Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Clockwork Man 2: The Hidden World

For those of you who have [Frodo voice] BEEN HERE BEFORE (we're going in circles!!) [/Frodo voice], you might remember how much I griped about The Clockwork Man. (If you don't and you, for whatever reason, need a dose of over-critical assessment, it's right here.) Well. Let's just say there'll be a lot less griping this time around. The Clockwork Man 2: The Hidden World was much, much better than its predecessor in many respects.

To start with, the puzzles actually had some merit to them. Not only were they more numerous, they required more thought, intuition, and data gathering to complete. In fact, they were so much more involved that the structure of the game changed. Our heroine, Miranda Calomy, still with her sidekick Sprocket, keeps a journal a la Myst in this installment of her story. She records not only the plot we as gameplayers move through in greater detail, she sketches things out and takes note of handy dandy items, codes, and various other miscellany which become useful as the game progresses. In addition, she keeps a "task list" of goals to keep the player on track, as there is much greater freedom to move about the map in this game. Both were excellent additions.

Just to give it a passing mention before returning to the good news, there are a few things which, apparently, never change. The representations of the characters still look a bit like they are out of an online doll generator and the voice acting is still pretty ridiculous to put it lightly (the word 'horrendous' also comes to mind). The voices and treatment of "native" characters in the game was borderline offensive. (A noble try, though, as I honestly believe there is really no good way to portray a tribal culture, even a fictionalized one, without stepping on someone's toes.) On the other hand, the cutscenes seem to have improved. While on some level I missed the charcoal-on-parchment feel of the first game's cutscenes, I appreciated the move towards fully animated scenes that Clockwork Man 2 took. It was a baby step, but one in the right direction.

Another thing that didn't change - but for the better - was the background and item art. Both were executed even more gracefully than before: the scenes looked less cluttered, unless they had cause dictated by the plot to be so - who would have thought?! And one last thing which didn't change was the quality of the game which held me to it. I could not stop playing it. And when absolutely I had to set it aside in order to get some actual sleep (this game took more than one sitting to finish!) I had dreams of steampunk submarines and curious puzzles.

Now I'm just hoping that they'll come out with a third one.

So go, steamy explorers! Get thee to Amazon, download it here or hit up your nearest electronics store and discover The Hidden World!

Steam on!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I've been trying to conjure up a phrase evocative enough to describe my reaction to this movie, but the only fitting one I arrive at over and over again is: Holy S***.

Honestly. My brain is swiss cheese. Or a colander.

Inception, courtesy of 2010's charming film lineup, is a psychological wonderland that, I think, filmmakers will be unable to trump for decades. Possibly even the duration of my lifetime. Directed and written by Christopher Nolan, the master behind the script and direction for 2000's addition to the mindf*ck list Memento, which by comparison is charming, outdid himself thoroughly. I think the respect in which he excelled the most is in the conclusions department. For, twisted and strange as it is, Memento has a definite end, an origin: a wellspring, if you would. To rephrase, Memento has a defined beginning, middle, and end: it's just that they're out of order.

Inception is a different beast entirely. Epiphany: that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Inception is the kind of film which, above all else, makes you think. It is a nonstop rollercoaster which keeps you wondering and when at last you think you understand, the world is once more turned on its head. Somehow, I am possessed to say that this is the best kind of storytelling. It's messy. Everyone who views it is going to have a different take on what everything means and on what precisely happened at every turn of the story. It will be debated. In short: uncertain, but uncertain in a tailored way, in a way that makes me step back and, hands on hips, say "isn't it beautiful?"

But I get ahead of myself. For those of you who haven't seen this film, it has a lot to do with layers and layers and layers of un-reality and the single layer of what, we must assume, based on what we are given, really is reality. But there's a problem with this setup. Like in House of Leaves , we may have an unreliable narrator on our hands as an audience. Or we may not.

What I am ultimately trying to get to, I think, is that this film is (arguably) entirely an exercise in authorial intent taking the back seat to individual interpretation. It doesn't matter what Nolen wanted us to see, because we make the choices as to what it is we do see. Every audience member is going to have their own interpretation of this film because, ultimately, each audience member is, independently of every other viewer, calling the shots.

When my parents received this as a Christmas gift, a friend of the family nodded with a knowing smile and said "I' interested to hear your take." And that's just it. This film is less a film and more a puzzle, the ultimate brain teaser, and the ultimate conversation starter. (Perhaps also the ultimate argument-starter.) And it is so because there are so many parts of it which can be interpreted in so many different ways. Perhaps even an infinite number of ways. In one of my English classes we discussed as a group how each individual viewer of any piece of art inevitably projects their knowledge, their past experiences, and their biases onto that piece when they perceive it. If that's so, every viewing is going to be different somehow, even if it's only slight, because ultimately no two people are exactly the same.

I'm tempted to take the evil route here. The evil route is when I start referencing my fledgling understanding of quantum physics and alternate universes, ultimately asserting that under these parameters an infinite number of interpretations is absolutely possible, but that's beside the point. The point is thus: I can't remember the last time I watched a movie that was so ultimately baffling, inconclusive, and simultaneously so masterful. Ambiguous storytelling is so difficult to execute in a way which is even mildly convincing. Inception does so with grace.

I would definitely recommend this film. The music (Hans Zimmer) is superb, the cast is stunning, the visuals breathtaking, the story worth it (I think so anyway - I ended up forming conclusions, it's just that if I were to discuss them here this review would be an entirely different monster!) I only have a few pieces of advice: be plenty awake, sit back, buckle in, and be ready when the kick comes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

I cannot believe I forgot to review this, especially in light of how much I love it.
How to Train Your Dragon is most definitely in my top ten movies of the year. If I actually made a study of "top" lists, it'd probably be in the top five. Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, this film is based upon the book of the same title by Cressida Cowell. (It can be got here; check it out.)

I think the thing that attracts me to this movie the most is the animation. The motion is simply superb. The way in which Toothless moves, especially, is wonderful, from the way he flies to when he's trying to learn to smile. There's a fluidity there which does the animators a huge amount of credit. The music - composed by John Powell - is excellent and deserves more than the passing mention I'm providing here. And while the film is reputedly very loosely based upon its literary origin, the writing for the script in and of itself is fantastic and its strength is only bolstered by the star-studded cast: my personal favorite parts will always be Jay Baruchel as Hiccup's narration. I mean really. What could be better than the following monologue with a hint of hesitation and a dash of sarcasm?

"This is Berk. It's twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It's located solidly on the Meridian of Misery. My village. In a word? Sturdy, and it's been here for seven generations, but every single building is new. We have fishing, hunting, and a charming view of the sunset. The only problems are the pests. You see, most places have mice or mosquitoes. We have Dragons."
[I prefer the closing narration, but I don't want to spoil it here.]

Oh, and did I mention that this is DreamWorks Animation's fifth most successful film? Yeah.
So go out there and catch yourself some Dragons.

How to Train Your Dragon Links!
Trailer Addict


in his newest incarnation, from the British Broadcasting Corporation!

It's basically excellent. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are my heroes.

I have done far too much writing tonight: go see for yourself on Netflix instant watch or any other preferred medium.

Sherlock on IMDb!

Sherlock's Interactive Blog, The Science of Deduction!
Watson's Interactive and Eponymously titled Blog!

Friday, December 3, 2010


This review is so late I almost wonder at the point of writing it anymore. However, I have such incredible, undying loyalty to this film that I simply can't not.

Tangled is one of the best movies I've seen all year. Not just in the animated or musical category, out of all of them. I went to see it in theaters three times. I bought it on DVD the day it came out. It is WONDERFUL.

A confession: I didn't actually realize that it was a musical until I saw it for the first time. In classic Disney style, of course, it was. Perhaps I didn't expect the combination of musical with the newer computer animation.

This is hardly a review, really a blurb, but it will have to do for now. Tangled is heartfelt, funny, and intelligent, a la Disney style. Also, who could resist Flynn Ryder? I mean really.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Le Pacte des Loups

Better known on this side of the pond as The Brotherhood of the Wolf.

Released in 2001 and directed and adapted for the screen by Christophe Gans, it stars talents such as Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos and Monica Bellucci. If that didn't make such painfully obvious, the acting is superb.

If I were to recommend and/or caution potential viewers about this film, I would mention its gratuitous violence. In retrospect (having seen this movie twice now) it has gratuitous everything. Gratuitous violence, gore, nakedness, sex, incest, wit, intrigue, convolution of the plot, and wine. A relative of mine refers to this quality as having "something of everything," but more often he refers to this quality as "the best movie ever." And I have to say, there are a great many beautiful things about this film, the imagery and cinematography not the least. The costumes are exquisite, the locations are beautiful, even the transitions are artfully done. The entire atmosphere is complete in a way which puts this film, in my eyes, on the level of my other personal classics, like Le Violon Rouge and The Last of the Mohicans (the Daniel Day-Lewis one, of course).

The writing is also particularly praiseworthy, but IF AND ONLY IF it is viewed in its original French. Not only does the language lend a sense of overall completeness and fluidity, it's just nice to listen to. There are so many historical films which are voiced in American accents - or other accents which are equally wrong - and the English dubbing of this film takes a heavy toll on its quality.

A supernatural thriller set in the French countryside, it is narrated in retrospect by a nobleman who witnessed it all with the expectation that his world is about to convulse a second time with the advent of the French Revolution. Despite the film's location and alleged historical-fiction background, the main storyline contains a substantial amount of martial arts - quite good martial arts, might I add.

The story itself centers around the Beast of Gévaudan and the many plots which surround it. To avoid spoilers, and possibly to watch it again, I will cut this review short.

Curious? Watch a trailer!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Steamcon II: Weird Weird West

What an event! And now it's so long ago that I am having trouble remembering every breathless, gushing ounce of praise I was going to level at the internet in Steamcon's favor...

The über highlights!

1. It was the best dressed convention I have ever attended. I have shamelessly 'jacked that sentiment from a good friend of mine who was also in attendance. She's a fashion designer, if that adds the gravid tone I am looking for when I say (write?) so. IT WAS SO WELL DRESSED.

2. It included a badass expo hall full of delicious things to buy. None of which I had money for, but I hovered over things a LOT. Alright, that's a lie. I did buy some home-concocted tea from the wonderful B. Fuller's Mortar & Pestle, based locally in Burien, WA. Mmm, gotta love that home brew.

3. There were many booths for many things, like the bands performing that night, as well as the beloved Dr. Steel.

4. There was an art gallery entirely for Steampunk art and it was also a silent auction! More hovering ensued.

5. One of the panels was Steampunk Ghost Hunting, a tag team between the League of S.T.E.A.M. (who also make a huge cameo in Panic! At the Disco's new single, Ballad of Mona Lisa, available on the excellent album Vices & Virtues) and a....legitimate....Steampunk....Ghosthunting team which I can't recall the name of because I am a DESPICABLE human being!!

6. It included Outlaw Night, which, as I have previously reviewed, featured my personal favorite Steamy band, ABNEY PARK!! HUZZAH!!! Airship pirates, Victorian wenches, and Long Islands were had by all. (except me, I was driving. duh :P)

Now for round two this coming October - Steamcon III: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!!

Abney Park


What an experience, ladies and gentlemen. What a FREAKIN' AMAZING EXPERIENCE.
There's so much to tell and so little time to do it in. To begin, they were headed by two bands, Bakelite 78 and Ghoultown.

Bakelite 78, another Seattle-native band, is composed of a host of members including (but not limited to) Robert Rial, Ariel Bolles, Jason Grey, Bob Kessler and Rich Unetich on a host of instruments including (but not limited to) guitar, upright bass, accordion, harmonica, trumpet, and the good ol' vocal cords. My personal favorite jam of theirs is called The World's Fair Hotel. For you dark-humored listeners and readers out there, you will know exactly why I enjoy this song so much. I am also a fan of the way this band sounds overall - it's a very singing-through-a-megaphone, or maybe a tin can, sound, and it's wonderfully grungy.

Ghoultown is what has been dubbed "hellbilly." As I have very little experience with psychobilly, I honestly can't compare them, sorry about that one. What I can tell you is that they are from Texas and proud to be "the most talented band of deviants this side of hell" (see their bio). Though I think former Texas Ranger Cole McGee might have something to say about that, Count Lyle, Jake Middlefinger, Lizard Lazario, Santi, Dalton Black, and Randy Grimm are goin' to hell in wild style.

The main event, Abney Park, while a tad late due to the over-zealotry of Ghoultown, was rarin' and ready to go. There were some bumpy moments along the way (example: Captain Robert looks over his oversized microphone to menace the floundering techies in the back: "Is it possible that we cannot hear the keyboard because it is on mute? Is it possible we can't go on with this song because it isn't turned on?" [/scaryman]) they were wonderful, funny, enthusiastic, and cursed a f***ton. Headed by the aforementioned captain, the other members - Nathaniel Johnstone, Kristina Erickson, Dan Cedarman, and Jody Ellen - were joined by dancers, stiltwalkers, and FIREBREATHERS. I was beside myself with joy. And, of course, it was just in time for us to hear songs from their two latest and greatest albums, Æther Shanties and The End of Days, both of which I HIGHLY recommend.

They were a hoot, the night was a blast, I hope they come back next year!

PS - Visit the Abney Park Steampunk Market. You know you want to.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Boy with Flowers by Ely Shipley

Boy with Flowers is the 2007 winner of the Barrow Street Press' book prize and Ely Shipley's first published book of poetry.

Like the other collections of poetry I've read this year, Boy with Flowers is a vivid glimpse into another world. It may look familiar around the edges, but it's made up of change, strife and acceptance, and, especially, self-creation.

Like Southern Comfort, Boy with Flowers is very important for the Trans community: Ely Shipley himself is a Transperson, which he openly examines in his work. I can only hope that it helps to spread awareness and legitimacy for the community.

I admire this collection for many reasons, first and foremost for how unapologetic it is. It flows its course, regardless of what could be seen as taboo subjects, references, topics, musings, and it is beautiful in doing so. In this respect I am reminded of Elizabeth Colen, when she visited us, and the discussion we had about her use of the word "cunt" (a word I don't particularly like; she said that she divorces it from its offensive associations and prefers the sound of it over the sound of its synonyms). The universe which Shipley shows his audience in his work is full of violence, sex, memories, angels, rain, reflections, cities and dimes, and it has a kind of grit in its detail.

I would absolutely recommend this work. It's a wild ride, certainly, but well worth it, and liberating in its execution.

Here, take a look.

For anyone who is interested, below is a list of essays we read throughout the quarter. Some of them are simple, some of them are mind-staggeringly difficult, most are more than slightly outdated. However, they all have merit after their own fashion and I would recommend the majority of them to pretty much anybody.

Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality, by Gayle S. Rubin
Epistemology of the Closet, by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual Identity and Behavior, by Tomás Almaguer
Imitation and Gender Insubordination, by Judith Butler
The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, by Audre Lorde
Looking for Trouble, by Kobena Mercer
Capitalism and Gay Identity, by John D'Emilio
All of these, and many, many more such essays may be found in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, published by Routledge.

Southern Comfort

Now for another installment from the English 227 LGBT broadcast.

Southern Comfort, directed by Kate Davis and released in 2001, is a documentary detailing the lives and journeys of Robert Eads and the people dear to him.

Honestly, much of this film seemed to me to go hand in hand with Freeheld. The connections between them are monotonously obvious, but my mind drew them nevertheless: in both, the person who is the primary focus of the piece is battling terminal cancer and both have themes of struggle against and rejection from parts of the larger "normative" societies they live in. However, Southern Comfort has a host of themes and issues all its own.

For one, it centers around the lives and struggles of Transfolk, who, we discussed several times in class, are "a minority within a minority," especially where education and awareness are concerned. There seems on a whole to be less opportunity for Transfolk to form their own communities, become established as an identity, and be accepted outside of the larger LGB superminority. In a way, Southern Comfort is a motion against this lack of proverbial social screentime.

The film takes its name from another institution which is working towards stronger Transfolk communities, the convention Southern Comfort. It is the largest conference of its kind in the United States and has a reputation of safety and inclusiveness for all LGBT people.

Throughout the documentary, Robert and the people nearest and dearest to him - his "chosen family," as he would say - discuss the issues and concepts of passing, identity formation, rejection, acceptance, self-creation, and the attempt at forging the ideal community. All of these are legitimate, important, and exceedingly prone to triggering conversation (or debate).

Like Freeheld, Southern Comfort is poignant, heart-felt, and vivid, and, also like Freeheld, I would absolutely recommend it.

Wiki, both for the film and the convention

Fun Fact for all you Grammar Geeks:
I have it on very good authority that
Transgender is an adjective.
Transsexual is a noun.
And don't let tell you otherwise!

Money for Sunsets, by Elizabeth J. Colen

2009 winner of the Steel Toe Books Prize in Poetry, Money for Sunsets is the first published work of Bellingham native Elizabeth J. Colen. What's really exciting is that, through my infamous English class, I was able to both hear her read her work and meet her - twice.

What I find very impressive is that Colen manages to work in what I have always regarded as a rather touchy, even volatile, medium, the elusive prose-poem. It's formatted like prose, which can have the accompanying effect of leaving a page looking empty, especially with short pieces. However, her poems more than stand up for themselves. Nearly every one carries with it that enigmatic quality that makes one want to read it over again as soon as it's done. That said, her imagery is vivid, sometimes in a dangerous or even chilling way. It's a very good thing.

This vividness, in my mind, is what holds the manuscript as a whole together. It is not a linear work, like most poetry collections, and a little light was shed on the subject by the author herself. When she visited our class she said she revised many of the pieces to make it easier for her audience to interpret the "I" voice as the same person all the way through. This made me narrow my eyes, and for good reason; she went on to explain that in her own personal interpretation the "I" voice is seldom meant to be the same character. The beauty of poetry - and art as a whole - is that once the work leaves the nest, so to speak, it is subject to a number of interpretations limited only by the number of people it reaches.

There are many things which are represented in Money for Sunsets, and I honestly think that, with an open mind, there can be something for everyone found in its world.

Pay Steel Toe Books a visit at their website!
And go buy Money for Sunsets!

Also, keep a weather eye on the horizon - she's going to be coming out with another manuscript soon! The working title as she told it to us is What Weaponry. Also, if the two characters represented in it end up reminding you of the ones in her poem 50 Miles of Shoulder you may well be on to something.

Happy Reading!


This was one of the many films we watched in my English GLBT literature class.

Released in 2007, Freeheld was directed and produced by Cynthia Wade, with the help of additional producers Matthew Syrett and Vanessa Roth. It has won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary in 2008. Significant, suspenseful, and heartfelt, the documentary tells the story of Lieutenant Laurel Hester, a policewoman dying of lung cancer who is, despite it, fighting for the right to leave her pension to her partner, Stacie against the ruling of the Ocean County, New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders.

This film is shot with a brutal sort of honesty. Little is withheld, especially with regards to the physical and emotional deterioration of both Laurel and Stacie as their - and their community's - campaign against the Freeholders goes on. While Freeheld can be very empowering in the regard that a community comes together to try and make a difference in the face of adversity and discrimination, it is also starkly grounding: after all, 2007 was not that long ago.

I would recommend this film for all of these reasons, especially for its down to earth, unyielding honesty about the nature of communities, the nature of the American court system of not very long ago at all, and especially the nature of the human condition at its most sensitive time - at its close.

Additional Information at:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

I'm not even sure I can form fully coherent sentences at this point. This Tragicomic (as it calls itself) is a shocking, poignant masterwork.

Alison Bechdel is perhaps best recognized for her long-standing comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, but her memoir graphic novel Fun Home is what has made her name "household." Having been published now in multiple languages, Fun Home sat atop the New York Times' hardcover nonfiction bestseller list for two weeks and was reviewed positively by a slew of publications including but by no means limited to The New York Times, Seattle Times, and London’s The Times. It has also received a slew of awards, such as the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, the Publishing Triangle-Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award, the Stonewall Book Award for non-fiction, and the Lambda Literary Award for "Lesbian Memoir and Biography".

One of the many parts of this comic and/or graphic novel I enjoyed the most was that the narrative is decidedly nonlinear. I have come, in retrospect, to perceive this work as occurring in concentric circles on the face of recollection, like ripples perhaps, all stemming from the singular event which spawned them. (No spoilers this time: I can't bring myself to. If you're curious you'll just have to go and read it.) However, I think the aspect which I enjoyed most was the manner in which the story was told as it pertains to other literary works. Although Bechdel's use of literary reference in Fun Home has been criticized, I think it is wildly significant. It highlights one of the few qualities that link her and the other central character, her father, intrinsically, and it puts special emphasis on the manner of her own self-creation. In addition it demonstrates an exceptional attention to detail, and a rather profound understanding of stories which are far from simplistic [like Ulysses].

In all, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home is more than worth it. Looking back on it now, I can't wait to read it again.

Here's a link to Alison Bechdel's Website
Looking for a copy? Try Amazon!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paris is Burning

I must ask for your forgiveness, world at large! I am presenting my reviews out of order. Fie and for shame!

Paris is Burning is a documentary I encountered through my English 227 class. Directed by Jennie Livingston and released in 1990, it chronicles the lives of New York's underclass of the late 1980s, namely the attendees of 'Balls' - events some of us might argue could be called Drag Shows. The film has received twelve very well-deserved awards, and is considered one of Miramax Films' earliest successes.

I think my favorite part of this documentary is that it presents the viewer with vocabulary - words like House, Reading, Shade, Voguing, and Mopping - and educates the viewer not only through explanations offered by the Ball-goers, but through demonstration. My second favorite part is that it represents so totally and unabashedly a slice of life which is so often swept under the carpet, and not just in the sense that it deals with people who have sexual, gender, or image identities which are counter to what is considered socially "normative." It also has a lot of statements to make about oppression based on other forms of identity, especially race. The quote that honestly stuck with me the most throughout the whole film speaks to all of the above. The shot, I recall, was of a young man standing on the sidewalk in the pseudo-night of New York city, and he said: "I remember my dad - he'd say you have three strikes against you in this world. Every black man has two - that they are black and they are male. But you're a black and you're a male and you're gay.... If you're gonna do this, you're gonna have to be stronger than you ever imagined." Something in those words, for me, epitomized the struggles prevalent in the whole film. Not even in the specifics of it, just in that simple phrase, "You're gonna have to be stronger than you ever imagined."

It's a wonderful piece of work. I would love to own it, to see it again, to talk to scores of people about it and get their thoughts. It made me want to go to New York and see what I can, two decades later, and sort through the city for traces of that culture.

Interested? Check it out!

Crush, by Richard Siken

And so, dear readers, I once again arrive at the place in my life wherein I can review things which I read for school!

I read Richard Siken's Crush for my English 227 class, which focuses on GLBT literary works. We started off the quarter with theory, reading essays by Gayle S. Rubin, Audre Lorde, Kobena Mercer, and Judith Butler. Crush was a breath of fresh air.

Although it was refreshing, it was by no means an easy read. And to say it is not an easy read does not mean it is not a quick read: indeed, I could hardly put it down. But I've begun in the middle. Let's go back to the beginning.

Crush has won multiple awards, including the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Poetry in 2005. However, perhaps most notably, Crush was selected as the 2004 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, which speaks volumes in more than one way. Firstly, the contestant cannot have been published previously, and the contestant must also be under the age of 40. Secondly, the winners of this award are usually what my Professor dubbed "conservative" in their work - read structured, straightforward, classical, metered - and Crush is the antithesis of all that word stands for in our language today. It speaks for the strength of the manuscript in and of itself, a strength I cannot and will never doubt. Siken's work is compared to Silvia Plath's - Crush to Ariel - and I can believe it.

In the foreword of the book, Louise Glück (one of the judges of the aforementioned contest, I believe) asserts "This is a book about panic." I think this much is true, but I think it is also so much more than that. Siken's masterful use of imagery and surrealism immersed me as a reader in the universe of Crush and in it I saw much more than panic: grief, loss, denial, resignation, anger, desperation, desire, lust, and hopelessness. Some of these may be synonymous and I might be responding with vague and nebulous ramblings (as I am wont to produce) that are snatching at the coattails of insight, but really I can have little other response. Crush captured me. Not only in its brilliant use of imagery but in blurring the lines between literal and figurative and its use of the surreal and the sudden. It whisked me along and even though I tried to take it slow to see what I could see, it will take many, many more readings to formulate a more coherent response to it than the one you, reader, just slogged through.

For the slogging, I apologize.

I hope, however, that you find a copy of Crush to read, and read it carefully. Honestly I think that anyone who considers themselves a poet, ever dreamed of being a poet, or likes to profess that they are a poet should be required to read this book. It is infinitely powerful and I know it has changed how I look at poetry. I think it could open a lot of doors.

And even if you do not consider yourself a poet, I would recommend this to you. There is something so simply, so intrinsically human within each and every piece that each is a gem, and yet one cannot be plucked out from amongst all the rest. They are one and whole and heartbreaking.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Catherinette Rings - Steampunk Jewelry Wizard!


One of my favorite jewelery artists of all time, forever known to me as CatherinetteRings, is holding a giveaway! His work is absolutely exquisite. I admire his attention to detail most of all, and I honestly feel that his creativity shines through bright and clear in every single one of his creations. If any of you - Steampunk'r or no - want to enter his contest, all you have to do is pay a visit to his blog and leave a comment! Your name will be included in a drawing to win a whopping $215 worth of his work and there will be FOUR NAMES DRAWN!

Get 'em while they're hot, people. Seriously. Don't miss this.

Visit this page for more information, and don't forget to check his work out on etsy!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


live and in the Tacoma Dome!

My love for Cirque is everlasting and undying, but honestly I feel as though I idealized this show. Perhaps because it was the first show which I had any memento of, perhaps because I was so young when I first saw it, perhaps because I have grown up listening to its music, perhaps because it was and is and will always be ingrained in my mind in a way little else can be.

Alright. So I idealize it. Isn't that the nature of adoration?

For the sake of a bit of history, Alegría was seen for the first time in 1994, performed a decade after the birth of Cirque du Soleil itself. Alegría was proceeded by: La Magie Continue, We Reinvent the Circus, Nouvelle Expérience, Fascination, Saltimbanco, and Mystère. Of these, only Saltimbanco and Mystère are still performed. Even in the face of such previous and enduring excellence, this 1994 newcomer stands up for itself.

Alegría professes itself to be "a baroque ode to the energy, grace and power of youth," and I can believe it. The show speaks to lineage, the old and the new, and the dichotomies of black and white, secure power and endangering risk. And frankly, overall, it's a sensory wonder.

I think what stayed with me the longest, besides the music, was the appearance of the characters. I never forgot the White Lady, as I remember her, or The White Singer as she is called in the official literature.

And she was not the only one; I recalled fragments of the costumes and characters from when I first saw them, and that in and of itself attests to the sheer beauty of this production. I remember parts of Alegría more vividly than I recall my childhood trips to Disney parks. But enough reminiscing.

Alegría in the Tacoma Dome was wonderful. I was a little sad they didn't fit the Big Top, or, if you prefer to be all fancy, the Grand Chapiteau, inside the Dome, but who am I to split hairs? The stage, lighting, MUSIC [especially the music] were spot on. There's just a quality that Alegría's music has which makes it both chilling and enthralling. I've never been able to escape it. Alongside the costumes, the music is my favorite part.

I think these factors are what redeemed the second viewing of this show for me. Since, quite naturally I would argue, nothing can ever live up to the idealized Alegría of my childhood and my dreams, in a way it had to be redeemed. Some of the acts were not quite so impressive to me the second time around, especially when stood up next to the far more recent KOOZÄ! (2007), which some of you might recall I saw last summer. But my discomfort was not in that I wasn't quite impressed or enthralled "enough" - but instead that KOOZÄ! seemed to loom in and even usurp Alegría's place in my heart. But not to fear - the Coup of the Circuses never took place. After all, Alegría had seniority and the fact that I debated at all attests to how well it has withstood the test of time.

Both of these shows have wonderful messages, which is always an important aspect of my appreciation of productions such as these. To me, KOOZÄ! is a call to embrace what some might call childishness, to be sensitive to mysticism and the unknown and to strike out in the world unafraid of inventing that world as one goes along; Alegría on the other hand is a testament to that youth, a celebration of things new and fresh while still embracing what has been. I realize now that I love both these shows so much because they walk hand in hand.

But as all of you know, I can go on about the things I care for the most for days, and none of you want that.
For those of you who are so inclined, seek out Alegría. It has the best clowning I have ever seen, some of the best music and costumes, and, as a bonus, one of my favorite acts of all time: the Flying Man.

I will leave you, then, with this:
I see a spark of life shining
I hear a young minstrel sing
Beautiful roaring scream
Of joy and sorrow,
So extreme
There is a love in me raging
A joyous,
Magical feeling...

Also! Credit must be given where it is due! I made use of this lovely timeline posted by a fellow blogger! Thank you ever so much for your marvelous compilation of Cirque materials!

The Dimes

live and in concert at Portland's Muddy Boot Festival!

I had wanted to see The Dimes desperately for over a year, and finally I was given the opportunity! Based in the Vancouver-Portland (Washington-Oregon) area, The Dimes have a flair for history and a good ear for indie pop/folk fusion. Last May they were recognized on NPR when their track Save Me, Clara was made song of the day. If it strikes your fancy you can read the honorary blurb by Barbara Mitchell, The Dimes: A Gentle Plea To An Angel Of Mercy.

The band is composed of Johnny Clay, Pierre Kaiser, Ryan Johnston, Jake Rahner, Kelly Masigat, Tucker Jackson and potentially several others, as they are quite happily prone to including family members and guest stars for various performance purposes. They are self-proclaimed college-campus-playing veterans, and have since moved on to higher prospects including the Crystal Ballroom [my personal favorite venue in all of Portland].

I think one of my favorite parts about the music they make is how very historical the lyrics are. For sake of example, Save Me, Clara is about Clara Barton, a nurse who tended the wounded during the Civil War and who later went on to found the American Red Cross. However, even though this is the case, the references made by the songs do not in any way make them inaccessible: you don't need to know that Clara is Clara Barton to enjoy the song. On their facebook page, the members of the band credit their song ideas to some 1930s era newspapers they found under the kitchen floorboards of a Victorian house they're renovating. (May I take a moment to say, how flippin' cool is that?!) But beyond having excellent lyrics, their sound is wonderfully balanced. I have a soft spot for their multi-harmony vocals, epitomized in their track Emmie Devine. And still beyond that, their sound translates from recording to live and in person very gracefully indeed. Hearing Emmie Devine live nearly reduced me to tears in the very best sense.

So if you haven't heard their work yet, Go Forth, blog readers, and be victorious!

Visit The Dimes on...
Their Homepage

PS - This review is EXCEEDINGLY LATE. I APOLOGIZE. College decided to happen, so I'm really quite behind with this whole reviewing business. I will catch up as soon as I may (despite the fact that the holidays are well on their way)!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Clockwork Man

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I have purchased and played a computer game. Get your shocked and potentially appalled reactions out now.

The Clockwork Man, courtesy of Total Eclipse games, is what is called a “Hidden Object” or “Seek and Find” game. Basically, you are presented with a room full of objects. Usually entirely spontaneous objects. You are also presented with a list for every room of things you are to find amongst the mess presented you. You click on each object to collect it, and then you move on. In some cases there are other puzzles, like solving a combination box, fixing a boiler, using multiple items to patch a pipe, things like that. In short, gameplay is very basic.

I will own that I have never played a “seek and find” game before, and that it came off as rather childish to me in the realm of gameplay. I finished the entire adventure in a single sitting. Perhaps I am just used to things like The Legend of Zelda, but I honestly hoped the game would be longer. I even could have dealt with the endless screens of “find these random things even when it doesn’t make much sense to” if only the story kept going. My hopes were raised about mid-game with the advent of the puzzle-box. The idea was that every line of tiles you were presented had a kind of “key” – and you had to transform the symbols not to match, but to match with a rotation or change made to it presented in a single static tile. That may have been a terrible description on what the puzzle calls for as far as nonsensicality, but it was the first – and last – puzzle that actually had me going. I was excited after that, anticipating other more difficult puzzles, but the rest were simply not up to snuff. I also held out for the bonus “free play” option, hoping that there would be puzzles to be had there, as well, that something would be different. Instead what I found was more cluttered rooms and lists. To be fair I haven’t yet re-played the adventure, which, according to a message at the end of the first play through, is entirely different. I would hope that means the puzzles as well, but what with how the game played out, I doubt it.

On another note, what was up to snuff was the design. The characters, while expressively and proportionally appearing straight out of an online fashion doll generator, had great concepts. I liked the costumes especially. It was the backgrounds and objects themselves where the artistry showed. Even amongst the clutter the gameplay called for, the rooms and backgrounds were beautifully rendered. My other favorite part art-wise was the cut scenes. They had an old charcoal-on-teastained-parchment look, and the characters looked more natural.

The writing itself was passing fair, but, sadly, the voice acting completely destroyed its potential nuances and intricacies. The largest complaint I had was that the text presented in the dialog boxes didn’t match the audio, but only for one single character. As for the rest, they matched, but half the accents attempted were grating. The main character’s British drifted in and out of badness and the only French character, well...he wasn’t quite French. However, while the voice acting left something to be desired, I enjoyed the plot itself. While simple and short, Miranda Calomy and her eccentric yet well-known inventor Grandfather were endearing. The concept for The Clockwork Man himself was excellent – he was arguably the prettiest part of the game – and the use of the Mayan temple buried in the jungle added some nice spice to it. I had hoped the game would continue after the jungle adventure with the concept put forth in the prologue, of Miranda attending University, but alas, the story ended there. Or did it?

The Clockwork Man already has a sequel, which can be purchased via download here, or, you know, snail mail for half price here. It appears to be a straight-up sequel, but judging by the video, the interface and puzzle-play have both improved, the backgrounds are less insanely cluttered, AND (WHAAT?) the characters look to have improved design-wise! [Hooray for ladies in trousers!] The voices appear to be the same. Damn.

However, my dearest ladies and gentlemen, the point remains thus: even though I complained about this game up and down the town, I simply could not stop playing it. For a glorious three (maybe four) hours, it consumed my life. I only wish the gloriousness had lasted longer.

The Clockwork Man: The Hidden World, Here I Come!

Steam on.

Official Clockwork Man Website


Kick-Ass, which recently hit the DVD release, is the perfect descriptor for itself. It was KICK. ASS. Bold, double underlined, and in red. For good measure.

It had everything a gritty urban adventure needed, from the cocaine dealers to the tattooed gang bangers, and everything a superhero movie needed, from deep dark comic book pasts to big guns. Especially the big guns.

But in the end, there were a few things that really surprised me. First was the casting. What a star-stud. Mark Strong as Frank D’Amico was brilliant. After his recent appearance in Sherlock Holmes as Lord Blackwood, I am not at all surprised that film makers are chomping at the bit to see more of him. I realize in both movies he had some kind of distinguishing physical feature on his face to make him stand out: Lord Blackwood had his off-kilter tooth (dare I say snaggletooth?) and Frank had a very unique pseudo-circular scar a little above the bridge of his forehead on the left side. It’s little things like that just make my day. Then of course there was Nicholas Cage. I’ve never thought that he was badass before. Honestly, I’ve never been a big Cage fan. Even in National Treasure (which I do have a bit of a guilty pleasure for) I thought he was mediocre at best. But this…I dunno. There was a kind of charm to his performance of vigilantism in this film. And then there’s Kick-Ass. Aaron Johnson was wonderful. With his talent I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him, [especially with those cheekbones, not gonna lie,] but the shocking thing is how much we may have seen of him already. I personally did not recognize the transition between The Thief Lord’s Prosper and Kick-Ass’ Dave Lizewski. In singing his praises as Dave/Kick-Ass, his voice-crack was hilarious, and his momentary imitation gay voice was priceless. I laughed so hard because I honestly believed it. Oh gracious me. But my absolute favorite, for writing, for design, for physicality, for performance, was definitely Chloe Moretz’s Hit Girl. She was so darling when not in costume, and she was definitely the most badass in costume. I mean, what more could you ask for? Purple hair, classic Robin mask, combat boots, tartan skirt, more weapons than can even be imagined, and a mouth like a sailor. She was GREAT. Quite a performance for a girl of 13, too. Can’t wait to see her again.

One aspect of this film which caught me off guard with its quality was the soundtrack. I’m out to find it, it was so good. [Note: this is a huge compliment. I usually only go after the instrumental soundtracks. Like Clint Mansell’s score for The Fountain. It’s scrumptious.] There were so many times that my dad and I reacted with “Oh, I know this song!!” that it added a new level to the whole experience. The best by far was when they broke out a remix of the beginning of 3 Doors Down’s Kryptonite and led it right into Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. Seriously. It’s like chocolate milk and kahlua: it just works.

The visuals of this film I could rant about for days. The strobe-light fight scene was definitely one of the best. The use of sight-through-news broadcast, or youtube video, or security camera, or teddy-cam, all of it was great. The direct references to comic books were also great when it’s a film about super heroes outside of the comic books, as well. That little visual self-reference was satisfied-nod-worthy.
But all in all? Basically? This thing was a hit, and it shocked me. It’s not that I doubted its ability to rock the house, I just never expected it to become my new favorite film.

Well. Since I enjoyed that so much, I guess it’s time to finally go and watch Kill Bill Vol. II.

In the words of my new favorite superhero, show’s over, motherf*****s.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Dead Weather

in the Crystal Ballroom and very, very live.

I have never been to a show so intense. Because of it, I was not only squished, pseudo-levitated and bathed in the sweat of me and my four closest compatriots [meaning the people boxing me in], I gained a huge [TALENT] amount of respect for the artists in this band. I knew I loved Jack White. Everybody who knows who Jack White is - which should be everyone ever, but there's no accounting for taste - should at least appreciate the undeniable music in his soul. I mean, that music must come pouring out of him somehow: to have been in The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather all within a fairly short amount of time (not to mention various underground Detroit bands before getting his claim to fame with The White Stripes) is awe-striking at least. Add that to his stage presence and you get an international superstar [all Green Day and Moulin Rouge! references aside, I'm serious]. Couple all that with the intensity of Alison Mosshart and things get explosive.

Mosshart's sound for her second band, The Kills (Dead Weather being #3), is alternative and, in some cases, playful. For all those curious, see Tape Song. In The Dead Weather.... I think the best possible word I could choose here is gnarly. She was a grunge cigarette zombie queen in the body of an indie fashion model. I can't conjure anything more evocative than that, abstract though it is, so there you have it. Her badassery knew no bounds. She was aloof to the desperate cries and raucous sing-along of the crowd who reached for her as though their lives depended on it, teased them even, and gladly received an unlit cigarette from a devoted fan or two who knew she didn't give shit about the no smoking rules onstage. In short, she rocks. Hard.

The thing that was definitely the most insane and amazing about the show was the investment and passion pumped into every single note. They were larger than life and they knew it, and since they knew it, they weren't about to put on a poor show. And there's evidence to say that they love their crowds and devoted fans as much as the fans love to show it: at a New York show full of big wigs Jack White reputedly shouted "F*** you, you hip motherf***ers!" Go, Jack, Go!
Overall: one of the best shows. Ever. It'll be hard to top that one.

Opening band: Harlem.
What I remember the best from this set is honestly the bassist, sporting a Mickey Mouse-emblazoned baseball-cut 3/4 sleeve tee and rosary made of what I can only assume was pale green and frosty white jade. Well, that and the ability of the band to switch it up and change instruments mid-set. That at the least was worthy of a nod. Sadly, with the sound quality they received they seemed basic indie pop at best. However, their enthusiasm and energy level were certainly promising, and I would be more than willing to give them a second listen.
You can pay Harlem a visit at Shockhound, and on MySpace.

Fashion Report:

The Band
Jack White. Black, long-sleeved tee; tight black jeans; white shoes with a slight heel (soles: black) and buckle closure.
Alison Mosshart. White on black silkscreen tee; 3/4 sleeve leopard-print sweater with button closure; black skinny pants (not denim, a la Tripp); gold ankle boots; silver industrial bracelet; dainty silver chain with silver disk pendant; black nail polish.
Dean Fertita. Short-sleeved v-neck tee, thin horizontal black and white striped; black jeans; black shoes (presumably boots).
Jack Lawrence. Black from head to foot; button-down shirt; jeans; shoes; coke-bottle glasses.

The Crowd
Was completely inconsistent, in retrospect. I saw stylin' hippie-skirts and halter tops in with sleek designer skinny jeans and leather pumps. My personal favorite was a guy in a muscle shirt, pinstriped button-down, and last but not least a huge pair of headphones worn around his neck. But hey. It was a typical motley Portland crowd, and it certainly says something about the sheer number of people The Dead Weather is able to reach.

Official Site

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adam Lambert

Live and in concert: the following being a recollection of one hell of a night.

I have never seen the Crystal Ballroom so packed. Then again, I suppose that's a given, being the show sold out within twenty minutes of the tickets being available for purchase, but still: for those of you who know what I mean, the line was like K-Con. For those of you who don't, I mean that it went all the way around the block.

Absolute truth be told, rather like when I saw Muse, I didn't consider Adam Lambert among my favorite artists, though I certainly respected his voice from the get-go. Also like with Muse, my standpoint is now rather different. Even with how painfully loud the music was, Adam's voice more than held out. He clearly takes immaculately good care of it: there was no sign of wear and tear as is typically inevitable while on a tour circuit. Rather, it was spot-on. Thus my respect grew. Couple that with the dance beats of half his songs and you have an irresistible mix. And even beyond that, it was the energy with which he performed, the energy with which the dancers moved, and the sheer passion for their art that every single performer displayed. That is what made this a glorious show.

I will have to admit, my night was pretty much made when he performed his rendition of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. But then of course it only got better when his cover of Tears for Fears' Mad World as well as his own Strut and Fever made the setlist. Perhaps the best piece he performed - his intended last before his encore - was If I Had You, not for its pop hooks, but for the fact that he made a point to say before he began "This is what this tour means to me." Gotta love an artist with that much honesty and that much passion, no matter the manner in which he climbs the charts.

For the gossip column: Tommy Joe Ratliff, on bass for the Glam Nation Tour, was absent the night I attended. Lambert brought it to the special attention of the crowd, asking for good wishes for him, as "a family emergency" called him urgently home. There has been speculation that Ratliff's father fell victim to a stroke, but the tabloids rage on and time will tell.

To give credit where it is justly due:
the two opening artists, Allison Iraheta and Orianthi, were pretty tight. I have to say that I respect Iraheta's fabulously pink/purple fadeout hair and her energy, Orianthi's voice [it was noted by a friend I made at the concert that she sounded hoarse, but I thought it added a nice growl-flavor to her vocals. oh well], and the energy and talent of Orianthi's bassist (who I sadly cannot find the name of).

Alert to all readers! The following is a new segment I've decided to add to my music reviews. Being I am now employed by a company which deals with both music and clothes, and especially how they work together, I have decided to use my powers of observation toward that end. So, without further ado,

Fashion Report:
The Band.
Adam Lambert. Had a variety of costumes a la David Bowie's Thin White Duke routine, though he didn't quite have one outfit for every song. The following are not complete outfits, but rather elements of various ensembles.
Coat and tails (black) with a white or off-white fur collar; tall, sparkly, red top-hat with a black silk hat-band, black brooch, and two long, thin, black feathers angled and drooping toward the back on one side; p/leather pants; to the floor black coat, presumably either [Tripp fabric] or p/leather; makeup galore; black vest-like muscle shirt, fiddle back (these seams were accentuated by ridges of dark neon-blue fabric, perhaps bias tape on a fold), emblazoned with a calligraphic letter A; long-sleeved button-down black or charcoal grey shirt, silver scrollwork embroidered at the top of each sleeve near where each was set in at the shoulder as well as between the shoulder blades; black cane headed with a silver skull (featured especially in the song Strut).
Dancers' ensembles and other things of import. Honestly I was far enough away from the stage to be unable to absorb the majority of the other fashions onstage. However, I was able to note that the dancers were sporting garments that were either made by the fabulous Skingraft or else they were made to look like them. I recall especially the use of something similar to shoulder-holsters: it made me recall this Skingraft bridle harness.
Allison Iraheta. Black corset, sweetheart neckline; black skinny jeans. [apologies for the brevity: I couldn't see much of her and almost nothing of Orianthi excepting her fabulous hair.]

The Crowd.
There was a predominant sense of glam-rock on the legendary floating floor. If glitter really is the herpes of everything, the Crystal Ballroom will never be the same. It was everywhere. Anything that sparkled, glinted, or shined could be seen, from temporary body art and makeup to sequined butterfly-cut vests to stretch-glitter you-name-it. The sparkle was the key. But there was no lack of skinny-jeans or corset-clad fans, either. There was more than a hint of clubwear, laces, mesh, and lace. I especially recall a black empire-waisted coat, long-sleeved, with a standing collar and lace-up back.

IN SHORT, readers, it was a night full of glitter and good fun.

Wiki article for the Glam Nation Tour
Adam Lambert:
Official Site
Allison Iraheta
Official Site
Official Site

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shutter Island

May I open this one with a great big SPOILER ALERT.
Then again, I think you're all pretty aware that I'm liberal with the details on this blog, so I don't know why I was compelled to do so. Moving on.

For a true beginning to this review, I'm going to lay it out there plain and simple: I expected a lot more from this film. I love Leonardo DiCaprio - I believe he's very talented - and I'm also a huge fan of Emily Mortimer. However, this movie definitely left something to be desired in multiple courts.

The Plot is my main concern. In fact, I think I may be experiencing the same kind of disenchantment with Shutter Island as many other people of my acquaintance experienced with Avatar: in the end, it did exactly what I expected it to, and so it was a let-down. I mean really. When the major plot twist, that the gung-ho main character is actually insane, gets predicted by someone in the room within the first half hour of the film, there's something rotten in the state of Denmark, and in this case it rank of someone failing miserably at trying to pull a Tyler Durden. I would rather have watched a hackneyed and predictable story about a bad-guy insane-asylum-gone-experimental-medical-facility post-World War II featuring a detective with post-traumatic stress disorder which, naturally, he then uses to solve the case and escape; the blind leading the blind, the traumatized spiraling into the insane in order to understand the insane and thereby gleaning a glimmer of truth to cling to. I would have adored that, run-on sentence and all. Eaten it up. But of course that's not how things seem to work right now. The only redeeming quality of the plot was the very end, the very conscious decision of Teddy/Andrew to commit mental suicide and be ice-pick lobotomized: "to die a good man" rather than "to live as a monster."

The other main aspect that I was disappointed with, honestly, was the score. It kills me to say so, as movie music is one of my favorite things in life, but there it is. Upon looking into it further, it kills me even more to see that the score wasn't original: it was hand-selected tracks from various classical sources! Oh Hollywood Gods, why do you do these things? [Give me a moment to compose myself.] I must give credit where credit is due: I desired the 'silence is more terrifying than sound' effect, and they gave it to me in spades (once I waited a while for it). However, my complaint, in light of the aforementioned discovery, is with the use of certain tracks. Every once in a while a piece would be chosen that just screamed that the film was trying too hard to be suspenseful and thereby ruined the entire setup. During the sequence wherein Teddy and Chuck are being driven to the compound on Shutter Island to work on their missing persons case, the music was so repetitive and over the top I actually laughed and said "I can'e even take this seriously right now." That same track happened at least twice more, and it totally pulled me out of the film. It became a parody of itself, and I cannot see how that could have been the intent for the piece. It did the song no credit, and it did the visual film no credit, either.

Because, dear readers, if you've even made it this far, I hate to bag on this film. I really do, and not least because the cinematography was brilliant. Stunning, even. The contrast in lighting between the waking hours on Shutter Island and Teddy's dreams of his home and wife were excellent. The stark lighting and bleached-out effect for every flash of lightning during the migraine scene was gorgeous, an almost poetic representation of the characteristic photosensitivity, as was the transition with every flash between that waking world and the dream world, witnessed only by brightness and the presence or absence of Teddy's five o'clock shadow and subtle beard. The devastatingly still sequences of Teddy's flashbacks to the war and the concentration camps were exquisitely horrifying, and beautiful because they were so. But by far my favorite shot caused a reference I can only hope was intentional: Teddy's wife, during one of his dreams, is pictured standing at the window with her back to him. At this point in the film it is an accepted idea that she was killed when their apartment was set ablaze by an arsonist. In this shot where she lingers at the window, her back is cut away so to speak, to reveal that she is hollow and made of a charcoaled log with still-glowing lines of ember. In several traditions, Faery or Elfin women, as well as some dryads, are described as beautiful women having holes in their backs which reveal that they are hollow and made of wood. The use of this image in Shutter Island was not only well done, it was striking, worked gloriously in the context of the story as well as in that of the nightmare, and ultimately demonstrated Teddy's idealistic view of his wife: as a beautiful, even supernatural creature beyond the bounds of humanity and thereby beyond the bounds of mortality. It reflected his inability to let her go using mythological connotation with a twist of logic. It was brilliant.

And to touch on the performance itself, there was not a single actor who I found lacking in skill or conviction. I continue to be impressed with both Leonardo DiCaprio and Emily Mortimer. I was also very impressed by Ben Kingsley and Mark Ruffalo. There was no lack of talent or fervor in the cast, and I commend them for making the most of that which they were given. It was only that which they were given that I had quips with.

So, in short, overall I was disappointed. I feel that this had potential to be much more than what it was, especially with the visual brilliance displayed throughout the film. But, I think now that I have detained you for long enough.


Oh my goodness have I delayed on this review and I apologize to the Film Deities for said delay. This film deserved immediate attention and I can no longer conjure the reason it did not receive it.

Snatch is a jewel of a film. Released in 2001, it can only be called an action flick with every good thing: con artists, incompetent thieves, bare-knuckle boxing, gypsies - throw in one cute dog and one bat-shit crazy pig farmer and you've pretty much got it down. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, it's one hell of a ride. Infused with a host of unique characters and with one of my favorite plot twists of all time, the film's cherry-on-top is a star-studded cast featuring names like Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, Alan Ford, Dennis Farina, and, that's right, Brad Pitt.

The whole cast was impressive, but I think the best performance goes to Brad Pitt. For those of you who know me well, you'll already be aware of the fact that my conversion to Brad Pitt fandom was fairly recent. That conversion would have come much quicker if I had seen Snatch sooner than I did. He portrays Mickey O'Neil, a lightning-fisted and almost completely unintelligible Irish "Pikey." (Wiki article on said derrogative term here.) I think it's one of the best performances he's ever done. The accent was perfect, the attitude was marvelous, he as a whole was simply excellent.

I would highly recommend this movie to everyone I know, just know that it is VERY heavily curse-laden. If you have no problem with this (and even if you do but are willing to set it aside for about two hours), watch it and see what happens. My dad has repeatedly grouped it with Bank Job and The Italian Job (2008), in a way as their predecessor. [And hey, the marvelous Jason Statham is in all three! That's always a plus.] Snatch is quickly becoming one of my favorite films, and I can't wait to see it again.

Until next time, dear readers. And remember, don't Snatch.

Trailer (Sadly censored. apologies. Had trouble with my videos.)

Boondock Saints

Yes, the first one. No, I had never seen it before. Please get all your sin and sacrilege responses out now.

Feel better? Good. Let's move on.

A little bit of background, for the books. The 1999 film The Boondock Saints is the comedic and action-packed brainchild of writer and director Troy Duffy, for whom I gained an insane amount of respect in the span of approximately two hours. I can't even touch on how many aspects of this movie I adored, so you're just going to have to put up with me when I say "all of them." Especially the (SHOCKER) Willem Dafoe in drag there in the end. Not gonna lie. I just about busted a lung I was laughing so hard. [Mostly at myself: for a split second there I actually thought it was a woman.]

Speaking of Willem Dafoe, oh gracious, what a wonderful cast! And Mr. Dafoe was not even the most exciting star-stud it featured. Billy Connelly was, honest to god, the last person I expected to appear in an action flick, especially this one, so when I realized it was him I thought it was Christmas. He was fantastic as Il Duce (which I believe translates to 'the Duke'), and he, now he had a great plot twist. I will actually try and stay mute as to the majority of the twists in this one, being they're just too delicious. The aforementioned Willem Dafoe played a fabulous [and I mean insert rainbows here kind of fabulous, though the character himself certainly did NOT accept the existence of said rainbows until the very last minute] FBI agent with just a twist of insanity. Overall, wonderful performance. And then there were Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus as the MacManus brothers. They were funny, convincing siblings in all the right ways, as well as solemn and poised. Their banter was fantastically delivered and their characters were flawless: their personalities were even projected in their stances and walks.

I especially appreciated the use of Irish-Catholic heritage and faith as a device in The Saints' killings. The coins over the eyes were a nice touch. The rosaries were nicer. The family prayer was my favorite. And, as though the brothers needed one more thing make them wholly inseparable, their hand tattoos, one reading Veritas, the other Aequitas, or Truth and Justice, were a wonderful choice. I also approved, then, of Il Duce's tatoo on his hand, though I couldn't determine quite what it was.

To note, the whole idea of killing in the name of god usually doesn't sit well with me. For some reason, in this case, it did. Yes it was vigilantism, but somehow it felt right, necessary, in the context of the world woven by the film. The Saints were undeniably heroes in my mind, though they were perhaps a little bumbling, like all human beings can be, and terrifyingly absolute in their judgment. Perhaps it was the light nature of the film's tone on the whole that made me glide over this particular age-old quip of mine. But whatever the reason, I loved the MacManus brothers, and I don't think anything is going to change that.

Overall, glorious, amusing, wonderful, IRISH, mob-gang-decimating good fun.
I can't wait to see it again, and I would recommended it a hundred fold.

And shepherds we shall be,
for Thee, my Lord, for Thee.
Power hath descended forth from Thy hand,
that our feet may swiftly carry out Thy command.
So we shall flow a river forth to Thee
and teeming with souls shall it ever be.
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Riverrun Trilogy: Yestern by S.P. Somtow

Praise the unlikely triple-goddess, it's over! I cannot believe the sheer volume of time it took me to finish this trilogy. It was by no means due to the quality of its writing, nor its content: life got in the way, and that was the only obstacle.

Though perhaps a tad bit convoluted at times, The Riverrun Trilogy was, in all, an excellent read. The writing is disarming for two reasons, in my mind, however. For one, the first person perspective switches constantly. I wasn't in love with the idea at first, but it made the end of Yestern: it would have been an entirely ineffective literary climax without it. The other factor, which I did not fully acknowledge until the end (go figure) is that it's written in present-tense. I am not a fan of present-tense, so S.P. Somtow, wherever you are, I commend you: you used it effectively and without driving me crazy.

I also must give credit where credit is due: the Whitmoosh Award for knowledge of a little bit of everything in (at least) this universe goes to S.P. Somtow. I have not seen so many mythological, philosophical, and pop-culture elements implemented and referenced in one space. In that court, bravo!

In retrospect, I can think of very little to criticize. There are some themes I thought a tad bit unnecessary - the emphasis on incest could have been less-so, even if the characters tried to justify it with "we were gods at the time" or some variation on "Greek and classical mythology are full of it." But ultimately, this is a rather small complaint in a sea of compliment: the books were marvelously executed, and, for the most part, kept me on the edge of my seat.

A recommended read, but be warned: heere there be were-dragons and a whole lot more. not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I wish I could have captured my first impressions about this glorious and strange film right as they occurred, but alas, fate did not tend that way. Since I do not have my initial impressions and reactions, I will offer first facts and then recollections.

In the facts department, Ink was released in 2009 and appears to be entirely thanks to the handiwork of Jamin Winans. The film is produced by his production company, Double Edge Films with the aid of Kiowa K. Winans. It was written and directed by Jamin Winans, and the score was composed by him as well. It leaves a very distinct "what CAN'T he do?" feeling.

Now the recollections. My first recollection is how sheerly visual the film was. At first I found myself wondering if it were going to be so abstract as to have no dialog at all. Even then I found it had nothing wanting: the aesthetics are incredibly engaging, as are the dynamics of the forces at work. The Storytellers, Incubi, and Ink himself are all terribly fascinating to look at and watch, and thereby they are ideal. My favorite aspect of the movie by far was the design: it had me wanting to run off and make things, which is increasingly the sensation I get when I really, really enjoy something.

The concept was also superb. It was certainly surreal enough for me. In some capacity it reminded me of The Fountain, and in another of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. For fear of spoiling anything, I'll avoid saying much more, but it was, in my experience, one of those stories which only makes sense at the very last moment, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The actors, too, were remarkably good. The only complaint I lodge on this front is with the Drifters (Steven Brown and Shauna Earp). Though they were described as poorly acted to me, I don't think they were so much poorly done as overdone. I didn't mind them too terribly most of the time. I think I'd have to see the film again to have a real opinion on this front. On the other hand, the rest of the cast was glorious. I especially liked Jeremy Make as Jacob, also known as The Pathfinder. He was excellent. And, though it was a short-lived appearance, Jeffrey Richardson's Incubus Prince was glorious. I would have loved to see more of him. Then again, I love antagonists.

In the end, I was impressed with how poignant and heartfelt this movie was. It kindof blindsided me, and it was a pleasant surprise, indeed.

Links for your convenience and leisure:
See the trailer here at
The film is available to purchase through Amazon, as well as through the Official Ink Website.
IMDb is perfectly thorough, and Wiki is busy discussing it as well (just for you, my wiki-addict reader: you know who you are)
And last but certainly not least, if you're interested in Double Edge, pay them a visit right here on Blogspot!

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Toy Story 3

I don't even really know what to say about this film. It was beautiful and heart-wrenchingly sad like a Pixar movie ought to be, and I cried in the theatre, just like I ought to.

I am going to refrain from discussing any details because I absolutely refuse to spoil any of this movie for anyone, so sorry, but this will be incredibly brief and potentially even sparse.

(It helps that it's been a few days between when I saw it and when I wrote this entry. Apologies.)

I think the only issue I had in any sense with the film or its presentation was this: that it was only available in 3D. I mean really. I don't understand the appeal. I'd love to hear people's thoughts on it, because it just doesn't do anything for me. Not for Avatar, not for Alice in Wonderland, and certainly not for this. For me, a movie experience is enhanced by a large screen, good sound, and being able to share it with people I care about, the latter being the most essential. And, while I'm at home, the people I most readily share movies with are my parents: 3D gives my mom headaches and my dad simply can't see 3D films, so in the end it hinders far more than enhances.

But, a la Casanova, I have too long dominated the conversation; what are your thoughts on the matter?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just a Thought

You know, I’ve always considered Brom’s The Plucker to be a sort of Toy-Story-Gone-Wrong, but, after watching Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in marathon (gearing up for seeing the new one tomorrow), I can’t help but think that if Woody and Buzz ever met this they’d be scared shitless. I mean really – a Jack in the Box who is infused with the essence of Banshee and armed with a sword and poisoned pin? Seriously. And Jack’s the GOOD guy.

Just sayin’.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

Entry No. 4 in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) 2010 Recollection Series.

This being the first time I have ever encountered this text in any format, I warn you, dear readers: this may look more like musings and ramblings than a review.

I would like to think that Shakespeare wrote this play is order to spur conversation and debate. In fact, I'd wager the true performance here occurs after the curtain call - in the reactions of those who were of late in attendance and applause.

What struck me most was that there was only one character in the main cast who I found truly likable: Basanio. His only fault that I can see was haste without discretion and foolishness to trust a woman he'd not known previously (we must assume, or at least not to any great extent) to love him simply because he won her in accordance with her father's will. But this is pardonable by comparison.

I feel sorry for Antonio that his (in this production) obviously romantic feelings for Basanio came to nothing at all [what is it with Antonios? First the pirate and now this! And both in trade, of sorts. I wonder. Was one or both Antonios (be they perhaps in reference to an original) comparable to a summer's day?] and I feel sorry he resigned himself to die. However, I do not in the least feel sorry for him in light of his blatant prejudice and harmful, open discrimination, "climate of the times" be damned. Likewise, I feel sorry for Shylock's oppression due to his religion and the pain it causes him, but I can by no means pity his open greed and his lack of grief for the loss of his daughter rather than his duckets. And additionally, of Portia I can pity her predicament at being the grand prize in some shell-game contrivance of her father's, but I cannot help but be appalled by all her other dealings in the play: deceiving her husband on a whim, preaching mercy yet showing none, and being constantly swayed by prejudice and hatred.

I fully understand that this is a work more relevant to our times than many would be comfortable with admitting. I can see that, and I openly acknowledge it. As a text it is something which is timeless and thereby invaluable, and I commend all directors, designers, artists, participants for attempting to drive that point home by anachronistic integration (the costumes, for example, were a blend of Renaissance Italy and present-day Europe: my best example will once again be Basanio, who cut a fine figure in a blue leather doublet with detachable shoulders, black riding boots, a white shirt with a button-down collar, and blue jeans): you did your jobs well.

At last I think I come to my point, in a roundabout kind of fashion, as seems to be usual for me now. I think I am so unsettled by this work because although the aim was to have this piece hang somewhere in the interim where past and present are seem at once like two panes of different colored glass held to light [for blue and yellow do indeed make green] in some brilliant stroke of fantasy, the cruelty in the actions and words was all too human, and all too real. So I beseech not only myself, but others, though to few ears and to the world in general, if it had a mind to hear me: learn from that cruelty. Acknowledge it, and know it can bring no good.

But then again, how precious few look to do things for "good"s sake alone.

In short, my readers, a grim kind of not-quite-fiction, human through and through, and absolutely food for thought.

Shakespeare's Hamlet

Entry No. 3 in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) 2010 Recollection Series.

There is always a certain dubiousness one encounters upon realizing a shakespeare is done out of its time. It is never, for me, a question of "purity" of the work, rather, "is it done well?"

Well. In the case of OSF 2010's production of Hamlet, yes, yes it is done very well indeed. In fact, out of all the years I've attended OSF, this year's Hamlet has certainly been one of their best shows, and one of the best shows I've seen in my life.

This is owed in part to Dan Donohue, who played the title role with skill, grace, and above all else, passion. In 2007 I saw him play opposite John Tufts' Romeo as a motorcycle jacket-clad Mercutio. I've admired his style and ability ever since. I could go on about Donohue all day, but suffice it to say he played an intense and intensely convincing Hamlet.

The rest of the cast was likewise brilliant. Susannah Flood as Ophelia, especially, was impressive. In the end, it was the integrity of the actors which made this play what it was. All else I will discuss later, but the actors, their passion, and skill where what gave me chills and ultimately what moved me to tears. (I will admit to losing it when Horatio spoke: "Goodnight, sweet prince. Angels sing thee to thy rest," as well as in the end, where Old Hamlet's ghost appeared to hold his dead son in his arms under a single, stark spotlight. Oh, and of course when Horatio tries to poison himself to follow his closest friend to the grave.)

But enough of that: there's a lot of ground to cover with this one.

Hamlet had my second favorite Ashland set ever (second only to the aforementioned 2006 performance of Jekyll and Hyde). Its diversity and changeability left nothing at all to be desired. Nor, on the subject, did the costumes. It was admittedly disarming at first to imagine and then see Hamlet in a perfectly modern black suit and sunglasses, but in the end it suited him marvelously. The portrayal of Horatio as a sort of roadside scholar and sometime hitchhiker was equally disarming and then endearing (the glasses were a great touch).

And the lighting! I could go on for pages. An example: the low, dim lighting of the scene following the play within the play, Hamlet vowing to use words only and not weapons when he goes to speak with his mother, then suddenly seizing the dagger anyway and plunging offstage with an almost animal cry of "MOTHER," and, just as suddenly, the low lights on stage extinguish at the same instant that the house is plunged into light! (I gasped aloud and jumped, neither of which happen very often with live theatre.) And what, instant intermission? it was great. As was the introduction of hip-hop for the players (don't worry, I frowned when I first read it, too: trust me, it worked), but that's another matter entirely.

In short, everything was fabulous, but a few more tidbits and things I want to remember, before I go:

One. Old Hamlet was portrayed as deaf. He and Hamlet conversed in sign-language, Hamlet only relaying bits and pieces of what his father told him to the audience. He also had a habit of occasionally punctuating his conversations with other characters with a sign or two, placing special emphasis and usually anger on certain words and moments. This even deeper connection between father and son - this absolute fluency that not even the audience was privy to - was powerful.

Two. Hamelt's antics with scissors when feigning madness. It went something like this: Hamlet's repeated line of "except my life" (suggesting self-slaughter, see Act 2) was accompanied with a slow advance on Polonius. Hamlet held a pair of scissors at eye level as though ready to kill him then and there and have done with it. After he stopped and fell silent, rather than strike, he abruptly cut off Polonius' necktie and, as if it were the most natural thing in the world (but not without a hint of thoughtfulness), used it as a bookmark.
I also enjoyed later that all Hamlet had to do to make Polonius back off was to snip his scissors at him once.

Three. The choice of casting Rosencrantz and Guildenstern not only as women, but as a lesbian couple. It was a take I had never thought of and certainly have never seen before: the innovation was refreshing.

Four. Everything else.

Do You know me, sir?
I do, sir.
Do you?
Aye: you are a fish-monger.

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Entry No. 2 in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) 2010 Recollection Series.

May I begin this critique with praise for the set: the stage was gloriously adorned. The chandeliers, backdrops, and use of both doors and windows was overall very aesthetically pleasing. Though it's not quite as out there as 2008's Midsummer Night's Dream, also performed in the Bowmer Theatre, and not as overall engaging or impressive as the same theatre's set of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of 2006, it was in its way delicate and very appropriate for Pride and Prejudice. I realize that I have not previously noted that the Elizabethan stage is by far my favorite (complete with live bats!), even if the Bowmer offers certain technical advantages and innovations. Now that all that's over with, moving on.

I must give credit where it is due to the propsmaster (or perhaps the director) for the maintenance and use of an actual harpsichord. I have not as of yet had the pleasure of playing an harpsichord, but in my understanding they are famously finnicky instruments, especially in the realm of keeping it tuned.

Also in the realm of music, the show opened with a lovely rendition of O Mistress Mine arranged for soprano voice, while it appeared the previously in Twelfth Night as sung by Feste. Another common trend between these first two productions is that Twelfth Night was set before the French Revolution, Pride and Prejudice (as per usual) after it. I thought it appropriate, but I digress.

I think my only real criticism for this rendition is the portrayal of Elizabeth. Though I fully understand that part of the point of the story is that both Darcy and Elizabeth are proud and conceited, this production, in my mind, over-emphasized Elizabeth's pride, so much so that it overshadowed Darcy's. It seemed almost incongruous for the Bennets to criticize his arrogance when Elizabeth's rivaled his so well. However, in the end it opened up more interplay for Darcy and Elizabeth, and upon the advent of the second act, everything I thought to criticize in the first act improved. In fact, the whole production turned positively squee-worthy after the first half was over and done with. But again, I digress.

The costumes throughout were marvelous. I have always been keen on Empire sensibilities, and this production was no exception. After seeing the production I was determined not only to watch the ever-beloved BBC miniseries with Colin Ferrel, I was about ready to break out the sewing machine.

What has struck me as truly exquisite so far this season is the blocking and timing. In both shows thus far, there have been moments - the slightest of gestures - that add the perfect touch, whether it be of comedy or heartbreak, to the scene.

I realize I have not touched upon the performances of the other actors. John Tufts as Wickham was marvelous. Though I would have liked to see him as Bingley or even (I confess) Mr. Darcy, he played the universally sleazy Mr. Wickham wonderfully. Darcy was fabulous. Elijah Alexander put a touch of enjoyable quirk into his mannerisms, especially in the second act, and Christian Barillas' Bingley was appropriately adorable. All the Bennets were great, but Mr. Collins was more than worth a mention. James Newcomb played the creepiest creeper I've seen in a while and his vocal tics were terrifying. All in all, a beautiful cast.

Ah, and as a parting shot: they put in a bit of a spoof at the very beginning. Before the show technically began the cast came out to mill about on the stage as though at a party. When the god mic came on to tell us all to silence our cell phones, etc, Kitty and Lydia screamed and then promptly chattered to each other trying to figure out what it was: they were the only characters able to hear it. Nice touch, if you ask me.