Wednesday, May 31, 2006

R.I.P., Shohei Imamura

Shohei Imamura, possibly my favorite Japanese director, has died at the age of 79. I heartily encourage everyone to watch the 1983 Cannes winner The Ballad of Narayama. Other good ones include The Insect Woman, The Pornographers, The Profound Desire of the Gods, Intentions of Murder, and The Eel. Imamura has a knack for portraying people whose emotions and situations have reduced them to an animalistic single-mindedness. He had an amazingly keen eye for capturing the human condition and the climaxes of his movies can be psychologically devastating.


Fellow Cinemasters Ryan Wu and Matt Prigge have more intelligent things to say about him, though it looks like I've seen more of his movies, which, unfortunately, are for the most part not available on DVD. I was able to catch some of his films at retrospectives in years past (Geez, I really need to get back into the habit of going to those) and find some others on VHS, although it's been a few years since I've seen one of his works. Maybe if you're lucky you can find some of his movies on VHS if you've got a well-stocked video store that hasn't completely liquidated their videotapes. Maybe his death will drum up interest for another retrospective or light a fire under somebody's ass to release his stuff on DVD.

Incidentally, there was a period in the 1990s when I was raiding the good video stores in my area for as many of the classic 1960s Japanese movies as possible. The more traditional post-war humanists like Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, and Ozu are great, but I preferred the psychological dramas from folks like Imamura and Nagisa Ohshima, the so-called "Japanese New Wave." Other great filmmakers of that generation include Kaneto Shindo (particularly Onibaba) and Hiroshi Teshigahara (particularly Woman in the Dunes).

Update #2:

Jeff Vorndam informs me that a company called Japanese New Wave Cinema recognized this gap and is producing relatively inexpensive DVD-Rs of otherwise unavailable classics. This is totally awesome. They have several titles already on sale and a bunch more coming soon within the next few months.

Friday, May 26, 2006

R.I.P., Desmond Dekker

Jamaican singer Desmond Dekker, who made the transition from ska to reggae in the 1960s, has died at the age of 64.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

An Amusing Tidbit

The sports teams for Grants Pass High School in Grants Pass, Oregon are called the Cavemen.

Apparently it's a reference to an old booster club for the town that called themselves the Oregon Cavemen and dressed the part. It all boils down to the proximity of the Oregon Caves. But still, it really says something that North Medford gets to be the Black Tornado, yet they've still only got the second-coolest mascot in the athletic conference.

Grants Pass was the site of an impromptu performance of "Hello, Mr. Bicyclist!" by Stale Urine the morning of July 27, 1995.

It's also worth noting that Grants Pass would be part of the proposed State of Jefferson.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More degrees

I should also note that in the past two weeks, my wife got her Doctor of Pharmacy from USC and my older sister got a matching pair of Associate's degrees (one an Associate of Arts and one an Associate of Science) from Citrus College. All that, plus my younger sister is enrolling in her post-graduate education, I think at Cal State Dominguez Hills, and I think to get a teaching credential. Or maybe a Master's. It's higher education galore!

Cool Toys

BoingBoing actually lives up to its slogan as "a directory of wonderful things" today. First up is a 7-minute reel of toy commercials from 1972 and thereabouts. "Bing Bang Boing" looks like Mousetrap on steroids, and stick around till the 6-minute mark for "Masterpiece," a great ad for an art auction game that appeals to kids' desires to be grown-up and sophisticated.

There's also a company that sells cartoon-style distorted treehouses.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I finished my degree

I guess I got caught up in the excitement and forgot to mention to you folks that I completed my Master's degree last week. I went in for my orals and passed; now all I need to do is order my cap, gown, and hood for commencement. I've even got all my library books turned in.

It's a Master of Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona. Commencement is June 11.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

9/11 on Trial?

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick makes a good case, I think, for putting the men really responsible for 9/11--- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his gang --- on trial, instead of just small fry like Zacarias Moussaoui. This would involve revealing the sort of Geneva Convention-violating treatment they received, but Lithwick thinks we can still put them behind bars for life. I'm not holding my breath for this happening as long as Bush is President, though.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Where are they now?

1. Remember Danny Almonte, that 14-year-old kid from the Bronx who lied about his age to compete in the Little League World Series? Well, now he's 19, finishing up high school (a little late, I guess, but OK), and married to a 30-year-old woman!

Perdomo told the Daily News that she's known Almonte since his Little
League days.
"He used to always tell me things and I was like, 'You're a
minor ... we'd get in trouble,'" Perdomo told the Daily News.

Oh my.

2. Remember Jennifer Wilbanks, the crazy-eyed "runaway bride" from Georgia? She and her fiance finally split up for good. About a year too late, if you ask me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Actual wedding photos

We have literally hundreds of wedding photos, so here's a few representative ones.
Me and Jen in the park outside of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Jen and her bridesmaids, with the Queen Mary in the background.

Me and my groomsmen, plus my pre-existing brother-in-law Erich Schneider, who officiated.

This was when I saw her in the wedding gown for the first time.

The ceremony itself, in the Aquarium.

The rings.

Jen's parents, me and Jen, my parents, and a leopard shark.

Us and a tropical reef. We saw a lot of these fish in the wild on our honeymoon, snorkeling in Maui.

It's good to fix the bustle if you're in the tunnel o' fish.

Our response to Jen's brother Eric's toast.

Jen and her mom. Jen made the necklace and earrings herself.

Guests eating under a life-size model of a blue whale.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bear vs. Monkey

Those concerned about monkeys taking over the world may be heartened to find that we have a natural ally in the bear, who has already begun his war against the monkeys.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Is Libya for Real?

Condoleeza Rice seems to think so. We're restoring full diplomatic ties with Libya and removing them from the list of states sponsoring terrorism. I think the remarkable thing here is that this is all happening under the control of the same guy (Moammar Gadhafi) who was non-Soviet public enemy #1 in the U.S. 20 years ago. I wonder what the people of Libya think.

I guess anybody who invites Lionel Richie to sing in his country can't be all bad.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Fun Presidential Quiz

James Taranto took time off from being snide a couple of days ago and instead posted a challenging Presidential trivia quiz. He posted the answers yesterday.

Doing some research (mostly using Wikipedia's vast collection of Presidential lists) I was able to come up with the answers to all of the questions except for the ordered lists, which were all doable, given enough time and effort.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Maui photos, sort of

I mentioned yesterday that we made the "complete figure-8 tour of Maui" on our trip, which, for practical purposes, means we drove all the way around the West Maui Mountains as well as all the way around Haleakala. The Hana Highway (around the north side of Haleakala) justifies its well-known status as one of the most beautiful drives in the country, but it was on the Kahekili Highway around the north side of West Maui and the Pi'ilani Highway around the south side of Haleakala that I was too busy trying to avoid getting my rented Dodge Neon from getting stuck in the mud or trying not to plunge to my death by falling off a cliff to take many photos of my own. Thankfully, Oscar Voss has an excellent Hawai'i Highways web page with some great photo-travelogues of the Hana Highway, Kahekili Highway, and Pi'ilani Highway. You can see Oscar's photos of what I saw on the road by clicking on those links. I'll have photos of my own uploaded soon; Oscar's photos are mostly of the roads themselves rather than the things you can see from the roads, but you'll get the general idea.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Shaving Update

I should note, apropos to the shaving discussion below, that upon arrival in Hawai'i, I discovered that the head of the disposable razor I had packed has snapped off in transit, so in a fit of extravagance, I picked up one of those insane 5+1-blade Gillette Fusion razors at the Longs Drugs in Kahului. So for the past week I've been using that, although I'm still just using hot water instead of shaving cream.

It does give a nice shave. I especially like how I can run it across my neck just once to shave off all of my neck hairs without irritation. It gets the cheeks and upper lip area well, too. The one area I have to work at some is the chin; the five-blade head is too wide, and the single-blade reverse end isn't much help. All the same, the difference between this and my old twin-blade disposable isn't a night-and-day thing, just an incremental difference. I'll probably use this for a while, get sick of paying so much for replacement cartridges after a while, and then go back to disposables.

Quick Update

1. The wedding went well, everybody had fun, etc. Jen's and my marriage has now lasted several times as long as Britney Spears's first marriage, so that's something.

2. I passed all of the written parts of my comprehensive exams for my Master's degree. Essentially this means I just have to show up to the oral part next Tuesday and do a better job of explaining my answer to the Policy Analysis question.

3. Jen and I are now back from our honeymoon on Maui. It was way cool. I'll post photos later. After a bad start in which we barely missed the cutoff to make our direct flight to Maui last Monday, we ended up catching a later flight to Honolulu, getting dinner in Waikiki, and then flying over to Maui the next morning. We spent three nights at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort in Ka'anapali, a resort area on the western tip of the island. The hotel was awesome and relaxing. We had a bunch of good, expensive food. We got professional massages and attended the Old Lahaina Luau. We went snorkeling several times. We had never gone snorkeling before, but we found it to be loads of fun and much easier than we expected, except for the part where you get in or out of the water. We saw many, many fish, and got some underwater photos. Then we stayed three nights at a bed & breakfast in Wailuku, a working-class town in Central Maui. In Wailuku we had a bunch of cheap, hearty food. We drove to pretty much every corner of the island you can drive to, making the complete figure-8 tour of Maui, seeing the little-seen northwest and southeast coasts as well as the more famous Road to Hana, where you can see a gorgeous, raging waterfall about every mile or so. We also drove up to the top of the volcano Haleakala to watch the sunset, which was gorgeous, though the view into the crater was obscured by fog. Just about everybody in Hawai'i is laid back and friendly.