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Month: August 2003

A man is honest

You probably aren’t going to be able to see Masked and Anonymous — it’s not playing in Boston or San Francisco anymore, so unless you live in New York or Los Angeles you may be out of luck. (Seattle’s got it, though.) The critics really savaged it. Me, I thought it was brilliant.

I’m lost, sleeping in an alley
I’m lost, I had some family
I’m lost, I’m here, I’m lost.

Short synopsis: It’s a sideways America with a dictatorial President; America as if it were a damaged third world nation. Uncle Sweetheart has Jack Fate (that’d be Dylan) sprung from prison so he can put on a benefit concert and steal enough money to pay off a couple of really insistent creditors. Jack Fate interacts with a bunch of people, including a journalist, an old lover, and his old running buddy Bobby Cupid. A couple of things happen, and the movie ends.

On the wrong side of town, in a dark apartment
We gave up trying so long ago.

And yeah, looked at one way, there’s about that much narrative tension. Jack Fate is stone-faced throughout the majority of the movie; he’s a rock, and the other characters bounce off him with varying degrees of success. There’s no damned plot.

All the lights go out
Evenings go on and on
The sun goes down and up too fast
To ever, ever be found.

But I think that looking at it that way misses the point. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, there’s a revelation that suffuses everything that’s happened with retrospective meaning. It becomes obvious that Jack Fate is holding his emotions at a strict minimum for a reason — the last time he let them out, there were consequences. There’s no direct causal line between what happened then and the America of the movie, but there are shadowy hints and underground rumblings. It’s enough for me.

She gives me her cheek
When I want her lips
Oh, but I don’t have the strength to go.

Besides which, it’s a beautiful movie. Jessica Lange is drop-dead gorgeous, even around the edges where the makeup thins — or maybe that’s why she’s beautiful. Mickey Rourke swaggers brilliantly. Penelope Cruz is fragile and convincing. There’s a scene in the beginning where Fate walks past a Grecian temple covered with graffiti that made me hold my breath. The only thing that didn’t click from me from a sensual point of view was Val Kilmer’s bit.

Do you wake up at the wheel
Headed for the shoulder of the road
Screaming “God please save my soul!”
Well, I do, I do, I do — a lot of crazy things.

Still, even that last fits into the vision of a damaged America. Some critics bitched that there’s no explanation of how America came to the place it is in the movie. Again, that’s missing the point. This is our America, seen through a lens darkly. The best speculation is always about what’s already there.

Now that highway’s coming through
So you all gotta move
This bottom rung ain’t no fun at all.

Oh, and the music is spectacular, although I probably would not say that if I wasn’t fond of Dylan in the first place.

Well, I used to live the limelight
But now the limelight’s using me
Too many times I had to panic
Cause there’s too many people watching me.

So: it’s a treasure. It’s the American Brazil. It’s self-indulgent Bob Dylan ego made manifest. I’m really glad I saw it.

Whatever happened, I apologize
Dry your tears, and baby, walk outside
It’s the Fourth of July.

(Thanks are owed, as has been the case since I bought the album sixteen years ago, to John and Exene and the rest of the band.)

WISH #61

WISH 61 asks:

Come up with a character concept for one to three other gamers you know. System, genre, stats (if you even bother with stats) up to you. How did the gamer(s) influence the concept(s) you came up with? Would you play the character(s) you came up with yourself?

OK, that’s an awesome question.

So, let’s see. System will be Exalted, cause I’ve kind of been on an Exalted kick of late. And I will pick on the core members of my old group back in California, because I miss them.

Brad gets the old geezer who just Exalted. I think probably Dawn Caste. Brad has an old geezer with lots of skills concept who I’m not sure he’s ever gotten to play, so this seems like it’d be a fun twist. The Charms would have to be a smattering from all over, enhancing his years of knowledge, and then he’s got the kick butt Dawn Caste stuff going for him. Rejuvenated.

Carl gets an Eclipse Caste Exalted, because I like his charismatic NPCs but I don’t ever see him playing charismatic PCs. Or, rather, I don’t see him playing talkers, and I’d like to see it. Also, Exalted might just be big enough to encompass his ability to stretch the boundaries of plausibility. “Sure, you can pick up the warship and carry it overland.”

Gretchen gets a Night Caste who was raised by feral animals, and only really gained self-awareness when she Exalted, for old times sake. (It’s a canine concept and a weapon concept!) More seriously, I very much admire her portrayal of non-human characters, and I like the way she treats the seriousness of killing, and I think that concept would give her room to do interesting things in both fields.

I could play any of these three characters, but none of them are my style per se.

Evil and eviller

Yeah, it’s quick-link morning. But Kodi’s investigation of the relative evil of Arnold Schwarzenegger versus the villains he’s fought in his movies is really good.

Arius might have been in favor of some limited separation of powers in the government of lovely Latin American Country, perhaps a parliament he could dissolve at will or something, but nothing on the order of the limitations applied to the office of Governor of California.

The table is worth the price of admission.

Gill stuffed

After a lot of futzing around caused by my own lack of coordination, the server that brings you this very blog is up to a hefty 1 GB of memory. With any luck, this’ll cut down on mysql crashes. Can’t hurt, anyhow.

Total cost: under $100. I love the future.

(Damn. That post seemed faster… too subjective to know if I’m really getting improvements, though.)

What's it look like

If you’re interested in CafePress Publishing, you ought to check out this report from someone who’s tried it. He’s pretty positive, on the whole, but he provides enough information so that you can easily decide for yourself.

They still aren’t doing perfect bound books, and they still plan to put CafePress advertising in each book, though, so my interest level is pretty low at the moment.

Foreign aid

Poland’s decided to adjust its military committment in Iraq. There aren’t any fewer Polish troops over there, but they’re not quite as interested in administering the area near Baghdad as they once were.

You know, we’re gonna wind up turning this mess over to the UN sooner or later, whether or not that’s a good thing.

It's all part of the plan

As a rule, I really like Bruce R’s blog Flit. However, I am starting to wonder about his choice of blog partners. T. M. Lutas is not the sharpest crayon in the shed.

This in the way of introduction to this exciting new theory of American’s Iraq reconstruction plan. Salam Pax said:

I guess you’ve been hearing news about Mosul? Well it’s worse. The security situation isn’t too bad (they don’t rely on Americans in these parts- if they did it wouldn’t be any better than Baghdad). Electricity is more or less sorted out (although we do have problems)- and no, it wasn’t the Amreeeekan who got things running, thank you very much.

Lutas enthusiastically responded:

These are not the words of somebody who is going to feel permanently humiliated at their dependence on america. That’s all to the good and may there be many more such independent people.

Yep. We’re failing to provide electricity in Iraq so that the people of Iraq can feel self-reliant. Perhaps it’ll distract them from the fact that we haven’t yet let them try their own war criminals. I mean, yeah, as a tactic it’d work — but it kind of ignores the resentment it’d engender.