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Western/Eastern



Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Buddha on a Train (reading Keroauc)



As I straddle my folded bike on the swaying train
Gliding over the Passaic and into Newark’s Penn
I read about someone in a hut in Corte Madera,
That I drove to over different waters on a different day
And where I was awarded the license to go forth and drive,
And reading that that someone in that hut
Thinks he is Buddha, and smiles and is content,
I look up and see the skyline of Manhattan,
Far and faint over the glittering, murky waters
And I smile
And I am content

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Park Chan-wook – Chinjeolhan Geumjassi (1)

poster.jpg Would you? Or wouldn’t you? And are the artificial plot settings the question arises in only superficially important or does it change the quality of your answer that you may never be in a situation that’s remotely close to the one depicted in this movie? In other words, is the moral conundrum this movie seems to present only applicable within its own stylized universe? If even within that universe, the kathartic act falls short, and everybody seems more upset after it than before, should these people have trusted their instincts? And am I falling into Park’s trap, asking all these questions instead of just enjoying a wildly original ride?

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

Akutagawa Ryunosuke – Rashomon (2)

rashomon.jpg This collection of short pieces did not leave me quite as astounded and fascinated as did his longer story Kappa, but there still is an undertone of oddness created by the things, notions and emotions that come natural to Ryunosuke’s characters, yet seem strange and strangely upsetting to me. But the general theme that ties together this book, the isolation of the individual and the fragility and subjectivity of social relations and even accounts of reality, both of which at the same time are essential to life and happyness, is much closer to being universal as, I suspect, his criticism of a specifically Japanese society was in “Kappa”.

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Peter Carey – Wrong About Japan (2)

1400043115.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg A cute book about the trip to Japan of a father and son, to meet some of Anime’s legendary figures, and to be shown, time and again, to be fundamentally wrong about Japanese culture. While this book stays on the surface of the issues a lot of the time, and some of the misunderstandings and oddities seem so naive to make me suspect exaggeration for the sake of the books thread, the subject itself is fascinating to me. Having never been to Japan, but being confronted with how utterly strange and alien the culture there is to Westerners, I find myself very unwilling to buy into it. Language books fuzz endlessly about the different politeness levels of Japanese speech, and what a unique concept that is, as though all words and phrases were applicable in all social situations in English. Likewise, many of the unfathomable quirks that are described in books like these seem to be a mix of different historical backgrounds and skewed perception on the side of the visitor, with some deliberate mythbuilding thrown in on the Japanese side, possibly as a means of establishing unity of the nation against foreign influences.

But that’s enough rambling out of me. If my plans to visit Japan this summer work out, I shall write down as much of my preconceptions as I possibly can, and try and chronicle their unfolding over the course of my stay. Maybe it’ll be as amusing as this book to read.

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Neal Stephenson – Snow Crash (1)

snowcrash.jpg A very inventive story and cool story, with the same weakness Stephenson’s other books have in my opinion, a forced ending. Creating complexity, just to then shoehorn it into some resolution so readers can feel better is not something I approve of. Otherwise it’s quite flawless, though. It’s also quite interesting to see how Stephenson obviously churned on the themes he scratched upon in this novel for the later Diamond Age, and then took them into more realistic contemporary fiction with the Cryptonomicon.

cowboys many.jpg I fondly remember the songs from my first Cowboys record, We Cum From Brooklyn, such wonderful playful sounds and humour. I was happy to find that much of this best of collection is taken off that older album. Together with the new album this unfortunately also confirms my suspicion that the Cowboys have lost their mojo.

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Neal Stephenson – The Diamond Age (2)

diamond age.jpg With the Cryptonomicon in mind, I expected a story similarly overfraught with meandering detail, but found myself pleasantly surprised. A well worked out future world, centered on changes in politics brought about by the development of nanotechnology, provides a nonintrusive background for a neo-victorian play on education and the value of the individuum that is as much fun as it is solid. While the psychology and character development, as is so unfortunately common in Science Fiction, take second stage after the geeky technostuff and the equally geeky ramifications of the technostuffs effects, the result is a delightful study. While the end is maybe a bit forced, this still makes me want to read Snowcrash now, Stephensons debut.

Friday, June 16th, 2006

David Milch – Deadwood, Season 3 (1)

deadwood.jpg Everyone’s favorite drama of swear and cuss is entering its third season, and judging from the opening episode, it’s going to be great. I have a hard time nailing down just exactly how they do it, but every moment of Deadwood’s reenacted history seems to be a goddam fucking delight. Partly, I think, this is due to the subtlety of plot and dialogue, that often lets you understand something said or done only much later, without making a fuss about such a resolution, as minor scripts might. And to a large part it’s the miraculous cast, Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen above all that lift this onto a plane all its own. Too bad the cokesnorting cocksuckers over at HBO cancelled the concluding fourth season and replaced it with a compromise. It’s a fucking disgrace. But for the time being, let’s enjoy season three, shall we?

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Chan / Park / Miike – Saam Gaang Yi (2)

ThreeExtremesPoster.jpg The odd and interesting concept of combining three short disturbing cinematic visions from Korea, Hong Kong and Japan into a single feature film pays off mostly because of the contrast between the three directors’ very distinctive approaches to scaring or shocking the audience. Where Chan uses colourful unscrupulous hedonism to post a moral warning, Park delves almost sadistically in his usual subject of revenge, guilt and the impact of violence and Miike creates a rigid, melancholy and inescapable atmosphere of enormous and unresolvable guilt. I’m not sure any of the three stories would have worked as standalone works, but seen together they seem to take on a deeper meaning and complement one another.

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Chan-wook Park – Oldboy (1)

oldboy.jpg I enjoy watching movies with advertised surprise endings, not attempting to guess the twist beforehand so that it can have maximum impact. Here, I vaguely suspected the ending about halfway through, enough to take away the bottomless feeling I distinctly remember from having in The Sixth Sense, which is too bad. That doesn’t say anything bad about the movie, and I just mention it to justify my not talking at all about the plot of Oldboy. I cherish surprises, and so should you. Besides, if you want to be spoiled, there are plenty of places online for that.
Oldboy captured me both by the shocking intensity and realism of its violence, both physical and emotional, and it’s toying with the balance between the cool aspect of the martial arts tradition, and the dark and disturbing reality of violence. Contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere, though Oldboys perfect aesthetic design and it’s fragmented storytelling might suggest it, this is not a postmodern play on popculture themes in manner seemingly defined by Tarantino’s early works (as I’ve found said in multiple places), but rather a monumental tragedy, masterfully told.