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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Movie Time : Rewind: Rear Window

Hey all,

For this month's edition of the rewind, I wanted to highlight a great film by Jimmy Stewart. this month would have marked his 100th birthday, and I found it fitting that we placed the spotlight on him. Stewart made many fantastic films, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life, Destry Rides Again, The Naked Spur, The Flight of The Phoenix, Harvey, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (with John Wayne), Philadelphia Story (with Th esteemed Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn)as well as his team ups with directing great Alfred Hitchcock. The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rope, Vertigo and this month's choice, Rear Window.

Rear Window stars Stewart as a photographer with a broken leg who is stuck in his house and to pass the time he has taken to observing the lives of his neighbors out his rear window. As with all of Hitch's film, the movie is rife with suspense and mystery, and at the heart of it all a murder. But is the murder for real, or just the product of Stewart's over active imagination after being cooped up for so long. The entire movie takes place in Stewart's apartment, yet it never feels cramped or enclosing. Hitch worked well in this medium, after having used it with Stewart before in Rope.

Accompanying Stewart is his girlfriend, played by the incomparable Grace Kelly. Kelly starred in 5 movies in 1954, the year this picture was released, one directed by Hitch, Dial M for Murder, and Country Girl, the film for which she won an Oscar. Though not my favorite collaboration between Kelly and Hitch (I'd have to give that to To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant) this films stands as one of Kelly's best, and as my favorite Stewart film.

Stewart, in a wheel chair, has taken to observing the goings on of his neighbors from his window. An action photographer by trade, Stewart combats the boredom by using his binoculars and camera to spy on the neighborhood. When he and his high society model girlfriend (Kelly) and home care nurse (played by actress Thelma Ritter) observe some suspicious activity by one of the neighbors (played by a sinister looking Raymond Burr) they come to believe that Burr has murdered his sick wife. They resolve to catch the killer red handed, though the plan could place all 3 of them in danger.

The film is full of Hitch staples, it's funny and suspenseful, with witty dialog and great characters. Even the other neighbors that Stewart is spying on have great dimension and depth. You see the whole film as if you were Stewart, but you never feel confined by this limitation, it added to the mystery of the film. Hitch is truly the master of setting and location, whether the expanse of the French Riviera or the confines of a New York City apartment.

I know I recommend a lot of Hitch films, its tough not to look at a great actor or actress of 30's, 40's, 50's or 60's and find their best movie that wasn't directed by Hitch. When writing this article, I looked at some future choices, like Ingrid Bergman and Kelly herself and found that my favorite films of theirs also involve Hitch. At any rate next month will target some new fare. In the meantime, you cannot go wrong with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Check it out!

End of Line.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Movie Review; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Hey all,

In actuality I caught the new Indy about 5 days ago and am just now getting my thoughts down on the movie. I think part of the reason I waited so long is that I am about to give this film, of which I love the franchise so much, a bad review. I mean Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my top movies of all time, and the subsequent films, Temple of Doom and Last Crusade are both top notch. I found this film to be lacking.

Truthfully, its only lacking in one area, but its a big hole. Let's start with the bad. Its the story. I can buy Indy fighting Commies in the 50's, it ages the series to meet the actor, and I am fine with that. I am also fine using the alien theme as an homage to the old sci fi films that prevalted the 50's cinema. I was fine with Indy having a son, and with the character progression in the movie. It was the story itself that I found lacking. Several times through the course of the film you are watching action on the screen and wondering what the hell George Lucas (the main script writer) was thinking. A few that really killed me were Indy surviving a nuclear blast in a refrigerator (that flies through the sky post blast, rolling down a hill end over end violently) all without so much as a limp. Shia LeBeouf swinging through the jungle like Tarzan, and the prevalence of cutesy animals, monkeys, gophers, that seem to pop up for no real reason. Also I felt Indy gave into to the Communist demands a little easy a few times, I didn't see the sense of resistance that he had when up against the Thugees of Temple of Doom or the Nazis in the other films. It just took Indy into a world that I didn't feel was as viable as the one set in the earlier films.

Things I did like. Harrison Ford is great as Indiana Jones. A little older, a little slower, but still believable as the great action hero. Shia is solid as Jones son, and Karen Allen is a welcome addition, a little older as well, but just as equal to the task of standing up to Indiana Jones. Cate Blanchett is a solid villain, if a bit hammy, but I think her over the top performance lends some credibility to the belief that a pushing 65 Indiana Jones can still keep up with the younger set.

I would have liked to see more practical effects in the film, but I supposed that is a bit wishful thinking with the prominence of CGI effects being so much more cost effective, but that was one of the things I loved about the earlier films. The sense that it felt real, where Crystal Skull never quite gets that feeling.

Overall, I was disappointed with the latest outing. I hope the positive box office lends to a fifth installment of the venerable franchise, I would love to see them address some of the story errors and really send Indy out with a bang. All in all I would wait for a rental.

End of Line.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Word Balloon: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

Hey all,

May's installment of the Word Balloon will feature a great all ages book by writer and artist David Peterson, Mouse Guard. Mouse Guard is a bi-monthly series published by Archaia Studios Press that is centered on an intelligent colony of mice set in the middle ages. The mice of the Mouse Guard are sort of an all purpose soldier for the colony, acting as pathfinders, escorts, military support, and border guards against all sorts of predators, snakes, owls, and so forth.

The first volume of the series, recently collected in an excellent hardback, titled Fall 1152, compiles the first six issue mini series, about 3 mice of the guard who start off to find a missing grain peddler, and get embroiled in a plot to over throw the Queen of the colony. What I love about Mouse Guard is it's all ages feel, that never seems to be talking down to the audience. The author approaches the book in such a way adults and children can get behind the character.

He manages to make each mouse its own character, Lieam the fresh faced recruit, Saxon the bold swordsmen, and Kenzie, the leveled headed thinker. Even in the ancillary characters, like Gwendolyn the colonies matriarch, or Celanawe the Black Axe, as the mythic hero long thought dead. The book has its own unique look in a strange 8 X 8 square book form as opposed to the standard comic size, but Peterson uses the format to accentuate the panels in his book, opening the book to more of a wide screen appeal by focusing on bigger panels to tell the story, really limiting the decompression of the dialog. It keeps the book moving and dissolves everything else into the essence of the story.

The book surely has some influence from Jeff Smith's seminal book Bone, but it finds it's own voice and it's own unique style. Mouse Guard deals in intrigue and danger in a much more real world venue than Bone does. Disbarring anthropomorphic mice, the book has a real undertone.

Mouse Guard has quickly grown into one of my favorite titles every month. Do yourself a favor and check out Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 volume 1 by David Peterson and Archaia Studios Press.

End of Line.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Flash Fiction: Rocket's Race

Day 3

Hey it's me, Rocket. So, I quit my job today. I figured that if I only have 3 months to live, I am not gonna spend it behind some desk, shoveling order forms for crap that people pay for and don't even need. I am going to seize all the opportunities in life that I missed out on, all the things people dream about doing, starting with quitting this job.

I know I am not the only person while at work who fantasises about quiting in a spectacular fashion. You know the fantasies, storming up to your boss and calling him a prick. Telling him to take his stupid fucking job and his shitty little power trip and shove it up his ass. Or better yet, finally telling one of those customers who ride your ass what you really want to say to them. The ones that are just such total asses that you want to call them every name in the book, and probably a few that aren't, and just unload on them. That's what I did today.

The look on my bosses face as I am shouting at a customer on the phone. My co-workers expressions of shock as I reel off a list of obscenities so foul that even I didn't know what I was capable off. The best part of the day was the feeling I got after going at my boss. My boss was always one of those people who made sure you knew that he was in charge, always dug at you a little bit, not enough to be out and out an asshole, but the perception was always there. It felt so good to relive my self of the stress and anxiety and the years of bottled up rage that I had held deep inside. I wasn't even aware of how angry I really was for wasting so much precious time with something that I hated so much. I didn't even realize how unhappy I was until I was finally done.

I walked out of that office with a small cardboard box filled with my few possessions under my arm, my face aglow with a smile. My whole body felt more free than I had felt in years. A smile beaming from ear to ear, and it seemed the weight of the world had risen from my shoulders. And for the first time in a long time, I felt alive. Truly alive.

End of Line.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flash Fiction: Rocket's Race

Day 1

Hi. My name is Ted Covina, but my friends call me Rocket. I was never the quickest guy, always slow to decide and even tempered. I think it was their way of teasing me, calling me Rocket. But I didn't mind.

I have worked at the same job for 15 years, behind a desk filling out shipping assignments for a mail order catalog. I've never sought a promotion or transfer, I just move ahead with the cards I have been dealt. My friends had urged me in the past to get out and try new things, but I never did. Eventually they stopped asking. I didn't date much after high school, and not much even in school. I had my work and my friends, and that seemed like enough.

Mostly everything just seemed like to much effort, I just lived my life and never rocked the boat. Relationships always seemed to crumble around me, friends or family, I never really saw a happy ending. Or a point to all that work. In the back of my mind I always thought I would have the time and desire one day. To change the rut that I was in. I just needed a push, a symbol that it was finally my turn.

Today I got that sign. You see, I learned today that I have 3 months to live. I am going to die. Some kind of brain cancer that has aggressively rooted into my skull. If I start chemo the doctors say I can increase the amount of time I have left, but I don't want to spend my last few months bed-ridden, kept alive by machines and facing difficult treatment everyday. I am going to face the days I have left on my terms, new terms.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life and I am going to seize it in the time I have left. Do all the things that I never had the courage to do. Ted Covina dies today, Rocket Ted is now born.

End of Line.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Flash Fiction: Under a Dead Sun

Chapter 22

Sheriff Root peered from behind the water trough. When the people inside the hotel had advanced on those monsters, he had ducked back in his office. It had been a tough choice, to help those escaping the hotel, or keep his word to the survivors in the saloon. Ultimately Root grabbed the guns and ammo and opened the front door. The spare cartridges were tucked in a ruck sack over his shoulder and he tucked several pistols into his belt.

Root made it into some cover behind a water trough about halfway down the main road before he was close enough to join the fight. By the time he had gotten in range though, most of the fighting was over. Ducking into a near door, he realized it was just a matter of time before the beasts finished with the dead, and then they would turn to him. Root risked another glance at the balcony of the saloon, trying to catch the eye of the boy Oates. If he could provide some cover fire, and if Root was really lucky, he may be able to make the saloon.

Root tried to catch Billy's attention, but the boy seemed in shock from the screams coming from the hotel. Root himself steeled his hearing to the sounds of the women and children, of the horror going on inside the hotel. It was to late for them, but it might not be to late for the rest of them. He backed into the doorway as the screams finally grew quiet, the only sounds the shuffling of the beats within and on the streets, eating the dead. Root glanced out again, in a last attempt to gain Oates attention. That's when he heard another scream, a woman's scream. Coming from the saloon. Billy ran back inside, and Root watched as the creatures began to converge on the new sound. It was then he realized he might be to late.

End of Line.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Mania!

Hey all,

Wow......just wow. I am totally overwhelmed right now. Considering I have worked pretty much 16 days straight, you would think that the slow creep of exhaustion would have caught up with me, yet I can't put down the damn 360. I polished off Halo 3 the other day and am now hip deep in the greatness that is Mass Effect. If GTA 4 is to much action game for its own good, then Mass Effect is to much RPG for it's own good. I literally spent 3 hours just walking around talking to people. I went 3 hours without firing a shot or getting caught in a firefight. The worst part, I didn't even realize. It's a broad range RPG that I am still feeling out well over 10 hours into the game. I have basically done the prologue, and I have been playing a long time.

I'm looking forward to getting into the meat of the story now, but my starting points are very, well varied leading of the home world, I am considering getting the strategy guide for it, not to make sure I get all the bonuses, but to make sure that I spend my time wisely and get the most out of the game. RPG's are really the only genre that makes me feel compelled to wring every nuance out of.

Looking at the dreadful posting rate this month I am going to be hard pressed to hit my 15 post minimum this month unless I get on some kind of guideline. Tomorrow I am going to try to get another Dead Sun chapter posted, and flesh out the next flash fiction post for the week's end. I also want to really sit down and work on a poem concept I have been toying with, but no promises on that one. Stay tuned for further updates.

End of Line.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Flash Fiction: The Call

Part 2 (of2)

My voice welled up, thick like a frog had lodged in my throat. I somehow managed to croak out a hello, but I was to surprised to do much of anything else. A hundred questions welled up in my mind. Where had she gone, why had she left, why had she said those things to my brother, why did she hurt my Dad, and more frightening was what did she want.

The conversation was a stiff an uncomfortable one, Mom never really answering any of the questions I managed to ask her, she just evaded them with a disingenuous syrupy sweet falseness that just made me more angry. She told me lies of abuse and neglect on my father's part, and denied the foul things she had told my brother. She was happy now, living with the love of her life, being soiled and pampered in ways that my Dad never did. She blamed us all, even me for not being there in the house anymore. For not caring enough.

It was my fault that she left she said. It was every one's fault but hers.

Tears trickled from my eyes and I shuddered with a silent sob. She closed the call saying I love you, but I simply hung up the phone and slumped to the floor. All the things she had said had hurt me, finally breaking inside. I swore then she would not make me cry again, I would be strong for my brother, for my father.

My 21st birthday was the last time I ever cried for my mother. And the last time I ever will.

End of Line.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Hey all,

Posting has been really spotty this month and I am sorry. I am still committed to 15 posts a month and I am going to have to pick up the creative juices to get this in line. My work week has been pretty much 7 days this week and I am also caught smack in the middle of Xbox 360 mania, picking up Halo 3, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto 4. I have only touched 2 games and I am hooked. GTA 4 is almost too much game, too much open world and too many choices. They also upped the feel, control and realism in the game. You actually have to put time and effort in stealing a car and the cops are much more dogged.

Halo 3 continues its excellent saga in what is shaping up to be a great game. I'm early into both games and if I can stay focused in GTA 4 then I'll be in great shape. The plan for continued posting is part 2 of The Call this week, as well as a column. I'd also like to get back to another poem or introspection piece, we will see. Anyway, thanks for reading!

End of Line.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Movie Review: Iron Man

Hey all,

Sorry for the slight gap, I have just been exhausted after work this week and haven't had the energy to get around to posting. I did catch Iron Man a few days ago though, and I thought I was past due at putting my review up.

Iron Man starts Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy weapons manufacturer who is attacked in the Middle East during a weapons demonstration. A terrorist organization captures him and forces him to build a weapon for there group. After seeing weapons that he created for the US military being used for terrorist activities, he decided that he can't allow that to happen. Instead of creating a missile, he creates a weapons suit that has two purposes. The power source acts as a conduit to keep shrapnel from the explosion that lead to his capture from sliding into his heart and killing him, as well as providing a means of escape.

As Tony returns to America, he begins to understand the truth of his business real enterprises, selling weapons under the table led by his friend and business partner Obadiah Stane, played by Jeff Bridges. Ultimately his armor designs are stolen by Stane, and lead to a fight between Stark's sleek Iron Man, and Stane's powerful Iron Monger.

Along the way Tony is helped by his assistant and quasi love interest Pepper Potts, played great by Gwynth Paltrow and Col. James 'Rhodey" Rhodes, his liaison to the government. Casting all around is spot on for this movie, Bridges goes from the kindly father figure to menacing threat very convincingly, Paltrow rides a fine line between the tough assistant and the love lorne girlfriend. I like that there relationship doesn't really get fleshed out, the questions in there relationship is what made it work.

Director Jon Favreau also leaves plenty of teases for future Iron Man films, such as Rhodey looking at the spare Iron Man suit and saying next time. As in the comics he plays War Machine, similar to Iron Man. They also planted the seeds for future storylines, such as Iron Man's most famous story, Demon in a Bottle, about Stark's drinking problem, and what a man with the power of a tank does when he is to drunk to control himself.

I'll be honest, I wasn't sure that they could pull off a good Iron Man movie, but I think they knocked it out of the park. Casting, plotting, pacing, were all in line. There were a few moments that I thought defied believability (for a comic book movie that is) but they were few and far between. I am wholeheartedly recommending that you check out Iron Man. Oh, and stay all the way through the credits for a really great tease!

End of Line.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Flash Fiction: Under a Dead Sun

Chapter 21

Billy flattened himself against the train top as the locomotive surged around the curve. The train had been gaining speed steadily since right after he and Root had split up. He wedged his boot into the roof railing and turned around, hauling Katee up behind him.

He grabbed her wrist and pulled, wondering how someone so slight could be so tough. Katee graced him with a grateful smile, somehow still beautiful despite the conditions they were in. Katee's face was flecked with blood and dirt, and her thread worn dress was torn and bloody. She had ripped the side of her skirts open, to allow more freedom of movement, and Billy caught a glimpse of her thigh as she hoisted herself up. Once she was safely on the roof, she rolled to a crouch and drew her pistol.

"How you holding up Katee?"

"I'll be a fuckload better once Root gets the damn train under control, Billy. You reckon he made it to the front okay?"

Root had made a break for the front of the train after they had reached the roof. Billy and Katee had stayed back to give him time, and prevent the dead from gaining an advantage. Katee had dropped down to sever the rear cars and now they were headed to the front, to reunite with Root , sever the remaining cars and blow the tracks behind them.

Billy knew that it wouldn't stop these things, hell, he wasn't sure anything short of a bullet to the brain would stop them. There were to damn many and to damn hard to kill. But it would buy them time, and at this point that would have to be enough.

As Katee and he started towards the engine, the were blown back by a deafening blast, Katee hit the deck hard, the wind knocked from her lungs. Billy managed to keep a grip on the roof rail as he was thrown back. Billy looked up, blood in his ears and mouth, and he saw Root, once mild banker turned small town sheriff, dangling a bloody stump for an arm, his face blackened and torn from the explosion. He held another stick of dynamite in his hand.

"Don't worry Billy..... I took care of my infection. I'm going to make it safer for everyone, starting with you.

Billy looked about for his gun, head still ringing, and didn't see it anywhere.


End of Line.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wedded Bliss!

Hey all,

As promised I wanted to put down my thoughts on my brothers wedding. Being asked to be the minister of the wedding at first seemed like a far fetched idea, mostly that my brother was just trying to save some scratch and not pay someone. The more I got into the idea the more I began to like the idea.

The wedding was a pretty simple affair, nothing overtly fancy or elaborate, just low key and relaxed. The ceremony itself only went about 15 minutes. I prepared a sermon written by myself, talking of the meaning of marriage and the symbolism of the wedding ring. I included a reading by an anonymous writer, as well as a second reading using a slightly re-written version of my poem, One Final Endeavor, rewording bits to be more marriage centric. Everybody says the sermon was great and very touching, though I doubly anyone would say that I sucked to my face, especially at the reception! My brother and his wife were happy though, and that is what mattered to me.

I did get a small burst of the giggles during the sermon, as the photographer knocked over a plaster vase during the reading of the vows, I had to stop for a minute and couldn't get going as the absurdity of the moment just compounded and I kept giggling. I did reign it in pretty quick but everybody kind of chuckled at the same time so I think I am okay.

It was a bit of a surprise to my new sister-in-law's parents that I was the minister. It seems no one ever told them that I was performing the ceremony and apparently they are a bit strict and don't approve of online ordination. I heard the tail end of the conversation and my brother defended me pretty fiercely, so I have to be glad he liked it. He did mention that they thought I did a good job, so I don't know.

My brother also diffused what could have been a volatile situation for me, his relationship with my Mom is pretty strained, there is a lot of bad blood in our past, and while I try to leave the past behind me, Gregg is still pretty raw, even after all these years. Mom and his wife, Tracy, don't get along either. She was upset with him for not really greeting her when she got to the ceremony (though I told her he was just busy with pre-wedding duties) and that she got cut out of Gregg's life story during the DJ's presentation of the events leading up to marriage. Gregg pulled her up after the father and daughter dance and said something to her. That gesture meant a lot to me, simply on the grounds that I am the one who has to deal with the fallout of any snubbing on his part. That saved me a ton of grief. I also thought it was really classy how they split up the father daughter dance. Tracy's sister never got that dance at her wedding, as her father originally disapproved of her choice in a spouse. So during the dance Tracy stepped aside and let her sister get her dance with her Dad. A really sweet moment.

There were some other good moments, seeing my Dad so happy and emotional was really special. Dad, Gregg and I have a very special close bond that I have a hard time explaining to others, we really came together during the divorce, and Dad was such a pillar of strength and support that I felt lucky to have him then. Dad must have been torn apart after the marriage, but he was always there, always supportive, he was our hero. Dad coming home was extra special.

I still can't wait until Gregg develops the instant camera pictures, as his best man, Joe, and I decorated his car. His wife is 6 weeks pregnant (I actually think its 8 by now...) so we put a bunch of condoms on the car with a gift tag that said better later than never. I also put astroglide all over his door handle. Classy I know.

I am really happy for my brother. Things are starting to shape up for him, and I couldn't be prouder of the kind of man he is turning into.

End of Line.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Assorted Nuts

Happy May all!

These past few days have been packed full of activities that I can't wait to get posting on. Spanning from my brother's wedding, to working at the comic book store for free comic book day and helping to raise funds for a great charity, there has been a lot going on. I also am dreadfully behind on posting more flash fiction, including part 2 of The Call and some more fun in the Dead Sun world. I also expect to catch Iron Man (which I have been hearing very good things about) so I am sure to be bursting with great updates over the next few days.

I was especially happy to have my Dad back in town from Ohio. I miss him a lot and it always kills me to see him leave.

I promise tomorrow will have all the wedding details, stay tuned!

End of Line.