Not as Wild

In my continuing love of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, I watched his 1991 breakthrough Days of Being Wild last night.

First, I will say that Wong Kar-Wai has risen to the status of “one of my favorite directors” faster than anyone else. I saw Happy Together and knew that he was awesome and that I needed to see and learn about as many as his films as possible. Following Happy Together I watched In the Mood for Love and his segment of the recent film Eros. So what I’m trying to preface this with is: 1. I love his films and think he’s an awesome director; 2. I only recently came into love with his films and haven’t seen all that many.

Also, I should add, that it’s been a pain-and-a-half getting this movie. When I first added it to my my Netflix queue, it came pretty quick (unlike Happy Together which had a “Very long wait” and 2046 which has had a “Very long wait” for over a month now). When I got the disc, however, it was cracked. Per the Netflix instructions, I filled out a form on the website and sent it back. I requested that they send a replacement copy. Lucky for me, that replacement came within three days… oh, but it was cracked, also. Oh, and I didn’t realize this until after I invited my friend Troy over to watch it with me. I felt stupid. Anyway, I returned the second broken disc and attached a Post-it that said “This one is broken.” The third time I got the DVD, it was in one piece. Yay.

York and Mimi/Lulu

On to the movie:

Like other Wong Kar-Wai movies, this movie, to some extent, revolves around the ideas of love and chance encounters. The main character, York, seduces and dumps two women: one is the quiet Su Lizhen and the other is the more spunky Lulu (a.k.a. Mimi). Eventually, York’s friend falls for Lulu and a random police office has a chance encounter with Su Lizhen. Neither of the women seem to be enough over York to acknowledge the men who may actually love them… and in the end, of course, it all goes to hell.

Similar to the way relationships develop in Happy Together, we don’t really see how “good” things are during these relationships — there is none of that cheesy spending-every-moment-together and having-super-happy-fun-carefree-times-together stuff that makes me ill in so many American romantic movies (e.g. The Notebook) — instead, we see things when they are bad. We see York reject Su Lizhen’s suggestion that they get married and live together kick Lulu/Mimi out of the apartment they share after she suggests that he might be “her boy.”

Despite these troubled relationships, however, Kar-Wai manages to capture love at it’s purest. I know I’m pretty cynical and jaded when it comes to love, but Kar-Wai seems to agree, somewhat, with my world view. Love is painful and hurtful and insane… it happens when you don’t anticipate it with people from which you don’t expect it.

Like I said, Days of Being Wild definitely touches on themes that I think become much more prominent in Kar-Wai’s later work (well, based on the recent stuff I’ve seen). The ideas of being trapped and isolated (by cramped, hot, sweaty apartments with fans) in life and relationships becomes a major theme in Happy Together, while the strange excitement of relationships that come from nowhere becomes the one of the underlying issues of In the Mood for Love.

Days of Being Wild also contains what I would call (and remember, this is only after seeing four of his movies) “trademarks” of Kar-Wai films: cramped apartment hallways, pouring rain, Latin/Spanish music, missed encounters, chance encounters, and shaky camera work.

So why do I hesitate to rave about this film as much as Happy Together or In the Mood for Love? The primary reason would be super high expectations. Had I seen this film before either of those, I would probably think more highly of it. Nonetheless, it’s exciting to see how far Kar-Wai has come and I genuinely do like it when directors find similar themes that they explore to death. Yeah, it may be a little repetitive and playing it safe, but it also gives one a chance to really explore something interesting and worthwhile. And I think Kar-Wai’s take on the themes of love and chance and fate make for fascinating film.

A Cine-ful city

Jessica Alba in 'Sin City'

So like every other hip and cool person, I saw Sin City and loved it. Ever since I saw Robert Rodriguez‘s Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the special feature where Rodriguez demonstrated how simple it was to do special effects, I figured he was an interesting and smart director.

More than anything, Sin City reminded me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow — both were extremely stylized and had “ironic” acting (which is a term I made up to mean “forced, yet good; cheesy, yet self-aware; overdramatic, yet simple)… plus they both made extensive use of green screen technology and, of course, I loved them both.

I guess a lot has been said about the violence of the film, but honestly, I didn’t think it was too intense. The thing about Sin City is that since it is so stylized, the entire world and situation doesn’t feel real, and I think that made the violence feel less real and less “offensive” or whatever. I mean, the film wasn’t even in color and the blood was often white. Yes, I know I’m already desensitived toward violence, but I don’t think Sin City made things any worse for me.

I also loved the whole film-noir aspect of the film. Maybe it’s from all my psychoanalytic reading, but there is something about shady, tormented characters (i.e. every male character in the film) and sexy femme fatales (i.e. every female character in the film) that totally captures my attention.

If I had to say anything bad about the film (which I don’t, but I will anyway), I will admit that at times it did drag on a little for me. I’m not sure whether it was because there were so many stories or because the movie was in black and white, or what… nonetheless, it did get a bit boring at times. And really, I am almost embarassed to admit that I got bored because, if nothing else, I should’ve been enthralled by the stunning visuals or something. Oh well. It’s more a fault of mine than the movie, I think.

Pages 1-32

Introduction/Modifications

  • the term “sexuality” did not appear until the nineteenth century (3)
  • “experience that caused individuals to recognize themselves as subjects of a ‘sexuality'” (4)
  • experience = “the correlations between fields of knowledge, types of normativity, and forms of subjectivity in a particular culture” (4)
  • desire and the subject of desire were withdrawn from the historical field, and interdiction as the general form was made to account for anything historical in sexuality” (4)
  • three axes that constitute sexuality:
    1. science
    2. systems of power that regulate it
    3. recognition of self as a subject of it
  • Christian tradition and psychology turn people into the “desiring subject” — “both appear nonetheless to be dominated by the principle of ‘desiring man.'” (5)
  • Foucault wants to: “analyze the practices by which individuals were led to focus their attention on themselves, to decipher, recognize, and acknowledge themselves as subjects of desire” (5); to find “a hermeneutics of desire” (5)
  • “why is sexual conduct, why are the activities and pleasures that attach to it, an object of moral solicitude? why this ethical concern?” (10)
  • “‘techniques of the self,’ no doubt lost some of their importance and autonomy when they were assimilated into the exercise of priestly power in early Christianity, and later, into educative, medical, and psychological types of practices” (11)
  • “and now i would like to show how, in classical antiquity, sexuality activity and sexual and sexual pleasures were problematized through practices of the self, bringing into play the criteria of an ‘aesthetics of existence.'” (12)
  • “this volume, The Use of Pleasure, is devoted to the manner in which sexual activity was problematized by philosophers and doctors in classical Greek culture of the fourth century B.C.” (12)

Introduction/Forms of Problematization

  • “the meaning of the sexual act itself: it will be said that Christianity associated it with evil, sin, the Fall, and death, whereas antiquity invested it with positive symbolic values” (14)
  • relations between individuals of the same sex
  • fear and sex:
    • “obsessive worries that medicine and pedagogy nurtured on the subject of pure sexual expenditure” (16)
    • gonorrhea
    • “some even advised to indulge only ‘if one wants to do harm to oneself.’ a very ancient fear, therefore” (17)
  • ideal and conduct:
    • elephants have good morals (!??!?!): saint francis of sales: “recommending the example of the elephant and the good morals it manifested with its mate. it was ‘only a large beast, but the most worth of all the animals on earth, and the one with the most intelligence… it is tenderly loving with the one it has chosen, mating only every three years, and then only for five days, and so secretly that is is never seen in the act; but it can be seen again on the sixth day, when the first thing it does is go straight to the river and bathe its whole body, being unwilling to return to the herd before it is purified'” (17)
    • mutual faithfulness i.e. monogamy is valued
  • homosexuality
    • nineteenth century stereotypical image of a “homosexual or introvert”: “the way he gets dolled up, his coquetry, but also his facial expressions, his anatomy, the feminine morphology of his whole body” (18)
    • “the theme of role reversal and the principle of a natural stigma attached to this offense against nature” (18) — i.e. what is really wrong is that the man isn’t acting manly, and therefore “god” or whoever makes it known that this person isn’t a real man
    • soft boys: :”seneca the elder notices around him, with great repugnance: ‘Libidinous delight in song and dance transfixes these effeminates. braiding the hair, refining the voice till it is as caressing as a woman’s, competing in bodily softness with women, beautifying themselves with filthy fineries'” (19)
    • “socrates’ first speech in the Phaedrus alludes to it, when he voices disapproval of the love that is given to soft boys” (19)
    • “it would be completely incorrect to interpret this as a condemnation of love of boys, or what we generally refer to as homosexual relations” (19) — it is more about gender inversion
    • “definite aversion to anything that might denote a deliberate renunciation of the signs and privileges of the masculine role” (19)
  • abstention from sex
    • “the virtuous hero who is able to turn aside from pleasure” (20)
    • “renunciation can give access to a spiritual experience of truth and love that sexual activity excludes” (20)
    • “the thematics of a relationship between sexual abstinence and access to truth was already quite prominent” (20)
  • “one must also not lose sight of the fact that the Church and the pastoral ministry stressed the principle of morality whose precepts were compulsory and whose scope was universal… in classical thought, on the other hand, the demands of austerity were not organized into a unified, coherent, authoritarian moral system that was imposed on everyone in the same manner” (21) — i.e. in Christianity people had to follow the rules or they were punished, in classical times, people were expected to follow the rules for their own good and in order to become better
  • in classical times: “the proposed–more than they imposed–different styles of moderation or strictness” (21)
  • “it should not be concluded that the Christian mortality of sex was somehow ‘pre-formed’ in ancient thought” (21)
  • Foucault doing a quick feminist critique:
    • “it was an ethics for men: an ethics thought, written, and taught by men, and addressed to men–to free men, obviously. a male ethics, consequently, in which women figured only as objects, or at most, partners that one had best train, educate, and watch over…” (22)
    • “it was an elaboration of masculine conduct carried out from the viewpoint of men in order to give them their behavior” (23)
  • axis of experience/domains (23)
    1. relations to the body
    2. relation to the other sex
    3. relation to one’s own sex
    4. relation to the truth
  • “locate the areas of experience and the forms in which sexual behavior was problematized” (23)
  • “why was it in those areas–apropos of the body, of the wife, of boys, and of truth–that the practice of pleasures became a matter for debate?” (24)
  • “how did sexual behavior, insofar as it implied these different types of relations, come to be conceived as a domain of moral experience?” (24)

Introduction/Morality and Practice of the Self

  • definition of morality: “one means a set of values and rules of action that are recommended to individuals through the intermediary of various prescriptive agencies such as the family (in one of its roles), educational institutions, churches, and so forth” (25)
  • “they form a complex interplay of elements that counterbalance and correct one another, and cancel each other out on certain points, thus providing for compromises or loopholes” (25)
  • ethical work: “bring one’s conduct into compliance with a given rule, but attempt to transform oneself into the ethical subject of one’s behavior” (27)
  • telos of the ethical subject: an action is not only moral in itself, in its singularity; it is also moral in its circumstantial integration and by virtue of the place it occupies in a patter of conduct” (27-28)
  • “in short, for an action to be ‘moral,’ it must not be reducible to an act or series of acts conforming to a rule, a law, or a value” … “but self-formation as an ‘ethical subject'” (28)
  • “decides on a certain mode of being that will serve as his moral goal” (28)
  • “in certain moralities the main emphasis is placed on the code, on its systematicity, its richness, its area of behavior… the important thing is to focus on the instances of authority that enforce the code, that require it to be learned and observed, that penalize infractions” (29)
  • “the subjectivation occurs basically in a quasi-juridical form” (29)
  • “moral conceptions in Greek and Greco-Roman antiquity were much more oriented toward practices of the self and the question of askesis than toward codifications of conducts and the strict definition of what is permitted and what is forbidden” (30)
  • “to remain free from interior bondage to the passions, and to achieve a mode of being that could be defined by the full enjoyment of oneself, or the perfect supremacy of oneself over oneself” (31)

Using pleasure

The History of Sexuality: Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure
In an attempt to be an academic while not in school, I’m going to make use of my journaling and note taking skills and see if I can’t use this blog as a place to jot down thoughts as I read various books.

To see how this works out, I’ll start with the book I am currently reading: *The History of Sexuality: Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure* by Michel Foucault.

Last week I finished reading (for the second or third time) his *History of Sexuality: Volume 1: An Introduction*. Maybe if I get really ambitious I will try to transcribe some notes from volume one — we’ll see how this first experiment works out.

Read all posts relating to History of Sexuality: Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure.

Here is the citation for the edition I am using:

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books, 1985. Trans. of L’Usage des plaisirs. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1984.

FF revisited

Final Fantasy 6 battle screen

All along I thought that my favorite *Final Fantasy* game was *FF4* (*FF2* U.S.) was my favorite… then I replayed it and sorta had my doubts. Then I figured that since everyone likes *FF6* the best, I would probably be all “rebelious” and like a different one, say *FF7* the best… well, it turns out that as I am re-playing *FF6*. I can definitely conclude that *FF6* is indeed my favorite.

I think my love for *FF4* has mainly to do with nostalgia. I rememember playing it all the time back in elementary school… then in junior high I became even more obsessed and started writing a whole strategy guide/walk-through (before they were all over the internet) for the game!! But yah, I replayed it about a year ago, and the magic was gone. Oh well. Such is the way of nostalgia.

But *FF5* — damn! I am very much a “maximalist,” so the more things the better. And *FF5* is packed with things — tons of characters (including two “hidden” characters), tons of espers and magic spells, tons of items, two worlds, etc. etc. And then, of course, the game becomes totally non-linear in the World of Ruin, which totally rocks.

So point of the story: I still want to revisit *FF7* to see if that one could be my favorite. I love the environmental themes of that game and it’s somewhat “postmodern” themes (seriously, we talked about that in my Postmodernism and Japanese Mass Culture course!). For now, though, *FF6* remains my favorite *Final Fantasy* game.

Netflix plugin

The Netflix plugin that I first started using wasn’t all to feature-oriented. It basically took a Netflix RSS feed and dumped it without any processing or formatting. That is, if you wanted to display your activity queue, it just spit the 3 (or however many DVDs you can have out at one time) most recent discs shipped to you, and the most recent discs you returned. Plus, it didn’t have any way of displaying your rental queue.

Well, I didn’t think that was too cool, so I decided to hack away at it.

First, I modified it so that it would only show the discs most recently shipped to you. Then I realized that it might be cool, also, to show the discs you most recently returned. So I took the function and gave it some arguments — you can specify an “action” as “rented” and “returned.” Then I realized that you might want to see both in the same list, so I added an “activity” variable as well.

To that, I added the “queue” action which spit out your rental queue… Well, my queue has over 100 discs, so that was overkill, so I added the ability to limit (mine is current set at six, since that’s about as far ahead as I plan my queue).

After I finished all of that, I thought sometime in the future it might be nice to customize the way the list is presented (mainly, whether it should be an ordered list — <ol> — or an unordered list — <ul>), so I added arguments for those elements as well.

I’m not sure exactly how to go ahead and submit these modifications as a plugin, but I’ll look into that. For the time being, here is the code if anyone else uses WordPress and wants the functionality:

function mynetflix(
 $action,
 $listtag="ul",
 $itemtag="li",
 $count=10) {

global $activityurl;
global $queueurl;

switch ($action) {

 case "rented" :
 case "returned" :
 case "activity" : {

  $rss = fetch_rss($activityurl);
  echo "<".$listtag.">\n";
  
  foreach($rss->items as $item) {
   $title = $item["title"];
   $link = $item["link"];
   $desc = $item["description"];
   
   $parts = explode(":", $title, 2);
   $act = trim($parts[0]);
   $title = trim($parts[1]);
   
   $parts = explode(".", $desc, 2);
   $date = strip_tags(trim($parts[0]));

   $a = "<".$itemtag.">\n";
   $b = "</".$itemtag.">\n";
  
   if($act == "Shipped" && $action == "rented")
    echo wptexturize($a."<a href="".$link."">".
     $title."</a>&nbsp;".$date.$b);
   else if($act == "Received" && $action == "returned")
    echo wptexturize($a."<a href="".$link."">".
     $title."</a>&nbsp;".$date.$b);
   else if($action == "activity")
    echo wptexturize($a."<a href="".$link."">".
     $title."</a>&nbsp;".$date.$b);   
  }
 
  echo "</".$listtag.">\n";
 
  break;
 }

 case "queue" : {
  $rss = fetch_rss($queueurl);
  
  echo "<".$listtag.">\n";
  
  $i=0;
  foreach($rss->items as $item) {
   if($i >= $count) break;
   
   $parts = explode("-", $item["title"], 2);
   $num = trim($parts[0]);
   $title = trim($parts[1]);
   $link = $item["link"];

   echo "<".$itemtag." value="".$num."">\n";
   echo wptexturize("<a href="".$link."">".$title."</a>");
   echo "</".$itemtag.">\n";
   $i++;
  }
  
  echo "</".$listtag.">\n"; 
  break;
 }
}
}

To use it, you define two varibles:

$activityurl	= "look on your Netflix RSS page"; 
$queueurl		= "look on your Netflix RSS page";

And call the function like:

<?php mynetflix('rented'); echo "\n"; ?>

or

<?php mynetflix('queue', 'ol', 'li', 6); echo "\n"; ?>

Magic! I love this stuff!

Update:
I really do impress myself 🙂 I just added some more functionality so that a page like My Entire Netflix Queue works… check it out. The biggest addition was the ability to show the description (which Netflix feeds in the RSS).

WordPress so far

I’m pretty impressed with this whole WordPress thing. It’s really powerful and the plugins are awesome. So far I have one to show movies I recently rented from Netflix, to show songs I recently played on iTunes (using the AudioScrobbler plugin), and to allow my to upload images into posts (hence the random Sexy Boy post). I will definitely be checking out more.

I also love how customizble things are. I can control how the URLs are created, how many posts to show on the home page, how to format time, and so on. It’s totally fun to play around with.

My next project is developing a theme. I really like the simple default theme. I do, however, want to customize it and make it my own. Except to see bizzare images and strange fonts soon enough 🙂

Other than all the technical WordPress stuff, the next step is to get back into the habbit of actually blogging. We’ll see how that comes along…

Back from the dead

It turns out that I missed blogging too much, so here is my great return.

After taking a six-or-so month break, I realized how much I missed using my blog as a place to throw out ideas, get feedback on those ideas, and jot down random thoughts.

This version of the blog, however, is going to be a bit different than the previous incarnation. Instead of coming at this blog as if it were a total brain dump/diary/journal/etc., I’m going to be more focused and less random… I know that the randomness makes blogs sorta fun, but the dangers are: 1. you write about stuff that you later regret; 2. it’s hard to develop an audience outside of your friends (who don’t mind randomness) because every time someone visits there is something different; 3. you feel overwhelmed by the need to write about everything and the blog becomes more of a burden than something fun.

So with that in mind, I am going to try to set the scope of my blog to cover the following topics: politics (my rants against the cosnervative Christian right and their frightening growing power in the United States), movies (mini-reviews of films I watch), music, and cultural studies-type stuff (my thoughts on books I’m reading and whatnot). Note: absent from that list is stuff like: what I did last night, what I’m making for dinner, which Lord of the Rings character am I, etc. So yeah, less personal stuff is the ultimate goal.

Also, I am using a program called WordPress to manage the site. Although it was hella fun to write my own blog engine last time, it became annoying when I wanted to add things but didn’t want to spend all the time figuring out how to code them and then finding the time to do the actual coding. I hope to do some modifications to WordPress to make it more my own (since it uses PHP also), so it’ll still be unique (hopefully).

That said, welcome back everyone (if there is an “everyone” reading this now), and give as much feedback as possible — that’s the most fun part of a blog.