Posts from 30th July 2004

Jul 04

Songs about or by puppets #7: Marvin Gaye – “I’m Your Puppet”

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 742 views

Marvin, Marvin – where have you gone? Oh yeah, your dad shot you. And frankly with songs like this, do you blame him? Just look at the lyrics.

I’m just a toy, just a funny boy
That makes you laugh when you’re blue
I’ll be wonderful, do just what I’m told
I’ll do anything for you
I’m your puppet

Now I am not sure what kind of father son relationship they had, but this kind of lyric is red rag to a bull on a borderline psychotic. I’ll do anything you want me too – what like die? I assume that comes under the scope of the lyrics. Later in the song he suggests if you pull a string you can make him sing. Hmm, if I had been around then my scissors would have been out tout suite. Perhaps less drastic than the gun method, but hey, he’s only a puppet.

The characters in Before Sunset

Do You SeePost a comment • 414 views

The characters in Before Sunset (and nine years ago in Before Sunrise) are insufferable. And yet, and yet… Have we not all been there. Before Sunrise was university dorm room seduction by half-arsed philosophy for ninety minutes. Your ability to find it cute and kooky probably boils down to how much of said seduction by half-arsed philosophy you practiced yourself, and the amount of self loathing you have. You might think that in the nine years between the films the characters would have grown out of this trait – but in many ways Before Sunset is even worse. Because of the importance of their previous meetings, their love-lives and technique has been bound up in that moment.

That’s right. They still believe that seduction by half-arsed philosophy can work!

It helps that Jesse is still the loveably thick lunkhead with bad teeth he was in the first film. Celine’s dark sense of humour is much more pronounced, as becomes clear later there is much more darkness in her character now. And the simple understated tracking of their movements was very nice. There is a slight suggestion that the film is just an extended video for Delpy’s music career (and the song seems almost out of place, but luckily these two pretents could quote Shakespeare for hours and it would be in character). However the problem with Before Sunset is that it gives us too much information.

Not about the six-months-on meeting. Sure there is now a canonical answer to that film, which Before Sunset replicates in a very different kind of way. Not even about how these characters grow older. Instead we find out the surname of Hawke’s character. From the off it is there, written on the book jacket, tempting you to think other thoughts. Jesse Wallace.
aka Jessie Wallace.

I Was A Goblin: Roll 3d6

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Role-playing is a resource-intensive hobby. Aside from the ridiculous number of available rulebooks, supplements, pre-written adventures and so on, you need two things: time and people. I had plenty of time – people were more of a problem. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends at school, it was just that explaining D & D to them posed a problem. In fact explaining D & D to anyone posed a problem: no board, no winning, no losing, no end – ergo no point. Those absences were the very qualities the game wore as a badge of honour – the rulebooks for D & D, more than any other game, always had an evangelical tone: we few, we brave few who understand the freedom that role-playing games can bring are setting out to battle the primitive boardgames with their slim rules booklet and laughable single type of dice. (This emphasis on free-thinking was ironic given that D & D was notorious for encouraging strict enforcement of its many preposterous rules. But in the first flush of wonder I had no idea about that. I was a convert.)

I may not have had anyone to play the game with, but that was no barrier to the game eating up my time. A hobby whose basis is sitting around a table talking, role-playing nevertheless has a solitary, solipsistic side. There were rules to be swotted up, of course, but there were also characters to create, and the characters had to be written down on character sheets, which needed to be designed, and then of course you could start designing dungeons… the image of gamers as inadequate bedroom hermits was always a little unfair (RPGs are inherently social), but only a little.

Three months or so after I was given the D&D Basic Set, I played my first game. My parents used to take me to a group for Gifted Children which took over a school once a month and ran (in theory) lots creative activities. I don’t remember ever having to prove I was ‘gifted’ in order to attend these things and my suspicion now is that they were opportunities for right-thinking Mums and Dads to tell each other how clever their kids were and eat a lot of cake. The activities were puny: one potters wheel which was always being used by someone else, and a lot of chess. But one weekend someone had been allowed to run a D&D game.

How did I like it? I loved it. It was everything the rulebooks had promised – the secret of roleplaying is that if you’re an imaginative kid the referee hardly needs to do any work to ‘sell’ the story to you, you’re filling in the blanks all the time yourself. It was a simple adventure – two groups of monsters at war with each other, the players getting stuck into the feud, and I think that (yes!) a gelatinous cube was involved too, though I never encountered it. But it seemed incredibly rich and immersive – wounded and separated from the other players, I had to bargain for my life with a monster: I was the center of attention, the lead actor, except I had no idea what would happen next, and it was stupendously exciting. And – for a fairly shy boy – liberating.

The entire of my roleplaying ‘career’ was a mostly unsuccessful attempt to capture that feeling again, or to spark it in other people. Because by the time I got home I knew that I didn’t just want to play D&D, I wanted to be the person creating the magic that I’d just felt. I had to run games, and I had to do it soon.

Happy Birthday Kate Bush!

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Happy Birthday Kate Bush! A reader has emailed to ask that NYLPM mention that it’s Kate Bush’s birthday (don’t know if it’s a particularly significant one or anything) – NYLPM is happy to oblige. “Babooshka”, “it’s in the trees – it’s coming -“, side two of Hounds Of Love, comedy mockney accent, comedy Australian accent, doing Bronte as a pop song for yr debut single, doing JOYCE as a pop song for yr comeback single, U-U-U-Utah Saints, the video for “Sat In Your Lap” (my Dad would perk up greatly when Kate Bush was on TOTP), and pretty much everything else. National treasure. There are probably people who don’t like Kate Bush but I disapprove of them.

Some welcome optimism

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Some welcome optimism from America’s greatest living movie critic here on my favourite subject: the way DVDs are changing movies. Surely the biggest factoid of the year is that, as the editor of Sight & Sound has said, theatrical releases are now seen in the biz as ‘loss-leaders’ for the versatile discs. The second half of Rosenbaum’s piece is endearingly blog-like, being a list of ‘import DVDs I have enjoyed’. (No doubt the Chicago Reader‘s lawyers enforced such delightful anachronisms as: ‘Reportedly there are also ways to “hack” some single-region players into multiregional ones, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for advice on how to do that.’) But the key line here, which ties in nicely with — by contradicting — J-Ro’s consistent stance on how the corporate marketplace is marginalizing ‘difficult’ product, is: ‘We’re rapidly approaching a time when anyone living anywhere in the world can theoretically enjoy access to the canon of world cinema once reserved for film students in world capitals like New York or Paris.’ DYS readers may flinch at the c-word there, and the argument may well resemble ‘free-market’ ideology, but for me the shift has been an incredible liberation.

Hole–I’m Dying.

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Hole–I’m Dying.

When Ms Love sings I’m Dying, Please on this track, one thinks that she is begging god and her self just to let it happen…It’s sad and its tragic, Celebrity Skin is all about (among other things)surveying the death of her husband, and how badly she is at the task at hand. But that one song, with its ghostly acoustic intro about cripples dancing, its self loathing, its drug addled pain, and that deaths head chorus. Maybe its a love song to heroin, needles popping under skin and the sluggish, happy daze that ends up drowning. Maybe it’s a song to death, the whole fucking album is about death–who has promised her something. She needs to be under who’s skin ? It might be the typical creepy rock song, the obsessive desire song. But even if you strip it away from its time and place, its more death filled, more obsessed with the destructive powers of rock and rtoll, and less obsessed with its life giving possibility. They keep telling us that rock is Dionysus and his instincts in culture, but that not only requires destruction but rebirth. Here, is the sound track to the losing of control, power, skill, talent…Here more then anything, with its overly simple three chord harangue, and ravaged vocals, is the death, is the going into the underworld and never coming up. Its a suicidal gesture for someone not brave or stupid enough to commit suicide–and now, with the botched abortion (and the discussion about whether it was on purpose or not), the drug treatments, the shoplifting, the tawdry public falling apart, the essential instability, it seems a prophecy come true.