Hotsy Totsy members: Juliet Clark - Ray Davis - Anselm Dovetonsils - Christina La Sala
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The Hotsy Totsy Club

1999-07-15. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting

Our Motto: "Nobody asked for your opinion, Walter. You're just a simple little farmboy and the rest of us are all sophisticated beatniks."

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Hawks's "catlike" is the exact adjective for John Wayne: lazy, single-minded, self-satisfied, graceful, violent, antisexual, and usually silent, except for a weird high yowl of protest that's almost always emitted as part of a mating ritual.

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Hi Mass: Hello; my name is the Body of Christ; I'll be your host tonight.

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Juliet Clark kindly forwarded this excerpt from Prof. Louis Jordan's recent report on economic conditions in the San Francisco Bay area:

The wrong folks made it in my town --
They finally got in;
And now I can't even muscle up enough money
To buy a shot of gin.
She queries readers: "Anyone for a seven-dollar martini?"

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Oh great (by way of Robot Wisdom). I just recently got over the appearance about five years ago of a "historical novel but it's really the truth, it's just that I don't want to be bothered with proving any of my ridiculous delusions" dedicated to the theory that Henry Adams killed his wife, Clover Hooper Adams, during her oh-so-convenient suicidal depression. And now there's another one, this time dedicated to the theory that Charlotte Brontë was a criminal mastermind who successfully poisoned Emily Brontë, Anne Brontë, and Branwell Brontë, only to be poisoned in turn by her new husband.

Probably because Charlotte Brontë revealed herself in her writing (unlike Emily Brontë) with a singularly honest viciousness (unlike Anne Brontë), she's often been targeted by simpleminded vulgarizers. In Hollywood's Devotion, Charlotte the flighty fluffy flirt (!) was contrasted unfavorably to the Sensible Sister, Emily (!), played sensibly well by Ida Lupino. In her group biography of the Brontë family, Juliet Barker almost managed to obscure the wonderful thoroughness of her research by the equally wonderful anti-Charlotte chip on her shoulder, going so far as to bury pro-Charlotte evidence in the footnotes.

Was Charlotte Brontë a nice person? She'd be the first to describe in exacting detail why she wasn't. On the other hand, it's hard to find any contemporary reactions worse than bemused acknowledgment that she was too hard on others and still harder on herself.

I don't know who makes a sillier murderer, Charlotte Brontë, whose most unlikable trait was her stranglehold on moral superiority, or husband Whatsisname, whose only noticeable humor was phlegm. I do know that the silliest aspect of the whole business is the BBC reporter's swallowing this Yorkshire pudding whole. Let it be a warning to all of us: self-knowledge is a dangerous thing, at least when combined with self-expression.

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Headlines for a New Society: Hackers due to release new computer bug to allow takeover of Microsoft computers

Sounds like the Microsoft press releases are getting more straightforward....

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It's easier to admit that there's a difference between boring and false than that there's a difference between interesting and true.

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I Know What You Did Thirty Summers Ago: Beth Rust contributes this critique of the spine-biting chiller Caltiki - il mostro immortale.

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For most people I know, depression is a habitual preoccupation, like water damage in Venice.

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If You're Going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Spear Foam Rubber in Your Ear: What matinee to see on a holiday weekend in this summer of inadequate sequels? I opted for IMAX, presenting Everest in a very tiny theater on a very large screen (though if it's really "eight stories tall," they must have mighty short stories in Japan).

I knew we were going to a commercial "documentary," and I'd braced myself for terrible music and terrible scripting. What was most interesting about the experience was the thorough inadequacy of my braces. The IMAX screen really is big. The IMAX projection really is detailed. The IMAX viewing experience really has that scary "I'm right there!" feeling. Which just means that the really really terrible music and scripting are impossible to ignore. It's like having a guy with a boombox and a cell phone sticking right beside you while you hike through Yellowstone.

Having paid for technology that reaches a new limit of realism, how dumb do you have to be to ignore the appeal of realistic treatment? How dumb do you have to be to treat your projects as if they were a Discovery Channel special on a airplane's video screen? How dumb do you have to be to ignore experienced cinéma verité directors (or Michael Snow, for that matter) who'd probably be willing to work for almost nothing just to get their hands on the equipment? Dumb enough to leave showtimes off your ten-minute-long phone message and hide them behind a graphics-only Web page.

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Even if my life can't be a poem, it'd be nice if it was spelled right.

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In production: Sexy thriller Wait Until Proximity, in which a nearsighted woman is trapped by thugs in her apartment.

. . . 1999-07-17

The Green Balloon: Prosperity is just around the corner, waiting to knock you out and take your wallet and keys.

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In production: Homer's Ulysses, with Homer as Leopold ("Hello. Why am I Mr. Boom?"), Marge as Molly, Bart as Buck, Lisa as Stephen ("Usurper."), and Maggie as Milly.

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Elements of Film Style: Any mission that involves blowing something up will succeed.

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Since I don't give a flying bleep about electronic noodling, MPEG-3 audio searches have left me alone and palely loitering. And if I can get something on a CD, I'd rather buy the CD. But here's why I love the format:

  1. alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.1950s, where it's always worth checking out any post by a German called "spade." Lots of much-too-rare-to-buy vinyl is squeezed over the transom here, including such recent grabs as "I'm in Love with Elvis Presley" and Bob & Earl's R&B dance hit, "The Sissy" ("Put one hand on your face / The other on your hip"). Not to leave out alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.1960s's contribution of "See Emily Play" and alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.1970s's of my favorite Lou Reed album, Take No Prisoners.
  2. Preservation of cassette-only gems. I've lost so much to tape crises over the decades. The Mumps' 1976 single, "Muscle Men"... Graham Parker live on the radio and actually good... the Lou Reed album mentioned above. Now I can make non-degrading easily-backed-up copies of the absolutely essential and otherwise unavailable.
  3. A larger group of listeners can help out with Name That Tune.
    You see, back in 1980 or so, Philadelphia had an excellent oldies station -- shortlived of course, since oldies stations in those benighted times were unable to play the Eagles and James Taylor nonstop. Among the pearls strewn before me were two songs that I've asked about at every record store I've entered since: "Billy Goat" (artist unknown) and "Everybody Got Trouble" (artist unknown). Whenever I listen to the latter, I picture a line of R. Crumb style big-foot-shufflin' bulbous-finger-twirlin' morons dancing merrily off a cliff. Whenever I listen to the former, I picture pretty much the same thing you'll picture. Who? Where? And how can I buy them?

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Things that scare me, a very special episode: Edina of "Absolutely Fabulous," dry-eyed and grimacing, forcing herself to hug her sobbing daughter while mechanically complaining, "Squish squish. Oh, squish squish. Sweety, you know mummie can't do that squish squish...."

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Things that don't scare me, a very special episode: Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs. As Hotsy-Totsyite Juliet Clark commented while watching the inexplicably controversial season finale of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "I can picture the Mayor guy ruling the world. I can't picture a computer-generated lizard ruling the world."

. . . 1999-07-22

Overheard at Haight and Fillmore, 3 AM: "I didn't call you a geek!" Stomp, stomp, crash, stomp. "I called you a Greek!"

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After a week of gout, Cholly's in the worst of moods -- which makes it the best of times for punditry.

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Our Motto, courtesy of Christina La Sala, and temporarily on hiatus: If you can't say something nice, say something formal.

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Elements of Film Style: Film noir

"Film noir" (French for "blaxploitation"; ignoring Robert Osborne's example, the French pronounce the final "r") refers to 1940s and 1950s movies that, like the mudskipper and former Netscape executives, adapted to environmental pressures in a most peculiar way.

Postulates: a) Many cheap movies had to be made. b) According to the Production Code, any action too emotionally complex for Margaret O'Brien to handle before breakfast had to be punished.

  1. If Cheap, then No Spectacle.
  2. If Many, then Low Interference from Executives.
  3. If Low Interference from Executives, then Interesting.
  4. If Interesting and No Spectacle, then Emotionally-Complex Action.
  5. If Emotionally-Complex Action, then Punishment.
  6. Therefore Punishment is Inevitable.
  7. If Inevitable, then Fate.
  8. If Punishment and Interesting, then Sadism.
  9. Therefore, Sadistic Fate, or Film Noir. Q.E.D.
Happily, Sadistic Fate also happened to be of special interest to artsy filmmakers who found themselves trapped in Hollywood.

A few years before it was named, film noir died at the hands of TV, which, aside from the rare throwback like "Green Acres," was blocked from the Sadistic Fate route by sponsor qualms and the demands of series-plotting.

In contrast, the contemporary genre sometimes called "film noir" derives from the need to show recognizably female breasts while avoiding recognizably human characters.

. . . 1999-07-26

For the last couple of summers, it's been Halloween. Now it's gators, sharks, and the Maryland Chainsaw Massacre. When is Hollywood going to do a truly scary retread? Lepus Gargantuas

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I've heard intelligence defined as the ability to extract simple patterns from existing tangles, which would make The Blair Witch Project the smartest new movie I've seen in ages. The Haxans took the moving hand-held POV shot that's been a standard horror technique since the 1970s and efficiently made it their only technique (and pretty much their plotline). They took ancient* quasi-sadistic directorial techniques and efficiently trimmed them to the basics: leave the cameras running and the actors in the dark while the rest of the crew hides in the woods and makes scary noises. Even their marketing was efficiently focused.

But formal experimentation doesn't always make a sturdy career foundation, and I look forward to the next Haxan movie with more trepidation than the next movie from the more conservative but definitely in-a-groove Anderson-Wilson team.

* "Method" my gouty foot. Springing unpleasantness on screen actors has been standard practice since the 1910s, at least. ( Although big-studio casts tended to get less warning and more days of discomfort.)

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Sometimes I feel a little blue about having so thoroughly avoided the possibility of serious money during these many years of involvement with the Web. But then I remember what Gertrude Stein wrote about dropping out of Johns Hopkins Medical School --

Her very close friend Marion Walker pleaded with her, she said, but Gertrude Gertrude remember the cause of women, and Gertrude Stein said, you don't know what it is to be bored.
-- and I realize that I didn't even have to betray the cause of women. All right!

Underreported fact: Gertrude Stein's gravestone misspells her birthplace.

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Remember: you can't spell "WELL" without "WELLBUTRIN".

OK, you can, but it would be very short.

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Worst ever misuse of the word "obtuse"? (by way of LemonYellow)

"I've never experienced anyone who had the level of sophistication of John Drewe," says Melanie Clore, director of the Impressionist and modern-art department at Sotheby's, which sold 14 of Myatt's forgeries. "He was phenomenal. You're not talking about obtuse pictures that came in with a dear old lady that have no history, and they've been sitting in an attic."
Toothsome. This required not only mistaking the word "obtuse" for "abstruse," but then going on to mistake the word "abstruse" for "obscure." Oddly appropriate, though, in the context....

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 1999 Ray Davis.