This is an environment composed almost exclusively of words. They may be written, they may be spoken, and they might even be converted into images or code and thus need to be interpreted, but ultimately this is about words.

Some of the words I like, others I don’t. Some of the words may incite me to anger and despair, while others inspire and entertain. I have changed my mind based on words; I may have even changed minds with words of my own.

There are people who can wield words like a master painter his brush, or play words like a concert pianist her piano. The rest of us, we’re usually happy if we can write a post without someone pointing out spelling errors. Oh, and don’t get me started on punctuation and something or other dangling.

I have written words that have sparked a frenzy of feeding and I think wistfully of Amazonian rivers and small, busy fish with very sharp teeth. Other times, the words lay there on the page, not even a quiver of regret to mark their passing. (And one is never so glad, at times like these, to see the reverse chronology in action. I have been known, a time or two, to hasten the end of such words–a mercy killing, if you will.)

I’ve also had my words thrown in my face, slapped across my cheeks like a glove beckoning me to a duel. Sometimes I’ve picked up the sharpest of my words and have cried, “Have at ye!” Other times, though, I wander, confused, through the jumble of scratches on the page and think at it, “What did you do? What the hell did you do?”

My favorite words are the the ones we skip across the page like a rock across a pond; only exposing our selves when the word is in the air. Ha! Try reading these words through an aggregator.

I never tire of working with words. I never tire of reading others work with words. I do weary, though, of reading, “Oh, but I didn’t mean that…” when one is challenged, because its easier to orphan the words than acknowledge or stand by them.


It’s a raging squid!

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I watched the Japanese movie The Calamari Wrestler and it meets or exceeds all expectations when you consider the premise: wrestler dies and re-incarnates as a giant squid and goes on to challenge all comers in the ring.

There is no pretense about the creature–it is obviously a man in a squid suit, with eyes that move about (though they sometimes stick, which is a bit unnerving to see). He has his arms inserted into two of the tentacles and then waves them madly about. All emotional expression is managed with body movements, and the exaggerated nature of mannerisms typical in these types of movies works rather well.

Favorite quotes and scenes from the movie:

“I have no giant squid friends!”

The giant squid seated in zen meditation. The giant squid getting out of an elevator. The giant squid making love (what was all of that in the background?) The giant squid wrestling. The giant squid.

“Joint locks don’t work on an invertebrate. They’re too slippery.”

The giant squid has a wet dream, and it literally becomes a wet dream. Nothing like a sweaty squid.

The giant squid trying to be incognito by wearing sunglasses.

“You want me to date a giant squid? But he has been banned from wrestling–how could he support me?” (Not exact wording but close.)

The scene where the romantically rejected squid is dejectedly walking home, tentacles waving about, back-lit by the setting sun was a kicker. But not as much as watching the squid skip about with the woman of his dreams.

Is it a ‘good’ movie? Define ‘good’. From what Cinema Strikes Back writes:

Right up front, I have to say Calamari Wrestler is not a “good” movie. The budget is miniscule, the acting is broad, the plot meanders, and, obviously, the whole movie is completely ridiculous. However, none of that stops this from being a great piece of entertainment.

The writer went on to compliment the costumes of the creatures, and I agree: they weren’t real, but they were art (something lost in today’s hunt for ‘realism’ in fictional works.)

The Calamari Wrestler is both spoof and a commentary on the Japanese Professional Wrestling association, and from a wrestler featured in the movie and other scenes, must be as truthful and believable as our own American form of the sport. It is a silly movie, but played straight; increasing the entertainment value and the humor in my opinion.

However, there are some other aspects of the movie that seemed quite serious and I wondered how much of it reflects underlying Japanese perceptions and attitudes. For instance, Japanese professional wrestling is seen in the movie as the wind behind the wings of spirit (if I remember the term correctly) that gave heart to the Japanese when they were occupied by the US. No, the ‘hated’ US was the term used.

The movie also had, I thought, overtones of race and class differences–subtle, and not so subtle–such as the health of the giant squid being a measure of the ‘whiteness’ of its skin. I wish I was more familiar with Japanese culture and history because this movie is (for all its Saturday matinee cheesy monsters) subtly nuanced. I think the director targetted more than just Japanese professional wrestling with Calamari.

Do I recommend it? Yes! But only for those people who get to the end of this post and think to themselves, “I have to rent this!” If you do, don’t suspend belief with this movie; you’ll enjoy it so much more if you accept it completely at face value.


Diamonds are a monster’s best friend: Dogora

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The movie is Dogora or to give it its full Japanese name, Uchu Daikaijû Dogora (“Space Monster Dogora”). Made in 1964, it was created by the famed studio, Toho: the studio responsible for most of the creature feature flicks, including the more well known Godzilla.

Dogora is about a monster from space that, like many Toho monsters, gets its beginning from radioactivity released into the atmosphere. Rather than stomp about Tokyo, though, Dogora wrecks havoc from the air, sucking up bridges and trucks along with its favorite food: carbon.

Dogora gets most of its carbon from coal, but it also roams the earth robbing diamonds out of mines and jewelry stores. It is this “diamonds are a monsters best friend” aspect of Dogora that forms an odd secondary story that runs throughout the movie: about a gang of diamond thieves, and the authorities searching for them. The directory, Ishirô Honda, decided to combine two forms of movies for which he was famous, gangster and monster, into one and Dogora was the rather unique result.

When I was looking for information on Dogora, I found there are two versions of the movie. The first unedited Japanese version was actually meant to be a comedy (another genre Honda was known for); however, when an American version was made, many of the comic elements were deleted in order to focus more on the monster bits and fans said this ruined the movie. Which version did I see? Hard to say, as there were comical scenes in the version I saw, but not so many that I would classify the movie as ‘comedy’.

What I found interesting, though, is the differences in the movie between watching the English dubbed version and the original with English sub-titles.

In the English dubbed version, the voices of the characters were exaggerated and comical sounded, especially the so called Japanese diamond ‘G’ man. In the English subtitled version, though, this same actor had a strong, almost sinister sound, and it completely transformed his character. Returning to the English dubbed version, the only Caucasian, some form of investigator, had a deeper, sophisticated sounding voice; but in the subtitled version, his voice was higher, even slightly comical.

More, the words were changed between the versions, sometimes enough to alter the view of a particular scene. The only characters who seemed to be left alone in both was the heroine and her boss, the learned professor who belongs to an International Organization (organization of what is never said).

The monster is the same in both, though, and it is the monster that makes this a Saturday matinee movie. Unlike many Toho monsters, Dogora actually had an element of mystery and grace, as it’s tentacles extend gently and gracefully out of multi-color clouds. Even when it’s blown into bits, forming miniature bits of the monster that look like single cell amoebas, there’s an odd beauty to this creature. At least, there is when compared to Godzilla or Mothra.

Watching Dogora, I was reminded of another space creature: the tentacled creatures from the original pilot for Star Trek Next Generation.

I’m not sure why the director introduced the American Mark Jamison into the movie. I think that much of the explanation for his role was part of the comic element of the movie and eventually cut for the American version.

I did find it odd how all of the characters in the movie referred to him by his first name, Mark, rather than his last. Even when they didn’t know him, they used ‘Mark’; adding a level of familiarity that I don’t think was intended. It ended up sounding like everyone was a friend of Mark’s.

The diamond question is: did I like the movie. The answer is yes and no.

I liked the imagery of the creature, making it one of the more beautiful of the Toho monsters. I liked the period clothing, including those absurd pointy toed shoes. I appreciated the characters. I also liked one scene where the hero is seeing the heroine home and when she gentle teases him, he says in all seriousness, “Don’t make fun of me”.

I was fascinated how different the movie was between the English dubbed version and the subtitled one.What I didn’t like was knowing that I most likely only saw part of this movie. I wonder now how many foreign movies I’ve seen, that I’ve not really seen.

I also agree with another reviewer who thought that the two different plots made for a confusing story:

While watching this movie, you become aware that this should’ve been two movies. Veteran viewers of Toho style giant monster movies have seen this problem before. Toward the end of the movie, the two plot threads, monster story and crime story, become less dependent on each other. It takes several plot contrivances to keep these two stories together to the end. And since the cops and robbers subplot is more entertaining than the monster plot, the awkwardness of these contrivances become more pronounced.

I agreed, except that I thought in the very end, the twist to bring the two stories together was actually clever rather than contrived. Do I recommend this movie? Only if you can find the original, subtitled in English. And if you do, send me a copy.