Saturday, September 30, 2006

God by nature, mind raised in Asia

There's one R in the alphabet:

The Equinox

I don't get much correspondence, but if I did I'd pretend that a lot of you sexy beasts are wondering whatever became of

(Johnny Fever)

my Svengali, Idealjetsam.

Answer: he's in our hearts and minds. Mostly in our minds. Or at least mine. I think he hypnotized me one night when we were out drinking. That would explain a lot, specifically why I do the chicken dance whenever I cross an intersection.

Idealjetsam, who doesn't look a day over twelve, is to Psychedelic Kimchi what Ray Kroc is to McDonald's: he doesn't have an active role, but he's the driving force of an empire. No hyperbole.

Recently, I spoke with Idealjetsam. And the literary world fell to its knees.

A transcript (edited for length):


Bang! You dead!

모든 대화 상대에게 메시지를 보내지는 못했습니다.

Bang! You dead!


Shit. Missed.




Nothing, I saw your name come up and I wanted to send you a message right away. My folks sometimes do that, and it annoys the hell out of me.


you got me


my comp is still booting


and it was annoying






you broke my computer


now go write on your blog or something


I was gonna, but I posted 25 articles this month, so I'm taking a long-deserved break.


Sorry, 24.


so drinking it is


And The Mars Volta.


So, what are we studying? Maybe I can help. I'm sort of a big deal when it comes to academics, you know.


Freire's dialogic of oppression and hope as applied to a world civic


Oh come on; give me something at least a little bit challenging.




wikipedia couldn't help, eh?


I was in bathroom! Bathroom!


yeah, yeah


I peed!


fear will do that


Seriously, though, I have an idea I want to run by you. It's about a short story I've imagined.




And I'm dead serious here.


It was inspired by Murakami's "A Poor-Aunt Story" and my own life.


Here it is:




Told from 2 (possibly 3, though maybe 1 is the soundest idea) perspectives


it's the tale of a family dog, loved by his owners


like Lassie?


Let me finish!




This dog, right, he's a great dog. Very loyal, and everybody loves him. Even mailmen love this fucker




But around his 14th (78th) year, the dog gets sick.




are you sure you don't want to run to the deli for two eggs on a hard roll with provolone and tomato








Beer is my dinner.


carry on


Anyway, the dog gets terminally ill.


He's hurting.


And the family loves him so dearly that they do everything possible to keep him alive.


But the dog, he doesn't understand.




wasn't this already done?


are you taking the piss?


After a while, he starts to wonder why the family is keeping him alive. Maybe they're torturing him.


I assure you, I'm being genuine. Why, has this idea already been done?


it sounds familiar


Anyway, the dog, once a loyal and loving family dog, starts to hate, despise his owners...even the little boy.


especially the part about the dog not knowing


while the family does everything


but go on


I was reminded a little of Dalton Trumbo's 'Johnny Got His Gun,' but that was afterwards.


Anyhoo, the dog at the end despises the the family. He wants to kill them all, only he's too weakened to do anything but stay alive and hate them.


There's an unintentional eusthanization [sic] message in there. Mostly I think it's a good story about perspectives.


what's the point?


There must be a point, now? I guess the point is that nobody, human or beast, can see the whole picture. To the family, they're doing what they think is right: keeping their animal friend alive. To the dog, he feels betrayed and wonders until (and after, maybe) his death why a family he was so loyal to treated him so cruelly when they used to be so kind.


some Hemingway you are...




I think Bill Murray should play the dog




Charles Grodin


That's not funny. Well, maybe a little.




the idea is cool at this stage


but you really need to wait til the next stage


and see where you're at


Short story or novel?




And don't worry; it won't be a kids' story. In an early chapter, the dog catches the son wacking off and tries to hump his leg.




the details you thresh out first


Write what you know(?)


what ever comes to you, naturally




reading, must do


piss off


Ha. The real question now is: what kind of dog is it?


Mind if I post this on PK? The latter part.


our conversation?


About the short story/book.




post it all. Even the part where I blame the Jews for all the wars in the world.

(OK, I made that last part up.)


I wanna be famous


So there you go; that's how my Saturday night was spent. And if you don't see many posts by me for a while, it's because a) I've been kidnapped by North Korean spies, or b) I'm writing a novel about a dog.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Mars Volta, Amputechture (Review)

"Very lonely people that I met... they all hallucinated ants at one time."

-- Mido, Oldboy

To paraphrase Posdnous, fuck being hard, The Mars Volta's complicated. This is not a positive trait on its own (see: Ulysses; Joyce, James), but with the right talent it can be a beautiful thing (see: Pollack, Jackson; Lynch, David; Killah, Ghostface).

Over the course of their young career, The Mars Volta have achieved such beauty. 2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium is an album of exceptional merit, despite Rick Rubin's Phil Spectoresque over-production; and Frances the Mute (2005), produced by lead guitarist and composer Omar Rodriguez Lopez, could have been an indulgent exercise in tediousness (certainly the formula was there; like Tolkien's ents, these cats never say anything unless it's worth taking a long time to say) were it not for its utter perfection, musically and vocally.

And that's what separates The Mars Volta from your average pretentious "art rock" band. Maybe they're abstract for abstraction's sake, their often morbid lyrics impossible to decipher. Maybe. For most groups such causes would, and do, effect near-universal scorn and ridicule -- and those sentiments would perhaps be justifiably aimed at The Mars Volta were it not for their transcendental musical gifts and Cedric Bixler-Zavala's amazing vocal skills.

Let's talk about Bixler-Zavala for a sec. At times reminiscent of Rush's Geddy Lee, at others Janis Joplin, though mostly of his own, uniquely talented self, Bixler-Zavala's gender bending vocals are Thomas Mann Death In Venice-level seductive. He sings (screams, wails...) like a seafarer-luring Siren, unrestrained, unrestricted, as though he's an actor in a 70's era psychedelic musical. And anyone who's heard him on Handsome Boy Modeling School's White People knows he's barely shown the extent of his vocal diversity. Simply put, he's the Lebron James* of rock vocalists: his potential is unlimited, and nobody's really aware of what Herculean heights he's capable.

That extends to the band's core as a whole. The Mars Volta's sound hasn't changed drastically over the course of three albums, and yet it has. Like Bowie, The Mars Volta are evolving slowly, and on Amputechture they stick to their signature sound while, like a virtuoso chef, also encorporating new spices. The Latin music influences which MSG'd up Frances the Mute return (albeit less blatantly), as does the rest of the band's formidable repertoire, plus some jazz, some industrial dustiness, and a pretty Spanish-language track which not only showcases the group's musical diversity, but also serves as a perfect bridge between the first and second halves of the album.

Recommending Amputechture, however, is sort of like recommending Auschwitz as a vacation destination. It's significant, essential, but it doesn't exactly cry out "fun for the whole family." Amputechture is a dark place to go, a scary ride; but for anyone who appreciates The Mars Volta's talents, it's a dark comfortable place.

To wit, anyone familiar with my well-documented torment by, and fear of, bugs probably won't be surprised to learn that Amputechture's theme is, ostensibly**, insects. Bixler-Zavala's lyrics read like an entomological dictionary eaten then regurgitated by some Lovecraftian monster. And while it's repulsive, Amputechture is, for all the reasons mentioned above, also wonderfully pretty and enticing.

Like a spider's web. Like a bank robbery. Like discount sushi.

Amputechture is possibly the year's best album. Certainly it's the year's most terrifying. If you're like me, that is.

Rating: 4/5 earwigs

* I mean Dwyane Wade.

** That kid is back on the escalator again!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK

Poster for the upcoming Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) film I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK (싸이보그지만 괜찮아).

Trailer here.

You can't tell from the poster, but that guy behind the mask is none other than Jeong Ji-Hoon (정지훈). Who's Jeong Ji-Hoon you ask? You may be more familiar with his stage name, 비.

Park Chan-Wook hates me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Psychedelic Kimochi

I don't post pics of South Korea's most popular, sexiest celebrities for the same reason I don't review Beatles albums. Rubber Soul is God's gift to pop music, and Lee Hyori, Jeon Ji-Hyun (seeing them together is the sexy equivalent of Martin and Malcolm shaking hands), Uhm Jung-Hwa and Kim Hye-Soo (The Godmother of Seoul) are hot like metal dining utensils in microwaves and neglected pets/children in minivans with the windows rolled up.

That's given. You need me to tell you they're attractive like Masuimi Max needs a fifth nipple; but after perusing the above pic I can't let shit slide like Bran Flakes. Lee Hyori has achieved a tier of sexiness hitherto accomplished by very few. In fact, she's gotten so sexy that, much like Pamela Anderson in her prime (before she effed up her face and chest), it's become passe to annoint her as such, en vogue to call her "nothing special."

But that's crazy talk. Let it ring from the hallowed halls of babedom: Lee Hyori is the sexiest woman alive

(whom I've never interviewed nor am married to)


I will show you fear in a handful of Pringles crumbs


There's a new ajumma working the day shift at my local 7-Eleven, and I'm sure her brazenly disrespectful attitude is not reserved solely for The Man, rather everyone. I walk in, snatch a sandwich, a microwaveable pizza thingy, a bag of chips, a Twix, a bottle of soju, a 700mL beer, a bottle of water, plop them down on the counter and order a pack of This cigarettes; and this lady has the gall to toss a plastic bag on the counter and tell me to bag everything myself. Who the hell does she think she is, Queen Empress of Cashiers?

I'm so going to get her fired. I'm a respected man in this neighborhood, and nobody tells me to bag my own carp. If I wanted to do that, I'd shop at motherfucking E-Mart.


Now, my genuine reaction yesterday wasn't as described; in truth, I was slightly annoyed and then forgot about it.

But today I waltz into Ye Olde 7-Eleven, and this ajumma -- who's slowly becoming my nemesis -- is again working. I grab a bottle of Asahi Dry, a 600mL bottle of Powerade (because I like having green stools), a can of shaving cream, a triangle kimbap, and some frozen microwaveable sweet-and-sour chicken. My nemesis-cashier rings up the sale (picture her wearing a green visor and Old West-style armbands; it's funnier that way) then takes my money -- but not before she throws a black plastic bag on the counter, covering my purchases like a death shroud.

OK, now I see; It's become a battle of wills. I take my change and look scornfully at my unbagged stuff, then at my nemesis. She looks back impassively.

Just as I'm about to launch a sarcastic retort ("While I appreciate the vote of confidence, rumors of my telekinetic powers are greatly exaggerated. Those things aren't going to bag themselves, lady"), a high school girl walks up behind me with a carton of banana milk. Thankful for the diversion, the ajumma looks over my shoulder and says with a smile -- where's my smile is what I wanna know -- "That's 800 won."

And in the interval it hits me how stupid my haranguing of this woman would be. This particular 7-Eleven has a part-time worker turnover rate roughly equal to that of customers at a random love hotel on a busy weekend. In the past week alone I've seen three women of varying ages start and then quit the same day, or the day after (I'm especially sorrowful that the 2nd girl, a twenty-something lass who looked like a younger, hotter version of Lee Young-Ae, is no longer part of the 7-Eleven team); and judging by her demeanor, it's pretty safe to say this affront to friendly service won't be around much longer, either. I doubt she would have cared if I had launched into her. In fact, she probably was hoping I had. Women are like that.

So I swallowed my pride and started to bag my own items. Again, if I wanted to do that, I'd shop at the Big Gay E-Mart.

But here's my question: was I expecting too much? Am I overreacting by expecting a 7-Eleven cashier to bag my shit? Did some cultural revolution of which I'm unaware recently occur? Have the 7-Eleven serfs been emancipated? If so, what's next?

Anarchy, friends. Anarchy.

(Word to Jon Bender)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Argument (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)

Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly may be my all-time favorite film; if it isn't, it's definitely in the Top 5. A year or so ago, I wrote on this blog that Eli Wallach's portrayal of Tuco is perhaps the best supporting role in the history of filmdom.

What was I thinking?

Not that Wallach isn't outstanding. Quite the opposite, in fact. And the more I watch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the more I appreciate his spectacular performance.

Supporting role? Bollocks; Tuco is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly's primary character, and I hereby apologize for my semantic blunder.

Nobody digs Clint Eastwood as Blondie/The Man With No Name more than I. He epitomizes cool. But Wallach as Tuco does the same while possessing more substance. (That said, I don't want Blondie to be more fleshed out, because, like Marvel Comics' Wolverine, he works better as an enigmatic archetype. Word to Jesus Christ.) Tuco is the most realized, most easily likeable (and despicible; he's that, too), most memorable character in the film. Eastwood's lines drip cool from their water vapors, but so do Wallach's*; and whereas Blondie is hardened, the definition of stolidity, Tuco is a wild card -- Like Peter Verkovensky, one is never sure whether he's playing a buffoon or genuinely being one. In fact, if one watches closely, Tuco becomes more of an enigma than Blondie.

There's a scene in the film where Blondie and Tuco depart from a monastery not long after the latter meets his brother, a monk, whom he has not seen in nine years. In the earlier scene, Tuco's brother, Pablo, shames him for deserting the family. The siblings' parents are both deceased, which is news to Tuco. Possibly the film's most dramatic moment, after the upbraiding Tuco retorts that, for men of their environment (word to 3rd Bass), only the priesthood and banditry are promises of a possibly better life, and that Pablo chose the cloth because he's "too much of a coward to do what I do." Pablo slaps him. Tuco responds by punching him out.

Afterwards, he says to Blondie:

"Even a tramp like me, no matter what happens, I know there's always a brother who won't refuse me a bowl of soup."

That single line sums up so much of Tuco's character: cunning, regretful, defiant, ashamed. And when Blondie offers him his cigar, Tuco, with an extraordinaryly subtle facial gesture, shrugs it all off, laughs, and instantly puts the near past behind him, choosing to focus on the unknown, intangible future.

In that way, Tuco is starkly more similar to you or me than is Blondie. Blondie is the character we want to be, wish we could be.

Tuco is the character we are.

* The Top Ten Tuco lines, so says me:


"God is on our side because he hates the Yanks."

(Only because I'm a Red Sox fan.)


"Don't die, I'll get you water. Stay there. Don't move, I'll get you water. Don't die until later."


"But if you miss you had better miss very well. Whoever double-crosses me and leaves me alive, he understands nothing about Tuco."


"One bastard goes in, another one comes out."


"I like big fat men like you. When they fall they make more noise."


"See you soon, id..." "id..." "ids..."

Blondie: "'Idiots'. It's for you."


"I'm very happy you are working with me! And we're together again. I get dressed, I kill him and be right back."

Blondie: "Listen, I forgot to mention... He's not alone. There's five of 'em."


Blondie: "Yeah, five of 'em."

"So, that's why you came to Tuco. It doesn't matter, I'll kill them all."


"You want to know who you are? Huh? Huh? You don't, I do, everyone does... you're the son of a thousand fathers, all bastards like you."


"Hey, Blond! You know what you are? Just the greatest son-of-a-b-!"


"When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pizza Ddeokbokki -- Taste Test

Is there something inherently wrong with complementing pizza ddeokbokki with a bottle of Krombacher? Not if I have anything to say about it. The singular pairing (word to Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar) clearly epitomizes the Psychedelic Kimchi ethos of the coarse and the refined. Word to Charles Bukowski.

Look, I like foie gras and filet mignon fine. I also like ketchup; and if you don't think I'd put it on either of the aforementioned dishes, you don't know me very well. Foodies might scoff, but even the most pretentious diner knows deep down in his heart of hearts that the Asian love of SPAM holds merit, or that a McDonald's cheeseburger may, like yours truly, feel wrong, but in fact is so often right.

Let's not kid ourselves; human beings will try to make art of anything, and never is this more apparent than in our beautification of the food we consume. Whether it's a soufflé or a Snickers, it all turns out the same way in the end, so why all the posturing? If it feels right -- like say a pot of Kraft Dinner and cut-up weiners topped with ketchup, or even mustard if it's your thing -- why deny it? Word to Brokeback Mountain.

I like the art of Paul Gauguin (Psychedelic Kimchi like a motherfuck, by the way), and I also like the art of Gary Larson; Kim Ah-Jung's perfect teeth mesmerize me, but so do Jewel Kilcher's.

All are beautiful in their own unique way, and so is pizza ddeokbokki. And if you're still too narrow-minded to accept the fact, somebody, namely me, needs to learn you culinary tolerance.

Word to Chef Boyardee.

Which is not to say that anything goes. Certainly an accord must be reached between the tasty and the downright vulgar; and while my gastronomic predilections may often resemble those of a pregnant woman, even I am willing to admit that ice cream and tuna should share separate quarters, that the egos of milk and OJ are a dangerous mix.

(In the latter scenario, OJ kills Milk and her boyfriend Processed Cheese, then goes on the lam when Sheriff Corn Flake suspects foul play.)

Pizza and ddeokbokki, however? A good-looking pair if you ask me.

Word to Gong Li.

And while it doesn't exactly reinvent the fusion food wheel (word to tuna-and-mayo triangle kimbap), it's a laudable effort. There's ample cheese, and the sauce achieves that near-impossible neutrality between tomatoey goodness and ddeokbokki sauce piquant.

The toppings, so to speak, are sparse but delectable: a chunky slice of pepperoni, green peppers, onions, and a smattering of corn. That last is likely to turn off many westerners prejudiced to the staple of any Korean pie, but not me. Because I'm objective like that.

Ironically, it's in the ddeok that Sampo's experiment stumbles. It's drier than an octogenarian's snatch, gummy like candy worms. Considering that it's the entrée's most abundant ingredient, that's pretty damning evidence.

But it tried, didn't it? Goddamn it, at least it did that.

Word to Randall McMurphy.

Rating: 3 out of 5 *_*

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sin City (Special Edition) -- DVD Review

It was my uncle who first got me interested in comics. My family would spend 2 or 3 weeks at my paternal grandparents' in Nova Scotia every summer, and one summer when I was around 7 or 8 I found a decent-sized stack of my uncle's funnybooks -- Jonah Hex, Shogun Warriors, Marvel Team-Up and the like. I mostly remember two things: Hostess Fruit Pies ads and the smell of the paper. The next summer -- or maybe it was the summer after that -- my uncle bought me a giant-size comic, almost what could be called a trade paperback. It contained a bunch of stories, but the one I'll always remember focused on The Thing. In the story, a washed-up pro wrestler takes an experimental drug (sound familiar?) to obtain the strength of a crocodile. (Apparently crocodiles are really strong, though one wonders why he didn't take a drug which would give him the strength of, say, a grizzly bear. Or the agility of a mongoose.) It's up to Ben Grimm to take him down -- Galactus and the Cosmic Cube can wait. In the end, the wrestler turns into an actual crocodile. Pretty routine stuff, but at the time I was convinced it was the most amazing story ever written.

From then on, whenever we'd visit my grandparents' I made it a point to pester my mom into buying me comics, and I vividly remember those early ones -- Marvel comics such as The New Mutants and Daredevil mostly, although I tried to force myself to like Superman and other DC titles.

But comic reading was "a summer thing." It wasn't until my eleventh year that I consciously, almost gravely -- like a boy talking himself into jumping from the high diving board -- decided I would become a comic collector. This was a very serious undertaking, I was aware. These days, what with the Internet, it's easier to get info on a character's backstory and history, but in those days all one had was word of mouth, reprints, and reading the damn things. This was a lofty task, I felt.

I bought my first comic book (Uncanny X-Men no. 248, the first Jim Lee-pencilled issue) when I was in the fifth grade. Thus began my bold comic-collecting foray, one which lasted, on and off, until my early twenties. I still have an interest in the genre, but -- and my 12-year-old self would be shocked to hear it -- it doesn't exactly drive me insane not knowing every minute detail of what's happening these days in comicdom.

I started collecting comics just prior to the early 90's boom; and I must admit, I was a fan of some of the most hated artists (Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane...) and gimmicks (lenticular, holographic, glow-in-the-dark covers, polybagged issues...) of the period. I know a little better now (though I still wish McFarlane would draw comics, and good ones), but at the time I was loyal to Marvel superheroes, and mostly I still am.

It wasn't until my twentieth year that I read Alan Moore's zenith of the medium, Watchmen, but during my teens I tried to broaden my comics horizon. One of the books I picked up during that time was issue 1 of Frank Miller's Sin City, "That Yellow Bastard" (word to Kim Jong-Il). I loved the hard-boiled dialogue, the stark violence. Mostly I loved Miller's use of black and white, which was some of the greatest comics art I'd ever seen.

I was amazed.

I never bought another issue.

Shame on me, and shame on me for neglecting to see Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller*'s (with an assist from one Quentin Tarantino) mind-blowing film adaptation until now. Sometimes I'm such a broomhead.

Sin City isn't only a comic book-based film, it is a comic book -- one fantastically brought to life for the visual medium. It is the Citizen Kane of comic book movies. I say that without any pretension, and I'm astounded that it didn't earn at least one Academy Award for technical achievement. Then again, Orson Welles's monument of filmmaking was overlooked in the Best Film category in favor of How Green Was My Valley. So there you go.

Coincidentally (not including the brief Josh Hartnett-starring prelude), Sin City opens with issue 1 of Miller's 'That Yellow Bastard.' Not only is the dialogue exact, the shots mimic the book so precisely that I got a queer sense of deja vu.

What follows are three separate storylines, slightly connected by characters and the titular location, Basin "Sin" City. First is the Mickey Rourke-starring tale, 'The Hard Goodbye,' about an ugly, bullet-proof thug who seeks vengeance after a woman who was kind enough to give him a throw is murdered. Given his already frightening, ostensibly-prosthetic visage, I'm not too sure why special FX make-up was needed, but it's clear from the get-go that this is Rourke's defining role, in fact the only role I recall him ever being memorable in. Props.

The succeeding tale, 'The Big Fat Kill,' is my favorite of the film's three stories. It takes a little longer than 'The Hard Goodbye' to get going, but once it does, boy, hold on. Benicio Del Toro plays Jackie-Boy, a woman-beating scumbag who gets on the wrong side of Dwight (played well, but with a god-awful American accent, by Clive Owen), and later the assembled hookers who control Old Town. But when Jackie-Boy is slain and discovered to be a cop, all hell threatens to break loose...and does. Sin City relies more on style than inventive storytelling, but 'The Big Fat Kill' is one hell of a yarn.

The final story (again, not including the Harnett bookends), 'That Yellow Bastard,' continues the opening storyline, following Hartigan (Bruce Willis) as he's convicted for the crimes of the pedophilic son of a corrupt senator, whom he stopped and whose weapons -- both of them -- he took away. Fearing that the girl he saved eight years ago is in danger, Hartigan admits to the crimes he didn't commit, and is thusly parolled. A little too easy, non? Oui; little does Hartigan know that he's being used as bait.

Hyper-violent in the extreme, Sin City isn't for everyone. Though comics-style exaggeration and unique coloring lend it a detached-from-reality surrealism, making the film easier to digest, there are parts where it's overdone and even I, no stranger to violence on film, felt more than a little sqeamish.

If you can handle it, though, it's a delight -- both for its seamless blending of two mediums and its relentless pace. Sin City is like film noir on acid. It has its minor flaws (the aforementioned Clive Owen accent; a horrible turn courtesy of Michael Clarke Duncan, whose career should be locked up and put to death like his character in The Green Mile; and portions which too closely resemble Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), but mostly it's every fanboy's cinematic fantasy come true: a comic book come to life, broken down (to paraphrase The RZA) in its purest form.

The Special Edition DVD also joins the elite echelon of the packed The Lord of the Rings and Hellboy SE DVDs in my collection that I'll probably never get around to immersing myself in.

Peep game:

Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Recut and extended theatrical release with over 20 minutes of additional footage- separated into four stories
Original theatrical release including:
All-new feature commentary with Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller
All-new feature commentary with Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino
An audio track featuring a recording of the Austin premiere audience reaction
Exclusive never-before-seen extras:
15-minute film school with Robert Rodriguez
The movie in high-speed green screen
The Long Take: 17 uninterrupted minutes of Tarantino's segment
Sin City Night at Antones -- filmmakers, cast and crew party
10-minute cooking school with Robert Rodriguez
Teaser & theatrical trailers
A Hard Top With a Decent Engine: The cars of Sin City
Making the Monsters: Special effects make-up
Trench Coats & Fishnets: The costumes of Sin City
Booze, Broads & Guns: The props of Sin City
How it Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to make the film
Giving the Characters Life: Casting the film
Special guest director: Quentin Tarantino
Sin-Chroni-City interactive game
Film soundtrack

I'm reminded of an early Seinfeld episode in which George accompanies Jerry to a bank and tries to have a large jar full of pennies converted into dollars. When the teller suggests he roll them himself and then return to cash them in, George obstinately shouts "What, should I quit my job?"

That's how these uber-stuffed DVDs make me feel. But it's nice knowing that I have a few huge jars full of pennies to cash in one day when I find the time. I look forward to catching Sin City's full experience when I'm old and incontinent. Plus, who needs Cialis or Viagra when one has Carla Gugino and Jessica Alba?

Am I right?

Rating: 4 out of 4 *_*

* Watching Frank Miller "direct" ranks a perfect 100 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. Word to Bill Simmons.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sparkles's Book Club -- Part III of In Cold Blood (Answer)

Floyd Wells.

If not for Mr. Wells, the Clutter slayings might to this day remain unsolved. A former employee of Herb Clutter's and cellmate of Richard Hickock, it was Floyd Wells who informed Hickock of the Clutter estate while they were sharing quarters; and it was Floyd Wells who, after hearing of a thousand-dollar reward for the arrest and capture of the killers, ultimately turned the wanted men in.

And I ask, what's the world coming to? If you can't trust a criminal to keep a secret, who can you trust?

The hunt begins, and the K.B.I. (the main focus is on detective Harold Nye), careful not to nab Smith and Hickock before suitable evidence (word to Dilated Peoples) is assembled, travel about questioning the suspects' family and acquaintances. Nye's visits include Richard Hickock's family (who are ignorant that their son is wanted for murder, instead led to believe that he's wanted for parole violation) and Perry Smith's sister, where again we are reminded of the Smith siblings' haunting legacy:

Before she was twenty, Fern-Joy was beginning the day with a bottle of beer.
Then, one summer night, she fell from the window of a hotel room. Falling she
struck a theater marquee, bounced off it, and rolled under the wheels of a taxi.
Above, in the vacated room, police found her shoes, a moneyless purse, an empty
wiskey bottle.

One could understand Fern and forgive her, but Jimmy was a different matter.
Mrs. Johnson was looking at a picture of him in which he was dressed as a
sailor; during the war he had served in the Navy. Slender, a pale young seafarer
with an elongated face of slightly dour saintliness, he stood with an arm around
the waist of the girl he had married and, in Mrs. Johnson's estimation, ought
not to have, for they had nothing in common -- the serious Jimmy and his
teen-age San Diego fleet-follower whose glass beads reflected a now long-faded
sun. And yet what Jimmy had felt for her was beyond normal love; it was passion
-- a passion that was in part pathological. As for the girl, she must
have loved him, and loved him completely, or she would not have done as she did.
If only Jimmy had believed that! Or been capable of believing it. But jealousy
imprisoned him. He was mortified by thoughts of the men she had slept with
before their marriage; he was convinced, moreover, that she remained promiscuous
-- that every time he went to sea, or even left her alone for the day, she
betrayed him with a multitude of lovers, whose existence he unendingly demanded
that she admit. Then she aimed a shotgun at a point between her eyes and pressed
the trigger with her toe [word to Kurt Cobain]. When Jimmy
found her, he didn't call the police. He picked her up and put her on the bed
and lay down beside her. Sometime around dawn of the next day, he reloaded the
gun and killed himself.

Meanwhile, Smith and Hickock, destitute after failing to make their dreams come true south of the border, stand at the side of a stretch of deserted California highway, their grizzly plan to rob and kill and steal the car of the first suitable Good Samaritan to offer them a lift. A man does pick up the two strangers, but his life is spared by a miraculous circumstance.

The pair finally make it back to Kansas City, unaware that they are wanted for the Clutter murders, and it is Hickock who goes on another of his patented bad check-passing sprees. The K.B.I. is alerted...but the criminals slip away just in time.

Which leads to the biggest misstep of the book: a clumsy, cliche-ridden dream sequence in which Alvin Dewey pursues the wanted men. Although Capote doesn't try to fool the reader, cynically writing asides such as it was like a dream! and How did this happen? Could he be dreaming?, the account of Dewey's dream could have been condensed thusly to better effect:

Alvin Dewey, so driven and obsessed with capturing the men to whom only recently he could put faces and names, had even vividly dreamt of their capture; or, more precisely, their near capture, for in Dewey's dream the suspects vanished into thin air before they could be apprehended.

(More succinct, less trite, non? But it was the 60's; people did a lot of drugs back in those days.)

Smith and Hickock wind up in Miami, on Christmas. It is here that Perry reads in a newspaper about the slaying of a Tallahassee family, the motive behind the killings unknown. Though the murder of the Clutter and Tallahassee families were nearly identical (shotguns the primary murder weapon, the victims tied up, four members of each family slain) and the presence of Smith and Hickock in Tallahassee at the time the latter occurred are extremely suspicious, both men adamantly denied having anything to do with the Florida case, a mystery which to this day remains unsolved.

And I'm inclined to believe them, based on how quickly they confessed (read: sang like fucking birds) to the Clutter murders after finally getting nabbed in Las Vegas.

The two interrogation sessions are terrific, specifically the almost tantric questioning methods -- Roy Church's handling of Hickock foremost -- the K.B.I. agents utilize to throw the pair off their game, culminating in Hickock's confession that "Perry Smith killed the Clutters...It was Perry. I couldn't stop him. He killed them all."

Yet Answer's most chilling confession is reserved for Perry Smith, who, handcuffed en route to Garden City, divulges the gruesome details of the early morning hours of November 15, 1959 when the Clutters, Herb and Bonnie, their children Nancy and Kenyon, were tied up and then brutally murdered. Hickock believed, based on the word of Floyd Wells, that the Clutter home contained a safe bearing approximately ten thousand dollars in cash, though no such safe existed. In fact, Herb Clutter was notoriously known for never keeping cash either on his person or in his home.

(A convicted fellon lie? Truth really is stranger than fiction.)

Smith's most stunning admission is that he never wanted to harm any member of the Clutter household, despite Dick Hickock's mantra "no witnesses!" In fact, he even went so far as to stop Dick from raping the girl, Nancy. But like a vengeful deus ex machina, something was conjured that erased Perry Smith's skewed altruism:

Just before I taped him, Mr. Clutter asked me -- and these were his last words -- wanted to know how his wife was, if she was all right, and I said she was fine, she was ready to go to sleep, and I told him it wasn't long till morning, and how in the morning somebody would find them, and then all of it, me and Dick and all, would seem like something they dreamed. I wasn't kidding him. I didn't want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.

The section ends with Smith and Hickock arriving in Garden City to await trial. This blog entry ends with me smoking a square and cursing indigestion.

Next: the final part, The Corner.

One Blood

This is almost a month old, and I had meant to link to it sooner, but Outkast's Idlewild dropped around the same time and effectively killed my buzz. But The Roots' Game Theory brought my hip-hop enthusiasm back.

Peep (The) Game:

(Explicit version here.)

I grew out of gangster rap over a decade ago, but, much like a cat always finds its way home, when I hear quality ish like that I nod my head to the beat like a 16-year-old, as though adulthood and time don't matter.

Here's hoping The Doctor's Advocate is equally as dope.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


My favorite individual subject of Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro's terrific documentary Murderball concerns Joe Soares, an American wheelchair rugby legend who, after being cut by the US team, later becomes -- partially out of spite -- the head coach of the Canadian paralympic squad. Thenceforth, Soares's former colleagues mock him and call him a traitor.

And in a strict patriotic sense he is; In a realistic one, however, he certainly isn't. The bottom line in Soares's case is that he assumed head coaching duties for Team Canada because he needed a job. Am I or any other of the tens of thousands of foreign workers in Korea a traitor to his or her respective nation because we work here? Furthermore, is a person who sacrifices his or her citizenship and decides to become a Korean, an American, a Canadian, an Uzbek, etc. a traitor to their homeland? Of course not. Only an overly patriotic jackass would think so.

It is one thing to live and work in a foreign land or change one's citizenship; to completely and shamefully disregard one's own country, however, is another matter. Case in point: Jeanette Lee (aka The Black Widow), who this past Saturday competed in Korea, as part of a Korean team, against a team from The United States -- a member of which, in a scenario mirroring a television sitcom, was Lee's own husband, George Breedlove.

Jeanette Lee is an ethnic Korean, yet she was born and raised in the US and currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. Why, then, would she represent Korea? Sure, she no doubt fattened her pocket, but at what cost? How must she feel knowing she has betrayed her country so?

The answer to that last question is likely "not too bad," because I doubt most if any sports fans outside of Korea are aware of the awkward situation in which Lee placed herself.

I might possibly understand were Lee invited to play on a Korean team against a group of, say, Chinese. Or Croatians. Or Vulcans. She is ethnically Korean, after all. But to invite her to play on a Korean team against her home country is offensive on the coordinators' part, especially considering the extent of South Korea's, shall we say, "complex" in regards to American athletes (see: Apolo Anton Ohno). What's even more ludicrous however is that Lee accepted the invitation, and that her husband was part of the opposing team. Not only were the offer and Lee's acceptance foolish, they mocked the concept of sportsmanship and, particularly, marriage. I'd expect such a scenario from a WWE show, not professional pool.

As the father of a bi-racial daughter who possesses both Korean and Canadian citizenship, I would, should she become a professional athlete, have no problem with her representing either country, so long as she didn't compete against the other. And even if she did, despite my discomfort I'd support her regardless of which side she chose to play for. But that's considering she were a dual citizen, which currently, to my knowledge, only lasts until she turns eighteen, after which time she is required to decide between Korean and Canadian citizenship. Yet even then, I would unwaveringly support her whether she chose Canadian citizenship and played for Korea, or chose Korean citizenship and played for Canada, for at least she has lived in both countries.

Jeanette Lee, to my knowledge, has lived solely in the United States of America and has never been a Korean citizen. Her profile states that she grew up in a bi-lingual household (in Brooklyn, New York), yet these days her Korean, particularly her pronunciation and embarrassing use of familiar speech when a situation calls for the honorific tense, is just shy of terrible. She is Korean only in the sense that she looks like one, which apparently is enough for the organizers of the tournament of which she was the main draw. Meanwhile, many bi-racial and non-ethnic Korean children and adults who are in fact Korean but don't "look the part" struggle every day in a presently losing battle (unless they're Superbowl MVP or a kickass PRIDE fighter, I suppose) to justify, to the general Korean populace, that they belong.

The onus to correct most Koreans' myopic vision vis a vis race and nationality isn't Jeanette Lee's responsibility of course, but her decision to compete for a nation of which she is not -- nor has ever been -- a citizen, against fellow sportsmen from her homeland, solely for a paycheck, was crass and unprofessional.

Upon the match's conclusion on Saturday, Lee, after shouting the Korean rally cry "hwighting" to -- strangely -- little fanfare, exchanged trash talk with her husband and quipped that the married couple would spend the evening sleeping in seperate rooms.

I am wont to suggest after Lee's poor display of familial loyalty and national allegiance that she consider residing in another country, namely Korea.

I'm sure she'll be welcomed with open arms.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Roots, Game Theory -- Review

Just so you know where I stand:

Do You Want More?!!!??! 4 1/2 out of 5 *_*
Illadelph Halflife 5 out of 5 *_*
Things Fall Apart 4 out of 5 *_*
Phrenology 4 1/4 out of 5 *_*
The Tipping Point 3 1/2 out of 5 *_*

I'm not the only one to contend that The Roots' last album was really the long-rumored Black Thought solo album stamped, for whatever reason (royalties, most likely), with his crew's name instead of his. Whether that was the case or not, The Tipping Point doesn't feel like a Roots' long player. Besides the dip in quality (though it definitely has its moments), Black Thought stands out on the album like those T-shirts in Almost Famous with Russell Hammond at the foreground and his bandmates' shadowy figures in the background.

But, to extend the Almost Famous analogy, ?uestlove is the real Russell Hammond, the true brains behind the outfit, and Black Thought, though I dig him like undertakers, is Jeff Bebe. If The Tipping Point is considered BT's brainchild, Game Theory is unquestionably ?uestlove's; and where the former's success was hampered by too much focus on its lead MC, on Game Theory ?uestlove rights the ship by spotlighting each of the The Roots Crew's members' gifts and talents. Thank god.

But how refreshing is it really? Peep game (Theory):

Dilltastic Vol Won(Derful)

Atmospheric, brief intro, just to let you know they ain't got time to waste. In no way holds a candle to the "let'sstartthefuckingshowalready" intro to Phrenology, though.

False Media

Druuuuums! Who's that doing spoken word? They shoulda recruited Chuck D. That beat is like trying to tune into a college radio hip-hop show circa 1995, Toronto area. In a good way. Xylophooooones! Good appetizer.

Game Theory

Nice Pete Rockesque segue between the tracks, and then...hold the fuck on! BT's on fire. A chopped-up crooning sample and ?uest's percussion provide the backing track, then on the 2nd verse some Bomb Squad-remininscent guitar wails make a brief appearance. Then...

Is that...? Could it be...? It is! Malik B makes his triumphant return to The Roots. If Publishers Clearing House hadn't this morning informed me that I've won 1,000,000 dollars, this definitely would have been the most pleasant surprise of the day. Fuck yeah.

Best line: "Now I'm the first out the limo like Charlie Mack." Am I the only one who got that?

Don't Feel Right

Again, drums and horns (which sound remarkably akin to the ones on The Luniz's I Got 5 On It). Then some singer (whose voice sounds remarkly akin to a pre-pubescent Talib Qweli) and the dopest piano since Marly Marl and RZA stopped being relevant makes an appearance.

Does feel right, especially when the Edanesque compu-funk makes a cameo after the 2nd verse and the piano track resumes.

I just figured where those horny horns are from: "Jungle Boogie"

Get down. Classic.

Choice lyric:

If you ain't got paper, then steal the CD. Well all right! Dig the subterfuge!

In The Music

Percussion and handclaps, followed by more industrial-sounding percussion and a Spy Hunter-style guitar loop. Fantastic track. You know, before I heard this I read a lot of press calling the album "brooding". Father UC King that, this album is a certified neck-snapper.

Malik B again! Feel good story of the year. Is that ?uestlove shouting the chorus?

Take It There

Rahzel provides the beat. This is more an addendum to the previous track than a stand-alone song...that is until the track emerges like a butterfly from a chrysalis (I graduated 3rd grade last week) into a louder, more emphatic song, one which can stand alone.


Sadly, no Dirty Dancing allusions. Black Thought sorta-sings, though doesn't commit himself enough for inclusion to the level of ridicule reserved for Andre 3000 and Pharrell (from others, not me).

Come to think of it, this track has NERD written all over it. And I like NERD. Does that make me a homo?

Here I Come

[awkward silence]

Blink and you may miss the fact that this is not in, um, fact a rock-inspired track but rather an adept throwback to both the heydays of Rakim and Kane and when posse tracks flowed adrenalin like you drool in your sleep. Dice motherfucking Raw has the track's best line: "money long like arms on Alonzo Mourning."

Call it a progressive throwback. I'm gonna write a thank-you letter to Jay-Z.

Long Time

Love that guitar. Fantastic track, but probably would have been better fitted as the album's closer. Plus BT is too intense for the track. He should've restrained himself a bit. Some guy named Peedi Peedi guest stars and impresses slightly, despite a truly awful nom de plume. Peedi Peedi? Seriously? That's a Lupe Fiasco.

Livin' In A New World

Too bad summer's over, because this is that season's perfect soundtrack. BT gets his Beastie Boys distortion on, which quickly conforms to clarity. Too short like Life Is..., though. I would have liked to have heard the whole gang on this one.

Clock With No Hands

A clock with no hands!? Trippy. Profound. Seriously though,

(I often have dreams of being chased by a headless lycanthrope wielding a semi-automatic)

this wouldn't have been out of place on Do You Want More?!!!??!. On this album, however, ehhhhh. Not bad, but not great either. It's certainly not bad but not great. The Pete Rockesque coda (seriously, dude should receive royalties whenever a track ends in such a manner), though, is pretty like Ned Beatty's mouth.


That's a Radiohead sample, right? You and Whose Army?, right? Big money Def Jam, spared no expense. Good. I will admit that the advent of sampling laws helped cripple hip-hop as I knew it, but it worked/works both ways, and most cats took/take the easy route; and even though Knives Out isn't, say, as creative as some of the ish Primo, Prince Paul and others "re-imagined" (I like that word; it's friendly) back in the day, it's thinking fresh out the box for this (crappy) hip-hop era. Maybe ?uestlove can make sampling Radiohead his signature, much in the same way The Beatminerz for a period in the late-90's got by sampling Portishead records.

But I'm rambling. Good song. Sounds like coming down from heroin. Or so I imagine.

Can't Stop This

Know how when a pro wrestler turns heel or face, and their past transgressions are instantly ignored/forgotten? That's how I feel about this track. It's good, but it's subject, the late J-Dilla/Jay Dee, wasn't, I'm sorry, as monumental a hip-hop artist as the track claims. He was decent, don't get me wrong, but not by far one of the most-influential producers the game has seen. All this spinning is making me dizzy. The Muhammed Ali of beats? Come on, now. I appreciate the sentiment, and the track is good (if way too long), but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that Dilla was one of the greatest producers of all time. He was decent, that's all. AND, sorry again to speak ill of the dead, he made A Tribe Called Quest (and Common, arguably) suck.

Overall this eulogy on wax is heartfelt and somewhat touching; it's when J-Dilla is deified as one of hip-hop's most creative forces that I get my back up.

Then again, should I prematurly pass, I fully expect my peers (Idealjetsam and the ajumma posse in my neighborhood) to eulogize me as the best writer in the history of the English language. I look forward to Idealjetsam referring to me as "more talented than Dostoevsky and handsomer than Eric Stoltz."

Bread and Butter (Bonus Track)

Country like Style Donuts. Love the Citizen Kane reference. I'm not made of steel, after all. Perfect. For a bonus track.

Conclusion: As far as hip-hop groups go, The Roots will never be as groundbreaking or memorable as De La, A Tribe Called Quest or Outkast, though their creative output has been more consistent (and they've never dropped a certified-dookie like Idlewild); Black Thought and -- when present -- Malik B just don't have the combined mic prowess and charisma of Pos and Dave, Q-Tip and Phife, and Big Boi and Dre. As a pantheon crew, they're a perrenial 2nd Team selection. Nothing wrong with that. Props to Jay and the suits for allowing The Roots' Def Jam debut to be a Roots album rather than...I shudder to think what it could have been.

As is, it's a return to form, at times a phenomenal album. It ends on a low note, though, and that fact, combined with a few others (too much reliance on backing vocals, too few minutes to let the whole crew really shine) relegates Game Theory to "coulda been a contender (for classic)" status.

Nevertheless, it's the best hip-hop album released this year.

Rating: 4 3/8 out of 5 *_*

Billy Crudup and Scott Bakula

Billy Crudup is one of the best actors in Hollywood; so it's a shame to discover, when one glances his resume, that he's 38 years old and has had only 2 big roles (3 if you count -- which I don't -- his voice acting on the English dub of Princess Mononoke): his outstanding turn in Almost Famous and his portrayal of Steve Prefontaine in Without Limits (I think I'm one of 2 people who saw the latter).

Still, Crudup himself, or his agent, have to be at least partially to blame. Who wants to watch a movie starring Billy Crudup, or one starring Billy Tomahawk?

Thought so.

Our second subject is a man for whom I have what may be called a geek's affinity: Scott Bakula. Despite oftentimes being heavy-handed to the point of cringe induction, I unabashedly love Quantum Leap. Sure, the show had its flaws and tended to beat one over the head with its message of tolerance, but the premise and the rapport between Bakula and co-star Dean "Al" Stockwell are of a class unmatched, and which together made one of the most singular, most-underappreciated, hour-long television shows in the medium's history. I should and probably will dedicate a future post to QL, but for now let's stick to the subject: Scott Bakula.

I've always considered Bakula a poor man's Harrison Ford*. If you squint the right way they even resemble one another. But whereas Ford has starred in some of the most successful and most acclaimed films in movie history, Bakula is either a cult-hero actor (for his roles on Quantum Leap and Star Trek: Enterprise, the latter of which I've never watched), or, though it pains me to admit, another Hollywood That Guy.

Multi-talented (he can sing, has won acclaim on the stage, and, among other things, plays a mean piano), Bakula's career in film hasn't born much fruit. And while I'm sure he isn't bitter (by all accounts, on and off-screen he's one of the classiest guys in the biz), I am. You'd think that after 20 years someone would have noticed that this guy has gravitas. Sadly, the sole film (not counting Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions, which was fairly decent, actually, but nobody saw) in which Mr. Bakula has shined was his portrayal of a gay neighbor in Sam Mendes's American Beauty. Watching Bakula in that film, I was both happy and saddened; happy that one of my favorite actors was in such a big-deal film, saddened that his role was so minor.

(And, again, I can't help but think that the surname Bakula is partly responsible. Would you -- assuming you're a lobotomized moviegoer -- rather see a film starring Scott Bakula, or one starring Scott Sharp?

I'm a selfish person. I want neither Billy Crudup nor Scott Bakula to achieve stardom because I believe they deserve it (which they do), rather because I want to see more of them onscreen, preferably in acting roles of great import. I'm sure both men are well fulfilled with their careers, lead successful lives and have great families; and while they'd undoubtedly, given the opportunity, take the leap (pun acknowledged), I'm equally sure that neither gentleman will lose much sleep if they don't.

I will, though. I do.

Please, Hollywood, lavish these men with choice roles. Failing that, make the long-rumored and much-delayed new Quantum Leap series (A Bold Leap Forward) a reality, and make Billy Crudup change his name. Seriously, whenever I mention it in the presence of company, they look at me as though I said a bad word.

* And whereas Ford's career in recent


years has followed a downward trajectory, I hope Bakula's brings balance to the universe by taking an upward one.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Psychedelic Kimochi

Something for the gals (and some of you fellas): singer/actor Lee Seung-Gi (이승기), proof that there are youthful Korean entertainers who look more like men than lavender-scented doilies with mullets.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Prime Max -- Taste Test

With great food you need great beer. Thus reads the translated slogan (courtesy of yours truly) to the left, heralding THE HITE's -- which by the way, despite their unremarkable brews, is in this writer's opinion the best name seen on a beer not labeled Colt 45 or La Fin du Monde -- new lager, ostensibly* Hite Prime turned, in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel, up to eleven**.

Now, I'm not a beer snob; you won't hear me scoff at Labatt's Blue or Budweiser. I appreciate a spectacular ale, pilsner, lager, etc. (mouthwash, eau du toilet...) as much as the next person***, but any old beer, as long as it's not a light beer, will do me fine on most occasions. [Insert name of your favorite beer here] is undoubtedly one of the most sublime potables on god's red Mars, but OB, Cass, and Hite, the Holy Triumverate of South Korean brewing, like dating a mildly-attractive girl with a snaggle tooth and horn-rimmed glasses, works just fine in a pinch (the pinch being that one finds himself or herself living in South Korea; the rest of you lucky bags, please appreciate your libations and don't leave a drop undrunk, for there are children thirstily starving on the penninsula).

Yes, Korean beers don't pack much...anything. They're weak and watery; a handicapped prostitute gives better head; their sole defining features are their prosaicness and the silly English copy found on their labels (Prime Max's reads: Delicious idea, Rich & full-bodied taste beer made from all malt and fine cascade hop. Delicious idea, indeed). So, why do I find myself, in the immortal words of Common Sense, again and again going back to get some more, asking, like the titular character in Dickens's Oliver Twist, "Please, Sir, can I have some more?" Because I'm an alcoholic? Arguably. Because I'm cheap? Perhaps. I could sell a kidney on the black market for roughly what an imported beer in Korea costs, and while I'm usually enthusiastic to pony up for a quality beer, the sad fact is that the selection here is criminally minimal.

It's ironic in a nation where teetotaller's are looked upon as outcasts that Korea has yet to develop a worthy beer, or open its market for a wide variety of such candidates, priced reasonably. I could cry 'till my poor heart is bereft. Or, as I've always done, I can make due with what resources the Good Lord hath provideth, and thank my lucky stars the Republic of Korea isn't governed by Islamic Fundamentalism: the most deceptive word next to "funeral" in the English language with "fun" as a prefix. Korean beers suck like the portal that swallows Ash at the end of Evil Dead II, make no mistake; but, as is my nature, and assuredly my downfall, I perpetually try to find beauty in the subject. Point blank, Korean beer is Sam, and I'm MC Lyte, forever cramming to understand him****.

So how is Prime Max? Besides sounding like an Image comic released in the early-nineties, pencilled by Rob Liefeld and inked by Danny Miki, it's the best So-Ko beer I've ever tasted, though that's akin to stating that sex with a panda is preferable to sex with a grizzly bear: both are wrong, though the the former feels a little righter.

Prime Max tastes like every other Korean beer tastes, only with a little extra oomph, namely its aftertaste, which is reminiscent of Flintstone Vitamins and Drakkar Noir Cologne. It's definitely fuller-bodied than its domestic peers, as the label in fact claims; but that body, sorry to say, is to quality beer what Nicole Ritchie is to Claudia Cardinale. Nice try, Prime Max. Better luck next time. I'm sure you'll master a good brew someday; it's just a shame I won't live to see the year 3037.

Rating: 2/5 *_*

PS - I did have fun drinking 1.6 litres of you on an empty stomach, however.

PPS - You're better than the latest Outkast atrocity. I hope that consoles your fragile ego.

PPPS - I can think of no better beverage to wash down dried squid with than you. Even though the dried squid cut the inside of my left cheek and you reliably break my heart, I truly mean that.

* In September, I will donate 500 won to my favorite charity (People for the Ethical Treatment of English, PETE for short) each time I use the word ostensibly. This is retroactive for August, too. By my estimation, PETE is getting a fat check, in my name, to the sum of 2500 won. I hope that helps them build the shelter for battered English they've long dreamt of.

** still 4.5% alcohol content, though.

*** for even more political correctness, stay tuned for tomorrow's Psychedelic Kimochi entry.

**** multiple rounds courtesy of me for anyone who catches that reference.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sparkles's Book Club -- Part II of In Cold Blood (Persons Unknown)

Beginning with the cleanup and aftermath of the Clutter family murders, and ending with the heinous crime's perpetrators' slow crawl back to the US of A from Mexico, the second part of In Cold Blood is where the story assumes an accelerated flow, though much of Capote's poetic prose is lost in the process in favor of a kinetic pace. Which is not to say that the book falls apart or even stumbles -- far from it, in fact; I was more enthralled by Persons Unknown than I was by The Last to See Them Alive. But Capote's awesomely vivid and descriptive prose is noticably restrained (wisely, I will concede). I suppose, for a book that was written over the period of five years, that's to be expected; and, again, I was enthralled reading about the criminals flight to Mexico, the shared loss and subsequent distrust towards one another shared by members of the Clutter's community, the investigators' obsessive search to find the killers, and, particulary, the exposition of correspondences -- adeptly juxtaposed, if maybe a tad manipulatively, during a lonely early-morning packing session -- to Perry Smith from his father, his sister, and Willie-Jay. The latter, the book's longest section thus far, is easily my favorite, something which can stand independent of the book as a whole. While the book takes on a life of its own and unravels as naturally (though far from predictably) as digestion after a hearty banquet or tragedy, figuratively and literally, respectively [quit it with the adverbs already, Sparkles: ed./Idealjetsam], Perry Smith's character-defining section is the book's strongest marvel thus far, and convincing proof supporting the argument -- I shall assume, for since beginning the book I've abstained from criticism pertaining to it, both positive and negative -- of the manipulative method in which it was written.

Appropriately, for a "non-fiction novel," characters who fit the protagonist's paradigm become apparent, the starkest of whom is Alvin Dewey, a man driven to solve the case and who seemingly assumes the burden of the entire community (it can also be argued, I suppose, that Perry Smith is also a protagonist). And while Dewey becomes, by literary proxy, the book's hero, he is not by a long shot the sole interesting figure. In fact no character can be said to be uninteresting in the slightest, the least of whom is easily Perry Smith; and I found myself numerous times wondering whether In Cold Blood was, while not the impetus of the anti-hero in neither literature nor media, at the forefront of the flow that breached the gates, flooded our consciousness, and would eventually lead to our modern day sympathizing for -- and often dangerous idolization of -- notorious criminals. This was a full seven years before The Godfather, remember.

But for now I'll save proselytizing on the book's cultural impact in favor of urging any literary buffs who haven't read Capote's masterpiece (I was once like you, one week ago), and those who have read it but need to brush up on their recollection, to get acquainted or reacquainted with In Cold Blood, the most riveting, most symbolically poignant "non-fiction novel" I've read since The Holy Bible.

Best quote of Persons Unknown (attributed to Alvin Dewey):

"Years from now I'll still be running down tips, and every time there's a murder, a case anywhere in the country even remotely similar, I'll have to horn right in, check, see if there could be any possible connection. But it isn't only that. The real thing is I've come to feel I know Herb and the family better than they ever knew themselves. I'm haunted by them. I guess I always will be. Until I know what happened."

I do know what happened, and I'm still haunted. Dewey, I'll venture to guess, after catching the murderers, still was, too.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

E for Effort, T for Nice Try

I'm dead tired like a blown wheel at the Indy 500. I hope that lackluster simile conveys the fact. To boot, rather than choosing to sleep the sleep of the just (and handsome) this afternoon, I opted to play basketball for 3 hours and in the process caught a terrific sunburn. Seriously, you could reheat last night's leftovers by standing near me.

So because I'm lazy, instead of my planned posts about the second part of In Cold Blood, a review of Sin City (the film), a lengthy diatribe on why people who don't like grilled cheese sandwiches are racist, and an interview with the guy who sells veggies out of his truck in my neighborhood, you're getting the following, a transcript of the MSN convo I had last night between me and my mother. And to spice things up -- and because I masochistically long for my folks to disown me -- I've embellished a few details. All names have been changed to protect the well-dressed, and the stuff I made up is written in italics.

Bon apetit.

Guten morgen.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
Good morning Sparkles. They are not up yet.

Bummer. I got time, though :)

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
Okay - They should make an appearance soon but, I guess that they will have to have breakfast.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
I told the 18th Letter that I would make cookies with her today.

Can you send me some?

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
Sure. I hope you choke on them.

I'm sure they'll be extra crunchy by the time they arrive.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
And maybe a little green.

What's for breakfast?

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
I don't know. Probably something Korean. And what did you have for breakfast, kimchi-fried stupid?

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
The 18th Letter was talking to Great Uncle Johnny Unitas the other night and the next night we invited her to talk to Great Grammie. She disputed that there was another Grammie. When we tried to convince her she asked then where was Great Mummy.


In Egypt!

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
Smart alec kid! I've fallen for the "pull my finger" trick a few times. When I eventually caught on and refused to do so, she threw hot coffee at me and ran out with my cheque book.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
When we were going to the Korean store the other night she started to complain that it was taking too long. She said "Why aren't we going up?" - That is a reference to the off ramps that almost always have an upward slope.

Korean store. Slope. Really subtle, Mom.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
I know that because whenever we are on one she says "We are going up." Then she asks where to score quality grass.


Mommy Sparkles*_*:
To get her mind off the fact that it was taking a long time I put her in a sleeper hold and I asked her - probably for the umpteenth time - how she liked nursery school. Her response - "not very well." The expression struck us funny. Funnier than anything that's ever come out of your filthy mouth, anyway.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
I said that, like beating homeless people to death, she told us earlier that she liked it. - Her reply: "Well I like it a little bit."

She said that verbatim?

Mommy Sparkles*_*:

Wow. She's the most proficient liguist to come out of South Korea since Kosik the Talking Elephant.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
She amazes me! You should see her shoplift!

Going for a smoke. Back in a bit.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
Okay. Try not to lock yourself outside, dumbass.

Back. Damn, it's cold outside. Speaking of cold, isn't an icicle the perfect murder weapon?

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
It has turned warm here - a beautiful day yesterday but cloudy today. If it is nice, I will likely take the 18th letter to the park and a sportsbook.

Mommy Sparkles*_*:
I hear someone.

Me, too. It's the neighbor's dog. He's telling me to "kill."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Psychedelic Kimochi

Ms. Im Ji-Hye (임지혜), Maxim Korea cover model and racing girl -- although I fail to comprehend how she can run competitively with such ampleness, though I'd sure like to see her try.

I hope I don't need to tell you that the symbolism of the vectorially suggestive straws, the coconut, and that folded thingy resembling -- among other things -- a feta-stuffed pita, is what delineates the pic as true art rather than simple wack-off fodder for lonely men, which it also is (I shall assume), albeit to a lesser extent.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fuck Oprah

As you know -- to use an expression I hear more often than I care for --, on Sunday while watching Capote I was impelled to seek out a copy of In Cold Blood. By next day that impulse was quickly forgotten; and, who knows, things might have remained that way for eternity had not fate intervened on my behalf. On Tuesday, bored and finished work early, I decided to peruse the shelves at the Seohyeon Book Center (서현 문고). First I picked up Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, which, because I'm not a big reader of non-fiction -- particularly historical non-fiction --, I had been intrigued by but had never purchased; second, much to my own surprise and delight (even though, in recent years, he has become to me the abusive or alcoholic spouse of literature: I keep hoping he's changed, yet -- After the Quake and the first two thirds of Kafka on the Shore notwithstanding -- he reliably lets me down), I saw Haruki Murakami's recently-released collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, and picked that up, too. I was then a happy man; content that I had secured two good, lengthy reads, I considered walking downstairs to finalize the visit, but because time was on my side like Mick Jagger, I postponed the descension in favor of wasting time amongst rows of inanimate friends both hardcover and paperback, discerning, like a despot with a sixth sense for quality literature, which books I might possibly emancipate in a present or future time.

Not 30 seconds later, upon entering between two new shelves of homeless classics, were my eyes drawn downward, as though by magnetic force, almost to floor-level, toward the book I had so capriciously desired 48 hours prior and just as quickly forgotten, like a one-night stand, the following morning. There my eyes alighted upon three copies of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

Like a gentle heart selecting a soon-to-be euthanized canine from an animal shelter, I compared the three copies and chose the one best preserved, stroking its spine and supple edges, inwardly assuring it Don't worry, little one; you're safe now. I'll give you a good home.

Like a reliable woman or a tasty lager, great books find you. I truly believe that. Yesterday and this evening I read the first part (The Last to See Them Alive) of Capote's "non-fiction novel", and I thought I'd dispense some thoughts. Sometimes one is so awed by a work of art that he or she cannot resist sharing his or her experience with others. We as human beings instinctively want the people whom we love and admire (and those whom we hate; there's probably a little of that, too) to share our experiences -- to take the same profound journeys which mold and shape our imaginations. Such is the impetus of all art, and, as is quite evident, the driving force and ethos of Psychedelic Kimchi. Naturally there are those who will disagree with our assessments. As an example, I might be the only person alive who considers the original Weekend at Bernie's to be a touchstone of cinematic greatness; and Idealjetsam, ever the Magneto to my Professor X, is always wont to remind me that he thinks Fyodor Dostoevsky the literary world's greatest con man. Furthermore, for my part, I've made it clear in posts past that I loathe the writing styles of Messrs Hemingway and Joyce -- much, I'm sure, to the consternation of the talented TMH.

Yet, regardless of our (and here I mean everyone, not just the sausage-fest which comprises the PK collective) religious, political, sexual et al. bent, we persist, trying, usually in vain, to convert the wicked, the ignorant, the blind, deaf, and dumb, in hopes that they will see the light, share our interests, or cease their evil ways -- and, most of all, stop using so many fucking commas.


Truman Capote possessed a writing style that was both innate and sublime. I don't often get jealous when reading an(other) author's work (because I'm such a gifted writer, see), but Capote -- much like my favorite English-language writers Sommerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling and Jack London, among others -- makes me contemplate the futility of my passion. I can turn an awesome phrase or two, I'm aware, but Capote's talent for language and prose causes me to cower in fear. In hip-hop dialect, the motherfucker makes me shook; as a basketball analogy, it's as though I'm John Starks and he's MJ: sure, I might get in a highlight reel dunk, but at the end of the day who's the one with six rings and enough awards and accolades to stuff a silo or airplane hangar?

Exibit A: some excerpts from the book, the first two of which were ostensibly -- amazingly -- scribed verbatim from a correspondence and an interview, respectively.

You are a man of extreme passion, a hungry man not quite sure where his appetite lies, a deeply frustrated man striving to project his individuality against a backdrop of rigid conformity. You exist in a half-world suspended between two superstructures, one self-expression and the other self-destruction. You are strong, but there is a flaw in your strength, and unless you learn to control it the flaw will prove stronger than your strength and defeat you. The flaw? Explosive emotional reaction out of all proportion to the occasion. Why? Why this unreasonable anger at the sight of others who are happy or content, this growing contempt for people and the desire to hurt them? All right, you think they're fools, you despise them because their morals, their happiness, is the source of your frustration and resentment. But these are dreadful enemies you carry within yourself -- in time destructive as bullets. Mercifully, a bullet kills its victim. This other bacteria, permitted to age, does not kill a man but leaves in its wake the hulk of a creature torn and twisted; there is still fire within his being but it is kept alive by casting upon it faggots of scorn and hate. He may successfully accumulate, but he does not accumulate success, for he is his own enemy and is kept from truly enjoying his achievements.

Go ahead and marinate on that for a minute.

"I'm not surprised," Mrs. Clare said. "When you think how Herb Clutter spent his whole life in a hurry, rushing in here to get his mail with never a minute to good-morning-and-thank-you-dog, rushing around like a chicken with its head off -- joining clubs, running everything, getting jobs maybe other people wanted. And now look -- it's all caught up with him. Well he won't be rushing any more.

"Why, Myrt? Why won't he?"

Mrs. Clare raised her voice. "BECAUSE HE'S DEAD. And Bonnie, too. And Nancy. And the boy. Somebody shot them."

Ice cold.

And my favorite simile in the history of similes:

Except for taking off his boots, he had not troubled to undress. He had merely fallen face down across the bed, as though sleep were a weapon that had struck him from behind.


The juxtaposition of the two fates -- the killers' and the Clutters' -- is spellbinding*, gripping. Stephen King is just one of many authors I've read who has adopted this technique to sexy results, but never has it been so effective, so chilling. Coupled with minute details on both sides of the tragic spectrum, capably sprinkled throughout the narrative, the first part of In Cold Blood is unforgettable, indelible. Perfect.

I sincerely hope you'll join us for part two of Sparkles's look at this masterpiece. Until then, take care of yourselves, and each other.

* Every literary critic is allowed to use the adjective "spellbinding" 3 times in his or her life. This, I believe, is my first. May it be my last.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Eat Bugs

For the longest time (a week, by my calendar), a war of words has raged on a message board nobody gives a fick aboot. Many lives have been lost. Vegetarians have condemned meat eaters for their abject diets; the meat eaters, in turn, have slept, showered, and shaved.

Enough, I say!

To satisfy my magnanimous nature, I say Let us all agree to disagree. (Or Let us hold a lottery where members of both factions are brutally executed. I'm not adverse to that idea, either.) One point though, I believe, can unite us. There are people starving elsewhere in the world (if The Grapes of Wrath is any indication, mainly in Oklahoma), yet this would not be the case if insect consumption were more widespread.

I know what you're thinking: How will I ever get those bread and potato chip crumbs dislodged from between the letters on my keyboard. I can't ven typ the lttr 이...

Sorry, that's what I was thinking. I tend to project. What I wanted to say was: Bugs are gross!

That they are. That they are. But, they're also chock full of protein, or so I hear. And there's no shortage of the critters. Check your pubic hair if you don't believe me. AND I'm pretty sure no one cares if they die or not. Look, I think cows and pigs are cute. I've seen Babe and that movie with the adorable cow (you know the one I'm talking about). I own Chicken Run on DVD. And even though they can't do algorithms nor write a potboiler novel, I regard dogs and cats as my friends, even though quite a few of them have stiffed me on the pot I've spotted them and would probably drive away without me during a gangland shoot-out. But that doesn't exempt the fact that they also taste like how an orgasm feels, and that their searing flesh makes my mouth water like a virgin's supple neck to Dracula. Still, for the time being I'll pretend to concede that animal eating is worng (he he) and that we as a society should seek a compromise, namely bugs.

I'm not talking about butterflies, because most vegetarians would likely oppose the idea (though they'd make a great salad, I'm positive); but even the most ardent herbivore, I'll wager, would have no qualms against capturing a mosquito and systematically pulling its wings and legs off like Oh Daesu in Oldboy or The White Angel in The Marathon Man pulling teeth. Mosquitoes, after all, are the Nazis of the insect world. And both logic and instinct dictate we kill them. So why not sate our palates in the process?

We stand on the precipice of universal progress, brothers and sissies. For the sake of our planet, let us do away with convention and feast upon our mutual enemies, the insect kingdom. For I long for the day when praying mantis is a main course at TGI Friday's, and sauteed cockroach an appetizer.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, I too have a dream, and it is that no belly will go unfed due to our petty prejudices of what constitutes "food". In the bible it says that Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and fed the multitudes. Sounds incredible? Unbelievable? Substitute that bread and those fish with grasshoppers and caterpillars, and what you have, friends and nihilists, is reality.

Perhaps you think I'm joking. Let me assure you, I am

(batshit insane)

completely genuine.

Remember, back in the day they scoffed at Galileo Galilei's ideas, too. That's probably because he had a silly name -- would you believe the earth revolves around the sun were the idea posited to you by Dick Butkus? -- but history proved him right. I'm warning you, don't make the same mistake now that the Catholic Church made then; heed the wisdom of a man gifted with talent and insight. I'm a champion-level Pac-Man player, and therefore have authority in matters concerning the human race.

Do the right thing. Eat Bugs.

(For your Pulitzer consideration.)


RIP Steve Irwin - you magnificent bastard.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I've never read Truman Capote's true crime classic In Cold Blood. It's one of those books that for years and years I have overlooked. After watching Bennett Miller's biopic Capote, however, I certainly plan to get myself a copy. In fact, there were moments during the film when I felt a strong urge to hit the stop button and go out immediately in search of one.

Which is not to say Capote is a poor film. Far from it. Minus some minor flaws, it could have been a masterpiece. As is, it's a solidly structured and well-directed -- albeit subdued -- film. Still, for much of its running time the film feels more like an ad for Capote's book than an intriguing story in its own right, which it unquestionably is. Case in point: my favorite scene occurs when Capote (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) reads excerpts from his then as-yet unpublished work. I wonder if I'm the only one.

Less a biopic than a history of the research and writing of In Cold Blood, Capote nevertheless deftly manages to paint an accurate portrait of the great writer's life and the moral dilemma he faced while composing his final book. The film's title seems misleading in a sense, but also apt, because Miller essentially shows Capote as a selfish man, one who inserts himself into the case of the two murderers to further his own agenda: his art. Along the way, Capote develops a great fondness for one of the killers, Perry Smith (played by Latin music singer and Mr. Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony...sorry, that's Clifton Collins Jr.), but ultimately, faced with having to make a decision between finding yet another lawyer to postpone the criminals' fate and finishing his book, already 4 years in the making, he betrays the singular friendship. If Smith and Hickock are granted another stay of execution, Capote reasons to lifelong friend and prolific novelist Harper Lee (played by Catherine Keener), he will assuredly suffer a nervous breakdown. If they are hanged, he has the final chapter of his book. Guess which outcome he chooses.

Capote's refusal to throw Smith and Hickock a life preserver -- leaving them hanging, so to speak -- so that he could complete his novel was a decision that, seemingly, haunted the writer for the rest of his life. He never should have involved himself in the case so deeply from the start, and several times the movie subtly questions the ethicality of those actions -- actions which have since been repeated innumerous times by various writers, reporters and news sources for the sake of furthering their own agendas. I speak from experience, here.

But Capote, instead of being demonized, is portrayed as a tormented soul who recognizes his betrayal and is eaten alive by regret. And he is impossible not to like. A hugely talented and flamboyant personality, Truman Capote in the film is depicted as a witty conversationalist, a neurotic-yet-gentle character the likes of which we'll probably never again encounter in literature, and a dear friend.

Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar was well-deserved (although I will assert until the day I die that Terrence Howard was more deserving for his role in Hustle & Flow. But I digress) as he again shows what a phenomenal actor he is. He manages to capture Capote's voice and mannerisms perfectly, much in the same way he expertly captured Lester Bangs's in Cameron Crowe's neo-classic Almost Famous. My only complaint about the role is that he often breaks character when laughing or staring expressionlessly during another character's dialogue. In that regard Hoffman's portrayal is just a notch below Jamie Foxx's tour de force* performance in Ray (though Capote is overall the better film), but it's pretty damn close.

The supporting cast is terrific as well, particularly Catherine Keener and Clifton Collins Jr. The latter possesses an extensive resume of mostly unremarkable film and TV work. Based on his performance here -- which arguably deserved an Oscar nod -- I hope he gets a shot at bigger and better roles. Chris Cooper (one of the few Hollywood actors whom I'm certain has the capacity to be as frighteningly imposing in real life as the characters he often portrays; let's just say that, were I presented with the opportunity, I'd think twice before dating his daughter) is great as always, although his role is relatively minor, and he at times appears perceptibly conscious of and disturbed by the fact. Also deprived of screen time is Bruce Greenwood (the man to call if you're a casting director in need of someone to play a politician), who plays novelist and playwrite Jack Dunphy, Capote's longtime partner (their relationship, much like Capote's real-life homosexual affairs, is only hinted at). For anyone who wants to see the more intimate side of both their and Capote and Perry Smith's relationship, another biopic, Infamous (word to Mobb Deep), centered around the writing of In Cold Blood is due for release later this year (warning: Sandra Bullock plays Harper Lee). Hollywood redundant? Incroyable! C'est impossible!

One huge knock on the film is its score. Sure it's moody and even somewhat memorable, but mostly it's a generic recreation of Brooks Hatlen's theme from the Shawshank Redemption. For such a unique film, it's a shame that the score is a knock-off.

Tell you what, though: when Infamous is released on DVD, I promise to write a review comparing it to Miller's film. And if I find the former to be superior, I promise I'll eat my soon-to-be-purchased copy of In Cold Blood with relish...I mean ketchup.

3 1/2 out of 4 *_*

* Every film critic is allowed to use the term "tour de force" 3 times in his or her life. This, I believe, is my second.