I read an earlier graphic novel (really a graphic short story) by Walden, and liked it a lot. So when this one showed up at the library, I hit the link at once.
It's a beautifully drawn work, with the same eerie surrealism as her earlier work. The basic story is a road trip -- a 27 year old befriends an 18 year old who is running from a dark secret, and they travel through Texas together. But there is a cat who can slip through dimensions and rearrange roads and bridges and rivers, and their quest to return this cat to its home (while being chased by a pair of disturbing agents who want the cat for their own uses) forms the bulk of the novel.
Very much worth reading just for the art. But I also love the two main characters and the cat.
Kaori Mori, The Bride's Story, Vol. 12
This is the latest volume of a manga I've been reading for years. It follows the journey of an anthropologist/linguist who is traveling along the Silk Road during the 19th century, meeting and staying with people along the way.
The first several volumes focused on the "bride," who came from a family of nomads to live with the family of her husband. The anthropologist was very much in the background of these early volumes, which focused on the quotidian details of life in the town and among the nomads.
These later volumes have focused more on the anthropologist. Still worth reading, though I miss the bride and her family. This latest one involves how people occupy themselves when nothing much is going on. There's also a short section concerning the anthropologist's family back in England, which makes me think we might be going there in some future volume.
I love these books. Highly recommended.
Rachel Cohen, The Austen Years: A memoir in five novels
I would have liked this book better if I hadn't taken such an irrational dislike to the author. I love books about Austen, and Cohen has some insightful things to say about the books. Something about her tone just irks me.
The basic premise of the book is that she spent years reading nothing but Jane Austen, over and over again. She intersperses her interpretations of the novels with her memories of her life while she was reading the novels. Her writing is a bit turgid, but perfectly serviceable.
I don't know. If you like reading about Austen, you might like this one better than I did.
I mean, of course Trump lied about how much money he has/is making. And of course he found ways to cheat the country out of the tax he owes them. Have you even met this giant heap of slime?
Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.
Over on FB, of course, the reaction from conservatives about this range from "FAKE NEWS!" to "Not paying taxes is smart wish I could figure out how to cheat the country like this Trump my hero!"
This isn't going to move the needle, is what I mean. Anyone sane has already rejected Trump. And MAGA Americans literally do not care what he does. He could kill and eat a toddler on national TV, they'd find some way to support him anyway.
"Hey, toddlers are brats! Who doesn't want to eat one?"
"Everyone eats toddlers! I hear Hilary Clinton eats two a day!"
"Maybe if its parents had jobs that toddler wouldn't have been eaten!"
In other news, it was 59 degrees here this morning. I think summer may finally be over.
Yesterday, people I actually respect and (formerly) thought of as well-informed were explaining earnestly on FB that it was okay that the police murdered a woman in her sleep because, after all, she had previously dated a guy who maybe once did drugs. "You reap what you sow," these American citizens said.
Our education system is collapsing -- partly due to the virus, but also due to the refusal of states and local school boards to fund it properly. But this is fine, according to half of America, because public schools are a failure anyway.
(Underfund and denigrate something for years, and then when it fails, replace it with a private option so expensive only 1% of the country will be able to afford it -- that's the American way!)
This bit of the yard, the part you can see through the porch, is my favorite of our little acre. The stone steps there go up to a stone bench, as well as two metal chairs under a hackberry tree. Our rabbits have a little hollow under the bench where they hang out sometimes, and further on, over in the shady corner, there's a young fir tree.
This is also my view from the chair where I write.
Today is the first day that it has been cool enough to turn off the AC and open the windows. I would be feeling extremely happy were it not for the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
I don't know what will come of this. Nothing good.
I remember this feeling. This is how I felt when conservatives re-elected George W. Bush, despite all the evil things he had done -- torture, slaughtering Iraqis, ignoring the rule of law. It feels like the country has been broken so badly that we can't come back from it.
And honestly, I don't know that we ever did. This is the logical outcome of that act. Trump follows from Bush (who followed from Reagan) like night follows day.
I finally got around to watching Live Free or Die Hard (2007).
To be honest, I wasn't expecting much, mainly due to the title, which makes me think of as the "Pweas No Steppy" flag:
So I went into the film with low expectations, and ended up enjoying it, despite its many flaws.
In this one, filmed almost 20 years after the first one, John McClane is still a New York City cop. He has divorced his wife, and is stalking his daughter -- we first see him in the film lurking outside her apartment. She's in a car, making out with a young man, and pushes him away when he grabs at her breast. "Stop it," she says, and he starts to whine and protest but!
McClane grabs him out of the car and yells in his face, "No means no, asshole!"
Far from being grateful, McClane's daughter, Lucy, leaps out of the car and begins shouting at McClane, who apparently follows her around and does this sort of thing literally all the time. "Stop assaulting my boyfriends!" she orders.
Then she storms off. He yells, "Come back here, Lucy McClane!" and she shouts back that her name is Lucy Gennero.
So we're back to that again. And don't worry, by the end of the movie Lucy takes back the name McClane. So there, feminists!
Meanwhile, Timothy Olyphant, who plays the terrorist/thief in this iteration, and his lover Mai Linh, have hired a handful of hackers to write algorithms that can shut down the entire country -- the communications network, the banking system, the transportation system, and so on. This is called a "fire sale" in hacker parlance, apparently, meaning "everything must go."
After the hackers write the algorithms, teams of assassins show up at their homes and blow them up. First set of Explosions!
One hacker, though, is rescued just in time, because McClane is sent to fetch him to Washington D.C. to be interrogated by Homeland Security. The timeline here makes no sense, and also how did the terrorists plant the giant bombs inside the hackers' computers without anyone noticing, but let's move on.
McClane takes the hacker, Farrell, to D.C. A spate of "Kids Today" and "Okay, Boomer" jokes occur as they drive. McClane, 20 years older than the very hot 33 year old that fought his way through Nakatomi Plaza, does not do much of a job of acting like a cool 53 year old.
The fire sale begins, with all the lights in D.C. being set to green at once. Lots of smashy car crashes follow. McClane figures out something is up, and calls for an escort to Homeland Security. The terrorists (who have a massive operation) locate Farrell's voice in the background of that call and send assassins in a gotdamn helicopter to murder him before he can talk.
Although, honestly, what does he have to tell them? He doesn't know anything about anyone who hired him. So this seems overkill, pardon my pun.
But we get a lot of shooting as McClane and Farrell flee, and also McClane blows up the helicopter by flinging a car into it, in one of this film's truly unbelievable stunts. Big explosion #2.
McClane and Farrell reach...I think it's Homeland Security? Honestly, about 30 government agencies pop up in this film, and I couldn't really tell any of them apart. But later they send McClane to take Farrell to Homeland Security, so that can't be it.
Wikipedia tells me it's FBI headquarters. Okay. They get to FBI HQ and a bunch of confusing stuff happens, with everyone running around because not only has the transportation grid gone down nationwide, but also the stock market has been taken down, and all of the cell phones quit working. Farrell figures out this is a fire sale, and guesses that the next attack will be on the power grid -- the closest hub of which is in West Virginia. So he and McClane drive there and fight the terrorists who are there destroying it.
One of these terrorists is Timothy Olyphant's lover Mai Linh. She and McClane have a big fight, smashing and crashing and shooting at one another, before McClane drops her and a giant SUV down a...elevator shaft? I don't know what this deep shaft was supposed to be, or why it was in the middle of what looks like a two-story powerplant. Anyway, she falls a long way, the SUV falls on top of her, big explosion #3.
Then McClane intercepts a call from Olyphant to Mai Linh and mocks him, bragging that he killed Olyphant's "girlfriend." Olyphant, angered, send his henchmen to kidnap Lucy Gennero/McClane so he can use her as a hostage.
Olyphant also routes "all the gas lines in West Virginia" into the power plant, and then blows it up. (What?) Big Explosion #4.
Then McClane and Farrell fly a helicopter (McClane can fly helicopters now) to the house of a super-hacker Farrell knows, who helps them figure out what the terrorists are really after -- something hidden in the basement of Social Security Headquarters in Woodlawn.
What is hidden there? Massive computers that have the backup to all the financial information in the USA.
Trillions of dollars, explain the Homeland Security guys who put this data there.
Yep, it's a heist. But they're still terrorists, because as it turns out Olyphant is the guy who wrote the programming for these computers, and he tried to warn the Joint Chiefs of Staff that a fire sale -- like the one he's running -- could destroy the nation, but they wouldn't listen to him, so now he's showing them.
How does McClane stop Olyphant? Well, first lots of explosions, including the explosion of a jet: Olyphant hacks into its communication system and orders the pilot to explode the truck McClane is driving. It's an extremely silly sequence with so many explosions I lost count.
But the big showdown is in person, with Farrell and McClane facing off Olyphant, who has a gun to Lucy's head. McClane tried to shoot Olyphant and gets shot himself. He drops his gun, Olyphant drops Lucy, Lucy and Farrell both grab guns (so many loose guns in this scene) and there's a general shootout, in which Farrell kills Olyphant.
In the end, Lucy tells Farrell her name is Lucy McClane, and Farrell makes heart-eyes at Lucy, and McClane makes one of those hilarious conservative threats, saying Farrell should stay away from Lucy or he'll beat him to death.
This would be funnier (yeah, no it wouldn't) if we hadn't seen McClane stalking Lucy's boyfriends at the start of the movie.
It's another fast-paced action film in which we learn that
(1) Violence is always the solution
(2) Good guys exist to gun down bad guys
(3) Women exist to be prizes, and are also possessions of some man or another
(4) Women also exist so that they can be threatened or murdered to evoke emotional responses in Good Guys, also in Bad Guys
(5) Computers are magic
(6) People in the government are stupid
(7) Freedom isn't Free -- you've got to win it by mass slaughter and also explosions.
(8) Guns and explosions are The Best
This was the most overtly political of the Die Hard films I've watched so far, and the one with the silliest take on politics.
There's one more of these, called A Good Day to Die Hard, set in Russia and Chernobyl. That might be worth watching just for the politics alone -- it was released in 2013, before Trump made conservatives (at least claim to believe) that Russians were the good guys.
I watched a bit of Die Hard 2: Die Harder, but it was incredibly bad and boring, with all the faults of the first movie and none of the virtues. No Alan Rickman, for one thing, but also cluttered, badly shot scenes and a Bruce Willis that seemed petulant and whiny instead of snarky and competent.
It did have some nice snow. However, I quit watching while Willis was gunning down terrorists in a half-constructed wing of the airport.
Die Hard 2 (1990) takes place in an airport at Christmas time, I forgot to say that. There's a really boring plane crash, and a definitely political villain, a foreign guy being extradited to the USA because he's a cocaine-smuggling general or something, I didn't really follow that part. An ex-CIA co-villain is attempting to rescue him from state department custody. According to one source, this plot was based on the Iran-Contra affair. I guess if I had watched further this Ex-CIA guy would have said something about how strong men on walls have to et cetera et cetera, kind of like Oliver North.
Die Hard 3: Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
In Die Hard 2, Holly was still working at her high-powered corporate job, and John McClane had moved out to LA to be with her. Her decision to be his help meet at the end of Die Hard the first had apparently mended their marriage.
Now he's back in New York, though it's not clear why, and he hasn't spoken to her for a year. Also, he's been suspended from the police force though, once again, we don't really get an explanation for why. Probably, as in the first two, it's because people in charge don't like mavericks like McClane.
The movie opens with a Bonwit Teller store being exploded. We soon learn that the "terrorists" (this time they are, as in the first movie, not actual terrorists, but thieves pretending to be terrorists) are here to get revenge on McClane. See, the head villain is Alan Rickman's little brother, played her by Jeremy Irons. He's kind of boring, sadly. No Alan Rickman, at least not here.
What makes this movie work better than the second is Zeus Carver, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Simon, the character played by Irons, sends McClane off to do silly stunts and solve ridiculously easy riddles, in order -- so the police force believes -- to torment him. Actually, of course, these as red herrings, to disguise Simon's true aim, which is to rob $140 billion dollars in gold from the basement of the Federal Reserve bank. Apparently they just keep it down there inside some chickenwire cages. Who knew!
Simon's first stunt involves sending McClane down to stand in Harlem in his underwear wearing a sandwich board with a racial slur painted on it. All the scary black guys in Harlem are going to kill him, except Zeus Carver shows up and rescues him -- not to save McClane, as he later makes clear, but to save the black guys. He doesn't say they'd all be shot for assaulting a police officer, but...
This is the most interesting and also the most cringe-worthy part of the film: the politics. Here in 1995, McClane is openly playing an aggrieved white male. Jackson is playing a black activist. We first meet him lecturing his nephews about how "people" are plotting to turn them into criminals, and how they should never rely on or take help from white people, and then ordering them to get to school and work hard.
Later, as he works with McClane, against his will, he continues to point out McClane's racist assumptions, except the film makes it clear that Zeus (black people have such funny names) is just being overly sensitive and playing the race card for no reason. There's a confrontation, finally, in which McClane accuses Zeus of being racist.
"You hate me because I'm white!" he shouts, and the scales fall from Zeus's eyes. OH NO. He HAS been hating white people just because they're white. How wrong he has been!
After that he spends the rest of the movie being McClane's loyal helpmeet. (Black people exist to save white people.)
Meanwhile, all the cops are heroes, brave and selfless, putting their lives in danger to save civilians, especially black children and women. Some of the police officers are even women! One is a black woman! Also Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager is in this one, a Mexican police officer, though they don't give him much to do.
All the heroes of the film are either police officers or truck drivers -- white male truck drivers, needless to say.
The politics here are clear enough:
(1) Police officers are earnest, decent people just trying to serve and protest the population of the city.
(2) Working class white men are smarter than rich white men.
(3) Women, unless they're police women, are murderous bitches and sluts.
(4) Non-Americans are evil.
(5) Rich white men are evil and incompetent.
(6) Cops aren't racist. In fact, no white person is racist. The only really racist people are Black people.
(7) All problems can be solved by shooting people.
Jackson is a brilliant actor, and Willis can clearly do McClane in his sleep at this point. But this one, despite all the explosions, is seriously marred by not having Alan Rickman as McClane's foil. Also the plot is not nearly as clever as in the first movie.
Also some of the explosions and giant set pieces (blowing a dam in order to drown McClane, for instance) are risible.
I might go on to Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard. That one has Timothy Olyphant in it, and I always enjoy him.
I forget why I started watching the Die Hard franchise. I think someone recommended it, and also I had insomnia, so why not.
I saw the first one, Die Hard (1988), in the theater, I think? I have only vague memories. That would have been while I was in graduate school and when I was first dating Dr. Skull. We might have gone to see it -- we were seeing almost every single movie that came to town back then, including Highlander II (the worst movie I ever paid money to see).
Anyway, I remembered very little about the first Die Hard. So its amazing politics were a bit of a shock.
In the commentary (I was watching it on Amazon, which provides a running commentary if you click on the screen), we are told that in the orignal script, the bad guys were terrorists. But the director, John McTiernan, made them into thieves because he didn't want the movie to be "political."
Mind you, making the bad guys into thieves instead of international terrorists was an excellent plot move. I'm just laughing my ass off at the notion that this movie was "not political."
John McClane, our hero, is a New York City cop. All the films in the series, while they are indeed action films, are also straight-up copaganda. Cops are always the "good guys." They are pure of heart and noble in action -- like Roy Rogers, as McClane famously claims in the film. They rescue innocent civilians, and do so without ever shooting first. In fact, they do their best to never shoot anyone -- until they absolutely have to. (Spoilers: they always absolutely have to.)
McClane is also handsome, witty, and smarter than anyone around him. (Spoilers: he's not actually smart, just written that way.)
His wife, Holly, on the other hand, that treacherous bitch, has taken a high-paying job with a large corporation. And not only did she leave her handsome hero husband to do so, moving to LA and leaving him behind in New York, she took back her maiden name.
I know! Scandalous!
Much of the movie is about McClane killing the terrorist/thieves in order to rescue his wife (they're all foreign, of course, as are the owners of the corporation that lured Holly away from her place by McClane's side). He rescues the other hostages too, of course, even though they, like Holly, work for this foreign corporation, and this are smarmy, stupid, and evil.
We get a lot of attacks on the media (one villain of the piece is the reporter trying to cover the story -- he is also smarmy, stupid, and evil), and on the FBI; and we get a lot of time spent showing us what a good guy McClane is, and what a good guy his counterpart, Al, an LA police officer, is. They love their kids. They love their country. They love to protect civilians --
What's that you say? Al shot a civilian? An innocent 10 year old carrying a toy gun? My, that doesn't sound very heroic.
Oh, wait. He feels bad about it, and now he can't even draw his weapon. He's a broken cop. All he can do now is "ride a desk."
Don't worry, though. By the end of the movie, he is able to gun down a bad guy. He's all better now! He can shoot people again, so he can go back to being a "real" cop.
Also at the end of the movie, Holly takes back McClane's last name. She's fixed too!
This movie is filled with explosions, blood, and McClane shooting people. The politics here include:
(1) We need men with guns. These men are the heroes who keep us safe.
(2) Violence is an excellent solution - indeed, the only solution.
(3) Women are helpless, and so are men who prefer to negotiate instead of shooting people. Such men die horribly, which is what they deserve for being such smarmy cowards.
(3.1) Women also exist so men in the audience can look at their titties -- there's more than one gratuitous naked woman in this movie.
(4) People who are not American exist to be villains or comic relief.
(5) Black people exist to help and support white people.
(6) Black people adore and admire white people and love to help them.
(7) Black people also exist to be comic relief (Al lives on Twinkies, and Argyle -- don't black people have funny names! -- is essentially Stepin Fetchit).
(8) Police are pure of heart, heroic, white knight heroes, who are able to overcome huge odds and defeat the villains -- so long as the parasites and losers don't get in their way.
(9) People in California -- or at least liberals in California -- are ridiculous.
Now mind you, if you can squint your way past these "not political" aspects of the movie, this first one is kind of fun. Alan Rickman is a wonderful villain, the plot works well, and 33 year old Bruce Willis is indeed hot. The dialogue is also snappy -- or anyway, the dialogue between Rickman and Willis. The dialogue between Willis and Bonnie Bedelia, his wife, the love of his life, is both cliched and stale.
I tried to watch Die Hard 2: Die Harder, but it was both stupid and boring. I managed to make it through Die Hard 3: Die Hard with a Vengeance. I'll share my thoughts on that tomorrow.
We called their customer service again. (They have possibly the worst customer service on the planet.) Customer service did something by remote. ("checked the connection," I think?)
Internet is now working. But I expect it to fail at any moment.
I'm reading a book written in 1995. This was just before the internet became universal and pervasive, and before cell phones. People are communicating by snail mail and by calling each other up on landlines. When they don't know something, they have to go to newpapers archives in the basement of a library and hunt through stacks and stacks of old issues by hand. If they can't find someone, they have to go drive around looking for them.