Monday, November 29, 2010

A Method Behind The Madness;

I think that I would be hard-pressed to find a person who is not disgusted by the concept behind The Human Centipede.

I don't think that I need to go in depth with the plot-line, because we all sort of get it. The insane Doctor Heiter preforms a terrible experiment on three unsuspecting humans. I have now watched the film three times, and I have come to realize something interesting about it. And no, I am not referring to Tom Six's research into the complete the medical accuracy.

Tom Six
Doctor Heiter just misses his dog.
In the beginning, we witness his tears over a photograph depicting his now-deceased "three-dog". It is obvious from the beginning that this animal was not only a brilliantly successful experiment in his eyes, but also his only companion. He later tells the girls that he doesn't like to be around humans, implying that he most likely does not have too many friends. With the degrees of emotion that he exhibits when thinking about his dog(s), it is obvious that although he prefers to be separated from society, he still desires some sort of companion.

We discover that Heiter was once a well-known surgeon, specializing in the separation of conjoined twins. He moved on past this to practice the reverse - joining life-forms together to create that which he had previously been trained to separate. I think that this is interesting. Instead of separating humans to give them a sense of normalcy in society, he joins them together to create something inhuman.

When Heiter is in the company of the two girls and the Japanese man, he is short-tempered and awkward. He is uncertain of how he should act around humans because he is uncomfortable with their presence. As soon as his creation is complete, his interactions with the three becomes more loving, as a man would treat his beloved pet. He no longer views them as three separate human beings, but instead as a creature with no human capacity. It becomes his pet, and nothing more. This is furthered by the fact that the Japanese man is placed at the front of the line With his inability to speak German or English, he has no way of understanding what Heiter says to him, as well as the fact that Heiter most likely does not understand him. There is a language barrier that disconnects Heiter from his creation, therefore giving it even less human tendencies in his eyes.

The most fascinating part of the film is the art hanging on Heiter's walls. There is not very much attention drawn to it, but if you look at the majority of the work hanging throughout his house, you can see that they resemble the Rorschach inkblots. When you look closer, you see that the images are actually joined twins. Even though it is obvious what these images are, I think the presence of Rorschach-inspired art is notable. The purpose of this test is to interpret the mind of the viewer through what they see in the distorted figures. The interpretations made are fabricated completely by the individual viewing them, and this is considered to be a look into the brain and the way that it functions for that specific individual. The fact that Heiter has these works hanging throughout his house calls attention to his interpretations in his own life. He takes these three humans, and disregards the truth of what they are. They becomes nothing more than a dog-like creature to him, and he refuses to view them in any other way. The fact that the audience is so disgusted by the situation calls attention to the fact that he is not disturbed at all. He only sees what he wants to see.

And if you ask me, this insane doctor only sees his sweet "three-dog" that he misses so very much.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ring Ring;

Any job that you have, if there is a phone nearby it is important that you answer it the minute that it starts ringing. In my case, the phone ringing is always a customer, and the customer is the most important...right?

I have an incredible fear of phones. I have gotten used to my own cell phone, but much of that comfort comes from having it for a long time, as well as caller i.d, which will always tell me who it is that is trying to get a hold of me. Most importantly, the majority of people who call me are aware of my fear, and they do everything in their power to never call me unless it is completely necessary. Unfortunately, there is no way to send out a memo for every customer of my bank to inform them that sometimes I am too scared of the phone to help them. You can't tell a customer to "text you instead", and most of them would prefer to get help immediately instead of being forced to leave a message and wait for an answer. So I live with this anxiety.

I was thinking about it today, and I realized that I was not always like this. Living at home, I had to answer the phone all the time. My parents are both almost completely deaf, so even if they did hear the phone, it is uncomfortable for them to actually talk on it because they have trouble hearing what is coming through the other end. It was my and my sister's job to answer the phone, take the message, and relay the information back to them. Living at home required the same telephone action that my job now desires, but over time I seem to have lost that skill. I moved out when I was eighteen, and at twenty-three I am unable to comfortably answer the phone without stuttering and sweating.

I don't know if realizing this will help me. I know that answering the phone at work is literally the easiest thing that I have to do, besides being extremely important and necessary. I hope that over time I will find the same amount of comfort that I had when I was living at home. But who knows?

Without all of that practice, I guess I have gotten a bit rusty.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Missing Persons - rob mclennan

I had the pleasure of reading this short novel after meeting and getting to know rob. As some may be aware, he was recently tearing around the downtown of St. Catharines for the GBRS.

We were talking at dinner, and I mentioned that I do not like to write dialogue. Whenever I attempt to write it in, I find that it looks tacky and forced. I always feel that it looks too stark on a page of beautifully woven words, as bright light after a night of rainfall. rob mentioned that he had written a short novel that contained no dialogue, and I was immediately interested. To write a short story like this, I had done, but to write a novel? Even a short one seemed like it would be too difficult.

Of course, rob found a way. The absence of dialogue calls both to the absence of things in the life of our protagonist, specifically someone that she can talk to. She seems to be completely alone although surrounded by an adequate amount of people, yet there is very little that she can say.

Missing Persons floats both through the prairies of Saskatchewan and the most delicate time in a young girl's life. Alberta, named for the home that her family never reached, has lost her father, and the novel stretches like the land they live on through the trials and tribulations of growing up without a father, and growing up in general. The land itself becomes as important as Alberta, with both of them slipping from the grasp of the reader. Alberta is as any young teenage girl begins, full of confusion, hate, and the desire to portray herself as original. She is still a slate waiting to have a true story. The land that rob embodies in these pages acts the same. With so much description, we are never fully invited into the logistics of where Alberta resides. We have loose facts and poetics, but no hard facts to answer the question of where she really is. I think that this is the most important part of the text. Alberta becomes the land that she lives on in the sense that both are impressionable, while still holding true to the core of what they really are.

The novel is written in what I can only describe as short bursts, of the present day and memories. The style is completely poetic and beautiful, and in the omission of residence the text breathes itself. A dreamlike and fictional quality takes over through the tones created, which is impressive considering the subject matter's truly average existence. Somehow rob manages to take the mundane task of growing up, hardships or not, and make it into something beautiful and unique.

I think the most interesting point of the novel is the repetition throughout the chapters and divisions of how much time has past since Alberta's father had died. Time does not exist quite in the way that it is supposed to, and instead time begins only after his death. I think this is fascinating for two reasons. Firstly, it seems that after his death, a new time begins. With death, this is surely plausible, as those left behind must find a new way of surviving, and this method can no longer be the way that it was before that person left this earth. The second is that throughout Alberta's story, she tries to find herself, as any young girl does. Even though she craves to be individual, she finds herself living in time that refers to the memory of her father, therefore allowing him to still have a protective force over her. This is the most beautiful part of the novel for me.

I give this novel a 4/5. It was a beautiful and short novel. Every single word used is poetic and gripping, and the story is one that can easily be related to.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

'She Always Gets A Part';

I just finished watching a Japanese horror film called 'Audition'. It was directed by Takashi Miike, who is also behind two of my favourite Japanese films, 'Ichi the Killer' and 'Imprint'.

I was nervous about watching this because of the reviews that I read online. It seems that when it first hit the select theaters and festivals, it had a great deal of walk-outs. The gore and torture that was portrayed was rumored to be legendary, and knowing this fact I was a little anxious about watching it alone on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

The story begins with the death of our protagonist's wife. Leaping ahead seven years we find that he is still single, but at the bequest of his son he decides that he may be ready for romance once again. He and his friend, both are assumed to be producers of some kind, set up 'auditions' for a 'film'. In reality, the two use the auditions as a rouse to have a parade of women through which our protagonist can find himself a suitable mate.
Aoyama immediately falls in love with the young Asami, and begins to woo her as soon as her interview is over. Both are shy around the other, as a result of his limited romantic life and her mysteriously solitary past. When we are allowed into Asami's apartment, we find sparse seating as she herself sits on the ground, staring at her phone. There is also a large sack lying on the floor, and when it groans one can't help but think that something human is in there. When Aoyama takes her on a weekend getaway to propose, he becomes aware of a great deal of suffering in her past that has left her frightened to give her heart to anyone who refuses to love only her. When Aoyama awakens the next morning to find her missing, he begins to search for her, uncovering the gruesome mysteries of her life. This of course includes the murder of a woman and the disappearance of a record producer. Aoyama returns home only to be drugged and tortured by the deranged Asami, as a result of her inability to believe that he could love only her. She insists that words are not real, and to feel, Aoyama must feel only pain. Aoyama's son returns home and puts an end to the torture, leaving Asami on the floor with a broken neck.

I do understand the ways that this film is frightening. I understand the deranged quality of young Asami, and the gruesome torture that ensues for a long period of time. At the same time, I think that a lot of this film is destroyed by my desensitization to gore. This film therefore becomes more of a mental trauma, as a result of the build up and subtle games that it plays with the audience. I think that because of this, the film never really receives the credit that is due to it. A film critic may find it too violent, while a horror buff would find it too slow. I was lucky, being both a film fan and a gore fan, so I would recommend this to anyone who felt the same.

The most important things to know about this film are as follows:
-It is a slow start. Truthfully, I think that it begins as most romantic comedies might, except Aoyama just happens to fall for the wrong kind of girl.
-There is a lot left to the imagination, as well as a lot skewed by Aoyama's imagination/dreams. When he is knocked out, we travel through Asami's life and it is difficult to tell what is reality and what is drug induced nightmare.
-I accept that the gore present may be difficult for some people to handle. For myself, I have seen far worse, so I was not affected at all by the scenes, but this is not to say that it may not destabilize some audiences.
-I think this is the most important piece of advice for not only this film, but all films. Read the reviews and get an idea, but by no means let that shape your viewing of the material. I think that if I had allowed the movie to simply unravel itself instead of searching for an accurate explanation, I would have enjoyed it even more than I did. I think that with a film of this caliber it is important to let it shock you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Chrysalids - John Wyndham

As I have mentioned before, I love post-apocalyptic texts, and I love mutants even more.

I always wonder about what would happen to the world after a great disaster. If the world were to be shattered, would society rebuild? And in what way? What would change in the minds of the people left behind?

Wyndham takes an approach that I find fascinating, specifically that the society the novel follows, some 1000 years after the destruction of Earth, are living much like humans of the 18th century would have. That is to say, would time and history repeat itself?

Waknuk is a small community located on what we know to be Labrador, and it is here that our protagonist resides. We find out early that David is different from his family, and that his distant cousin is also different in a similar way, but for whatever reason they are unable to share what it is that separates them from the rest of society. When David befriends a young girl, nothing out of the ordinary is brought forth until her foot is caught between two rocks. In helping her to pry it out, it becomes known that she has six toes on each foot. David is sworn to secrecy by her family, and it slowly becomes clear that this community lives in a very strict form of Christianity. This form constitutes that if a human being is not formed in the image of God, they are formed in the image of the Devil. Any altercation of the body is considered to be evil, and these beings are cast out into the Fringes (the direct outside of the community) or into the Badlands (where nothing and no one can survive). David's secret becomes known after the community becomes aware of Sophie's six toes, as well as the similar secrets of his friends and his little sister, Petra. All of them possess what they refer to as "thought-speak", in which they can telepathically speak to one another.

In a rush against the community, and specifically David's own father, the group of children seek an unknown voice that they have heard in Petra. From far-away, someone else has been attempting to reach them, and because of Petra's bizarre power, she is able to respond. They all set out, racing against those that aim to kill what they do not understand, and the savages of the Fringes.

I think it is fascinating how this community attempts to justify what proper human form is. Throughout the novel, anything that is not in the image that is so determined in the Bible is cast out to die. As if this isn't bad enough, when David's secret is discovered, they decide that alterations to the brain are not acceptable either. I cannot wrap my head around the understanding that some people are alright for the world, and some people are not. As well as who it is that decides these things. Text like this always boil down to the root of what it means to be human and, spoiler alert, it isn't always the ones in charge.

I give this novel a 5/5. I used to read it often when I was a child, and I think it was perhaps the first post-apocalyptic text I ever read. I love the vague understanding that all of the people have of the world before the apocalypse, and I find the attempt of the community to filter out the deviations of the human form and the human mind fascinating. This novel toys with the idea of evolution and rejection of religion with a post-apocalyptic backdrop, and I think it is difficult to turn something like that down.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'll Believe In Anything;

Have you ever seen Garden State?

Of course you have. I don't know too many people who haven't experienced it. Either way, I will set the tone for you. One of the characters, Sam - played by the talented Natalie Portman, admits to a secret, early into the film. She explains to the protagonist - Andrew Largeman - that she has a problem with lying. She can't tell why she does it, yet she finds herself lying about the most ridiculous things.

Sam: OK, so... so... sometimes I lie. I mean, I'm weird, man. About random stuff too, I don't even know why I do it. It's like... it's like a tick, I mean sometimes I hear myself say something and think, Wow, that wasn't even remotely true. 

Anyway, I find myself to be a lot like this. All throughout my life I have found myself lying about things that are not even remotely true, and I wonder immediately after they have come out of my mouth, "why on earth did I just say that?" Much like NaPo's character, I also feel bad after I lie, and usually I will admit to it as soon as I have said it. Other than that, I don't have much control over it. All I can do is hope that I will regret it, and take it back.

A friend of mine has just celebrated a 30th birthday, and he wrote about things that he enjoys about the age he has just reached. One of these facts was that it is easier to lie about things that most likely did not happen, because he has had the time to 'experience the world' further than the people he may be talking to. I had to laugh when I read this, because I have found myself to also be experiencing this at the ripe old age of twenty-three. I still lie all the time, and I don't know that I will ever be able to stop, but I have found it less necessary to correct myself because of the limited blank stares I get when I say something. People are actually starting to believe the ridiculous things that I say because my age has surpassed this invisible line where one is allowed to have experienced certain things.

I want to point out that I do my best to control my lying, even now that I seem to be able to get away with it. I almost always admit to the fabrication immediately after it escapes my lips, but I just love that I could get away with not saying anything else at all.

What is that age that you reach, when the ridiculous becomes the accepted?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In The Event That Everything Should Go Terribly Wrong;

"See, as much as you want to hold on to the bitter sore memory that someone has left this world, you are still in it. And the very act of living is a tide; at first it seems to make no difference at all, and then one day you look down and see how much pain has eroded."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Walking Dead - Volume One: Days Gone Bye - Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

Who doesn't love a good zombie graphic novel?!

I have been wanting to read this for a pretty long time, as I have been hearing a lot about it from many different people. Finally a friend of mine was able to lend it to me, and thus begins my search to find the rest of the volumes. I assume that I will also be checking out the television show now, which looks like it is going to be incredible. I don't know what it is about the subject of zombies, but I never tire of it. I am always excited to hear about them, and I think I would be hardpressed to find something on the subject that I didn't enjoy. This was no exception.

This graphic novel begins with our protagonist being shot in the line of duty (he is a police officer in a small town) and the resulting coma keeps him out of the loop for a month. When he finally wakes up, he finds himself completely alone in a rotting town, infested with zombies. I find it fascinating that with an introduction as common as the "waking up to a dead world" scenario, it ALWAYS works for zombie stories. As Rick realizes the situation with the help of two friendly survivors, he decides to move on to the larger city in order to find his wife and child. Upon reaching the city he finds that everything of order has collapsed and with the help of a random boy, finds his way to a camp set up not far from the outskirts of Atlanta. He shockingly finds his wife and child waiting for him there, and the remainder of the story goes as any zombie story does - with the characters trying their best to stay alive before "help" comes.

I think that the part of this story that I liked the most was the focus on the humanity as opposed to the carnage. Don't get me wrong. I love a good gore-fest as much as the next horror-freak, but I like the direction that this first volume has taken. I was able to form an attachment to the characters right away, hearing their stories and watching their battles, and through this I think the entire series can be strengthened. You are better able to witness how to stay alive past the typical 'killing of the dead', and it is a side that gets brushed over in a lot of zombie fiction.

I give this graphic novel a 3/5, mainly because it is so difficult to give a rating when the story is left off. I think that I need to read all of them, because they otherwise end abruptly. I found myself wanting more, which of course makes sense as you are not supposed to read just the one. I enjoyed the graphics as well. Not as much as I have enjoyed some artwork in the past, but enough. My favourite part of the novel though, is definitely the perspective taken. As mentioned on the back cover, "in a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Half Japanese Girl;

I don't remember how we actually started talking. I know that it had to do with being in class together, and I guess it just happened. Like osmosis - bound to happen. I remember the first time she gave me a drive home from class. It was snowing out, and she was heading that way anyway, so she offered and I accepted. She played me a recording that her and her band had made immediately, and told me all about the experience. It was adorable.

Through our entire relationship, she has been the one with a plan. With her head firmly on her shoulders. And throughout it all she helped me to find my own path. I had a lot of trouble leaving the house and going to class, and I can honestly say that if it had not been for her example and inspiration, I would not have graduated University. She helped me not only to get into the classroom, but to also understand what I was supposed to be doing once I got there. No one else has ever been able to push me with such grace, and I owe this English Language and Literature degree to her, first and foremost. I don't think she even knows how much she helped me, unintentionally, but I am forever grateful.

As time went on and our friendship grew outside of the classroom, she found a way to help me in my real life. I made some mistakes and some bad decisions, and no matter what happened, who was involved, or what I regretted, I knew that I ALWAYS had a shoulder to cry on and a fountain of advice. I met someone who I could study/drink/dance/sit/talk/ with, and here we are today.

When I am with her, I am just me. I can't be that with many people because I always feel the need to keep the real me at a distance for fear of frightening people away. For some reason, with her, it has never been that way. I have always been exactly who I am, even if it was sometimes undesirable, and I think that I am so lucky to have found a person who makes me feel so safe and comfortable every time I am with her. I owe a lot to her, and I don't know if she is aware of everything she has done for me.

In early February, her dreams will come true. She will hop on a plane and teach in Japan, something that as long as I have known her has been a life goal. For her, it was always to finish University and Teacher's College, and then teach in Japan. I never doubted that this would happen for her, but I am excited nonetheless. Finally, the girl who deserves everything, is getting what she wants.
I know that it is going to be really hard for the people that she is leaving behind. I know that every time I think about her not being here, my eyes well up and it gets harder to breathe. I worry that without her, my life will surely crumble. I am going to miss her more than I could ever imagine missing someone.

But even with the pain of her not being right here, I am too happy for her to feel sad. As I stated, her dreams have come true, and thinking of it like that, I know that mine have come true as well. I was able to meet a real friend - someone who has always helped me, never doubted me and kept me sane for the past three to four years. I know that the distance will be difficult, but a little bit of water between us won't affect our friendship. She will still be there for me, and I hope that she knows I will still be there for her, always.

Safe travels, Emi Morimoto. I have never been more excited or proud for someone in my entire life. I know you don't leave for another few months, but time flies and I already miss you like hell.