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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Movie Time: Rewind: Top Hat

Hey all,

Welcome to the February edition of The Rewind, where we place the spotlight on great movies of the past, specifically before the year of my birth, 1976. As this month was Valentine’s Day, I thought we should choose something lighthearted and fun, with romance, a feel-good movie. For me, that means picking out a musical and if you’re going to pick out a romantic musical, you can’t go wrong with one of the most successful on screen couples of all time, the impeccable Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Rogers and Astaire are the pre-emanate pairing, really becoming the first on screen man and woman team in the 1930’s, really since the dawn of talkies. First teaming up for cameo roles in RKO studios in 1933’s Down to Rio, they went on to make a total of 10 films as a couple. First teaming up in the Gay Divorcee, an adaptation of a Broadway play that Astaire had done in the 20’s, then onto the first picture wrote specifically with them in mind, this month’s pick Top Hat, directed by Mark Sandrich.

It is said that in cinema, dance begins with Fred Astaire. Classically trained in many styles, including ballet and tap, Astaire revolutionized dance in cinema by insisting in single takes as much as possible, and keeping the dancing always in full frame. By seeing the entirety of the dancer, instead of relying on close ups, you got to appreciate the art of the dance better. He also choreographed much of his own dance with the help of Hermes Pan, this way to better highlight both himself and his partner.

Ginger Rogers wasn’t as trained as Astaire, but is credited with being a quick learner. She adapted to Astaire in a way that made any other partner dancing with him at the time not look quite right. Primarily a singer, studio execs saw something in that first pairing that they believed would catch fire, and they were right. RKO actress Katherine Hepburn said of the pairing, Astaire gives her class, Rogers gives him sex appeal. While I don’t know if that was meant as a compliment, it certainly came true.

Top Hat, produced in 1935 was the second highest grossing film of the year bringing in over three million at the box office, a huge number at the time (especially in Depression-Era America). The third picture they had made as a team, it was the first made with both actors in mind. By many classic cinema watchers, it is also considered one of the finest examples of their work together. By the same coincidence, this feature also has the most dance numbers with them as a couple, dancing 5 times together along with individual performances for each.

It stars Astaire as an American dancer name Jerry Travers who is traveling to England to star in his friend Horace’s show (played by the wonderfully inept Edward Everet Horton). While practicing a tap routine in his hotel room one night, he accidentally awakens Dale Tremont (played by Rogers) who storms up to complain. Jerry falls hopelessly in love and pursues her all over England.

In this time Dale mistakes Jerry for his friend Horace, who happens to be married to a friend of hers named Madge (played by Helen Broderick). Dale leaves for Venice to model gowns for her friend Alberto, an Italian dandy. When Jerry learns of this after the success of his opening night show, he heads for Venice with Horace. Jerry professes his love for Dale, but she is disgusted by the behavior of what she believes to be a married man. She agrees to marry Alberto. Fortunately Horace’s valet Bates (character actor Eric Blore) has been tailing Dale at Jerry’s request and disguises himself as the minister.

When Jerry finally convinces Dale to take a gondola ride with him, he manages to clear up the confusion of the situation, and the two agree to marry, dancing off into the sunset with a final huge production number.

It’s a simple movie of mistaken identification, very similar to the couples previous hit, The Gay Divorcee. Audiences really responded to the film though, thanks to the chemistry between Astaire and Rogers and the wonderful music of Irving Berlin. The choreography wasn’t bad either.

This is the film that established many of the trademarks of an Astaire and Rodgers film. First with the costuming. Astaire became synonymous wearing the tuxedo. White shirt and tie, with a top hat, cane, and tails on his jacket. Rodgers throughout there pictures wears wonderfully elaborate dresses, the crown of which is the ostrich feather garment she wears in the duos main dance together. It established the spectacle that became such a part of these musicals. Not a spectacle like Busby Berkley’s Follies, where it was huge shots of dancers in glitter and lighters, but the spectacle of two people in finely crafted attire dancing together like no other combination.

The dancing itself is great to. The first film completely arranged musically by Irving Berlin since the late 20’s, he created a friendship that Astaire held throughout the entirety of their life. The final dance scene where Astaire and Rodgers dance throughout the canals and waterways of Venice is awesome. The stage took up two lots at the time, unheard of for a musical production, and they use every element of it.

Though they teamed up several more times throughout the 1930’s Astaire went into an early retirement by the early 40’s, believing that his time as an actor was drawing to a close with diminishing returns on his films. Rodgers continued to act with RKO and was one of their biggest stars of the 40’s. Astaire came out of retirement in 1949 to co-star once again with Rodgers, and continued to make films into the late 50’s, filling in for an injured Gene Kelley in his biggest hit, Easter Parade, and acting with Audrey Hepburn in a highly re-written version of one of his Broadway hits of the 20‘s Funny Face in 1957.

Astaire and Rodgers have been the sum of parts of dance in movies for the better part of nearly 80 years. Treat yourself to a really fun and relaxing movie, lighthearted and wonderfully romantic. A picture from a much simpler time. RKO’s 1935classic, Top Hat.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Flash Fiction: Three More Bullets

Chapter 6

I spent another month and a half with the Lawson's before I was ready to ride. I could walk straight, shoot straight, and stand straight, it was good enough. I had managed to clean up and fix my father's gun, though it did pull to the left. I also had a nice rifle that Maggie used to hunt rabbits with. This family had taken in a complete stranger and cared for him and my repayment was to take their gun and leave them. I felt bad, but I knew Maggie felt worse.

Maggie was a beautiful girl who probably could have had her pick of any husband, but her dedication to her father's doctoring and the farm had kept her from that. I knew that she had grown fond of me. I had caught the eyes she made when she thought I wasn't lookin' and the way she held herself around me. I was flattered, and yes, maybe even a little tempted.

But That wouldn't be fair to her. Fair to my wife and daughter. I did what I had done with everything else that had happened to me. I bottled it up and wedged it deep inside myself. There would be a time for everything. Either I would find my revenge, and hopefully peace, or I would die and join my family.

I tried to avoid a tearful goodbye by slipping out in the early hours, before the roosters crowed and the sun rose. I left a note, thanking them for all they had done and slipped out the door. As I saddled up the horse they had lent me and threw my meager belongings over the mare's back, I looked back at the house and saw Maggie in the doorway. She was still in her shift, the moonlight reflecting off the thin garment. I could see the slight glisten of a tear rolling down her face. Her lips moved and i could hear her words carried by the night breeze.

"Promise me you'll come back Ethan."

I got on my horse and slowly rode away. Leaving behind Maggie Lawson. My angel.

End of Line.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Movie Review: Coraline

Hey all,

Last night I saw the wonderful new movie Coraline, in 3D. It literally took my breath away. To be honest, this is the first movie I have seen in 3D since like Jaws 3D, and to be fair that wasn't that impressive. Coraline blew me away.

First off, let's talk about the story. Coraline is the story of a young girl named Coraline Jones, who moves to a rural apartment in the middle of nowhere with her parents, workaholics who tend to ignore her. She meets a young boy named Wybie, short for Wyborn, who she thinks is weird. Wybie finds a doll that looks just like Coraline in his Grandmothers attic, and gives it to Coraline. The only difference is that the doll has buttons for eyes.

As Coraline explores the new house she discovers a strange half-door that has been wallpapered over. After promising her Mother that she would leave her alone if she opens the door, Coraline discovers that behind the door it has been bricked over, leaving her disappointed. As she explores the rest of the complex, she meets her strange neighbors. Downstairs are Miss Forcible and Miss Spinks, former stage actresses who have grown senile in their old age. Upstairs is Mr. Bobinsky, a former circus act who is now training a jumping mouse circus, who is also a little strange.

That night though when Coraline goes to bed, she wakes up upon hearing a noise, discovering a small jumping mouse in her room. As she follows him downstairs, she watches the mouse run into the little door, and when she opens it, a long tunnel is behind it. Following the tunnel, she emerges into a room just like the one she left, albeit slightly changed. As she explores her house, she stumbles across her Mother in the kitchen cooking up a wonderful meal. When she sees her Mother's face though, her eyes have been replaced by buttons.

This is her Other Mother, along with her Other Father and Other Wybie. Her Other Mother explains that this world is just for Coraline and exists to make her happy, with lavish meals and friends. As Coraline grows less suspicious, she enjoys the meal and is laid down to bed in a wonderfully decorated room. When she awakens, she has to wonder if it was a dream.

The next day after a quarrel with her Mother, Coraline plots to go back, laying bait for the jumping mouse. When he returns, she follows him into the Other world. There her Other Mother has created a beautiful garden in her image, and each new visit treats her to more lavish presents, including a performance from Mr. Bobinsky's jumping mice, and of Miss' Spinks and Forcible's play.

During one trip she meets Wybie's strange cat, who in this world can talk and warns her that not all is as appears. She later learns that her Other Mother wants her to stay forever, and that everything she wants could be hers, if she lets her sew buttons onto her eyes. When Coraline refuses, she is locked away, with the trapped souls of other children the Other Mother has captured over the years. With the help of the cat, she escapes and vows to never go back. Until she finds out that the Other Mother has captured her parents.

Forced to make one last trip, she arms herself with a pruning shear and a special trinket that the real Miss' Spinks and Forcible gave her, and she ventures forth into the world one more time, to free her parents, and the trapped souls of the lost children.

The story is based on writer Neil Gaimen's work and I am glad he finally broke free in movies with one of his works. Most well known for writing DC Comics flagship Vertigo book, Sandman, in recent years he has been attached to adaptations of his own work, Like the BBC miniseries Neverwhere and the theatrical release of Stardust, as well as adapting Beowolf last year. Finally a movie captures his quirky blend of goth and humor. The writing is crisp and tight, with enough danger and whimsy to offset each other.

The animation is spectacular. Especially the fact the film is stop Motion animation, and not digital. The 3D effects are in some cases mind blowing, where it feels like the movie is coming right out of the screen at you. It really made me marvel at how far 3D has come over the years. Especially as in the first few minutes of the film the 3D effects were off, I was greatly concerned. The picture was blurry and poor, but when they dropped the filter in place, the movie seemed to come alive! I actually want to see more films in 3D, it was incredible! It is also great to see that stop motion animation is not dead, the effects and animation is these puppets were just as good as anything offered in now traditional animation, or even digitally.

If you have a child, or are a fan of animated fair, this is the best animated film since Wall-E last year. Directed by Henry Selick, the director of A Nightmare Before Christmas, he creates a great bridge between the gothic sense in that film with a more universal appeal. Selick, along with Gaimen, have created a truly memorable film in the process. Also starring the voice talents Dakota Fanning as Coraline, Teri Hatcher as the Mother (and Other Mother), Ian McShane as Mr. Bobinsky, and Keith David as the Cat, Coraline is the first must see movie of 2009!

End of Line.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Word Balloon: Kingdom Come

Hey all,

I thought long and hard about what book to highlight this month. There are still so many great choices out there, but I wanted to choose a creative team I haven't highlighted yet. That's why this month we are going to look at DC Comics 1996 4 issue masterpiece, Kingdom Come, by writer Mark Waid and artist Alex Ross.

The book is based of an idea by renowned comic book painter Alex Ross, who wanted to do a tale of DC heroes similar to Alan Moore's Watchmen a decade earlier, though this time using DC staples like Batman and Superman. The idea of a dark DC future was not something that was particularly associated with DC at the time, whose books represented a far more positive future, unlike rival Marvel. Kingdom Come is the story of a battle between the traditional super heroes, Like Superman and Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League, and the new dangerous and irresponsible vigilante heroes that have arisen. Caught in the middle is Batman and his group of Outsiders, who is trying to contain the struggle and stop the machinations of Lex Luthor.

Kingdom Come is a DC Elseworlds tale, that is to say a story about DC characters that isn't necessarily part of continuity or canon. The happenings in the book represent the possible future of these characters that may or may not happen. Its sort of a What If? tale that draws close lines to the then current continuity. The story itself is set 20 years in the then future of the DC Universe and draws much on biblical imagery, especially the Book of Revelations.

The story is narrated by minister Norman McKay, whom also acts as our point of view. As a longtime friend of the original Sandman (the DC version from the '40s and not there more famous Vertigo Comics take) he has inherited his ability, sharing apocalyptic visions of the future. Suffering a crisis of faith, he is visited by The Spectre, a one time hero who has lost his humanity and whose job it is to now pass judgement of the good and the wicked in the upcoming battle. The Spectre takes Norman on a journey to bear witness the coming struggle.

Ten years prior to these actions, Superman has retreated from public life, dis-enheartened by the public approval of these new vigilante heroes, like Magog, the man who killed the Joker. The Joker had just murdered many of Superman's friends at the Daily Planet, including Jimmy Olsen and the love of his life, Lois Lane, and Magog took justice into his own hands. Rejecting public life after Magog is acquitted and embraced by the public, he withdraws to his Fortress of Solitude, along with many other heroes who follow his example.

Flashing forward to the current time, Superman is coaxed out of retirement after Magog attacks the villain Parasite with unnecessary force, and in the struggle nuclear hero Captain Atom is ripped apart causing a nuclear explosion that decimates most of Kansas. Reforming the Justice League, Superman vows to capture or convert these new heroes. Recruiting many of his old guard, as well as some of the new, including the original Robin, now Red Robin, and Wonder Woman, he is rebuffed by Batman.

Bruce Wayne has been ravaged by decades of crime fighting and outed as Batman. He now uses robots to fight the war for Gotham. Infirmed and in a special exo-skeleton, he refuses to join Superman's campaign for fear that it will excaberate the situation, fearing that Superman's plan is outdated, that the mighty should not oppress the weak. HE instead forms a third faction, made up of many of the non-powered heroes, like the Green Arrow and The Black Canary.

Lex Luthor is also alive and has formed a group of former villains, like the Riddler and Vandal Savage, to regain control of the world from these supposed "heroes." Using mind control, Luthor also has control over Captain Marvel, a hero who by uttering the magic word, transforms from a normal young boy into a hero with powers strong enough to stop Superman. Batman and his forces seemingly join up with Luthor and his team in an effort to quell the heroes.

Superman's Justice League captures more "criminals" than it converts and they build a giant prison, called The Gulag in the ruins of Kansas. When the inmates riot, killing Captain Comet, the designated warden, Batman acts. Having learned of Luthor's mind control of Marvel and his plans to seize power with the fallout from a battle at the Gulag, Batman's team captures Luthor's group, but not before Captain Marvel escapes and frees the rest of the inmates.

What follows is a battle of epic scale, as all three teams face each other. Batman's group trying to create a balance, and the inmates and the Justice League clash. Batman even adopts an armored suit and clashes with Wonder Woman, while Superman battles Captain Marvel admist the chaos. When a squadron of fighter arrive to drop nuclear warheads on the the lot, Batman and Wonder Woman mange to stop two, but a third slips free. Superman manages to free Marvel from Luthor's brainwashing, transforming him back into his human form. There he is told to decide, as the only one who is both a human and a hero, he must decide to allow Superman to stop the bomb and have their war engulf the world, or allow all the meta humans to die. In the end, Marvel decides on a third option, detonating the bomb himself.

The fallout kills many heroes, though some survive with the help of a teleporting Dr. Fate and under the shields of the Green Lanterns. Superman is caught in the blast and believes himself to be the last survivor. Flying to the United Nations building in a rage, he attacks the UN building, blaming them for killing his friends. Though the other heroes arrive, it is Norman McKay who talks down Superman, showing him that his current actions are the real reason people fear humans. Ashamed, the heroes decide to use there wisdom to guide, rather than lead, leaving behind the old crime busting vigilante ways and taking a more global and political stance. Eventually Superman dedicates his life to reforming the Kansas farmlands, and Batman opens Wayne Manor to the victims of the fallout, becoming a healer. Both men taking the jobs of their fathers.

There are a lot of great things about this book. First up is artist Alex Ross. Widely considered his best work, the book is fully painted in a gouache style, creating lifelike representations of the heroes. This was Ross' second large style work, having painted a series for Marvel two years prior, but in Kingdom Come, he launched himself in the stratosphere as the pre-emanate painter in comics, and as one of the most respected artists period. The images are grand in scale, especially chapter 4, the battle of the heroes. Lush and full of color, but breathtaking. Without a shadow of a doubt, no matter how good this story is, with Ross this book would not be the success it is today.

Writer Mark Waid also does an excellent job fleshing out and giving life to Ross' story concept. He create a book so rich and thick with the history of DC characters that I was afraid it would be overwhelming and I would not know what is going on. Instead, as long as you have a basic knowledge of the big three, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, you can really follow the story. The rich history is there for everyone to enjoy, but you don't have to be an encyclopedia of the DCU to understand or follow it. The story really finds a balance in paralleling the Bible, drawing on very well known archetypes to tell a story wholly its own. This is also considered Mark Waid's most respected work.

Kingdom Come is one of those must read stories for comic fans, easily in the top five of comic book tales. Its a superhero tale with substance, where the story delves into what greatness this medium can truly accomplish. Both visually and narrativly innovating, you can follow the tale from an ordinary man's point of view, into a world of extraordinary people. Themes like the abuse of power and finding ones place in the world resonate, even when you have the power in the world of man. It shows that humanity isn't being born human, its in how you act and what you do. Kingdom Come is a can't miss for fans of both great visuals and a great story. Check out the collected edition as it is chock full of great extras, including character sketches, character bios, and bonus content.

DC Comics Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. You won't be sorry.

End of Line.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Hey all,

A very poetry heavy month so far. As I gear up to work on my next few flash fiction posts over the next couple of days, I thought I would throw this poem up there. I wrote it last night. Its definitely a return to the darker roots of poetry that I sometimes fall back on. I wanted to do something that channeled some of the different emotions that have been running through me this past week.

Between my step mom recovering in the hospital and that lonely Valentines Day, it just seemed a very natural outpouring to throw myself into. Truthfully when I wrote this poem it started as just jotting down a few lines, having taken an unsuccessful attempt at a breakup poem. Suddenly though words began a flow on their own and I went with it.

Emotionally I feel like I have very much been on a roller coaster this month. This month I think always does that to me though. February is a very lonely time for a single guy and sometimes I just don't know what else to do but write. That would explain why I have posted 4 poems in two weeks, almost doubling my monthly poetry output. The bottom line is that really I don't always know how to express myself verbally. I can't articulate the things I should for many different reasons, fear, shame, self esteem. It seems easy to lose myself in words. To take these emotions and channel them out, through fiction or poetry, helps. Even if the message of the poem doesn't apply, it still can resonate with the feeling.

Feel free to leave some feedback if you like it, or even if you don't.


I pray the day to fall behind,

And leave me to my fate.

I'm ready now to meet the end,

To live no more, this dying date.

Good and bad are both in life,

Though there's one I've done more than favor.

Scrubbed and scrubbed but still it clings,

A darkness that my soul does savor.

My reason doesn't really matter,

I'd leave not card or note.

This failing life that I have led,

I'm lost, alone, so cold, remote.

No farewell or mentions spoke,

Of better days I've seen the best.

My future seems to lose its light,

So I lay me down to rest.

One more breath and all is dark,

My life has bled itself free.

Pumping from this darkened vein,

Bleeding out my life's debris.

As I wash into the beyond,

Said goodbye to this mortal coiled.

I wonder if the stain will lift,

Or if my soul remains too soiled.

End of Line.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jam Session

Hey all,

Sorry I was absent most of the weekend. I had a really cool opportunity to attend the NBA All-Star Jam Session. The Jam Session was held in the Phoenix Convention Center and was open for 6 days. I got a chance to attend the VIP opening on Wednesday where I hot all the booths, then actually work there for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Work was one of the sponsors of the event, and they needed experianced staf to work the event. I was actually elected one of the floor supervisors, so it was my job to coordinate my side of the store. Satuday and Sunday was busy, but we had so much staff my role was mostly supervisory, but Monday they put the screws to us, running on a much shorted staff than they had anticipated. I actually worked pretty hard for my shift, working 4 seoparate stations at once back in the production area. Then once it ended, helping with cleanup and equipment breakdown.

I think it was a lot of fun also to work with all the different staff members that were there. People from all over the state and from different store types, franchise owners to corportae members like me, young and old, it was really a slice of what makes my job great, all the different people you interact with. I got to work one day with my assistant manager, which was fun, as well as one day with my brother who came in as a support staff volunteer. It was nice being able to work with him again after all these years.

Still I made some fairly easy money, won some more money in a raffle ($100!) that maybe useful in replacing my digital camera that sadly got broken down there. I also won a track jacket and met several notable basketball players and a celebrity. We got a chance to meet Shaquille O'Neal, as well as Dwayne Wade, rookie sensation Brandon Roy, and future hall of famer Dikembe Motumbo. Sadly I was on the floor at this time and didn't get to take a picture or anything, but I did have the chance to take one with actor Chris Tucker, of Rush Hour fame.

He and I ate at the same table for lunch, and after his meal he was super gracious with his fans, taking several minutes to pose for pictures and sign autographs and make a few jokes. he smiled and treated everyone really nice, I was honestly surprised he was so cool about everything. the picture we snappped is blurry as hell, far to much light in the background and I don't think I can clean it up any better. I used the crappy camera in my phone because the good one was broken.

To be honest, I am glad I did this and the money sure won't hurt, but the days were long and I am ready to relax for a day or two befor eheading back to my own store to get everything back on track. All in all it was a really cool experiance that any sports fan should check out if given the oppertunity.

End of Line.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three Little Words

Hey all,

Here is my now third Valentine's Day poem. I have now for three years in a row posted a Valentine poem. I really haven't done a straight up love poem in quite a while, though I think I have towed the water a bit. Anyway this is a holiday that typically I hate. I hate being alone, I hate having no one to share it with, and most of all I hate myself sometimes for not having more courage.

I tired to push all that aside and just do something romantic. Let me know what you think, and I hope you all have a good Valentine.

Three Little Words

On today of all days,

How can I measure my love?

Is it with angels singing,

From the Heaven's above?

I'd offer the sun and the clouds,

The moon and the sky,

Just so you'd know,

There is nothing I'd not try.

I would give you worldly gifts,

Like candy and flowers.

Even a romantic getaway,

The jewelry falling in showers.

I could sing you a song,

Or recite poetry I've read.

Write you a sonnet,

About the path our loves led.

Paint a picture to capture,

The romance of our youth.

Even make some other craft,

To tell the same truth.

Yet all of these gifts,

Would pale in compare,

To the gift you've gave me,

Of your love and your care.

The only thing that I want,

Are three little words.

A simple message "I love you,"

That's the sweetest sound ever heard.

End of Line.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flash Fiction: Three More Bullets

Chapter 5

I walked away from the spot where my wife and child had been taken from me. I could see Maggie waiting nervously at the edge of the clearing. Her horse figiting, detecting the riders unease. She and her father had been good to me these past year, I felt bad about dragging her along with me. Another month and that wouldn't be a problem.

As I walked back to my horse, I saw a slight glint in the grass. Near the spot they had held me down. I slammed my eyes shut for a second, trying to block out the images of me failing my family again. But then I let them flood back, all the guilt and all the rage, flowing over me. I walked towards the glint.

There, laying in the grass, was my fathers gun. Time and weather had not been kind to it, almost a year out here in the elements. Still I picked it up, probably thrown away after he had shot me. I ran my hand over the ivory handle, and cracked the barrel open, There was still one lonly round inside the chamber. I ran my hand over the rest of the gun before tucking it into my belt.

i limped back to my horse, tired but better for the wear. I saddled up and began the trek back to Maggie's farm. We rode in silence for the better part of the day. Myself lost in my own memories, Maggie gratefully allowing me time to come to terms with what I had seen. When we settled down for camp that night, Maggie finally broke the silence.

"What are you gonna do now?"

I looked up, brush and oil in hand, cleaning my fathers gun.

"I'm gonna get three more bullets."

End of Line.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Someone So Special

Hey all,

As I posted earlier my Step mom has suffered mild stroke. She is still in the hospital recovering back east but I wanted to try to do something nice for her. I wrote this poem for her in the hopes that I could lift her spirit a bit and offer support even though I am so far away. I feel really bad that I can't be there for them right now, but I wanted her and my Dad to know how much I care about them and that they are not far from my thoughts or heart.

Someone So Special

You are not far from my thoughts,

My head lowered in offered prayer,

To seek a cure for what has wrought,

And find you in the best of care.

Know that I wish I was with you,

To offer support and a helping hand.

In my heart I'll see you through,

And whatever else you demand,

I give to you my love and aid,

And whatever means I have to lend.

So that the cause of ills now made,

Are not equal to the love I send.

Keep strong of spirit and keen of heart,

And let not the days hold you down.

For nothing can keep us apart,

As long as your family is around.

So hold us tight to your chest,

And remember these words unfurled,

That we are the ones truly blessed,

To have someone so special in our world.

End of Line.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Hey all,

I got word today that my step mom has suffered a mild stroke. This really caught me off guard. My step mom, Sherry, has been really good for my Dad. She came into his life at a time where he was really at a crossroads. Divorced from my Mom, who he had been with almost 30 years, working at a job he really hated. He had been on dates, some good, some bad, and Sherry really came along and did the only thing I wanted her to do. Made my Dad happy.

Sherry has always been very supportive of my brother and me, and it really pains me to not be there right now. My Dad has always been a pillar of strength to everyone around him. A person I have really admired in my life who has set the bar of fatherhood really high. Now he is thousands of miles away in Ohio, and I am here in Phoenix. I feel like I should be there for him the way he was always there for me.

Sure, he said the stroke was mild but that doesn't change how I feel or what I feel is my duty. I felt like after my parents divorced, it was my job to be the mediary. The one person that anyone in the family could turn to in times of trouble. It was my job to keep the peace when things between my Mom and brother got to rough, or offer Dad an ear to lend when he needed someone to talk to. Now Dad is a pretty stoic guy and though those times may not have been as plentiful for him as they were for me, still I like to think that he knows all he has to do is ask and I am there.

So today I find myself reflecting on the fragility of life and the importance of surrounding yourself with people who love and support you. I hope my Dad knows the thoughts and prayers I have for him and for Sherry, and that I am here if he needs me. I don't really know how to feel about this, Mostly its just frustration that I can't be there for Dad when he needs me most. I have to hope that he knows how much I love and care for them both, and that there is nothing I wouldn't do for them.

End of Line.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Movie Review: Taken

Hey all,

I caught the new Liam Neeson film Taken today. Written by the great Luc Besson and directed by newcomer Pierre Morel, it stars Neeson, along with Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace. The story is about Neeson, an ex-CIA operative who has retired from the spy game to try to re-connect with his slightly estranged daughter. Having lost his marriage to Janssen and missing much of his daughters childhood, Neeson desperately wants to make up for lost time.

When his daughter gets the opportunity to go to Paris with her friends, he reluctantly agrees despite his hesitations, fearful that saying no will propel her farther away. His daughter, played by Maggie Grace, goes to Paris but winds up being kidnapped by Albania sex slave traders. She manges to call her Father on the phone prior to being abducted, and through that call Neeson learns of the plot to take his daughter and vows to find her.

What proceeds is Neeson on a vengeance ridden quest to track down the slavers and kill or torture anyone who stands in his way. The film is interposed with a series of action sequences, from fighting to car chases to shoot-outs. Neeson must call in his old contacts in Paris and take on the Albania mob in order to track down his daughter before the trail grows cold and he loses her forever.

This film was okay. It definitely had the stamp of Luc Besson on it, who after creating movies like The Professional and The Fifth Element, has really resorted to writing fun action films. This movie doesn't exactly break any new ground, its sort of the movie Ransom meets The Bourne Identity films. The fighting short, quick and brutal. You can feel the Besson vibe on the script beats and action sequences, though Neeson lays some weight to the role of the father, being kind to his daughter, but ruthlessly cold to his enemies. This kind of weight typically isn't what movies associated with Besson lately have been come to be known for, often going the straight action actor route. The director Morel translates the fight sequences well on film, keeping the cuts and pans fast and the camera movements very reminiscent of the Bourne films, all shaky and quick.

There really isn't much in the way of a supporting cast sadly, Janssen and Grace are rarely on camera, and the villains are mostly a parade of goons leading from one boss to another. The villains changing at as quick a pace as the action. Still, the film stays fast at a brief 93 minutes and keeps moving forward. It really gives you no reason to slow down.

All in all it was a fun action movie. Not the type i usually go for, being such a sucker for the cheesy fun of films like The Transporter and Shoot'em Up, but this film has some substance amidst the action, sort of a chewy center in an otherwise dismissed genre. Taken is a fun way to blow an hour and a half, though you may appreciate it more on DVD. If you are just looking for some fun fight scenes and fast paced action, then you should enjoy Taken.

End of Line.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Concert Time: Buck-O-Nine!

Hey all,

So last night I headed out to see my first new show of 2009, and my first show since my birthday back in October. Playing down at the Marquee theatre in Tempe was the Ska is Dead show, featuring 5 ska bands on one card. I missed the opener and since all the bands were not listed on the ticket, I don't know who the first act was. The other 4 acts were all known quantities in the ska scene, including the slightly lesser known Deals Gone Bad, plus Buck o Nine, The Voodoo Glow Skulls, and The Toasters.

To be honest it wasn't the best show I have scene. Deals Gone Bad was an average act and I didn't know much of their music. The Glow Skulls and the Toasters had a lot of good tracks that you could dance to, but again they are not huge acts that I really like. The main reason I went was for Buck o Nine. They played a great show early last year and I was hoping for a repeat. Despite not being quite as good as the previous performance, they were still the best act of the night. Truthfully, they should have closed the show instead of playing third and there set should have went for at least an hour instead of 45 minutes. A few more songs or an encore would have been great.

Still they played two of my three favorite songs of theirs, including Irish Drinking Song and Water in my Head so that was really fun to sing along to. I can also say that I am pretty sore from dancing and moving all night. I am not a big dancer, but being in the concert environment really makes me want to get my big ass in gear you know.

The show wasn't huge, maybe 300 people at the most were there. Ska may not be dead, but its certainly on life support. The big time acts like Reel Big Fish or Less Than Jake can still pack them in, but its hard to see a style of music that I really like sort of fade away. I guess its good to have a range of musical tastes so that I'll always have something to like.

At any rate it was a good way to kick off the concert year, and I am already planning on trying to see Rancid in the spring, as well as the No Doubt reunion show this summer (mainly for the awesome opening act that's touring with them, Bedouin Soundclash!) I am sure there will be a few other shows that will catch my eye this year. I am hoping to catch some new acts, like Jenny Lewis or Rilo Kiley if they tour.

Stay tuned this week, I am going to start new flash fiction this weekend and hope to return to the Darkest Dawn by next Wednesday. Thanks for sticking around!

End of Line.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Flash Fiction: Three More Bullets

Chapter 4

I eased off my horse and took in the surroundings. It had been almost a year since I had last seen the place. From the looks of it they had looted the place before burning it to the ground. I tied my horse off at one of the trees at the edge of the clearing and looked over my shoulder at Maggie. She had hung back, respecting my need to do this alone.

I had spent the last month helping them plant and prepare for spring. Doing what chores I could and helping Maggie with the plow as long as my strength held out. It was hard work but I knew it had to be done for two reasons. I would need my strength if I wanted to get back at the people who had done this. The other reason was that i owed them. I should have died, and while I thought that my purpose here on Earth was for revenge, it didn't change the fact that a man paid his debts.

This was the furthest away from the house I had been, and I was tired. The horse ride had taken its toll but I knew the time was now. I had to see for myself. I walked further into the clearing. Emma, my wife, had chosen this spot herself just before our marriage. The plot of land had a small grove in front with a path that led to a small stream, just a short ride away from the main river. Behind was a parcel of land perfect for farming and cattle raising. We had bought it from one of the local cattle barons who had owed my father a favor from the war. It was a prime piece of land, land that had cost me more than money in the end.

Inside the house was ruined, our furniture burnt and broken, rain water resting on the floor. I could still see traces of the yellow sheets Emma had made for our bed fluttering in the wreckage. I picked up a broken picture frame and pulled the photo free. The picture had been burnt badly but you could still see Emma in it. She had given it to me the day of our wedding, to remember how beautiful she had looked that day when we were both old. I ran my thumb over her face as I wiped away a lonely tear from one eye.

I walked out of the farmhouse and started back to my horse before stopping short. Steeling myself I went to the spot where he had defiled them. You couldn't see any sign of it now, but I would always remember it. I closed my eyes, trying to cut out the images flashing back, and dropped to my knees.

"I will make this right Emma. I swear to you. I will make this right."

End of Line.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Hey all,

WOW! This marks my 400th post to the sight, another great milestone for me in terms of creating. I really liked marking my 100th and 300th posts with poems (and regret not doing the same for 200!) so I thought to continue that trend with another numerically titled poem. My poem 100 was very much unique in that it wasn't reflective on the website at all, though 300 turned into kind of an homage to all the stories I have posted about and the different topics of the blog. 400 here is more or less a reflection of where I was about a month ago, really reflective on what I was doing and why I continue to post for what in essence is an audience of maybe 3 people.

Sometimes I forget that the reason you do something you love isn't for others peoples enjoyment, but for your own. In that sense the point of my blog is to stay true to me and what I want to do. Even on my worse day I like to write and in that sense it has to be my own reward to create, even when I doubt myself or feel like I am no good.

I think this poem is even a bit more poignant for me when I realized how many aborted attempts at writing this poem I have taken in the last 5 or 6 days. Literally attempt after attempt that met with little or no success, until breaking through today. Maybe you will like the poem, or maybe you won't, either way that is okay, because this poem really was just for me.


I look to the past to see what I've done.

And gaze towards a future I haven't begun.

I could write a small story of love and of loss.

Or of the strange tales my life has come across.

Sometimes their said in poetry and rhyme,

Others are a missive best told over time.

Better days may still lie ahead,

Though I'll not forget the path I've led.

A life I've lived, both full and true,

Of happy days and of times turned blue.

The choices I've made, both the wrong and the right.

Sometimes chose well, others not in hindsight.

What will I do in the days to come,

What kind of person am I in sum?

Maybe a poet, or a writer or hack,

Cashing on a talent I probably lack.

Has this venture been just for pleasure?

Or did someone find these words worth measure.

400 down and still I write on.

Composing for readers that may have withdrawn.

Sometimes I'm ready to no longer write,

And lay down my pen and keyboard to the fight.

For what is the point of rendering a tale,

If in finding an audience I have come to fail.

But when my will has turned its darkest,

And my confidence is at its starkest.

I reflect on the reason I started this all,

And that to succeed you must sometimes fall.

The point of my work and the tales I've sown,

Is that writings the only place I feel at home.

End of Line.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Hey all,

The same day that I posted my top 10 of 2008 I saw the last film of the year that I really wanted to see, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. With all the Oscar fervor surrounding the picture, I had high hopes for the film. Hopes that were then tempered by my father's reaction to the film and pretty much hating it. I usually find that he and I have the same tastes in film, appreciating the classics, but fans of blockbusters and sort of campy action movies and gross out humor. For him not to like it kind of had me worried.

For my own opinion, I ended up really liking the film. Directed by the great David Fincher (of Fight Club fame) it was based of a short story by one of the 20th centuries most celebrated novelists, F. Scott Fitzgerald. It starred Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button, a man who is aging in reverse. Born as a baby, he was considered deformed, his body breaking down even as he was birthed, racked by arthritis and cataracts. Abandoned by his father at an old folks home when his mother died in childbirth and his father fearing the baby's deformity, he was raised by one of the homes housemaids. As he gets older (or younger by the measure of it, he learns how he is different and comes to have a different view of death as the people who help raise him pass out of life as he grows younger.

It was here that he meets the love of his life, a young girl named Daisy, played wonderfully by Cate Blanchett. As she grows older and he younger, this is the story of what Button does with his life and how their paths are meant to cross. The entire story is told as a flashback by Blanchett in the modern day as she lays on her death bed. We learn of the truly sad tale of heartbreak and sorrow and how two people who love each other can't be right for one another.

The film is shot perfectly. Starting off with Button's birth at the close of World War 1 and passing through the 20's, 30's and so on, there is an extraordinary commitment to maintaining the look and feel of authenticity. The clothes and expressions, the things the characters eat and drink. Fincher really keeps a tight reign on a plot that could lose a lesser director. Perfectly timed moments of comedy intersect the times of sorrow, and Pitt and Blanchett have great chemistry. Cate as the world wise girl who isn't afraid of living her life, and Pitt as the world traveled man who doesn't wasn't his condition to burden anyone.

The film is long at almost 3 hours, but it moves quickly. I never felt dragged down or that the pace was slow despite the movie not really containing any action. You are compelled by the character and the pathos on screen. The special effects to age and youthen the actors are some of the best jobs I have ever seen, a mixture of CGI and prosthetics that is really convincing.

Truly I think next to Fight Club that this is Pitt's best film and if it wasn't for Mickey Rourke's performance in The Wrestler, I think he would be a shoo-in for the Oscar. Cate is certainly deserving of a nomination despite the snub. She plays the ages of her character better than Pitt even, from youthful ballerina to love lorne mother.

I can recommend this movie. Its not the kind of movie you go to to feel good, but rather the kind you go to see remember why they make movie. Its both an epic tale of a man's life journey, and a very small film about the romance between two people. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, directed by David Fincher. Go check it out.

End of Line.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Assorted Nuts!

Happy February all!

January was sure a strange month for me, particularly in terms of posting. I got off to just a horrible start, finding very little to get excited about in my writing. part of me just was over writing in that first week. I think getting this little Western tale going has helped invigorate me to an extent. I am actually excited about going back to some Darkest Dawn this month as well as approaching another milestone post, number 400! This year should also see me break my 100th Flash Fiction tale (probably within the next two months) , and depending on my poetry output, my 100th poem sometime before the end of the year.

I have set some definite goals in posting for the year. I want to finish Three More Bullets by the end of the month, or at least by the first week in March. I also want to get one to two installments of The Darkest Dawn by months end, so definitely a month for short fiction. I also am going to try to commemorate my 400th post with a poem, as well as continue my Valentine's Day tradition with a poem. Another goal for the year is to try to better coordinate my columns with what is going on that month. For example if a big budget comic book movie is coming out that month, try to coordinate my Word Balloon! column with some work starring that particular character. I also have plans to talk about the NBA All-Star weekend (which I get to go to and be a part of!) and continue with my movie reviews.

Changing gears I would like to talk about that excellent Super Bowl yesterday. I haven't talked to much about football this year, but I am still a big fan of that and basketball. I didn't get to attend a game actually at the stadium this year, but I watched plenty on TV. It was wonderful to see the Cardinals make the Super Bowl. I have never actually had a team I actively rooted for in the Super Bowl, like my hometown Cleveland Browns or my current hometown Cardinals. It really was a different atmosphere, with everyone in a Cardinals frenzy the week leading up to the game. I have never seen more people in red and white than I did yesterday. It was really cool to see the state rally around our once beleaguered franchise.

The game itself was great come the second half. The Steelers are an excellent team and a storied franchise, but I think the Cardinals played well. As a team many predicted wouldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs, we have to be happy with their performance. This is our first winning season in 10 year, and only our second winning season in the 20 years they have been in Arizona. Hell we hadn't won a playoff game since 1947! That's a long drought and to make it as far as we did and to have a chance to win the game right until the end, well I take this season and be happy.

At any rate stay tuned in this month as I promise to keep the updates flying!

End of Line.