Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Ever since hearing that Toho’s classic kaiju Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah would feature in a sequel to Godzilla (2014)—a film I saw in theaters 3 times—I've been excited to see how studioADI and the rest of the production’s creature design team would update the characters. In July, the trailer offered glimpses of all three. I took screenshots of a few frames, traced them, matched their relative scaling to biometric data from Monarch Sciences, then did my best to infer the rest. That’s what you see above. Below are the main frames I worked from.

I did this project as an SVG file so that you can zoom in and see different details without losing resolution. Command + in the browser gives 5x magnification and downloading it lets you go further. The frame of the Russells encountering Mothra in her larval stage is 25 times smaller than Ghidorah spreading his wings, so resolution loss would've been severe and inevitable in any raster image format, but with an SVG it's no problem. Vector graphics are a highly modular and easily-modifiable medium once you get to know your way around them.

Although I intended this as an exercise in accurate attention to detail rather than personal creativity, there were certainly aspects where I had to wing it. E.g. I went with rainbow coloration rather than keeping it Toho-traditional for Mothra's wings here, but who knows what direction Legendary may take on that. It’ll be interesting to see what details I was off on once more of the film’s CGI work is completed and released!

Boomerang GIF of Madison hiding from Ghidorah
The trailer gives a fleeting close-up of Ghidorah's heads as he hunts Madison.
I used it as a reference for his scaly forehead ridges and the corners of his mouth.

I’ve been a lot of neat weird things for Halloween over the years, but going as King Ghidorah in 1992 in this costume that my mom made for me is undoubtedly among the best. While my arms became wings, so they couldn't serve as 2nd and 3rd heads, the suit did have two tails and beautiful ruby red eyes. The following Autumn my family moved to Japan for a year.


how to make ginger beer


I made a 5 gallon carboy full of ginger beer to bring to my friends' wedding on Vashon this Sunday!

My basic recipe:

  • 1 part ginger juice,

  • 1 part lemon juice,

  • 1 part sugar,

  • 9 parts carbonated water.


From left to right in this photo, you can see 5 lbs of ginger pulp draining, a jar of dryish ginger skin/fiber that naturally sloughed off upon my grating it (the good stuff made it though the grate), first-pass ginger juice, and the rest of the juice. [PROTIP: Freeze the ginger before you grate it, then wear a slim glove so your hand doesn't freeze while holding it. Grating frozen ginger creates a lovely pile of gingery snow dust. 5 lbs of ginger was much more than I needed to grate.] The little hexagonal jar you see in the middle of this picture is the juice that the ginger gave up on its own while sitting and dripping (notice the consistent opacity and slightly greener look!). But you won't extract anywhere near enough juice that way alone. Boil some water and steep the ginger pulp in it for a few hours, then pour that slurry over a seive and drain off more ginger juice/tea. Do that several times!


If you hate hand-grating things, or fear grating your hand, maybe use a blender / food processor? I gotta say, I didn't expect to get away from such a big grating job with such a tiny injury.


Here are the exact amounts I ended up using:

  • 9 cups ginger juice

  • 5 1/3 cups lemon juice

  • 7 cups sugar

  • 4 gallons carbonated water

As you can see, I used equal parts just as a starting point and adjusted quantities to taste to get the desired flavor balance. I borrowed my sister's Sodastream water carbonator to carbonate cold tap water. Planning to refresh the carbonation levels and flash chill it at the wedding by plopping in some chunks of dry ice (the solid state of carbon dioxide).

The flavor profile of this brew is much like locally produced Seattle fave, Rachel's Ginger Beer. Wouldn't it be lovely to have all the ginger beer you could drink? Yes, of course.


the room of rememoir

There was once a memoir of such length and of such effect upon its readers that all who read it wrote memoirs of having read it. In time, several of the very best of these rememoirs came to be regarded like gems, prismatic reflections of the original memoir's light, deconstructing and refocusing it into a rainbow of subtle shades that resonated with the shifting hues of contemporary experience. Nearly all of these celebrated rememoirs contained the full text of the original, occasionally reemphasizing select passages and then sprawling into the authors' meditative mediations on how it felt for them to be a reader of those words, and why.

Thus, what was once an already massive tome had been reborn through the rememoir process into such a demand upon effort and attention, they were no longer just books, but "the books"—commitments no reader would undertake lightly. The differences in literary style and in perspective among the handful of rememoirists that had attained wide popularity were schismatic, to the point that it was exceedingly rare to find a reader that would choose to dedicate the time of their lives to reading more than one of the rememoirs. This was particularly so because the division of attention necessary to achieve such breadth of readership was seen as a fool's ambition: redundant, greedy and ultimately a folly leading to shallowness, rather than the depth of specialism.

As with the now-eclipsed original memoir, the rememoirs inspired all those who read them to write memoirs of having read them. Only upon finishing the reading of a rememoir was a member of society truly considered to have left childhood; adulthood began with the ritual task of writing one's own memoir of having read the rememoir. Writing these was understood as a lifelong project and primarily for the benefit of the writer, with no expectation of publication. In fact (exceptional circumstances aside) it was generally regarded as presumptuous, indecent and lacking in humility to publicly expose excerpts of ones rerememoir. To share parts of ones ongoing rerememoir was an act of intimacy, a socially vulnerable activity, reserved only for private situations between consenting adults.

What was the nature of the seed that bore all this fruit? What was it about the original memoir that gripped the attention of so many and compelled just as many to remake it as their own? This is a matter of opinion, to be sure, but I myself am not without a theory.

That the original memoir took the author so long to write that it became in large part a memoir of its own writing is, of course, hardly controversial. Besides this fact being quite obvious from the text itself, it has been corroborated by several historical sources which verify that nearly the entire adult life of the author was in fact devoted to writing the memoir. Further, the real-world experiences that serve as the grains around which the authorial pearl took shape were not particularly uncommon, nor extraordinary, by any account. That the day-to-day world of the author's life is made retrospectively exotic, mythic even, to people of today by virtue of its antiquity, few would dispute. The memoir's constant cultural recycling has worn it smooth as a river rock and given it a patina of universality near impossible to see the original apart from. But recall, that in the eyes of the handful of dominant rememoirists who time and society have elected to perpetuate, the original memoir was far less temporally displaced and yet it still compelled them so, absent any aura.

The minority of those in society who treat the original author's remembrances from childhood (falling off the bridge into the river, building the pyramid of snow, emancipating the rabbits from the hutch, etc) as transcendental events—those who ritually stage mass reenactments of these events—are people dismissed as fetishists and heretics against the centuries of literary theory that have built up around the major rememoirs. In my opinion too, they utterly miss the point.

What the original author truly achieved with the memoir that became a memoir of it's own writing, and beyond, was the extinction of the human voice and the revelation of once-hidden doors. To use the classical analogy, when a record played into a room is recorded and played back into that room and recorded again, ad infinitum, then what eventually comes to the fore is the natural resonance of the space. That, plus the particular quirks of the recording medium. To wit: When everyone has a mic and talks about what it sounds like in the room where everyone has a mic—they start to talk about room tone.

It was through experiential feedback that the memoirist had discovered the very boundaries of the conscious mind. The dimensions of its space having become manifest, the memoirist then proceeded to amplify and hone the artifacts of linguistics into a squall capable of piercing the newly-apparent mental walls. This is the culmination and final significance of the original memoir. An opinion of course, but one in which I am certainly not alone. What lies beyond the room of rememoir is the grand project that the rememoirists and all of us now as a people have collectively dedicated ourselves toward discovering. It must be our mantle, as the original memoirist was not able to tell us, for it is an irredeemable truth that the original memoir ends mid-sentence.

What is to be made of the sudden break after a lifetime of writing is naturally the heart of original speculation in the dominant rememoirs and the crossroads at which their interpretations splinter apart. What we do have, albeit filtered though the ages and of an apocryphal translucence that warps any hard certainty, are the several witnesses' accounts to corroborate the scene: a door to the room in which the author had been writing in seclusion, having ordered no disturbance and locked from the inside, and then three days later when the door was finally forced down, there lay the memoir, in the room with no one inside.


top 10 scary movies of the 2000s

When a movie feels like it's trying to scare you just for the sake of scaring you, it becomes much less scary. As a genre, horror often fails due to this hollowness. Maybe genre itself is the problem and non-genre films tend to do better? Whatever the case, I find more truly frightening moments and moods in films that aren't necessarily Horror. Here's a list of my favorites from 2000-2009.
American Psycho (2000)
American Psycho (2000)
It was hard to see Batman without thinking "Bateman?" Christian Bale's defining role. A chilling satire of soulless mid-80's Wall St. yuppiedom and a troubled devil's advocate to Fight Club.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
If most horror movies are humans wearing monster masks, many Lynch movies have moments that feel like monsters wearing human masks. Mulholland Drive is Los Angeles' Heart of Darkness.
One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo (2002)
Robin Williams channels a rare, soft form of menace harking back to the Fair Folk, while director Mark Romanak (Never Let Me Go, NIN music videos) mines chemical photo-processing aesthetics for a tale of stalking and voyeurism that's even more at home in the age of social media.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
A gorgeous, terrifying and moving Korean fairy-tale horror masterpiece. Worth rewatching many times.
The Machinist (2004)
The Machinist (2004)
In a drowning industrial atmosphere comparable to Eraserhead, Bale shed 60 lbs to become Trevor Reznik (cf. Trent Reznor), a man whose life has slipped into a year of insomnia and waking nightmares.
Inland Empire
Inland Empire (2006)
Down the rabbit hole. Preyed upon in gothic Polish streets, a fragile identity becomes nearly lost to the roles demanded of it. The gnarled, harrowing and often terrifying spiritual journey of Nikki Grace.
Cloverfield (2008)
Cloverfield (2008)
The fun of a power outage lies in the interruption of normalcy. This is a fun kaiju movie about community and the strange pleasure of shared experience—even disastrous experience—in a fragmented age.
Let the Right One In (2008)
The best vampire film ever, by far. The American adaption Let Me In and the novel that preceded both by John Ajvide Lindqvist are also highly worthwhile.
Pontypool (2008)
Pontypool (2009)
In the dark AM hours of "the basement of the world" (a church/radio station), it dawns on the jockey and skeleton crew of staff that the English language is infected.
Triangle (2009)
Triangle (2009)
Melissa George on a deserted luxury liner upon which free will and second chances may be illusions. Groundhog Day meets The Shining.

The Pale King

November 6

February 8
Out with friends over dinner (after a George Saunders reading at Town Hall) my friend Jeff mentioned to me a different article by Wallace's friend and fellow author, Jonathan Franzen. After reading that too, I emerged with two convictions:

  1. I never again wanted to read anything by Franzen.

  2. I'd give Wallace a chance.

The other night
I finished reading the unfinished novel The Pale King and loved it. There's a lot going on. I'll just say a little.

Picture plate "The Seven Chairs" from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris van Allsburg.

This image relates to two things:

  1. An occurrence of levitation in §46 (my favorite chapter) that happens during a tête-à-tête in a dive bar in Peoria between an autotelic character named Shane Drinion and his beautiful coworker Meredith Rand.

  2. The nature of much of the novel which, like Harris Burdick, has a lot of scenes presented that can be taken as suggestive and evocative and self-contained, but which don't necessarily cohere with other chapters. Most do. Maybe.

§46 had kind of world-silencing home-movie quality… a feeling of walking away from your own gravestone perhaps. Here are obliquely-related pictures that, for me, aren't oblique:

("Megan" from issue 31 of graphic novel The Maxx)

("Shinji" from anime End of Evangelion)

And for good measure (what good is LJ still for, if not picture-embedded text), as a government employee with mystical methodology, FBI Agent Dale Cooper in the TV series Twin Peaks is relevant to the novel as a whole.

Rand relates a story to Drinion of how she met her husband, noting, "He was really good at being serious and making fun of himself at the same time—it's one reason I loved him." If you think you might love a text that's good at being serious and making fun of itself at the same time, consider this.

monkey loves chihuahua

(no subject)

Imagine a society where buying others gifts is the only way to spend money.

Before reading on, let yourself explore the ramifications. Instead of guiding a tour of possible implications, I’ll just offer several clarifications, to close potential loopholes and suggest the bounds of the system:

  1. While trust, reputation, and likelihood of future exchange might be at stake in failures to meet expectations of mutual or alternating exchange, no verbal or written reciprocity contracts could have recourse to legal enforcement, because conditional agreements as such would violate the definition of gift.
  2. The recipient of a gift of money could still only use that money to buy gifts for others.
  3. Likewise, gift cards could only be redeemed to buy gifts for others.
  4. Investment, including employees reinvesting income in their own company, would remain okay.

Now imagine further, that all gifts must be surprises—making or fulfilling explicit gift requests is taboo. Your reliance on those who care about you now extends to how well they know what you might like and with what thoughtfulness they foresee your practical needs.

In both its weaker and stronger versions this thought experiment certainly has a whimsical aspect, but does it not also invite some serious consideration? After all, studies (and firsthand experience) suggest that giving makes us more happy than either saving or spending on ourselves.

By its nature, an all-gift social contract would constitute a soft layer of voluntary behavior atop an existing market economy, that nevertheless carries potential for profound economic, social and moral impact. While a lone individual strictly abiding by all-gift spending logic without community support would obviously struggle, in a sustainably-sized network, the sense of interdependence and care would probably feel great.

Of course, gift-giving isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, but a continuum between two poles. Compare the all-gift meta-economy to its reverse: a prohibition of gifting and sharing, requiring that one must spend their money only on themself. Where between these extremes is our cultural norm?

Our attention and care are the intangible capital we pay to people, information and experiences we truly consider worthwhile (or necessary to rent our time with the worthwhile). How well does the economy of what truly matters to us match up with money? I’d argue that, as a society, the better we can make money function as a proxy for the intangibles that truly matter to us, the more value our floating currency coherently represents and the more it will work for us. If gifts of goods and services to others are a reasonable token of our care for them, then let’s start there.

Fresh Sugarcane Juice

In March, on a trip to Cambodia, an amazingly delicious beverage was revealed to me: sugarcane juice.

Mobile street carts would crank several long stalks through ridged steel towel-wringer-like presses, collecting the sweet liquid below. I enjoyed this drink immensely. So much so, that before flying out, I was already considering how I might continue to have fresh sugarcane juice back home in the states.

Even the most basic presses start at $300 and Seattle's supply of fresh stalks appeared questionable. Pressless, but pressing on, this morning I scoured the markets of the International District for a supplier…

Uwajimaya's was the only market selling "fresh" whole canes (most did not look all that fresh), of which I grabbed these couple ($2).

In absence of a press, I decided to take a shot at the dice, blend and strain method.

I also picked up some canned canes ($2) in the ID to supplement the experiment.

Just chewing on bits of the canned ones, there was an obvious flavor difference, but it didn't taste like a deal-breaker, so I blended them up too and mixed it all together.

Staring at the resultant pot of cellulose fluff for a while, I began to despair of extracting liquid. Eventually I got a strainer, picked up handfuls and just squeezed them really hard until sugary droplets dripped out. This was arduous, but I ended up with a nearly full glass.

Half a can left, I experimented with some other extraction techniques. The rolling pin: not that great.

Squeezing the canes in a vice turned out to work quite well! At least until, after juicing five canes, I knocked over the precarious collection pot and the sweet success spilled out on the garage floor. : (

Still, despite where the juice ended up, the vice got an encouraging amount of the juice out. I added the little that didn't spill to the rest and squeezed a slice of lime into it, a la mode of the streets of Kampot.

Pretty delicious? Oh yeah. Worth all that labor? …Not really.

When I checked out Viet Wah this morning, they didn't have any stalks for sale—but apparently they usually do. In fact, there's a sugar cane juicer cart sitting right there in the grocery! I plan to return when it's up and running and when they're selling whole stalks. And yet…

The price of a cup of sugar cane juice from Viet Wah? $4.
The price in Kampot? 25¢.