Finally started on War and Peace. The hard part is getting all the names right because there are dozens of major characters, most of them are related to each other, all of them are counts and princesses, and they’re all named Anna, Vasily or Nikolay so you have to remember their patronymics as well. And just when you think you know who’s what, someone starts using a nickname. I think I know why vodka was invented. Lots of drunken mayhem in the early chapters. A policeman is tied to a bear.
Archive for June, 2007
One minute I’m ignoring my symptoms, the next minute I’m flattened by the flu. I’m now aware of how many muscles the human body has, because I could feel each one aching. The real danger of being confined to your room is death by boredom, so I kept myself entertained. I figured some dumb fun would hasten my cure so I turned on the television, but after half an hour I realized that it was not fun, just dumb. Our entertainers are now paid to look like they’re having way too much fun, and when you consider how moronic the material is, it’s hard work. Fortunately they are way past embarrassment, or they’d be hurling themselves under oncoming trucks for shame.
TV made my headache worse so I watched DVDs instead. I watched four Claude Chabrol movies in a row: Les Noces Rouges, La Femme Infidele (remade as Unfaithful), Le Boucher, and Les Biches (The Does, not The Bitches). They’re all very Hitchcockâ€”psychological studies of murder, except that they’re French and not suspenseful. Stephane Audran in very mini skirts and false eyelashes stars in every one; turns out she was sleeping with the director (she married him). Then I saw Boudu Saved From Drowning (remade as Down and Out in Beverly Hills), which was funny. Not laugh out loud funny, but funny as in “Oh the bourgeoisie, such soft targets, and I’m so clever to get it.” The tramp Boudu tries to kill himself by jumping off the Pont des Arts, which is just not fair. Why must everything be more picturesque in Paris, even suicide? I remembered walking along the Seine with my friend Jeffrey on a gloomy afternoon, and it was so romantic that I tried to convince him to jump in so I would remember the moment forever. He wouldn’t, which just killed the mood.
I’d been feeling wonky and under the weather lately, so I decided to give my immune system a boost by watching The Fantastic Four: Chris Evans in Tights. It’s the entirely unnecessary sequel to the completely pointless Fantastic Four, and its redeeming qualities are all parts of Chris Evans’s anatomy (chest, arms, eyelashes, lips). As Mr. Fantastic Ioan Gruffudd, a Welsh actor, simulates an American accent by moving his mouth as if he were constantly chewing. Jessica Alba as Invisible Woman has blond hair, a tan, and pale lipstickâ€”she looks like those overbaked Miami matrons addicted to plastic surgery. As a couple these two have less chemistry than Michael Chiklis’s The Thing and Chris’s Human Torch. The frequently-postponed wedding of the Fantastics is the movie’s human plot; the superhero plot involves the Silver Surfer, an alien who looks like an extra-large consolation prize Oscar. It’s jarring to hear Lawrence Fishburne’s voice come out of a giant Oscar; I feel like he’s about to make me choose between red pill and blue pill. The Silver Surfer explains his cosmically fatal mission using his stomach as a screenâ€”I’m thinking this Galactus doesn’t sound so tough, I’m sure some lactobacilli Shirota strain would fix him. To complicate matters Dr. Doom, who was presumed dead, returns with plucked eyebrows, hairpiece, and the mannered acting of a contestant in an Evil Diva pageant. The movie leaves many questions unanswered, like Who’s Galactus anyway? and What happened to the Silver Surfer’s genitalia? but it’s cheesy and cheerful, and I’m not arguing with the sight of Chris Evans in a towel.
HATOYAMA, Japan (AP) — Forget the clicker: A new technology in Japan could let you control electronic devices without lifting a finger simply by reading brain activity.
The “brain-machine interface” developed by Hitachi Inc. analyzes slight changes in the brain’s blood flow and translates brain motion into electric signals.
A cap connects by optical fibers to a mapping device, which links, in turn, to a toy train set via a control computer and motor during one recent demonstration at Hitachi’s Advanced Research Laboratory in Hatoyama, just outside Tokyo.
Here’s something I picked up from Nancy Mitford’s comic masterpiece, Love In A Cold Climate. The secret of flashing a brilliant smile is to say “brush”. “It’s a thing I got out of an old book on deportment and it fixes at once this very gay smile on one’s face,” says a very gay character, although at the time “gay” meant “happy”. Ige and I tried it today, and it works. Right after you say “brush” the corners of your mouth turn up in a rictus. It’s much more effective than saying “cheese”. So if you want to conceal your true feelings, or if you have a meeting with someone you loathe, say “brush” just before you enter the room. They’ll think you love them, or that you’re on drugs.
Afterwards we discussed the vital question: Who are your movie parents? Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes (though technically it was Satan) in Rosemary’s Baby? Catherine Deneuve and whatsisname in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg? I decided on Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Sleeper or Love and Death. Ige claimed Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in In The Mood For Love. For the absent Chus, I picked Marcello Mastroianni and Claudia Cardinale in 8 1/2. Ricky refused to acknowledge Madonna and Sean Penn in Shanghai Surprise as his parents, preferring Sue Lyon and James Mason in Lolita.
From the Guardian: “Personal DNA sequences will become a routine tool in the diagnosis of diseases within 10 years, according to the father of genetics, James Watson. He said that, as the costs of the sequencing technology tumble, doctors will be able to use the information to plan more effective treatments for conditions including mental illness, cancer, obesity and diabetes. . .”