log: squid baby

벌레 일지 WORMDATE: L3: 2,564 – 311,289: 7 – 2,481: 76% – 49%

Not much to report from these parts. Coming to the end of my Evolutionary Biology and Medicine class. My second vaccination date has been moved up a week. We’re trying to hit 80% full vaccination by the end of October so a lot of dates were moved up.

I watched Squid Game. I enjoyed it. Ultraviolent satire of capitalism? How could I not?

Squid Game feels basically like the same family of stuff as my book. Genre, I guess? I was never wild on calling things a genre. To me, “genre” feels like something to help arrange a bookstore, part of the marketing department, or as a way to help academics scour through a text in search of influence or whatever. And mainly, I think texts are sometimes influenced by other texts but sometimes they’re just looking at the same thing. But whatever — I’m not really against the idea of genre. Whatever works for you. The term just seems a little off to me though. Maybe I have too much affection? This genre or subgenre or whatever feels more like family. But, like a family I have something in common with. A family I like.

As a grouping, it’s kind of like, in no particular order, Clockwork Orange, Cube, Old Boy, Battle Royale, Technicolor Ultra Mall, Squid Game. I might also chuck some Ballard in there — maybe High Rise and Kingdom Come– but Ballard just seems a little different. And whatever it is, it is 100% definitely not cyberpunk. It’s a lot of things. None of it is that. And yeah, cyberpunk can be violent and anti-capitalist but cyberpunk is just different.

In my mind, at least. Very different.

Swear to god, no idea how I ever got lumped into cyberpunk.

I’m sure you can think of a few other examples of what I’m talking about though. Death Race 2000. Snowpiercer, maybe? That sort of thing. Though my book came out before some of that stuff, that’s the basic family of stuff and the sort of stuff I was into and trying to do.

But it’s an odd little family. Like it gets called a lot of things, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, science fiction, satire, and all of that is kind of right and also just kind of totally wrong. Back in the day, I called the group ultra-violence. I could be totally wrong but I think I was the first person to name that family and maybe still the only person who sees it as a category or subcategory or whatever. Fuck knows, the term never caught on! I just wanted to call my book and the sort of things I liked and thought it was a part of something. So “ultra-violence.”

And ultra-violence didn’t really have to do with the amount of violence. A lot things can be really violent but not “ultra-violence.” Had more to do with it being both violent and about violence — and the violence being gratuitous because, well, violence always fucking is — and the violence should not be glorified. It should be really bluntly violent. Maybe even stylized blunt. It should often be stupid and pointless violence. Hard to watch or stomach in places. And not just because of the violence but because it hits you in the heart. The violence should also occur throughout — in interactions that are not typically thought of violent.

Aside from the the type, style, and purposes of the violence, I also thought ultra-violence needed to be have some method of mind control, an element of humor, and probably some aspect of satire. The work has to implicate the reader/viewer, the medium itself, and violence as spectacle and entertainment — even as it did the thing it was against and, as it did that thing, it should also be subverting it. Hard trick but important.

I think people hear “ultra-violence” and think of things like torture-porn like Saw or whatever, which I just think is kinda crap horror, or things that are just violent other things. Never been that to me. It’s probably a subtle difference but I do believe in this difference. Like, I know what I did, what I did deliberately, and the family I felt a part of and wanted to be in — even if it lacked and still lacks a real name. So, yeah, called it Ultra-violence.

And, with Squid Game, I think there’s a new member of the family. I’m happy it’s aboard. And it has many of the same problems our little family of delinquents has but I’m happy it’s around all the same. I think maybe I’m should be jealous of its success. A bit like – oh, so now you want ridiculous ultraviolent critiques of capitalism? Harumph! Poor me! IGNORED!!! Satan knows, I’ve seen people have that sort of reaction on much softer ground. But whatever. Just good to watch the sort of shit I’m into watching. I liked it pretty well.

Aside from that, I’m thinking of having a coat made. I really miss an old coat I had. Been missing it for a while. Just an old houndstooth thing that I picked up at some shop in Toronto called Cabaret. Man, I loved that shop. And I loved that coat. Here I am in like — I don’t know 2007-2008, not sure, at a bar in The Market with that coat.

Still have and use that shirt, that tie, that hat, those gloves. But that coat? That coat is gone. A cat pissed on it. That cat is dead now. Sadly, I had nothing to do with that. I was, however, very happy to get the news that the bastard had died. I like cats but that particular cat? No. I hated that cat. He was a real asshole. You have no idea. Just a total prick. I still hate him.

Rot in hell, Bruno. I’ll see you soon enough.

Like, I will know I’m in hell when I see that cat.

So yeah, that’s the sort of thing I’m thinking about having made. Might go darker though. Not sure. But trying to find pictures of that coat, I found some old pictures online.

Like this one:

I’ve got to me in my fucking twenties there. That was at a fashion show of some kind. They had a booth. I’m not sure if it was fashion week, FAT, or just a random show. But it was that era, long before influencers, when fashion had no fucking idea what to do with bloggers. Like were they media? Trespassers? A problem or an opportunity? Weird period.

I don’t have a lot of what’s in that picture. I still have the tie and the hat. I miss that suit – got it secondhand thrifting and then altered at a tailor and I really liked it. I think I just used it as a work suit and it just got run into the ground. Can’t remember tho.

The Grumpy Owl Guide to Keeping Your Eyeballs Twitching and Heart Throbbing

I’ve seen quite a few movie and show recommendations floating around lately. If these and the trending movies on Streaming Service X are any indication, people have a real appetite to watch movies about outbreaks, contagions, and pandemics. Can’t imagine why.

It does, however, occur to me that people may be interested in movie recommendations. I have no idea why they would be interested in mine. I usually have no interest in theirs. For fuck’s sake, if the movie is called Something-Man and you recommend it to me, not only do I question your taste, politics, and basic maturity but our whole relationship. Even when it’s a good recommendation, it often takes me about a decade to get around to following up on it.

I’m just not a big movie recommendation person. Like, at all. But what the fuck? I’ve already dispensed mental health tips on this blog, which isn’t really a thing I do, and if anyone told me ten years ago that I’d be at all emotional about The American Grocery Situation in the Year 2020 while living in Korea, I might have cut them off. (jk I’d pour them another drink.)

So as Nan used to say, ‘if you’re going to hang for stealing a sheep, you might as well shag it too.’ Here’s The Grumpy Owl Guide to Keeping Your Eyeballs Twitching and Heart Throbbing.

Sandglass

If we’ve known each other for any period of time and we’ve talked about television shows, I’ve probably recommended this one to you and you probably haven’t watched it.

You see! This is why I don’t even fucking bother!

But let me try AGAIN. This is one of my all time favorite shows. Like, I don’t make lists of favorites because, after a certain point, a thing is good on its own terms and what is this need to assign some number so that you can rank your relationship to it. Like why?

I ever tell you that I never had a best friend as a child. I refused. What does that mean? A best friend? How do you think that makes your other friends feel? What exact responsibilities come with that position anyway? Like, a friend is a friend far as I can tell.

This stance, of course, upset many of my friends. Kept them on their toes too, if we’re being completely honest about it.

But I should probably talk about this show. It’s the story of three friends during a difficult time and in a difficult place in Korea’s history. It’s just gut-wrenching. The entire thing is full of so much love and tenderness. It’s a melodrama but it is an amazing melodrama.

It’s a bit of a slow burn but, holy fuck, it does burn. There were parts of this thing where I cried so much, the tears felt holy. It was like altered consciousness emotional. And other parts, man, I felt some sort of protest PTSD. It’s a great show. You should watch it.

You probably won’t. I really don’t know why I even bother.

The Horse Dancer

One of the reasons that I don’t recommend movies or shows is because, well, many of the movies and shows that I like are a bit . . . It’s hard to expect anyone to like them. They’re not a thing you really want to recommend to a person.

Like how do you recommend The Horse Dancer?

It’s bad but it’s not bad in the way that everyone is used to — it’s not some Mystery Science Theater type bad. It’s bad but if you treat it like a bad movie, that’s just kind of boring. I mean, say what you want about these so-called bad movies but many of them, at least, aren’t predictable. Just the other day I saw one about a cyborg that kills some evil Supreme Leader or something and ends up on the run. You know what he did? He started competitive arm-wrestling at a truck-stop. You just don’t see Hollywood do shit like that. It’s kinda great.

So, yeah, maybe bad movies are bad, but at least they’re not boring.

I should also explain – I have a thing for a particular genre of movie. I like movies that are about a white girl who fucks up and gets sent to live with the horses and the horses teach her about life, love and small town American values. There’s a lot of these movies. Many are made by churches. They vary widely in quality. In some of these movies, the horse even talks. Those are especially good. I also really like talking animal movies — but only certain types of talking animals. Not CGI for example. It has to be a real animal.

My favorite entry in the genre of horses teaching people things is pretty easily The Horse Dancer. In this one, the horse does not talk. But the girl goes off to live on the ranch with the horses and then she starts dancing on them. Strange? That’s just the plot. The real marvel is just in the how this movie was made. It is so strangely put together that it becomes hallucinogenic. This is what watching a movie on LSD is like. (Trust me.)

You would have to be a genius to make a movie like this on purpose. Art house directors could mine this movie for years and never run out of really sinister and strange shit.

Like, I don’t know – watch it and imagine David Lynch or some such is directing it.

Star Trek Voyager: Night

This is on this list because I saw some Trek site claiming that another episode of Voyager was the best one about the current crisis. That other one is about a giant virus on the ship and Captain Janeway runs around with a laser gun shooting at it or something. And, like I know that one has a giant virus in it but I’ll never understand how science fiction manages to attract some of the most literal-minded people on the planet.

What do they even get out of the genre?

Since reading that post, this episode, Night (S05 E01), has been rattling around my brain like a song stuck in my head. It’s not my favorite episode of Voyager (hello Tuvix) but it is the episode that I think is most resonant with the times. The ship is stuck in a really boring void. Nothing to do but get through it. Their struggle is with powerlessness, morale and guilt. This is one of the first times we see Janeway really lose it — one of the few times when she goes to pieces. I like it when Janeway goes to pieces. Some vulnerability is good.

I watched it again tonight. Good episode.

And why the fuck has Picard made Seven so much worse as a character? Like, seriously. She was so much better than Bad Ass Action Hero. So much better.

Three poplars at Plyuschikha

This one caught me off-guard. I can’t remember exactly why I watched it — I think I ended up down some rabbit hole related to movies where the teacher teaches the inner city students a lesson they won’t forget, and somehow ended up in Russian movies. Happy I did.

You probably have to be some sort of movie expert to talk sensibly about this one but, to me, this is just a really well-executed and moving film. It’s so simple. A lot of people try to do understatement and very few succeed. This succeeds completely. It is not easy to make something this simple and to make it say so much. That’s mastery. It’s a simple movie that creates complicated feelings. Complicated but very plain too. It is what it is.

Summary

Everyone has their different tastes. One person likes Big Budget Space Cowboys at war with Coporate Mascot Superheros and another likes things that are actually good. But whatever the differences in our tastes, this can be a time for us to watch some stuff that we maybe haven’t heard of before and, you know, just give it a shot or whatever. Maybe something here will catch your fancy and make you have a feeling or two.

Fucked if I know.

Convoy

I seem to remember this one from when I was a kid. But it’s hard to say. There was a lot of Big Rig movies when I was younger. Anarcho-Big-Rigism was once a thriving genre.

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This example, brought to us by the incomparable Sam Peckinpah, tells the story of Rubber Ducky. A hard-workin’ trucker man who runs afoul of corrupt law enforcement and then joins together with his comrades to form a convoy. While the movie has the usual American themes of rugged individualism, in Convoy that individualism –the basic right to not to be subjected to the whims of shit cops, like that asshole Lyle– is defended through collective action. The truckers work together. They form a protest but one that lacks clear political demands. It is, rather, the wounded howl of the proletariat. Or, in this case, the wounded and angry horns of their trucks. But what are they protesting?

It’s not simply a corrupt cop. Indeed, when Lyle is at his most corrupt, shaking the truckers down for bribes, he is also at his most . . . Sympathetic? Well, not exactly. He is, rather, a part of ecosystem. Just your average corrupt authority figure. And he’s one that can be dealt with. He’s not pleasant but he can be bought. He’s something like what the truckers call the police: Bears. You don’t want to piss one off but you can deal with them.

Trouble only really emerges when Lyle goes too far and steps outside the game. He decides to lock up Spider Mike because of some hurt feelings. (Also because Lyle is a racist.) In doing this, he’s not only demanding bribes but respect. That’s a step too far. You can collect your bribes but you expect people to sing your praises for it? You want to be a cop and not have people hate you? C’mon Lyle, get a grip. Even worse, he’s actually using his law given authority to enforce his bad mood. And it’s in this system of laws, most of them unjust and arbitrary, that Peckinpah senses the real danger. Men like Lyle are annoying when they’re acting in their own petty interests but they’re also constrained by their own sniveling weakness. But give these men a uniform and the weapons of the state? Well, that’s when the motherfuckers get really dangerous.

This is a theme that Peckinpah explores in other movies. And it’s one that he might have explored more in this one.  The unreleased director’s cut is three and a half hours long. The movie executives fired Sam after seeing it. After all, three and a half hours is a movie length only be reserved for part ones of six part series, detailing the origin story of some cheap fucking toy. They re-edited the movie to make it more like Smokey and the Bandit.

What could be in that three and a half cut? I have no idea. I suspect, however, that this movie would be a lot less comedic and a lot more bleak. That it would be a meditation on the dying outlaw, his territory encroached on by the inevitable forces of progress and law. That this movie would have been a lot more like The Wild Bunch. That sort of movie still exists in this one. If you squint, you can see it. It helps to know that it might have been edited out, but it’s still there. Without squinting, this is just a bit more of a romp. A sort of ‘boys will be boys’ type thing. In spite of that, it’s still pretty good.

One thing that jumps right out of me, watching this film today, is how okay we all were with cops being portrayed as assholes. That was the standard for a long time. When they weren’t corrupt and evil, they were just useless. Nowadays, they always seem to be some sort of heroes. Like Dirty Lyle, it’s not enough that they’re cops, they want to be liked too.

Like, I’m not all that much into individualism, rugged or otherwise, but I can tolerate, like and approve of it in its anti-authoritarian mode. Hell, sometimes we all need to say – look, I’m a fucking person and you can go fuck yourself. That’s fine. It’s needed. But America did something pretty fucked up with its mythology of  individualism. It sucked it out of the bones of some random trucker who just wants an open road and a cold beer and fed it into superhero bosses, those holier than thou “job-creators.” The rich get to be individuals. But, you me and the rest of the shit? We just get to be an undifferentiated mass. Something for them to abuse and exploit. A sunk cost measured by gangs of simpering computer accountants. And that’s not enough? The rich even want to celebrated for it. They took that greatest of American achievements, the “fuck-you” and taught people to aim it downward. To aim it at people getting fucked even harder than they are. These days, it’s all people hating protesters and supporting the police. Calling the police heroes. The cops! If you can believe it! These dumb fucks even believe the cops! At least, they pretend to. There’s a whole cop fandom. People even buy cop t-shirts and hats to show their support. Of the cops! Like what the fuck, America? You’ve become a whole goddamn nation of snitches, ass-kissers and bullies. What sort of America is that? A pretty shit one, if you ask me.

Fuck the police. CONVOY!

Repo Man

A workmate gave me a copy of Repo Man. She knew that I’d been wanting to see it for some time and had never been able to find a copy. So she picked one up from Amoeba and just fucking gave it to me. Very nice. Between that and the all the DEVO shit a customer has given me, I feel pretty good. Mutants help mutants. It’s in the code.

repoman-poster

I watched it the other night. And boy – I miss punk rock. Not the fucking watered down mess it all became, with everyone with a Clash mp3 thinking that made them a punk, but the whole stupid other thing. The getting kicked in the head thing. The danger thing. The simple idea that punks do punk things and most of those things are really fucking stupid but there you have it – it is what it is. The sort of criminal, no life by proxy type shit. I don’t know where that all went. I mean, I don’t want to be a cop about it, but it’s like you wake up one day and then some twenty year old, upstanding-citizen-libertarian is telling you that they hate people on welfare because, well, they’re a bit of a punk. And you just want to shake the kid and be like – you love the rich and you hate welfare, that’s not punk, dummy.  Collect welfare. Spit on the rich. Like, you’re fucking twenty. Get your fucking head out of the boss’s ass, screw it on straight and go fucking live or something.

But anyway . . . Repo Man.

I really miss this part of it too. These sorts of movies and books. That weird intersection between punk and science fiction. And, no, I’m not talking about cyber, steam or whatever punk. That shit can be as bad as that kid. I mean more like the stuff where punk found some sort of fertile ground in sci-fi. B-Movie productions marry nicely with fuck-it-all nihilism. Maybe it started with The Blob. But you know the shit I mean. The speed, beer and an alien costume before noon shit. The teenage car crash shit.

Repo Man is that sort of shit.

The good shit.

Basically, the story is some young punk quits his job at the grocery store. He falls into being a repo man. A car carrying some weird sci-fi macguffin needs to be repossessed. It goes from there. It’s a goofy, funny and fucked up movie. It just gets the psychic tone of the thing right. It’s not “punk” being dissected at a science fiction convention punk. It’s, here’s some old stained paperback you found on the curb punk. Something to leaf through in the welfare waiting room punk. A space artifact made by human aliens.

I miss this sort of shit. You just don’t see it anymore.  Happy I finally got to see it.

Rubber Johnny

Strange, the places the internet can take you. I posted this picture of one of my dogs, David, refusing to climb the stairs after her walk. (Don’t worry, she was carried.)

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A commenter (my current default is to never give names out to this machine unless asked to do so by the people who answer to those names) replied with the words “Rubber Johnny (2005).” A day or so later, I looked for that. Seems my memory is a bit wonky because I looked for Rubber Boy 2005. Turns out that’s gay porn.

But I digress.

I checked again and found this video. I’d never seen it before. Maybe you haven’t either. But it’s worth seeing. So here it is. I wonder if that’s how I, how humans in general, look to dogs. We must be kind of strange. I mean, hell, we can move things pretty easy.

Paths of Glory and The Wire

You ever read something, a thing that never even occurred to you, but after you read it, it’s just so obvious you wondered how you ever missed it? This short article, The Hell of War: David Simon on Paths of Glory, about the influence that Kubrick’s Paths of Glory had on The Wire was like that for me. There’s even a short movie (which I can’t figure out how to embed) of Simon talking about Paths of Glory.

Watching the film with the detectives whose work he had set out to investigate, Simon recognized that its portrayal of the callous and hypocritical French-military bureaucracy had a great deal to say about the police department’s own chain of command. The film would prove to be a model of narrative and political complexity for Simon as he went on to a remarkable career in television, creating his own sprawling story of institutional dysfunction with the Baltimore-set drama The Wire, and later cowriting and producing the 2008 Iraq-war miniseries Generation Kill.

I really like Paths of Glory. It’s a genuinely anti-war film. I doubt that any kids ever took to the back yard to play “paths of Glory.” They just took to their jobs to play it in real life.