hulk—too brutish. Now She-Hulk… maybe. The façade of calm over the seething power of anger, all tightly focused, that was her.

She subtitled for first collection of short stores, And Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice. She was referring to herself. She was whimsy and malice. I’ll save the whimsy for another time. For today, it’s malice, and that is one of the ways Eugie was spectacular.

Jul 242015
  July 24, 2015

Yesterday was deadline day for our Dragon Con schedules. Things are a bit complicated for me because I have all the films to program, and their placement depends on if I need to leave time for filmmakers to speak, and that requires the filmmakers to tell me if they are coming which they never do on time–so I get a bit of leeway. But, basically, I still need my programing in by midnight.

In past years, this was a very stressful time. By the time 8pm rolled around, I was sweating, swearing at my screen, with 4 or 5 spreadsheets up, two or three browser windows, and tons of emails. During all this, Eugie would sit quietly on the chaise, reading or perhaps writing, her computer in her lap. She’d never leave. I hear that some spouses do that. Luckily I have no first hand knowledge of it. She’d stay close, just a few feet away. Every so often she’d rise without a word, and get me a cup of coffee or tea.  Come 10pm or so, when my swearing and teeth grinding had reached a crescendo, she’d slip behind me, kiss my head, and ask if there was any way she could help. I’d say no, as always, and she’d suggest some little thing to take some pressure off me–to check through my descriptions for spelling or grammar issues, to cross check guests with their panels, etc. She’d do whatever she suggested, and get it back to me in record time, then return to her spot.

Come midnight, the database was locked, and I would sit back and sigh, done, whether I wanted to be or not. And I’d finally look over at where I last saw Eugie, an hour ago or more. She’d still be on the chaise, now tipped over in some awkward position, sleeping. She’d waited for me. She always waited for me.

I would gently move her to the bedroom–a move she rarely remembered. And there we’d be. Never alone. And that is one of the ways Eugie was spectacular.

Jul 192015
  July 19, 2015

So I just got in from cutting the lawn–cutting the lawn under the blazing, life-sapping, blinding Georgia sun. Sweat dripping down my face, a general feverish heat clinging to my skin. But hey, now I have shorter grass. And there was no one to stop me going out to do so. You see, Eugie didn’t care about lawns. At all. Not a bit. Short grass, tall grass, poison ivy, triffids, it was all the same to her. As long as it stayed outside, it could be a jungle or a desert, she didn’t care.

She did care about me going out and working in the lawn, or better stated, she cared that I not do so. She cared because it was unpleasant, and she didn’t want me doing things that were unpleasant, and because physical labor in such heat was unhealthy. My health and happiness, those were things she cared about.

Now I didn’t disagree with her in any way. I am sure that someone, somewhere, can come up with a psychological explanation for people wishing to have the fronts of their homes covered by a one inch green carpet of living symmetry–something about people’s inability to process anything different I suppose–but I haven’t heard it yet. So I was in complete agreement with Eugie, yet I would still attempt to go out and cut the lawn. This was not for me, or her, but because of the bizarre organization that people happily forfeit their freedom to: The Home Owners Association. I didn’t want trouble from these forces from the twisted inferno. So, from time to time I’d put on my ripped pants and an old t-shirt and head toward the door, and hear:

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to cut the lawn?”

“No.”

“But it’s getting like, a foot long.”

“It’s too hot. And that’s too much work. It could make you sick. It’s not good for you and I want you healthy. Come sit with me on the couch.”

“The HOA is going to freak.”

“Fuck them. What are they going to do? They can put a lien on the house, which will matter when we want to sell the house. But we’re never selling the house. So, fuck them. Come sit with me.”

And I would. And that would be that. And that is one of the ways Eugie was spectacular.

 

 

 

Jul 072015
 
2.5 reels

Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) had retired from the superhero business to become a drunken private detective, though her main focus is personal: stop Kilgrave (David Tennant), a mind-controlling super villain who had kidnapped her and held her for months. Her plans are altered when Kilgrave forces his latest victim, Hope (Erin Moriarty) to kill her parents. Jones feels the need to prove Hope’s innocence which means capturing Kilgrave alive. She is aided by radio personality Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) and by Will Simpson (Wil Traval), a police officer with rage issues.

Where in the other series, theme is the most important factor, in Jessica Jones it buries everything else. This is a thirteen hour examination of abuse. Mainly it is sexual and domestic abuse. With only the slightest of exceptions, everyone is either an abuser or abused, and most are both. Jones is a rape survivor, both literally and metaphorically. Her rapist, Kilgrave, was a child-abuse victim. So was Jessica’s best friend, Trish, who also is assaulted during the series. The guy who attacks her, Will Simpson, is a metaphoric rape victim and was abused by his doctors as well as suffering from PTSD. Jessica’s lawyer (Carrie-Anne Moss) is the abuser of two domestic partners. And that’s not nearly the end. This is a parade of suffering people.

But the show isn’t about the abuse. It is about the effects of abuse. It is about recovery, or the lack there of. It is about how people deal with abuse. It’s about their fear. How they hide. How they become alcoholics and drug addicts. How it stays with them forever even if they can move on. And it is very emotional stuff. I don’t think it has been done better.

Unfortunately, the plot is less interesting. It’s not that it is bad, perhaps being the best of the Netflix MCU stories; it is just slight. The basic plot could have been covered in two episodes. Kilgrave just wants to have a good time and desires for Jessica to be at his side. Jessica want to stop Kilgrave and free a girl whose been accused of one of his crimes. That’s it. Adding in the soldier with rage issues and Luke Cage should have required another hour. There’s not nearly enough story for thirteen episodes. Even slowing things down for mood and in-depth character examinations, Jessica Jones should have been six episodes, eight if they were pushing it. But never thirteen.

Like in Daredevil, the series is extended by having Jessica and company make stupid decisions, and they do. Very stupid. It is more excusable here than in the other series because all of the people are broken and making horrible decisions in general. But it isn’t excusable enough. It gets annoying. We, as viewers, are so far ahead of the characters.

So Jessica Jones is far too slow for multiple reasons. The dialog is OK, but nothing special. The plot is simplistic and it is hard to like these folks (sympathize with—yes, but not like). But the ever-present theme distracts from the many problems. And that theme is important, so I can let the show slide here and there. But that makes this a series to respect, not enjoy.

Jul 062015
  July 6, 2015

Generally I write about film–something I know a bit about. Lately I’ve been posting on the Hugos and the Sad Puppy smell–something I am acquainted with. Today I felt it was time I brought up something I know nothing about: Japanese Metal. Why? Because it is awesome. If you follow Japanese music, you will find nothing new here, but I suspect many of you don’t.

American & British Metal has become boring. Europe has some fun things going on with symphonic metal, but the Japanese have gone in directions Westerners fear to tread. They’ve merged metal with other forms of expression to make things new and bizarre. So here are a few things you need to experience. Even if you dislike metal, these are worth your while, at least once. And one isn’t metal, but I had to include it because, again, awsomeness.

So, going from most conventional to jaw dropping:

Kishida KyĹŤdan & The Akeboshi Rockets (Metal/Anime J-Pop)

Anime opening themes have gotten harder in recent years, while still keeping that sweet pop sound. The theme for High School of the Dead took it that step further, pounding where others strummed, because you need to pound if you are a high school student killing zombies, and they kill a lot. The series is on pause, leaving our heroes in a city of the dead and Kishida and co free to move on to other anime titles.

Continue reading »

Jul 022015
  July 2, 2015

The 4th of July is almost upon us. A US holiday, and the first 4th that I will see alone. Luckily, I haven’t held much affection for Independence Day since I was a kid, when I used to go to a local carnival, and I have no problems with those memories. My wife and I had no traditions for the 4th and formed no great memories connected to it. For the last ten years, its been that day that the skunks were frightened. It has the same emotional resonance with me as the 3rd of July or the 13th of June. It is an oddity of life that I appreciate days that mean nothing to me. So this is my first 4th, but not my First, with a capital “F.”

Firsts are the closest thing to a universal I’ve found among mourners. I have heard about Firsts in every grief group, and from everyone grieving  I’ve spoken to, or those who had been grieving but seem to no longer be. They speak of Firsts. The first time something happens since the death. The first birthday, the first Christmas. The first anniversary. Every holiday is a First to survive. The often unspoken, but occasionally stated concept under this is that once you get through a First, it won’t be as bad. You’ve survived it, and now can move on.

Survivors, in the non-literal sense, has become very popular. I’m unimpressed. I’m a survivor in the literal sense, in that I survived, and she did not. I’ve no interest in playing with the term in other ways.

I’ve also no interest in Firsts.

I’ve had them. My first Christmas without her, which I got through by ignoring its existence. Her birthday–the same. There’s been many days that held some importance to us, that held special memories, and all have been little horror shows. But I take them as firsts, not Firsts. Next year I expect to have seconds, and then thirds. So far, nothing has given me any expectation that a second or third or forth will be any better than a first, and the idea is a bit insulting. As if her importance can just fade with time. It’s been nine months, and the wound is as fresh and open as it was the second week. Will it be in two years? I don’t know. I’m not that good a psychologist. That was Eugie’s area. I think it will be, and I have seldom been wrong about my own reactions, but time will supply the data.

At least there will be little new data from this holiday, and for that, I am grateful.

 

Jul 012015
 
four reels

Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska), a pair of mermaids, seduce the members of a band to introduce them to human culture. Getting legs when they are dry helps them move around. With their stunning singing voices and their reappearing tails when they get wet, the two win over crowds as part of a burlesque show. Silver takes an interest in the bass player, but relationships with humans are dangerous, and tricky as she lacks genitals, at least in the expected place. While she sets her mind on obtaining a “pussy,” Golden is finding less to enjoy and more to be concerned with. She also hasn’t forgotten that humans are generally food. A punk rocker merman, who ripped out one of his horns, warns Golden that if Silver’s love interest does not return her feelings, she will turn to sea foam, and if she loses her tail, she’ll lose her voice.

I complain about films being too familiar. It’s the same thing over and over. I’m normally happy if anything about a movie can be considered new. Well, The Lure made me very happy. A Polish, surrealistic, comedy, tragedy, fairytale, horror, art house, musical—sometimes all at once, more often swapping from one genre to the next—The Lure is as odd a film as you are likely to find. Yet the basics of human (and inhuman) interaction are grounded, so it all holds together, even as it ditches a department store musical number with dozens of dancers to move on to a blood drenched crawl in the dirt with a heart being chewed on. I never knew if I was about to see disco dancing, nudity, or an artery being ripped open, or perhaps several combined with some bittersweet romance.

In the 1980s, with the communist state still standing, but badly shaking, Poland briefly had a type of night club which was unique to that country. These were high classed establishments while also being sleazy. They were places for fine dining with the spouse as well as a good place to pick up prostitutes. The entertainment was a mix of nicely produced Western cover songs and strippers. And our mermaids end up at one such club. First time director Agnieszka Smoczynska calls upon the nostalgia for those places, and thus the nostalgia for a time of hope and dismay. But that’s about as political as The Lure gets, unless we start talking about sexism and the role of women in society. But even there, the film is more interested in eternal questions of love, men & women, and family bonds. And if any of it starts getting too deep, then there’s a song, or bared breasts, or graphic surgery.

While all of the actors do a fine job with their bizarre characters, Michalina Olszanska is something special. She dominates—a metaphoric siren as she plays a literal one. I have little knowledge of Polish cinema, but it seems her career is flourishing and I’m going to search out her work. She is a star.

The Lure will no doubt turn some people off due to its weirdness, but to me that’s its biggest selling point. This is a film that doesn’t care about the rules, but does care about its characters and its moments.