A large, multiracial, multi-aged group of protesters are currently marching past my apartment, armed with signs, banners, and noisemakers.

I live in a residential neighborhood. People do not come to my neighborhood to protest. Except, apparently, a lot of vegans today.

"Go vegans! Save the planet!
No meat! Feed the planet!"

Some of them are dressed as cows, chickens, pigs, grapes, carrots, Mickey Mouse (Mickey Mice?), dinosaurs, crows, and fairies.

Cars are honking in support.

This is extremely surreal.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Feb. 27th, 2008 10:29 am)
In my continuing quest to tag all entries anyone could possibly ever want to read again with informative tags, I re-discovered The Tale of the Mud People.

UC Santa Cruz was a trip. It was broken into eight colleges, each with a different academic focus (now ten or more, I believe.) Mine was Porter, the arts college. The sculpture outside of Porter was known as "The Flying IUD." I was several times able to direct people to pick me up merely by telling them the correct road plus "Turn left at the Flying IUD."

Our mascot was the banana slug. They are shy creatures, rarely spotted, native to the California redwood forests which surrounded the school. The administration was against this choice, feeling that a slug, however large and yellow, lacked fighting spirit, and overruled the students' choice to institute the sea lion. The students rebelled, and the slug was once more crowned. I used to have a T-shirt reading "Fiat Slug." ("Let there be slug.") At my graduation, the provost amazed the audience by delivering portions of the commencement speech via ventriloquism with a banana slug puppet.
I am about to leave Tokyo and go into a rural area, on the old Nakasendo road between Kyoto and Tokyo (then called Edo.) It used to be THE major road in Japan, and lined with inns because it took a week or more to traverse by foot or horseback. Some of those inns are still there, and we'll be staying in one. So I may not have net access for the next couple of days, until I get to Kyoto.

But before I have to rush out of here to ship this quite amazing outfit I bought in Harajuku, spiritual home of Tokyo's most stylish teenagers, to the USA before I check out of the hotel, I wanted to mention something:

Last night while walking back to the hotel, on a street which was otherwise completely silent and empty, I saw a man's collared, button-down shirt on a hanger on a lamp post. A well-fed, fluffy white cat was on a leash that was tied to the post right beneath the shirt's right sleeve, so the shirt appeared to be taking the cat for a walk.
Yesterday I had what I believe was the very strangest moment of my whole entire life. As those of you who have read my memoir know, that is saying a lot.

It all began when we went to Asakusa in the hope of finding traditional Japanese handicrafts, or something like that. But when we exited the subway station, we were surprised to see huge crowds crowding along the road, with police keeping order. Clearly, a parade was about to begin.

I asked the police what was going on, but as has been my all-too-common experience lately, I knew enough Japanese to ask the question, but not enough to understand the answer. I tried asking, "Is it a festival?" The word I used for festival, "matsuri" does mean literally that, but generally means "Traditional Japanese festival," like the one where they parade a giant wooden penis down the streets, or the one which the guidebook mentioned without explanation as "the bean-throwing festival."

"Yes, a matsuri," replied the cop.

"Which matsuri?" I asked.

The cop said what I thought was "sanban"-- "number three." "The third festival?" I repeated bewilderedly.

Stephanie rescued me. "Samba," she explained.

Indeed, we were just in time for the Japanese samba festival!

And that wasn't even the strange part )
In retrospect, there is something odd about OK Cupid. The only man I ever corresponded with at length, but never met because his emails gave me the impression that he would show up for the first date with a single red rose and begin discussing "our relationship" as it had progressed via email, later dated my very good friend Mehera, who also met him via OK Cupid. He showed up for their first date with a single red rose, and began discussing their relationship as it had progressed via email.

Also through OK Cupid, Mehera briefly dated a guy whom I had dated in grad school.

Will, the divorce lawyer, was indeed quite cute and intelligent, although it quickly became apparent that we moved in very different circles. For instance, he had never heard that there was a genre called "fantasy," and was quite confused when I described a book as such. "Isn't that like saying that it's in the genre 'plot?'" he asked. "I mean, all books that aren't true are fantasy, right?"

No, he was not kidding. It was quite difficult to explain that from the ground up, as it were. "Well, you know how Spiderman has these special powers? And in real life, people don't really have them, but it's still set more or less in the real world? OK, that's fantasy. Well, technically, it's science fiction, because they have a scientific explanation... I mean, it's not real science, but they call it science, not magic. If it was called magic, that would be fantasy."

Anyway, I did have an enjoyable evening, and like I said he was quite cute, though I was not feeling any particular mad urges to pounce and kiss. But perhaps that could develop, I thought. I'd be willing to try it out, anyway. But as I suspected the lack of mad urges was possibly mutual, I decided to wait and see what he did at the end of the date. Which was a two-second hug and pat on shoulder. And I suspect that's the last I've heard from Will the divorce lawyer.

But while we were in a bar in Silverlake, I mentioned that I had recently been the foreperson on a jury trial.

"As a lawyer," I said, "If the defendant goes by two names, shouldn't you establish that right away? We spent two whole days thinking that Jesse Lopez and Socorro Lopez were two diff--"

"Wait," said Will. "You're not making up those names, right? Socorro aka Jesse Lopez? What was the trial about?"

"He was running a chop shop," I said. "Out of a tow yard."

"Not Classic Tow?"

"Yeah! Did you hear about it?"

"I'm suing him!" said Will. "On my own behalf-- the only time I've ever done that. He illegally towed my car, then he held it hostage and extorted $350 dollars to get it back! So he was running a chop shop too? Good God! That must be the most evil towing company ever!"

I said, "This is the most bizarre coincidence ever."

I wonder, if I ever get on OK Cupid again, if I'll end up dating some long-lost childhood friend, or the assistant of some agent who once rejected my book.
This weekend Oyce and I were eating lunch at the Ferry Building, overlooking the bay, when we began perusing the discount book rack that was outside the bookshop, on the pavement next to us. It was an odd mix of pretty good YA (like Nancy Werlin and Paul Fleischman), decent-looking gay lit, and horrible self-help books, like Healing the Amazon Wound and Cry of the Soul-Daughter.

And then there was God is Gay.

It was a slim, yellow, self-published paperback. The back cover quotes (which we decided were sock-puppets) were decidedly strange:

Ah, it is marvellous... I read and read and then ponder over it.
--Dr. K. D. Chauhan
Jagdishnagar Society
North Gujarat, India

I just read your book and I felt 'happiness creeping over me.'
G. Rommersheim
Munich, West Germany

['Happiness creeping over me' turned out to be a quote from GiG; the narrator, Bob, feels that sensation when he talks to his soon-to-be cult leader, Daniel.]

The chapters are all headed with peculiar drawings reminiscent of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, but with more animals, some with faceted eyes and all a disturbing cross between cute and evil, like the subliminal octopus in Serenity.

It's the swinging 70s. Bob, along with God, is gay. He lives in San Francisco with his lover, Steve. Then Bob meets Daniel, who is obviously a crazy cult leader. Only Bob doesn't think so. GiG is a love letter to Daniel, Daniel's superb musculature and gentle smile, and Daniel's whack-job philosophy, which consists of crazed nattering about androids and mouseries and "the sound of hearing, the music of the spheres," not to mention "the sight of seeing, the vision of the third eye." (No, there is no scent of smelling. Alas.) Daniel points out that Asia and Asians are spiritually superior to non-Asians. (A concept which, in addition to creating many awkward encounters between obtuse Westerners and unfortunate Asians, ruined my childhood.

Bob is overwhelmed by Daniel and his circle: A very handsome, muscular man let us in. As I was introduced to him, any doubts about his gayness were resolved when he cruised me. Plus, there is gay boxing (normal boxing, gay boxers), and Daniel takes Bob out for a banana split.

But Steve, whom Bob describes in phrases like an ugly sneer crossed Steve's face, cannot appreciate the wonder that is Daniel. In fact, he accuses Daniel of being a cult leader. But Bob finally drags Steve to a meeting, where Daniel goes on for pages and pages of gibberish, including Isn't it obvious that male gays are men, with the understanding of women; who understand instinctively that war, violence, and hatred are wrong. Bob is sure this will make Steve see the light. But Steve takes Bob aside and tells him that Daniel reminds him of Charles Manson.

Horrified, Bob runs to Daniel and says, "You won't believe what Steve said about you!"

Daniel says, "Did he say I reminded him of Charles Manson?"

Since Daniel wasn't there, this convinces Bob that Daniel is clairvoyant and telepathic, because there is no other way Daniel could have known Steve said that. It does not occur to Bob that perhaps Daniel often reminds people of Charles Manson.

Needless to say, Bob dumps Steve and runs away with the perfect and telepathic Daniel. That was the point when we noticed that the book was coauthored by Ezekiel (who presumabably used to be known as Bob) and... Daniel!

There is a clearly fictional chapter in which Steve later apologizes for not being wise or brave enough to embrace Daniel. Oyce and I think that Steve is now happily working for Google, and he and his handsome live-in lover sometimes do dramatic readings from GiG at dinner parties.

Having finished Gig, we then picked up a novel by bestselling fantasy author Terry Goodkind, and opened it to a six-page scene in which the heroine is menaced by... an evil chicken.

No, this is not played for laughs. There are more excerpts at fandom wank if you don't believe me.

The bird let out a slow chicken cackle. It sounded like a chicken, but in her heart she knew it wasn't. In that instant, she completely understood the concept of a chicken that was not a chicken. This looked like a chicken, like most of the Mud People's chickens. But this was no chicken. This was evil manifest.

She is terrified! For six pages! This is the heroine-- scared of a chicken.

Kahlan frantically tried to think as the chicken bawk-bawk-bawked.

In the dark, the chicken thing let out a low chicken cackle laugh.

In between being terrorized, Kahlan remembers her perfect boyfriend, Richard. Brilliant, strong, probably omnipotent, Richard comes across as a cross between Daniel and Diego. Did I mention that he is wise, too?

Richard had been adamant about everyone being courteous to chickens.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Oct. 6th, 2006 02:51 pm)
Last night I started watching Supernatural on regular TV at 9:00 PM. The creators thoughtfully vidded their own show at the beginning of the episode. I'm sure it would have been extremely spoilery if I hadn't been laughing too hard to really concentrate at things like a dramatic hospital scene followed by a male chorus yelling "HUH!" as a glass of liquid dramatically falls to the floor in slow motion.

Then the show began. It was at a carnival. There were clowns. Have I ever mentioned that clowns scare me? A particularly creepy clown waved at a little girl, in a slightly mechanical manner that made it even creepier.

"Look, Daddy," said the girl. "The clown's waving at me."

"What clown?" asked her mother. We see that from the parents' point of view, there is no one there.

I had a cat in my lap, or I would have leaped up and turned off the TV right then. (The remote is buried under a pile of junk somewhere.)

The family is driving home from the carnival at night. The clown is by the side of the road.

That night, the little girl is alone in her second-floor bedroom. She looks out the window. There, on the lawn below, looking up at her, is the clown.

I leaped up, dislodging the cat, and slammed the off button.

That night I was woken up in the middle of the night by my smoke detection giving off an obnoxious, high-pitched squeal to inform me that its battery was low. I couldn't figure out how to disable it, so I pulled a pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep. But it was still pretty loud, and then after a while I started hearing a different sound, a scratching, like my cats were molesting my wood furniture.

I got up to investigate, but the cats were nowhere to be seen. I went into the living room, and heard the sound again. I looked out the window.

There, on the lawn, looking up at me, was a clown.

Oh, no way, I thought. There is just no way I would see that TV show last night and then, in a total coincidence, find a clown on the lawn.

I looked out the window again. The clown was still there.

Then I heard the scratching noise again. I ran to the other window. Another clown had set up a ladder and was climbing up the side of the house.

I opened the window so I could talk to the clown. "What's going on here?" I asked. "What are you doing?"

The clown smiled and pointed over my shoulder. I whirled around. There was another clown standing behind me.

"What are you doing here?" I yelled. "How'd you get in? Get out!"

The clown smiled, picked up my five-pound dumb bells, and began to juggle them.

"Stop that!" I cried. "You'll drop them and scratch the floors! Go away!"

The floor creaked behind me. I turned around. The other two clowns were climbing in the window.

One of them took out a horn and honked it. "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" it shrilled. "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE..."

My eyes popped open. I was lying in bed, and the smoke alarm was squealing.

So it had all been a dream. Nothing but a horrible, horrible dream.

Or was it?

I hear a scratching at the win
Scene: Wednesday night at the dojo after class.

Players: Me, suddenly realizing I left my cell phone at home; Charlie, only person in sight, a big bruiser of a white belt guy.

Me: Excuse me, Charlie. Do you have a cell phone?

Charlie stares at me like I'm from Mars.

Charlie (suspiciously): Yeah.

Charlie makes no move to offer it to me.

Me, confused by his attitude: Well, do you have it on you?

Charlie, now staring at me like I'm from Jupiter: No, it's at home.

Me: Oh. Well, never mind, then.

Charlie: Why do you ask?

Me: Well, I was going to ask if I could borrow it.

Charlie: You wanted to borrow it?

Me, now convinced that he's from the farthest reaches of the Magellanic Clouds: I need to make a phone call, and I left mine at home.

Charlie: Oh! You wanted a cell phone!

Me: What did you think I said?

Charlie: A sofa.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 14th, 2004 09:18 am)
I saw Takashi Miike's GOZU last night. Um...

I think TK is probably the only person reading this journal who I would even consider recommending the moview to, and she saw it with me, so..


That was the weirdest movie I've ever seen. It starts out as a surrealist yakuza movie, becomes a surrealist movie in the genre of "city guy gets stuck in the boonies where he has to interact with a succession of insane eccentric hicks," and ends in a flurry of bizarreness, grossness, and surrealism that I can't put in any genre category but "extreme cinema."

So there's this yakuza group. One guy, Ozaki, seems to have succumbed to extreme paranoia and imagines that a chihuahua is an anti-yakuza attack dog. Or maybe he's just pretending to prove that he's scarier than any of them. Either way, the boss won't stand for it and asks a younger member, Minami, to take him to a dump out in the boonies and whack him. This goes wrong.

Now, I know that except for the chihuahua this sounds like the standard set-up for a gangster film, but its bizarre avant-gardeness is actually established right from the beginning shots which linger meaninglessly on a fuzzy TV for way too long. Anyway, things go wrong, and Minami (whose name may or may not mean "south," depending on the kanji; I hit a point where I was grasping for straws of meaning) gets stuck in the freakish town near the dump.

Unbelievably incredibly whacked-out stuff happens, a lot of which is very funny and much of which plays on Minami's discomfort about sex. (Although anyone would be discombobbled if a middle-aged innkeeper suddenly began lactating until she flooded the inn.) Most of the movie is perversely riveting, until the third part, where it starts to feel long and also has such gross scenes that I had my eyes closed as much as possible for several scenes.

Gozu means "cow head." There's a sequence which may or may not be a dream in which Minami is visited by a minotaur. There is a Japanese cow-headed demon called "Gozu," I learned from a review. Also, a beautiful woman's vagina calls Minami "Gozu" before going back to babbling nonsense syllables.

I think the movie is about male sexual anxiety, the male fear of the female body, homoerotic themes in yakuza movies as sublimated into "buddy" relationships, Japanese sexual repression and expression, and the desire of Miike and the screenwriter, Sato, to make the weirdest fucking movie ever made and totally blow the audience's minds.
My Dad called me up to tell me this story. It's obviously going into his Grand Story Pot, from whence it will periodically be fished out and displayed for the rest of his life.

He owns a "small" business which employs about thirty people at a warehouse in Santa Barbara. Yesterday he'd been at work for a few hours when a cop showed up asking for him.

"Do you own a van?" asked the cop.

Dad said, "I own two."

"Is one of them a blue something-or-other with the license plate yadda-yadda."

"Yeah, that's the business van," said Dad. "There it is." He pointed out the window to the parking lot.

"Did you or anyone else this morning stop the van to pick up a package which had parachuted out of the sky?"

Dad started laughing. Even the cop chuckled, then said, "Sorry, I shouldn't laugh. This is actually a national security matter and it's already been passed on to federal agents."

Dad said, "What makes you think someone in my van picked up a package that fell out of the sky?"

The cop said, "Someone at the airport tower saw it happen, and we traced the plate to you. I stopped by your house first. The contractors working on your kitchen told me where you worked."

Dad said, "Well, anyone here can use the van-- why don't you wait here while I ask my employees who had it out this morning."

He went into the warehouse and announced, "Did anyone here take out the van this morning?"

Brad raised his hand.

"Did you by any chance pick up a package that had parachuted out of the sky?"

"Yep," said Brad. "I'm trying to open it right now."

He pointed to a bright orange parachute attached to a package, which he was trying to pry open with a screwdriver.

"Don't do that!" said Dad. "You don't know what it is."

Brad held up the package. "It says it's harmless." Sure enough, it was stamped "HARMLESS WEATHER TRACKING DEVICE."

Dad stared at him. "So you're trying to pry open a package that fell out of the sky, just because someone wrote "harmless" on it? It could be anthrax. It could be a bomb. It could be anything!

"I've seen them before," Brad protested.

Dad confiscated the package and gave it to the cop. I haven't heard anything more, so I guess it really was a harmless weather tracking device. And it's nice to know that somewhere people are being alert and efficient yet not paranoid and nasty about security.

I think the rest of the employees are still teasing Brad about white powder and ticking packages.
The one with the liver-eating guy who could squeeze into your house through the vents?

This morning while I was in the shower, a movement caught my eye. I glanced at the windowsill, no more than three inches from my shoulder.

A TENTACLE was squeezing through the tiny crack between the closed window and the wall. A boneless red thing with a hideous blind snout, pulsating and writhing and pushing itself through.

At first I thought it was a centipede, but as I stood, frozen in horror, watching it invade my home, I saw that it was an earthworm. (More than four feet up from the ground!) When the whole thing emerged, I swept it into a box and dumped it in the garden.

I got dressed first.


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