Wednesday, January 31, 2007
David Lynch's Inland Empire 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Yesterday, on the coldest Chicago night this winter so far, my friend Matt and I took in David Lynch’s Inland Empire at the Music Box. The subzero wind chill virtually emptied that typically buzzing section of Southport, desolation exaggerating the film's strange aftertaste the way a shot of icy vodka enhances caviar's salty bite. For quite some time after leaving the theater, nothing in the outside world appeared quite that same as it did about three hours before.

One caveat: don’t let anyone convince you that Inland Empire would be better with chemical seasoning.* Taken straight it's enough of a freak-out, and I suspect combining mind-altering substances with this film’s elemental nightmarishness [or as the occasional Polish-speaking character might say, koszmar] could send a more-sensitive soul on a little holiday in a padded room.

Scenes drift into and out of comprehensibility, with characters’ dialogue often devolving into the kind of non-sequitur that makes no literal sense, but makes perfect sense in REM sleep. Different people substitute for one another, and unknown faces stand in for the familiar. The discordant, swelling score alternates between suggestive vibration and head-on sensory assault, lending menace to scenes as innocent as a young woman’s laugh. I think the digital cameras Lynch uses are especially appropriate for the subject matter, shattering lens flares into prismatic streaks and giving skin, light, and shadow intense, unflattering hues. Oddly, the look is familiar because it's frequently the way our eyes and brain function. It's just not the stylized vision we're accustomed to seeing on the big screen.

Let me say Laura Dern is simply amazing in her multiple personalities/manifestations, but it would be counterproductive for me to try to describe the storyline, since what you might take away from seeing this Rorshach-blot of an epic may be very different. For example, one of the creepiest things in this movie - for me, at least - is a squat mid-Century table lamp with a rectangular red shade sitting ominously atop a dresser. We first see it unlit in silhouette, its angularity suggesting a killer skulking in a shadowy hallway bleached of warmth. In a later scene, the lamp's red glow looks terrifying, not comforting. There is, in fact, little or nothing about Inland Empire that's comfortable.

Lynch accentuates the natural physiological effect of dim light upon the human retina, where darkness shifts perceived chroma blue, by showing sets in varying luminosities. In fact, keep an eye out for all red lamps in this film. There is also a squad of hookers that periodically appears like a taunting Greek chorus, or the faceless wraiths in the underrated 80's supernatural thriller, Nomads. The red lamps may be an allusion to a "Red Light district," or they may be a symbolic portal between the film's shifting time signatures; just remember when you see a red lamp, "reality" is about to slip into the quicksand.

While jarringly surreal, Inland Empire never becomes simple phantasmagoria. There are no human-headed cockroaches or smoking caterpillars on mushrooms here (although we do see a "family sitcom" where the players wear costume rabbit-heads, speaking terse dialogue as if reciting a prayer card) just bubbling streams of distilled subconscious, strained through California-cum-East European anxiety. And forget about trying to keep track of linear time: here it’s always after midnight, even in the scorching midday sun.

The movie is extraordinarily challenging to watch. For the first time in years, I had the urge to walk out of the theater at several points, and a few people actually did. Not because the film was bad, but it was so overstimulating and intense for lengthy periods I could hardly stay in my seat. However, I’m sure that’s the effect Lynch intended, as one leaves with the uncomfortable brain trail you get upon waking from a nasty nightmare. But if you’re up to facing over three hours of full-on Lynchian mindf---(hint: the dashed letters do not start with a “u,” nor end in “k”) this is a limbic-system feast. Today, I actually want to see it again.

* Not unless that's your normal state. If not, I wouldn't suggest you mix the two, as I predict a raging case of the 'noids.

MORE: The Boston Globe's Ty Burr has one of the most elucidating reviews of Inland Empire I've read to date.

"The Trippy Dreams of David Lynch"
by Manohla Dargis, New York Times


Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Something New at farkleberries: Snap™ Web Preview 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Starting today, you may notice something different about this blog: when you place your cursor on any external hyperlink, a small window will pop up that displays a minature preview of the linked page. It's a free add-on from Snap™ you can add to your blog simply by pasting a line of Javascript into the "head" of your HTML.

[Yes, I know "free" means it's probably sucking all sorts of data and clickthrough info, but, hey ... it looks cool.]

Would you be so kind as to let me know how this feature works for you? Is it helpful, or does it cause problems or slow loading? I haven't noticed anything untoward on my Windows XP machine(s) running Firefox, but I'd be curious to know if you run into any issues. Personally, I've found Snap Web Preview fun and painless to use on OPB's (Other People's Blogs).


Sunday, January 28, 2007
Laundry Detergent for Vampires 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Bought a jug of Cheer Dark™ (now there's an oxymoron) today, since my darks always lose their tenebrosity after repeated washings, and I couldn't resist a little Photoshopping.

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Friday, January 26, 2007
farkleberries Links du Jour 169: The Junk In The Trunk Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 


Thursday, January 25, 2007
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Nultitasking: trying to perform several tasks simultaneously, but the end result is that nothing gets done.


"Procrastination" by Dave Walker 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

The Truth is Out There. [via Neatorama]


Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Is Hello Kitty® 'Culturally Odorless'? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I confess I never really noticed Hello Kitty® until three years ago, when I adopted Snoë, a large entirely white cat who bears a striking resemblance to the cartoon character. With a real-life version in-home, I now see how pervasive the Hello Kitty® franchise really is: she's bigger than Mickey, but without a mouth she can't swallow the Mouse.

The Bizarro Empire of Hello Kitty (Corina Zappia in Village Voice):
In their book, Hello Kitty: The Remarkable Story of the Billion Dollar Feline Phenomenon, authors Ken Belson and Brian Bemner describe Hello Kitty's ability to appeal to all: "With few exceptions, her creators at Sanrio Ltd. have shied away from developing any story to her life, instead leaving her personality to the eyes and minds of the beholder. This Zen-like technique, intentionally or not, has allowed Kitty to become at once the princess of purity to toddlers, a cuddly playmate for young girls and a walk down memory lane for adults yearning for another taste of childhood."

Sanrio itself ties Kitty's lack of mouth in with her universality: "Hello Kitty speaks from her heart," the official Sanrio FAQ says, explaining Kitty's mouthlessness. "She is Sanrio's ambassador to the world who isn't bound to one certain language."

Without a mouth, Kitty can exclude no one. But on the other hand, do we really want more women, even if they're cats, unable to speak up for themselves? [keep reading]
Chanpon: Hello Kitty Has No Mouth by Mizuko Ito:
A discussion of Hello Kitty is nearly impossible without an explanation of kawaii and the culture that surrounds the term. Historically, the rise of cuteness is traced back to the 1970s, with the popularization of cute handwriting and manga and disillusionment with earlier student riots and subsequent capitalization of those trends by the fancy goods industry (Kinsella, 1995:225). Though the general meaning of the word is “cute,” the qualities and connotations associated with the term are many. As Kinsella writes, a survey among men and women in 1992 revealed a number of other terms associated with kawaii, including: childlike, innocent, naïve, unconscious, natural, emotional contact between individuals, fashionable, associated with animals, and weak (1995:237-240). Kawaii is a produced style and aesthetic as well as an inherent quality a person, place, or thing possesses.

The rise of Hello Kitty in the global consumer market, like other successful pop cultural imports, may be attributed to the process of removing traces of Japanese origin. Iwabuchi has coined the expression "culturally odorless products" to describe the ways in which Japanese products erase their "Japaneseness" in order to be more successfully marketed overseas (Allison, 2000:70). Moreover, "effacing the identity—the Japaneseness—of Japanese products appears to be even more prominent in the US Market" (Allison, 2000:70). Making a product "culturally odorless" somehow reduces resistance to a product through its reduction of difference. [read full article]
And, the $64,000 Question: If Hello Kitty® has no mouth, is she also missing the opposite end of the digestive tract, another (perhaps more literal) manifestation of "cultural odorlessness"?

"Hello Kitty Has No Mouth" - the poem
Sanrio Hello Kitty® FAQ
["Darth Kitty" costume image found on Linkbunnies]
Also see Sanrio's "grown-up" Hello Kitty® line, Momoberry

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Sunday, January 21, 2007
California Truck Crash Load Contained 4g Plutonium 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
If you think all the hazardous radioactive material being transported across the country is safeguarded - or at least properly packaged and prepared for shipment on public thorofares - think again. The circumstances of last Tuesday's truck crash near the Mojave National Preserve are truly frightening if they're any indication of how carelessly lethal materials like plutonium might be traveling, perhaps in a vehicle rolling alongside you. From the San Bernadino Sun:
Baking soda, bunk beds, fire extinguishers - and a drum with plutonium-238. The truck that crashed Tuesday near Needles [CA] with a load of radioactive waste was a plain old commercial truck carrying plain old products.

When emergency workers checked the truck's manifest they were surprised that radioactive material was being shipped with ordinary goods. "This, in and of itself, is very alarming," said San Bernardino County Fire Marshal Peter Brierty, who also directs his agency's hazardous materials unit. Government and industry officials say shipping radioactive materials by commercial carriers is a perfectly safe, perfectly routine practice. The containers, the routes and the shipping companies are all heavily regulated, and there has never been an accident that resulted in a release of radiation, they said.

The radiation emitted by the truck's amount of plutonium-238 is trillions of times more than is allowed in drinking water, Brierty said. The four grams of plutonium involved in the crash would be roughly the volume of a pencil eraser. But that amount kicks out more than 60 curies, a measure of radioactivity.
In contrast, the drinking water standard is 15 picocuries per liter, or 15 trillionths of one curie.
The truck, pulling two trailers, crashed into a guardrail on eastbound Interstate 40, rupturing the tractor's fuel tank and causing the rear trailer to overturn and split open. The driver was unhurt. Part of the freeway was shut down for 18 hours. The heavily shielded, 500-pound, 55-gallon drum with the plutonium was in the front of the damaged trailer, California Highway Patrol Officer Michael Callahan said. The entire cargo had to be unloaded to get at the drum.

The drum was undamaged, and there was no leakage of radiation. [But,] "What the hell is that doing in that truck?" said Robert Halstead, an expert in the transportation of nuclear waste. [read full article]

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Friday, January 19, 2007
Do Banks Have a Beef With Sock Knitters? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Not only is sock knitting (especially the genteel, lady-of-the-house Christian variety) seen as a diametric opposite to worldly speculative thought on the level of Ray Bradbury, but in a strange real-world twist, monetarily successful sock knitters trigger their bank's fraud alarm:
The knitting community is large and rich (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s blog, yarnharlot.ca, raised over $120,000 for Tricoteuses Sans Frontiers in less than three days, this Christmas), so it’s surprising that we are still so socially invisible. Maybe $120K isn’t so much, on the scale of the entertainment industry. But here’s the interesting part:

This morning, one of the most popular producers of hand-dyed sock yarn, Blue Moon Fiber Arts, announced that they were making so much money on their sock yarn that their bank managers decided it must be a front for something illegal, and shut down Blue Moon’s credit card system, and refunded all of the money for the 2007 Sock Club! [Katrina Triezenberg, Ph.D., in a communiqué to Freakonomics Blog]
Perhaps the bank thought Blue Moon was selling crack-infused sock yarn, or something equally ridiculous; more on the story at the Yarn Harlot. [Image comes with apologies to Vincent van Gogh and Warrant...well, maybe not Warrant.]

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The Power of Environment: Dr. Roland G. Fryer 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 


Wednesday, January 17, 2007
farkleberries Links du Jour 168: The Looney Tooney Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 


Thursday, January 11, 2007
Not Even Old Enough To Be a Decent Vampire 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Migrating farkleberries over to Blogger Beta had a curious side-effect I dicovered only recently: my birthdate on my Blogger profile is now 1756, and it states that I'm 250 years old...er, wouldn't that be 251? Hardly funny...at all.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Overheard in a UC Ladies' Room 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Woman 1: "Ya know there's a ressaraw downstair?"

Woman 2: "Really? Is it expensive? What do they serve down there?"

Woman 1: "What do they serve??"

Woman 2: "At the restaurant?!"

Woman 1: "Not ressaraw - I said rest room!"

Woman 2: "Oh."

UPDATE: Contrary to speculation, I was not one of the parties in this conversation.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Taking "Concealed Carry" To The Next Level 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

So, if the report of an "unarmed gunman" were false, does that mean the gunman was armed, after all? Spotted on the CBC News website RSS feed (though it's been corrected).

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Monday, January 08, 2007
farkleberries Links du Jour 167: It's Owlicious 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 


Thursday, January 04, 2007
When Freeze Hells Over, Even Asparagus Gets Confused 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
So it's official - it's not my imagination - Chicago (like many other U.S. cities) is having one heck of a mild winter so far. From CNN:
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Crocuses are pushing out of the ground in New Jersey. Ice fishing tournaments in Minnesota are being canceled for lack of ice. And golfers are hitting the links in Chicago in January. Much of the Midwest and the East Coast are experiencing remarkably warm winter, with temperatures running 10 and 20 degrees higher than normal in many places.
New York City saw a November and December without snow for the first time since 1877. And New Jersey had its warmest December since records started being kept 111 years ago. Maria Freitas said that not only are crocus bulbs blooming in her Rahway, N.J., backyard, but the asparagus is three inches high. "They think it's spring. They're so confused," she said.
Meteorologists say the warm spell is due to a combination of factors. El Nino, a cyclical warming trend now under way in the Pacific Ocean, can lead to milder weather, particularly in the Northeast. The jet stream, the high-altitude air current that works like a barricade to hold back warm Southern air, is running much farther north than usual over the East Coast.

The weather is prone to short-term fluctuations, and forecasters said the mild winter does not necessarily mean global warming is upon us. In fact, the Plains have been hit by back-to-back blizzards in the past two weeks. "No cause for alarm. Enjoy it while you have it," said Mike Halpert, head of forecast operations at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

Whatever the explanation, Amanda Dickens was enjoying the weather Wednesday at Baltimore's Inner Harbor as she ate lunch outside with her husband and 3-year-old son. Temperatures there were expected to reach 60 degrees. At the Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago near Lake Michigan, 30 people teed off between 9 a.m. and noon, when there are usually no golfers at all this time of year.

Leonard Berg, the course's superintendent for maintenance, gestured to the fairways with pride: "Normally this time of year there would be a brown singe to it. Look at that nice emerald green."
I, for one, am enjoying this thermal twist immensely - but I'll be the first one to complain when we finally get our 12 inches of snow this April. [Photo courtesy Physorg.com; © 2007 AP/Charles Rex Arbogast]

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