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Monthly Archives: February 2008

Acheng Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)

This may not be relevant, but did you know that Gamera is a friend to all children? — Mystery Science Theater 3000

gamera_vs_gurion_poster.jpgDespite the fact that I’m kind of a movie geek, I really don’t pay much attention to the Oscars. Probably because find the whole thing tedious, crass and self-congratulatory. Whenever they do the montage of dead people and the audience spontaneously plays applause meter based on the fame of the deceased, I pirate ten new Hollywood movies just out of spite. Plus, there’s the fact that I stubbornly refuse to care about the lives of my favourite actors and directors apart from the movies they make. (Though I’ll admit to secretly being pretty happy that No Country For Old Men did so well.)

So instead of watching the Oscars, I spent the evening watching Japanese giant monsters fight in Gamera vs Guiron. I actually liked it quite a bit better than the last Gamera movie I watched, Gamera vs Gyaos, mostly because this one uses the scenes without giant monsters fighting as an excuse to trowel in a whole lot of low-budget weirdness. This mostly comes in the form of Guiron’s keepers, a couple of sexy brain-eating Japanese space babes in capes and helmets (which, coincidentally, exactly corresponds to a fetish I didn’t previously know I had). Not to say that there is anything non-bizarre about the giant monsters! Because not only do we have the turtle-shelled, jet-propelled, low-rent Godzilla knock-off that is Gamera, but his opponent Guiron is fucking surreal: he’s 80 meters tall, has a giant paring knife for a head, shoots throwing stars out of his face, and has the power to make water flow uphill. Let’s face it, you can’t tell me you’ve seen a whole lot of that before.

Bombay (1995)

All religions suck. — Dead Kennedys

bombaysnip.jpgI got into Bollywood via the music. I have a few compilations on my iPod, and even though I had no idea what anybody was singing about, I enjoyed a bit of grooving to Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhonsle. A few months ago, kommune-mate Abhi helped me add several of the more distinguished Bollywood movies to my Zip List, and I’ve been watching them as they trickle in. And I can say I’m enjoying them quite a bit.

The first hour of Bombay plays out like a romantic comedy, as a Hindu man falls for a pretty Muslim girl in his village. Even though both families will surely object, he woos and wins her with a combination of wacky coincidences and lavish music numbers (my favourite is the marriage consummation number, complete with squads of big-haired 1980s-issue dancers and erupting fountains). A few scenes of marital bliss later, Gillian predicted something bad would have to happen, just because everybody was so damn happy. Sure enough, the second half is as grim as the first half is cheery, as Bombay is engulfed in the religious riots of 1993-1994. This part is an odd mixture of melodrama and unflinching look at the riots and the participants. On the one hand, even the fundamentalists religious leaders (who are clearly given the lion’s share of the blame here) are given unexpected nuances. At the same time, there are numerous heartfelt speeches and songs, and our heroes spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about the importance of India coming together, even though they are continually at the epicentre of the conflagration. I’m actually not sure that’s a bad thing. There is a time and place for subtlety, and I’m pretty sure this movie isn’t it.

One thing I really appreciate about Bollywood movies, even (or especially) in an important Message Movie like Bombay, is that they understand the need to entertain. This is something that I think a lot of filmmakers in, say, Europe (and Canada) have lost sight of: there is a contract between filmmaker and filmgoer. You can be as artsy as you like, and make all the statements you want as long as you engage me first. If you can’t do that, you have failed as a filmmaker. Maybe it’s just that the stakes are so much higher, but its clear that the people that made Bombay understand this — they have something genuinely important to say, and sometimes that’s simply more important than capital-A Art.

where’s Eric?

I haven’t updated my little corner of the internet lately, for a variety of reasons. Not having a computer at home is a big part of it. Plus, I’m working for a start-up in Yaletown full-time, and since we’re in stealth mode I can’t really talk about anything related to work. And, since I work fairly long days and commute almost an hour each way, I don’t really have a huge amount of time to do anything else worth talking about, except watch the occasional movie. And that’s taken care of over on the right there (though I have been thinking for a while about moving my reviews to the main part of the blog).

Excuses aside, though, I was all set up to write something interesting about research in Artificial Intelligence, and why I’m so sure we will not have human-level AI in my lifetime. But it’s a beautiful sunny day outside and I spent all week in a stuffy little office, so instead, I’m going to go out for a walk, and then sit in a coffee shop somewhere and read a book, and then maybe go for a run. Sorry, blog.

january: successes and failures

As advertised, the first update on my 2008 resolutions. Because I know you care, and care deeply. And don’t think I’m unaware of my position as role model for today’s youth.

First, on my weight. At the beginning of January, I weighed 183 lbs. This was 11 lbs more than the beginning of December, and more than I’ve weighed since 1999 (my weight for the past few years has fluctuated between 160 and 175 lbs). The time had come to do something, though I’m a much bigger fan of slow-and-steady than rapid-and-unsustainable. So for January, I simply went back to my pre-December routine of eating reasonably and going to the gym three or four times a week.

The result?


Fuck, yeah.

Six pounds lost with almost no effort. And I’m fairly sure I can get back to 172lbs by the end of February. At that point, the experiments will begin, as I try to get to my ca 2001 weight of 150 lbs and stay there. The most interesting idea I’ve found so far is this one, from economist Richard McKenzie: enter into a contract to pay someone a large sum of money if you don’t meet your weight goal (which should be reasonably attainable). This makes the effective price of something like butter chicken or a cookie far higher than a salad or piece of fruit, and it also means you’re getting paid to go to the gym. While I’m generally not a person to worry too much about money, even when I don’t have it, I’m currently highly motivated to try to save money — I’m working full time right now for express purpose of socking it away for my post-PhD travel fund. I haven’t quite decided yet if I’ll go through with McKenzie’s idea, but it definitely appeals to my fascination with the dismal science.

Of course, you could use this trick to motivate yourself into doing anything. I could probably use some assistance in my other goal for 2008 — to improve my guitar skills. I’m going to have to write January off in that regard, but I still plan to focus on getting past my current plateau. On the plus side, I’ve almost made it through all of Guitar Hero II on Hard. Damn you, Free Bird. Damn you, and damn your finger-cramping 10-minute solo.