From the archives: November 2004

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Temporarily out of the service area

Wednesday, 10 November 2004 — 7:11pm

Yesterday, I was busy writing a post telling everybody to get Firefox 1.0 when owing to a number of complications, my computer pulled an Arafat, so to speak – that is, it wouldn’t wake, and reports of its death are both conflicting and indecisive. For the time being, it is with the nice folks at CompuSmart, who will hopefully faciliate a full data recovery. I happen to attach some degree of sentimental value to my three years’ worth of digital photography, music recordings, aborted novel drafts and torrid e-mail correspondences.

As a result of these unfortunate events, updates here may be sparse, so my discussions of Ray and The Incredibles will have to wait.

The moral of the story: back up your files. And get Firefox.

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Planet of the Wookiees

Friday, 5 November 2004 — 11:06pm | Film, Star Wars

Blogger had server problems yesterday that nuked a somewhat comprehensive post I wrote, hence the lack of updates for much of the week. You didn’t miss much, because hardly anything of interest has happened over the past few days anyway.

Everything of note happened today, when I watched Ray, the first trailer for John Lasseter’s Cars, the Oscar-nominated short Boundin’, and The Incredibles. You’ll notice that the trailer for Revenge of the Sith is missing from the list, despite guarantees that it would show in front of Pixar’s latest. Well, Canada and the Famous Players chain are funny that way, in that these guarantees don’t necessarily apply. But I caught the trailer at one of the links listed here, and I’m stoked.

This is the most I have seen or heard of the final episode of the Star Wars saga, given that I’ve been living in a spoiler-free bubble since Attack of the Clones – minus this trailer, of course. The first thirty seconds or so splice footage from both Star Wars (A New Hope, that is) and Clones in a surprisingly cohesive way, before going into brief and somewhat complete-looking glimpses at the work in Episode III. As for the rest of it…

A space battle over Coruscant (and damn, do the Prequels need one)? Wookiees galore as was originally going to be the case in Return of the Jedi until they were replaced by Ewoks? The Emperor with a lightsabre? The legendary duel over the molten pit on some unknown blood-red planetoid of fire (another concept from an early draft of Jedi)? Throw in the Vader suit, Obi-Wan’s hair and design elements that hearken back to the starship interiors and exteriors in Episode IV, and it looks very much like Revenge will deliver the aesthetic bridge between the two eras.

Of course, it’s up to the script. There’s a whole gaggle of plot threads left to be resolved here and tied into a neat little knot. No sign of Count Dooku in the trailer, you’ll notice, although Christopher Lee is still playing a major enough role in the movie for his name to earn a high placement in the credits. I also remain sceptical about whether it makes all that much sense to give the Emperor a red lightsabre of his own – it always struck me that one of the defining traits of the mastermind character is that his final resort to physical violence in Return of the Jedi is his downfall – but if they could make dueling work with Yoda, they can make it work with him.

I have too much to say about The Incredibles for this post. Rest assured, if they don’t give it the Best Animated Film Oscar this year (specifically, if it goes to the likes of the enjoyable but overrated Shrek 2), it will be the wrong decision – unless The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie or The Polar Express are good, real good, life-changingly good. Please drop what you are doing and see The Incredibles. You won’t regret it.

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Someday my monks will come

Tuesday, 2 November 2004 — 2:37pm | Film, Literature, Michael Chabon

Leaving for a weekend means there is a lot of catching up to do in terms of current events, happenings that had or will have a dramatic impact on the world.

When the dramatic impact I speak of is possessed of a physicality like the flurry of Wong Fei-Hung’s legendary No-Shadow Kick, you have Yuen Wo-Ping to thank for that. As every martial arts aficionado knows, Yuen is possibly the greatest fight choreographer in cinematic history. Over the past few years he has finally gotten more attention in North America, thanks to his work in The Matrix and Kill Bill as well as the overwhelming success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the domestic box office. Well, it looks like he’s about to make his English-language directorial debut in the Disney-financed Snow and the Seven, which is reportedly an iteration of Snow White featuring seven Shaolin monks and set in late-nineteenth-century China, a setting that immediately brings the braided hairstyles of the period to mind.

Unfortunately, whenever the best in Asian film come do a stateside project, studio pressures and fundamental misunderstandings of how Hong Kong cinema works the way it does impede their movies from ever being nearly as good as one would expect. Once Upon A Time In China director Tsui Hark has since been damned (or rather, van Dammed) to B-movie hell; Jackie Chan’s career has been limited to buddy-cop culture-clashes and inexplicably, Passepartout; and someone should tell Revolution Studios that Jet Li and DMX aren’t exactly Freddy and Ginger. There’s a lot of talent going to waste here. Hopefully Yuen Wo-Ping is given the directorial freedom he needs, and moreover, a good writer.

But if you read that story to which I linked, you’ll see that the “good writer” part has already been covered. They’ve signed none other than Michael Chabon, whom I never hesitate to identify as the best American novelist this generation. As such, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about how this will turn out.

Speaking of Chabon, I never ended up ordering my Amazing Adventures of the Escapist #3 and #4. I’ll get on it, unless I spot it at a local retailer first.

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What a novel idea

Monday, 1 November 2004 — 11:03pm | Literature

I got started on Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. back when I was about thirteen. Without knowing that it was to be his last novel – it would be a few weeks before he announced his retirement – I picked up a hardcover copy of Timequake in its first printing, as that was the year it saw release. Much of the novel is about the author’s failed attempt to make heads or tails of a workable first draft of that same novel; Vonnegut intermittently pulls himself out of the narrative – or inserts himself in, one might just as accurately say – and speaks at length about his own travails in the writing process.

There’s one specific passage in Timequake that has stuck with me ever since. Allow me to share:

Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. They they go over it painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done, they’re done.

Like Mr. Vonnegut, I am a basher.

National Novel Writing Month, however, was designed for swoopers. It’s an admirable project, mind you, and I would not hesitate to sign up for it if it were not for the volume of other commitments I have ahead of me in the very immediate future. NaNoWriMo, as it is called, is basically a pledge to produce 50,000 words of fiction by the end of November. Let me say this: I very much admire the spirit of the project as they lay it down in the FAQ. It involves the regimented self-imposition of an artificial deadline in order to overcome writerus blockitis, a disease that has more to do with reluctance or laziness than a lack of inspiration. But, as they say themselves, the emphasis is on quantity, not quality.

So if you are a basher in the Timequake sense of the word, thou art screweth. Not for everyone do words flow out like endless rain into a paper cup. For some, they trickle. But like spurts of creek water pumped through a filter, the trickles are clean.

On a completely different note, for those of you who don’t know, not only did Roman emerge victorious at the University of Calgary’s Fall Open tournament (with his partner from Simon Fraser University, first-time debater Xenia Menzies), he did it whilst dressed as the Bee. I went with a new recruit of UBC’s that I also did not meet until arriving at the tournament itself, James Lawson. We only posted a 2-3 record, but placed well in individual speaker standings.

In other news, I hear there’s an election coming up.

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