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Month: January 2002

The new issue of Tablet is out, and I’ve got some bits in there. There’s my usual film column, Film Foursome, a very brief review of the new anime film Metropolis, and I wrote capsule reviews of two films playing at the Women in Cinema Film Festival here in Seattle, Rain and The Goddess of 1967, both of which appear in the main festival article.

When I went to the press screenings of those two films from the Women in Cinema festival a few weeks ago, I arrived about twenty minutes early. The previous press screening was still wrapping up, and it proved to be the upcoming Schwarzenagger flick Collateral Damage. As I waited outside, an earnest young man gave me press kits for the Women in Cinema festival. From beyond the doors to the theatre I could hear only the loudest and deepest sounds of the film, which meant that as I perused the documents on women’s cinema I was bombarded with what seemed like an impressionist sound-collage of Arnold grunting over and over, broken up with explosions and gunshots. It was quite surreal and funny.

Dispatches visitor Martin McClellan noticed my recommendation of Tom Phillips’ book/art project A Humument in the Store and pointed me to the official web site of the project, www.humument.com, which Martin runs. It’s quite a fun site, and it links to Phillips’ main site as well which is also worth exploring. If you haven’t looked at A Humument before, you should. Those who have read “Bill in Three Persons” in the Unknown Armies rulebook would find A Humument especially interesting, or rather vice versa.

RTMark is a non-profit mischief-making organization, generally targeting the global corporate sphere. They have a lot of interesting projects at their website, and some cool tools. Essentially they come up neat ideas and solicit anonymous donations to fund their development and execution. In other cases they offer the project idea and the funding, and anyone who carries off the project gets the money.

Reamweaver, for example, is an automatic tool for generating parody versions of legit websites. Let’s say you’ve got a beef with Federal Express, for example. You register a domain name like fudex.com, install Reamweaver, and specify a list of words you want substituted. Whenever someone goes to fudex.com, Reamweaver generates a copy of the real fedex.com site, but changes the words you specify. You could replace all instances of “customer service” with “customer annoyance,” for example, and even substitute your own images dynamically. And whenever the real fedex.com site updates, Reamweaver updates your version, too. RTMark created the tool to mess with the World Trade Organization, who were trying to shut down a parody domain site RTMark had set up. By automating the parody process and giving the tool away for free, neither the WTO nor anybody else can hope to stop people from satirizing them, because anybody with a web page can instantly generate an identical or tweaked version of the satirical site. It’s quite interesting. You can get Reamweaver here.

Then there’s the Bikewriter system, which lets you turn your bicycle into a mobile, on-demand propaganda machine. You attach rubber stamp pieces to your rear wheel to assemble a sentence, and then as you ride you pull a handle to lower the ink roller down onto the surface of the tire and voila–instant imprint on the concrete. More photos and a too-large Quicktime video are at the Bikewriter page.

Rather than rattle on further, I’ll let them do it. Here’s their report on activities in 2001:

Impostors passed as the World Trade Organization at a “Textiles of the Future” conference (http://theyesmen.org/finland.html) and on European Marketwrap, a prime-time program on CNBC (http://theyesmen.org/tv.html). An anonymous investment covered some travel expenses.

A conference session on techniques to counter anti-corporate activism, normally available for $225 to corporate clients, was made available to activists for free at http://rtmark.com/prsa, thanks to an anonymous donor.

One thousand vanity mirrors were distributed at the G8 protests in Genoa, and were used to reflect the sun into the eyes of attacking policemen (http://rtmark.com/archimedes.html).

A software development kit and book from http://hactivist.com, entitled “Child as Audience”, teaches anyone to reverse-engineer the Nintendo Gameboy; it was co-sponsored by RTMark.

The same label that enraged Geffen Records with “Deconstructing Beck” issued its fourth RTMark-sponsored release, “A Mutated Christmas” (http://detritus.net/illegalart/xmas).

A catapult used to hurl stuffed animals over the fortress walls at the Quebec FTAA meeting fulfilled Project MDVL and garnered a cash reward for the creators.

Thousands of brochures advertising “Deportation Class” seating were secretly placed in airplane seat pockets to illustrate how commercial airlines traffic in unwilling human cargo (http://rtmark.com/luft).

The :CueCat, a freely available barcode scanner meant to help advertise to people in their homes, was hacked into a tool for learning about corporate misdeeds (http://rtmark.com/cuejack).

The “Heads and Tails Video Reclamation Program” which encourages videotape renters to record public service messages over previews, has resulted in hundreds of altered tapes across the US and Canada (http://rtmark.com/fundlabor.html#DUBM and http://rtmark.com/fundlabor.html#FLMC).

And finally, Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer of the World Trade Organization has chosen the winner of this year’s Corporate Poetry Contest: The Organization of American States’ “Chant to the OAS,” in the “Children’s Corner” section of their website (http://rtmark.com/corpoetry.html).

A while back I waxed rhapsodic about the car I bought, a 1983 Saab 900 stick-shift hatchback. Here’s what it looks like, since I know you’re dying of curiosity.

And here’s one big reason why I got so excited about the damn thing. This is the interior. The original interior.

That’s right. This car is from 1983–it’s old enough to vote–and the interior looks like this. Somebody loved this car. And now I do.

Mr. Teapot contributes this OMAC Link Of The Moment, and it’s a doozy. Long-time cartoonist Scott Shaw! wrote this summary of OMAC #1 for a series of articles on oddball comix. (Special bonus loser points to those who, like me, were once fans of Shaw!’s Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew.)

http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/oddball/index.cgi?date=2001-04-10

Do you have an OMAC Link Of The Moment? If so, post a comment to this dispatch with the word. The first person to use something like Yahoo! Maps to provide us an actual map to Omac, Washington, wins a deluxe gold-plated Revland Dispatches No-Prize.

Gosford Park

I thought The Royal Tenenbaums was the best of the late-2001 films, but darned if Gosford Park isn’t nipping at its heels. I also thought that Cookie’s Fortune was Robert Altman’s best film since The Player, maybe even since M*A*S*H–it’s been a long dry spell for him, and I think his much-lauded Nashville accomplished nothing that M*A*S*H didn’t do–but by comparison with Gosford, Cookie’s Fortune feels hammy and flaccid. Gosford Park is a very satisfying and enjoyably dense film that makes the most of an excellent cast and location.

What’s not to like? Terrific actors like Emily Watson and Clive Owen grab the camera’s attention and do great work, and Maggie Smith kicks ten stories of ass. Helen Mirren comes in with a ninth-inning flourish and Stephen Fry is a riot. Richard E. Grant says little but always does something interesting. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is how the huge cast uniformly keeps themselves busy in intriguing ways, every second of the film, but they don’t upstage each other. The actors’ give and take is so natural, so seemingly effortless, that it makes you wonder why anyone makes films anywhere but England. It reminds me of Ridley Scott’s vague uneasiness working on the American production of Blade Runner, and how the crew members just weren’t servile enough–that’s not how he put it, but that was the implication. If servility means more films like Gosford Park, bring on the damn class system already. This is some wicked-fine Kool-Aid.

The story unfolds beautifully, the country-manor location is gorgeous, and the film has a tautness I don’t normally associate with Altman’s restless, wide-ranging style. I think in a sense he was hemmed in by a great script and a huge and talented cast, to the extent that he couldn’t get away with his usual glorious floundering around. He stayed focused and tight and the film just purrs.

I also suspect that part of its glow comes from the setting, the genteel Britishness of the whole thing. It comes off as a class act, in more ways than one. Somehow, watching aristocratic Englishmen hob-nob feels more credible and respectable than the cheerful small-town clowning of my beloved Cookie’s Fortune. I fear we Americans will always be enamored with proper British society in a way that ensures numerous U.K. actors can continue cashing their paychecks for decades to come.

In any event, I loved Gosford Park and am eager to see it again.

Finally, a use for the now-defunct Macintosh Cube: running the bridge computer displays for that new Star Trek show. They use Macromedia Director and just chunk the Cubes in everywhere. Makes sense: modest CPU needs, small size, and no noisy fans.

Mike Mearls complained about the lack of OMAC content. So here’s the OMAC Link Of The Moment, Powered By Google:

Ottawa Mandarin Alliance Church

http://www.site.uottawa.ca/~azhang/omac/

This is just amazing. This guy’s sister’s iMac was stolen in a burglary. But it had Timbuktu installed, a remote-operation client that registers a unique ID on a server. He found the thief signing on every day, unaware that the iMac was duly reporting in. Then with the help of some AppleScript experts…well, you’ll have to read the whole story below. It’s fantastic.

http://www.macscripter.net/unscripted.html

(Now I’m just being cruel.)

The Blair Witch Project’s Derelict Web Site Drinking Game

Go to the official Blair Witch web site and start poking around. Every time you find a broken image or a link that takes you to a 404 error page, drink. Every time you find a reference to an upcoming event that actually happened at least six months ago, drink twice.

You will need a lot of booze.

Yesterday went really well. I solved several computer issues and, gloriously, Mac OS X is running very well on my system these days. I also made some important progress on the Adepts chapter for UA2, and got some Avatar work underway as well.

Today I had the pleasure of commissioning some art from Dream Lord–otherwise known as Haroudo Xavier. He’s an amazing photomontage artist in Brazil who is a devoted fan of Unknown Armies. For the last year or so he’s been creating a series of graphics for use as desktop pictures on your computer, each based on a school of magick in UA. Now he’s doing nine original works for the UA2 rulebook. You can see a few of his existing UA-inspired works at his online gallery, along with many other creations. He’s done a lot more of these UA pieces than are on that page, but I haven’t found a directory of them all on his site. Gorgeous work in any event, and I’m pleased to have him in the book.

Today and tomorrow I’m working on the Delta Green computer game project. My task at present is prepping the second round of publicity for the game. I seem to be serving as de facto marketing director for the project, which is fine by me. This is the round where we release screenshots. Instead of just emailing screenshots to the news sites, I’m setting up a dossier of “found” documents from DG. So I’m writing a couple of field reports based on the screenshot images, and am dummying them up with handwritten annotations and so forth. I think I’ll also create some audio bits–wiretapped phone conversations and so forth. The point is to create a fun, bush-league Blair Witch-style little publicity project that’ll be more enjoyable and noteworthy than the usual press release + screenshots would be. It should all come together in the next three weeks.

I spent the evening in Karen’s studio while she was at woodworking class. I scanned eighteen of her Greece & Mongolia paintings tonight, which is good progress–though there are something like fifty works all together to get done. After her class we had mediocre Thai food for dinner.

That came about because for breakfast I’d had soup from QFC, the local grocery store chain. They have those big pots of soup steaming all day, and they’re actually not bad. The soup is supplied by a company near Snohomish called Stock Pot Soups. I drive by them every time I visit Jesper. This morning I saw one of their offerings in QFC described as “Coconut milk, curry, chicken with rice,” and I thought: Tom Kah Gai! That’s one of my favorite soups, a Thai preparation that is just delicious, and it is indeed coconut milk, curry, chicken, and spices. So I tried Stock Pot’s version and discovered that while yes, it was clearly inspired by Tom Kah Gai, they felt the need to put cheese in it.

That’s right. Coconut milk, curry, chicken, and cheese.

I can only guess that their thinking ran like this: “Well, Tom Kah Gai is kind of orange and creamy-looking, and when our customers see orange and creamy-looking they read that as a cheese soup, like cheddar broccoli. So let’s put cheese in it!”

The result wasn’t exactly terrible, but it wasn’t exactly Tom Kah Gai. Sadly, the Thai restaurant’s Tom Kah Gai wasn’t so hot either. It’s just been a day of soup failures.

Friday morning, bright and early, Karen and I and her studio partner Mary are blowing town for Mazama. This is some sort of little ski village on the eastern side of the Cascade mountains, and during the winter it’s about a four-hour drive since the passes are snowed in. Karen and her circle of friends have been going to Mazama for a weekend for several years now, but this is the first time I’m going. She keeps muttering darkly about me and cross-country skiing. I’ve always viewed a ski as the shortest distance between me and a broken leg, but we’ll see how it goes. Her housemate Noah is going and bringing his PowerBook, and since he’s not a big winter-sports person either we’ve made secret plans to bring an Ethernet crossover cable and play kill-crazy games of Aliens vs. Predator, no doubt to the disgust of the other ten hardy souls in the big cabin we’re staying in.

On the way we’re taking an extra hour to swing through a town called Omac, where Mary needs to do something or other. Every time they mention Omac I want to laugh. OMAC was a short-lived Jack Kirby comic book from DC in the early 1970s, around the time of his “New Gods” phase. (Those of you who understand that sentence, meet me by the chemical sheds.) It’s an acronym that stood for One Man Army Corps, and OMAC was some sort of cyborg warrior badass guy in a dystopian near-future. I’ve never actually read any issues of OMAC, but we had them at the comic-book store I worked at in high school and the name stuck with me because the cover to the first issue was so incredibly freaking weird. Don’t believe me? Here it is. OMAC is the guy with the mohawk.

And because it took me so much Google searching to find that graphic, here is an awesomely obsessive write-up of the entire series. And here is, and I shit you not, OMAC fan fiction.

So on Friday, I’m going to Omac. Oh yeah. Can’t wait.

Speaking of Thai food and obsessive internet presences, I love this web site. It’s for a Thai restaurant just down the street from my house. They opened about four or five years ago, and for ages I’d see the banner hanging outside that said: “VISIT US ON THE INTERNET! THAIDUSIT.NET!” And I couldn’t figure out why they had a web site. Then I finally went to it, and I still don’t know why they have a web site. But it’s fun to look at. Go straight for the Tour page, where you can see photos of the cool shrine outside the front door and, of course, read about the Thai Rock ‘n Roll of Chamawong Suriyachan, who was apparently the lead singer of a band called All Purpose Adhesive before coming to the U.S. It’s all too much. But the food is very good and their Thai ice tea is fantastic–that’s a potent tea made with sweetened condensed milk because, hey, why not?

OMAC!!!!! Let’s see that again!!!!!

Oh I crack myself up. OMAC!!!!!