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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Hey all,

Hope the Christmas holiday was a good one. I have to say Christmas this year was fantastic. I got two great books, one about creating the comic book masterpiece The Watchmen (of which the film version is due next year) and a particularly fascinating book on the letters of correspondence of the late great Groucho Marx. Truthfully though, this was a very vinyl Christmas.

Still caught in the throws of our vinyl art toy obsession, my room mate, his girlfriend, and I truly chased after some really special work. It is a convenient bit that each of us have our own favorite creators, though there is a decent amount of overlap. Autumn is a huge fan of Kathy Olivas, Jason of a designer called Buff Monster, and myself with Tara McPhereson. So whenever these creators put out new work, we are invariably drawn to it. To be fair, we have been trying to cut extraneous collecting out for moneys sake, primarily sticking to collecting Dunnys, of which I have posted before on. These creators get a pass though, along with a select few others, that warrant our collecting.

I have to say I feel truly lucky in receiving 2 fantastic pieces by Tara. She created a limited edition run of two large format figures, one of a Chinese Gosho doll, and the other a variant paint of the comic character Hellboy, who had his own large scale version. I was really surprised to see these two items, of which I didn't even know where both in print until slightly before Christmas.

Jason had a very Buff Monster Christmas after getting a custom painted figure, as well as two 8 inch figures from the Dunny series, one by renowned artist Shepard Fairy and the other an early figure in the 8 in line by Insa, which has a cool little zip up hoodie.

All in all it was great Christmas to be a vinyl fan. Now its time to pinch the pennies again as the 3 inch Dunny line launches its new figures next month, all with a London theme. I posted some pics up top of the sweet figures we got.

End of Line.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Movie Review: Australia

Hey all!

I headed out on Christmas Eve to ensure that I got a chance to see Australia before it shipped out of theatres with the deluge of new holiday films the next day. To be truthful, I am a fan of director Baz Luhrman. I thought his version of Moulin Rouge! was fantastic, unlike any other film that was being made. It also helped bring about the return of the musical which I thought was overdue.

I had some concerns going into the film having read some of the previous reviews of the movie as well as learning about its extended 2 hours 45 minutes running time. Commercially it flopped not making back its money and many critics who had figured it to call for a few Oscar nods were now panning it. Still I knew that if I didn't see it by Christmas Eve, it would be gone, lost in a wave of other potentially good films.

Australia is set in 1939, several months prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the onset of World War 2. It is the story of Lady Sarah Ashley, played by Nicole Kidman, who decides that it is time for her to leave her posh life in England and head Down Under to bring home her wayward husband. Lord Ashley himself is working on the beef farm they own, called Faraway Downs, and is trying to make it the commercial success everyone believes it can be. Upon her arrival in Australia, she is greeted by a man named Drover, played by Hugh Jackman. Drover is a rough and tumble man of the Outback, who prides himself on being his own boss and specializes in driving cattle. On the promise of driving 1500 cattle to market by the ranch's foreman, Neil Fletcher (played by David Wenham, he agrees to escort Lady Ashley to Faraway Downs.

Unbeknown to either the Ashley's' or Drover, is that Fletcher is secretly in the employ of King Carney (Bryan Brown) who controls all the rest of the ranch's' in the area. In an effort to monopolize the market, Carney is skimming money and bulls away from Faraway Downs. Upon Lady Ashley's arrival to the ranch, she finds her husband has been murdered, allegedly by a local Aborigine named King George. Distraught, Lady Ashley believes selling the ranch to be her best option, until a local boy of mixed black and white heritage named Nullah (played by newcomer Brandon Walters) shows her the truth. That Fletcher is a liar and that Carney is stealing from her.

Striking a bargain with Drover, she decides to keep the ranch and help Drover drive the cattle to market and undercut King Carney at the bid for supplying the English Armies beef. Together with Nullah, they drive the herd in and along the way, begin to fall in love. Ashley becomes especially protective of Nullah, who being of mixed heritage is at danger of being sent off to a "camp" for half breeds, as was the practice of the time.

Drover and Ashley must fend off continued attacks by Carney and then Fletcher as the outbreak of World War 2 hits Australia, forcing them apart. When Nullah disappears, a rift forms between the two lovers. Ashley to her duty to the ranch and her perceived new family and Drover for his need to be unfettered. He also believes that Nullah should be allowed to go on a walkabout, a vision quest to find his own song, or story. Lady Ashley looks at him as the boy she must protect. When he does disappear, the two split.

As the war rages on, Drover eventually realizes what he wants and returns to find Lady Ashley and Nullah, only to find the Japanese have struck first.

Australia is a great epic film, the kind of films that are not made anymore. Two parts western, one part war film, and one part fairy tale romance, it reminded me of great films like Gone With the Wind or Ben Hur, or for a more modern example Titanic. Movies that are meant to be experienced. Luhrman draws on the classical elements of cinema, even using scenes and songs from The Wizard of Oz to remind us of the magic of film.

I thought the movie was great. The storyline has something for everyone. Unlike Luhrman's previous work, like Moulin Rouge! or Romeo + Juliet, he creates a movie that so female centric. Let me clarify that. Most guys don't like Moulin Rouge! because of the sentimentality or the singing, its simply not manly to watch it. With Australia he finds that common ground. Like in Gone With the Wind, you have action and war and real cowboy stuff, but underneath it there is a real story with emotion.

The cinematograpghy is simply fantastic. Epic scope and scale, brightly lit vistas in verdant color, the dichotomy of dress and look in Kidman as her porcelain look meets Jackman's rugged masculinity. Some of the Western shots looked right out of a John Ford movie, where the scenery is as much an element of the film as the actor or director is. The movie has that sense of magic that comes with all of Luhrman's works, the kind of magic you know that no other director has. Where they film something in such a way as to give even the most mundane thing life. Here he bridges that with the harsh and desolate life of the Outback, and in it creates a world of light and dark, and color. Beautiful.

The casting is spot on to. Kidman may have had the hardest part, in some instances she does come across as a bit cornball, but her manic energy and presence in the other scenes far out way those moments. Jackman provides the right blend of frustration and action. I like that Lurhman cast two actors well known for their ties with Australia, it added a bit of concrete realism in the world he created. I especially liked Brandon Walter as Nullah. He played the part extremely well as a boy caught between two worlds, blending fear and hope together so seamlessly. Especially for his first film! Finally David Wenham brings just the right amount of menace and Australian sleaze to his role as Fletcher, creating a character you genuinely despise.

While many may find fault with the running time, I was okay with it. It felt a bit like watching two movies though. The epic western introduction and then the World War 2 battle after that. It was bridged nicely by the fairy tale romance between the two though. Honestly after two days I can't find much fault with the film.

It just felt nice to see a modern film with such classic sentiment. To often modern cinema forgoes the classic appeal of well written, well made movies to churn out a new blockbuster. Though I like a big budget popcorn movie as much as anyone, its also nice to see that those kinds of budgets can go to making something special like Australia.

The beginning of this movie, the narrator (Nullah) informs us that he is going to tell us a story. For everyone has to find their life's story. He sets out to tell you a grand story, and he succeeds. Go see this film. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Baz Luhrman's Australia.

End of Line.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Time

Hey all,

Here is a Christmas poem that I finished up today before I headed off to work (yeah it sucks). I wanted to stay to a more conventional message for the holidays as I didn't really like the poem I did last year. I felt it came across as to corny, or schmaltzy, as I call it. Not real enough.

This poem definitely has some schmaltz, but I like the message a little better than last years. Oh well, I still don't think its my best work, or even really that good, but then again, I may be just to heard on myself because I really liked my last bit of Flash Fiction and I don't think this is quite the same caliber. Anyway I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Time

Its Christmas time today,

All the children are at play,

Snow fights in the yard,

And people reading Christmas cards.

Carolers sing from on the street,

All of them keeping to the beat.

Presents wrapped beneath the tree,

As the young look on their gifts with glee.

The tree is aglow with Christmas lights,

From reds and green to blues and whites.

And when you look upon the shining star,

Remember what guided wise men from afar.

Christmas is the day of His birth,

Not just one about gifts or worth.

Hold to it with all of those you love,

And give thanks to those who wait above.

For the most important gift you can receive,

Matters not in what faith you believe.

Health and hearth and one's family,

That's a message for which all can surely agree.

Giving thanks on this special holiday,

Is the meaning that Christmas should convey.

Merry Christmas!

End of Line.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Assorted Nuts!

Hey all!

A few quick notes. I made a slight posting error so actually my Movie Time: Rewind column is posted underneath my Wednesday installment of Flash Fiction. Though i skipped the chapter of Darkest Dawn this week, my intention is to be back on time next week and work willing, start getting them up on Sundays, though at the latest I will have it up in its usual spot.

Concerning this Christmas story I wrote, I can honestly say that I don't hate it after writing it. I think like anyone who creates something, they only see the flaws or the mistakes, all the things they could have changed and made better. As it stands after re reading it today, I am pretty happy with it. I simply sat down at the computer and just wrote it, without any preface or thought as to what kind of story I was going to write. I mean originally i was going to write more Darkest Dawn. Instead I just decided it was time to write a Christmas tale and I just cranked it out. I think it works on two levels pretty well, a surface level about a boy catching Santa, and a deeper level to adults who can see a story beneath it (or at least I hope they do!)

Oh there was also a really bad typograhical error in the story where at one point I reffered to the Dad and Mom in the same instance, it has been fixed after the read through today. Not sure how I missed that. Sorry about that.

My efforts tomorrow (and maybe later tonight) will be on a new Christmas poem for tomorrow, though I have had several unsuccessful attempts already. I should also have a movie review or two heading into the weekend. See you soon!

End of Line.

Flash Fiction: Catching Christmas

I can tell you one thing for sure. This was the year. Yep. This was the year I was gonna catch him! See, Dad had read me an old fairy tale (he was into that kinda stuff) that if you caught him in the act, he had to grant you one wish. Just one wish but it could be anything you wanted! Every year for the past WHOLE two years I had tried to catch him but he was a tricky old sucker. This year, I, Jimmy Prachett, was gonna catch Santa Claus.

This year I had a plan, a GOOD plan. I had been preparing for this since last year when I missed him and some how he had gotten around the security systems Dad had helped me set up. See, we lived in a house that had a fireplace in the basement, on account the house was a historical one or some such. There use to not have any heat down there in the winter time before we moved in so they had used fireplaces to keep warm. When Dad bought the house he had done some remodeling and had covered up the old fireplace on the main floor when he put in central heat. SO that put the tree upstairs by the big bay window so you could see it from the street and Santa's primary means of entrance (the fireplace) downstairs.

He had all kinds of tricks to get inside of houses though so I had worked up a plan. I covered the basement and watched the fireplace, while Dad kept a lookout on the tree. See, I figured that I would see him first and get the wish, or Dad would catch him coming through the window on his way to the tree and call me. See Dad was to old for his wish to be granted anyway, he had told me so himself. I had ran security traps all through the basement and around the front door. We had string and tin cans and EVERYTHING! There was no way he could get by us. Until Dad fell asleep and he snuck in that is. I guess its my fault. I mean Dad is OLD. He was like almost 30! He just can't stay up that late anymore. He's not as young as me.

This year there was gonna be no mistakes though. See, I love Dad, but he can't be relied on for a mission of this importance. I tried to let him down easy, telling him that I wanted to do this on my own. I think he was okay with it cause he smiled and told me so, but you never can tell with grown ups. This year the plan was full proof. I was a whole year older, I was Eight and a Half now you know. I was smarter to! Mrs. Miller, my teacher, said I had a fourth grade reading level already.

I knew now that whatever place I watched for him to come in, he'd go in another way. And if he had magic to get down a chimney, then he would have magic to figure out any traps I set. So the key was to catch him AT THE TREE. See, he HAD to go to the tree right? I mean where else would Santa leave presents? It was so simple, even a Seven year old could figure it out! So I would hide in the hall closet and leave the door cracked to keep an eye out. When he stopped to eat the milk and cookies me and Dad had left out (a cleverly baited trap Dad had said) I could spring out and catch him. No way could this not work right?

Finally, the night of Christmas eve came. Dad had warned me about me staying up all night, telling me all that stuff about Santa not coming to little boys houses who weren't in bed and that it could put me on the naughty list. I had checked before hand though, when Dad had taken me up to the mall to tell Santa what I wanted for Christmas. See, last year I had made another mistake when I had told him that I was gonna stay up and catch him in the act and get my wish. See, he was ready for me and knew that I was waiting for him. It was a mistake any Seven year old could make. This year, I was gonna be much sneakier.

See, when it was my turn in line, I grilled the guy on whether I was on the naughty or nice side of the list. He had said he was gonna check with my Dad, who said that I HAD been a very good boy at home AND in school. Santa had winked at me, telling me he just wanted to "Check the list twice." So now I knew that he was coming, and I didn't tell him I would be waiting. Pretty smart huh?

Dad had agreed in the end though, telling me that I WAS Eight and a Half now, and that a young man like me oughta be able to stay up if he wanted to. Good thing Dad has saw some reason. So he helped me set up the milk and cookies bait(soy milk cause Dad was lactose intolerant and he said Santa wouldn't mind) and I got into place. I had my flash light and my blanket to stay warm, and Dad had let me borrow the digital camera to take a picture of Santa when I caught him, though I had to promise not to break it. I settled into the closet and closed the door, leaving just enough of a crack to get a good view of the tree.

I gotta say that Dad had really did a good job on the tree this year. All lit up, waiting for Santa, it was only now that I was really looking at it, that I saw it. Lights of red and green and blue and all that tinsel. Oh, and the star on top. Dad had told me that it was the same star that Mom had used when she was a girl, and Grandpa before her. It was old, made of some kind of thin metal, but shone when the lights fell on it. The tree looked just like the one Mom had decorated when I was just a baby, back when I was only Five.

I was still looking at the star several hours later, rubbing my eyes to stay awake, when I heard a noise upstairs. The old house made all kinds of noise when people walked around, but each squeak and creak seemed louder when your alone in the dark in the middle of night. My heart jumped up into my throat as the steps drew closer and I heard them fall on the first step. I could hear the slight groan of the railing as they moved down the stairs. The blood was pounding in my ears and my throat was dry as I nervously gripped the flashlight. This was it!

Finally, I saw a ray of light as it rounded from the stairs and fell on the tree. There was a soft shuffling as I watched the light bob over the tree, Don't jump to soon Jimmy boy, too soon and you may not catch him in the act. The shuffling grew louder as the light turned away from the tree, it was then I heard him speak.

"Jimmy? Son? You still awake?"

Rats, it was just Dad. I opened the door quickly and flicked on the light and motioned him in, whispering, "Quick Dad!" Once inside, I told him how he could have ruined my chance at finding Santa! I mean what if he had come by and saw Dad creeping around and thought it was me? He have been scared off. Dad had assured me that it was okay, see he had been watching the news upstairs and they reported that Santa was just spotted up in Winston, and that was just an hour away! He had wanted to tip me off to be ready. He slipped me a mug of hot coco to keep me sharp, and told me that he wouldn't bother me anymore. he knew what I was doing was important!

I drank my coco and watched my Dad head back upstairs. I stayed at the crack of the door for what felt like hours, my eyes getting heavier every minute. I drank more of the coco, tasting the warm milk and chocolate powder, saving one marshmallow for the last drink. After I finished it, I slid the mug deeper into the closet, and snuggled up in the blanket. The last thing I remember was sitting at the door, peering out the crack.

Imagine my surprise when I felt my Dad shaking my shoulder. I had tried to tell him that he had promised not to check on me 'till morning, but he had opened the door wide and the sunlight was streaming in. IT WAS MORNING! I HAD FALLEN ASLEEP! I bolted from the tangle of blankets and sped to the living room. There the tree was, still alight. You could see a fresh blanket of snow outside through the big window, it had fallen pretty heavy last night. More importantly, you could see the pile of gifts under the tree. I had missed him.

I sat down on the couch, staring at the empty plate of cookies and the looking at the small ring of soy milk around the bottom of the cup. I can't believe I had missed him. Me, Eight an a Half years old, in the prime of my life, and I had fallen asleep on the job. Dad didn't have to ask me why I looked so sad. It was Christmas and Santa Claus had brought me tons of presents. My stocking was stuffed and I even saw that new bike I had wanted (with pegs for doing tricks!) with a big bow on it beside the tree. He already understood I think. I had wanted to catch him and get my wish. See, if I had caught Santa then I could have wished Mom back. That the accident had never happened and that we could be a whole family again. I missed Mom.

Dad put his arm around me on the couch and and handed me a a red envelope. It was tied with green ribbon and and great green bow. I looked at the name on it, my name, and it was written in gold lettering, sparkling with little golden flecks.

"This was left for you beside the cookies Son."

I tore open the letter, ripping the ribbon off with my fingers. I opened it an inside was a plain red card with gold and green foiled words on it. I cracked it open, looking at the fancy script (Cursive!) and read it. It said,

-To Jimmy,

I see you have not given up on your dreams of catching dear old Santa Claus in the act. Don't give up on those dreams my boy. I have never met a boy full of such wonder and promise, who offers me such challenge year after year. You were very close this year my young friend, very close. Perhaps next year you will get you wish. Don't give up hope young man. Christmas is time for dreams, don't give up on yours. Merry Christmas!

It was signed by Santa Claus! I had almost got him! Me, Eight and a Half year old Jimmy Prachett! I showed the letter to Dad who smiled, his eyes lighting up when he looked at me. He pulled me into a great hug, laughing and rustling my hair. The Dad congratulated me and swept me up, setting me down by my presents. You know what I thought, there IS always next year. Santa knew what I was capable of and I was gonna catch him. Why should I be sad, I had my Dad, a sweet new bike, and a load of other good stuff, though there probably WAS some clothes in there. Santa can't keep avoiding me forever you know. After all, imagine how smart I am gonna be next Christmas, I'll be Nine and a Half by then!

Merry Christmas!
End of Line.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Movie Time: Rewind: It's A Wonderful Life

Hey all,

It's Christmas Eve and I thought I better get this month's pick out now before it's to late. With the holidays I thought it appropriate to pick a film about Christmas and when you come to that subject in pre-1976 cinema, there really is only one film, Frank Capra's 1946 classic, It's a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

I tried very hard to think of a less obvious film for the holidays, but nothing really has the same scope or invoke the Christmas spirit quite like It's a Wonderful Life. Perhaps next year I will target one of the lesser classics, but for the first one you HAVE to go with this film.

It stars Stewart as George Bailey, a man who is at the end of his rope on Christmas Eve and is close to suicide. As the whole town prays for help for him, two angels heed these prayers and send George his guardian angel, Clarence, played by Henry Travers. They narrate George's life story in a series of flashbacks, accounting for his life until the fateful moment where George finds himself over that bridge.

We lean that George's dream was to travel the world and see all the great sights it has to offer. His dreams are cut short with the passing of his father and the need to stay home in the small town of Bedford Falls and run the Savings and Loan. His bank is the only establishment that isn't owned by the greedy and corrupt Mr. Potter, and as such is the only thing allowing many people to afford homes. He stays at home, with the agreement that his brother will come back after college and take over so he can pursue his own dreams. Life and financial hardships prevent George from ever achieving that dream.

Despite that his mother does introduce him to Mary, played by Donna Reed and they marry, staying in the town. Through the use of their own money, that George had been saving for travel, they help the people of Bedford Falls ride out the collapse of the Bank during the first day of the Great Depression and subsequently try to help people build affordable houses. George continues to help the community at his own expense, unable to serve during the war and staving off bribes from Mr. Potter. Even the brother that he had once saved during childhood is recognized as a war hero.

George's biggest problem starts on Christmas Eve, when his Uncle, who works at the Savings and Loan with him, loses an $8,000 deposit, when in truth it was actually taken by Mr. Potter. Liable for the money and with a bank examiner investigating his books, George desperately turns to Potter for help taking responsibility for losing the funds instead of his Uncle. potter, shocked by this admission and knowing the truth, calls the police, seeing an opportunity to dispose of the rival that has cost him so much over the years.

Seeing his life as a failure, George prepares to kill himself, only to find Clarence jumping before him. Diving in to save him, Clarence tells George that he is his guardian angel and that he wants to help him. George bitterly wishes he had never been born, so Clarence shows him what life would have been like if he hadn't. His wife a bitter spinster, the town, renamed to Potterville, filled with drinking halls and gambling establishments. His brother dead (because he wasn't there to save him_ and all the men that his brother had saved in the war dead. His uncle committed, and the housing community he had built gone, a graveyard for all the people he hadn't helped.

George, returning to the bridge in a panic, desperately pleads with Clarence to live again, finding that he truly had " a wonderful life."

This film is the epitome of both the Christmas spirit and of Capra. During the 1930's and 40's, Capra made many wonderful films, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Arsenic and Old Lace, and It Happened One Night. Capra was known for making feel good movies that appealed to the sentimentality of the masses, often times his films were called Capra-Corn, for his use of wholesome, unselfish messages. It's a Wonderful is all that, but Capra finds a way to make his movies appeal to the most basic elements of human nature. He never panders or offers a wink, its a general feeling of well being and the sense that life CAN offer something good if you want it.

Many times his characters are at their darkest just before they find the light, lonely, heartbroken, miserable, or a perceived failure, when they find that there is still good in the world and that one person CAN make a difference. You watch a Capra film to feel good not only about yourself, but about the world. To find that there is something bigger than yourself if you believe.

Capra worked with all of the Hollywood greats over the years, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Jean Arthur, and of course, Jimmy Stewart. Capra loved the everyman, the defining spirit of what it meant to be an American. That was why he has used Gary Cooper so much, and that was why Jimmy Stewart was also one of his favorite actors. Stewart was the embodiment of the everyman, from his work in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to this film, audiences responded to his humble on screen persona and aww-shucks mentality. Only he could give Bailey that sense of a guy trying to do the right thing for everyone, but also find the depths of desperation in his own struggles. yet by the end, you believe that he can find what he has been missing. What I really like about Stewart is that this was the first film he made after World War 2. to create such a memorable performance after not having acted in over 5 years 9outside of training and recruitment films) is amazing!

It's a Wonderful Life reminds me about all that is great around Christmas time. It is the one time of year where so many people put aside their personal problems and think about others. Its a time when you remember your family and a time for reminding yourself about all that is possible when people come together for a common purpose. That's what this movie is about and that is why it has become such a beloved classic over the last 60 years. It reminds us that we to have a "Wonderful Life."

This film is certainly required viewing every holiday season. 1946's It's a Wonderful Life, by Frank Capra starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Watch it and remember the true spirit of Christmas.

End of Line.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Movie Review: The Day The Earth Stood Still

Hey all,

Headed to the theatre this weekend to watch the Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolly film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. A remake of the much beloved sci-fi classic from 1951. Similar to the original, it stars Reeves as an alien name Klaatu who arrives on Earth with a fleet of ships. Klaatu takes human form, arriving to establish if humanity can be allowed to live, or if we are detrimental to the survival of Earth.

Upon landing he is captured by a team of scientists, lead by Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame, and Connolly. As they evaluate Reeves, the Secretary of Defense, played by Kathy Bates, tries to determine of Klaatu is a harbinger of war. Connolly tries to save Reeve's character after learning of Bates plan to "interrogate" the alien and proceeds to help Reeves in his quest to ascertain if we can survive as a species.

Overall, the themes of this movie follow to original version very closely. The threat of man's inhumanity to man and the scope that mankind is not the only living species on the planet. While the threats of the Cold War and nuclear holocaust are not the same as they were in the 1950's, the threat of pollution and conflict IS just as prevalent.

To be honest, I was not a huge fan of this film. Reeves is pretty much what you want in the form of an emotionless alien. A very static and dull lead hero figure in a film that is designed to be large in scope. Connolly, I think, is a fantastic actress who is under used in this film. An actress who can truly reveal a range of emotions, never really gets past the role of a scared mother. I just wanted something more.

The effects are not as good as expected. I did like that they stayed close to the Automaton look from the original film in terms of Reeves defense robot. It was a nice homage to anyone who remembered the first film. As a film that was marketed as a blockbuster though, I was a little underwhelmed by what we got. While everything was technically sound, there wasn't a moment where you went WOW, look at that. I just wanted more.

Overall the film failed to find me. I never got engaged to any of the characters or action. I never really felt like the characters where in danger or the outcome in question. Everything just came up that much short. If you're going to make a film where the fate of the world is in jeopardy, epic is the scale and the scope. This film just doesn't engage you on that level.

My recommendation is to wait for it on DVD. Despite stirring the juices to go back and watch the 1951 version again, I was not impressed with the overall product. It has been so long since I first watched the 1951 incarnation that I don't think I can really make valid comparison between the films. What I do remember from that version was how impressed I was that a science fiction film (a genre generally derided as low brow fare during the 50's and 60's) was tackling such a serious bit of subject matter. It was handling potent political and social topics of the day in such a way as to be entertaining while being thought provoking. This version never really gets into the whys and wherefores of how mankind is hurting the Earth, it just assumes the audience knows. I admit it is a fine line to cover that as a topic while not becoming preachy (the Shamalyan did in this summers The Happening) I still think some measure of effort must be pursued. This version is more interested in finding out IF man can change, not what we should change and in that I think is the important answer.

Now my room mate found the film to be good, not great so take that as you will. I may have just to high of an expectation in it, but I often find it is hard to outshine an original, even if its been a while since viewing it. I think that there will be better fare to choose from this holiday weekend, but The Day the Earth Stood Still would not be my first choice. Thanks for reading!

End of Line.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Word Ballon: Sky Doll

Hey all,

With this month's Word Balloon I thought it was time for a trip across the pond to look at a great foreign language book, specifically Soleil Book's Sky Doll, by Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa. Comics are truly a worldwide currency for art in all of its forms. There is a huge market for books in France and Italy, as well as the entire Manga phenomenon in Japan. What's great about books from other countries is the different types of works that get published.

As a long time reader of comics, I start to look for books that set themselves apart from the field. In America, Superheroes are the rule of the day and most of the books that publishers put out dominate the shelves. That's why I look for great publications from indie publishers or DC Comics Vertigo Imprint. They realize that while many American readers hold capes and cowls close to our hearts, a meal with only one course gets stale. That's what I look for in a book. Sure I want superheroes, but I also want something that challenges the norm.

Soleil is a publisher from France who specializes in publishing large scale works in graphic novel form. They are not so much concerned with publishing a monthly comic, but with creating works with high production values and grand ideas. While most of their better known work is aimed at an older audience rather than kids, they produce a variety of titles under their banner.

Sky Doll is by far their most famous publication. It is set in a science fiction based future world where religion and the effects of mass media rule the day. Two missionaries named Roy and Jahu have been dispatched to uproot a growing heretical religion from the governing religious body, led by a woman named Lodovica. Along the way they meet a Sky Doll, a life like android female who is designed to do whatever work the state mandates. The Sky Doll, named Noa, befriends the innocent and trusting Roy, who helps her escape her crooked master with the begrudging help of the distrustful Jahu.

As the missionaries arrive on the planet to stop this new growing religion, a change begins to happen, not only to Roy, but Noa, who may be more than just a simple Sky Doll. Behind all this is the ruling papacy, Lodovica, who we learn has taken over ruling with the death of her sister Agape. Lodovica is a ruler through the effects of playing the masses through the media, and is not as truly loved as her sister Agape. In the end, the effect of Noa begins to change the way people view the world.

Sky Doll is a book of lofty themes, the duality of the spiritual versus the physical. Especially in shining a light on the effect the media has in creating figures of worship. How the right path isn't always he easy path and the value of believing in yourself despite what the masses say.

The world that the creators have instructed is a cross between Rome and Star Wars, filled with fantastic creatures and planets, starships and galaxies. On the home world it resembles a future Rome, a mix of Baroque era architecture and imagry that somehow seemingly blends the fantastic with the old world. Somehow starships and alien life looks perfectly natural in a world that could be in our future.

The art itself is simply spectacular, a blend of smooth clean lines and vibrant colors, it may be visually the most visually impressive overall presentation to a book I have ever seen. I first "read" Sky Doll as an import from Soleil in a series of beautiful hardcovers. I say read because the book was an import and all the text was in the creators native Italian. It didn't matter that I couldn't read the words, because visually it was a masterful piece of story telling. I didn't need to know what they were saying, the story was in the pictures, whose vibrant hues seemed to leap off of the page.

Recently Marvel Comics, in conjunction with Soleil Books, have begun English language translations of some of Soleil's best titles, the first of which they produced was Sky Doll itself. I now got to read the story to go with the words I had been looking at all these years. While I think some of the impact IS lost in the ranslation, the visual cues are still as powerful as ever. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a visual treat and who is ready for a book that transcends standard superhero fare.

Sky Doll by Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa currently has three finished volumes, all of which are available in Marvel's recently collected graphic novel of all three chapters, or from Soleil in their single volume formats without translation. I have also read that a forth volume is currently in the works. I said before that comics are a worldwide currency, do both of us a favor and check out the exchange rate of this great series.

Oh, as a bonus, my good friend and roommate just finished a Sky Doll head shot of Noa on his blog, click the Idle Hands link and check out a glimpse of what your in for! I think he really captures the smooth essence and clean look that the series is known for.

End of Line.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Hey all,

Once again I must apologize for the gap in posting, though the last few nights have given me good pause. I volunteered my time at the local Ronald McDonald House to play Santa Clause.

It was really a fun and touching time being able to contribute there. The Ronald McDonalds Children's Charities (or RMCC from here on out) have several houses throughout the country, including two in Phoenix. They provide short and long term places for families to live who live in communities that are not accessible to good hospitals when thier children are sick. Many of the families are low income and RMCC really provided opportunities for housing that would be unaffordable for families struggling with medical bills in a far off city.

Once a week around Christmas, they take volunteers (though they have volunteer help all year) to help conduct Christmas activities. This includes warping gifts for needy and sick children and their families as well as house care and cooking services. I was drafted this year to play Santa. Its something that I do in the stores on a yearly basis for many of our restaurants, but decided this year that the kids would get a much bigger thrill out of it.

Tuesday was a gang buster day with over thirty kids in two hours, with their families. I posed for pictures and had them tell me what they wanted for Christmas. One girl just broke my heart though. She was so sick from having suffered through an extremely rough round of chemo that she couldn't join the others in the common room for food and presents. So I took her gifts to her room for a personal appearance. To see her face light up at seeing me was so heartwarming. It was what she said next that really broke my heart. When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, all she asked for was for it to be easier on her family. It was so touching and sweet I actually got a little teary.

Another kid came in who was part of a low income family and tried to give me his cookie. All the kids were given one Christmas cookie and he wanted Santa to have his only cookie. I of course told him to eat his cookie and have a Merry Christmas. But seeing someone with so little, and so young, maybe only 4 or 5, willing to share and give of himself was really special.

I am so glad I got to be a part of it. Though Wednesday was a bit slower, it was equally nice to be able to help out. It really reminded me of what the Holidays are all about. Giving.

Somethings are bigger than the sum of one person.

End of Line.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Flash Fiction: the Darkest Dawn

Chapter 20

Okay, so the situation is a real clusterfuck. Dad's side was at a serious disadvantage, with those Users channeling to break the place magic around my Father's house he was losing a huge part of his defense. These guys shouldn't have been able to even get close! Worse yet was the fact that they were blowing holes through the remaining shielding of the house, which was letting daylight in. Even ambient light affected Dark Walkers. I needed to shut down those fucking Users.

First things first. I reached into my harness and rifled through my ammo clips. I didn't have a whole helluva lot of weaponry dedicated to fighting Light Walkers. I mean let's face it, when I took this job there weren't any of the fuckers around. Still, I had a few tricks up my sleeve. I jammed in two loads of blessed silver slugs, rounds I had hung onto that had a helluva kickback. Blessed silver would work in a pinch, silver was a pure metal and hurt both sides equally. Technically the blessing should help as well, as it was blessed to pierce my enemies. Let's hope that I could wrangle up some measure of luck. I was gonna have to get Gear on some new equipment of I ever get through this.

Rounds in place I measured out my targets. Dad was engaged with the biggest member of the Greater Flight, though several others were in combat around the grand entrance. My target was the first User in the foyer. That meant crossing several streams of light. I knew what was gonna happen when I did that and while I knew it was gonna be unavoidable, that didn't mean it wasn't at all delayable.

Snapping my guns back in their holsters, I vaulted over the railing and into the entrance hall. I flared out my shields, surrounding myself in a bright Orange aura, fully recharged. While I did that I slipped my hands back into my harness and fished out two more grenades. I didn't keep a huge stock of explosives on me, usually a few holy water affairs and two of these. They were encased in a dark black metal with a sliding knob on the side. I pushed the knob all the way up and tossed the first one in the direction of my Father. In the same fluid motion I brought the other around and tossed it at the User. The grenades lobbed across the floor, bouncing until coming to a rest. There was 2 quick flickers of black light, then the room was plunged into darkness.

Darkness grenades were useful, if not expensive, little pieces of equipment. Contained within the metal globes was a darkness spell, designed to suck light from the ambient environment. The dial on the side would allow you to set how much was pulled and the farther you set it, the more powerful the spell, but the shorter the duration. I packed them for the instances where I was caught out to late as a last ditch effort to control my Daywalker form. Today, they would be more of a help in evening up this fight. I had cranked the dial all the way up, I was going to have to make these few minutes count.

The entire room was pitch black, but I could see just fine. my Second Sight lit up my first target like a Christmas tree and I headed that way, drawing out my guns in each hand. I felt the smooth black grips as I took aim. Before firing, I channeled my essence into the gun and the bullets, charging them with an Orange hue. Let's see this fucker chew on this shit.

I darted through the throng inside the entrance hall, snapping out with the butt of my guns if any of the Light Walkers got to close. I could feel my aura flush with energy, I guess that nap had paid off more than I thought. I drew up on the caster, my Second Sight picking up the swirling mesh of Black and Red shielding. I drew both barrels up, pointing directly at his face. The User was in such a thrall, he didn't even see me.

"Good mornin' mother fucker."

I emptied all 16 rounds into the bastard. Each round hit point blank, crackling with my Ethereal charge. The first few shots didn't show much damage, but by the time each barrel clicked over onto empty chambers, the shield flickered weakly and the stream of magic pouring through the User started puttering out. I jammed the empty guns home and slid free a silver knife. Concentrating all my energy into the blade, it quivered with power, surrounded by an almost neon orange. Then I plunged the knife into the User. I cracked the shield as the knife found flesh in his neck. He issued an almost inhuman roar as the psychic backlash threw me from the body. I was tossed by the Red=Black bolt of energy that had held the connection as my body crashed hard into one of the end tables that lay along the wall.

I had hit hard, the wind rushing from my lungs, but I pulled myself up from the cracked mess of splinters, one hand clutching the wall for support. I took a second, to survey the battle as I caught my breath. The grenades and death of the first User had worked as the one sided battle had begun to turn sides. Dad was still locked in battle with the Greater Flight Angel though, seemingly caught in a stalemate of magical and physical duals. The other User had to go down in order for Dad to get back his full power base. I needed to quit fucking being such a bitch and get out back out there. I shook free the last of the cobwebs and made my way to the front door. I could see the light filtering through the door, and the overall effect of the grenades wouldn't hold out much longer.

As I moved forward my Father caught my eye as I made my way to the front. I could see his face gritted in concentration, but he gave a tiny imperceptible nod. He knew what I was gonna do. I nodded back and turned away. With one hand I clicked free my harness, hearing the clatter fall or equipment fall to the floor. The other hand wrapped my lucky rosary around itself, preparing. Fuck I hate this part....the only good thought was that at least my coat was still in my room.

In between the doorway and the User outside lay several Lesser Flight members, a mixture of young angels and light beings, as well as a few conduits. Obviously meant to act as a buffer between the Dark Walkers inside and the User outside. As I stood at the edge of the darkness spell, I took a final deep breathe, then flung myself forward.

My body hit the light in an explosion of agony. Changing forms was never fun, but the Dark form I knew how to control. With this shit, well it just fucking hurt. My clothes seared from my body as my skin erupted in a liquid light. A churning vortex of molten light energy, sort of the yin to my Dark forms yang. I could feel the liquid light wings form on my back, spreading wide in a blurry trail of flame.
It took every morsel of concentrated thought to stay on my feet as I transformed. Even my screams let forth a flaming ray of pure light. I stumbled a few steps but I kept heading blindly forward, the brightness blinding me to just a field of white.

I had never really delved to the extend of this forms power, mostly cause I couldn't shut it off unless I lost conscious or I was returned into darkness. It was hard to control and harder still to learn the extent of what I could do without risking everyone around me. I finally fell to one knee, my hand burning a hole in the ground as I caught my balance. Concentrate you son of a bitch. FOCUS! People were depending on you. You can't fail them again. In fact I was done failing.

I forced my eyes open, searing my vision. I pushed past the pain and gradually my sight returned, going from blurry white shapes to blurry dark shapes. I could feel the heat my body was putting off, the brightness flooding the already fragile darkness that was in the house. I pulled at the tendrils of power around me, pulled hard forcing the energy inside. It felt as if I would explode, but I corked it up, a hot boiling mess that threatened to spill forth if I gave in. Slowly I stood, one step, then the next. My vision retuning to a kind of quasi-spectrum where I could finally make out the world around me, though every thing seemed to appear in darker tones that remembered.

I took another step, then another until bursting forth in a breakneck speed, the wings behind me seemed to pull at the air, speeding me faster, making me lighter, as I sprung to the open doorway. Planting each hand on either side of the doorway, I vaulted high out of the door, seeming to hover in mid air as I surveyed the exterior. I could see the second User inside of his shield, Black and Red energy pouring from the Heavens throughout the User's body. he was surrounded by several guards, most notably a two members of The Greater Flight and several Lesser Flight beings.

I thrust myself at the Lesser Flight first, streaking like a lighted missile from high as I crashed into the creatures. The energy that I had contained inside I now let go. It felt as if I exploded with the force of a small Sun, my body bursting forth in a globe of such Light and fire that it destroyed the smaller creatures. I futilely tried to claw the energy back inside, but it would not be contained. Cursing, I pushed up and instead walled the pain off in a corner of my mind. It was that or lay whimpering on the floor.

Pulling myself up the Greater Flight advanced on me, shields raised. I decided to beat him to the punch and streaked towards the first one in line, a blur of fire and light. I reached my arm back and threw a punch towards him. My fist hit his shield with a sizzling thud. He had blocked the punch, but not the effects. My molten skin poured over the shield and encompassed the Angel in a burning coat of liquid fire. I could feel his life force flow from himself and into me, almost like how my Dark form would drain anyone else. I tried futilely to release him, but I couldn't control the hunger.

The next Angel had targeted me in the meantime, jabbing his spear across his comrades body. I narrowly managed to force my head backwards and bring my free hand up to grab the hilt of the shaft. Jerking forward, I leveraged the spear to bring in the bearer closer, before my subconscious kicked in. Releasing a scream of pure light from my mouth, the scream burned through the Angel, until only a molten husk remained.

My form, satiated, had abated, and I stood up. Once again I pulled at the stray fabrics of power around me, willing my body to heed my commands. I shuffled forward approaching the User, still clad in his shields. I knew I was going to have to let lose with all I had. I just had to hope that I had enough left to pull it back together.

"Okay fucker. Your about to need some serious fucking SPF."

I focused, pulling at the light around me. Somehow I knew that the light in the air would follow my command, that I could use it. I forced the power inside, my face a mask of sweat and concentration. As I built the swirling mass of energy inside to a frenzy, I heard a voice rise behind me. A female voice.

"Alex Develin. I am afraid I cannot let you do what you are about to do."

I turned around to see a beautiful woman behind me. Long blond hair framed a cherub face, with a small nose and clear blue eyes, like mine. She had an athletic build, but appeared ever so soft. She was dressed in clean white robes and golden plates of armor. A shining golden spear in one hand, a similar shield in the other. It was her wings that caught my eye though. Huge flaming wings emitting a golden light. As I looked at her smooth skin, I realized it was also a liquid gold, though calm, not at all like the raging torrent that spiked through my body. It was the sneer on her face that did it for me though. A derision born of years of disappointment. An unflattering look on an otherwise flattering face. It was a sneer that I had seen on my Father so many times before.


End of Line.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Writer's Block

Hey all,

Boy, this month has been really tough in the way of posting for me. I look and my output is okay, but it feels like I have hardly posted at all. I haven't been able to switch Flash Fiction updates to Sunday for a multitude of reasons, but the primary one is the serious case of writers block that has hit me.

It's like every time I sit at the PC, all I can see is the blank screen. I've tried writing poems and stories, but nothing is clicking or gelling in any way that feels good. I have really wanted to do some holiday themed material but I just can't find the rhythm. Even the last chapter of Darkest Dawn was a trial to get through, it took me over three days to write that little section. I don't know if it was because it was so plot heavy or if it was just a characteristic of this block that I am facing.

My intention is to sit down tomorrow and Wednesday and crank out the next chapter of Dawn and perhaps take another swing at a Christmas post. I am also working some charity events at the local chapter of the Ronald McDonald House as Santa Claus, so I'll try to update that later this week as well.

Thanks for sticking it out with me.

End of Line.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Flash Fiction: The Darkest Dawn

Chapter 19


Dad had a sad little smile on his face as he drained the final drops of liquid from his glass. He stood up and turned his back to me, and launched into a tale I was quite unprepared for.

"Your Mother was a member of the Lesser Flight, a soldier of God who had but one rare gift from her people, the ability to see the future. Your mother had a repeating vision, of a child born of Light and Dark who would unite the warring factions and bring about peace. Your mother knew that she was fated to be the child bearer and left Heaven to come to Earth. She would find a mate and raise the child of both worlds, to hold all things in balance. She spent many months investigating the Dark Walkers before settling on me. Why me she never said, what qualities I posses I will never know, but she chose me."

He paused before continuing.

"When your Mother told me of her vision I admit I only saw the profit. A dual Walker had unlimited potential and I readily agreed to her bargain, thinking to kill her in the end. As we consummated the arrangement, something strange happened, a magic that coursed through us, binding me to her and your protection, an magic more powerful than my own."

He grew silent for a moment, as if lost in the memories before he continued.

"Our union had awakened magic long forbidden and both Heaven and Hell wanted the child. There was much debate as to who would raise the child, with what path to follow, but in the end it was your Mother who decided. She had another vision, one of her birthing twins. It was deemed by both sides that each would raise a child, your Mother would return with one to Heaven, and the other would be raised by the Armies of Hell. I was to be left out."

"The birthing process was very difficult and birthing the first born, your sister, caused much internal damage. No amount of magic could repair the injuries caused. Your Mother fought to stay alive to give birth to you. As your Mother lay dying, she used the last of her strength to cast a final spell, binding you to me to be raised on Earth."

"She had one final vision the night before you were born, of the fate of the world and our place on it. One child would become a destroyer, tearing the factions of the world apart. The other child a bringer of balance, the one she originally saw in her vision. Your mother feared the child raised by the Dark would become the destroyer, and bound my will, and your own, together. She believed that raised by me, she could avert her prophesy. What we both failed to consider is that your sister, raised by the Light, would herald the truth of her vision."

That had probably been the most my Dad had ever said to me. There aren't many times in my life when I am speechless but this was one. There were still so many questions, but I couldn't form the thought in the swirling mess that was my brain. I had a sister, raised by the Light, and she wanted to destroy all I was sworn to protect. A TWIN SISTER that I was never told about. A part of me wanted to wonder if he was speaking the truth, but deep down, I thought he was. I finally jammed my thoughts into some measure of order.

"Wait.... so Light Walkers took my sister back to Heaven, retreating from this realm in the process to train their savior, and left me with you? They thought that I would be the destroyer because I was raised by the Dark, why didn't they just kill me as a baby? Better yet, if you were sworn under a magic oath to protect me, why were you such a....well dick about it?"

Dad smiled, looking back to me.

"A bargain of peace had been struck, child for child, to each his own. To kill you then would have sparked a war of proportions that neither side was prepared for. The Elder Flight were quite... disturbed that you had been bound in my care. The mixing of magics that caused your birth were unlike any other in history. They could find no way to undo the spell. As they were never made privy to the prophecy, they left you in my care. As to how I raised you, I let fate decide what your path would be. You have become the person you are now due to my actions, favoring neither Light nor Dark, forging your own path in this world. Independence could be my only gift to you, for fear of either side swaying you to become the destroyer. I gave you that which you would need to survive."

That fucker. By abandoning me, neither side had claimed me. I could see now why he had offered me token positions in his kingdom. They had been tests. Tests of faith. By choosing my own way, I became my own person, beholden only to myself. Dad always was a smooth son of a bitch.

"Why did you never tell me about this? About my sister? About who I really am?"

Dad stopped to refill his goblet from the decanter, the rich darkly red liquid flowing into the glass. He savored a long sip and put the glass back.

"As part of the bargain or peace, each child was to be kept from the other. The possibilities of the two of you combining your knowledge was to great a temptation for either side to face. That is why the Armies of Light retreated to Heaven, leaving the Earth to fend for itself on the mortal plane. They relied more heavily on their Vatican agents on this world, and focused on the grooming of their savior."

"As to why I never told of the prophecy? I didn't know which one was which until now. I have never taken a risk where there is nothing to be gained. Prior knowledge could have affected your judgement, or your outcome. I knew that when the time was right, you would know what needed to be known."

"Okay Dad, let's say that I believe everything you have told me, that my entire life has been leading up to a moment like this. Why the fuck are the Armies of Hell trying to STOP me from attacking my sister? I've fought demons, ogres, trolls, and several conduits. Shouldn't they want to help me protect them?"

Dad slowly shook his head.

"That, son, I do not know. The fact that I was also visited tonight by agents of the Dark. Fell attacked me here at my home, in my mind thinking to find you. They fought well, but I feel we have not seen the last of them this day. There is another force at work here my son, a force that threatens Dark and Light Walker alike. I feel it is your fate to find out the why."

Why does this shit always happen to me? I futilely searched my pockets for another smoke, but had to contend myself with flicking my lighter back and forth. As I stood there, lost in thought I could feel the sensation of True Dawn pass over. I was going to be stuck here for a while, until nightfall and False Dawn before I could meet up with Quint and Bella and maybe shed some light on the rest of the answers I needed. It was my Father who spoke next.

"True Dawn has passed my son. It seems you will be with us for a short while. I will have your old room prepared and you can rest there. We will have a meal prepared when you awaken and we can discuss your next course of action. Then I will arrange transportation to St. Mary's hospital for you, surely the first stop of wherever this takes you."

Dad was right, I was tired and needed some rest. I pushed myself to hard today. He led me downstairs and had my rooms prepared as I cleaned myself up. I hardly recognized the battered asshole staring back at me in the mirror. I ran my hands through my ragged hair and inspected how sunken my eyes looked. The adrenalin of the previous day and the shock of my origin finally sinking in had started wearing off and I felt old and tired. I really wanted a smoke too. I turned on the shower and grabbed the soap before hopping in. It seems like as soon as that hot water hit my face, the weight of the night hit me. I scrubbed down hard, watching the trail of blood and dirt circle the drain before spiraling down.

After toweling off I saw that clean clothes had been paid out in my room, though the old ones still lay crumpled at the foot of my bed. Some one had also dropped off a sandwich and bottle of beer. Oh and praise fucking God a pack of smokes. I guess Dad did remember the stuff that mattered after all. I lit up the cigarette first before grabbing the pants and slipping them on. While I inhaled that sweet sweet flavor I grabbed my gear from the pile of that lay at my feet. I took a few minutes to empty out the pockets and sort my harness before inhaling the sandwich and beer. Eh, imported, but it still tasted good. I set the alarm on my cracked watch and laid back on the bed. I rested my eyes for a few moments, thinking about how I should call Bella up and check on her and Quint. I fished the cell out of my jacket pocket and thumbed in her number. It rang a few times before she picked up.

"Hey Bell, its Alex. Wanted to check on you, make sure that you and Quint were okay."

"Yeah Alex, Quint's in surgery right now, but the Vatican PD just arrived. Last I heard the docs said he had been stabilized. I'm sure that he'll be fine."

"That's good to here Bella, how are you holding up?"

I tried real hard to keep the level of concern down in my voice.

"Still pretty sore, they gave me some pain killers but I refused treatment. One of the Vatican guys is going to fix me up."

"That's great Bella, listen.. I just want to say how sorry.."

"Cut the shit Alex. You don't need to apologize for anything. I am a big girl and I knew what I was signing up for. You don't turn your back on friends, no matter what happens. So knock off the pity party."

Bella always was one of a kind. She still probably knew me better than anyone had ever, except Jules. I pushed down the melancholy and proceeded to tell her where I had went and filled her in what my Father had told me. I also mentioned that her Dad was sending over some re-enforcements that would help keep an eye out. She took the news far better than I did, agreeing that we had a lot to figure out. She was going to check with some of her contacts and get some rest while I did the same, agreeing to meet after False Dawn at the hospital.

I hung up the phone and laid back on the bed. It was good knowing that Bella was still with me. Tired, I closed my eyes and slipped off to a sleep far faster than I would have thought possible. I dreamt strange dreams of walking in the Light in my Dark Form and of battles with Angels. I dreamt of a sister I had never met, of fighting the only other person who could know what it felt like to be trapped by your own powers. Mostly I dreamt of failing.. Failing Bell, failing Quinton, failing Father Mal... and failing Juliet. All of the failures left in my wake, and of failing the one job that I couldn't afford to fail. My destiny.

It had been a rough sleep and it didn't take much to wake me up. It was a far off thump that first roused me. Then another. Suddenly it sounded as if hundreds of thumps banged against the structure of the house, shaking the furniture and bed. I bolted up and opened the door. The hallway was bustling with servants and minions moving towards the main quarters. I grabbed the first one I saw, a short goblin with mottled green and brown skin.

"What the FUCK is going on?"

"Its the Master's house. We are under attack!"

I dropped the gob and darted back into the room and quickly threw on my shirt and harness, shoving my feet into my boots at the same time. Whoever was bold enough to attack an Ancient in his place of power was either monumentally stupid, or powerful, and based on last night my guess was powerful. They had already broken one place of power, what's one more to get after little ole me. I glanced at my watch as I bolted out the door. Great. High fucking noon. Things just got real god damn interesting.

I pounded the stairs two at a time to get back up to the main floor, I could already feel my skin prickling as I entered the foyer. There was my Father locked in combat with a Light Walker. An Angel, of the Greater Flight at least. Golden skinned and white winged, glowing a fierce golden entwined with Blue. My Father's own aura flared Red and Black as well. Several of his minions clashed with other Light Walkers, but they had the number. It was a fight that was going to be out of control way to fast. It was another sight that concerned me more however, Users, one on the house, and at least one more that could be seen with my Sight through the open doorways to the outside. In the sunlight.

They were channeling as conduits, wrapped in pillars of Magic that were breaking the protective spells surrounding my Father's estate. A familiar sight that I had already seen once before, at St. Augustine's. Those had to be the primary targets, take them out and my father's Users could really even the playing field. The kicker was that at least one was outside, and there was plenty of daylight between them and us. That meant one thing. I would have to go. Out there. This job was so much simpler when it was just werewolves you know.

Guilt is a real mother fucker.

End of line.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Assorted Nuts

Hey all,

Sorry for the gap in posting this past weekend. It was my intent to roll out new Flash Fiction Sunday, but I got caught up at work far longer than I intended to be, as well as trying to bust out some other commitments that I had that day, among of which was getting some serious Christmas shopping done. Only three people left and two want stuff that won't be out until later this month.

So in theory here is how this week will go. On Wednesday I will be out with new Darkest Dawn, then the following Sunday Darkest Dawn will move to its new regular Sunday time slot. So this week will see two installments of teh story, sort of a bonus chapter. I will be attempting to write some non sci fi stories again this month, as well as take another stab at a new Holiday poem, as the more I think about last years the less I like it.

To be honest the newest chapter of Dawn has been a hard one to write. It's a very wordy, dialog heavy section that gets into the meat and potatoes of the storyline. I'll be glad to get through it and back to more action and adventure. As always I thank you for reading.

End of Line.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Movie Review: Transporter 3

Hey all,

I managed to get down to the multiplex tonight to catch the new Jason Statham flick Transporter 3. It should be said that I am a huge fan of the first two, as pure popcorn camp fun. Seeing these movies I don't necessarily look for a plot or great acting, not all films should be judged on that. Sometimes a fun campy action film is just what the doctor ordered to take the edge off the day and to have a good time with something that doesn;t require any more thought than drive, punch, and shoot.

Transporter 3 finds Statham reprising the role of Frank Martin, an ex-Special Forces officer who is now a professional driver and delivery man. Any package, any time, he is the man for the job. After the exploits of the first two films, Frank has returned to France to hang out with his French police lieutenant pal when he is drug into delivering package he doesn't want to deliver. An old acquaintance and fellow transporter shows up at Frank's house with two things, a Russian beauty and bracelet wire to explode if he gets more than 75 feet from the car.

When the guys chasing Frank's friend arrive at his house, they capture him and force him to deliver the package, by attaching the bomb to him. Forced to drive against his will, Frank plays both the kidnappers and the merc's who want to take the girl away against each other, and try to figure out how to get rid of the bomb.

Let's start with the good. Statham embodies the role of macho action hero. He is great in the fight scenes and is creating a niche for himself with roles that were once so prevalent in the 80's, like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, here in the 2000's. It has some great chase sequences and fight scenes. I especially liked the sequence which Statham has to overtake his own stolen car on a bicycle. The fight direction is comperable to the first film in creating one versus many encounters and in using the environment around Statham as a weapon, including many times his own clothes.

Another note is on the Russian kidnapping victim, Valentina, played by newcomer Natalya Rudakova, she is rocking a very different look for movies. With heavy freckles and heavier mascara, she goes from a girl who at first isn't that hot, but the more you are around her the better looking she becomes. She is no great actress by any stretch, but she is the type of character you would look for in this kind of story. Angry at first, then spoiled, then falls into the predictable, but not unwanted, love story/sex scene with the star. I like that the film makers went with a different look for the movies love interests, it created a very different vibe.

I have to admit that I was a tad disappointed in the story. There was to much! Transporter 1 established the over the top fight scenes and paper thin plot that made the film successful. Transporter 2 amped up the adrenalin and stunts to an even greater level. Less plausibility but greater spectacle. In the third film they actually rein it in to have a much tighter script (though far fetched), and though they push the envelope of believability, it is far more grounded than the first two films. I actually thought that the people (like me) who want to see this action flick, don't care how unreasonable it is as long as you keep up the sights and sounds.

Here is the bottom line, Transporter 3 is a fun flick, but not great. It doesn't equal the same levels of cheesy camp and over the top zealotry of the first two, or in the likes of Crank and Shoot'em Up. I'd say wait for DVD and that hurts a bit because I wanted to see this movie a lot. I knew it would be bad, but in that good way, and instead I found it was just a little to good to be bad enough for me to like it. I thought it was funny that my room mate, who hated the second one for its over the top appeal, liked this one better for its more plausible story and character development. All the while me liking it less for the same reason.While I would not say that this film is a bad choice, it just didn't live up to my expectations. It was actually better than I wanted it to be. I hope that makes some kind of sense. This was an instant where I wanted quanity over quality, something I don't think many movie goers look for all that often.

Transporter 3, starring Jason Statham and Natalya Rudakova, directed by Olivier Megaton, and written by Luc Besson.

End of Line.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Hey all,

Below is a poem that I started working on this past Sunday. Over the course of the last year I have had the opportunity to take a lot of long drives, many that were by myself. On a few of them I have stopped and taken in the scenic sights that lay along the path and try to drink in the experience. Several times I have tried unsuccessfully to write a poem from what I have seen, and this week I thought it was good enough, and complete enough to post.

Its just about the cleansing feeling you can get from taking in a really beautiful sight from nature and the thoughts that go through your mind when you see it. I also wanted to try to stay with some positive poetic imagery in accordance with my previous poetry post. I hope you enjoy.


Soft whispers in the night air,

The cool wind blows away my care.

I listen to the sounds of night,

And no longer feel the fright.

Stretched out below, a deep valley lay,

Which green grass and foliage array.

Snow capped mountains in distance rest,

Spiraling high to the Heavens they crest.

The starry sky and moon above,

Alight a sight below unheard of.

So vast and clean is Nature's treat,

A beauty forged of no small feat.

I look upon the splendor spread below,

And ponder how much of the world I truly know.

Such a sight that fills me with wonder,

And washes away all that threatens me asunder.

This view that encapsulates all of God's realm,

Under His guidance He holds His steady helm.

So when the darker thoughts weaken your resolve,

Gaze upon what He has prompted to evolve.

For every sad day that comes our way,

The scenic sight below just may allay.

Serene and quiet, such peaceful bliss,

Such that any other vision would feel remiss.

Of all the world there are possibilities around,

But in this single view that perhaps its found.

Breathe in the sounds of life that filter through,

Whether it be this night sky or one turned blue.

Find your grace in the twinkling star,

Or in sun drenched rays from afar.

The calming motion of the trees in the breeze,

And in the forming clouds that put you at ease.

All of these from just one view,

That for a moment makes life feel brand new.

Drink of this place and find oppressions release,

And finally know a moment of the sweetest peace.

End of Line.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Flash Fiction: The Darkest Dawn

Chapter 18

It had taken about 10 minutes before the paramedics had shown up. After discovering Quint nailed to the wall, I had dashed upstairs and grabbed Bella. Despite her weakened state, she had gamely pitched in and channeled enough of our own life energy to keep him stabilized until the EMT’s could get here. Quint had fallen unconscious after his revelation and had now lapsed into a coma.

The cops had tried bucking me for details but I flashed them my ID and my pointed pearly whites and they took the hint. Most cops and feds knew about my kind and my jurisdiction and steered clear of us. The less they knew the better they felt. Besides this was my fucking case and if I wasn’t pissed off enough before, I was really fucking pissed off now. I had called the emergency number that Father Malkin had given me originally in case of a shit storm and Vatican officials had assured me that re-enforcements would be there in the morning. That would mean Users and healing for both Quint and Bella.

I looked towards the moon and figured I had about an hour before True Dawn. I forced Bella onto the ambulance with Quint, under the pretense of her keeping an eye on him until his people showed up, but really so she could get treatment for her wounds. I told her I’d meet her at the hospital at False Dawn, when the Vatican guys had showed up. I needed some time to think. I watched Bella in the ambulances rear window as it pulled away and flashed her a quick smile and nod. Then I told the cops to be on their toes as they escorted the ambulance back to the hospital.

Quint’s revelation that Tristan had been a part of the conspiracy both left me confused and made a lot of sense. Only someone with his kind of inside knowledge could provide these guys with the materials and means necessary to lead an attack like this. While he may not have the skills to make a charm like my rosary to allow passage, he had access to the spells and the means necessary to grant others the abilities to do so.

The kicker was that Tristan was a small fucking fish in the scheme of things. While I always knew that he was an asshole, there was no way that he had access to the resources or the skills that tonight had proven. If he was a conduit for another User, I would have detected it with my Second Sight any residual magic coursing through him. Even on the outside that he wasn’t a conduit or that they never channeled through him in accordance to when I was around, Quint or I would have detected that level of magic in him. That and the Vatican authorities kept pretty close observation on these guys, if he was rolling in that kind of money to outsource this shit, they would have caught it.

No, there was some bigger fucking fish here and Tristan was just a worm. A worm that I owed a fucking beating on, but a worm none the less. That would have to wait though, first things first I would need to find some answers and there wasn’t enough time in the day left to do what needed to be done. To get those answers I needed to figure out the question and how this all linked up.

I reached into my pocket and fished out my smokes, flicking my lighter and lighting up. Damn this shit felt good. Nothing like a smoke after watching your two best friends get the fuck kicked out of them eh? Then I thumbed open my cell. I needed to make two calls. First I called Gear over at Vickers and asked him to send some muscle over to the hospital and watch Bella and Quint. I wasn’t underestimating these guys again. Bella was a big girl and could watch herself, but I knew she could use the backup. I left Quint alone once before, I wasn’t fucking up again. I didn’t think they would go after Quint again, not after getting what they wanted in the form of Sera, but fuck all I wasn’t taking the risk. After Gear assured me that he would head over himself with a few of his boys, I thanked him and made my second call, a cab. I needed to go somewhere to get some answers, and for the second time tonight, I was gonna show up someplace I hadn’t been in years and may not be welcomed at. Dear old Dad’s.

I think I mentioned my Pop was an Ancient. One of the elder vampires in the city and as such he had a lot of influence in Santa Diego. He was one of the first of his kind to settle in the town, back when it had been a minor coastal stop between the lumber and mining towns that dotted the countryside. Over the years he had evolved along with the city and now owned several posh blocks in the urban downtown shopping centers. Honestly, if the Norms ever knew who owned all those trendy boutiques they loved so much I doubt they would sleep that well at night.

Dad had set up several trendy night clubs throughout the downtown over the last few years, both for our kind and for Norms. Never let it be said he wasn’t an opportunist. It not only provided means of entertainment for Night Walkers and Fell, but helped him keep an eye out for potential human conduits. Dad himself had moved out of the penthouse of his downtown estates to a deluxe Brownstown in the heart of the city. It supposedly was a key locale for magic use, something about the alignment of the Earth or some shit. It also allowed him to expand downward, developing protected areas for others during the daylight hours. It had also been my childhood home.

Coming back now for the first time in over a decade was pretty fucking surreal. I smoked half the fucking pack on the cab ride over and now I stood nervously outside the security gate he had installed in the small front courtyard. I knew his fucking cronies could see me on the security camera but I didn’t care. I could feel them watching as I reloaded my guns, slapping UV encased silver rounds into both chambers. Right tool for the right job eh Bella? I chuckled at my own little joke before lighting up my last smoke. Finally without any other excuses, and the tell tale glow of True Dawn approaching, I thumbed the intercom. I took another drag as the silence stretched out. Finally I heard the gate click open and pull back.

Fuckers didn’t even answer me. That’s bad manners. I crumpled up the empty pack of smokes and flung it onto the small lawn on my way down the cement path to the old oak door to his house. Petty I am sure but it made me feel better. I took the few steps in front of the door all at once but didn’t even get a chance to raise my hand to knock when it swung open. Standing in the doorway was a man in a dark black cloak pulled over his head.

“HOOD!” How the fuck you been?”

I greeted him with a big fucking smile that I knew grated the shit out of him. Hood was a nickname I had given him when he was training me. He hated it. He always wore the fucking thing, his face having been badly scarred by the sunlight shortly after his turning. So badly that no amount of healing or feasting over the years had been able to heal it. It was said he stayed alive only by his sheer anger. I believed it, he was a mean old cuss that had been serving my Father since far before my birth. He was also Belladonna’s dad.

He ushered me inside and closed the door before drawing the hood back from his head. He was completely bald and his face was mess of old burnt skin. His thin lips were drawn in a sneer as he took measure of me. He had resented training me and even more resented the impact I had on his daughter, driving the wedge further between them. It’s not like he was father of the year though, he had kept Bella’s mother captured against her will and his treatment of her led to Bella’s mom own suicide shortly after Bell’s birth. Nymphs just were not meant to be held in captivity, they were free spirits. I always thought he had done it because of the scars, if somebody had something he wanted, he took it. The only guy he seemed afraid of my Dad.

“Master Alex. You have returned home after all these years.”

“Cut the shit Hood. I know he is expecting me.”

He winced again at the nick name, but led me up the stairs to my Father’s study. It felt like it had those years ago when Hood would lead me up there after I had been caught sneaking out. On my way to be punished. Little had changed though. Thick velvet draperies still adorned the windows and Hood’s shoes still clicked on the hardwood floors. The great mirror still hung at the end of the hall, enchanted to reflect ones true self. I could see Hood, head held back and fangs bared as giant vein wings grew from his back. His bald head still deformed, eyes black as coal. Mine shifted uncomfortable, never staying on one form for to long, the inky blackness melding into the burning creature of light that I had no control over. I didn’t let myself think about it. It was pretty good defense mechanism.

We reached my Father’s study and Hood knocked. I could hear my father’s deep baritone voice call us in. Hood led me in and I was taken back by how bright it was. As opposed to the dimly light bulbs throughout the rest of the house, here it was light up almost like normal. There was a fire burning in the hearth that made the room uncomfortably warm. There was also my Father.

He was sitting on his desk with his shirt off as short Norm spread Green healing energies into him. His pale skin had cuts and abrasions all over it and it looked like his face still had traces of dried blood on it. His aura shown heavy with Black had faint traces of Blue running throughout, calling on the slight holy magic that came through those that Pledged to him, drawing on their belief in him to fill him with healing energies. When he saw me walk in, he dismissed the lesser tending him and grabbed a fresh white silk shirt off the hook behind him.

“Ahh Alistair, I see you have brought my erstwhile son before me this night. My deepest thanks old friend. Now Alex, it seems to me you said all you had to say to me last night. Or have you changed your mind?”

He had said that last part with a mocking smile and I knew he was trying to push my buttons. At least I know what side of the old family I got that little trait from. I didn’t let it bug me though, he had been in a fight and recently and I didn’t think it was a fucking coincidence. Someone had come looking for me and they had come here. That was either very brave, or very fucking stupid.

“Hey Dad. Look, I know we haven’t exactly had a “Leave it to Beaver” type of relationship here, but I know something is going on. More importantly I know YOU know something is going on, I came here, to you, for the first time in my life, looking for answers. Asking for help. If you wanna hold old grudges against me, fine, tell me to fuck off and I’ll get out of here. Otherwise, I’ll lay my cards on the table.”

Dad looked me over. Really looked me over, those red eyes staring intently at me, probing me. We said nothing as he stared at me and I never let my gaze falter. Finally he broke contact and sighed.

“You are stubborn my son, a trait you inherited from your mother but you are correct. Come and sit, we have much to discuss and True Dawn approaches. Alistair, bring us refreshments as I am drained from our earlier…..exploits and rejoin us. I would welcome your opinion.”

We took a seat and Hood sent the short lackey from earlier to retrieve the order. After he had returned with the food and departed, my Father turned to me.

“So my son, I know you have many questions. Though I cannot claim to have all the answers, tell me of what you know and together we may be able to fill in some of the blanks.”

He didn’t so much as sit down, he languished in the chair, a kind of fluid comfort that only a Night Walker can know. Poised and relaxed, but you could still sense the deadly grace that belayed his frame. He was drinking a deep red liquid that I probably didn’t want to know to much about, though they had brought me a couple of beers. Guess Dad had been keepin’ tabs on me, it was even my brand. I threw one back, draining it, before opening another one and launching into my story. I told him of the attack at St. Augustine’s and the Greater Demon. Of the discovery and supposed prophecy of Serapha and her claims. Then of the attack at the Academy on myself and Bella, which sent Hood into an uproar until Dad assured him that she was all right. I guess my word didn’t mean shit with him. I ended with the second attack at Augustine’s and the crucifixition of Quint and the betrayal of Tristan.

The whole time Dad didn’t so much as move, except with the mention of the return of the Light Walkers and the uprisal of another like me, where he arched his thin black eyebrows before resuming his usual stoic demeanor. When I was done with my tale, I took another long pull of the beer and patted my pockets before remembering I had already smoked my last one. Dad got up from the chair he had been in and turned his back to me, lost in thought. The silence seemed to stretch out between us again though I knew he would be the first to talk. Finally, he turned back around.

“Alistair, the time we have discussed is upon us, just as we predicted. Please send some of your vassals to watch over your daughter and dear Father Quinton until Alex can rejoin them.”

Hood nodded and left the room as my Father turned back to me.

“It seems there is much I must tell you, for a moment long prophesied is about to come to pass. A moment your mother herself once asked me to help prepare for. The Armies of Heaven have come to usher all those unworthy from this Earth and they are led by a woman like you, a woman who can walk both in the light and the dark. A woman named Allegra Devaine. A woman who is your twin sister Alex.”


End of Line.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Hey all,

I spent some quality time with my niece and newborn nephew yesterday. It is still so surreal to see my brother as a parent. It is both a sense of pride and shame to watch him. Pride in the sense of how proud I am for his accomplishments and the roles he has grown into. Shame for the things that I feel.

My whole life I have never been one to measure success by the the quality of your family or the job you had, I have always measured it by how your friends and love ones view you. My life is successful as long as the people around me like me for who I am. How you enrich others is how I found personal feelings of worth and value.

Now I look at myself and wonder if I am a failure. I don't make people feel the way my brother does. I don't believe in the value of my worth to another person anymore. The belief that I am more deeply flawed than I first imagined I am is far greater. How can I be worthwhile to others if I can't realize my own self worth? As time goes on, your circle of friends gets smaller and smaller. Over the last few years I see that happening more and more. I use to enjoy being alone with my thoughts, now I find when I am its scarier than it use to be.

I am scared that it is to late to change. Fear rules both aspects, fear of being alone, versus the fear of being rejected. Rejection means not only being alone still, but the confirmation of my own lacking self worth. That just creates a sliding scale, in which rejection leads to isolation, which leads to potentially even more rejection. The concept behind this is daunting, a thought that places undue pressure on the situation. It is a prospect that inhabits my thoughts more and more often every day.

In the end one must overcome their own fear. Eventually, one fear will predominate the other and I will be forced to make a choice. It is very difficult for me to voice my thoughts and fears aloud, I have always tried to internalize these thoughts, to keep them buried deep as my burden alone. Maybe now that the cracks are starting to surface, I can get the shove I need through into the unknown.

End of Line.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Flash Fiction: Under a Dead Sun

Happy December All!

November has left and December is upon us. This month is a really open one for the blog with only The Darkest Dawn as planned posts. I am going to attempt a holiday story as well as a new Christmas poem, in order to gear up for the new year. Before moving on though, I'd like to reflect upon the end of Under a Dead Sun.

The previous post was the last chapter of the story. It was forty installments over the course of about 6 months and to be honest, I am a little sad to see it end. I really liked writing this serial, and keeping to the basic premise of flash fiction. Just a few paragraphs of a story that can be read individually or as a whole for the bigger picture.

The Darkest Dawn has elapsed more into the realm of a short story with each installment. My goal is to take a few weeks off and just focus on that serial, before relaunching in January with something new. Back to the basics with shorted one to three chapter stories to keep in alignment with the goals of flash fiction. New Darkest Dawn will now be moving to Sundays, much more conducive to my current work schedule.

I think my goal with Dead Sun was met. Creating and writing stories on a regular basis, a first for me. I kept to my deadlines pretty closely and I would like to think that there is a bit of improvement in terms of story growth. I still think my biggest problem is pre-planning. I start writing with a clear end in mind and take it from there. In some ways it allows for better spontaneity, but in others it hurts me bot having a set story structure to follow. I am hoping that continued efforts will bring better results, something I am trying to do with Darkest Dawn.

Before I end this look back I have two key things to mention. Thank you to anyone who bothered to read this piece of pulp nonsense. I don't pretend by any means that I am any good, I just love writing. Also a special thank you to my room mate Jason, who provided the inspiration for me to write in the first place and who created the kick ass mock cover shown image above. The fact that he took the time out of his busy day to do it meant a lot to me. Thank you. Maybe we'll see it one day my friend. Maybe one day.

End of Line.