Friday, March 27, 2009


Schadenfreude is it wrong if the ‘other’ is a complete dick

Like Birmo’s and Flinthart’s offspring The_Weapon takes training in unarmed combat. To learn students are paired up and practice the demonstrated techniques with instructors watching and correcting.

At the dojo where he trains he is frequently paired with the same ukei (training partner) of similar age and size. Part of martial arts training is learning to be a good ukei: using the correct strike, moving the right way to help your partner practice the throw etc.. The kid he is paired with is not a good ukei. He tries to punch when he should use a strike, comes in too fast when they should be practicing the timing, moving out when practicing a throw to make it harder…generally being a dick.

We have tried to help The_weapon take this with focus and dedication to the discipline. We figure he is going to have to deal with idiots all his life may as well develop ways of dealing with them now. So when he has coped the odd blow to the head, kick in the shins etc… he will get up, brush it off and take up the posture ready for the next technique.

All the senior students, instructors and head of the school are aware of this ukei’s attitude, so they try to rotate him around different training partners.

Last night they paired this crappy ukei with a new student, a white belt, and as a new student will, they messed up the strike and accidentally landed a solid blow to the crappy ukei’s nose.

This kid who had often punched, stepped on or tried to trip The_weapon during training -fell over on his arse, looked up at his shorter and newer opponent and jumped up running from the mat ‘crying like a little girl’ as later described by the_weapon.

I swear the instructor at the time looked at the parents and smiled when this happened.

So is Schadenfreude still Schadenfreude if the ‘other’ really deserves it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

Well me, obviously.

Twice now.

Once on the BIG screen at IMAX who tout their movies with the tagline - “Trust us......SIZE DOES MATTER!”

and once in Village Cinema's Gold Class, “mmm why yes - bring me the double wagyu burgers with tomato jam, cheese, lettuce, with onion relish served with shoe string fries and garlic aioli. Then for desert I’ll have the mixed berry cheesecake with grand marnier compote and mascarpone with my coffee, bring it out 30 minutes before the end”. For complete menu click here.

What did I think, - let me set the scene

Watchmen has been described, as the Moby Dick of superhero graphic novels and it must be a novel since it was included in Time Magazine’s 100 greatest novels of all time, Click here for the full list. Though with Phillip.K. Dick’s Ubik on the list a Mind-fraking component must have been included high on the priorities for selection. Watchmen used tropes and tabulae of images in the way big screen cinema had been using them for years and so it was this graphic novel that challenged the way such novels were perceived at the time. For the movie to have the same impact it would have needed to do cinema in a way that drew on the techniques of other media.

Reading it in 1987 would be different to reading it now. I don’t know if it was in the 80s the US, UK and to a lesser extent Australia seemed to be facing economic and social woes that gave rise to an atmosphere of imminent collapse. Maybe it was my itinerant sharehouse lifestyle complete with transitory screaming random housemates, the marginal paying, time-shifted macjobs we all worked, the sense that the 20th Century was circling the drain of history that made the existence of masked vigilantes and indifferent world shattering forces as not only believable but indeed required. This and the increasing belief that the future held an absence of any shinny jetpacks, moon bases and hot android women added to a feeling of hopelessness and despair that the comic/graphic novel captured.

So Watchmen, though I didn’t realise it at the time, was the fear stink of sweat, semen, and blood of an era coalesced into a thick slab of a slowly crumbling paper.

Watching Zack ‘300’ Snyder’s WATCHMEN unfold on the big screen I was seeing a significant, much contemplated and beloved chunk of my youth up there in homage. That just doesn’t happen to me, usually its all boomer aging or gen Y angst.

BIG props to Zack Snyder who I can only imagine must as big a fanboy as the rest of us given how he lovingly recreates the novel. Almost every scene is a fractal of the complex story and panels worthy of framing.

The casting was for me spot on. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Supernatural’s John Winchester) as Edward Blake/Comedian, Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs/ Rorschach being my stand out favorites only because they were my favorites in the novel.


Anything with Rorschach

Is that what happens to us? A life of conflict with no time for friends, so that when it's done, only our enemies leave roses”.

"It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us".

Rorschach could have been a poet. Okay maybe a crazy, super-violent poet, but a poet.

For me the two scariest parts of the film are

when Dan Dreiberg is standing in the midst of a riot plaintively decrying

What's happened to the American dream?” And the comedian smiling as he turns back from knocking down a protester with a smoke round (technically non-lethal) answers “It came true. You're lookin' at it”.

Dr Manhattan’s old colleague Wally Weaver is on a talk show and calmly and sanely says: “I never said the superman exists, and he's American. What I said was God exists, and he's American. If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments consideration then don’t be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept only indicates that you are still sane”.

No its not in it.

Yes I think the ending they went with still works

Damn I did want to see that squid up on the big screen though.

But even in my most fanboy hopeful I KNEW they couldn’t keep the same ending.

For those who have read the novel you know there was NO WAY after 9-11 any studio would make a movie that recreated the first 8 pages of Chapter XII on the big screen as haunting and eerie as it could have been done up on the big screen.

The reviews and box office are mixed and I have read a lot now.
For an surprising take, check out some of the reviews here, really check them out.
It shows that Christian doesn’t mean fundamental, bigoted and narrow minded. A few provided an insight from a religious perspective on the movie that gave me a different but valid viewpoint seeing it as a morality play, a discourse on the materialist and the divine, etc.

Then of course some are just plain bat-frak crazy too, especially as they offer a section titled ‘comments from Non-viewers’ for those who want to say something WHO HAVE NEVER SEEN THE FILM.

Some of the comments/complaints in the reviews are about the violent and graphic nature use the scene in the prison saying “....By the way, the guy could have easily cut through the bars on the other side, since Rorschach's cell was quite wide. This is what I mean when I say excessive violence… there's often no point whatsoever other than to shock the audience, which makes it somewhat similar to the 'horror' movies of today”.

This is mistaken on two levels:

  • Thematically -it helps reinforce the brutal, callous nature of the criminals that Rorschach faces everyday.
  • Mechanically -as they are constrained for time they want to cut the least number of bars. They could cut through the bars further down but to make a sufficient space to allow access would mean cutting 3 bars twice, top and bottom. Instead they could cut the arms and get access to the two bars around the cage lock. Cutting two bars and the lock falls, cage open.
It’s a case of cutting through 2 arms is faster than cutting twice through a jail cell bar.

*****SPOILERS OFF*************

What will people who've never read Watchmen even think of this film? What will it be like for them to sit through these crazy, violent, colourful three hours and not recognize almost every line – almost every image? Will they be utterly baffled, bored, or totally love it?

Perhaps if the economic downturn continues and this coming decade brings with it the every increasing hopeless and despair that the 1980s held then the movie will be reassessed.

Is Watchmen a good or bad movie? I have no idea.

I’m going to go with the words of Matt Selman, The Times on-lines nerd in residence.

“I stand powerless before the Gods I once worshiped in my attic bedroom, now moving and talking and fighting and loving on a giant screen. And I find myself unable to judge them”.

But remember if for nothing else Zack ‘300’ Snyder deserves our thanks (and nothing would say thanks better than going to see it a few more times) for preventing the studio’s from committeeing the novel to death. Because for all the movie's magnificent follies we could have ended up with this:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lunch, certainly not naked

Guru Bob and I caught up for lunch on friday, a fairly regular thing since we both work in the CBD.

Once we'd choose a different eatery each time, but now we stick with a great noshing place up a narrow, cobbled, crooked lane way in Melbourne that should lead to an opium den but instead reveals the 'Dainty Sichuan Food', and having eaten there - that word 'Dainty', I do not think it means what you think it means.
So each week we are working our way through the menu.

If you get there between 12.30 and 1.30 PM it also has the advantage of turning into Asian babe central. I think we can all agree you can never have too much spicy food or being surrounded by Asian babes eating spicy food. Another reason we keep going back is we see stuff people have ordered and we try to order it going on the names. Up till now that has being pretty hit and miss. This time as well as the usual menu they also gave us one of the novices menus which includes pictures of each of the the dishes.

This week it was:
• 'cumin pork spare ribs' - our must always have when we go,
• 'ants climbing the hill' which was surprisingly free of ants, and

• pork slice hot pot, and when they say hot pot they mean in spice, not temperature.

We then headed up to catch 'Watchmen' on IMAX but that's a topic for another post.