URRRGH

Dec. 5th, 2010 06:09 pm
gwalla: (a failure is you)
So today I got lost in San Francisco on the way to the test, hit another car (not very hard and there was no visible damage, but we exchanged our info), and, once there, failed the fuck out of the exam. Then I managed to find a way home, but traffic was insane.


This day has been a thoroughly miserable experience.
gwalla: (language buff)
I think I did OK. I hope I did better than last time. The essay portion actually came pretty easily, and it wasn't just regurgitating my previous HW essays—it was still a bunch of direct comparisons between English and Japanese, but it wasn't phrased the same, and I covered some stuff I didn't in the HW, like some more parts of grammar and the writing system—so I'm happy about that. Still not too confident about the JLPT 3 this Sunday.
gwalla: (lon chaney)
So last night I saw a couple of movies at the Symphony: the silent "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with John Barrymore and Buster Keaton's short "The Haunted House", with live accompaniment on pipe organ, percussion, and effects. The crowd was a mix: some just dressed up, some dressed "period" for the silent films, and a bunch just dressed in silly Halloween costumes. The organist was a total ham who came on stage in a cape and vampire mask, and started things rolling with Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor, which he credited with getting him interested in playing the organ (and called "a curse on organists everywhere"). He also announced the score: 4-0 Giants.

First up was the Keaton short, which was hilarious. Keaton plays a hapless bank clerk who, after a series of mishaps, finds himself framed by a crooked superior who is also head of a group of counterfeiters, and when on the run from the police takes refuge in a house that happens to be the counterfeiters' hideout, which they've rigged up to be "haunted" to scare people off. Meanwhile an incompetent opera company botches a performance of "Faust" and is chased off by the irate audience, only to take up residence, in costume, in the same house. In particular, the trick stairs running gag and the extended glue gag had me rolling. The wordplay in the title cards is fun too: "Wall Street: The palatial parking place of the Bear and the Bull--mostly the Bull."

After that, the feature film. When introducing the movie, the organist noted that Barrymore had played the role(s) live on Broadway, where his performances were such a big hit that they got the attention of the major film studios, and the film is essentially just the stage play with more and bigger sets. Since it was meant to be played live, Barrymore couldn't depend on special effects or elaborate makeup, and had to portray the transformation entirely through acting. He shows the whites of his eyes, looks down his nose, flares his nostrils, hunches his back, tenses his hands into claws, and assumes a lopsided sneer, and even without the long crusty fingernails and lumpy back of the head they give him in some scenes he looks like a completely different person. The only effects are a few fairly rudimentary dissolves. The camera also helps: as Jekyll, Barrymore is filmed mostly with his head turned fully to the side (his nickname was "The Profile" for a reason), while as Hyde he is shot mostly head-on.

There was an intermission in the middle of the film. I considered getting a shot at the lobby bar and then clutching my chest as in Jekyll's first transformation, but the line was too long to get a drink before they rang the bell. Before starting the second half, the organist announced that it was still 4-0, with two outs to go. Right before starting, they were interrupted by someone offstage, and the effects guy (who was using Buchla Lightning "wands" to trigger his sounds) relayed that the game was over and the Giants had won.

The film does not really follow the same structure as the original story. Since "Jekyll and Hyde" is such a well known trope now, it's easy to forget that in Stevenson's novella the connection between the two is a mystery that is revealed late as a shocking twist, and mostly follows the point of view of Jekyll's friend and lawyer Mr. Utterson. The film, on the other hand, mostly follows Jekyll, with Sir George's worldly temptations prompting Jekyll to find a way to separate out man's (and in particular his) evil impulses, and Hyde graduating from general douchebaggery (using and discarding the music hall dancer Gina), to callously injuring a child, to outright murder; Utterson is reduced to a minor character. Despite being melodramatic in a way not really seen anymore, the movie holds up very well.

Apparently back home there were a whole lot more trick-or-treaters than there had been in recent years. It was a great night for it, too: very clear and not too cold.

Altogether, a great Halloween.
gwalla: (lon chaney)
Going to see Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" with live musical accompaniment at the SF Symphony on Friday evening. Then there's the SF Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival on the weekend proper. I'll probably take my camera for that (though I still haven't posted the photos from my trip to Kyoto last year...)
gwalla: (comics code authority)
Psylocke. Not the most flattering photo of this particular cosplayer, I'm afraid.

I wonder what he's an interpreter of? Grunts and growls? Dogslobberese?

Spike of Templar, Arizona and R. K. Milholland of Something Positive

That Psylocke again, with a few others. We have here a Deadpool bunnygirl of some kind (Deadpoolina?), Harley Quinn, Lady Gaga, and a female Punisher. And a couple of dudes I do not recognize at all. I didn't even notice the fortuitous placement of that CD character's face until uploading these photos.

Tried to get a better shot of the Deadpool girl, but some asstard stuck his head in front of the camera. Tried to salvage it as best I could. Yes, she has grenades in her Easter basket.

Overall I wasn't really feeling it this year. I think it may be partly be because I haven't been following anything very closely since scans_daily got shut down, and especially since having to stop at home to pick up my bogu before Kendo practice means I can't hang around downtown and browse Comic Relief. Plus there just wasn't a whole lot that was new to see. The only sketch I got was of Terra's head, by Amanda Conner.

I only went to a few panels. I got there too late for the big Disney/Pixar panel on Saturday, and for Andrew Farago's panels today. Yesterday I saw the Gail Simone panel (fun) and the CBLDF Art Auction (fun, and some sweet art, though I didn't buy anything). Sunday I went to one of the Comic Art Conference panels, but the one presenter whose talk sounded like it would be interesting (on urban environments and the cyberpunk they inspired) never showed, and the first guy's talk was so completely dull that I ended up walking out. It seemed like a case of signing up for a talk with a specific thesis in mind, then discovering during the course of research that the thesis wasn't really supportable, and just never coming up with anything interesting in its place.

Bought a bunch of stuff, of course. Con haul:

  • From the overpriced out-of-print soundtracks booth: soundtracks to Willow, Big Trouble In Little China, Labyrinth, and Robotech
  • Gunnerkrigg Court vol. 2 and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152
  • a set of six art nouveau-inspired robot mini-posters from a guy in artist alley
  • a poster of Power Girl giving someone a sock to the jaw, by Amanda Conner. Also, got my copy of the PG trade signed by her.
  • Lackadaisy Cats
  • Richard Stark's Parker: The Man With the Getaway Face, adapted by Darwyn Cooke

Also, I re-upped by Comic Book Legal Defense Fund membership.

I thought I might check out Bamboo Blade in the anime room, since one of my coworkers has been going on about it since I started doing Kendo, but I was a bit late.

That was pretty much it. Pretty busy but not crazy crowded. Not a bad con, I had fun, but I dunno. Something was missing, and I think it may have been something in me.
gwalla: (magma)
A trip to take back a couple of movies turned into a much longer walk when I decided partway through a shortcut back through the Cal campus to take a detour up along Strawberry Creek. The Campanile had started playing a tune, and there was still plenty of sun, which seemed like a good reason to linger. I wandered up past LeConte Hall and crossed the creek at the bridge near the Faculty Glade, went down to look at the North Field and the back side of Hearst Gym, spent some time looking at the stream from another smaller bridge, then doubled back up past the music library and out past Kroeber Hall. Most of this part of campus was not that familiar to me. I'd intended to head down College Ave. and straight home, but on the spur of the moment trekked up to Piedmont Ave.

I got hit with a mild but insistent nostalgia bomb along the way, starting as I crossed the bridge at Sather Gate (looking unsuccessfully for a sign for Cal Animage Alpha; I wonder if the club still exists, as anime fandom has changed so much since I was in high school) and gaining a bit in intensity as I walked past my old elementary school and along a path I used to take to get home after school. Appropriately enough for my frame of mind, the cherry trees in Berkeley are in full bloom. Despite the gnawing feeling of the most useless emotional response ever, it was a pleasant walk.

Also, I encountered a cat with thumbs. They're evolving. We're screwed.
gwalla: (ornament)
What I got this Christmas:

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Books:
  • The Metamorphoses of Tintin, or Tintin for Adults by Jean-Marie Apostolidès
  • Cocktail Boothby's American Bar-Tender by William T. "Cocktail" Boothby ("Endorsed by all Clubmen and Mixologists")

CDs
  • The Ventures - Walk Don't Run: The Best of The Ventures
  • Devin Townsend - Ziltoid the Omniscient
  • Vijay Iyer Trio - Historicity

and a Slinky.

Also, new suits in preparation for an upcoming job interview. Not shown because I'll be picking them up on Tuesday.

I got my dad several jazz CDs: The Man Who Cried Fire by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Guitar by McCoy Tyner (featuring Bela Fleck, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, John Scofield, and Derek Trucks), and a box set of Sonny Stitt (with booklet by Harvey Pekar). For my mom it was books: the Oxford Book of English Verse, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and Ursula Vernon's Irrational Fears.

Dinner was our traditional Christmas spread: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, stuffed mushrooms, and creamed spinach garnished with hard-boiled egg yolks and toast stars. This year mom supplemented the usual menu with homemade dinner rolls. Dessert was a trifle made with custard, pound cake, sherry, sour cherry jam, and Cherry Heering.

I hope you all had a merry Christmas!
gwalla: (Default)
I'm pretty proud of how they turned out this year. The one on the left is my dad's, and the one on the right is mine. Dad was working around several bite marks made by (we think) squirrels, while the mouth of mine started with a gouge I made accidentally when I was gutting it. Mine was going to be a triclops, but the middle eye wasn't centered enough and I decided I liked the lopsided face more.

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There were a lot more trick-or-treaters coming by this year than there have been in recent years, which was nice.

I finished off the night watching the MST3k of the classic crapfest Robot Monster, a movie so cheap that they couldn't afford a robot costume, so they used a borrowed gorilla suit with a helmet instead. Season One of MST3k was...odd. Not a big fan of Josh Weinstein. Larry, the second mad scientist, wasn't that funny (replacing him with TV's Frank was a good move, because the boss/lackey dynamic had more comedic potential) and I prefer Kevin Murphy's sarcastic, slightly fabulous version of Tom Servo to Weinstein's deadpan one. They were still definitely working out the kinks: they wasted pretty much the entire opening credits sequence to the Commando Cody episodes that preceded the film proper with unfunny variations on "not another one" and "wow, this is bad", and in general there weren't really enough quips. The show really hit its stride in Season Two; two of my all-time favorites are from that season (First Spaceship on Venus "Secretly, we've replaced their planet with Folger's Crystals" and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster "Kabob, and Ka-Steve!").

I got

Oct. 7th, 2009 12:48 pm
gwalla: (Default)
The Muppet Show season 2 for my birthday.

HELL YES. Also: Logicomics, a graphic novel biography of Bertrand Russell, which looks interesting.

And a tie. I guess I am getting old.

I am

Oct. 6th, 2009 02:14 pm
gwalla: (dead)
30.

And I really feel like watching some MST3k, but I won't have any time until the weekend. :(
gwalla: (Default)
In case anyone's wondering why I haven't posted about my trip yet, it's because about half of my photos are on a laptop that is still currently in Japan, travelling with a friend. I'd maxed out my memory card (due to shooting video of matches, which I may be able to YouTubify later) about halfway through and needed to make room. He'll be back next week, I think, though I may not be able to meet up with him until the following weekend.

In the meantime, if you hear any rumors about me at the tournament afterparty, they are scandalous lies.
gwalla: (lon chaney)
I lost all of my matches, ate some good food and some terrible food, drank way too much beer, saw Nijo castle and the Heian Imperial Palace as well as several temples and shrines, and generally had a blast. I will be back.

More substantive posts (with photos!) to come.

Now, to bed. It's good to be home.
gwalla: (shit)
I was told that an alert on TV said that BART and the union representing train operators and station agents had come to a tentative agreement and the impending strike had been averted. I went on SFGate to confirm it, and yes! Hooray! I won't have to swim across the bay to get to work tomorrow!

Then I made a big mistake.

I scrolled down to the comments.

I now want to kick everybody in the teeth.
gwalla: (oh yeah)
All right! Finally, my Kyoto trip is all booked and ready. Got my hotel for the last few days there, a tour for one of those days, and the shuttle to take me to and from the airport. (The hotel for most of the trip was booked ages ago, and the plane tickets and associated misadventures have been documented in previous entries).

Once again, I nearly gave myself a heart attack. When making sure that the stay dates would all line up (since, as nice as Kyoto is supposed to be, I think sleeping on the sidewalk would be none too comfortable), I noticed that the ticket to get back was for a flight leaving on the afternoon of Sunday the 27th and arriving at 11 in the morning. "Oh fuck," thought I, "I thought I was getting back on Sunday! I'm already using up all of my PTO as it is. Shit shit shit!"

So I ended up calling United and, after battling their goddamned speech "recognition" maze until I was about ready to throw the phone through my monitor, managed to get connected to an actual human, who told me that yes, the plane leaves on the 27th, but yes, it also arrives on the 27th. I then realized that I'd totally forgotten about the International Date Line, and felt like a moron. On the plus side, that means I have one more full day to spend in Kyoto. And I'm very glad I found this out before confirming my hotel reservation (doubly so when it turned out that getting the room for one more day actually lowered the rate by a good amount).

So, in short, boo-fuckin'-yah

Phew!

Jul. 29th, 2009 03:46 pm
gwalla: (bad hair day)
Okay, got that all straightened out. Apparently it was hitting my daily card limit. Got that raised, called United to tell them to try again, and it went through. The confirmation email is sitting in my inbox.

No thanks to AT&T, which kept goddamn dropping my calls to the bank, garbling the audio whenever I tried to give them my account number, and just generally being useless. You'd think they'd have coverage in downtown San Francisco, but apparently not.

Still need to get a hotel for two days at the end there.
gwalla: (shit)
No, I don't have my tickets! Apparently my card number is not clearing, so they've got the tickets on reserve until I clear that up. Considering that this card is my fucking ATM card, and I know I have enough in my account to cover the expense, I am fucking pissed.
gwalla: (oh yeah)
I have my tickets! I'll be flying out the 18th (nonstop!), and returning on the 27th. I'll be staying at the Oyado Ishicho Inn, a ryokan (though one with modern amentities). That's only through the end of the tournament, though, so I still have to reserve a room for the 24th & 25th.

I almost had a heart attack when I ordered my tickets, and United rejected my card. I tried retyping it, and it was rejected again. Finally I tried retyping it with spaces between groups of digits, and it worked. Of course, the instructions say nothing about the spaces being required, and many e-commerce sites don't allow them. How hard is it to program a credit card payment system that doesn't choke on either?
gwalla: (team banzai)
I have been turning an interesting shade of blue lately.

Last week my kendo keikogi and hakama arrived, and I put them on for the first time Thursday. The traditional cotton hakama is dyed with indigo, and it turns out that indigo dye is not fast: it doesn't actually bond to the cloth. It's like a big blue cloth crayon. The indigo rubs off on everything, including (especially) me. My hands turned blue immediately, and I got blue streaks on my face from rubbing off the sweat. My legs were blue too at the end of class. I said it made me look like William Wallace in Braveheart but the general consensus was that I looked like a smurf.

Online there's all sort of advice about washing your hakama for the first time before you wear it. Soaking it for a day in a water/vinegar mixture is one of the most common. I tried this and hand-washing (it's not machine-safe due to the rigid back panel), which predictably didn't do much. If acid caused the dye to set they'd just do it during the dying process. "Hand"-washing actually involves puttign it in the bathtub with some Woolite and grape-stomping it. Then after it's been rinsed off, washing the tub to get the blue smudges off of the enamel.

At yesterday's class I was called on by sensei to demonstrate kiri-kaeshi, a hitting exercise. He even said "He's very new, but good." It would have felt great if I hadn't been afraid I would screw it up. I think I did all right, though in a later exercise I managed to bop myself in the face with my own shinai.

In other news, I started taking Japanese lessons last Wednesday. Evidently I remember more than I thought, because they bumped me up to Beginning 3. Apparently Beginning 1 and 2 devote a lot of their time to kana, which I still remember pretty well. Fortunately it's in the same time slot, but it does mean a review marathon through the book (which is not the one I used in college, so of course everything is in a different order. I'm gonna be a little behind when I start today, I think. So, mixed blessing.
gwalla: (smash my enemies)
Sensei complimented me on my form tonight. He said my new blisters are in the right places.
gwalla: (stop! hammertime)
Practice proceeds apace. I learned my first kata last Thursday, a dodge and counterattack against a strike to the wrist. And yesterday I was taught two of the other basic strikes besides men (a strike to the head): kote (to the wrist/gauntlet) and (to the torso/breastplate). This leaves, I think, the two sayū-men strikes (left/right men, to the temples) of the basic bread-and-butter attacks. I still get corrected frequently, but my men strikes seem to be getting better. I feel like I'm making serious progress. I'll probably be buying a keikogi and hakama soon.

Now if only I could get my kiai to sound more like a battle cry and less like an imitation of The Fonz...

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