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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

Hey all,

This past weekend I managed to catch Where the Wild Things Are, the Spike Jonze directed adaptation of Maurice Sendak's beloved children's novel. Let me preface this by saying that I didn't know what to expect with this film. I remember the children's novel, a small thing amounting to something like 350 total words. I was worried about the ability to stretch that into a feature length film and still retain the quality and commitment to the story over a 2 hour time frame. Needless to say, all my fears where proven wrong.

the film stars newcomer Max Records as Max, a boy devoid of a father figure with too much energy to be contained. After picking a snowball fight with his older sisters friends (who ruin his well built snow fort) he trashes her room and later throws a tantrum while his mother is at home with her boyfriend (a very understated mark Ruffalo). His mother, (played by a wonderfully beleaguered Catherine Keener) yells at him and he bites her, having her describe him as wild. He runs out the door and down the street, plunging himself eventually into a dream world, filled with wonderful and slightly terrifying monsters.

He convinces them that he should be their king and promises them that nothing bad can happen while he is there and promises to make all the bad things go away, uniting the splintered monster group back into a family. Unfortunately, Max learns the hard way that being a ruler and being in charge means that sometimes you have to make some hard choices, and you certainly have to be careful of playing favorites. He grows especially close to two of the monsters, Carol (voiced by a really sublime James Gandolfini) and KW (voiced by Lauren Ambrose). Carol loves KW, but she isn't happy where she is at and thinks that other places and other adventures are what she should be doing, instead of being smothered by Carol. The other monsters, Ira (Forest Whitaker), Judith (Catherine O'Hara), Douglas (Chris Cooper), The Bull (Michael Berry, Jr), and Alexander (Paul Dano) each have their own foibles and mistrusts, meaning its up to Max to remind them all about what it means to be a family. The problem remains, is Max capable of doing that, and should he remain where the wild things are?

This film is a wonderful movie. Visually it has Spike Jonze's unique flavor all over it. Shot with a heavy usage of actual physical effects and puppetry with minimal CGI (mostly just in the Wild Thing's faces) the movie feels very real and concrete. Even the wire work on the giant puppets helps blend the real and imaginary world together. David Eggers, who co-wrote the adaptation with Jonze, really crafts a wonderful world. They manage to stretch Sendak's book in such a way as to build on the foundations he set up, but extrapolate the plot to reflect not only a children's audience, but to bear messages for adults as well. Really it was just the environment they created, using wood, sticks, twigs, almost like craft works to create structure, combined with the stark emptiness of the desert landscape and the lush forest areas that were both open and inviting and foreboding. It was really a picture world, like from a boys imagination, brought to life on the screen.

This brings us to the acting. Max Records really holds his own own in this film. He carries the entire weight of the film on his shoulders and makes you believe in this fantasy world. All of his wonder, pathos, and apathy are carried on his face, and somehow he makes you love him and the monsters, even when you wonder about their behavior. Max Records makes this movie his own, and through it reminds the audience of the wonder and delight, and above all the responsibilities, of being young and thinking you have all the answers. He is a reminder of youth, and of its mortality.

The supporting cast were also chosen wisely. Each Wild Thing is actually a different representation of Max's psyche. From Carol, who is basically him, to KW (how he sees his mother) to Judith (all the negativity in his life) and Douglas (his inventive side) to Alexander (the part who feels he has no voice and is ignored) to even the Bull (the part of him that feels alone). Each voice actor is superbly cast. James Gandolfini, known for playing the rough and hard Tony Soprano, is sublimely understated as Carol, who brings a gruff, yet tenderness to the role. A character who is unsure of what the world around him is or should be, smoldering a hot rage inside, and yet yearning to be loved and accepted by KW (mom) and his family. Catherine O'Hara sharp wit and biting tone makes her perfect for the always negative Judith, and each actor brings their own bit to the role, from softness to practicality. Even Catherine Keener in her small role as the Mom, makes you love her, all stressed and harried by her over imaginative son, yet you know that she so deeply cares for him that her heart aches. I cannot stress enough how wonderful they all are.

What really makes this movie so good is that it isn't a children's movie. Not entirely. In fact, some things may be to dark for young ones to watch. The movie is as much for grown ups as it his for the book's target audience. Jonze crafts a beautiful and bold film that speaks to many age groups, not simply defined by one title or demographic. There is next to nothing about this movie that I didn't like. Jonze creates a very personal and unique picture from a book once deemed "un-filmable." In a time when movies are cookie cutter genre blockbusters, its the rare studio films like these that catch your eye and remind you of the power of great film making. It starts with an idea and a vision. With Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze idea and vision has cemented his name among the most original director working in film today. You need to see this movie.

End of Line.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Costume Contest!

First Name: Mister. Middle Name: Period. Last Name: T!

Hey all,

Last week we had our fall /mid year outing at work. McDonald's likes to get together a few times a year as an entire salary team to communicate group goals and actions. Most of us store managers meet on a monthly basis, and even more regularly in out team groups, but the opportunity for the entire salary team, from the corporate regional leaders and supervisors, to the store and assistant managers doesn't happen that often. As a member of the corporate McDonalds, we have about 50 salary staff here in Phoenix, not counting all the big wigs out of the Scottsdale office. The last two outings we have had as a group have been set up by myself, last year around this time organizing a group haunted house expedition, and the Christmas party where we caught a Suns game.

When it was time for the mid year party, everyone wanted me to set up something for another Haunted House. Working with my boss, we organized food at a place called Islands grill, a nice blend of food and drinks, very low key and causal, as our goal was to allow everyone to relax. We had organized the food right after our all team meeting, in which we as a group got to get together to discuss business strategy for the last fiscal quarter. Before the meeting we encouraged everyone to come to the get together in their Halloween Costume, and promised a $25 Gift Card to the winner of the best costume. I was really happy with the turnout. Everyone, from the supervisors and staff, up to our regional boss dressed up in some fashion. Fortunately for me, it was my costume that stole the show.

I have been swearing to do this costume for nearly two years, chickening out last year due to my commitment to officiate a wedding and not wanting to ruin that day with my ridiculous haircut. This Mr. T costume is something I have wanted to do and I was so happy with how it turned out. I mean my hairline isn't the greatest to begin with, I have a bald spot that crested WAY early. Still the spray color from my hair worked out nicely giving me a nice full head of hair. Ahh memories... It is really the commitment to the haircut that made the difference.

After the meeting and food, we headed to a place called the Fear Farm, a haunted house and corn maze combo. As the organizer, I set up several checkpoints in the corn maze (a non scary attraction) marked with ribbons for us to gather. We then broke the crew up into 4 color coded teams and timed them. the team with the best record and who collected the most ribbons would win some prizes. that was a big hit with the team, even though as the guy who placed the markers I couldn't play. After the corn maze we broke up and went through the four haunted attractions the place offered, They really mixed it up this year, with fears ranging from chainsaw wielding blood covered maniacs that chase you, to surprising spooks that would spring out of the dark, to slowly walking creeps who would stalk you even outside the attractions. They also played on peoples fear or the dark, with areas that were pitch black, as well as claustrophobia, making you crawl through black curtained holes that pressed in all around you. It was a definite step up.

I think my favorite part was actually every one's reaction to the costume though. The staff at work, the people in the restaurant, even walking through the haunted house, people couldn't get enough of Mr. T. I posed for a good 15 to 20 pictures throughout the night, from co-workers to random patrons at the diner or the attraction. Even walking through the haunted mazes the folks who are supposed to be scaring me would stop and say, "Are you Mr. T?" or "That is an awesome costume!." It was both surreal and totally fun and amazing.

I am really glad I had the chance to go out and do this. It was so much fun. I am looking forward to Halloween itself to have one more chance to dress up this year and get a little more mileage out of this stupid haircut. Enjoy the pic and thanks for reading!

End of Line.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Flash Fiction: Noir Story

Chapter 22

I followed Annie and Horner outside and stood beside our borrowed car. It was dark and there was still a hint of rain in the air, casting a dark shadow under the broken streetlight beneath where I was parked. I wanted a smoke, but I didn't want the attention the lighter would bring so I watched as he led her to his car. Annie held onto his arm, and I could hear the trace echoes of her laugh as they walked. Annie huddled beneath her dark coat, her boots clacking on the wet pavement, holding onto that piece of shit's arm.

Horner opened the door for her and the blond in the halter top, both sliding into the passenger side of his two seater. Horner had to be doing okay for himself driving a sweet ride like that, a sporty little red convertible that should have been stripped bare if it was left on this side of the Barrows. That marked Horner as a made man, someone known well enough in Sixx's group to warrant some measure of protection. He darted out of his spot as I slid the borrowed car out of park and began tailing him. I wasn't sure what was running through Annie's mind on that car. She was smart and tough, but Roger Horner was not a man I would want her fucking with.

I tailed the car, keeping my distance, but not letting him get out of sight. I watched the car slid into a parallel spot in front of a set of apartment buildings well outside of the Barrows. Seems my guess about Horner was right. This place was just beginning to see an urban renewal as was just the sort of trendy local an up and comer in the trade might take on. Close enough to the heart of the action to keep tabs on his business, but far enough outside to set himself apart. I slid the Dodge into a spot about a quarter mile down the road and watched in the rear view mirror as Horner, Annie, and the bimbo tittered and stumbled up the stairs. After they were inside, I got out of the car and lit a cigarette. Almost time. Almost.

After a few minutes, my cell beeped a number, A22. That was the apartment she was in with Horner. Time to make my play. I walked up to the building, eyeing the front door. One monkey in a black suit. Big son of a bitch too. I reached up the sleeve of my coat, feeling the weight and grip of the collapsible baton there. Still griping the baton, I walked up to the goon at the door and smiled, letting the butt of my smoke hang from my mouth, calmly asking to see Mr. Horner in room A22. I didn't wait to see if he objected.

End of Line.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Word Balloon! : Hellboy

Hey all,

As promised I am back to make up my missing column from last month with a new installment of the Word Balloon, where I highlight great comic book graphic novels hat are being published today. With it being Halloween, I thought i would take a look at another horror/occult themed book like I did around this time last year and I chose Mike Mignola's Hellboy.

Originally published in 1993 under Dark Horse's Legend imprint, it was one of many independent books being published at the time. 1992 and '93 were a changing time in the comic book marketplace. Comic books were sweeping the nation in many ways. Marvel had hit the jackpot a few years earlier with high profile creators launching new Spider Man and X-Men comics with artists Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee selling millions of copies. In 1992 seven of the top artists from Marvel launched Image Comics, a publishing house where each creator set up their own universe of characters within a bigger universe and told the stories they wanted to tell, and reaped the sole rewards, not having to work on corporate characters anymore. Several other creators, industry veterans (unlike the young hotshot Image guys) wanted in on the act and formed Legend, under independent publishing house Dark Horse. Guys who had shaped books in the 80's now had a venue for their own creative projects, and writer artists like Frank Miller (of 300 and Sin City fame) and John Bryne (who had relaunched Superman in the 80's and helped usher the X-Men to a top selling title) created their own series. Artist Mike Mignola was also part of the group.

Mignola was mostly famous for his intermittent Batman work, though he had worked on many projects over the years and wasn't as high profile as his counter parts. What he was known for though was his dark and moody pencil and ink work, which he put to work in creating his first mini series, which he called Hellboy. Mignola had always been attracted to the occult and the strange, stories and fables about the things that go bump in the night. He also had a natural affinity for monsters, so in creating Hellboy, he wanted a medium where he could do whatever type of book he wanted. Hellboy was an occult investigator who worked for the US Government occult branch, the BPRD, or Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. The thing that set Hellboy apart, and the BPRD as a whole, was that not all of its members, including HB himself, were quite human.

Hellboy was a giant red horned demon, summoned from Hell by Nazi scientists during World War 2. These Nazi's, lead by a Russian mad wizard name Rasputin, conjure Hellboy as the marker of the Apocalypse, as the Beast. Fortunately though, Hellboy is first found by a group of paranormalists from the Allied forces, whose principal member is a young man named Trevor Bruttonholm. They take Hellboy and and Trevor, or Broom as he is called, raises Hellboy as a son, and eventually forms the BPRD under the US government to battle the growing occult threat. Hellboy, as a demon, ages slower than most, and as the series picks up, World War 2 has been over form more than 50 years, but Hellboy is still vital and has been working as a paranormal detective for forty of those years. He teams with the mismatched other "freaks" of the BPRD, Liz Sherman, human in appearance, but a pyrokenetic with a lot of baggage, and his best friend Abe Sapien, a fish man found underneath and old hospital in suspended animation marked on the date Abraham Lincoln died. Together they battle the threats that the underworld pose towards life on Earth.

Admittedly a thin premise to begin with, but the world that Mignola creates grows with each new series. The first miniseries, a good starting point, entitled Seed of Destruction, is co written by John Bryne, but the issues after that really start to hit their stride as Mignola delves into the world of the paranormal, from werewolves and zombies, to the accounting of creatures from forgotten lore, he pits his wise cracking, hard luck hero against the odds in a darker world.

What initially helped the book was Mignola's dark and inky illustrations, bold and shadowed, he creates a book in which his art style could flourish. What kept the book going though was the story and characterization. There is a reason that directors like Guillermo del Toro want to work on films like Hellboy, its because Mignola makes him such a great reluctant hero.

The Legend imprint folded after a few years, with really only Hellboy and Frank Miller's Sin City books creating any lasting staying power. Mignola went on to work his Hellboy character into one of Dark Horse Comics principal books, with several Hellboy mini series and spin of titles featuring the BPRD as well as other stories highlighting the other colorful characters of the Hellboy universe. Mignola has also licensed the character into several animated features, as well as into two successful films with del Toro directing and starring the indelible Ron Perlman as HB, though the films have a decidedly different flavor and storyline than the books, they none the less work together due to the basic characterizations at the core of each person.

October is the perfect month to start out on some Hellboy books, I'd say start off with Seed of Destruction to get the core components of Hellboy and the universe, but its the book The Right Hand of Doom where he really starts to hit his stride. Seed of Destruction details the origin I told above, but then delves into HB's run in with Rasputin years later as he attempts to unravel an attack by a mysetrious frog man> Rasputin has been reborn and wants to bring on the Apocalypse again after failing 50 years earlier. To do this he needs Hellboy to take on the true mantle of his heritage, though HB himself may have something to say about that.

I can also recommend any of the Hellboy paperback novels, specifically the ones written by Tom Golden like The bones of Giants, excellent prose novels with illustrations by Mignola. They also have regular paperback books by many science fiction authors that vary from good to great reads. Hellboy is a great mix of the occult and weird, dialed in with some healthy does of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe to set that perfect tone. Dial up some monster fun and check out Dark Horse Comics Hellboy, by Mike Mignola, the perfect book for this time of year.

End of Line.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity

Hey all,

I have heard a lot of really good things about this movie, and my brother was very interested in seeing it, so we went out Monday night and caught a showing. Movies like this can be hit or miss. On one hand, I really do consider the films budget in how I set my enjoyment levels. If someone spent $100 million on a film, I expect higher quality acting, effects, directing; in short I expect a higher degree of quality. Now in comparison if a film is made cheaply, I don't expect the same commitment, I expect either something original, or at the very least something fun. In part this can explain my love of "B" movies and Sy-Fy channel films, they are cheap and poorly acted, but then again, you get what you pay for and you know what to expect, a ridiculous romp with lesser actors and crazy stories. I am not sure if its necessarily a double standard, its just one of the factors I use in determining expectations for a film. The higher the expectations, the more you want to like a it.

With Paranormal Activity, I went in with probably higher expectations than I should have. Word of mouth can also drive up how much you want to like a movie, and in this ones case I had heard how scary the film was. That was tempered by my knowledge that the film was made on a paltry $11,000 budget, definitely something that I am going to give some slack to. Independently produced films like this are not being made much anymore, and anything that can get studios looking outside the cookie cutter film genres they have created is a good thing.

Paranormal Activity is almost what I would call a pot boiler of a scary movie. It stars newcomers Katie Featherstone (as Katie) and Micah Sloat (as Micah) as a couple who have recently moved in together. Lately their sleep has been interrupted at night by strange goings on, which Katie believes to be a ghost that has haunted her for years. Micah, not a beliver, has set up a camera to capture what happens at night and document the supposed haunting. As each night passes, the haunting become worse and worse, escalating activity until a psychic reveals that Katie is being haunted by a demon, and one who feeds off anger and tension. The film is presented as a composite of all of the footage Katie and Micah filmed, documenting what in the beginning are merely strange occurrences to darker and more disturbing activities over the weeks of filming.

I mentioned I called this a potboiler. For me, while there are defiantly scary elements in the film, it really builds towards the big payoff scare in the end. Though I could see if ghosts are a real phobia for you, this could certainly scare you. What sells the picture are the two actors, Katie and Micah. Micah plays the boyfriend with enough anger and disbelief that you really flip from finding sympathy for his character to wondering why he is being such an unsupported ass. The breakout role is Katie Featherstone though. Her journey from slightly rattled college student to her full blown meltdown is what the picture hinges on. Over the course of the film you really root for her to be able to shaking this haunting, and she does it all while maintaining a likable and more importantly, believable air about her. This is a film that has to be made with unknowns, you just won't find that same level of believability in actors you already have preconceived notions about.

I won't ruin the scares for you, but for the minimal budget they did a great job with effects. The limited makeup work and physical effects are executed great, and the minor computer effects are good as well. Writer/Director Oren Peli crafts a very simple story, using mostly still shots from the camera, but manages to bridge the shaky cam feel of movies like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield with more stationary shots. This way to don't get the vertigo feeling that many moviegoers didn't like in those, but you still get enough to create that intimacy that the film crew is looking for. The key is the continual build of the scare, using actions just out of the cameras line of sight, making the things that you don't see scarier than the things you do.

Honestly I did like the movie, I was just a bit underwhelmed by it all. The hype of it being one of the scariest movies of all time was overblown in my opinion, but that doesn't mean its a bad film at all. It simply means go in with the expectation that you are looking at a very well acted film made for $11,000 and you will realize that you certainly get your moneys worth. I will say too that I would be quite surprised to not see Katie Featherstone in more work very soon. For a Halloween treat at the movies, I would recommend Paranormal Activity as a good film and a fun scare.

End of Line.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Hey all,

I had a whole column in my mind for this post today, hell, I have several things I wanted to write about still, but this is pretty much something that is heavy upon my mind. I went up to Flagstaff to hang out with my friend Bill and his wife Tuesday night. Normally this is something i do in which I take at least two days with, but with my work schedule of late I had to be back in town the next day. I wasn't really looking forward to the two hour drive up only to turn around and do the same drive back in less than 24 hours. I had already cancelled on bill once though, and it had been a while since I had been up north, so guilt and a bit of persistence on Bill's part were key factors in heading up, well plus the fact that I actually wanted to see my friend.

We had a pretty good time. We played with his 7 month old son Zander and watched some wonderfully terrible movies until his wife came home. Then we went out for a few beers and played a little bit of pool. I always have a good time with hanging out with Bil and his wife. They are genuinely good people. It was the next morning before I left that got me thinking though. As we were eating breakfast they asked me something that caught me really off guard. They asked me to be Zander's godfather.

This was a huge surprise to me. Being a godfather, while to some people, may not seem like that big of a deal, but to me it means a lot. I look at it very traditionally, and so do they I think. To understand that they want me to have an impact on their son's life is a huge responsibility. That if , Lord forbid, something where to happen to them that I would act as Zander's male role model. That is no small feat. I was caught so unaware, I don't think I really conveyed how asking this made me feel. Honored and grateful to be sure, but it was the act itself, of asking me in a small sense, to be a part of their family. That is special. Especially for me, someone who really doesn't see a family or children in his future, to be given the opportunity to participate in someones life like that. To understand that they think I can be a positive influence on their son, and can be someone that is a part of his world for the rest of his life, means so much to me.

These are the moments that make me realize how lucky I am to have friends like I do. It's amazing how they open their lives up to let me in, to be a part of something inherently blood. I can know in my mind that I would never do something to let them down, to male them ashamed or regretful of their choice. I want them to know that I will always be there. That they can trust me, and that I will never betray that trust. But most of all, that I will treat this responsibility as a privilege, as a badge of honor, as a measure of trust and friendship. That I will never let Zander down.

This is what I think about being named godfather. This is how serious I take this sacred privilege.

End of Line.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Food for Thought: The State Fair!

A View from the Top!

A bit of greenery in the desert....

My corndog was made out of Rudolph... the bite I took was his ketchup red nose.

Indian Fry Bread.... and yes it was delicious!

Chocolate Covered Bacon.... 'Nuff Said!

Hey guys,

As promised, the second part of my birthday adventure. Much along the lines of what we did last year, we headed down to the Arizona State Fair to celebrate. I think the main reason anyone actually goes to the Fair isn't for the rides, or the Midway games, or even the attractions, it's the food. The awfully fattening, gloriously bad for you, deep fried goodness that is the fair.

We got to the fair mid afternoon on Sunday. My brother's mother-in-law got us all in for free with a great parking pass so it was very cool that we saved like $50 right there. We pretty much headed straight for the food. Between all of us we had some really tasty faire (pardon the pun) including Indian Fry Bread (mine had beans, meat and cheese) BBQ sandwiches, corn dogs (mine was made out of reindeer!) though we did go a little light on the desserts this year. We usually hit the fried booth which deep fries everything, from brownies and twinkies to tiramisu. This year I opted for something different. Chocolate Covered Bacon. Bacon that is cooked, then dipped in a rich and thick dark chocolate and frozen. It was sweet and salty at the same time. Honestly, it was such powerful chocolate, it was hard to eat the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, it was good, just a heavy heavy delectable.

After the food we went on a few rides, the pictures of which didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. We rode the Farris Wheel and another ride that was called the Disko, which rode on a half moon shaped track and spun you in a circle. It was pretty fun and a lot faster than it looked from the ground.

We rounded out the night at the animal exhibits, seeing the rabbits, chickens and cows before Jason and Autumn headed home, and Steph and I made our way into the show. I defiantly plan a return visit before the fair is out to at least partake of that deep fried goodness before its to late. You can't pass up on things like deep fried bacon and the always wonderful deep fried Snickers bar...

Enjoy the pics and thanks for reading.

End of Line.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Concert Time: Stone Temple Pilots

Singing "Big Empty" - the whole crowd was into this song....

"Interstate Love Song"- The jacket was off, it was time to rock...

The last song of the night, 'Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart"

Hey all!

Sunday was my birthday and I have been trying to stay ahead on my blog this month, writing entries and columns in advance, which is why this Concert Time and tomorrows entries are coming a bit after the fact. Sunday we went to the Arizona State Fair (which I'll detail tomorrow) but afterwards we went to Stone Temple Pilots at the Fairgrounds as the capper to my birthday. I have never seen STP in concert and honestly, I have always liked their music but they were a band that kind of flew under my radar. Seeing them in concert reminded me of the fact that they actually have a lot of really good songs.

While I hit the Fair itself with Jason and Autumn, Steph met us down there about 6:30to see the show with me. She was suffering from some pretty bad allergies and was defiantly feeling poorly but she toughed it out and came, not only for STP but for me, so that was nice. After a little snafu where I lost the tickets, we got in and got to our seats. They were decent seats on the floor, next to the mixing station on the aisle. I hadn't tried to snake the BEST seats, just something nice and close without paying an arm and a leg. We had a very good view of the stage.

There was no opening act so just after 7:00, STP took the stage and started rocking. They had a really good set list prepped, hitting all of the great songs, from "Interstate Love Song" to "Creep", "Vaseline", and the seminal "Plush". They played my favorite song, "Big Empty" off of the Crow soundtrack (which I was addicted to back in high school). That was my favorite song of the night, to hear the whole stadium singing along to the lyrics was great, and the crowd did a great job staying into the show. They made sure to hit just about every song I could think of, including "Wicked Garden" and a great hard rocking version of "Down". They closed the show with a scorching rendition of "Trippin' On a Hole in a Paper Heart" which the whole crowd really got into. I think maybe the neatest thing was the song they did right before that to lead off their encore, "Dead and Bloated", which wasn't one of their biggest hits, but was defiantly one of Steph's favorite songs. Lyrically it talks about your birthday deathbed, so in a way it was kind of like getting a happy birthday from STP, though maybe a little light on the happy part and a little heavier on the morbid part. Still a nice surprise song choice from them during a really great show.

The setup for the concert was a little plain, with a giant screen behind them that flashed through different video images, from scenes of Mad Max to trippy acid kaleidoscopes meant to work in conjuncture with the music. They didn't talk to much between songs, just pausing slightly between each song. Though sometimes lead singer Scott Weilan would announce the next song they would play. Still, they made up for the stage presence by really turning it on during the actual song itself. I remember really getting involved in the music during their rendition of "Sour Girl" and "Sex Type Thing".

During the concert I remembered thinking that they had played all of their greatest hits, that there was only one song that I couldn't think that they had played, but then as I was double checking song titles for this post, I realized that STP has a far greater library of songs than I remembered. Songs like "Big Bang Baby" and "Lady Picture Show". STP had a far more musical impact than I had remembered.

STP didn't have an opening act, so they came out and did the show and played a solid hour and 45 minutes, very respectable. I think the strangest moment was when Steph realized that seeing STP made her feel old. That potentially she could be bring her children (if she had them at 19 or 20 like so many people do) to the show. She goes to a lot of concerts, more than I do at any rate, but she goes to see bands she has seen before. This was the first time for both of us at STP and it kind of made her realize that these songs were 16 or 17 years old. They had came out while we were in high school. It was certainly a surreal realization, turning 33 meant that I had known Steph for 15 years. Kind of strange to reflect on that in the end.

Still it was the perfect way to end my birthday (and the second year in a row I did so with a concert!) I was glad to be able to share it with friends and the people that mean so much to me. I don't have a lot of concerts on the horizons so who knows what the next show is going to be, but I am glad that I got my thoughts down on how much fun I had at this one when I did. Tomorrow will be a bit of Food for Thought as I relate my experience at the Fair, and enjoy a few pictures from the concert up top. With the camera I got for Comic Con, I am going to try and capture a few photos at each show I go to, mostly for posterity on my part. Thanks for reading!

End of Line.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Movie Review: Zombieland

Hey all,

Okay so I know I am few weeks late to the Zombieland train but I finally managed to catch a showing this weekend and I am glad I did. This film is easily the best zombie movie since Shaun of the Dead. It has a really funny blend of humor, action, gore, violence, and heart that really makes the picture work. It plays up to all the great strengths of the zombie film genre, it's got a little scare, but it treats the material very tongue in cheek, it doesn't let itself stay to serious for very long and it consistently finds a really great balance.

The basic premise is that a zombie virus has infected the world, which is spread through biting or exposure to the bacteria. Most of the world, now called Zombieland, is overrun with the undead. There are only a few survivors left and this film focuses on 4 of them. The narrator for the film is Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenber (most notably from Adventureland), an isolated young survivor who lives by sets of rules in order to survive. He is a very nerdy and shy person, the unlikeliest of survivors (which he freely admits to) who is alive solely because he lived an isolated life even when there were people around. After a zombie attack ruins his car, he meets up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) who is a hard charging fighter who loves killing zombies. They make an unlikely team as each is heading to a different destination, when during a pit stop at a grocery store, they meet two sisters. Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone from Superbad and Abigail Breslin from Little Miss Sunshine).

After being conned by the two girls, Tallahassee and Columbus find another truck and chase them down, only to be tricked again. Despite the auspicious start, the four travel together heading West and during the time, begin to form a small bond. They make it to Hollywood, where they hole in in a Hollywood mansion (and maybe score maybe the best and funniest celebrity cameo of all time). Wichita and Little Rock are headed to an Amusement Park near there, as they have heard its a zombie free area. Columbus and Wichita start to get close, which scares her as she has lived her whole life solely depending on her sister. They take off for the Park alone, leaving behind the two boys. Columbus has to decide if he should follow his strict rules, or his heart, and track them down.

Overall this is one of the better films I have seen this year, funny, great production value, and well written. The actors have just the right amount of humor and pathos, and really draw you into each character. Woody Harrelson is fantastic as Tallahassee, really returning to that leading man form he had back in the mid 90's. He is smart, funny, totally unpredictable, and its great to see him really commit to such a role. Emma Stone probably made herself with this film too, playing a moody tough girl with a great sarcastic wit, I can see big things for her in the future. Eisenberg is very funny, though kind of comes off as a poor man's Michael Cera as the nerdy insecure hero type, a role Cera has made a monopoly of the last few years. He captures that winning loser mentality though and makes the role his own. Abigail Breslin also does a good job playing the younger sister, finding great humorous banter with Harrelson, and having just the right blend of youthful innocence and hardened reality (having seen so much death at a young age).

The film was pitched originally as a TV series, but I think the job they did creating this as a movie works. It's something I could defiantly see a sequel too, and really marks its own space in the zombie genre. It really takes the idea or the theme that Shaun of the Dead started with, and expands it. It's comedic, but not just a comedy, it's gore and horror, but not a fright fest. It's fun. It's a gentle reminder of the fact that movies can be fun bits of escapism, but not just be saddled with terrible stories or effects. You don't need a 100 million dollar budget or CGI gloss to make a great movie, a little heart and a lot of fun go a long way.

This is a film you should certainly treat yourself too during this Halloween season. I had so much fun with this movie, and I don't want to ruin the celebrity cameo, but its maybe the funniest scene in the movie. It's worth it for that sequence alone. Head out, have fun, and watch Zombieland. I guarantee you won't regret it.

End of Line.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Sounds of Light and Fury (3.0)

Hey all,

October 18th, today is my birthday. As with my previous birthdays I commemorate the day with a poem, a reflection on the year that passed, or a glimpse towards what the future holds, whatever seems to strike the mood I have. Turning 33 brings me that much closer to middle age, something I certainly don't feel or act like I am close to. I doubt you ever really feel your age truly. At some point you simply wake up and wonder where your life went. Certainly 33 isn't old by any means, but I find myself in a situation so similar to what I faced last year. Still silently pining for someone who doesn't know, or even doesn't feel, the way I do. The same insecurities and doubts that have lit my path the last 365 days.

This poem certainly started out darker than it ends, I think in writing it I came to my own conclusions. The future isn't written, and there is far more possible than I can dream. The future remains what you make of the present, and perhaps this year will offer a better possibility. Perhaps not, but I like the path the poem takes, a journey from quiet reflection, to the darkest of futures, the the hope of the present and the fact that one can still change.

This poem is a double milestone actually, marking not only my third birthday poem, but my 100th poem on the site, something I am really proud of. The fact that I wrote 100 poems means a lot to me. It's proof that I haven't given up, and maybe that some of that bright future can be taken with perseverance. To survive work I like and hate, to write things that resonate within myself still, and to write things I no longer feel. It's a means to look back and see how I felt at that moment, a glimpse at the paths I have lead to get me to that moment.

I told myself a few months back that when I reached this milestone I would re-use the title of my blog, one of the first poems I wrote for the site. I actually wrote another poem with the same title a year later, so I thought that it might be fun to see the different ways I can use the title to set mood. It's been used to mark the horror of the Apocalypse and as a a representation of the things that find me bliss. Today it heralds in a new future. It's a title that means a lot to me, and I hope that you all find something in this poem, either love or hate, sorrow or joy. Make it what you will. Above all though, thank you for reading what I write, for I am nothing without words, and words are sometimes the only thing I think I really do have. Thank you.

Sounds of Light and Fury (3.0)

Today I age another year,

No reason for a birthday cheer.

But loath, regret or sorrowed days,

Have themselves resonate ways.

Wrinkles crease on creaky bones,

My skins flecks with aged tones.

Vigor that once felt so supple,

Now I hardly find the trouble.

Nearly halfway done the days go by,

Sooner still the end will cry.

I fear the future blank to me,

To wonder what is meant to be.

Dark and dreary the present loams,

Along a dim light path my travel roams.

Feeling forward to an empty space,

Along a one way path does lifetime race.

There are no winners at the end,

Your rewards something you just can't defend.

This prize, a gift, that many fear,

Brought on silent steps you cannot hear.

But known to all the gift she holds,

For it's reaped and sewn unto the folds.

You can but make your peace and pray on high,

Before your time at rest, comes to ply.

Make the most of life until the last,

The passing days cross ever fast.

When the time ahead looms shorter soon,

And your memories of past lay mis-strewn.

You think upon all you've done wrong,

Back when the days felt so long.

And possibility had no doubt,

But now you come to regret your route.

What if I had made a better choice,

Or given lost fears a chance to voice.

Told the girl you'd loved her so,

Or taken that risk you chanced just so?

I don't want to hate myself just then,

To wonder about my life at the end.

Thirty Three and plagued by guilt,

A mounting pressure that causes wilt.

I still have time to act or try,

Life's to early to lay and die.

To buckle down, CARPE DIEM!

And take a risk as I see them.

So Happy Birthday, my brand new world,

I'll greet each day, my wings unfurled.

A whole new purpose to which I hurry,

The triumphant sounds of light and fury.

End of Line.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flash Fiction: Noir Story

*Flash Fiction went up a day early today for a special post tomorrow*

Chapter 21

I leaned against the bar and tried my best to blend in. Normally this isn't a problem, I'm about as nondescript as you can get which certainly pays in my line of work. In this case though, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I crumpled my hat into my jacket pocket and pulled it tight around me covering up the sight of suit and tie beneath it. I ran my fingers through my wet hair and did my best to tousle it up, but my face still looked like hammered shit. I grabbed a beer from the bar and slunk back into the darkest corner I could find, though I kept my eyes locked on Annie.

I could tell she was in full work mode, the way she would rest her hand on one of their arms, the way she laughed and smiled whenever they said something. How she leaned towards them letting them take a peak at the goods , or the way she touched their shoulders and maintained connection. All tricks of her trade, tricks she knew well. I took a long pull from my beer every time she did one of them though, trying to settle the roil in my stomach that came from seeing her with those bastards. Still Annie knew how to take care of herself, so I sat back and waited, leaning as deep into the shadows as I could, and trying vainly to drown out the techno shit that droned endlessly on.

Horner and Sixx continued to party, surrounded by their body guards, throughout the night. Annie stayed at the table, though some girls came and left there were always 10 or so at the table. Annie knew the right buttons to push to stick around though, especially with Horner. I knew Johnny Sixx was the real deal between the two, Horner couldn't rate enough to get a couple of goons like that, Horner was trying to up his pay class. Annie stayed by his side though, flirting, kissing his neck, playing a part that I hated. She knew he was the easier target, stay close to him and we get our results. I knew one thing myself, I was gonna kick this guys ass before the night was out.

After several hours, and several beers for me, Sixx motioned for Horner to go. Several new guys had approached the table and I knew that this is who Sixx had to have been waiting for. Roger slinked off and while most of the girls stayed. Two did leave with Horner though, a tall blond in a red leather halter top and skirt with a black jacket, and Annie. Horner stopped by the bar, several feet from me and I caught Annie's eye, who gave me the slightest of nods. Horner spent a minute throwing back a couple of shots fro himself and the girls, then wrapped his arms around each of their waists and left the club. I waited a few seconds and followed. Annie had played her ole, now it was my turn.

End of Line.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Movie Review: Couples Retreat

Hey all,

Got up to see an early flick earlier this week, specifically Couples Retreat starring Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Malin Ackerman, Kirstin Davis, Kristin Bell, and Faizon Love. Couples Retreat is very much a feel good romantic comedy that carries its own fair share of laughs for everyone. It doesn't push the envelope of comedy anyway, staying true to the romantic undertones of the film and eschewing the bawdy frat pack humor that Vaughn has made his living on the past few years.

The premise is fairly simple, Jason Bateman (of Arrested Development and Hancock) and wife Kristin Bell (Veronica Mars and Forgetting Sarah Marshal) are the hyper prepared couple, detail oriented and always with a plan. They are having trouble conceiving a child and the stress is putting pressure on their marriage. They convince their friends to join them on a couples retreat at an island paradise, full of fun events and allegedly optional couples activities and workshops in an attempt to salvage their marriage. The kicker is the vacation is to expensive for them alone, the deal they got only works if they can bring 3 other couples. Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, The Break Up) is married to Malin Ackerman (of Watchmen fame) who are the "normal" couple. Harried by the kids and house remodeling, with Vaughn's hard work schedule, they have never really taken the time for themselves. Jon Favreau (of Swingers and director of Iron Man and Elf) is having marital difficulties with his wife, Kristin Davis (Sex and the City). They are all but divorced, waiting for their teenage daughter to start college before making it official. Faizon Love (Elf, Friday) has divorced his wife and is dating a young 20 year old named Trudy, played by Kali Hawk. Love is having trouble keeping up with the active lifestyle of his younger girlfriend, but doesn't want to dwell on the troubles of his failed marriage and wife, whom he obviously still loves.

Things change when the couples actually get to the island though, finding out that their Eden isn't all it's cracked up to be. The supposedly voluntary events are mandatory and failure to participate means going home. Events like couples counselling that cause more problems than they solve, a swim with the fishes that turns into a vastly overblown shark attack. Yoga sessions that place the couple in compromising positions, and nary a sight of the fun events that they had been promised. Each couples problems are magnified under scrutiny, until in the end, Trudy leaves Love and heads to the Eastern part of the island, a place reserved for single folk only. It's here the couples have to put aside their differences to get Trudy back to their side of the island, but in the face of temptation and the paradise that many of them have so long coveted, the couples have to find out if they have what it takes to stay together, and what love really means.

The movie ends much like any romantic comedy does, but they do tread a fine line of providing some good humor and dialog. It's definitely entertaining enough to make you laugh and have a good time with, offering a little something for everyone. I particularly enjoyed Malin Ackerman's convincing turn as the harried housewife to Vince Vaughn's good natured, albeit lazy, husband. I also think my personal love of Kristen Bell weighed in slightly, though her portrayal as an over organized wife who just can't quite keep up with Bateman's hyper critical smothering husband. The fact they all of the ladies looked great in bikini's didn't hurt either. You also get some funny turns from Jean Reno and John Michael Higgens as staff members.

The downsides in the film are minimal at best. The plot and acting are average and predictable, but they compensate with getting the most out of the comedic performances. Vaughn treads familiar and comfortable territory and Jon Favreau brings some energy in what is becoming his go to role as the manic angry guy. Ackerman and Bell where my favorites in the film, and even Faizon Love brought some much needed apathy to his role and the film.

There are far worse films to check out and I defiantly thought that this was passable, just about the right mixture of what I expected from this type of movie. If you are looking for a fun film to see you certainly get your moneys worth. Overall I enjoyed Couples Retreat, I think you will too.

End of Line.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Word Balloon: The Ultimates

Hey all,

I missed last month's installment of this column due to my poor work ethic and shoddy posting efforts. To compensate I am going to attempt to post this column twice this month, one for September, one for October. First off, let's take a look at September's comic book of choice, a return to more mainstream superhero fare with Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's Ultimates. Originally published in 2002 under Marvel's Ultimate banner, this series was a modern day re-imagining of the core super hero book, The Avengers. The Ultimate line was first introduced in 2000 as a means to create fresh and modern uptakes on many of Marvel's pre-existing properties. This would allow readers a brand new universe to explore with contemporary takes on their favorite super heroes without the nearly 40 years of continuity baggage many of them. it was a great plan for Marvel, you didn't alienate any of the readers who grew up on Spiderman (who by now is in his late 20's and married) for you still had that book, but here you could go back to telling stories of a teenage Spiderman in high school to attract in a whole new set of readers. A lot of this concept I covered in my review of Ultimate Spiderman in an earlier column.

With the Avengers Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch breathes a completely new life into the series. Calling them the Ultimates, the duo changed the status qua of the Marvel universe with completely original takes on well worn and established characters. The story is set right in 2002, a time where America is looking for protection against enemies abroad and for anyone to safe guard American soil. Enter Colonel Nick Fury, Agent of Shield, who is charged with creating a super human task force to protect us from threats. Fury is the first remastered character we meet. In the original universe Nick Fury is commander of Shield (a global peace keeping agency) and a WW2 veteran. In this version he is now an African America (who look is based on Samuel L. Jackson) and the epitome of cool. Teaming up with a pair of scientists, Dr. Bruce Banner who is working on a variant of the Super Soldier serum that created Captain America in the 40's, and Dr. Hank Pym, who has developed a formula that allows you to grow to giant proportions, or shrink to insect like size. Each scientist is based in insecurity, Banner a sniveling weakling no one likes who turns into the Hulk after testing a failed version of his own formula and Pym a deeply insecure man who takes his aggressions out on his wife, Janet. She is the next member of the team, maybe the most unchanged of all versions of the characters, as The Wasp, able to shrink her size and shoot energy blasts, though in this version she is Asian.

He also recruits several big guns. Billionaire industrialist Tony Stark as Iron Man, a hard drinking womanizer who joins because he is dying and wants to make up for some of his life's choices, but mostly for the party and the ladies involved. Thor is the next member a self proclaimed god with the abilities to control lightning and possessed of incredible strength and endurance. He also is either a messiah or a lunatic, depending on if you believe his tale. He also represents the left wing majority in the group, joining the team solely to spread his message of peace and tolerance. The final member and the key to the teams success is their field leader, Captain America himself. His origin is the same, fighting Nazi troops in Germany during WW2 using abilities gained from a special serum, then getting caught in an explosion that caused him to be frozen in a block of ice for nearly 60 years. This Cap is very much a soldier and a member of "the Greatest Generation," not afraid to take a life and epitomizing the attitude of never say die.

The story is simple, Fury recruits Banner and Pym to help develop a new Super soldier for the American government. Pym focuses on his Giant Man and Ant Man soldiers, while Banner tries desperately to re-create the formula that created Captain America. Fury tries to recruit Thor, who wants nothing to do with the teams right wing agenda, but manages to convince Stark to join as Iron Man. Luckily there is a break for Fury when Captain America is found frozen in a block of ice in the arctic. After thawing him out and getting Cap through the culture shock, he agrees to lead the team, and just in time to face their first threat, a rampaging out of control Bruce Banner who has become the Hulk.

The series was pitched as a finite series, 13 issues, and is collected in two trades, volume 1 Super Human (which tells this story) and volume 2 Homeland Security which features the teams battle against an alien race of shape shifters. It's had 3 volumes so far, but the first trade is where its at. Millar breaths a new life into characters that have been around forever. Ultimate Captain America is truly a man who never says die and can't quit. He isn't afraid of anything and leads the charge for whatever the mission may be. He is maybe one of the most engaging characters in comics. Tony Starks womanizing alcoholic is great foil to Cap and provides a much needed breath of comic timing and fun to the series. Millar also captures very different character dynamics in each member of the Ultimates, really encompassing the entire team aspect of the book, never letting one character become to much the focus of attention.

The same can be said of Bryan Hitch's pencils. This is another book that really embraced the burgeoning wide screen action feel of comics. Hitch's ultra detailed art blows up on the page, using giant spread shots and bombastic hyper reality images to create a sense that the book is bigger and the effects are larger than other comics. Hitch is truly a penciler without peer in comics and Ultimates is his best work to date. He creates viable and realized looks for established icons that are both contemporary and classic, immediately recognizable but with enough of a twist to keep the characters modern and fresh.

Ultimates was a book plagued with publishing delays, taking nearly two years to complete its first 13 issue arc. The delays were on both the artist and the writer, Hitch's detailed pencils taking longer than normal comic production, Millar's story and plot lines evolving to meet the changing climates of political climates. Strangely, such was the demand for issues that the delay did nothing to decrease demand for the title, rocking it to Marvel's number one book during the months it shipped and adding some much welcomed star power to the Ultimate line, whose launched only with Ultimate Spiderman and Ultimate X-Men.

Ultimates still remains the yardstick for wide screen action books. What set it apart was the storyline, delving into the political policy of America and the hazards of having a super powered response team. It's really one of the few super hero books I have reviewed in the column, a look at the potential of super hero comics and what realms of possibility can be explored. Millar is a very controversial writer, often pushing the envelopes on projects like Wanted (which I reviewed here) and Chosen (his riff on Jesus and religion) but here he attempts to peel back the veil of public perception and dive, almost with glee, into big screen big budget super heroics, while still tending the fine line of a measured and entertaining tale.

If you are looking for the summer blockbuster of comics, look no further than Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's Ultimates: Volume 1: Super Human, for a great read and a great adventure.

End of Line.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where Has The Sun Gone To Lie?

Hey all,

A bit of dreary poetry to brighten, or maybe darken, your day. It's been several weeks since I took a stab at writing and this one came really easily. I typed every line in about a 20 minute span total, only getting stuck on one rhyming couplet, but even then when I found the combo it seemed perfect. I typed it really fast, mostly I think because a lot of this stuff is very much on the surface of how I feel right now. Very confused, lonely, scared, a strange time of year to be sure. I'm going to be another year older soon and I still have so many questions. I hope you like the poem, I actually didn't hate it to much when I re-read it to myself. Enjoy as it where.

Where Has The Sun Gone To Lie?

When did it get so cold outside,

Where has the sun gone to lie?

When brightest day turned to night,

And alibi's became my plight,

I hid behind a love found false,

My beating heart the stillest pulse.

For all the lies I told myself,

Pretending your richest prize my wealth.

That I'd had your heart in mine,

Yet you'd left mine still behind.

Wished I'd seen you every day,

Wishing more I'd made a better play.

Shared a hug, even that soft kiss,

But in the end our hearts amiss.

Couldn't come clean or tell you true,

Just can't say how I feel for you.

If I'd been born a braver man,

Then perhaps that thought could stand.

But every day I die a cowards death,

Holding your name upon my breath.

Perhaps one day you feel as I,

Better still sometime I'll reach up high,

To grab your love and hold you tight,

Only then will my world feel right.

Until that day I'll stay your friend,

Suffer the pain until the end.

I know in my heart your worth it all,

I just hope that I survive heart's fall.

No more tears or forlorn thought,

From this world of which I've wrought.

In the shadows my heart will wait,

For the sun to rise on what is fate.

When the warming rays will heat the shore,

And the sun awakes on so much more.

End of Line.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Hey all,

Sunday was a day of sports for me. Football is by far my favorite sport to watch and earlier in the week I had a chance to score some very inexpensive Cardinals tickets to catch them take on the Houston Texans. This is my second game at the stadium, my first being the opportunity to see my original home town team The Cleveland Browns two years ago, which I actually believe I posted on.

The tickets I had procured were upper deck seats on the corner of the end zone. Not the greatest adamantly, but for the price a good deal. I went with my friend Steph, whom may be a bigger football fan than even I. As we were meeting another opportunity presented itself to upgrade our tickets to lower level seating for free. Close friends of Steph's parents are season ticket holders and hadn't sold their seats, so they gave them to us. We got to move down about 30 rows from the front. We had a great view of the field and of the Western end zone.

Overall the stadium is just a wonderful venue for football. The dome can be open or closed (it was closed today) to create the perfect environment. Today it was beautiful and cool inside, with no pesky shadows or sun beams ruining your view. Combined with a parking pass which got us stadium based parking, it was shaping up to be a great day.

The game itself was far from what I expected. The Texans are known for their weak secondary this year and I expected a very pass prolific Cardinals team to light them up and run up the score, and in the first half they did not disappoint. By halftime they were up 21 to 0 and the game looked to be in the bag. The second half was a total change though, with Houston getting excellent pressure on Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and effectively shutting down both the pass and the Cardinals already negligible run. Meanwhile the Texans also found their passing game, running a series of screens and short yardage throws that efficiently moved them down field. The Cards defense was unable to get pressure on Texans QB Matt Schaub nor could they stop the short passing game. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Texans had tied the score and were marching to score again until an opportune interception by Arizona led to a touchdown return and the lead. Still Schaub and the Texans got the ball back with several minutes to go and marched down the field, getting deep into the Cards Red Zone on the 4th yard line. Finally, the Cards defense, which had been picked apart on short yardage plays, stepped up and stopped them on 4 consecutive plays, from the 4th yard line down to the inches mark. It was an incredible turn as the Cards regained the ball on their own 1 yard line to run out the clock.

I expected the Cards to blow up this team, but there is still some offensive and defensive opportunities on the team to address. The Cards need to step their game up if they want to repeat their run into the playoffs. Still I saw some flashes of brilliance from the team, and in the end, a win is a win and no one really remembers the details. Looking forward to the teams game next week and in viewing how the rest of the season works out.

Thanks for reading.

End of Line.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Flash Fiction: Noir Story

Chapter 20

Annie had been inside the Zero Room for about 45 minutes. Things had seemed quiet so far. Annie had borrowed one of her girlfriends cars, an old sedan that had seen better days, but hell it beat waiting for a cab. I had parked just down the street from the club, close enough to watch the door but far enough back to not draw suspicion. We had agreed to give her one hour before meeting back up outside. I flicked out the butt of my smoke and lit up another one (I'd been chain smoking since Annie went inside) into the soft drizzle of rain outside.

It washed the water run in rivulets off the window, the streaks of month old dust and dirt pooling at the bottom of the glass. The rain trying to ash the filth off the car, off the city herself. Some places, like this one though, were simply to dirty to ever get clean again. I held my hand out into the gentle water fall, feeling the cool patter on my hand, wondering if that included me too.

I was jerked out of my reverie when my phone began buzzing. I thumbed open the screen, expecting the worst. It was a text message. From Annie. It simply read:

Sixx and Horner here. Come inside.- Annie

I rolled up the window of the car and got out. I pulled my trench coat around me and flipped up the collar, hat pulled low. This should cut down on the fact that my face looked like hammered meat right now. As I walked to the entrance I slipped my Beretta into the crotch of my pants, it wasn't comfortable but if the patted me down typically bouncers don't like to touch your balls. There was a line to get into the club but I walked around the velvet rope and told the guy to find my name on the list. I told him Franklin and slid two bills across the top of the clipboard. He smiled and gestured me through after a cursory pat down.

The music was blaring, some neo-electronic rave shit that I don't think I was ever young enough for and the patrons from the club looked like extras from a Mad Max movie. A mixture of leather and nylon, dark blacks and shocks of neon color, all writhing and grinding in a huddled mass. I skirted the dance floor and looked for Annie near the bar. I stood towards the end of the counter and fanned the crowd, looking for my Annie's distinctive shade of red in the common area. I was beginning to get worried when I finally found her. Then I got really worried. She was over in the private section, a series of tables and booths sectioned off and guarded by some heavy muscle. She was sitting at a table with several other people, mostly girls, laughing and flirting. It was the two guys at the table that had me worried. Johnny Sixx, and Roger fucking Horner himself.

I was gonna need a drink for this shit.

End of Line.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Concert Time: Bob Saget!

Hey all,

No your not seeing double. I DID go to another concert, though this time it was a comedy show instead of a musical act. Late last year at a charity dinner I won an auction for two free tickets to the Celebrity Theatre downtown. Any show I wanted over the course of a year. I thought to myself that this was a GREAT prize. There will be plenty of things that I want to see playing there.

That was last November. Last month I actually pulled out the winning forms and realized that while I thought they expired at the end of the year, they actually expired at the end of October. Needless to say I had to pick something quick, or lose the value of the tickets. So I decided to see a comedy act, one Bob Saget. Yeah, that's right, the dad from Full House.

I had heard his stand up act was WAY different from his sitcom and television stuff and suffice it to say, a HUGE understatement. Though truth be told, I am getting a bit ahead of myself in the story. I asked my good friend Stephanie if she wanted to go with me and luckily she was game. We met after I got out of work and headed downtown to grab a bite to eat. My relationship with her is complex, at least for me. She is a fantastic friend and very important to me. I don't have a lot of people that I hang out with, though generally I get along with everyone. I have a hard time really letting my guard down completely around others. With Steph, well, things are both more and less complicated.

Anyway we were downtown near the theatre looking for a place to eat. Very unsuccessfully. You drive through a very urban section of the down town and we couldn't find a place to eat. We passed on a tiny rib place we saw in a strip mall because they were going to close in 10 minutes, and finally ran across what looked to be a promising establishment, a place called the Stock Yards. A historic restaurant that has been in business over 100 years. Also fancy as fucking hell. Neither of us are real fancy people, simple, fun and accessible works for us. This place was elegant dining, and almost romantic. None of this being panned, and already having been seated, we each chose some light fair on the menu, a nice crab cake appetizer, and salads, and skipped the $50 a plate entrees. Now I will point out I more than offered to cover whatever she wanted to eat, but like I said, not her type of environment.

After we had ordered I think our waitress hated me. She was very curt to me and very nice to Steph. I know she was thinking this poor attractive girl is saddled on a date with this over weight schlub who can't even buy her an entree at the restaurant. She marked me as a cheap bastard who didn't deserve to be here. Steph thought it was hilarious. Still I wondered after the fact what kind of opportunity could have presented itself. I'm scared to find out the truth, to ask her what she could possibly think of me. Afraid that I already know the truth, afraid that I will no longer share the same friendship and warmth that I have now.

Back to the matter at hand at any rate. We finished out overpriced meal and made for the theatre. I have to say that Bob Saget did not let me down. A very different kind of comedy act, he doesn't really do bits, he just sort of free forms his act in a series of crazy set ups and lets the tangents fly wild whenever the audience yells something at him. He worked very blue, very offensive. I also liked how he worked the crowd in. Anytime one person laughed at a particularly offensive joke, he would heckled the audience member with jokes pertaining to that which the guy laughed at. For instance he mercilessly teased a guy who admitted to liking colon exams, and went on a good five minute rant about another guy fucking animals. It was fun, wild, and very stream of conscious. I barely avoided the heckling myself during one joke.

The Celebrity Theatre is really a theatre in the round, the performer is in the center of the room on a round stage (that can be spun in a circle if you want) so that it creates a more intimate environment. He had his back to me during the joke in question, but I laughed so loud at one joke, and was clearly one of the few not to shocked by it, to be heard by the entire audience. He whirled around wondering what sick fuck would laugh at that before moving on with his rant. The joke in question, which may be one of the most tasteless ever, really caught me off guard and had me laughing at the sheer wrongness of it all.

"The best thing about snuff films is that you only have to do one take."

Just. So. Wrong.
and perfect for my dark sense of humor.

He even closed the show doing a few parody songs and comedic music bits. His best two, one about a dog licking his balls was very funny, and another, entitled Danny Tanner was not Gay, also got a big pop from the audience, which included Frankie Munoz of Malcolm in the Middle fame. He was genuinely warm and funny, and made me a bit of a fan from just his general appeal and how well he related to both the audience as a whole, and how he interacted with individuals in the crowd. Very funny.

All in all we had a great time at the show, and even a really fun time on teh cruise up Van Buren on the way home. A well known street for working girls in Phoenix, you attempt to spot them as you head for the free way on ramp entrance. We were a little ways down Van Buren so we had several miles to check. I should say that Steph was quite saddened by the fact that she missed one girl arguing physically with another guy, whom I assumed to be her pimp. (Don't worry, the girl was winning.) We also tried to find the sleaziest hourly motel on the road as well, something we had started doing on the drive down (we had taken an alternate route when looking for dining).

I had so much fun. It was really just a great evening. High praise to Saget for his show, and high praise for the evening in general.

Thanks for reading, I'll be back with Flash Fiction tomorrow.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Concert Time: Star Wars Live!

Hey all!

Last weekend I won two free tickets to see something called Star Wars in Concert playing at one of the arena's in town. I had heard about the show but I hadn't thought much of it as tickets seemed pricey and there was a seriously good chance that it would be epically lame. The music of Star Wars replayed by a live orchestra, supplemented by video montage from the films.

To be honest, I am really glad that I won. It was a really amazing experience that reminded me why I loved the original trilogy so much. The tickets were very good seats, lower level seating just to the right of the stage. They also had a lot of actual Star Wars Memorabilia on display, like the original Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Boba Fett costumes, plus props and other items from the films. The entire event was hosted by Anthony Daniels, the actor who portrayed C-3PO in the films. I have to say, I treated the ceremony with just the right amount of apathy, seriousness, and fun to make the entire event entertaining, and not just a huge love fest for all that is Star Wars. There was a little, yes, but overall he brought in the perfect human touch.

The orchestra playing though songs live was really wonderful as well. Hearing them on a CD or in the film, even from a high school band, doesn't match the palpability or impact that a full classically trained orchestra brings to the table. A blend of strings, horns, drums, harps, you name it, they captured the sounds and songs of Star Wars and recreated them right there. The video montages were fun, but I was even more brought into the story when they added in laser light effects, strobes, and fire blasts that wafted out into the audience. It created a really powerful environment that I enjoyed. I mean it certainly could have gotten lame quickly, but they did a great job of finding that prefect medium of fun and seriousness, the perfect reminder of why Star Wars resonates so much over 30 years later.

Big recommendation to check it out of it comes by your town, I know that if it happens to come by next year, it's something i will give serious thought to revisiting.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Flash Fiction: Noir Story

Chapter 19

The next morning I felt like six kinds of weak old shit. The anti-inflammatories had cut down on the swelling around my eye, but it was still black and blue. Annie'd reset my nose as well after the pain meds had kicked in too so breathing was a lot easier. The purplish bruising along my side had taken on a yellow hue and was tender as fuck so we had wrapped them up in some bandages. My movements had sure slowed down but at least I was up and about again.

Annie cooked me some breakfast and peppered me with questions about what I was gonna do next. She didn't say anything stupid about how the case was to dangerous or that I was in over my head, for which I was grateful. Annie didn't pull any of that kind of shit. She knew who I was still deep down, maybe that was why she stuck with me. She had however, insisted on checking out the Zero Room tonight and casing the place. I had argued with her about it, that it was to dangerous, but she had made to many good points. She could check the place out without arising any suspicion and see if she spotted Johnny Sixx or Roger Horner, or maybe even Elsa herself before I went in.

I wasn't happy about it, but I knew she was gonna do what she wanted to no matter how much I fought it and frankly I was to fucking tired and sore to argue. That afternoon I spent some time finding some pictures of Sixx out of my old case files for Annie to study. I also let her look at the copies of pics I had of Elsa and Horner so she was ready. Annie wasn't some rookie kid, she had grown up on the streets and knew how to handle herself in tough situations. She wouldn't make obvious mistakes. Still, I went over with her the best way to phrase questions and told her what to keep an eye out for. Lastly I programmed her cell phone to speed dial me by pressing the number one. If she got into any trouble, I could make a move.

Later that night Annie got ready to hit the club. The Zero Room was located on the edge of the Burrow. Just on the fringe of the warren to be dangerous, but not so deep within to scare everyone off. The place rocked an underground rave scene, a mixture of electronic punk dance that I was to old for but where Anne would fit right in. She was wearing knee length black boots and a leather mini skirt and jacket. Her blood red tank top plunged deeply in the front, showing off her breasts and the tattoo's that spread over the front of her chest. She wore enough chains and spikes to fit in at an S & M festival to boot. Frankly, she looked perfect.

We made our way downstairs to catch a cab, and little did I know that after tonight, our relationship would change forever.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Assorted Nuts

Happy October All!

I gotta say August was a pretty disappointing month for me creatively. A few posts, nothing really solid, and I didn't really post anything the last 10 days or so, a fact which bothers me a lot. I don't want to get into excuses about the amount of hours I have been working or the exhaustion that has taken a hold of me when I get home. The simple fact is that I didn't keep my commitments and for that I am sorry.

I should have plenty of updates this month. I have several bits of Flash Fiction to get written down as well as a few film reviews. I also have some concerts coming up this month and my annual trip to the fair. It should be a good month for content. Especially knowing that my own Dad called me out for my lack of production this past month means I have to turn it up and get back onto a schedule. Look for new Flash Fiction on Sundays, and I am going to try to get a few mid week tales up as well, diving into a short Under the Dead Sun Western for Halloween, plus maybe one other tale.

So faith and work ethic be willing, I'll see you tomorrow with brand new content and we can kick off October with solid start. Thanks for sticking it out.

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