mail me archives
Thursday, September 26, 2002

Insanely great

‘I’ve created, ‘something that kills people” – ‘Hattori Hanzo’ as he presents the 'Sword of Vengeance' to The Bride (Uma Thurman)


A ‘long awaited’ new Quentin Tarantino movie (first in six years) is in the making, and has his fans drooling all over the web. Tarantino has not been sitting idly during his long absence since his 1997 ‘Jacky Brown’ feature, gorging on B-movies and Kung-Fu flicks. In early press-coverage Tarantino promised critics and fans an ‘Exploitation Grindhouse Kung Fu Spectacular.’ Considering his 10 favorite movies-

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone)
Rio Bravo (Hawks)
Taxi Driver (Scorsese)
His Girl Friday (Hawks)
Rolling Thunder (Flynn)
They All Laughed (Bogdanovich)
The Great Escape (J. Sturges)
Carrie (De Palma)
Coffy (Hill)
Dazed and Confused (Linklater)
Five Fingers of Death (Chang)
Hi Diddle Diddle (Stone)

-one wonders what he's shooting this time? One thing is certain, the movie will be a reference studded, cum in your face exploitation shocker, crafted to obliterate all others in the genre. Tarantino is adamant to feed his starved audience. Reactions are mixed though, as witnessed by my (biased) overview.


‘Quentin is completely realizing his vision for KILL BILL. Every quirk and whim he wants to pursue is being fulfilled. He wants a miniature of Tokyo built by the TOHO guys… done. He wants Michael Jai White doing a Kiwi accent… done. He wants more pumping gushing blood… done. Quentin wants more emotion, more subtlety, more nuance, more motivations, done done done. He wants a steadi-cam shot from the backside of a baseball – done. He wants to make a major motion picture starring David Carradine, Gordon Liu and Sonny Chiba in major parts… DONE.’

‘Right now I feel extremely blessed. Not only did I get to be on this remarkable set, but I got to tell all of you about it. Coming back to my room each night, looking out that window… all alone in China, I wrote to you folks, tried to give you a glimmer of the feeling I had being there, watching this film shooting, listening to the moments on set. Sharing the emotion of being bathed in movie blood from a slit throat, the meeting of Gordon Liu and Sonny Chiba… my talks with David Carradine and watching Uma as she prepared and performed this, her most daring role to date.’

Rumormonger Larry Knowles – ‘Hollywood’s Redheaded stepchild’ and self professed film geek speaks out while attending the ‘Kill Bill’ set. The Beijing based stage of Quentin’s Tarantino next movie, starring Uma Thurman, to be released in 2003.


-Chopping spree-

‘But no small amount of death appears headed for the screen. After a visit to the ‘Kill Bill’ set at Beijing Film Studios in July, a pair of Chinese writers reported ‘many full view and close-up shots with chopping off heads, arms and legs’ and a legion of Japanese-built latex dummies made to spout blood from the neck.’

-Michael Cieply – NYT


-Body count-

From Chris Wehner’s – Review 'Kill Bill’ script

‘The story is a body count, practically everyone dies, and that’s fine. This is a B Kung Fu movie, and a B movie is all it aspires to be. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, it might end up being a really cool extension of Tarantino's passion for the genre.

Kill Bill is 202 pages long and broken into chapters (much like Pulp Fiction, but taken to the extreme as we have ten chapters total):

1. "2"

The best chapter in my opinion is "The lonely grave of Paula Schultz." If there is any interesting and memorable writing it is in this chapter. The ending unfortunately was rather lame and offered no surprises or thrills.
There were a few scenes that were cool and will be on screen. Bits here and there. There’s some memorable dialogue, (page 106) after someone has taken a chest full of lead, courtesy of Budd:

That gentled you down some, didn’t it?
Yep…ain’t nobody a badass with two barrels
of rock salt dug deep in their tits.

Tarantinoesque dialogue at its best.

Kill Bill is a self-indulgent wreck of a story. Something only a handful of directors could get away with. For the moment,Tarantino is among them. When I got to page 101 and realized Iwas only at the midway point of the script, and that the story had bored me beyond my wildest nightmares, I knew what had to be done. So I went out with a few friends and had drinks.

I found the second half to be fairly entertaining. Which was a relief. There was actually some drama and tension mixed in. Up to that point, the script was nothing more than fight after pointless fight. I really can’t imagine this movie being three plus hours long as the script dictates by its length.

.Kill Bill is evidence that Tarantino’s "gorging" on B films and filmmakers has had a deep and negative effect on his screenwriting, which is surprising. I think in his honorable effort to honor those movies he loves and grew up on, he does himself a disservice. ‘Kill Bill’ will be a pretty good "B" flick, and that’s about it.


-Hitting the fans-

08/26 - Get a life!!

If it sucks, it sucks. If it's great then I spent my money wisely at the theater. Either way, I have a life before I go to the
movies and after I leave. Some of you writing comments are people I hope I don't run into in a dark alley. If you all love Tarantino that much, sacrafice yourselves on his doorstep as a sign of your love for him. You don't have a life anyway so we won't miss you.

07/20 - Chill the F. out.

For crying out loud, this is Quentin people. He is the crazed fuck that brought us Pulp and True Romance. Sure Jackie Brown was a disaster, but whatever. I still have faith in the man. And there is no doubt in my mind that Kill Bill is going to be one of the upper class movies of next year.




Film critic Darwin Mayflower concludes a web review of ‘Kill Bill’ thus following:

‘That whole hip, fatalistic view of death – it’s just a thing – seems absurd in this day and age, I find this script deplorable and despise it.’


posted by Walter at 9/26/2002

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

‘Classroom collapse’- gakkyu hokai

Japanese culture, long held as a shining beacon to western civilization, is experiencing a spate of social turmoil that would have been unheard of a decade ago. A prolonged economical depression and ensuing social instability have wreaked havoc on a previously strict, but exemplary educational system.


-Yokohama-Japan: Across Japan these days, by the first or second grade, elementary school students commonly talk out of turn and wrestle with one another in class.
By fourth grade, they are using obscene language, often directed at the teacher or written on the blackboard. And by sixth grade, a growing generation of preteenage rebels has begun walking in and out of classrooms at will, mocking the authority of adults and even attacking teachers who try to restrain them. ‘When I was posted to this school in April last year, the sixth-graders were so disorderly that teachers couldn’t start classes,’ said Masekuni Kaneshima, 57, principal of an elementary school in Kunitachi, a Tokyo suburb. ‘About a third of the students, that is, about a dozen from each class, wouldn’t even enter the classroom.’

According to a report released last October by the National Institute for Educational Policy Research, about 32,4 % of 6,614 elementary school teachers surveyed said their schools had at least one classroom that had experienced collapse. Similar problems show up in higher grades, too, with nearly half of all high schools reporting violence, higher dropout rates and problems like student prostitution.

‘Up until now, Japan was a society in which children obeyed adults, but this relationship between children and adults is no longer workable because the system was built around the idea that by doing well in school you could enter a good company and having lifetime security,’ said Naoki Ogi, an education expert. ‘Over the last 10 years, however, Japan hasn’t found a way out of its economic depression, and from the children’s viewpoint the academic record-oriented system has collapsed. Moral values are collapsing, too.’

Another elementary school principal Chuji Yamada said Japan’s elementary schools, starting with his own, shared plenty of the blame for the spread of increasingly unruly behavior. Schools are understaffed, he said, and most teachers never receive any continuing education to examine how to deal with new problems. The lion’s share of the blame, however, he reserved for today’s parents, who he said were spoiling their children with money, cell phones and other gifts, while spending less time with them. Instead, parents expect the school to take the major responsibility for imparting manners and other social skills.

-Source excerpt: NYT –


-An infectious phenomenon-

‘According to Dr. Shinji Miyadai, Assistant Professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University, classroom collapse is a definitely a new phenomenon. It is detailed and the causes are deep. The problem of school violence in the early 1980s referred to a situation in which defiant students would "act up" and make trouble together. By contrast, classroom collapse is characterized by the following 1) isolated students engage indisruptive acts independently; 2) behavior quickly spreads from these individuals students and other students start adopting the same behavior; 3) once other students have been "infected," it is impossible to restore discipline without replacing the teacher. He notes that these students are self-centered, lack communicative skills (unexpressive and unable to listen to others or communicate their thoughts), display rough speech and behavior, easily panic, are not in the habit of cleaning up, greeting others and observing routine behavior in daily life, and are unable to process stimuli internally and then act on the basis of a particular internal motivation. In fact, it might even seem that these student lack ’feelings.’

-Teacher woes-

Masayuki Kobayashi, professor of clinical psychology at Tokyo Gagukei University, who is founder of a teachers counseling service showing how to cope with problems at school, found that the problem of abusive behavior and bad language is widespread on Japanese schools. An article in the Asahi Shimbun charts the extent of the changes in the Japanese social fabric that led to ‘Classroom collapse.’


Kobayashi receives almost 300 e-mail inquiries annually and frequently sends off replies one after another. Gakkyu hokai (disruptions in the classroom) is a recurring problem.

‘A growing number of teachers are unable to cope with students who lack social skills or patience,'' he says.‘These students frequently interrupt teachers during lessons by chatting among themselves, wandering around the classroom or ignoring teachers.
‘It is becoming quite a serious problem. It does not occur only in a few particular schools. Rather many-if not most-schools experience some kind of problem,'' Kobayashi says.
Japanese schools, which were once relatively trouble-free zones compared with their Western counterparts, now face escalating problems, including violence, truancy and, more recently, classroom disruptions. The first comprehensive survey of gakkyu hokai, conducted by the National Institute for Educational Policy. Research this spring, questioned 7,000 teachers and principals in elementary schools nationwide. Nearly 30 percent of respondents cited gakkyu hokai as a problem.

Another survey confirms the trend: It found that 258 of Tokyo's 1,383 public elementary schools-or 18.7 percent-admitted to experiencing some form of classroom disruption. As well as holding lectures and counseling sessions on the issue for teachers, parents and students, Kobayashi published a book on the topic in July. In ‘Gakkyu Saisei'’ (Reviving classes), from Kodansha, Kobayashi draws on his experiences as a counselor and offers solutions to the problem, as well as suggestions on prevention.

The book sold 20,000 copies in its first three months and has been snapped up by teachers, academics and parents. Kobayashi says the gakkyu hokai phenomena reflects today's society, with the problem stemming from changes in social relationships. ‘Children used to pick up social skills through playing with their friends. But these days, with parents placing more emphasis on their private lives and the negative impact of the breakdown of the nuclear family, kids often don't learn how to interact with others. They get used to playing alone,’ Kobayashi says.
‘In other words, they are less mature than they used to be, and this leads to feelings of alienation in class. As a result, some pupils become reluctant to go to school or refuse to follow teachers' instructions.’


posted by Walter at 9/25/2002

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Birth of the Smiley

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’ -Albert Einstein-


The theory of divergent thinking offers an intriguing angle to the subject of my current post. In his book, ‘Creative Teachers, Creative Students’, John Baer defines creativity as:

‘Creativity refers to anything someone does in a way that is original to the creator and that is appropriate to the purpose or goal of the creator.’

Divergent thinking according to Baer is comprised by four components:

-Fluency has to do with the number of different ideas a person can produce.
-Flexibility refers to the variety among the ideas produced.
-Originality refers to the uniqueness of the ideas that are produced.
-Elaboration refers to the depth and the richness of detail in the ideas


-Joke marks-

Twenty years ago last week, Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, posted an e-mail on a university bulletin board system suggesting that a colon, a minus sign and a parenthesis be used to convey a joking tone.
Fahlman’s message was almost an aside but his idea caught on, and the typed smiley face and its many variants, known as emoticons, have now become fixtures online. In a recently retrieved magnetic tape at Carnegie Mellon’s digital archives his simple post was unearthed.

‘I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:
read it sideways,. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-(

Since then emoticons have charted a course of their own, as seen by its prolific use in chat services, Instant Messaging software, and more recently by the advent of mobile telecommunications.

Some frequently used emoticons are:

:,( crying

:-0 yelling

:-@ screaming

:-X lips are sealed

;-) winky

:-Q a smoker

:-? pipe smoker

>= ( pissed off

:-D laughing

]-* angry

8-) glasses

} { face to face

} xx kisses

Source: NYT - for extra reference:


-U ~~ (you stink)-

‘Generation text’ is threatening the conventions of English writing, as students are using shortcuts to economize keyboard strokes. They’re taking charge and initiate a new protocol pushing the boundaries of written language.
‘There’s no official English language,’ says Jesse Scheidlower, the North American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary in an IHT interview. ‘Language is spread not because not anyone dictates any one thing to happen. The decisions are made by the language and the people who use the language.’

Some abbreviations commonly used:

BBFN – bye bye for now

AAMOF – as a matter of fact

FAQ – frequently asked questions

IMO – in my opinion

IOW – in other words

ROFL – rolling on the floor laughing

LOL – laughing out loud

TIC – tongue in cheek

TTYL – talk to you later

For an extended library:


-ASCII us-

Dutch Mathematician Stijn van Dongen defines ASCII character art as follows:

ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.Computers use a number like `01100001' to denote the character `a', and they use `00100101' to denote the percent sign `%'. It is best if all computers interpret the same number as the same character, and this is basically the case today, because nearly all computers adhere to this ASCII standard, loosely speaking. This is among others a conditio sine qua non for the correct display of HTML pages such as this, because HTML tags depend on the ASCII character set. The standard basically creates a mapping from 8-bit sequences (sequences of 8 elements each of which is either `0' or `1'; such a sequence is also called a byte) to signs or characters such as `a' or `%.

. -----------.-----------.-----------.-----------.-----------.-----------.
: : ! : : : : :
: : ! : ) : ,_ : : :
: : O ! : -\>' : _\ \O : ##### : ? :
: __O ! : /\, : (*/*) : (*\'<_ : : O :
: _`\<,_ : -|~(*) : : ~ \*) : ).\O(_ : _|\_/\__ :
: (*)/_(*) : (*) : : ~ : ,*(<*') : |______| :
: : : : : : :

‘A bike accident’ (actually the original was not quite so bad (Blogger template messed up).


-Father of ASCII -

Bob Bemer, former Turing Award winner, is one of the architects of the ASCII communication protocol, in an excerpt from his webpage ‘What is ASCII’ he dwells on his achievements:


‘Bob Bemer, at IBM, foresaw eventual computer involvement in communication. In 1960 July he described a communication method using computers at both ends, the originator compressing the text, the receiver reconstituting it.

The 1961 June Reader's Digest (origin Kiwanis Magazine) said Bemer headed a group of programmers devising languages by which "machines can talk with machines - languages that will facilitate the exchange of information, by radio, microwave, or telephone wire between computers at widely separated centers ...’

Bob Bemer was a major force in the creation of ASCII:

-making and publishing a survey, of over 60 different computer codes in use, which raised awareness of need and triggered a common effort,
-creating the program of work for the standards groups developing it,
-forcing the U.S. standard code to be identical to the international,
-making the major proposals for its content and form,
-writing the bulk of the published articles about it,
-conceiving and proposing formal registry of ASCII-alternate symbol and control sets to permit interchange of all of the world's characters, and
-creating, for this to work, the escape sequence mechanism, which he placed in the public domain.

Realizing that the primary ASCII content is but a tiny subset of the alphabets and symbols which must be accommodated in a worldwide communication system, Bemer devised (in 1960) the universal switching concept in use today, via the Escape character he caused to be placed in ASCII and its registered alternates.’


Another useful site with some great examples of ASCII-art, some of which in color, can be found at: Alan Mullen ASCII site


posted by Walter at 9/24/2002

Monday, September 23, 2002

‘The skies about Baghdad are illuminated’ – Bernard Shaw - CNN

I imagined George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld starring in Walt Whitman’s poem ‘The dalliance of the eagles’


-The Dalliance of the Eagles-

Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling, turning, clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till over the river poised, the twain yet one, a moment’s lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.

-Walt Whitman-


posted by Walter at 9/23/2002

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Buying and selling

‘Symbols of America’ by publicist Hal Morgan offers a concise overview of American product branding history, beginning in the second half of the 18th century. In this illustrated anthology of American trademarks and symbols, Morgan probes the backgrounds and origins of the emblems that have now become a familiar part of daily life, and thereby evokes the personal profiles of the men and women that shaped American Enterprise. Chance, naivete, endurance, idealism and cunning were the hallmarks of the budding industrialists, inventors and companies that build the compelling narrative of Morgan’s book.

In his introduction he mentions a strict note issued by the American patent Office:

‘From the very beginning, Patent Office rules required a clear drawing of the design, on a ten- by fifteen-inch sheet of stiff, calendered paper. An 1877 copy of the regulations further specified that ‘All drawings must be made with the pen only, using the blackest India Ink. Every line and letter (signatures included) must be ABSOLUTELY BLACK…. All lines must be clean, sharp, and solid, and they must not be too fine or crowded.’


-Flight of Eagles-

The bald eagle first appeared as an American icon on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. The eagle had not been an important American symbol prior to its adoption for the seal, and it took some false starts before it finally won that spot.

The Continental Congress, at the same July 4th, 1776 meeting that ratified the Declaration of Independence, assigned Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams to the task of drawing up an official national seal. The three men had some trouble reaching a consensus. Jefferson wanted an elaborate scene of the Pharoah pursuing Moses and the Israelites through the parted waters of the Red Sea. Franklin inclined toward the classical, with Virtue and Sloth vying for the attention of Hercules. Eventually, they agreed on a scetch of Liberty and Justice flanking a shield with the coats-of-arms of the various countries from which the colonists had come.

Congress heard their recommendation on August 20, 1776, but decided to give the matter more thought. A second committee, in 1780, suggested a seal with a thirteen-stripe shield supported by peace and a warrior, with a cluster of thirteen stars overhead. Again, the idea was put on hold.

Charles Barton of Philadelphia drew up a modified version in May 1782 that included a tiny eagle over the shield, but his proposal, too, was rejected. Finally in June 1782, Charles Thomson secretary of Congress, took matters into his own hands and scetched a design with a bald eagle as a central element. Its wings and legs were outstretched.
In its claws it clutched an olive branch and a cluster of thirteen arrows, and in its beak a banner with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM.

This proposal, at last, met with the approval of Congress. The design was officially adopted on June 20, 1782, and the bald eagle, by vote of Congress became the national bird.


Harland Sanders ran the Sanders Court & Café, a motel-restaurant combination in Corbin, Kentucky which he opened at the age of forty-two. During his first few years in business he received the honorary title of colonel from the governor of Kentucky. He then joined the massive army of inactive Kentucky colonels that included among others:Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, jack Dempsey, Walter Cronkite, and Shirley Temple.

In 1939 Colonel Sanders discovered a method of frying chicken in a pressure cooker. Seventeen years later, when a new highway reduced Corbin to a scenic detour, he sold the restaurant and set out to sell franchises, staking his hopes on the fried-chicken recipe. By that time he had adopted the dress of the traditional Kentucky colonel, a stereotype character long used as a trademark for whiskey, coal and tobacco. As he traveled the country Sanders became his own trademark, the walking, talking symbol of his restaurant.


One day in May 1886 John S. Pemberton an Atlanta pharmacist and Confederate Army veteran took a jar of his new syrup over to Jacob’s drug Store in Atlanta, and asked the fountain man to mix up a glass of the drink with ice water. By mistake, the druggist added soda water, Pemberton however was so pleased with the refreshing result that he decided to stick with the impromptu recipe.

While Pemberton gets credit for the recipe, the name Coca-Cola was suggested by Frank Robinson, Pemberton’s bookkeeper. The name is a combination of two of the drink’s more exotic ingredients; the South American coca leaf, and the African cola-nut. Robinson, a savvy calligrapher, drew the flourished first version of the name that has identified the drink ever since.


Francis Barraud, a landscape painter who owned an early phonograph that played cylindrical records, would have remained in obscurity had not his dog ‘Nipper’ that he adopted from a kennel, shown a fondness for the music that emanated from the phonograph. Amused by seeing his dog move his ear close to the horn when it was played, he made a painting of Nipper and the phonograph, which he named ‘His Master’s Voice.’
He tried to sell the painting to a London phonograph maker, but found them uninterested. An artist friend suggested that he brighten up the picture by adding a brass horn in place of the black-painted one, and told him to borrow such a horn from a small firm he knew called the Gramophone Company.
Barraud struck a fortunate reception, the owners were interested in the painting and ventured to buy it, provided he would also replace the phonograph with a gramophone that played flat records.

As such Nipper, who died in 1895, became one of the best-loved symbols in the US, culminating in the RCA emblem in 1923.


In 1972, after a dispute with the Japanese firm Tiger Brand Shoes, Bill Bowerman, sport-shoe inventor, and Phil Knight, his business partner, began to make and sell shoes under their own brand name NIKE.
That same year, even before the name was chosen, Knight asked Carolyn Davidson, a design student at Portland State University, to create a symbol to identify the new brand. She came up with the boomerang-shaped slash now known as the ‘Swoosh,’ and was paid $35 for her effort. Ever since Nike has conquered the world underfoot.


Adapted from ‘Symbols of America’ by Hal Morgan – Penguin Books 1987


posted by Walter at 9/22/2002