Saturday, May 31, 2008

Post 100: One of My Favorite Movies (and favorite musical) Of All Time

Release Date: 2001
Directed by Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike is known for fairly controversial films. Whether it be the ultraviolent Ichi the Killer or the influential cult horror hit Audition, it's one thing after another.

Most of his films play to a very niche audience (especially in America, where he's generally unknown) but this one really strikes into unknown territory. Despite his penchant for the gory and violent of cinema, this film (a remake of a so-so Korean film called The Quiet Family) is nothing short of one of the best cinematic expressions of joy and happiness.

Let me open with the first video I can find, and we'll work our way up from there. The follow: one of most abstract title sequences you can hope to ever find.

This film stars the Katakuri family, all four generations worth. The father, Masao, decides in the middle of his life to give up his job at the department store and move his family into the country where they'll start a bed and breakfast. Going with him is his wife Terue, his two children, wild child Masayuki and wide-eyed divorcee Shizue (with her young daughter Yurie) and his father, Jinpei (Ojisan to you!).

Once there, they realize that it helps to build where people come, as weeks pass without guests. Part of that, some of them believe, is the inauspicious omen that comes over them, cursing their house to suffer.

Spirits look up when one dark and stormy night they get their first guest. However, when they go to check on him the next morning, they find a shocking surprise:

Deciding that it'd be better to hide the body of their guest than report his suicide, they hide the body. However, a string of guests that meet similarly grizzly fates push the family to the breaking point -- with song and dance!

Other highlights include the daughter Shizue falling in love with the charismatic Richard Sagawa, who threatens to intrude on the family and expose their secrets.

As tensions mount, it is up to Masao to keep his family together, with the help and support of his wife. In the following scene, they discuss where to move their mass grave site to in order to avoid the attention of highway construction and the now-suspicious police.

Things keep growing stranger all the way to the end, like this scene when the young girl Yurie stumbles upon the graves that have been exposed by a storm and an earthquake.

The tragedy of this story is this: everyone should see this film, but nobody has. I found it almost entirely by accident, and all of my closest friends have seen it, but I've never come across another person that has. Furthermore, the DVD is no longer available to buy new online for anything resembling a reasonable price.

THANKFULLY it is available through netflix, which by this day and age most people either have or can mooch off a friend's account. Because, to be quite honest, I don't think anyone's life could be complete without this touching, heartwarming, awesomely entertaining musical extravaganza.

But enough hyperbole! WATCH IT!

Friday, May 30, 2008


So on Wednesday I went to Family Fun Center with Tony and Kathleen. Family Fun Center is the local arcade where all the cool games hang out (despite the most atrociously inefficient maintenance crew evar).

The main reason to go was for the Bemani, of which they have tons of types. But unfortunately, the Pop'n Music machine had two broken buttons and all that was left was ParaParaParadise. Hours of ParaParaParadise.

Needless to say, my arms were rubber. I've been working on getting better slowly at home, but it had been months since I had played seriously and I don't think I had ever played that many times.

So I'm still feeling sore, 2 days later. Lovely. Oh well.

There was a death vortex forecast for yesterday, which isn't so fun considering the crazy amount of tornados this year. So I had to unplug Ghita and let her sit out the ensuing lightning blitzkrieg (rather redundant, ja?) and was left with little to do but to replay a case in Phoenix Wright and then sleep. Sleep lots. With crazy dreams that might have been in HD. They felt abnormally vibrant.

Today is Friday. I'm left with some options about how I want to spend my evening. I could go out and finally see Indy 4, or head to my favorite bar with Adam. Because my job transition has put me into a weird paycheck thing, I'm thinking I'll probably end up going with movie, since that's cheaper, but we'll see how the day plays out.

This weekend is reserved for trying to get back into the writing groove, which has been incredibly difficult. I'm tempted to work on the new project, but I'll likely end up finally writing a bit for my serial fiction Hiroki Sugai. I think it may be easier to get back into writing with short fiction than it will be to try to jump headfirst back into my novel after so much time off. But I'm not positive, and in the end it's all a bit of a crapshoot.

Now that Boston Legal and House are done for the summer, I lack a show to watch. I don't know really what I should go for next, if anything. I'm currently catching up on Boondocks and watching Dirty Jobs on and off.

I really really want to play MGS4 now that it's on our doorsteps. I've been a huge fan of MGS for years now (I even like Raiden!) and having to sit one out doesn't make me happy. But, I refuse to buy a PS3. It's just ... not worth it. Two games (MGS4 and FFXIII) do not justify that kind of price tag. Going the Wii60 route, even if it limits me from two of my favorite series, is much more cost-effective and fulfilling in the long run.

Is that it? Hrm, I think so. Expect a music-related post this weekend, but outside of that I'm not sure I have all that much to say. Sarah's been bugging me to offer writing-related posts, but I really don't have that much writing news. I'm lazy, I'm struggling, and while I could write angsty emo-poetry about my writing troubles it's not exactly going to be something I want to share.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dialogue with Doubt

A dark room with a harsh cone of light coming from the one exposed bulb hanging from the ceiling. There's the two of us there, me nursing a cup of coffee and the man on the other side of the table smoking what must be his third cigarette in the ten minutes we've sat in silence.

How I've ended up here is anyone's guess. Certainly when I was out in the bright world of colors and subtlety I didn't think it would lead me here. When I fell from the daylight into this dank musty-smelling box of a room all I could do was look behind me and think why?

I don't get a chance to think too long about it. The fellow on the other side, him with the long face and the fierce eyes, puts out his cigarette in the small metal ashtray already half full and leans forward, speaking around the lungfull of smoke that pours from his mouth.

"So tell me, Matt, how have you ended up falling this far?"

I take another drink of my cup, staring down into the depths of the liquid in the cup. It's black, the harsh ligthing removes any tone of brown from it and I'm left drinking something that looks like night and tar. It's easier to look into that void than into his eyes.

"Couldn't tell you. One thing lead to another, and here I am in this room ... wherever this room is."

"This room ... well, better to not say anything yet."

"Don't tell me," I say. "I've hit bottom."

He laughs. It's hard and barking and makes my head throb. "This isn't the bottom yet. Trust me, you have a long way to fall yet. I wouldn't be nearly so nice if you were on the bottom."

"So what is this?"

"A safety net, maybe? In here think of me as the cop. You're in trouble, mister." An affected stern face, like a painted mask.

"All bad cop here, then," I say as I look up at him.

"Eh, I am what I am, as the sailors say. But look at it this way, in here I can't rough you up. You go any further, and our little roleplay ends and I can get down to business." This grin is predatory, all teeth too big and too sharp to be normal. I recoil from it and return to the coffee.

"So what do you want?"

"I'm supposed to scare you straight, eh? So talk."


"About how you got here, you idiot. What do you think?"

"I was just going along, minding my own business, heading through life and ..."

"Whoa, whoa. Back up. Going along, heading through life. What the hell does that mean, anyway?"

"What it always does. I was just living."

"Just ... living?"



"I'd get up, go to work, come home, try to write, talk to friends, go to bed, rinse and repeat."

"I see..."


"Tell me about your friends."

"Good bunch. Nothing wrong with them. Don't question there."

"Touchy?" That cannibal grin again.

"No," I say, not looking away this time. "I just don't want to waste time with something that helps. They've been actively helping me. I just haven't been listening."

"Why not?"

"Isn't that your job?"

"Oo, got some fight in us, do we, book boy? Fine. Tell me about your job."

"It's fine. I got hired on full time."

"Good, yeah?"

"I like it."

He picks up another cigarette and lights it, smoking as he thinks. "Raise?"



"I never had any complaints."

"I see." The cigarette burns down quickly. He taps the ash in, and the ashtray fills more.

"I don't see what this has to do with anything, I mean obvi-"

"Shut up." He snaps as he put outs the cigarette.

"Excuse me?" I'm naive enough to be shocked into silence.

"You heard me. I'll tell you what matters here. I'm in charge. Not you. So answer my questions, but otherwise keep your damn mouth shut." He pulls out another cigarette and lights it. A long drag. Then a tight-lipped smile.

"Your friends are good, yeah?"

I nod.

"Your work is good, yeah?"

I nod.

"How about your home life?"

"It's nice, finally. Settled. Best choice I ever made, y'know?"

He nods and exhales and is obscured in a rising curtain of smoke. All that's left is cloudy features and his piercing eyes.

"No problems?"

"Except for the writing, no."

He smiles knowingly. "I see."

A long pause. He smokes and I drink and we pass the time together. It's cozy in a sick way. Old friends with guns trained on each other.

His cigarette is burned down, and he puts it out. He reaches for the pack. "Only room for one more in the ashtray. You better talk well, because when I'm out of space I'm leaving to go finish the pack and you're not coming along."

"What do you want me to tell you?"

He puts the cigarette to his lips. "Why can't you write?"

"I don't know! That's why you're here."

"Wrong." He lifts the lighter, and flicks the wheel. The flame leaps out, the cigarette is lit, and he inhales once.

"Then what?"

"You're the rock star, figure it out."

"I can't. Don't you think I've tried?" I sink into the chair, defeated.

"Now how is that attitude going to change the world?" Another inhale. He's burning quickly through the cigarette, but I can't think of anything to say. He's right, of course. I've been beaten. There's nothing I can do. For all my efforts, I just didn't have it in me. I've petered out at the starting line.

"Maybe I can't."

He grunts. "Coward."

"Then what?"

"What's the first rule of doing this forever?" He leans forward, all his spiteful mirth gone and instead a deadly earnestness in his manner. I sit up. The answer is automatically dragged out of me.

"Never make a Plan B."

"So tell me ... how's your life?"

I scramble to find an answer. "It's fine! There's nothing wrong with it. Work, friends, family ... it's all good."

"You said that before."

"It's still true!"

"What's Plan B, dummy?"

"What does this have to do with-"

"Answer the question!" He blows out a heavy puff of smoke when he shouts. The cigarette's almost burnt down. I'm running out of time.

"I ... it's ... getting comfortable with how things are."

"What do you have to be uncomfortable about now?"

I scramble to think. "Well, there's my feelings for--"

"You got over those, remember? Wrote a hell of a book, too, though nobody will ever know."

"How about my problems with--"

"You moved out, remember? I believe your words were 'best choice I ever made'."

"But ... I want to be paid to do what I love."

"You enjoy your job, right? You make good money, and it'll get even better, eh?"

"But ... but..."

"Face it, buddy," he says as he inhales the cigarette. It's burning down to the filter now. He taps some of the last ash into the tray. It threatens to overflow. "You just," he inhales deeply, the ember burning all the way down and out, "don't have the fire anymore. You lost the desperation."

"So now what?"

"You need a reason. And fast. Fear and panic won't work anymore. But if you don't hurry, it'll all be gone. You'll be just like everyone else. All those dreams, like a puff of smoke." He grins, and then exhales, and smoke pours from his mouth, and towards me. I lean back to avoid it, but it's no use. It's as if he's on fire, smoke billowing from his mouth and nose. And then I can't see him anymore as my eyes water.

When I reach up and rub them, and wave away the smoke, I'm alone in the room. I reach down to drink my coffee, but it's gone cold. I leave it on the table untouched.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where Ideas Come From

So, me and Sarah both agreed to tackle the same subject--namely, where we get our ideas for writing and how they're developed. I'm not sure what she's doing yet, but the idea was to approach this from our own individualistic ways. An exercise of sorts, I guess. So I suppose this is my shot.

My ideas, basically, come from nowhere and everywhere. I never sit down and think "So, I need an idea" because honestly anyone who can sit down and come up with something good like that is probably a genius. Or, in other words, it doesn't work for me.

My ideas tend to pop up like soap bubbles that materialize out of thin air. One minute, I'm going along, and the next minute things just gel together and my ideas are there. These are initial ideas, of course. An image here, a theme here, a character here. These are not cohesive stories.

To tell you the truth, I have a very extended visual metaphor to explain this. So bear with me, and we'll journey into how I perceive my ideas to work.

Imagine a small cottage workshop. Something not dissimilar to a fairy tale. A two-story thatched roof stone & mortar job situated on the outskirts of the village. The second story would probably just be living quarters, but the main floor would be the workshop. You could see the workbench, the tools hung on the wall (or more likely strewn about the room) and the cheerfully sardonic fellow who makes it all work.

What you wouldn't see is that door in the floor covered by the tasteful but easy-to-move rug that leads into the basement. And down in the basement there is the owner's roommates. These roommates showed up one day and demanded somewhere to stay, and the basement had always been empty (when it wasn't holding the odd cask of wine or bag of potatoes), so that's where they went. They were helpful enough fellows. They were small and dexterous and a little like elves or dwarves. And they offered, in exchange for room (they refused the board, for reason's unknown) to help the shopkeeper in his work, whatever it might be.

The shopkeeper agreed, explaining that he had high aspirations but he wasn't any good at coming up with the specifics. He could throw random things together but finding the things to mix into a completed work was beyond him. He just couldn't do the initial work to form the starting materials.

And so the guys in the basement agreed to help, and went to work. Soon they converted the basement into their own small workshop, piecing together things in their own unique way.

Initially, the shopkeeper was excited and offered to help oversee the work. He was led downstairs and watches as they worked. Yet, when he had ideas, or wanted to change things, he was too exuberant and put his hands on the work. The men in the basement, being much smaller than the shopkeeper, worked with delicate materials. This big fellow putting his fingers into their work was too much--he was tearing apart all of their work, ruining days of their careful skill in seconds.

Thus, he was kicked out and told not to come down anymore without an invitation. They would do the work, like he asked, and they would do it better than he obviously could. All he'd have to do is take the results of their work and put them together into the final product.

This he could do.

And so the shopkeeper and the men in the basement lived in harmony. They would develop what was needed, and whenever the shopkeeper asked for materials he was not wanting. They would provide odd pieces that he would try to separate and fit together, with the extras going in bins to be used when needed. Sometimes, rarely, they offered whole kits of complete materials, and all he had to do was follow the directions. Other times there would be the odd piece he could barely identify, and he would struggle to figure out what it was and where it went, and would just have to leave it until something else came along that made it make sense.

Inefficient? Perhaps. But the fact that the guys in the basement worked much better than the shopkeeper was not lost on him. While he would have preferred they offer everything up in little kits, he had to admit that their chaotic releases were still of higher quality than he could match, and that he was best working the final pieces without much input into their construction. And, secretly, he rather enjoyed the mystery when odd pieces he couldn't identify showed up on his rug in the morning.

So where do ideas come from? I'm not sure, to be honest. You'd have to ask the guys downstairs. I just put them together when I see them. Because, to be honest, I might not be all that imaginative, but I can string together good ideas into a solid story like nobody's business.

Counterbalances and the Dreams Resultant

It's come to my attention that I'm a counterbalance to the people around me. Whether this is just coincidence (the rational explanation) or whether there is some sort of karmic and/or psychic reasoning behind it is really up to interpretation. I'm not all that keen on believing there's a link myself, but I can't deny the apparent truths I see.

Let me illustrate it this way. I typically don't sleep. Well, I do, but it's not much and it's not very well. I'm okay with this. I'm actually attuned to not sleeping.

Lately, due to perhaps the pollen in the air or my general apathy (more on that later) or whatever-you-will, I've been sleeping more. Not just more, but lots lots more. As in, twelve hours at a time. No problem. Just drop for hours on end and wake up when you need to.

Odd, yes. But the odder (more odd?) thing is that the moment I started doing this, my friend Sarah and my father both started suffering sleeping troubles. In fact, it seems the more I slept, the less they did and the less restful it was when they finally were able to.

The conclusion: I was steeling their sleep from them to use for myself.

Now, I know that it sounds kind of ridiculous, but the more I think about it the more sense it makes. Because it doesn't just extend to sleep, but to other things in my life, as well.

I have two friends who write--Sarah and Angela. Both of them are fairly serious about their writing. And both of them are currently doing a good job writing. At the same time, I'm struck with extreme writing apathy. And back in the day when I was tearing it up, they struggled.

Conclusion: When my writing friends write, I cannot. Converse is also true.

And a final note. My mood is highly volatile, sure, but it seems as though in true psychic vampire fashion, my happiness and positive nature only comes at the expense of others. Those around me are frustrated? I am carefree. If they are angry, I am calm. It works both ways, too.

Conclusion: My emotions are inversely proportional to those around me.

These conclusions only point to one thing. If we are all linked together by the varied gossamer threads of experience, then I am diametrically opposed to those I am connected to. What they feel, I will lack. What they gain, I lose. One might draw this out and state that this can only end in either A) tragedy for all involved or B) my ascention to god-like status as they all die off.

Or ... y'know ... not. But it was a thought.

Anyway, in unrelated news, with all this sleeping I'm finally getting some dreams again. Anybody who knows me knows that I never ever remember my dreams. It's just ... not something I'm very good at. Never have been. But this weekend, with all my sleep, I've had some doozies. And they're odd, kind of prophetic sorts of dreams.

I've had a recurring dream twice now concerning a friend I've long since lost contact with. One of the shaping forces in my teen years, she just kind of drifted away. I know she's out there, somewhere, but hell if I know how to get a hold of her. I'm wondering why my subconscious thinks it would be a good idea, though.

That is, when I'm not having my recurring dream where I have to retake my senior year of high school, for some reason. And I'm always coming back after being gone and have piles of work to catch up on right before the end of the year. I suppose it's my own special recurring 'failure' dream. Though this time it involved a teacher that it never involves. Once again spitting up flotsam for me to figure out.

It's worth noting that no matter how many times I forget it in my dreams, I can never ever remember my locker combination (and half the time its location). But then, this was a very real fear in high school. I never KNEW my locker combination, in like a "I can rattle this off the top of my head" way. I had to stand there and spin it, and the right combo would just come to me.

Deep seated fear of uncertainty, or general boring "I forgot to wear pants" dream?

I won't psychoanalyze too hard. It's still early.