Ranty movie moment (Kill Bill)

Galen and I watched the second part of Kill Bill last night (yes, I’m always late watching movies…), and it was kind of weird for both of us. I was prepared to dismiss it as basically an idiotic pastiche of Tarantino’s favourite pop culture, but then I watched the “making of” bit in the special features. It amounted to all of the actors verbally fellating Q.T. for half an hour about his operatic scope and his ability to write better than Shakespeare did. Yow. I hope I never get myself into a position where no one will critique me to my face.

Really, I was enjoying the movie as a vacant piece of cool-looking entertainment until about the last 15 minutes, when…


… The Bride starts explaining why she ran away and her only story was that finding out she was pregnant changed her whole personality and made her quit her job. Add that to the insistent way that her unborn baby gets referred to as a person— repeatedly, during the entire two volumes— and I got a little creeped out by Tarantino’s take on reproductive rights. But, you know, oh well, artists have statements, the whole plot was minimalist, and the guy was probably just looking for some kind of primal, female motivation for his Amazonian lead. I can deal. I’m even pro-choice about the right to enjoy misogynist entertainment.

(end spoiler)

More annoying to me is that during the “let’s fellate the director” special feature, Uma and Quentin both make points about The Bride being so empowered, and about this movie featuring empowered women empowering themselves with power. Is this seriously what passes for empowerment among movie stars? Blond babes acting out the director’s girl-on-girl fantasies by kicking the shit out of each other? Chicks who are mortal enemies because they dated the same guy? Women who wimp out because of their uteruses? A main character who gets specifically attacked in her various woman parts— shot in the tits, rendered infertile, raped, manipulated through her child?

Presumably the celebrities consider these characters empowered because they can kick ass, but every time this prowess gets mentioned in the movie it is in the form “she’s pretty good… for a girl.” Top female assassin. Deadliest woman in the world. The chicks even refer to themselves that way, while they are killing some of your deadlier male assassins. That’s dumb, and distracting in a movie made since 1970.

When I rant like this, I get self-conscious about being a feminazi. This kind of rant doesn’t seem like an activist manifesto to me. My parents and almost everyone I know understands this stuff. I was raised in this context. A lot of my life plays out in a post-feminist context, if I may toss around some jargon for a moment. Ranting like this is sort of the same as complaining about an overpriced restaurant. You don’t have to go back there yourself so there’s no further action that needs to be taken, but you might as well warn your friends in case they care about the same things.

Now with more catcalls.

About four days ago I decided to make an effort to look more hot, since that’s a pursuit I usually neglect. This basically involved buying a second pair of pants and making a point of brushing my hair.

Results: astounding. Even in the depths of my teenaged depression I was able to appreciate my body as it was, so I’m used to feeling generally happy about my looks. More interesting is the way that every day since my resolution, at least one stranger has complimented or catcalled me.

It feels a little conspicuous, like ““movie stars get their hair cut every day so no one will notice and make fun of them, like at our school”:http://www.kithfan.org/work/transcripts/four/gavpreach.html,” but I can ride it out. I like seeing cute people out and about, so it’s pretty fun to contribute my own cuteness to the neighbourhood. It makes me happy about our neighbourhood that my take on hotness can fly here.

Since I haven’t always been successful at this mission, I’d like to catalogue a few points in case I get off track again later.

  1. Spending money on my hair is always worth it.
  2. Exercising: also worth it.
  3. Clothes that fit. Give the other ones away! I’d rather wear the same awesome skirt three times a week than rotate through a selection of almost-good clothes.
  4. More than one of things. One scarf solves a problem, but two scarves is more fun. Further, both will last longer.
  5. Newer clothes look better because they aren’t worn out.

Generally, my barriers to hotness are laziness and being a cheapskate.

Live octopus tentacles, a dining opportunity

I have an ongoing love/eat relationship with cephalopods. Squids and octopuses are among my favourite wonders of nature, being so smart and alien and jet-powered. And yet, so tasty. I’ve required small pep talks a few time in restaurants when someone has ordered a delicious tentacle dish that I can’t bring myself to eat even though it is surely a triumph of human culture (barbecued squid, pasta with olipetti, common kalimari, octopus sashimi…).

The best perspective I’ve come up with to handle the awesomeness yet deliciousness of my tentacled comrades is that life isn’t fair. My ongoing meditation on cephalopods is partly to do with my fascination with hard truths. I can’t be friends with octopods because they are ruthless killers. Also, I eat them. But I want to give them my love. C’est la vie, c’est la poubelle.

So I’m really fascinated by this account of eating live octopus tentacles , still writhing on the plate and trying to kill the brave diner. (Don’t miss the movie linked in the comments.)

I snapped out of the absolute stunned trauma of having to fight with my food and attempted to regain control of the situation… Without hesitating, I bit hard on it over and over and over again while mumbling “Die! Die! Die!”

Eating live tentacles embodies almost my entire relationship with cephalopods. They fight, I desire. They are worthy opponents. I am conflicted, but must commit myself or I will barf. I’d rather be friends, but any relationship will do.

Separately, I like food that won’t come to you, but demands you play by its rules. Wasabi is like that for me: I can’t think about anything else when wasabi catches me off guard. I reckon live tentacles would be the same. There’d be no daydreaming about the office while battling a tentacle into the chili sauce.

All in all, now seems to be the time to re-examine my decision not to be a ruthless killer. I used to be OK with ruthless cruelty and domination in high school. Maybe this is yet another trait from the past that is resurfacing now that I’ve stopped taking birth control. That would be unsettling.

Leftovers (almost left behinds)

It is really easy to stop writing. I think of ideas or stories I want to write down every day, but if I don’t act on the seed within a certain window, the urge just sort of passes.

  1. My ideas are not worth writing down for posterity, or they’d be worth writing down the next day.
  2. I should write more often, if I’m going to write at all.

Urges that have passed in the last few days:

  • Telling you about Antony and the Johnsons playing in a cathedral in Vancouver. Especially about how overwhelming and fantastic it was after about the fourth song, when the sound man finally turned up the volume just enough to resonate in the architecture. And about the comfort of seeing a genderqueer sensation sing in a church, along with a varied crowd of freaks and families and plainer sorts. I really like it when things don’t have to be burdened by being a radical act.
  • Writing out the caffeinated explanation I came up with for why I laugh so much. I don’t think of myself as a giggly person, but somebody probably does. Once the caffeine wore off, this train of thought seemed highly drug-induced: self-absorbed and overly sincere. The jist of it was that I laugh at the paradox of everything being absurd, yet perfect. Am I in my ninth grade mystical phase all over again? I did not know caffeine held this potential for unselfconscious declaration. Maybe it’s a better vision quest drug than I initially thought.

Penguin romance will not be silenced

The original French version of March of the Penguins puts words in the penguins’ mouths, for an anthropomorphic romance. At first I agreed with the producers that such a sentimental approach would never fly in North America, but then I took my gramma to see it in the theatre.

The whole crowd was old people and little kids: two groups who tend to talk through movies.

I think the French version could be reconstructed from the voices that the little girl next to me improvised to her mother.

(baby voice) ‘Oh, I’m so happy to see my daddy. Hello daddy!’

(deep voice) ‘Hello son! I missed you so much!’

And my favourite,

(mom voice) ‘Here, eat this. (barfing noises)’

Seitan, alchemy, the pantry

i am eating homemade seitan! i was resigned to creating an inedible learning experience on my first try (or two), but the results of this first attempt are just fine. a little denser than the packaged stuff i usually buy, but tasty. best of all, a $5 bag of vital wheat gluten looks like it will produce at least 12 packages worth (street value $36).

(for the uninitiated: seitan is a chewy vegetarian protein source, made by boiling a dough made from wheat gluten. also known as wheat cutlets, and the usual ingredient in mock chicken dishes. these are my seitan recipes.)

i don’t yet understand the correlation between pre-boiling consistency and final product. the transformation from wheat flour to fake meat is a weird one. i thought my dough would fall apart during boiling for sure, but it came out huge and puffy and dense. how can something be puffy and dense? meat replacement is alchemy. next time i won’t knead it so much.

this reminds me of canning, in that i have a giant and very heartening stash of seitan in the fridge now. galen wisely asked if seitan could be frozen. at that point, it would become a full-fledged member of the long-term food stores, which is always a satisfying occasion.

the pantry seems so noble, despite being basically a glorification of material gain. maybe the nobility comes from crediting outside sources (the bounty, the harvest, the earth, the fields!) for the treasure. or from the alchemy of turning cheap raw materials into valuable stores using a laborious ritual. (and such a ritual! complete with charts of numbers, specialized glassware, rules that can be bent and rules that can’t.)

Convergence of unlikely killers

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being violent and hitting people, because of learning kung fu. The validity of using force in self-defense is so obvious to everyone in the world except me that I haven’t been able to have a discussion about this with anybody, really.

“I can’t see how I could justify hitting someone in the face.”

“Well, if they were going to hurt you otherwise, it just makes sense.”

“But— “

The End.

After eating too many Penguin caffeinated mints yesterday, I finally figured out why I was so hung up on this. I’m happy about this for two reasons!

  1. Problem solved. I am suddenly really grounded about hitting people in the face. This feels much more stable and honest than my previous inner turmoil. (More below.)
  2. I think my caffeine-induced revelation counts as a junior Vision Quest, which I’ve been wanting to add to my problem solving repertoire for awhile.

Why I couldn’t just hit people, already

I think my hang up was that most rationalizations of self-defense would require me to either believe in the law of the jungle (eat or be eaten, man!), or some kind of means vs. end justification, both of which options run directly into the hardest part of my hard-ass ethical instincts (the part that says “TRY HARDER”).

At first I tried to go with the dog-eat-dog strategy, on the grounds that life is not fair. Man, do I love to get down with the unfairness of life. (It’s the core of atheism for me, and why I love it so much. I’m not the apple of god’s eye? Hot.)

But. Despite my addiction to Hard Truth, being allowed to punch somebody back seemed like a cop out. Does someone else’s violence really give an excuse to me, a separate person who believes in being peaceful?

Relationships are magic.

And there you go. An attacker, and a defender. Two separate people… who are having a relationship. It takes two to fight. If I’m being attacked, I’m already in the fight, and that relationship already has hitting in it.

For some reason, this relationship perspective makes a huge difference to me. I think I can defend without adding any violence. (Sure, I could escalate with really disproportionate defense, like explosions. But also I could do something appropriate.)

This really jives with one of the things I like about wing chun— it is focused on ending the fight, rather than having an extended battle or taking revenge. The point is just to bring the relationship back to a non-violent state. If either person can run away at any point, it’s done. I can live with that.

Post script

A separate hard truth that has been popping up lately is that I can’t get friendly with octopods, even though they are so interesting, because they are ruthless killers. I am intrigued by my potential to be a tough bitch. What would happen if I got to the point where I could take an octopus? (This is silly.)

I just got knitting spam.

Together: Buy Creative Knitting 1 Year Subscription – 6 Issues (US Only) with Knit N’ Style – 7 Issues (US Only)Today! Better Together qw1yrusplustq

I feel conflicted. I think I consider spam a sort of status symbol for an industry. That’s terrible! (But cheers to knitting!)

inspirational, celebrational…

galen and i rented the best of the muppet show and disc one of season one, then went back the next day for disc two. there is so much muppet show in our house now— children’s dvds are only $1 to rent for a week!

when i was little, i thought the muppet show was for adults because it was so violent and unfunny and confusing, and not remotely educational. now i watch it and it’s obviously made with little children in mind— half the skits are pre-verbal and make heavy use of colourful blobs.

but it is really weird. it’s about a bad variety show. that’s a rather complex angle for a tv show— celebrating weirdness without making it cool at all, just loving these bad performers with monobrows, and never letting them finish their acts or get applause. i remember finding the lack of closure really dissatisfying as a child. someone would start singing and just fall off stage and it was over. fozzie never got to upshow the hecklers. it was frustrating to watch!

i thought this would just be silly tv to watch after work or during dinner, but i’m finding it deeply satisfying. affirming, even! it’s such a complete vision of love and bad art and diversity (and puppets).

predictably, my favourite parts now are the parts i found most confusing when i was young: gonzo and sam the eagle.

gonzo is at max power in the first season. i never really understood that he was a performance artist, not just a chicken fetishist. “and now our resident artist, gonzo the great, will eat a rubber tire to the music of the flight of the bumblebee.” (booing ensues.)

sam the eagle is practically the president of the US right now. it’s comforting for a weirdo such as myself to see moral righteousness coming out of a grumpy blue bird instead of a man in a suit.

but i think my absolute favourite moment is seeing sam the eagle in a chorus line of male muppets in the opening credits of later seasons, singing “it’s time to put on make-up”.