more kurosawa and rainy riding

Tue, 2009-11-24 23:20

I watched The Bad Sleep Well, another in my project to watch all of Akira Kurosawa's films. I've now seen 20 of his 30 films, and I have The Lower Depths on DVD checked out from the Library.

The Bad Sleep Well was quite good, though it suffers a bit from blatant exposition: the characters often stand around and say things that all the characters hearing them already know, just to get the information to the viewer. I find this a bit distracting. The ending is treated somewhat anticlimactically by having one of the characters describe the ultimate fate of the main character rather than allowing the viewer to see the sequence of events he describes. Not necessarily bad, but an interesting choice.

I did a short ride today, just 38 km up to the north end of Lake Washington and back. It was raining the whole time, a heavy drizzle, if there is such a thing. The worst part of it was I couldn't see: the drizzle coated my glasses with tiny droplets, and that's far worse than what you get when it is properly raining. I had intended to do more like 100 km today, but the rain, my ability to see, and the fact that nobody took me up on my offer to join me made me happy to cut it short.

Kurosawa project

Sat, 2009-10-17 22:35

With the watching of Dodes'kaden, I've now watched exactly 50% (15 out of 30) of all of Kurosawa's films.

Dodes'kaden I thought was too light a flm for some of the topics it involves.

Here is perhaps my favorite shot in the film, Kurosawa's first in color:
still from Dodeskaden


Tue, 2009-10-13 22:35

Okay, so I'm trying to write a little script to check TCM's schedule a couple times a month and let me know if there is anything on it that I might want to check out.

I looked into doing this with Perl, and I found the LWP and LWP::Simple module, but it seems not to work as advertised.

For instance, this:

>perl -MLWP::Simple -e 'getprint ""'

is supposed to return the source of the index file at Instead, it returns nothing.

Now I know things are actually working pretty well, since it I do the same with a text file (rather than an html file) like this:

>perl _MLWP::Simple -e 'getprint ""'

it spews that text file all over standard out.

I'm stumped.

The Pickwick Papers

Wed, 2009-07-08 10:18

I finished reading The Pickwick Papers last night. I have to say, it was one of my least favorite Dickens novels so far. I really don't think Dickens did a good job of delineating the characters (e.g., I couldn't tell you the difference between Mr. Winkle, Mr. Snodgrass, and Mr. Tupman). Sam Weller is, of course, an excellent character, and the best feature of the book.

It took me outrageously long to read this, since I didn't like it very much, so I wasn't drawn to it, and I restarted at least once. As I continue with my Dickens project, I really hope I have better luck with his other novels.

So far, I've read the grey ones:

  • Dombey and Son (1.95)
  • David Copperfield (1.91)
  • Bleak House (1.91)
  • Nicholas Nickleby (1.86)
  • Martin Chuzzlewit (1.85)
  • Little Dorrit (1.85)
  • Our Mutual Friends (1.83)
  • Pickwick Papers (1.72)
  • Barnaby Rudge (1.41)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (1.19)
  • Great Expectations (1.01)
  • Oliver Twist (0.91)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (0.78)
  • Hard Times (0.58)

The numbers are proportional to the length of the book (they should be
approximately the number of characters in the novel, in millions).

What should I read next? I think Bleak House, since I've been wanting to read that for some time, but I'm going to take a break, and maybe start it in the fall. I've got a stack of other things to read, and I do seem to be able to get some reading done in the summer while I'm not working.

The Pickwick Papers contains what seems to me Dickens' closest approach to an erotic passage that I've come across, at the end of chapter 25:

'Get your hat, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'It's below stairs, Sir,' said Sam, and he ran down after it.

Now, there was nobody in the kitchen, but the pretty housemaid; and as
Sam's hat was mislaid, he had to look for it, and the pretty housemaid
lighted him. They had to look all over the place for the hat. The pretty
housemaid, in her anxiety to find it, went down on her knees, and turned
over all the things that were heaped together in a little corner by the
door. It was an awkward corner. You couldn't get at it without shutting
the door first.

'Here it is,' said the pretty housemaid. 'This is it, ain't it?'

'Let me look,' said Sam.

The pretty housemaid had stood the candle on the floor; and, as it gave
a very dim light, Sam was obliged to go down on HIS knees before he
could see whether it really was his own hat or not. It was a remarkably
small corner, and so--it was nobody's fault but the man's who built
the house--Sam and the pretty housemaid were necessarily very close

'Yes, this is it,' said Sam. 'Good-bye!'

'Good-bye!' said the pretty housemaid.

'Good-bye!' said Sam; and as he said it, he dropped the hat that had
cost so much trouble in looking for.

'How awkward you are,' said the pretty housemaid. 'You'll lose it again,
if you don't take care.'

So just to prevent his losing it again, she put it on for him.

Whether it was that the pretty housemaid's face looked prettier still,
when it was raised towards Sam's, or whether it was the accidental
consequence of their being so near to each other, is matter of
uncertainty to this day; but Sam kissed her.

'You don't mean to say you did that on purpose,' said the pretty
housemaid, blushing.

'No, I didn't then,' said Sam; 'but I will now.'

So he kissed her again. 'Sam!' said Mr. Pickwick, calling over the

'Coming, Sir,' replied Sam, running upstairs.

'How long you have been!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'There was something behind the door, Sir, which perwented our getting
it open, for ever so long, Sir,' replied Sam.

And this was the first passage of Mr. Weller's first love.

As Dickens is a very colorful author, and often writes about the simple joys and pleasures of life, I'm sure he had such thoughts on his mind often, but, writing for a very wide and general audience, he had to restrain himself. This is as far in a certain direction as I've ever seen him go.

no directors left

Wed, 2008-03-19 11:50

I've finally seen every director on this list. When they changed the list at the start of the year, I had only Clint Eastwood, Jean-Pierre Melville and Andrzej Wajda to see. Monday I watched "Les Enfants Terribles" by Melville, and previously this year I've seen Eastwoods "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and Wajda's "Samson", so now I've seen every director on the list.


only three directors left! and my favorite films seen in 2007

Sun, 2007-12-30 18:44

Yesterday, and the day before, I watched Sans Soleil and La Jetee, both excellent, and both directed by Chris Marker. So, I only have three more directors to watch from this list, namely von Stroheim, Flaherty, and Rocha.

UPDATE The list has been updated, so Rocha is no longer on it! But, Clint Eastwood, Jean-Pierre Melville and Andrzej Wajda are now on it, and I've not seen anything by them (but the library will soon fix that).

Since the year is up, and because LizzieLou said she was going to do this (or at least she said something that suggested the idea to me), here are my favorite movies watched in 2007, in no particular order:

That seems like a strange bunch.

questions, problems and projects

Sun, 2007-12-16 18:36

I've decided to try to keep track of questions, problems and projects via my website. I added a page with these things, and I think I should add links between that page and relevant blog entries.

Little Dorrit

Sat, 2007-11-24 15:04

Today I finished reading Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens. I have a project going in which I am attempting to read every novel by Dickens. I expect to read about one novel per year, as they are quite time consuming. His novels, by length, are

  • Dombey and Son (1.95)
  • David Copperfield (1.91)
  • Bleak House (1.91)
  • Nicholas Nickleby (1.86)
  • Martin Chuzzlewit (1.85)
  • Little Dorrit (1.85)
  • Our Mutual Friends (1.83)
  • Pickwick Papers (1.72)
  • Barnaby Rudge (1.41)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (1.19)
  • Great Expectations (1.01)
  • Oliver Twist (0.91)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (0.78)
  • Hard Times (0.58)

I've read the grey titles. The numbers are proportional to the length of the book (they should be
approximately the number of characters in the novel, in millions).

I liked Little Dorrit quite a bit. I especially liked the ending, the last 50 pages or so. As always in Dickens, there are some unexplainable coincidences and happenings. But I've come to expect that, so it doesn't bother me. I always love the tone, the spirit of his writing, and his words are often beautiful.

On a silly note, here is the shortest pangrammatic window in Little Dorrit:

'Why, mother, no,' returned Mr Meagles, 'not exactly there. I
can't quite leave it there; I must say just half-a-dozen words
more. Mrs Gowan, I hope I am not over-sensitive. I believe I
don't look

What to read next? I think Our Mutual Friend or Pickwick Papers, since I picked up copies of those two at the last Friends of the Seattle Library sale. I have A Tale of Two Cities, but it's so short, I think I should save that for much later.

Mr. Visconti and Mr. Dovzhenko

Thu, 2007-09-20 12:07

Two more films viewed from directors on this list.

La Terra Trema is an awesome, commi-tinged non-romp around a Sicilian fishing village. Great acting by a bunch of non-actors. Really excellent film. Directed by Visconti, who is the answer to a question posed on one of Monty Python's records, "What famous person is this, getting up in the morning?", followed by sounds of an alarm clock, yawning, using the toilet, etc. "An italian film director" is not sufficient.

Earth has some similarities, being about poor, working folk, but it is more commi-tinged, being set in early Soviet Russia, with discussion of farm collectivization and such. They sure do love their tractor, boy. Lots of close-ups.

So, only a few directors left:

  • von Stroheim
  • Marker
  • Flaherty
  • Rocha

Mr. Mankiewicz and Mr. Tarkovsky

Mon, 2007-09-17 22:45

Two more films from this list of directors.

I watched Stalker, by Andrei Tarkovsky. Extremely impressive visually, it looks like nothing else I've ever seen. A little like Eraserhead, kind of like a Joel Peter Witkin, but not so human. He does these long shots with the camera looking straight down into shallow water containing all kinds of interesting things. Very impressive to look at, but rather thin on content: some heavy philosophy, but philosophy we've all thought about before, and it's not as fun to think about it so slowly and quietly.

Definitely is not dated. I didn't realize it was made in 1979 - it feels very modern.

I wasn't terribly surprised to find out that the film actually was shot in a hazardous environment: several of those involved in the film (including Tarkovsky) died of the same cancer.