Monday, 15 May 2017

DMZ Book 9: M.I.A (#50-54) PART TWO

"Matty Roth, ex-press secretary, ex-journalist, ex-friend, ex-boyfriend, ex-kid from Long Island.  Ex-everything.  Ex-human being" - Matty Roth

Catch up time! In a noughties version of the USA a Second Civil War fought between the south-western Free States Army and the sitting U.S.Government came to a halt when mistakes made by U.S. soldiers during the occupation and battle for Manhattan caused the U.S government to negociate a ceasefire between them to the west and the FSA hanging round in New Jersey at the Lincoln Tunnel.  This ceasefire caused the Island of Manhattan to become a Demilitarised Zone and the people left trapped inside after a botched evacuation tried to carry on as best they could.  Reporter Matty Roth came to the DMZ by accident, but soon broke important stories about abuses going on in there. Then elections were held and helped along by a star struck Matty, the charismatic Parco Delgado was elected governor of Manhattan.  Almost immediately he bought a nuke which one group had hidden away, and when Matty annouced this to the world things turned bad fast.  Matty had jettisoned his journalistic ideals and was running a death squad.  Then Parco disappeared as the invaded to look for the nuke.  Matty was beaten up by soldiers and his attempts to have them killed went badly wrong as fourteen civilians were murdered by his goons instead.  Left alone, with not one person willing to take his calls, he wandered out onto the streets only to see a mushroom cloud billowing up from where the U.S. had bombed the defunct nuclear powerstation the nuke was being hidden in.  This volume "M.I.A" contains the one-shot "Notes From The Underground" and the four-parter "M.I.A".  Now although I said it was my policy to only split volumes when they exceeded seven chapters, "Notes From The Underground's" unique construction means It's the longest I spent on one issue, I wanted to include a visual sample from every short in it and wrap things up in a conclusion seperately from the "M.I.A" arc. Having done so in my previous post, let's enjoy the "M.I.A" (Missing In Action) arc and Matty's attempt to atone for what he's done.
Stewing in misery.
Matty lies on a sofa in an empty house as Liberty News reports on the aftermath of the nuclear explosion at India Point.  What's important to note is that they are going with the official story that Parco set the bomb off, and not the reality which is the U.S. nuked the plant themselves. Apparently winds have blown the cloud of fallout away from the DMZ and onto the mainland. The global reaction has been to rally round the USA and the news asks could the "worst terrorist attack in human history" be what finally ends the war.

Liberty News: "And for all the vaunted rhetoric of the 'Delgado Nation' as a peaceful people's movement, in the end it was little more than thug tactics and mass murder".

There is a hunt for Parco Delgado still on-going and a demand to the Free States that if he seeks sanctuary with them they must hand him over has been made.  His followers have mostly discarded their uniforms and melted back into the general populace. The U.N has convened in support of the U.S. and for them not to contain the FSA but defeat them utterly.

We then join Matty's thoughts as he limps round the flat, he found the radio which is pre-tuned permantly to Liberty News (dropped in the DMZ as propoganda implements) and after two weeks of living alone it's become his only link to the outside world. He's in upper Manhattan, a no-man's land within the DMZ.  He sees maybe a couple of people a day, the nuke scared all the animals away.

He then wanders around outside on the deserted streets, foraging for food in garbage bins or rubbish piled on the pavements.  He is sitting eating up on some stairs on the side of a building when he is startled by a man holding a sign saying "Change". Then the man blows up, leaving a big bloodstain on the path, and Matty falls off into a pile of debris. A chubby guy walks over to it, then two kids armed with assault rifles ask if that was his bomb?  Unable to keep his journalistic impulses in check Matty starts photographing what unfolds.  The man kills the two kids, then tearfully apologises and blows his own head off.
Crippled by guilt.
This causes Matty to flash back to the bodies of the fourteen civilians he had killed and holds his head in anguish.  Then he stamps on the camera. He mooches off thinking the worst thing about being on his own was "... the self pity.  I struggle with it every day".

Matty: "I didn't want to come here in the first place. I shouldn't have to put up with this shit.  I shouldn't have to live like this, like a fucking animal."

Then he sees something like he just saw and realises how close to oblivion everyone is, whether by shotgun or nuke and you can either "stop feeling sorry for yourself... or crawl deeper into self-pity".

There is some more from Liberty News, the yield from the nuke was "surprisngly" low.   Foreign news reports are running with the true story that the U.S. nuked the plant themselves and the military are insisting that it was "impossible" and have offered up documentation as proof. The aircraft deployed only had a "bunker buster" bomb.

Matty ruminates more on the fact that the wind keeping the fallout away from the DMZ is somehow "divine".  Apparently a cult is forming round this idea. Matty thinks about whether God did spare them, "the delusion is preferable to the reality" that it's just random chance.

Matty: "I know something about delusions.  Not the supernatural sort.   More along the lines  of 'the things we tell each other'.  Or that we tell ourselves.  Or what we lie about.  Or the facts we choose to ignore.  But where did that ever get me?  Or any of us."

As he rummages around piles of trash and rubble he suddenly comes a cross a crashed U.S. army helicopter, inside are the long dead bodies of the pilot and co-pilot.  Matty realises they probably come from the start of the war and have spent all this time forgotten, untouched and undetected.
A lonely tomb.
He sits and mulls things over, thinking maybe this tomb should stay undisturbed.  But he decides to take their dog-tags and returns to the house he's been staying in.  Sadly he thinks about how this past two weeks has taught him Manhattan is a dead city, "it's terminal.  It's on life-support that should have quit years ago".  He has come to believe everytime he witnesses something awful and walks away he's "killing it all over again".  He realises he's losing the fight, he can feel the weight of the dead city pressing down on him, "it can make it hard to breathe".  He sits on the floor and stares at the pair of dog-tags in his hand.

The next chapter begins with a montage of images of U.S. helicopters fighting with what's left of Parco's militia on the streets of the DMZ as Liberty News report some more on the current situation. The goverment has declared some places "Special Zones of Aggression".  This means anyone living in the areas are automatically unlawful combatants, "not recognised by any law of the land, and not afforded any protection, federal or international."  Civilans are urged to flee the areas and turn themselves over to the U.S. government.

Although there is still international speculation at just what happened at the power plant, the "moral authority" of the aggressive action being taken is not being debated.  According to Liberty News tha U.S. government "continues to enjoy a 90% 'Sympathy Rating'" according to a worldwide web poll.

Liberty News: "The longstanding premptive war policy, commonly called 'The Bush Doctorine', while not originally designed to apply domestically is now the law of the land. 'To defeat them in the purest military sense of the term.' is the soundbite on every pundit's lips these days".

Matty meanwhile is making a large red cross out of bricks and sits waiting.  Night falls and he returns to his current home and sketches a map of Manhattan on the wall.  He's decided to head for the 59th Street U.S. army checkpoint and surrender himself, while returning the dogtags, flightbook and location of the helicopter crash site.  
All from memory, impressive.
He draws the map of the streets he needs to navigate on his arm and sets off on his journey. Ducking and running from block to block, he is doing well until a man armed with a rifle and several dogs spots him.  The dogs chase him and he manages to lose them by running upstairs and leaping from building to building those this exposes him to the man who fires at him.  He hits Matty in his backpack, Matty manages to keep going before crashing down through several floors of rotten wood and landing in a pool of stagnant water.  The rain then starts and this causes the man to call off his dogs and the chase as it's probably toxic now, "just another variation of death from above" Matty thinks as he huddles under a slab of rock.

There is a breaking news report from Liberty News that Parco's escape vehicle has been found half-submerged in the Hudson River.  There is no body and the proximity of this car to the New Jersey shore where the FSA is stationed has meant the army has been authorised to bomb the FSA coastal defences, they gave them thirty minutes warning. 

We return to Matty slumped asleep on a mattress. He is woken up by several hooded figures pointing guns at him.  They know who he is and drag him out to a car saying he sold them a "pussy nuke" and force his mouth up and open to catch the water.  A woman in the car they are taking him to tell them to knock it off, they are friends of Parco.  "Welcome back to the Delgado Nation" she says.
Matty's recent past catches up with him.
Torture time for Matty again, as the Delgado Nation remnants try and beat Parco's location out of him despite his denials that he knows where he is. Matty ends up standing in front of a firing squad blindfold and is given a last cigarette.  Finally the woman says she believes him and to have Matty untied and brought up to talk with her because he is "the best shot we have of finding my brother".

Elsewhere in the DMZ, Radio FreeDMZ is making a broadcast. Airstrikes have destroyed her main power source and she is running the station off a portable solar generator.

Radio Free DMZ: "How long ago was it we were all talking about the DMZ as a sovereign nation?  Or, rather how short a time ago was all that?  And now how many more will be killed, paying for the mistakes of the few?"

She goes onto say word on the streets is all kind of conspiracy theories about what's been happening.  That it was a Trustwell nuke, that Parco never had one and this is a U.S. coalition-busting stunt, that Parco did have it and it was his plan all along, "no Free States rumours, people?  I'm shocked."  She tells them things could get worse, and when the sun sets tonight "Just pray it comes up again in the morning".

Back with Matty, and he cleans up his battered and bruised body, Parco's sister Rose calls him ino her room saying she wants to talked to him about Parco, "Tell... me... he isn't what people say he is... a terrorist and a mass murderer... is he?"  Matty turns and thinks "how could I possibly answer that?"

We see images of them speaking but we don't hear what they say, we hear Matty's thoughts instead.  At first he thinks "where she got off" treating him like she did and then expecting an answer.  But he realises that it's about family and not wanting to believe the worst of someone you love.

Matty: "And, truth be told, I loved the guy too.  I spent the first couple of years in the DMZ being moved around like a chesspiece, never quite living up to what people believed I was capable of becoming.   But Parco? He had me over for beers and never once made me feel less than the coolest guy in the room.  Next to him of course.  So what do I tell her?"

He finally delivers an anwer to her question as to whether Parco was a criminal, traitor and mass-muderer, "Rose... listen... of course he wasn't".
Parco's sister Rose.
He sees the relief in her face, after hearing the worst for so long, "she just wanted to hear something she could choose to believe".  They spend the next hour reminicsing about him until she crashes out.  But she makes one last request of him, "when you write the official record of this war Matty.  Just make sure when it comes to my brother... it's the truthful one."  He comes to the realisation that all the time he's been here, through all the stories and events he covered, he never stopped writing things down.

Matty: "Was this always supposed to be MY role?  Merely to bear witness?"

He leaves the Delgado Nation, the DMZ is undergoing heavy punitive airstrikes, with daytime sorties to clear the designated zones of "terrorists" and "illegal combatants". Then a quick warning from Radio Free DMZ, bombers are heading north "when will it end?  When will it be enough".

Matty is close by where the massive airstrike hits, and the place it hits is Central Park as he takes cover under a bench.  He crawls out and can only think "They killed Central Park".   Now the place kept safe by the Ghosts are all dead, "their park sanctuary was the perfect example of hope and selflessness in this shitty fucking city."  It must have come out that they cut the deal for the bomb with Parco. "They fucked up.  I fucked up. And whatever's waiting for me at the 59th Street bridge checkpoint. I'll deserve it" he thinks as he sits despairingly amongst the wreckage.
The Central Park dream in ruins.
Walking through the wreckage Matty comes across a very high on painkillers Soames. He says that is he sure they're alive, beacuse they appear to be in hell right now, "and Christ knows we both deserve it".  He says Parco sold him the park and he believed that it could happen.  "You get a dream in your head and then you do a bunch of stupid shit to get there", he says it's the story of this war and what is Matty's next move.

Matty turns down Soames offer of coming to his bunker and tell him he's turning himself in, "because I'm guilty". Soames points his rifle saying they're linked and he is concerned Matty might give him up.  He says he aims to survive the war.  Matty tells him to look around, they took them out, the perception is that the "terrorists" who sold Parco the nuke have been eliminated, "you and me don't matter that much when they got a war to win".

Matty: "Remember when you first saw me?  Not far from here, falling on my ass in the snow.  I couldn't even tell which way was what.  But back then, at least I had a sense of who I was and what the hell I was doing. If they shoot me for being a traitor, at least I'll have my answer".

And Soames watches him walk off through the dust and debris. He arrives at the checkpoint expecting the worse, but "whatever I was expecting... this wasn't it".  He is escorted in to headquarters as an "honoured guest".

As he travels he ruminates over how he gets to travel accross one of the most tightly policed borders in the world, even though he is "not special". He hands over the helicopter pilots dog-tags, then goes to make himself presentable, shaving of his beard of woe and getting clean clothes.  Then his dad arrives.
Back in the U.S.
Matty is pissed with him about the whole disowning thing, Mr. Roth apologises and says "I think in those days, we were both saying things for other people that perhaps we didn't mean.  Or were proven to be false". He says their words are now part of history and they'll have to live with them for the rest of their lives, "so where do we go from here?"

He tells Matty he was escorted through the checkpoint because of politics, he is offering Matty an amnesty.  Matty says he doesn't want an amnesty, "do you know what I did, dad? There's shit you don't know..." Mr. Roth says they know about Parco, the militant activity and trasporting the nuke.  Matty tells him about the death of the wedding party that happened because he was "out of control and i gave a sloppy order to someone I knew would carry it out."  His dad starts to say that no one is innocent but Matty yells "don't say it! They were civilians!"

He sits down and laments that he's sick of seeing people with guns, after everything he'd been through in the DMZ causing the death of civilians "completely invalidates the good I did".  He says he's lost everything right down to his soul, how does he come back from that? Does he want to come back asks his dad? Matty pauses then says he honestly believed he'd be chucked in Gitmo the second he returned.

His dad spells out what he can offer Matty, "I'm here on behalf of Liberty News and the goverment to convince you to return to work".  He'll get a full amnesty for past offences and contract breaches, "to do what?" demands Matty. His dad says this is where he gets honest:

Mr. Roth: "The United States has a lot of leeway militarily and politically, at the moment... but that leeway is conditional and the U.S. can no longer afford to 'go it alone'."

The U.N. has demanded observers be put in place at military command centres, to avoid that "an alternative was suggested... which was you." Matty is somewhat surprised at this turn of events.

He asks how he can be neutral attached to Liberty News and the government. He says they'll provide logistical support and first broadcast rights but they'll be limits on any editorial inteference and he'll be the eyes and ears on the ground, he is a freelancer, "your client is the international news media". The U.S. has a narrow window to apply force and probably win the war, and they are prepared to accept Matty looking over their shoulders, "to use a cliche... you are at least the devil you know".
Matty's dad starts laying out terms of a deal.
Matty tells him he has no information to give them about Parco.  His dad tells him they are looking forward not back here, there are ugly questions about Parco the U.S, is hoping will go away.  The facy he wasn't vetted, the rampant electoral fraud, the voter intimidation by Trustwell, as well as the origin of the nuke and the mysteries surrounding its detonation.  Matty won't need to testify on any of that.

Matty accepts the deal and the five years of backpay he's accumulated while living in the DMZ.  He has some terms of his own, when they are accepted he takes the deal.

Matty: "They accepted my terms and I took the job.  The only terms I felt I could live with.  The only way I could show my face in the DMZ again.  The only chance I had of regaining and sense of credibility.  My dad asked me if I wanted to come back from my 'fall'.  This is the only way".

A chopper takes him into the DMZ, they suspend operations for two hours so he can get settled.  He gets a call patched in from his mother.  She says his father called her and said he specifically turned down the amnesty part of the deal.  He tells her he was responsible for a "bunch of shit and I can't weasel out of it while calling others on it".

He goes on to say when it's all over he needs to go on the stand, but he need to be able to speak about it, "even if it indites me". His mum says it's hard because he is her only child, but also she is calling to let him know his friend "the one with the hair" called her last week telling her she went to his old flat and saved all his notes and is keeping them safe.

Matty is overjoyed, it was everything he wrote since first arriving in the DMZ. He thought they had been lost forever.  As the chopper lands in the DMZ his mum tells him to "be safe, okay?"  After disembarking, Matty stand watching the chopper leave then thinks to himself, "all right Matty... let's get it right this time".
The journalist reborn.
So a lot to unpack here.  How "fortunate" it was that Parco's abandoned car has given them an excuse to take provocative action against the Free States  with the support they wouldn't have had if they had broken the ceasefire otherwise.  We haven't heard much from the Free States about all this yet, but we'll hear plenty and soon too.  Of course this is all a back-drop to Matty's lowest point on the heroes journey.  Exiled to a place that's full of bleak and random violence, lonely and in emotional and physical pain all he can do is stew in self pity until the discovery of the helicopter gives him a mission.  Give himself up and report their deaths as a shot at a small piece of redemption after his guilt over the fourteen civilian deaths starts crippling him.  He gets tortured again by what's left of the Delgado Nation but he's been through that before and seems almost bored by what he's going through.  And forced to confront his feelings about Parco he finds he can't actually condemn the man still. The destruction of the Central Park community with Soames as the only survivor is of course an absolute tragedy but Soames notes they have both paid for their sins in their involvement with the bomb.  Finally Matty's return to the U.S. is not what either him or the reader was expecting.  Making a deal with his father to return as a journalist again on the condition set by Matty that when everything is over he be put on trial for the deaths he caused and all the bad stuff he was involved in shows that events have made Matty grow and learn to take responsibilty for his actions. The saving of his notes by Zee shows that after everything that happened between them, she still cares about him is another cause for hope for him and our emotional investment in him.  He is no longer the angry, embittered, alienated soldier, he is a journalist reborn.  So what's next?  Find out in a few days time...


  1. Gosh, so much to unpack as you say. My mind is already racing with some of the parallels to the Iraq and Afghanistan situations. So whilst I put those together I'll just lead with some inane ramblings.

    Matty's map making reminds me of when I moved to London. I bought an A to Z map and a highlighter. Over the next two years I made sure I walked down every street and alleyway on the map and coloured them in as I learned them. I could reproduce the map bit of you randomly dropped me anywhere in London I'd know where I was. I'm a nightmare watching films because it rankles me when the geography doesn't match up to reality. "You can't escape that way; it's a dead end!" etc. One of my party tricks was being able to draw the Tube map from memory though. Funnily enough I had another go a few months back for a bet. Could still do it. Well, the 'up until 2008' version anyway.

    The 'hand over Parco' is a bit like the Bin Laden thing after 9/11. I don't know if you're familiar with the background. AQ had set up shop in Afghanistan as guests of the Taliban. That was on the proviso though that they undertook no action in Western countries whilst they were there. On September 9th AQ assassinated the Taliban leader. Funnily enough Peter Bergen (the acknowledged Bin Laden expert) came into CNN's studios on 9/11 to discuss what the implications of that might be. Well, now we know of course. The U.S. demanded the Taliban hand UBL over (and accidentally acknowledged them as the legitimate government as discussed before). The new leader, who owed his position to AQ was reluctant to do so. But some of his subordinates said AQ had breached the terms of their hospitality by carrying out the attack. That's why the Taliban asked for proof from the US and simultaneously AQ made no claim of responsibility. Had they done so the Taliban would have had no option but to hand them over. So we went to war to try to get UBL.

    That's does seem to parallel the story here a bit. Can't help but think that's been an influence.

  2. Wow, could I have done any more typos in there?

    Should be 'couldn't draw a map' and Northern Alliance Leader not Taliban. For a less error strewn account see here:

  3. I've lived in a lot of place since I left home, but Bristol where I lived for two years is the place I know best, I didn't colour in roads I visited and I am hopeless with street names, but I could probably still navigate my way round the city nearly two decades later.

    As for the plot in this arc, does sound like Wood was influenced by what you've written about. 9/11 happened in this alternate history so the U.S. government knew that a huge terrorist incident would tip world opinion in their favour, so unlike 9/11 they were able to manufacture one of their own via Parco's nuke. Only difference this time would be that "India Point Truthers" would be in the right. Anyway it's an effective plot device for heading the war and series towards a definitive conclusion.

  4. Nuclear weapons can't melt steel!

    I like Bristol. Used to go there quite a bit for some lecturing. Also one of my old mates used to live in St Paul's. That was just before she headed out of the country one step ahead of an arrest warrant. Heh, she's somewhat concerned about Brexit as she's quite attached to Spain now. Did I ever tell you I was in court the day Ronnie Biggs came back? It was a bank holiday and they were hoping to keep things low profile. The gaolers tipped us off though so we hung around in the cells. It was so weird when the van came and he stepped out. He was like a skeleton and just drooling. At first we thought it might be a scam but let's just say he'd have passed an ATOS interview. A newspaper had paid for his legal team (in exchange for exclusive rights ). It was so funny, some too silk stood up about to launch into a big speech (gotta earn the brief fee I suppose) but the district judge just went "Is he Ronnie Biggs and does he accept he escaped from custody?"; "Well, yes..."; "OK, back to prison you go". Technically he could have been prosecuted for the escape, but it was pretty obvious any additional sentence would be superfluous.

    In other news I've just got a Facebook friend request from the world's scariest woman. She's called Avivit Cohen and she's a top Krav lass. Check her out on YouTube. I've accepted because I'm too scared not to. And also, next time we get an opportunity to discuss Wondy Woman remind me to bring up the latest controversy. There's a tie in with the new movie promoting protein bars for women. Weirdly though the brand is called 'Think thin'. So I can see why people are humming a bit. Ironically they seem to be just regular protein bars, and they're hardly associated with dieting. Don't know if you've ever tried one. They're frikkin horrible. Like if you made Mars Bars out of meatloaf. But it's interesting that something designed to make you bulk up needs that name for the women's market. I wholeheartedly approve of the general sentiment though for encouraging girls to see WW as a role model when it comes to fitness. No waif her.

  5. First YouTube hit has 'feminist' in the title, do guessing this is the one for you.

  6. I enjoyed the video, she's awesome! As for Bristol I lived in Easton which s apparently the most deprived non-London borough in all of Britain. It's mainly Bangladeshi, although when I moved there it was also the Red Light District. Took me a while to realise >_< Anyway used to cut through Saint Pauls quite a bit there was a huge Chinese supermarket there where I bought my Green Tea and rice noodles (I might never be able to drink Green Tea again now if I have to take these blasted blood thinners all my life, which is now on the table). And of course the Saint Pauls carnival every year was fantastic. Ah nostalgic for the place now.

    I haven't eaten protien bar but did accidentally drink a protein shake. When I pop into Manchester I usually buy a smoothie from the station, but recently they've started selling protein smoothies as well. I tried it and as I told my mum it was like drinking gloss paint but with a nastier aftertaste (I still drank it all, it was two quid dammit!) Does seem bizarre touting weight-loss as an effect. Muscle weighs more, I'm carry quite a lot of muscle, when I was at my most trim I had quite big shoulders and back muscles for a woman, I fit into size ten jeans, but weighed around ten and a half stone. I used to have nurses going um... well your weight says your obese, but umm you're not. When BMI became more of a thing that didn't happen so much.

  7. She is something isn't she. I would say she's mellowed a bit since that programme was filmed; but I'd be lying, she's still loopy. Very good Krav practitioner and teacher though. Her students though do seem very serious. Almost like eastern martial arts guys. That's unusual in Krav. It's generally a more laid back less formal bunch. I'll have to find you something by Avital Zeisler (or you could Google). She's another great teacher, but a bit more 'civilian'. Aimed more at the woman n the street. Her system is called Sotiera Method. That's some goddess of female protection. Still just Krav though, just weighted more towards threats to women.

    Argh, no green tea! You poor thing. I hope that does get sorted. Yup, protein shakes are awful too. In my pre veggie days if I wanted protein I'd just eat a chicken. Now I do broccoli and the like. I still find it hard to see how they can have protein. But I can always look at one of the gazillion pictures of gorillas Becki sends me saying 'where do you think he gets his protein from?'. Dunno, McDonald's?

    BMI was designed for assessing populations rather than individuals. It's a reasonable indicator, but it does skew a bit if you have muscle. By volume muscle is three times heavier than fat. I can tell when I'm in shape by whether I sink or float. Sounds like you have a bit of a swimmer's frame. That's great. Perfect for swinging a sword around.

  8. This is Avital. And that initial stuff is *not* Krav. Cool though, and the next stuff is Krav.

  9. Unfortunately Green Tea is high in Vitamin K which makes the blood clot which is the opposite obviously of what I need. I'll have to wait a couple of months to be sure, but because my embolism was "unprovoked" it means I might have a tendency towards it happening again if I don't stay on the meds permanantly. Le sigh.

    I'm a fatso still right now, but my weight loss is going slowly but surely. Being a fellow veggie I get my protein from eating a can of broad beans a day, they are yummy.

  10. Green tea supposedly reduces testosterone too. Dunno if that's true though. I just love it because I've convinced myself it's a panacea. Basically "Japanese people smoke like chimneys. Japanese people don't get cancer. Ergo, must be the tea drinking."

    You say your embolism was unprovoked but I'd like to hear the embolism's side of things. Seriously though that's a bugger. I hope they can confirm it was just one of those luck of the draw things so you're not actually at any more risk than anyone else. After I got bitten by that snake I asked the doctor "So am I immune to snakebites now"

    "Oh God no, if you get bitten again it'll be really bad"

    Boo, old films lied to me.

    I'm not quite Adonis at the moment. I told you about how I was body shamed by the Hollywood elite. But we'll both get there. We'll be looking like comic book covers by summer. I'm already practicing dislocating my spine in anticipation.

  11. Heh, I've been on a J-Horror kick recently and bloody hell yes they do smoke like chimneys. I was watching one last night called "Cure" about an evil amnesiac who uses a cigarette lighter flame to hypnotise people into murdering someone. So I was practically coughing in sympathy by the end of it.

    The embolism just crept up on me guv'nor! I was innocent! Unprovoked basically means it definitely wasn't a DVT and the scans revealed nothing wrong inside me like a cancer which could have caused it, so that's at least good to know. I have a date with the echo-cardiogram in June to check my heart is the right shape again, so I'll probably find out for sure then.

    I am definitely nowhere near close to being an Escher girl myself either, but I am hoping once I get the all clear on my heart I can start doing some gentle biking again. That should help.

  12. Ooh I'm trying to think of something now. It's to do with the origin of the classic 'heart' shape. Real hearts don't look like that obvs, but if I recall correctly (not guaranteed) it started out as some other romantic/erotic symbol and then sort of got appropriated. Ah well, so long as yours is fine, who cares?

    I suspect Japanese people smoke so much because it's healthier than breathing in the Tokyo air. Funny that they'll wear those facemasks, but then have a fag sticking out the side.

    I'm living proof that the cliché about never forgetting how to ride a bike is a bit of a myth. I was really surprised how tricky it was when I tried one a while back. It was OK once I got going but rather wobbly at the start. I am now semi getting obsessed with the fitness again though. Just wish there was a more regular Krav outlet. Ironically you don't get as good a workout teaching cos you have to supervise all the time. But I'll just have to stick with the HIIT Tabata. It'd pretty horrible but what's weird is if I've watched something inspirational, like an appropriate film, then that really motivates me. I'll have to stick a Johnny Weismuller flick on, he's pretty much my role model.

  13. Honestly I cycled for years and I fell off/crashed so many times maybe I didn't know how to ride properly. Blame on my wandering mind.

    My heart should be back to normal because it's not having stress put on it by my lungs now. I hope anyway.

    Jeez last night I watched a J-horror called Noroi (The Curse) and scared myself silly, It's still freaking me out today. Worth checking out if you like horror.

  14. The first time I ever bought a round in a pub was on a school cycling trip. I was 14 and it was the teacher who gave me the money. Happy days. Especially as I bought 8 pints with a fiver. But it's probably around then I decided beer was better than bikes. One of my friends is into cycling. She's got one of those bikes that weighs less than a Rizla+ paper. I often get phone calls asking me to pick her and her friends up when they've got too hammered to continue.

    Glad to hear the ticker is getting better. We can then encourage each other. Jess posted some pic of her looking all fit in the forest. I made some joke about me only leaning against trees when I was knackered and smoking a roll-up. Her partner Mike responded with his American enthusiasm "Hey Al, you can do it. Even broken crayons can color. Etc." He's so sweet; but I almost bought a packet of crisps on principle.

    Horror is a weird genre for me. I have a nostalgic fondness for the old Hammer films. And I like let the right one in. But I'm not sure I've really watched the newer stuff. Do zombie films count? Don't have much interest in your standard 'last girl' or torture porn fayre. Nothing against that, just does nothing for me. Funnily enough though I was thinking a bit about horror. Had to hit the opiates for another injury and had some great dreams, including a couple of scenes that might work in a film. Amazing how vivid those dreams are. I had one once that featured like a written narrative in the style of a particular author. Aren't brains amazing? I can definitely believe Colderidge wrote Kubla Khan whilst tripping.

  15. I'm a massive horror nerd of pretty much everything since the 80's both western and eastern. Got rought 150 on dvd, more sat on my HDD. There isn't a genre I haven't found some merit in (I generally don't like most torture porn but actually will defend to the derp the Saw films as being much more well crafted and interesting as they are generally given credit for).

    I've been on a kick of only watching stuff released in the 21st century recently and have unearthed some real gems, "Absentia" would probably be the finest, but I really dig a film called "Pontypool" (not set in Wales, but a Canadian town of the same name). It is a zombie film but with a genius twist on how the contagion spreads, so if you like those films well worth seeking out.

    Ordinary opiates don't make me dream, but when I change my fentynl patch I usually nap for a couple of hours and have ridiculous epic and often lucid dreams, so I too understand why poets and writers were taking morphine and laudanum all the time.

  16. Hopefully when we get to meet up you can pick out some horror flicks and educate me. I do like being introduced to new stuff. Like my Manc mate Julia. She showed me Black Mirror and I loved that (Broadchurch, not so much). Plus it's always more fun with someone who's into something cos you pick up on their enthusiasm. Also you can explain the bits to me I can't follow "Who's he? Why's he a puppet? Is that a beartrap?" etc)

    I've heard the Saw films are a cut above a lot of that market, and that they all tie up and intersect in a clever way.

    I have been trying to think of any modern horror films I've seen. I like those REC films. I see them a bit more as thrillers. It's possibly a testament to them that you just take the supernatural elements for granted and watch for how the characters deal with them. Thinking about it, the horror films I do like are really genre films with a horror element. So Dog Soldiers is just Zulu with Werewolves. Alien is (cliché alert) a haunted house in space. Jacobs Ladder is a noir detective story. I like Evil Dead though. Mind you, that’s arguably a comedy.

    Some people on Mammoth raved about Pontypool. I looked it up. Do quite fancy seeing it. Notwithstanding the daft name.

    My favourite film of all time is The Wicker Man. That's often called a horror film. I'd disagree. There's a stronger argument it's a musical (has 13 songs in it!). But it is a flawless film though, whatever it is. To do my heretic thing though I actually prefer the 'one day' version. Don't know if you're familiar with the background? As originally filmed it was about 20 minutes longer and took place over 2 days. It was radically edited for distribution (it was shown as a double bill with Don't Look Now). The longer version was thought to be lost (the original film footage is buried under the M3). For fans it became like the holy grail. Christopher Lee made out it was brilliant as the long version. Well, finally the lost bits turned up. Albeit in pretty grainy quality. I instantly bought that version. I was so excited. It's worth seeing BUT the edited version is so much better. The story is much tighter and it flows better. Executive meddling FTW eh?

  17. My mum's favourite film of all time is the Wicker Man. I once showed her a collection of highlights from the Nicholas Cage version and she practically groaned in agony. Mind you I know how she feels, Pulse got a shitty western remake that aggravated me so much I frisbeed the disc out of the window.

    I tend to find ghost stories the scariest, Ring, Dark Water, Pulse, Noroi etc, Japanese are big on ghosties and have a lot of mythos to draw them from. My favourite Ghibli film is called "Pom Poko" and involves a wonderful sequence where the Tanuki shape shift into the various Japanese ghosts and form a parade to try and scare the humans who are intruding on their habitat away. Lovely stuff.

    You're right about sometimes it not being for the best that a film is lengthened, I tend to prefer films that come in under two hours, if you can sustain the story longer (ie: The Godfather films), great. But usually stuff is cut for good reasons.

  18. The Wicker Man remake is worth it just for the commentary. Mind you theres quite a funny bit on the commentary of a later release of the original where they're discussing the upcoming remake. It's the first Edward Woodwood hears about it; but then finds out the others have all been asked to be involved. "What are you two on about?" "No. I have *not* been asked to be in it". He spends a considerable amount of the rest of the commentary trying to figure out why he hasn't been asked.

    I know they're not technically ghosts, but I do love the spirits in Spirited Away. And those little soot monsters. I wish I knew a bit more about Japanese supernatural culture. Im very drawn to those Shinto gates. Although that might be an aesthetic thing. But all the mythology and ghosty stuff does seem intriguing. Heh, soo I'll be eating Poky Sticks and ending every sentence with 'Desu'.

    Speaking of 'not ghosts' you seen either version of Solaris? They have an interesting take on that. The original is an amazing film. Continuing our theme, the remake isn't actually that bad. Although I'm not sure it was necessary. Cool soundtrack though. But the story generally is one of the best examples of portraying the alien as truly alien. And it's funny watching now in a post 'used future' cinematic universe just how influential it's been. Probably the first film thst features spacecraft that need a good tidy up.

    Of course it's not as filthy as the one in Dark Star. You seen that? Brilliant film. You probably know it was the forerunner to Alien. The alien is a bit cuter though. Although much more of a git. It's bad enough crawling around in ducts but at least Xenomorphs don't tickle you when you're hanging on at the top of a lift shafts.

  19. I don't want to turn you into a weeaboo! I've spent a long time research Japanese myth and legend same way I spent a lot of time on South Korean history and the way it changed practically overnight from a fascist dictatorship to one of the most liberal and westernised countries in Asia. Both are key to understanding the undercurrents in their modern cinema (by modern I mean in the past twenty years, gosh Ring is nearly twenty years old. Can have been so long since Sadako crawled out of the TV and into our hearts?). Anime too, Spirited Away is definitely another good 'un for seeing trad Japanese mythical beings.

    I haven't actually seen Solaris, considering I am always bigging up Kiyoshi Kurosawa for his slow and meditative works it's probably way up my street. Something to look out for anyway if I get onto a more sci-fi kick later.

    Dark Star is amazing and for some reason one of my sister Chloe's fave films. I watched it with her back when I was home from Uni and she was in her late teens and she laughed all the way through. She has it on dvd too. That monster is hilarious, an onery beach ball with claws and you're right, kind of an asshole too. Man I think I need to see it again.

  20. With my somewhat stereotypical British sensibilities I guess I'm more of a Teaboo. Japanese culture is pretty interesting though. And knowing a bit about it must help put media into context and add an extra layer of enjoyment. My main exposure was through that shop, Muji. A friend introduced me. She's quite tiny and apparently it's a good place for pants. But they also have cool minimalist living stuff. It's a great place for efficient storage things and household accessories generally. Perfect for kitting out a London flat. They did have a few pop culture things too. Mainly clockwork tin robots.

    Jesus, is the Ring that old! Another 'must get round to seeing that' thing that's now gone past two decades. It's like I had loads of opportunities to see the Ramones. But I'd always end up just staying in the pub next to the venue catching up with friends. "We'll catch em next time". Then of course they all died.

    There's an interesting Japanese bit in Solaris. A five minute scene of driving through Tokyo. Because of the contemplative nature of the film you keep wondering what it symbolises. Found out recently in some Kermode podcast it was just Tarkovsky was in Tokyo anyway and this way he could charge his trip to the film budget.

    You seen You only live twice? That's got an interesting take on Japan. Part revelation, part pretty racist stereotyping. But of course also has:

    "We have something to take care of that Bond-san"


    "Better. Ninjas!"

    Also, if you're a petrolhead, Kissy is driving quite the classic car. And it has those gyrojet guns in it.

    But yeah, check out Solaris if you get a chance. Makes 2001 seem like those 'Crank' films. Like slow motion footage of a glacier. Still brilliant though.

    And he may only be a beachball with rubber gloves, but it's amazing the depth of characterisation they get put of that alien. More personality than half of contemporary Hollywood. I did watch a few clips again today. It could so easily be an 'Alien' universe film. Dan O'Bannon didn't half recycle a lot of it. The crews even wear the same uniforms. And the consultations with the dead frozen captain are almost identical to the 'mother' scenes. Heck, theres even a countdown to the ship blowing up. And those dippy bird thingies.

  21. If anime has taught me anything if you live in Toyko and aren't massively wealthy you live in a flat the size of a shoebox. Seriously, watch the anime film Perfect Blue one day (superb adult drama that was way ahead of its time in depicting how the net would give men new ways to obsess and harass women) the lead character is a fairly successful pop star moving into a new career as an actress and the total size of her flat is smaller that my living room!

    Anyway, both the Japanese Ring and the US remake The Ring are worth a watch. Because if you watch them back-to-back you can a fascinating take on how a different culture interprets the same material.

    Now, just how many ninjas? Because we all know the more ninjas you have, the less effective they are!

  22. Oh lotsa ninjas. They don't do the mook chivalry bit. But it's pretty much an evenly numbered battle anyway. They do however forego their guns and get the katanas swinging. They make it look quite plausible though.

    I was lucky with my London flat cos it had quite a big living room with nice windows. And I have some tasteful friends so it looked pretty classy. It overlooked a street market. When they packed up they'd abandon what they hadn't sold. A few of us would go foraging for fruit and veg. There was a flower stall right outside. For a straight guy's place that flat was pretty floral. Elton John would have thought it was a bit much. If you've ever seen the video for Bittersweet Symphony that's my place with all the washing machines outside.

    I like comparing remakes. You know I prefer the US version of Oldboy. Generally though I'm not a fan. So often they lose what made the original worth copying in the first place. Got Hidden Fortress just to check the star wars stuff. Quite liked that. Gotta admit though SW is more entertaining. And I liked in the clash of the titans remake where they pick up the clockwork owl "Leave that". That owl was only added to the original to cash in on R2D2. But we've been ripping off Japan for ages. Look at magnificent seven. Of course the best version of that is battle beyond the stars. Then there's that Kimba/Lion King thing. But thanks to your education I can now ask, can anime complain about Disney ripping Japan off?

    You ever seen Tora Tora Tora? Great film. But what's interesting is US director and crew did the American bits and Japanese director and crew did the Japanese bits. Works so well. And makes me wonder, what's with the Japanese obsession with Battleships? Is it a nostalgia thing for WW2 or is their a weird national masochism or flirting with taboos? Like how much manga seems obsessed with atomic bombs? Hmm, leave that one to you Varalys-San, Desu.

  23. You got me in horror mode, so I'm watching Wyrmwood again. So funny. Love when a character literally blows someone's head off with a shotgun, and is then informed that *wasn't* a zombie.

    "Fuck...Is he alright?"

  24. Most modern anime sprang from Astroboy which was very much designed with Disney in mind. I think Disney's and the anime world's relationship is pretty good. Disney handle all the English dubs for the GHibli movies. Was pretty funny when they were negociating for it, the famously grumpy Hayao Miyazaki sent them a samurai sword with the note "NO CUTS". Hee, and AFAIK all Ghibli's western releases have remained intact.

    Japanese people like imagining apocalypses, happens in various animes and of course the Godzilla movies. I defintely think it's national trauma over being the only country to suffer an atomic bomb strike. Same way we get hung up on the Blitz and the Americans can't help picking the Vietnam scab. Akira remains my fave Japanese apocalypse film. I saw in at the Manchester Cornerhouse in 1990 with my best mate and just like that, I fell in love. Though I had to wait for the internet to really start exploring my interests further.

  25. I was thinking of Akira when I wrote that. Akira was my first exposure to anime too. We loved the artwork. Very Moebius. And I also found out about that time that it was from a manga that was about a gazillion episodes long.

    But I see you have a new post up. So I'll see you there!