By Douglas Kent,
On the web at http://www.whiningkentpigs.com – or go directly to the Diplomacy section at http://www.whiningkentpigs.com/DW/. Also be sure to visit the new Diplomacy World website at http://www.diplomacyworld.net
All Eternal Sunshine readers are encouraged to join the free Eternal Sunshine Yahoo group at http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/eternal_sunshine_diplomacy/ to stay up-to-date on any subzine news or errata.
Quote Of The Month – “My crotch is still here, just as you remembered it.” (Clementine in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”)
Welcome to yet another issue of Eternal Sunshine, the only Diplomacy subzine which roots for Team ABC during the NFL season when the New York Football Giants are not doing well; ABC being Anybody But the Cowboys. Fortunately, I have the pleasure of watching the Giants attempt the seemingly impossible a few days from now: toppling the undefeated New England Patriots from their designated NFL throne. Could it happen? Probably not, but then again nobody gave them a chance against the Cowboys or the Packers, and they won both of those games.
As a registered Cowboy Hater, I cannot begin to describe to you the joy of waking up and going outside the morning after the Giants knocked off the 13-3 First Seed Cowboys. Listening to the sports shows on the radio, reading the newspapers, watching the blank disbelief in the faces of everybody on the roads; it is like winning the lottery. Cowboy fans carry with them an incredible sense of entitlement which goes much deeper than the obnoxious title of “America’s Team.” This town had already been booking tickets to the Super Bowl, much in the same way they were planning the parade before – oops – the Mavericks lost in the playoffs. Just look at the press coverage after the mid-season loss to the Patriots, and you’ll see Patrick Creighton saying “We’ll see them in Glendale.” Yes, that’s the same Cowboy receiver who dropped a wide-open critical pass, and who quit on his route on the second-to-last play of the game which probably would have been a Cowboy touchdown (if he hadn’t dropped that one too). Nice game Patrick! Next time use your hands and legs more and your mouth less.
Now with the Giants moving on to the Super Bowl, that Cowboy Fan sense of entitlement has only gotten worse. They whine to each other about how they would have beaten the Packers and gone to Arizona. If only, if only…they’re like people watching game shows, yelling out the answers or solving the puzzles and somehow believing that because of that, the prizes should be awarded to them instead of the contestants. I tell you, I get a warm feeling all over when the playoffs are still taking place, but the talk shows are discussing the NFL draft. Last year we had Tony Romo drop the ball on the gimme Field Goal, and this year we have the Cabo Controversy. Bwahahahahaha!
In other subzine news, we have the appearance of a new section from my lovely owner/boss/wife Heather. Since she reads much more than I do, I wanted to start including short book reviews by her. In addition, there is a new occasional column about favorite “lost” movies entitled Cinematic Catacombs. There’s also a gamestart of a brand new game of By Popular Demand. Now is your chance to get into a game without starting out way behind the leader! Cal White has threatened that he won’t play in this one, because he wants to retire “undefeated”…but maybe you can convince him not to be a coward, and to join in the fun. Perhaps he is afraid of how well Jamie and Andy are doing in By Popular Opinion? Only time will tell if he has the stomach for this challenge!
I’ve been working on my latest little story, but it isn’t completed yet, and to be honest it lack the punch that some of the earlier ones have. So when I*do* finish it, there’s a chance that I’ll choose not to print it in Eternal Sunshine at all. But don’t fear – if you have enjoyed some of my prior stories, one of these days I’ll return with something similar, whether it’s about prison, my relationship with Mara, childhood, or something current. I haven’t written enough lately – work and Diplomacy World #100 taking up most of my time and energy – but I am committed to doing better in the coming months. And if you haven’t enjoyed my previous writing, then consider these last few issues my gift to you, a reprieve from suffering through it!
The Savages – In her first film since The Slums of Beverly Hills, writer/director Tamara Jenkins has once again delved into the world of family, parents, and how both shape our lives. On the back of a strong performance by Laura Linney and a typically-on target one from Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages succeeds in exposing the full canvas without forcing you to concentrate on the individual brushstrokes. Like any fine work of art, those details are there if you want to become absorbed in them, but if not you can appreciate the creation as a piece by itself.
Linney and Hoffman are brother and sister, the only two children in a family they would rather forget about but carry with them in everything they do. Their mother walked out years earlier, and by choice they have been out of contact with their abusive father for over a decade. Inevitably the phone call arrives: their father’s live-in girlfriend has died, and he (Philip Bosco) no longer has a place to live. He is also confused and losing touch with reality. Forced into action, the children fly to Arizona, where their father is diagnosed with dementia. With no other viable option, they arrange to move him to a nursing home in Buffalo (where Hoffman teaches at a local college and works on obscure books). Linney is a struggling playwright, so she stays with Hoffman for a while to be near Dad.
Every action and every emotion of the children is influenced by their experiences as youngsters. Linney has tremendous guilt about her father, lies about her career, takes painkillers, and is sleeping with a married man. Hoffman is watching a three-year romance end because he is afraid to commit. Both fear the idea of creating their own family, as it might result in the same nightmare they experiences themselves.
The brilliance of Jenkins’ touch is she does not bend the characters to fit the situation. They are realistic, and their motivations remain obscured but decipherable. Even Bosco’s father character is three-dimensional, and true: he is confused, frustrated, and both angry and afraid of the occasional realization that his life is over. Yet his actions and reactions to the activity around him bring new insight into both how he became who he is, and how his children came to cut themselves off from his world. The dark humor of the script reasserts itself whenever things get too heavy, and she avoids any heavy-handed Hollywood epiphany. Just as earlier experiences have shaped them, these new struggles will help shape the characters for the future. This is a very strong film, but not overly powerful. I recommend it highly.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – This French film (with English subtitles) is the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle Magazine who suffered a debilitating stroke and was left paralyzed, with no movement except for his left eye. His mind still fully functioning, Jean-Do (played by Mathieu Amalric) remains trapped in this horrific prison of a body. Unable to do anything, even to end his own miserable existence, he is forced to accept his fate and to try and find some way of (as an acquaintance tells him) “keeping his human portion alive.”
Nearly all of the film is shot from the perspective of Jean-Do’s eye. We see faces speaking to him, bent over awkwardly. We see him looking at his useless hands, his twisted reflection. And eventually we see him learn to communicate through the one working body part he has left, in a good part due to the efforts of a speech therapist (Marie-Josée Croze).
Amazingly, Jean-Do is still able to appreciate life, both in the world around him and the mind within him. And he maintains a strong sense of humor as well, even when those around him do not. His ability to express that humor may be limited, but that doesn’t seem to matter to him. And eventually he decides to continue with a project he was about to begin before the stroke: writing a book. Only now the subject will become much more personal.
Between the strong acting and the effective and creative cinematography, this adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s book is largely successful in its endeavors. Even though told from the point of view of Jean-Do, we still feel the emotions and thoughts of those around him, and how this tragedy affects their lives as well. Try to see this film, now or on DVD when it becomes available. You’re likely to hear it mentioned when the Oscars roll around.
Seen on DVD – Dexter [First Season] (B, I liked this show overall, but it took me a few episodes to get into it, and I found some of the Ice Truck Killer arc to be predictable and too long. I would have preferred two smaller arcs within the season). Sid and Nancy (C-, just didn’t hold up, couldn’t get interested, and the Sex Pistols seem too long ago to be as relevant as they once felt). Awakenings (A-, Heather had never seen it, still a very moving film. Not surprisingly, she cried a lot, even though she knew how it would end). The Mists of Avalon (C+, TNT Network adaptation of the novel, and while it wasn’t terrible, it simply left out far too much of the best parts of the book. If I’d never read it, after watching this I wouldn’t have much of a desire to do so).
I’ve been meaning to add this section for a few issues, but I keep forgetting to organize it in advance. I’ve been spending more time writing than I used to, and the latest issue of Diplomacy World #100 has taken up additional hours because of all the old-timers I had to harass for contributions (and the larger size of the issue). So I haven’t been reading very much, and when I do read I find myself re-reading older books (or browsing through humor books like Onion anthologies while in the bathroom). Heather, on the other hand, reads quite a bit. So I wanted to include a few comments on each book she finishes, including an appropriately Heatheresque rating system (up to five pumpkins). Heather’s reading tastes are quite eclectic, from serious fiction to fun Young Adult supernatural stories to books on animal care and everything in between. So you never know what you’re going to find in here! Okay, enough introduction, on to the books she finished (or abandoned) in the past month…
Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead – I really liked this book. The main character is HOT, but the book doesn’t read too seriously, which is exactly the level I was looking for at the time. Georgiana works in a bookstore (in an attempt to be a but human), hangs out with demon friends, deals with the demon hierarchy…and preys on male victims to maintain her energy. Lots of fun! 3 ½ pumpkins.
The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster – Stories of dogs the author rescued. Some of the tales were endearing, but the writing style left a lot to be desired. Probably should have hired a ghost writer. 3 pumpkins.
The Cat Who Couldn’t See in the Dark by Howard Pawdee DVM and Valerie Moolman – On the other hand, Dr. Pawdee (a veterinarian) did collaborate with an author on this book, and it pays off. Not only were his unusual stories of cats he has treated in his practice very moving, but the book is written in such a way that the reader learns quite a bit about proper cat care along the way. 4 pumpkins.
Animal Hospital by Stephen Sawicki – This book was very informative, but I wish it spent more time on the animals and the individual cases, and less on the hospital and the people doing the work. 3 ½ pumpkins.
Extreme Encounters by Greg Emmanuel – A very interesting and rather disturbing book, detailing information on what very unpleasant experiences are like (such as being bitten by a shark, getting stuck in quicksand, or dying of thirst in the desert). They’re all written in the first person, so you feel the details quite clearly. The only thing which helped take the edge off is the realization that Heather isn’t likely to go vacationing in the Amazon or climbing a mountain any time soon. 4 pumpkins.
No Dogs in Heaven? by Robert T. Sharp, DVM – “Scenes from the life of a country veterinarian.” Good book, but too many stories about damn cows! 3 ½ pumpkins.
This is an occasional section where I can talk about movies I used to love as a child or young adult, but which have been generally forgotten since then. In some cases I will have located a copy and can discuss the plot and cast in more detail, but in others it’ll be simply what I remember about it (some of the movies aren’t available anymore, with VHS copies rare and expensive). In a few cases I might not even know the real name of the movie! I’d love to get more information on any of them, if you have it…or if you happen to remember the movies too, feel free to share some of your own memories…or suggestions for future features.
This issue, the feature is Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. This is one of those movies which te Kent children were initially attracted to because of the very odd title, as well as the fact that it was listed in TV Guide as “horror”; we were huge young fans of all horror movies, from the Universal classics to the Hammer films to anything else we could find. We’d get to watch a lot of them on Channel 7’s “The 4:30 Movie” each weekday afternoon, albeit in highly edited format. Others we’d stumble across on weekends…but the best, the strangest, the most offbeat, we’d discover only because one of us (usually me) would look through the TV Guide “This Week’s Movies” section for any late-night weekend horror gems. This was in the days before cable TV, so the movies section was short and very useful for our purposes.
CSPWDT was usually only on after midnight, which meant we’d have to force ourselves to stay awake or else set our clock radio alarms to get up on time. Often one of us would get up and sneak through the house waking up the other children. On a few occasions we’d screw up and miss the intended movie…or we’d all get up and one of us (or more) would sleep through the whole thing. Whoever was awake would attempt to ridicule them out of sleeping, but the usual half-assed response was “I’m not sleeping, I’m just resting my eyes.”
The plot is simple enough: a group of twenty-somethings (all members of an acting troupe) go to a desolate island where a forgotten graveyard lies, in an attempt to raise the dead with the help of an ancient text. Alan, the leader of the group, is egotistical and has led the ensemble there to play a practical joke on them. Inevitably, as you might expect, the joke goes awry and the dead rise from the graves anyway. There’s plenty of mild gore, creepy photography, and a few good laughs along the way.
I’m not sure what sets this film apart from other goofy monster movies, except it really *is* creepy. Plus the cast plays together well (they generally use their real first names for their character names), and you’d be surprised at the talent the film contained. “Alan” is Alan Ormsby, who also did the makeup and co-wrote the script. Later in his career, besides more ghoulish make-up, Alan would write the scripts to My Bodyguard, Porky’s II, and the 1982 version of Cat People. His wife at the time, Anya, also appears in CSPWDT. I was also surprised to learn than Ormsby created the toy “Hugo, Man of A Thousand Faces”… my brother Andy had one of those growing up, and later on Pee Wee Herman would use one to “hypnotize” people in his night-club act.
The other famous name involved with this film was the late director Bob Clark (listed on this film as Benjamin Clark). Clark has a long list of notable films as writer and/or director, including the Porky’s series and A Christmas Story. The whole cast seems to be a group of real-life friends, who would show up attached to each other’s projects years later (“Jeff” in CSPWDT, Jeff Gillen, plays Santa Claus in A Christmas Story…”You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”).
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is out of print, but should be readily available used on VHS and poor-quality DVD (simply a transfer of the VHS to DVD) for under $10. Check it out!
Jim Burgess: I really, really liked the "The Life of David Gale" but find that nearly everyone I've talked to about it either loved it or hated it. I did care about the characters and I was taken into the deeper meanings and sub-meanings in the movie. I also can see very well why other people did not take to it. A few parts were a bit too predictable, it surely wasn't a perfect movie by any means, but it was one of my top 10 movies of the year it came out (2004 or something like that)? Sorry if I was the one who got you to see it,
No, it wasn’t you…I bought it on DVD for Heather because it was a Kate Winslet movie she had never seen. Simple as that!
Andy York: The latest ES came today, a full year - on schedule and regular. I'd say you're fully back into the publishing business as a matter of course - not just as an irregular subzine. So, when does the resurgent "Whining Kent Pig Empire" start to expand??
Who knows? There isn’t much reason to branch out – just to keep working and writing…
I haven't seen any of the movies you went to. "Margot at the Wedding" lasted only four days before it was pulled from the arthouse. That's the quickest I've seen one come and go - usually they last a week. I guess a weak box-office coupled with the Christmas release of "The Savages" did it in.
I do plan on seeing "Sweeney Todd". And, "Rape of Europa" finally came for a week at the University art house (Dobie Theater). As it had such a short run, I ended up seeing it on the last night. Surprisingly, there were a couple dozen folks on a Thursday night with only one that appeared to be younger than me (the University was on break). I had a few historical minor nits and was a bit put off by the extremely slanted, "pro-American," presentation. However, for someone not knowledgeable about the situation, it made an excellent introduction.
I quite enjoyed Jamie's letter and your response in the LetterCol. I laughed out loud!
Diplomacy (Black Press): Graham Wilson, Brad Wilson, Chris Babcock, Melinda Holley, Alexander Levinson, Jeremie Lefrancois, needs just one more. Getting close, who wants to join in the fun?
Balkan Wars VI (Black Press): Signed up: Jack McHugh, Graham Wilson, Brad Wilson, Brendan Whyte, needs two more. Rules and map on request, or you can find them online within Paul Bolduc’s Boris the Spider site at: http://members.aol.com/prbolduc/boris/hrules/BW6.html
7X7 Gunboat Tournament (No Press): Four signed up, needs three more. I would publish the results without maps most likely, although I might email maps to the players. Anybody interested?
By Popular Demand
Credit goes to Ryk Downes, I believe, for inventing this game (although his original version had the GM supply the starting letter as well). The goal is to pick something that fits the category and will be the "most popular" answer. You score points based on the number of entries that match yours. For example, if the category is "Cats" and the responses were 7 for Persian, 3 for Calico and 1 for Siamese, everyone who said Persian would get 7 points, Calico 3 and the lone Siamese would score 1 point. The cumulative total over 10 rounds will determine the overall winner. Anyone may enter at any point, starting with an equivalent point total of the lowest cumulative score from the previous round. If a person misses a round, they'll receive the minimum score from the round added to their cumulative total. And, if you want to submit some commentary with your answers, feel free to. The game will consist of 10 rounds. A prize will be awarded to the winner.
Round 10 Categories
1. A flavor of potato chip (other than plain).
2. A wattage of light bulb.
3. Something besides maple syrup you put on a waffle.
4. A color of stained glass.
5. A type of cheese.
Cal White is the Winner! Cal will be contacted privately so he can choose what prize he wants. Now you can all start trying to harass him until he agrees to defend his crown and play in the next game.
Selected Comments By Category: Potato Chip – Andy York “BBW is not my favorite, and the chips I had today were plain. I usually choose between Black Pepper and Sea Salt at the sandwich shop with Jalapeno a distant third” Waffle - Chris Babcock – “My first thought was peanut butter... but I doubt many others married into the strangeness that I have. “ Color – Andy York “What color isn't a color of stained glass? I almost went with Rose (thinking of the Rose windows in various cathedrals), but thought it would be too limited” Cheese – Andy York “Swiss, Cheddar or American? I'll go with the first choice; but these should be the top three with Blue coming in fourth. What came to mind first was Edam, but that won't be popular”
Round 1 Categories – Deadline is February 27th, 2008
1. A fish other than a goldfish you might find in a fish tank.
2. A Greek God or Goddess.
3. Something you borrow from a neighbor.
4. A type of knot.
5. A television show for children.
By Popular Opinion
In this By Popular Demand variant invested by Allan Stagg, the questions are subjective, e.g. "Who is or was the best rock guitarist of all time?" The goal is to pick something that fits the category and will be the "most popular" answer. You score points based on the number of entries that match yours. For example, if the category is “What breed of cats are the friendliest?" and the responses were 7 for Persian, 3 for Calico and 1 for Siamese, everyone who said Persian would get 7 points, Calico 3 and the lone Siamese would score 1 point. The cumulative total over 10 rounds will determine the overall winner. Anyone may enter at any point, starting with an equivalent point total of the lowest cumulative score from the previous round. If a person misses a round, they'll receive the minimum score from the round added to their cumulative total. And, if you want to submit some commentary with your answers, feel free to; players are encouraged to submit press justifying their choices. The game will consist of 10 rounds. A prize will be awarded to the winner.
Round 4 Categories
1. Who was the least talented Marx Brother?
2. What is the best pet to have?
3. What is the worst country to live in?
4. What is the best way to have eggs prepared?
5. What is the best holiday?
Applause to Gina Teh who scored the maximum high score for the round with 35! Jamie and Andy are now tied for the lead, but with six more rounds to go it is anybody’s game.
Selected Comments By Category: Marx Brother – Joakim Spangberg “To me they all stunk equally as bad” Melinda Holley “Normally I'd say Karl but since technically he wasn't a 'brother' (I don't know! I never thought any of them were funny so I never watched them!)” Chris Babcock – “Who do you remember? Groucho and Harpo. Groucho did silly one liners. Harpo worked. “ Pet – Andy York “I expect that Cat will be neck and neck with Dog. Personally, I'd have to choose None” Chris Babcock – “Sorry, this is an opinoin I hold too strongly to meta-game. I own 20 zebra finch and a parakeet.” Country - Joakim Spangberg “Being away from family and friends would be dreadful, and as far as you can possibly get from Sweden would be New Zealand” Melinda Holley “Any country that doesn't provide at least two buff cabana boys! I say we need to invade 'em!” Andy York – “North Korea is a slam dunk. Of the larger, "major," nations I'd go with China - depending on where you live/what you do. There is extreme polarization between urban and rural, educated and uneducated, skilled and unskilled populations. Couple that with rampant pollution, ecological degradation, state censorship and repression it isn't a pleasant place to live at all” Chris Babcock – “Most of Africa is pretty poor, but Ethiopa is the poster child for the four horsemen of the apocalypse. “ Eggs – Melinda Holley “The best way to have eggs prepared is by the chickens themselves. I say let the experts do their thing! However, my personal belief is that the best way to prepare eggs is to hard fry them (no runny yellow stuff!) in bacon grease (nobody said anything about preparing them for a healthy lifestyle)” Andy York “Scrambled as it is the most versatile as you can add ingredients and variations at every stage (mix liquids/spices/herbs in raw egg, while cooking can add innumerable items from meats, cheeses, veggies, etc and at presentation can put on/in toast, for example, top with sauces or pair with sides like wilted spinach. Note that I'm keying on "prepared", as you only have a few options - scrambled, fried, poached, baked or boiled. I'm glad you didn't say "served" as there are countless ways to serve eggs” Chris Babcock – “I use to wait tables. Fried eggs are more common, but the fried egg vote is gong to be fragmented by sunny side up, over-easy etc. That reminds me of a time when an uncle of mine was about to make a course joke about how he liked his eggs like his women... before he got to his punch line, I interjected, "Hard boiled?"” Holiday – Joakim Spangberg “Easter. No fuss, no plans, no commitments.” Chris Babcock – “Yule - Those of you who don't know it's a Pagan holiday call it "Christmas". “
Round 5 Categories – Deadline is February 27, 2008
1. Worst Christmas-related movie ever.
2. Best flavor of jelly or jam.
3. Worst television show which lasted more than one season ever.
4. Worst airline.
5. Ugliest part of the human body.
Deadline For The Next Issue of Eternal Sunshine:
February 27th, 2008 – See You Then!