Harry Potter again

I’m re-reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone… in the UK edition, of course (Philosopher vs Sorcerer). It’s somehow more authentic that way.

“Philosopher’s Stone” is a alchemal concept with a thousand years of history behind it… “Sorcerer’s Stone” is just a rock that belongs to a wizard.

But back to buying things, what is really insane is now you can get a “box set” with all the hardback books in a special chest. I don’t have that one, though.

Something weird: I completely don’t remember this very long prelude in the beginning where the wizards are running around Britain having a party because of Voldemort’s death. Did I just forget it? Maybe because it wasn’t in the movie? Or worse, was it added for this new edition? I lost my original copy and bought this one recently, so it could have happened!

What I am remembering is why I thought this was kind of crappy ten years ago… near the very beginning Harry visits the zoo, and sees a large snake. The snake is sleeping… but then awakes, opens its eyes, and winks at Harry.

Snakes have no eyelids. Fact.

Also, would Harry really be so ready to accept the magical world when he’s lived in a grey oppression his entire life? Seems unlikely, but I understand why it’s there.

Something that rubs me the wrong way with Harry Potter is the same thing I hated about The Matrix… the metaphor is painfully obvious, and yet rigorously boring people and social conservatives love both those stories.

Example: Hey dude who voted for Bush in 2000, and didn’t listen to the rest of us who said he intended to invade the Middle East, what pill did you take in The Matrix? Did you take the scary pill that shows you the truth, or did you take the pill that lets you pretend none of it is happening? Is it true what they say, that “reality has a liberal bias?” And yet this person will love The Matrix.

For Harry Potter, it’s a little more subtle- these people are Muggles. They aren’t even real characters in the story! They have been deprecated as thinking entities. So ask yourself, are you more like the wizards? Or more like the Muggles? And how much of that is intentional?

Darkman: An exercise in how forgiving the audience can be

These are my notes on “Darkman,” by Sam Raimi. Incidentally I love Darkman, even though I know it’s kind of a crappy movie. But it’s a great grown-up indie movie!

Let’s just skip the first scene and go straight to the titles. Too bad there’s no commentary on this sucker! I’ve seen it before too. Why I like Darkman: it’s an indie movie that grew into a big budget. Most of the techniques in it could be done on the cheap. And let’s not talk about the script.

Opening credits: a shot of lit smoke, in slow motion against a black bacground, mirrored to be symmetrical. See the symbolism? The mirror? The dark? Oooh. Anyway…
Other popular choices/trends in (occaisionally cheap) titles:

  • Some common process seen very very close up
  • A simulation of some common thing at a microscopic level
  • A common setting whizzing by so quickly we cannot distinguish it (Luc Besson, I’m looking at you!)

To generalize:

  • Microscopic crap
    • Cells
    • Blood
    • Fungi
    • Bacteria or yeast
    • Crystals growing
  • A cheap chaotic system seen with no context-
    • diffusion of dye in water
    • milk in coffee
    • smoke dispersing
    • something being consumed in open flame
    • flame by itself
    • clouds
    • ripples in water
    • other moving liquids
    • viscous moving liquids
    • ripples in cloth
    • the sky or trees or some other natural object seen from below the surface of the water
    • clockwork or machine movement
    • a pan of some complex system
  • factories
  • traffic
    • rotting things
    • melting things
  • things to do to this shot:
    • mirroring
    • running backwards
    • sped up / slowed down
    • in negative
    • filtered with weird hue shifting
    • spinning around and zooming for a “tempest/drain” effect
  • Every so often something symbolic can be made out. Distorted by:
    • High contrast Shadows
    • Turning away
    • Reflected in a partial surface
    • Colors filtered or in negative
    • Seen from the other side of a water surface

I like the cell fragmentation effect, as seen under a microscope. What is it exactly? When we see the nose melt, I think we are really just looking at the top of the range.

They have sex, but we don’t see anything. Which is good, because just Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand making cooing noises is gross enough. And how did they get involved in this movie?! And Danny Elfman for the score!? Okay, that’s enough- let’s focus only on the positive things to learn from this movie.

As in a noir movie, we don’t see the grad student killed. Just the gun to his face, and then Liam’s reaction.

After the accident we’re in a hospital… which we only know because there are people in medical gowns! The lady doctor’s Brit accent helps give her an air of authority. She gives a lot of exposition in the context of teaching medical students.

The scene ends in a composited shot through a window. His escape is summarized in a single shot of him in a flooded alley. There’s a more expensive shot afterwards (Liam and Frances) but it’s not very necessary.
Darkman sees his face for the first time. Again, we don’t see it. No effects! Plus it’s much better this way; his face could never have been as gross as we imagine it must be.
Montage of “research.” Advice: don’t let biology majors see this movie; the “TECH” portions are incredibly half-assed. But, we see a montage.

Montage elements:

  • The character in question doing the things he’s doing during this time, compressed for the narrative
  • Some element representing the passage of time, like a calendar or clock. Bonus points for:
    • Universal symbols
    • The object is in previous or subsequent shots
    • The object is thematically linked to the plot
  • Darkman does both: the stopwatch Darkman uses to measure the synthetic skin. Also uses written notes (see below)
  • Also, we see the moon. Passage of time + theme of the dark
  • Various spinning objects related to the period, tumbling through space and freed from any context. Darkman uses beakers filled with fluid, presumably the synthetic skin
  • Elements the struggle depends on—the direct objects. We see cells of synthetic skin.
  • Objects related to the struggle depicted—the indirect objects: Darkman has:
    • pages of notes, clearly legible, with failed attempts
    • a growing pile of discarded Petri dishes

Next we see some symbols referencing Darkman’s rage.

  • Zoom and close-up of the character emoting
  • Flashbacks of what the character is remembering
  • Alternately, imagined scenarios. Ally McBeal just cut to these, but in Darkman, we see them superimposed
  • Some chaotic element with symbols of the mood. Darkman uses fire.

Darkman claims his first victim: I love this guy, he is so not a henchman type. Was he related to Raimi? He looks very New York Jew. Almost as ridiculous as the gay Latino henchman with the ponytail.

After arranging bald guy’s death, we see Darkman moping in a composite shot: clouds, night, gargoyles, his head.

How much of Darkman we see in this movie is actually Liam Neeson? His face is covered in bandages most of the time! He could have just dubbed in lines… or another actor could have dubbed ALL the lines, including his, for consistency.

Cemetery scene:

  • Frances approaches the grave. We dolly in
  • Frances sees Liam- a music-video truck in both POVs
  • Frances freaked out- she backs away, sort of a missed opportunity for a Hitchcock shot here
  • Frances far away as in Liam POV
  • Now a gyrating sries of shots- emotionally chaotic
  • They embrace. Finally the camera is still!

Durant, panicked, demands of his henchman, to know what is going on.

  • We see henchman in the driver’s seat, reading a newspaper. We can tell it’s a car interior
  • Suddenly, Durant’s head thrusts into view. We can see just a bit of the car window frame.

Forced orgasm martial art

Isn’t there a kind of martial art designed for fighting someone you are having sex with?  Seems like there should be…How about:

First it was started by Chinese courtesans and lady assassins, and the art made its way to Japan in the early Edo period. 

It was eventually adopted by the bondage community, and it became a sort of sport- the idea to bring your partner pleasure while engaged in combat.  Sort of a new, ultra-violent kind of dominant tiger sex… scary. 

What is really funny is when furries accidentally schedule dates with the practitioners of this Art, mistaking all the animal imagery in the names of the grapples and strikes for cute fuzzy animal flirting… traumatic experiences ensue.

Oblique Strategies

  I was just looking at Oblique Strategies.  It’s a deck of cards that you consult a bit like an oracle or the i ching when you are stuck on a problem, the general implication being you are a creative working on something.  It was originally authored by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt.

There’s an online version here.  Part of what is interesting is the personal contract with yourself necessary to use it; you have to convince yourself you are going to follow whatever advice the card gives you.

Something that is also fascinating– this deck of cards has been around since the 1970s, and the original editions, which were all signed, sell on ebay for crazy amounts of money. I wonder if the buyers are actually using the cards…

COSCO Busan Oil Spill

The COSCO Busan Incident stresses me out. I don’t want our beautiful bay to be a toxic, sterile wasteland. Plus I like eating crab.

There was a training session last week where you’d go in and learn how to clean up oil without giving yourself cancer, and clean-up efforts over the weekend.

I intend to go to the next one; the oil will be out there a while and will slooooowly make its way to shore.


King Khan and Victoria Victrola

Very arty day today. I went out to do some shopping, and saw Victoria Victrola “performing” on Telegraph. She’s a living statue, so her performance consists of standing very very still… If you see her, tip her for photos please; this is how she makes a living! She tends to be in the Berkeley BART station, or in front of it, or occaisionally on Telegraph, as I saw her today.

Later ShaC and I went to see King Khan & BBQ, who were pretty great. They were playing at the Ghost Town Gallery Warehouse, which is such a craphole it is awesome; it’s this cement shell filled with random debris. But the funniest thing was the crowd, who were all terrible hipsters. Example: one girl was wearing a qipao and a beret. Some of these dudes insisted on smoking during the show, which always makes me psychotic.

While everyone around us wore trendy crap and tattoos, we showed up drinking Starbucks, wearing $300 acoustically-neutral earplugs, and texting our friends on our phones. See, we were ironically bourgeois. Later we drove home in our SUV with GPS display playing our iPods integrated into the dashboard. Nyeah hah.

Super Mario Galaxy

I’m watching the opening of Super Mario Galaxy, and it’s like watching the Hindenburg disaster.

You start visiting the Castle in the mushroom kingdom, and it’s like going to Disneyland. The villagers are having a quaint little festival, and everything is cute and pretty.

Anyway, remember the flying wooden galleons Bowser had in Super Mario 3? Well basically they show up in a giant armada and blow the SHIT out of the castle. It’s like the commercial the Smurfs did for UNICEF. Everything is on fire, mushroom people are running around screaming in terror.

Bowser’s navy has some kind of weapon that encases you in a crystal. The only thing that would have made this cutscene any more traumatizing would be if they showed a small screaming mushroom child watch helplessly as his own mother is encased in crystal.

Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros 3Japanese cultural reference: there actually is a “star festival,” it’s called tanabata, and it’s basically a party for your village in the summer. The story goes that there are these two lovers who live across the Milky Way from each other, and only meet once a year… it’s all star-themed. When we have our Tanabata Party we have cakes from Bewitching Elegance decorated with stars and traditional wagashi with star shapes on them.

Another cultural reference: the little star characters turn into rabbits, referring to the “rabbit in the moon” who pounds mochi in Japanese folklore.Mmmm, Rosalina.

ROSALINA: Hello. I’m Rosalina. I’ll help you rescue your friend Peach.

MARIO: Peach who?

The downside is I think Rosalina might only have one eye, like Odin, but that’s okay, she’s got that hot flip-over hairstyle. Something my brother pointed out: Rosalina is a star princess. I was noticing even her hair is shaped like a star… but he said wait a second, Peach is the mushroom princess. Doesn’t that mean that there must be a flower princess around here somewhere?

I was thinking maybe they could make Daisy the flower princess, because of her name. She is the one you save in the Super Mario from the old GameBoy game. In a very weird bug, or maybe an inside joke, her model in Super Smash Brothers is unlockable, which isn’t so weird in itself, but she has a third eye in the back of her head, under her hair…

Editing Sagar pt 1

Karuna came over tonight and we sat around reviewing footage for her music video, Sagar. It’s a great project and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

As you can read on her production blog, Karuna basically heard this song at some point and was hit with the epiphany that she was destined to make the music video for this song. So, she secured the rights from the Indian rock star, arranged permits and insurance to film on the sand dunes of a National Park, and found an entire crew and set of equipment to film her dream.

I heard Karuna’s pitch at ScaryCow, was seduced by the ambitious production elements, and signed up as the editor. I’m a very fast and efficient editor; if not forbidden from my jumpy editing style I can slap together a rough cut in about twice the running time of the finished work, plus about half a day. So, less than a day. All I require is a shot log with the list of the “keeper” takes, and a storyboard.

As it turned out, the production was a shade too ambitious. The principal photography ran over and there was no way to get all the footage. Karuna ended up editing a “making of” work for submission for Round 3. We’re now in the next round, and I’m the new editor of the finished work again! Woot!

So here we are, and I’m learning some of the downsides of DV HD. It uses the same compression as DVD, so when you rewind, it gets all boxy. Also, if you are changing light conditions slowly, you can actually see digital artifacts… Ironically, I might stick to miniDV for this exact reason, perhaps with a mini35 stuck on the front!

Due to the mayhem during the shoot, we don’t have a log of the good takes, and where they are on which tapes. D’oh! Don’t do that. You aren’t saving time by not writing down the good takes!

Due to our lack of our own HD deck, we are seeing some of this footage for the first time. Rent a deck and schedule your editing sessions!

You know what would be great at this point? I mean besides the shot log? The storyboard. Need the storyboard. Those little pictures really help.

Cut off that elephant

“The elephants get drunk all the time. It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them,” the 26-year-old socialite was quoted as saying by the World Entertainment News Network’s Web site. 


Call me insensitive, but somehow this doesn’t seem to be a real serious problem to center a charity around… Maybe all the real charities told Paris to piss off?

But what’re you gonna do? The elephant says “gimme another Bud, you tiny liddle sunuvabitshh… I’ll stomp yer hairlesssss monkey ass… flat. FLAT!” And you say “uh sir I think you’ve had enough…”

ERICH: There should be an indian beer company that uses this to their marketing advantage
BRAIN: yeah their emblem can be an elephant stepping on Paris’ head
BRAIN: while brandishing an empty beer bottle