Monday, July 31, 2006

The things I promise

Ah, I said I'd write about the magical books I've been reading, didn't I? And here I am out of time--though I have had a pretty productive day for me.

Somerwhere in May I jotted a note to myself to read some Lessing; went to the library and found a new Doris Lessing that was a sequel to Mara and Dann, so had to read Mara and Dann first. After I tried to read the sequel immediately, but a major character DIES about 15 pages in and that was so heartbreaking to me I couldn't continue for a while and read some other things in between. Among them I read A Call for the Dead by John LeCarre because we had gotten the old BBC series of Smiley's People from Netflix. I was going to write about that too at some point--this was in that strange, sad draught of mid to late June where I stopped posting. I was going through a video game addiction at the time. They wax and wane with me depending on how much of life I can face. Anyway when we watched Smiley and then it's PREQUEL Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy I realized I'd never read the FIRST Smiley book even though I'd picked up the original paperback free somewhere so stopped to read it. Very thin, but dense. Actually got H to read it two weeks ago because the first chapter is just amazingly written.


Lessing as I mentioned isn't on the shelf because she writes soooo much in so many different fields and genre's so I actually own very little Lessing but she's there in spirit. As a side note, the very first Lessing that I ever read was Particularly Cats when I was about 9 or 10, a bit early, but my parents never stopped me from reading anything I wanted. I remember being amazed by her sometimes graphic detail, but also by her extraordinarily clear eye. It was never self-pitying, never merely anecdotal. It was as near to objective as one can be in autobiography. I aspired to that kind of writing.

Anyway, finally returned to General Dann. It's not as satisfying as the first. It's only about a third of the length for starters. Where the first one was an exploration of survival in this future world, the second is a character with not much at stake (generally less interesting) but what he is able to consider and worry about is the loss of knowledge. When all that we know and have is reduced to broken machines and fragments of books, even though there may still be humans living, will we still be able to call it a civilization? Empires have risen and fallen and much knowledge has been lost over the last 5,000 years, but overall there's been a progession towards more knowledge (not all of it good), what we call progress. What will happen when it starts to regress? When each generation knows less than the one before overall. I know that many feel that this has already begun as we lose knowledge of nature and old ways, but again it's like the stock market, things dip and rise, but I would say that knowledge is expanding. We know more about the brain and the body than we did 100 years ago. Again, whether that knowledge is always for the best is debatable, and whether human instinct can keep up with human intellect is also a difficult question, but I would still say progress is generally positive. Those who are touting a simpler way of life really wouldn't want to do with outdoor plumbing, unpasturized milk, and no medicines at all but herbals if it came right down to it.

General Dann ends with a very positive image, though. Dann manages to make a peace of sorts and one city becomes a Mecca for the last of civilization. At the gate to the city is a great white wall and on one corner is a little square (like 3" x3", like I said, I don't have the book now, I returned it to the library) that represents what they know compared to what there is to know and what the ancients (us) knew. They have an appeal that anyone who has come across or been passed down some knowledge that might not be known to others bring it to the government for the betterment of all. Wow! What a dream...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

More on Crash

The morning after, I think it is somewhat manipulative and the cuts (one character going through a doorway to another character coming through a doorway) quickly became annoying. We were set up to feel, as it were. Which is not to say that it is a bad movie, just that one should be aware of being manipulated.

The Shelf! or how our books are arranged

Recently read a very funny passage about the overuse of the ! in films of the 60's (Hitari!) and how obviously today's audiences are not going to go see "Million Dollar Baby!" Anyway, I've been meaning to write these comments on some books I've read recently for awhile and this is the best way to start.

I've been reading a lot of books from "The Shelf" lately and it's making my head hurt. First, you should know that my husband I have a lot of books. A LOT of books. As in I had quite a few books when I met him and he had a staggering amount and now we have more books than some branch libraries. I'm not kidding. Friends are boggled. We once passed on an apartment because there wasn't enough wall space for the bookshelves. Our dining room is really just a library with bookshelves all the way round. Two of the walls have brick and board that H (Husband) constructed so they go up to the ceiling. We moved 51 banker's boxes of books when we moved in here 10 years ago and we've added lots since then. Like I said, most are my husbands and most are fantastic fiction. He worked in bookstores for years so we've always ordered what we want.

In our family room there is an entire bookshelf of vinyl albums (yes, my children, those strange black plastic discs) which are waiting for us to buy the equipment to burn them to CD (and some we will keep because of the cover art. Then the couch. Then there is a double bookshelf of graphic novels and comic books and books about comic books and graphic novels, and art books by artists and writers of graphic novels and comic books. It runs the gamut from Fantastic Four to Love and Rockets Locas. Note, these are just the bound comics and graphic novels, actual issues are in plastic bags in comic boxes under our bed and in our closet. This is where the book of Neil Gaiman's MirrorMask ended up. Oh, and we have lots of toys and figures as well. I try to keep them loosely near where they belong, so there's a Golden Age Batman on top of the bookshelf (of course, there are so many Sandman figurines that they are in the other room--I said loosely.)

Then on the next wall are three bookshelves. The other two walls have the chair and window and end tables and then the TV, stereo system, speakers and CD's. CD's--that's a whole 'nother story. The two side bookshelves are the cheap kind you can get at Target or Walmart. The one on the left has books pertaining to TV--companion books on The Twilight Zone, The Prisoner, The Avengers, Babylon 5, Star Trek, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Dr. Who (including my collection of Dr. Who novels, my Tardis shaped bank and my Sonic Screwdriver pen) and British Television in general. The shelf on the right is mainly children's books--Moomintroll, The Rescuers and Miss Bianca, Eloise, Harry Potter, chronicles of Narnia, Tolkien (I know not really children), George MacDonald, Dunctan Wood--and collected cartoons like the reissues of Peanuts and the Edward Goreys.

The shelf in the middle is special. I'll come back to it in a second. First just a quick cap of the shelves in the library/dining room. There are also three bookshelves on the wall behind. They contain mainly sci-fi anthologies, some good fantastic fiction by excellent writers who generally write things other than sci-fi and fantasy--Atwood, P.D. James, Lessing, Eco--some historical fiction--The Sunne in Splendor--and writers we once thought were cool, but like less now--Anne Rice for instance.

One entire wall is brick and board to the ceiling. This has the masters of science fiction and H has everything ever written--Azimov, Bradbury, Dick, Heinlein, Silverberg, Sturgeon, Del Rey, van Vogt, Kornbluth, Lem, Ballard--I'm vicariously proud of this collection. It also has the masters of horror, old horror--Lovecraft, of course, Dunsany, Lefanau (and if you like good horror and you don't know who these are, shame on you), and some lesser writers at the bottom who aren't quite worthy of The Shelf. Oh, and our encyclopedias and the tiny portion of "Fantasy" that we've brought ourselves to read--Zimmer Bradley for instance--and which we periodically decide to get rid of but then don't.

In the corner is also brick and board. This is actually frustrating to me because this is where our most beautiful books are kept and I would like them to be in the family room where people can look at them, but they are too heavy. They used to be across the tops of the three bookshelves, but then there were too many and we put them on the shelves and the shelves fell down so here they are. One wall has the Japanese collection. Novels by Mishima, Murikami and also Ishaguru, although he's English, he's also Japanese and his fist few novels, Artist of the Floating World for instance, dealt with Japan. His later novels are also part of a fantastic realm which puts him nearer to Murikami than say Zadie Smith. Some manga, although we are actually not big manga readers and lots of books on Japan. H was very fascinated by Japan for awhile. The other wall holds art books, fashion books, design books, theater books--in short, coffee table books, but enough for 40 coffee tables. This has the big reproduction folio of Shakespeare and Beardsley and Rime of the Ancient Mariner illustrated by Dore and The Bible illustrated by Barry Moser. My Erte books are here and books are Armani, Vionnet and Dior. The timeline of history and other large reference books. I'm proud of this corner too.

Ok, but what about The Shelf? The shelf is a real bookcase. I got it from a lawyer I was working for when he was going to throw it out. It's big and sturdy. H's added a shelf very close to the top where he's keeping a few manga titles that are under size, Lone Wolf and Cub and Samurai Executioner. But predominantly this is the bookshelf of our favorite authors and it's from these authors that I've been reading for a while. These are the authors who (to paraphrase Emily Dickenson) make me feel as if the top of my head has been blown off. They are writers of both staggering imagination and tremendous writing talent. To limit them by saying that they are sci-fi writers or even fantastic fiction writers is to miss the point. What's funny about the list is that they seem to be cross-referential. They all read and admire each other or so it seems sometimes. And in truth, that's how H (and I) find them--often. You read an interview and an author says, "Oh, I love this writer." So you go and find that writer and read him too. We don't entirely agree about everyone on the shelf but we have lively discussions about different writers merits.

First on the shelf is Harlan Ellison, and I actually would like Harlan to be moved in with the masters of sci-fi (Harlan hates that word) and fantastic fiction, but he's H's favorite writer and he's often listed as an influence on newer writers on the shelf, so he stays. Then, in no particular order are Neil Gaiman (a good friend of Harlan's), Tim Powers, Geoff Ryman, Ian Banks (also writing under Ian M. Banks), David Mitchell, John Crowley and some others, but I'll start with these. Stephen King has been on the shelf and then moved off for space reasons, and also because his output is so uneven--Dark Tower--yes, The Stand--yes, It--absolutely not. Likewise Clive Barker used to be on the shelf for Weaveworld and Imajica but then he got happy in his private life and his books have been terrible ever since. We disagree on Paul di Fillipo. I admit that his books are remarkably different and his voice unique, I just don't enjoy him that much. Kim Stanly Robinson probably should be on the shelf (though I have yet to read The Years of Rice and Salt, his novel of a world where China founded America from the west coast in.) His Mars trilogy is breathtaking in scope and detail. There are some writers with excellent imaginations whose writing style is bland--Connie Willis and Octavia Butler. I could go on, but I've been writing for awhile and you've probably all stopped reading.

Stephen King says that he feels that his novels all exist somewhere and he's just an archeologist uncovering them. Many of these books share a vision of another world side by side with ours, that throws ours in stark relief. Some show worlds that could be ours, but aren't. At any rate, I've been reading too many of them, and tomorrow I shall tell you about some of them.
TTFN

P.S. In our bedroom are MY five bookshelves which has more straightforward fiction, non-fiction, modern poetry, theatre and plays and classics. We have combined books only where it makes the most sense in a very loose fashion after all these years together.

Crash and Syriana

We watched Crash tonight (the 2005 Crash--not to be confused with Croenenberg's film of the Ballard novel). Wow! I see why it won the Oscar, though I have friends who disagree. It felt like a very good novel. Actually, what it reminded me of was the short lived TV show Boomtown, also about interlocking lives in LA. (Yes, I know I never link things and that's frustrating to readers, but I barely write here at all--to look for and add the links is more than I can manage now). I screamed, I cried, I shouted F*&K! I felt for these people; I knew these people. Saying that, it also felt like a fairytale in some ways. I was prepared for it to be unredeemably bleak, but it was hopeful--that people can make the right decisions in the wrong moment even when bad decisions have been made before. Film wise it was a little choppy--felt like a first film, too much slow mo', too many lingering shots, or blurred shots, and just a hair's breadth (is it breath or breadth? English lit says breadth, but American usage says breath) too much coincidence, but like I said I was completely sucked in.
I said at the beginning that it was Not to be confused with the Ballard, but in some ways, the idea that violence both separates us and brings us together in these modern times is prevelant in both.

We watched Syriana about a week ago. Also wow. Was amazed that it wasn't directed by Soderbergh, definitely Soderbergh school--much out of focus, overlit (how has that become a style?). Scary, and to me, believable. Human action is about the immediate good of one's immediate cronies--everyone else be damned, looking after their own.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Red Queen's Blog

My friend J, Red Queen, wrote this and I am crying. I wanted to link to it to share it, although it's rather a closed circle as Red Queen is one of my few readers, but perhaps I'll get others, and perhaps I'll send some to her as well. It's just lovely writing and some of the things she says about her father could describe mine to a t (what does that mean, to a T--another time). She and I have talked a lot about our mothers, daughters and mothers, and some about our fathers. She met mine a year before he died at my wedding 10 years ago. In my father's euology I spoke of how he was (paraphrasing George Elliot's Middlemarch) a man not much noticed and yet for those who knew him, a remarkable unsung man, like so many in the world. It sound like J's was too.

Creating Sense Memories

Wetware

Wetware is here, apparently. My husband and I have a long standing debate as to when wetware will hit--both in terms of the technology available and the public's willingness to use it. Wetware is a term in sci-fi for direct interface with technology--wet human brain straight to silicon one--eliminating that annoying gap between brain and fingers. (According to Wikpedia it's also a jokey term FOR the human user already, as in, "Oh, you got yourself a problem with the wetware." Or, "It's not your computer or your software, idiot, it's you.") I think the term has been around since at least the mid-80's (though the concept may predate it--we've always known that to maximize computer use we would need to maximize us) and I've been aware of it since the early 90's. So listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," today one of the questions involved a new system for direct interface to increase the human ability to recognize images--thus allowing police to view surveillance tapes faster and make the connections they need to make (or as the MC joked, "Allowing you to watch 50 hours of YouTube in one day.") So if they are willing to admit it's in development it's probably already in use in the government. I can't find any details in a quick skim of the internet as in how it's plugged in and how far along they are. So it's rapidly becoming clear that the technology is here. The question is who will be willing to have the jack put into their heads.
I think we are rapidly approaching a time when we will have a subcutaneous chip with all of our information and probably our credit on it, and I think that few, maybe not my generation, but certainly the one after which has so willingly been pierced and dyed for fashion, will have any hesitation. Paranoia aside, I probably have no problem with it. My husband has a big problem with it, but he's a) more paranoid than I am, and b) more afraid of needles. But this is not true wetware, as the interface is still computer to computer, chip to reader, only the iPod is in you, not carried in a stylish pack. I think of all the housewives I've waited on in retail who despite voluminous purses have forgotten their frequent buyer cards, but certainly demand their benefits. They may be squeamish at first, but the ease of passing a finger over a reader will overcome their hesitation.
My husband thinks that people (even the pierced and tattooed) will still resist a jack in their heads that links them with their computer. I am amazed that it hasn't been demanded already. As each new generation has more and more choice--more customization of themselves and the products around them, and as technology becomes ever more personal, I think that they will welcome wetware as the NEXT experience. Films in your head, sound direct to the processing centers of the brain without the weak eardrum getting in the way. My only question is, "What comes after?"

Kurosawa's "High and Low"

Just watched this. WOW. It's almost two films in one. The first is like a play, all set in a living room where the amazing Toshiro Mifune (many have commented on how weird it is not to see him in samurai garb) must come to a difficult moral decision. He has just mortgaged everything he has to buy controlling rights in the company where he works when he receives a phone call that his son has been kidnapped and the ransom is almost the same amount as the cost of the shares. Then he finds that the kidnappers have mistakenly taken his chauffeurs's son, not his. If he pays the money he's ruined. If he doesn't... The police are brought in and stand impotently like some Greek chorus while Mifune struggles with the decision. The most agonizing character is the chauffeur himself. He brought in his son's sweater before they realized that he'd been taken and he stands helplessly clutching it. His body language conveys such grief and defeat. Mifune (I read after) was 5'9" but he has such presence. The chauffeur is the shortest, slightest man in the room. The story is based on an Ed McBaine (aka Evan Hunter) novel of the 87th precinct called King's Ransom which would be more clever if the character were not actually named King. By all accounts it's a straightforward detective novel, but in Kurosawa's hands it becomes a study of Japan and of all human nature. In the mix are the pieces of Japanese culture. The movie was made in 1963. The men are dressed as I have pictures of my father and uncle dressing at that time. The wife, at the beginning, is in kimono because she was entertaining her husband's business friends but with western hairstyle. Later in the film she is entirely in western clothes. Even though he's made this gamble with their fortune he has not consulted her and the decision to pay the ransom is all his. The chauffeur begs for the money at one point, bowing down to his knees and finally falling to the floor. Then later he tells Mifune that Mifune must not ruin himself for his son--trying to put on a brave face and "Be in his place." He is the lesser man--he must not ask for favors, but when he walks out of the room he slumps with grief. It's agonizing. Mifune decides to pay the ransom, climax of that section. Then it becomes a much more straightforward police drama--like an early CSI, we watch them work with their limited technology, step by step--hand held movie cameras held above their heads trying to catch a glimpse of the kidnapper. The child is returned and Mifune clutches him weeping, but now the hunt is on for the villain and the money. They follow clue after clue, the sound of a trolley car in the recording of the kidnapper on the phone, payphones located where they can still see Mifune's house on the hill, etc. The kidnapper kills his accomplices, but the police manage to hide the fact that the accomplices are dead to lure him out. They track him as he buys more heroin (the accomplices were addicts). There is a scene where he goes to the alley where the junkies hide that could be straight from the recent "Sin City" except that it's all just excellent camera work, not CGI. The lights glint off of his glasses, his victim trembles in the throws of the drug. Amazing visually! And then he's caught, and the reason that he targeted Mifune is finally revealed--freezing in his hovel in winter and boiling in summer he would look up to the great house on the hill and hate whoever lived there in heaven while he lived in hell. But the irony is that Mifune's character is good--standing against the greed in his corporation, paying for his chauffeur's son, a self-made man himself. Brilliant social commentary by Kurosawa, slightly manipulative, but not too heavy-handed. The particular class struggles of Japan woven into this American story, and yet made universal. There is an interesting scene in an American bar that is instantly louder and brighter and wilder than any other scene--America.
I haven't watched a lot of Kurosawa's domestic pieces (I think I've seen all of the Samurai epics) but everytime I do I am blown away by his skill. It frustrates me to speak with Anime and Japanese horror fans who've never seen a Kurosawa--the master. It also makes me crazy when I speak to supposed film fans who haven't seen his work. They are superb.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bread and circuses

Tonight I did something I'm ashamed of: I watched two episodes of Project Runway. Well, I read while they played on the TV, but I looked up a lot. Bless me, Readers, for I have sinned and I feel unclean. I hate reality television, even something as "positive" as this, someone will get a lot of money and a start in fashion from it and no one has to eat bugs or cheat on their loved ones or set fire to themselves. For every supposedly positive thing that reality television promotes--rooting for a fan, an underdog, rewarding some talent--there is something dark and horrible, because in the end we are all waiting for someone to crash and burn on national tv, and we all know that the most talented (whatever that means) is not going to walk away with the prize (Clay Aiken, anyone?). I got sucked in because of the first challenge which was to make dresses using only material that they had ripped from the dorms where they are staying. I love a good challenge esp. of materials, and in my mind I was imagining what I would make under the same restraints. On the one hand it seems unfair because they have so little time and in the real world they would have a staff and time to make these things, but sometimes the most imaginative work comes from the limitations (view my other blog) and in life you do have to judge your own skill, your time and your budget and decide what can realistically be made, not just what you'd like to make given a perfect world. My college had a pretty good endowment and we had fairly luxurious budgets to work with as designers and good shops with a kind and experienced costumer (love you Red Queen!) and a good wood shop staff. Then you hit the real world. I've been in shows designed by new college grads who aim too high--forgetting that they don't have the time, support or budget of school. I like to think that I have a pretty good grasp of budgets and time and what I can do. I always joke with small companies that I make three designs--the design I'd like to do had I time and staff, the design I could do with some help, and the design I can do if I get no help whatsoever. Oddly enough, I've only gone over budget when I had the most money. But I digress. The judges are not designers I admire and I didn't agree with their assessments, but the prettiest dress did win. The one that lost really lost because she ran out of time and I felt sorry for her, but I did understand. She was also the least interesting person, if you know what I mean and that really brings us to the crux of the matter. THESE ARE NOT REAL. Decisions are made based on ratings and sometimes someone quite terrible and talentless is left on the show to "Spice it UP." Crash and burn time. The ratings come with conflict and if they were all just really nice people with really good sewing skills then who cares. They milk it sooooo much. Dear God, it could be 20 to 30 minutes shorter if they didn't play for the suspense. Is the step forward line going to be in or out this week. How much humiliation and stress can we pack in? I thought Miss America pageants were sad, but at least you counted down the losers and there you were. The last two standing were number two and number one, not the winner and the loser. Oddly enough the second challenge was to make a dress for Miss USA or America (I forget which) to wear at the Miss Universe (but I'm still not seeing Venusians represented there!) pageant. This time it was partners and the two most horrible people ended up with each other. I think the one's designs have consistently been awful and he is an arrogant jerk, but she and he stayed on despite Bravo running a viewer poll in the middle (for something that was filmed and in the can months ago) and the loser was one of the best designers who overstretched himself. He had a tall model and Miss America was short so his hemline was raw BUT he would seldom if ever face that kind of problem in the real world, what a growth spurt? He was sweet and sad and needy and of course they had a clip of him saying how his mother had thrown his designs on the floor when he was 14 and he was trying to prove himself to her just minutes before he lost so that we would really SEE his pain and humiliation PLUS he probably wouldn't give the great fireworks that the other two will give in the weeks to come. And that's what it's really all about, isn't it? Watching HUMILIATION. Watching another human being squirm and being glad it's not you and feeling safe and smug and secure on your sofa while someone SUFFERS. I can't stand it. Not in any medium. I'll watch gory films, violent films, tragic films and poignant films but I can't watch humiliation because I FEEL for them. I know what it's like to feel so embarrassed you wish the earth would swallow you and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. The loser said he felt shame. Isn't that the saddest thing? Why should he feel shame? We should be ashamed for wanting to see it. We don't shame our prisoners. We didn't shame Ken Lay or Tom Delay for that matter but we shame these poor idiots on tv. I can't even watch The Office because the embarrassment factor is too high. I feel for those characters too. And that brings me to what kind of person goes on these things in the first place. What kind of need is there to do that to yourself--because if you really believe in yourself then you certainly don't need this show to tell you your good and you'll be happy whether you get a show in New York, or simply sew for friends and get compliments on the street. Yes, being handed a show in New York for a few weeks of no privacy and possible humiliation sounds like it's easier than slogging for some horrible boss who'll steal your work but it's not. And it's no more guaranteed than the slogging way. Talent alone will never get it and neither will hard work, despite the lies that we tell our children. There isn't a guarantee anywhere but there are ways of trying that don't require your soul and your dignity.

Is Running Man far behind?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I'm BAACCKKK!!

Mad random thoughts again. Will I have time to get them down? Will I make time?

One thing that occurred to me while writing the massive post below was tense in English. For awhile I was writing in present tense--I land, I walk, I see--but that becomes distracting esp. jumping about as I do and I went back in and changed it. There are so many tenses in English. It's part of what makes learning English very difficult. Past perfect, past imperfect. Japanese as I recall has only two. How different that must be and how difficult then to try and learn English and get all those strange endings right.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

My trip to San Francisco to see Hyde

Travel broadens the mind but thins the wallet.

I love to fly, and yet I was stressed about this trip--perhaps leaving my husband, perhaps such a fundamentally foolish mission; I envisioned earthquakes and plane crashes (seeing X-Men III the day before I left didn't help), but nothing more untoward than extra baggage searches, leading to a last minute dash to leave my multi-purpose tool with my husband before they confiscated it, occurred.

Flying out over Boston harbor (during ascent) I watched the islands recede. Landing in San Francisco and I was again watching the ocean give way to curved shore lines. They are such similar cities after all. San Francisco is still bright and shiny yet sadder too, perhaps because I am older and am seeing it with my own money and my own time--before I was in a comfortable car with my aunt and uncle, on their dime. My hotel was small and neat, as I wanted. I rested briefly in my room and then walked, yes walked, all you fools who attempted to drive, to Japantown to meet friends. It would have been a fine walk had I not been lugging a laptop, but even so, the hills were relatively mild in the center of town and I arrived with perhaps an hour to spare. Wandered a bit--bought a few gifts, a Totoro T-shirt for husband, etc. And yet, I was unimpressed. We import books all the time--our house is littered with foreign book catalogues so this was not as exotic as I wanted it to be. The internet and globalization makes the world small and mediocre. Union Square was full of the same old stores, and Japantown has nothing that cannot be bought on-line. The colleges in Boston bring enough Japanese to warrant a lot of good stores. I saw Moomin giftware, but if I cannot afford them online then I should not buy them here.
Met friends from cyberspace--that tentative, "Are you who I think you are?" both literal and figurative. Had dinner and chatted about other things than Hyde (but mostly Hyde). We went back to their room and watched the L'Arc~en~Ciel videos for which I lugged said laptop--then it's all L'Arc discussion. I took a cab back to my hotel as the fireworks died down. This was the first 4th in a long while where I did not in some way watch a fireworks display; I saw one explosion high one over the tops of buildings while I waited for the cab and then failed to tip the doorman and felt like a rat. Strangely I do not miss the fireworks as much as I thought I would but still, tonight, feel dreadful about the doorman. Left my hat in the cab as I feared I would.
Woke ludicrously early--still in Boston, apparently--and tried to doze to a more reasonable hour; it's going to be a long day after all. Walked again down Market from 4th to 11th and was struck by true city blocks as opposed to Boston blocks, but persevered. As I approached the location I saw that we had been lied to, or at any rate, mislead. There was already a line of 50 people. A few spent the night! Found my friends and the woman to whom I was selling a ticket. All was well and we hunkered down to wait. Sans chapeau I did have a parapluie. We were the ones under the pink umbrella for anyone who was there. I bought the umbrella a few days before in case of San Francisco rain, pink because I knew everyone else's would be black. Despite it's protection I still find later that I have sunburned the part in my hair and my hands are brown. I tan easily but since discovering Goth in high school have tried for pale. Hyde, after all, likes his women pale (though of course, he would have just been joining L'Arc when I was in high school and college, so hardly affecting my decisions). This is fandom--we were there at 1:30 for a show scheduled to begin at 9. People drove, walked and biked by asking, "Who are you lined up for?" "Hyde," we screamed. They were puzzled. I told some men unloading beer that he's very short and that's why we need to be need to be in the front or we won't see him at all. Scoping for public bathrooms, taking breaks in turn for food. The hours passed. We were joined by a startlingly confident girl of 16 who joins our group, thus jumping the line, but I didn't have the heart to tell her no--mostly because I knew she would simply find someone else further forward (which she did eventually), and because watching her non-fan father was fun. Around 7:30 things started to happen, which was good as a sharp breeze was blowing. More people seemed to find "friends" near the front of the line--I was annoyed at the time, but now find it easy to forgive--had I been on my own, I might have tried the ruse. Once got to the second row of a David Bowie concert by walking confidently up to sit with friends (poor ex-boyfriend who suffered for my presence, I found out later). Sat on the ground until the show started and then nobody noticed a (small) extra person in the row.
We peered on tip toes to see the doors opening. We then crawled forward to have our bags checked, cameras confiscated and hands stamped. Once inside, I saw they were selling two colors of wristbands that I had promised for B back on east coast. Frantic texting--using text speak which I try to avoid. "Wt clr wristbnd? Blk r rd? Dd U wnt 2?" Phone vibed minutes later, "Yes Blk" but by then I dared not leave my place, so after the show she was left with red. We were about 5 "rows" back slightly to the left facing the stage. More waiting and repetitions of warnings about cameras and camera phones in English and Japanese. The opening act was more funny than good. The ballads awful, the tongue-in-cheek "Love/Hate Relationship" amusing but nothing to run out and buy. The lead singer reminded me of Nick Rhodes as surfer dude. At one point an audience member who had apparently seen them at the earlier Hyde shows screamed, "You're hot." "Of course I am, I'm the lead singer," he replied (or something like that). They go off after repeating the mistake that Hyde is a band, not a singer. Knew I would read about that on boards.
BEGINING OF HYDE PART Classical music (can't recall the piece) played over the change--with much crescendo and cymbals--different, kept expecting Hyde to appear in a puff of smoke with the timpani. And then, at last, drummer, masked keyboardist, bassist, guitarist entered and at the last, small figure with bandana over face. It's real. That's Hyde, less than ten feet from me, in the flesh. And am bowled over by a wave of sound. Damn, that I didn't stop for earplugs on the way down. I was so sure I would have time. I stood resolutely against the crush like a stone in a stream to maintain some personal space and quickly realized that there were now more people between me and the stage. The stream rushes past the stone and fills the pool (or something like that). Decided that that would not do--let myself go with the crowd, not actively pushing, but letting the crowd move me into empty spaces. To hell with personal space. This is rock and roll after all. So if I trod on you, bumped you, crushed you, stabbed you with my purse, or otherwise impeded your enjoyment, I am sorry; it was not intentional. At one point near the end I was only three rows of people back.
In person he is still beautiful. I can't decide if he was wearing foundation or not, but either way, his skin is lovely. He looks (to me) closer to his age than the photoshoped pictures will allow, but in a good way--biseinen. Like Bowie in his early 30's, his face all sharp planes, sculptured bones. He was wearing artfully shredded jeans--at first I thought it was just a pattern, but I think now that it was tufted or textured in a design, a brownish or plum colored long sleeved shirt (with the lights it's hard to tell) with reverse seaming and a leather vest with misc. straps and dangly bits, typical of his taste (or his stylist taste) these days. At his hip he had a sort of flat leather bag or holster, apparently holding nothing. Once he pulled down the bandana (with his signature sigul) it stays around his neck through the whole show. What I remember most are his eyes, lined in a thin ring of black, wild whites, and the deep dark pupils that seemed to be looking at each of us individually, (but was probably just seeing the spots left by the changing lights). A master showman can make each person in the crowd believe that he is talking/singing to them alone and Hyde fulfilled that. He did "crazy" eyes to convey emotions--like way back in the Claustrophobia days.
His voice has all the things that I love about it, with few of the things that annoy me. It is full and resonant without too much vibrato. I fear I will leave the instrument review to others as I was pretty deaf pretty early on--I am out of practice. It was, as I've said, a wall of sound. This is my fundamental problem with Faith as an album in general--just a roar of sound without detail. In the end I do prefer Ken's delicate, and varied finger work, but a concert is in part about the group gestalt. How we all wanted to be there with Hyde. The louder songs that I like less on the album worked best live, more than "I Can Feel," for instance. As often happens when I see a concert I walked away from it with a new found love for the album and a need to listen to it--to lock the image with the sound. Like all concerts, I swear to myself that I will remember the set list for Mesmerized, but I don't. So stealing from others set lists (and remember, this is my opinion and my taste, backed by nothing but my opinion and my taste):
I'm really glad he opened with "Made in Heaven" rather than "Jesus Christ" as he did at the other concerts. It's just a more fun song than the wailing angst of "JC" even if I like the concept of "JC."
Still don't like "It's Sad." Just rolls off of me on all levels.
"Jesus Christ" was fine for 3rd--we were all warm then and needed a small spacer
"Season's Call," "Dolly," and "Prayer" all rocked along although, again the softer parts of "SC" were lost for me. I liked "Dolly" much more live--the "Build a tower tall and strong. It will be beautiful. Using our technology. Babel will stand anew" really lifted the roof live.
In between the little chats--"MC", presumably after the English master of ceremonies. His amusing Japanese intonation on "Why do I see my name everywhere (in San Fran)? Are you welcoming me?" 'Welcoming me' rising an octave like the mother in "My Neighbors the Yamadas." He said something we all failed to understand about the slopes of San Francisco, and our misunderstanding sent him scrambling back to the cue cards at his feet. I wonder if they let him rollerblade on Lombard Street? When the crowd misunderstood his intro to "I Can Feel"--"...that perfect moment when love becomes one with the universe," which of course everyone thought was going to be "Perfect Moment" it seemed to surprise him--as did the gifts tossed on the stage. A startled look crossed his eyes.
"Faith," again, I enjoyed more live.
Then "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Now I had heard the download of this and actually deleted it--just what the world didn't need, another Beatles cover, but sung live, in Engrish by a small Japanese man and his fans it was more surreal than John, Paul, George and Ringo could have imagined. The luminous eyes were rolling for the verses--"Kaleidoscope eyes" indeed, then we were all nearly head banging on the screamed chorus! When I got back home I requested it from friends to listen to again and again.
I like "Hello" and "Masquerade" which I know puts me in the minority--for "Masquerade" at least, but I saw the lyrics first and I love them--the IRONY. The bands I love are ironic--never take yourself too seriously. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, maybe he doesn't even know what he's singing (I hope not) but it's ironic when I sing it.
"Hideaway" not one of my favorites because the pronunciation on the album is cringe making, but fun in concert.
He asked us to sing with him on "Unexpected." How could we refuse. Ending with him nearly disappearing as he jammed to the floor.
Then they left the stage and when he returned he was wearing all the same clothes. Very disappointing--unexpected indeed.
Before the show I had seen the roadies set up the acoustic guitar and I was hoping for "Mission" but he hadn't played it at the other shows, so you can imagine my delight at hearing the notes begin a predictable song, but I love it. We counted backwards with him on "Countdown" and ended with his intriguing lyrics to "Midnight Celebration." (That song still puzzles me, but I fear to question it's meaning too much is to be fangirling.) He made a brief reach into the audience for hands, and I hoped he'd repeat it on my side but he seemed to not enjoy it much and escaped quickly.

And then it was over--every normal sound came down a very long tunnel to me. Bought B's wristbands, poured into the night with Musing and Ikuni and parted quickly for cabs.
END OF HYDE PART

Riding back to the hotel, what did I feel? A weird mixture of sadness and elation, and I am mad at myself for my own ability to rob myself of present happiness by wanting something more. Happiness is in wanting and anticipation. Eating the cake is seldom as much fun as thinking of eating it (although likewise the dentist is seldom as bad as thinking about the dentist). What did I want--transcendence? A life altering experience or a very good concert, which it was. I like to think of myself as unique--we all do, I suppose. I avoid things that the pack clamors after which is why, when I find myself in fandom I am alarmed. What does this mean for how I see myself? When I find myself as part of any mass I am alarmed. I am a fan of Hyde's--it's all any of us are, and Hyde is what each of us needs because he is a "star" and not really real (not the Hyde in each of our heads). Perhaps this is why some try to become uber-fans, and feel justified in bitch-slapping anyone who doesn't know as much as they do, or appreciate in the ways that they do. It lets them feel unique in the midst of the mob. I certainly don't want to be that, but I'd like to be the kind of person who can simply say, "This is this silly, expensive thing I've decided to do for myself because it's fun--in and of itself--it's fun to go to a concert of a person who's voice and music you admire, and if he's eye candy, so much the better." What's funny is that now, over a week later I can look back and say, "What a great concert. That really was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I went." Like I said, listening to the album helped recapture in slow mo' the crazy rush of the concert. Life is always like that, and I am always sad as the ephemeral moments whiz by. You can't put them in jars, and to try too hard to do so is to lose them faster or not enjoy them as they are happening. You can put the memory in jars of sorts, by writing things like this, until the memory is the reality. As I tell people how exciting it was it becomes more exciting for me. A partial trick for me is to always something else on the horizon to look forward to. (Obviously not as exciting as Hyde) but the next show I'm designing, the next event I'm going to, etc., like I'm building ladders to happiness.

My uncle picked me up around noon the next day and I had to explain that I was speaking very precisely because everything sounded like my head was in a bucket. He said I wasn't screaming--which was good. He also found it funny to think that one should take earplugs to a concert (you probably didn't have to for Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman). He drove me around a little to the spots in San Francisco that I hadn't visited like Coit Tower where we looked out over the bay. I pointed out that I don't think the Golden Gate Bridge would stretch to Alcatraz as Magneto makes it do in X-Men III, which I said just negates the whole film for me. My uncle (not a science-fiction fan) says as opposed to Magneto moving the bridge in the first place? I started to point out the internal logic of fantastic fiction, but decide not to bother. I played Roentgen for my aunt who says it's nice background music. Played a part of "Season's Call" for her but decided that that's not really worth it either. Enjoyed their company for what it is. On Saturday my uncle drove me back to San Francisco at 3 for a 11pm flight (they had a party to attend). My former hotel graciously allowed me to store my luggage and catch a shuttle from there, so I went around the block to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The museum was showing an exhibit of the photographs of Shomei Tomatsu. Tomatsu took pictures of the hibakusha, the survivors of Nagasaki after the atomic bomb. They are beautiful photographs of horrible things. I had used some of these photos as source material for a paper design project in college--the melted skin. It was a very difficult project to do and it was all my own making--I wanted to face my own fears. Other people were bringing in images of buildings, or sculpture and one woman was doing a design for a Japanese house and had lovely pictures of screens and fans. I had pictures of growths, tumors, survivors of Civil War battles, scars and autopsies--my fellow classmates dreaded my presentations. It was strange to see them on the walls of the museum after all this time. I wondered if Hyde knew they were on exhibit or if he had seen them before as they tie in so much with his themes both on Awake and Faith. There was another exhibit at another museum that I saw advertised around town about the fascination that east and west have had on one another. Bowler hats on kimono'd men in turn of the century photographs. The Japonisme that was so prevalent amongst the fin-de-siecle. And yet what does it mean--this co-mingling of cultures? What did it mean then, what does it mean today? Another of Tomatsu's series was called "Bubble Gum and Chocolate" for the GI's stationed in Japan after the war (of which my father was one) and their continued presence on Okinawa up to the present day. Again--a love/hate relationship. It can sometimes turn ugly. One of Tomatsu's photos is of a fumie, the religious images that suspected Japanese Christians were forced to step on after the ban on Christianity in the 1600's. Reluctance to do so revealed Christians who were burned to death or crucified upside down. I would say the strange relationship between east and west after the Meiji restoration certainly led to much of Japan's actions of World War II. If you ape another culture, what does that mean for your own cultural identity? Or your nations?

One last incident--I bought a book for the trip home (and then slept the whole way instead) and treated myself to very good sushi outside Union Square. Then I caught my shuttle and arrived at the airport 2 hours before loading. I was reading and listening to Faith when there seemed to be some confusion about the gate. A young Asian woman asked me in heavily accented English if I knew what was going on. I broke the cardinal rule of airports (ah well) and asked her to watch my luggage while I went to check. Lo and behold we had to go to a different gate in a different wing! So she and I walked together. I asked where she was from (that awful question) and why she was going to Boston. Yes, she was Japanese and was going to Boston to talk to grad schools in Environmental Engineering: Harvard, Tufts, Boston College. She was rushing through and was then going back to Tokyo until her classes began again in the fall in San Francisco (one year to finish). I gave her tips about Boston and then, laughingly told her about coming across country to see Hyde. She barely knew his name but had vaguely heard of L'Arc~en~Ciel (maybe I should have called them Laruku), had heard of Gackt (but only because his name was everywhere). Then I took a gamble. I thought she looked older than an average college student. I told her that my husband and I were big fans of Ryuichi Sakamoto. That pleased her no end. She thought he lived in New York now with his wife, musician Akiko Yano. I sadly told her that they had divorced, but we spoke of his old band the techno group YMO. We were sitting far apart on the plane, but I promised to meet up with her at the other end and gave her my card on which I carefully wrote my name in Katakana for her amusement. She gave me her address in Japan and email. I mention this because when I was in college and asked Japanese friends if they had heard of Sakamoto they dismissed him as pop that their younger sisters liked--posters on the wall, etc. Sound familiar? Now he is a highly respected musician who composed the opening music for the Barcelona Olympics. The lasting question for me will not be whether Hyde can break into the west, but whether he can break into serious musicianship.