Thursday, April 26, 2012

Grandma (aka Mary Magdalen)

On April 24th my grandma died.

I've experienced the death of a number of loved ones, but this time it feels different. The other times there was disbelief and sorrow and grief and rage. And yet this time, while I am certainly sad, I am not in disbelief. I may feel sorrow, but not necessarily profound grief and certainly not rage. The conclusion I have come to is that the reason is simply this: my grandma was 95 when she died.

She was not taken from this world before she could make her mark upon it. She did not die full of regrets. Sure there were hard times and strive (there always are in life), but there were just as many times of joy and laughter (if not more). She lived a full life and was loved by all around her. For the first time someone I love has died and it actually feels like it was meant to be. Like reading the last sentence in a great novel. You're sorry that it's over, but you're happy, invigorated, and fulfilled at having been able to experience it.

Like usual, my brain seems to be hard-wired to tie my experiences to scenes from stories I have read or seen. In this case I am brought to mind of the movie A Prairie Home Companion. Most specifically a scene that occurs at about the half-way point of the film. I wasn't able to find a video of the scene in question to show it to you, so I'll have to describe it for you instead.

The scene begins in a dark dressing room. There's a quiet tapping at the door and an old woman peeks her head in and enters. She's here for...well let's call it a romantic rendezvous with the man she loves. As she moves into the room we are able to that man sitting in a recliner with a blanket draped over his body and head. Standing behind the chair shrouded in shadows stands a beautiful woman in white. The old woman goes to the chair.

Hey, honey, why are you hiding from me? she says jokingly as she pulls off the blanket. Hey, wake up, Sugar.

She gently shakes him and then slowly she leans back. Her eyes widen and hand goes to her mouth in realization.

She leans back in close, and places a hand on his shoulder and the other on his stomach.

Chuck? she whispers. There is no response. She whispers again, Chuck? Chuck?

Just as this old woman is starting to get frantic the woman in white leans over and and puts a calming hand on the old woman's shoulder, It's okay, she says gently. It's okay.

The old woman—her eyes never turning to look at the woman in white—gives off a sob, How can he be dead?

He just went away, that's all, the woman in white gently reassures her. Chuck, she sobs again. She gently rubs his shoulder, "My baby.

The death of an old man is not a tragedy, the woman in white says gently.

I don't want him to go, the old woman weeps.

Forgive him his shortcomings, the woman in white replies. And thank him for all his love and care. She withdraws her hand from the old woman's shoulder, removing her presence from the shot, the room, and the scene.

The old woman rubs Chuck's shoulder again. Goodbye, baby, she says softly as she gazes at him, willing herself not to cry.

She gets in close and she nuzzles his nose in an Eskimo kiss. The music that was once playing quietly in the background begins to swell.

The shot changes to a stage where we see the performers that are responsible for the music.

Shiiine. Let it shiiine. Let the light from the lighthouse shiiine on me. Shiiine. Let it shiiine. Let the light from the lighthouse shiiine on me, they sing.

It makes me cry every time I see it. I'm not doing it justice, but it really is a beautiful scene. And it all comes down to that doesn't it? The death of an old woman is not a tragedy. Forgive her her shortcomings and thank her for all her love and care.

Although we are all sad, that's what's so great about the ceremonies regarding death: the we. There are few things in this world that juxtapose the twin emotions of joy and sorrow as perfectly as funerals.

Well, in all honestly I have been to some funerals that were awful and boring beyond belief. One's that seemed to be much more akin to a boring church service than a celebration of someone's life. So let's just expand our frame so that the term "Funeral" will encompass all the gatherings (formal and informal) brought about by a death and focus on a life, shall we?

When a musician or an actor you admired dies, you can put on their records or put in one of their films to remind yourself of and appreciate the art their life brought created. But family members and friends are different. Because WE ARE the things they've made. We are the testament to their beauty and accomplishment of their lives. 

And so we get together and we assemble all the people we can who were touched by the ones we've lost.

Whenever you touch something you leave a little bit of yourself behind. Even if it's nothing more than a footprint on the beach, a fingerprint on a glass, or even something as ethereal as the residual heat on a chair you leave in a chair when you leave it. And the same can be said of when you touch someone's heart/mind/soul (whatever you want to call it). You leave a little bit of yourself behind in them.

And thus we are living embodiments of those who have touched our lives. Whether physicallyas in our genesor emotionally/mentally/spiritually. Energy is neither created or destroyed, it just changes forms. We give our love, our time, our energy to one another and as it passes from person to person it evolves. This is why you can look at someone and see their mother, their father, their siblings, their friends, their role models, and the infinite others looking back at you. It may be cliche to say that the people we love will never leave us, but, cliche or not, it's still true.

I believe the author Terry Pratchett said it best when he wrote, I'm made up of the memories of my parents and grandparents, all my ancestors. They're in the way I look, in the color of my hair. And I'm made up of everyone I've ever met who's changed the way I think.

When someone we love passes away we are their inheritors in more ways than one.

Which brings us back to the concept of a funeral. Because what is a funeral if not a gathering of these inheritors. We come together and we share the pieces of this person that we keep with us. We share these in the form of stories, and photos, and memories, and sometimes even just in the form of our presence. 

As we do this we bring the dead back to life. We put all of shared fragments together and we reform what has been lost. We bring them back from wherever they've gone so that together we bask in the full glory of their light one more time.

And while they're there we can speak with them for a moment to say the things we need them to know.

Whether or not we said it enough when they were living, we bring them back and we say, Look at this! At all of that you've made and all you've done! Look here! At all the people your life has touched! We love you. We love you so much, and we wanted, we needed to thank you for this. And for everything else.

And then we depart. We read the last sentence from that epic tome that was their life. Then we close the book and put it back on our bookshelves where we can reference it and be inspired by it whenever we need to. We go our separate ways and get back to writing our own stories. Although with a renewed passion to making sure ours will be just as good as the ones that we love to read.

So we bore on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book List 2012: Part 6

* = reread
[GN] = Graphic Novel
[CB] = Children's Book

64. [GN]

Lost & Found
by. Shaun Tan

A collection of three graphic novel short stories.

Once again I don't recall what prompted me to read this one. Regardless, it was very good. Surprisingly poignant as well.

The story
The Rabbits
tells of the Aborigines of Australia and the invasion of the Europeans as told from the point of rabbits and is a very powerful story.

The Lost Thing
tells of a boy who finds a strange..."thing" and doesn't know what to do with it. And the piece works as an intriguing metaphor of sorts.

The Red Tree
, however, is my favorite of the three by far. It's kind of a graphic journey through the cloud of someone's depression and finally the light on the other end. It was really quite beautiful.

I also quite liked the Authors Notes section at the end. Some of the things mentioned there were things I hadn't noticed and it gave me a new appreciation for the subtleties at work in the stories.

sometimes you just don't know what you are supposed to do or who you are meant to be


Mermaids on the Golf Course
by. Patricia Highsmith

A collection of Patricia Highsmith's chilling short stories.

Even if you aren't aware of it, you've all probably heard of Patricia Highsmith before. Unless of course you've managed to go through life without ever hearing the titles The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train before.

A lot of the time when you think about Horror you think about the supernatural: ghosts and zombies and monsters and whatnot. Or perhaps you think of rare perversions of humanity like serial killers and the like. What Patricia Highsmith is so good at doing is showing that ordinary people and everyday life can be horrifying too.

For instance the most frightening story in the book for me was a story called The Button
. It's about a man and his wife and their baby son who has down syndrome. The man in the story is obviously not meant to be a good person. He thinks all kinds of horrible things about his wife and their son and about others. But the thing that really chilled me as I was reading it is that he was relatable. He and his wife had this perfect life and then they had a son who changed everything. Suddenly his life took a turn down a road he never wanted to go down and things aren't how he imagined them to be. And even though he can't stop thinking these horrible things about his son, he's really not mad at his son. He's just furious at life and at God and he doesn't know how to deal with his emotions. He feels like he's being punished and his son is being punished for something they never did. And you end up finding yourself relating on some level to this guy who's thinking and doing all these bad things and it's just...scary. Scary to think that you can relate to someone like that on some level. And you wonder what that says about you.

And then there are stories like the title Mermaids on the Golf Course
which is kind of funny and at the same time very sad. Or stories like The Stuff of Madness which at first seems rather fantastical, but then at the end you see it all for what it really was.

These stories won't keep you up all night fearing the creatures in the shadows, but it will make you take a look inside yourself fearing what hides in your personal shadows. So if you're in the mood for something chilling like that you should definitely check it out.

Eleanor had been sewing neatly all day, sewing after dinner, too, and it was getting on for eleven o'clock. She looked away from her machine, sideways towards the hall door, and saw something about two feet high, something grayish black, which after a second or two moved and was lost from view in the hall. Eleanor rubbed her eyes. Her eyes smarted, and it was delicious to rub them. But since she was sure she had not really seen something, she did not get up from her chair to go and investigate. She forgot about it.

She stood up after five minutes or so, after tidying her sewing table, putting away her scissors, and folding the yellow dress whose side seams she had just let out. The dress was ready for Mrs. Burns tomorrow. Always letting out, Eleanor thought, never taking in. People seemed to grow sideways, not upward any more, and she smiled at this fuzzy little thought. She was tired, but she had had a good day. She gave her cat Bessie a saucer of milk—rather creamy milk, because Bessie liked the best of everything—heated some milk for herself and took it in a mug to bed.

The second time she saw it, however, she was not tired, and the sun was shining brightly. This time, she was sitting in the armchair, putting a zipper in a skirt, and as she knotted her thread, she happened to glance at the door that went into what she called the side room, a room off the living room at the front of the house. She saw a squarish figure about two feet high, an ugly little thing that at first suggested an upended sandbag. It took a moment before she recognized a large square head, thick feet in heavy shoes, incredibly short arms with big hands that dangled.

Eleanor was half out of her chair, her slender body rigid.

The thing didn't move. But it was looking at her.

pg. 163

66.* [CB]

The Doodle Flute
by. Daniel Pinkwater

Kevin Spoon meets a kid named Mason Mintz who owns a magical flute. Kevin wants that flute so bad, but Mason refuses to sell it to him. And out of that a great friendship develops.

Daniel Pinkwater books always remind me of my friend Jack. He's always been a big Pinkwater fan and so the first time I read Pinkwater's stuff was at Jack's house.

He really is an odd sort of author. His drawings have a kind of unpolished quality to them. He almost always refers to characters by their full names. Things like that. And yet there's also something about that oddness that makes his work kind of endearing.

This particular story is a pretty charming story. It deals with wanting something that you can't buy, the meaning of friendship, and of how sharing can bring people together.

Mason Mintz and his mother and father planted stuff in their backyard.

They grew pumpkins.

Mason Mintz saw Kevin Spoon.

Ho, Kevin,
he said.

What do you mean, 'Ho,'?
Kevin Spoon said. You're supposed to say 'Hi.'

Mason Mintz asked.

Because that's what you say.
Kevin Spoon said. Nobody says, 'Ho.'

I say it,
Mason Mintz said.


I like the way it sounds,
Mason Mintz said.

You're not normal,
Kevin Spoon said.

Maybe not,
Mason Mintz said.

67.* [CB]

Author's Day
by. Daniel Pinkwater

Bramwell Wink-Porter is a children's book author who has been invited to an elementary school to talk to the kids. However, when he shows up he finds that they have him confused with the author of a different book.

This book is really quite funny. I was laughing at a number of parts in it. It is just so silly and isn't afraid to go for a ridiculous joke. Plus I love how the characters this poor author meets just all seem to have this bizarre sense of logic that just leaves him befuddled.

Here is your sandwich, said a teacher, handing a paper bag to Bramwell Wink-Porter. It is bologna and shredded carrots with extra mayonnaise, the favorite lunch of the Fuzzy Bunny in your wonderful book.

I did not write that book, you know,
said Bramwell Wink-Porter.

I am Mrs. Wheatbeet,
said the teacher. I have written a book, too. It is called Bunnies in Love. I have it here. It is nine hundred pages long. I wonder if you would read it while you eat your lunch.

It is a very long book,
Bramwell Wink-Porter said.

If you like, you can give me your address,
Mrs. Wheatbeet said. I will bring you the book, and I will wait in my car while you read it.

Perhaps that would be better,
Bramwell Wink-Porter said.

68. [CB]

Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear
by. Emily Gravett

In only five words—four of which are in the title—Kate Greenaway Medalist Emily Gravett presents a delightful picture book that is simple and studding (The Guardian), and daring, original, and a joy (Sunday Times, London).
-inside flap

It's a kids' book that teaches about the importance of proper punctuation usage! Do I really need to say anything else? It's a silly book with great artwork that is all about how changing punctuation can drastically change the meaning of words! I mean...that's just awesome.

69. [CB]

Blue Chicken
by. Deborah Freedman

All this chicken wants to do is help. But when she spills a pot of blue paint, the other animals sure don't find her helpful. And things only get worse—and more blue—the harder she tries. Poor chicken! Can anything undo the blue?
-inside flap

Yeah, this one just wasn't for me. It's kind of bizarrely surreal. And yet some of the pictures in this book are simply outstanding. I just loved how they showed splashes. Yeah, so the story is a little lacking, and while the art isn't always my sort of thing it is very well done. I mean, when an art style isn't up your alley and you still find yourself being impressed with it from time to time you've gotta admit that it is well done.

70. [CB]

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears
by. Emily Gravett

A little mouse uses journals and doodles to try and overcome her many, many fears.

As you've probably noticed already, I've been reading a lot of Emily Gravett. After I read Blue Chameleon, I liked it so much that I went and requested a ton of her other books.

But I'm not so sure about this one. Although I did like a lot of things about it. I like the art work. I really like all the latin phobias for everything. And I like the idea of using a journal or artwork to try and come to terms with the things you're afraid of.

I didn't really care for some of the "multi-media" aspects of the book as they seemed a little much and thus distracting. And I guess I didn't really like that the book is aiming at having kids write their own fears in the book, as every single page has a thing that says "Use the space below to record your fears". But they really don't give a lot of room. Not to mention that that would mean writing in the book! Aggh! I don't like that idea. I'd rather if it just incited parents to go get some paper and crayons and work together at writing down their own fears together. I think that'd be a fun activity for parents and kids as it'd show kids that everyone is afraid of something and that acknowledging your fears is the first step to overcoming them.

(Fear of monsters)

I worry about what's under the bed.

(Fear of going to bed)

71. [CB]

by. Emily Gravett

A frog finds a book of spells, but unfortunately it's all torn up. It's up to you to put the spell back together and see if you can turn him into a prince.

Frog enjoys dressing up, playing make believe, and eating flies. He is good at hopping really high and cut 'n' stick. He is not very good at fixing things, or spelling.
-back of book

Okay this one is kinda fun. You know those things where you flip pages/turn thing and it gives a different head and middle and bottom to some creature? So you can have a head of a bird and the middle of a bear and the feet of a newt? Well this is kind of like that. You pick a top part of the spell and you pick a bottom part of the spell and then that turns the frog into a combination of those things. There's a Frog, Rabbit, Snake, Bird, Newt, and Prince.Plus the spells rhyme with the creation. It's really silly, but it's also surprisingly fun to mess around with.

to become a
Handsome Prince

the cauldron
these words cast

String Thing
Forked Tongue


Stir three times and out spells...


72. [CB]

The Rabbit Problem
by. Emily Gravett

This book is based on a problem that was solved in the 13th Century by the Mathematician Fibonacci, but it is NOT (I repeat NOT) a book about math. It is a book about rabbits...Lots of rabbits!
-back of book

I'd have to say that this is my least favorite of the Emily Gravett books. It takes place in kind of a calendar format where the open pages is one month, and then you turn the page and that's the next month and so on. And then like just calendar, on each month there's an illustration on the top and down on the bottom there's the days and things that've happened on those days. Plus most months feature some kind of "multi-media" things that I really didn't care for. You know, like this month has a card, and this month has a photo album, and this month has a cookbook, etc. Just not my kind of thing. Though I will say that like usual the art is really good. If you ever come across it feel free to scan through it just to look at the drawings. I really like Gravett's art style.

73. [CB]

by. Emily Gravett

What do wolves really like to eat? It isn't little girls in red hoods. Rabbits shouldn't believe what they read in fairy tales, but this book has the facts.
-inside flap

I would say this one is my second least favorite, but it's still alright. I did get a kick out of the ending. Definitely didn't think they'd go there. I believe that this was Emily Gravett's first book. And as first books go it's pretty good.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book List 2012: Part 5

* = reread
[CB] = Children's Book
[GN] = Graphic Novel

53.* [CB]

The Stinky Cheese Man
and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
by. Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith

A collection of fairy tale parodies.

I've read this one before and, like the last time, I picked it up because it sounded like it would be right up my alley. I love fairy tales and thus I tend to love things that play around with the genre. Overall I'd say that this book isn't as good as I was hoping. A lot of it is pretty forgettable, which explains why I couldn't remember anything about it from the first time I read it. However, I've got to admit that a few of the stories were pretty darn good and made me laugh.

So anyway, this girl is running to her granny's house when she meets a wolf. He tricks her into taking the long way while he takes a short cut. Now this is the good part because Red runs so fast that she beats the wolf to granny's house. He knocks on the door. Red answers it. And guess what she says? 'My What slow feet you have.' And that's it. The End. Is that great or what?

54. [CB]

John, Paul, George, & Ben
by. Lane Smith

The stories of the founding fathers as children.

Once again Lane Smith has suckered me in with an interesting premise and a catchy title. He's a wily fellow that one. And I keep trying out his stuff despite the fact that I'm always left feeling like the story doesn't live up to the premise.

This one does have some rather cute bits, though. It's definitely better than a lot of the other Lane Smith books I've read recently, and it features the best artwork of all of them. Some parts were actually quite fun, but other parts were just kind of lame.

I did like how at the end it talked about what parts of the story were based on real facts and which ones are just popular myths and did so in a pretty fun way. While I would never buy the thing, I would certainly consider checking it out from the library around the 4th of July as a way of introducing a kid to some figures of American history.

Once there were four lads: John, Paul, George, and Ben.*

*Make that five lads.

There was also Independent Tom

(always off doing his OWN thing).


Voodoo Heart
by. Scott Snyder

A collection of short stories.

Scott Snyder, as you may have noticed, is the same person who writes those American Vampire comics I've been reading. As you can guess, I've been requesting a bunch of other stuff that he's written. And I wasn't disappointed. I really enjoyed all of the stories (a very good quality to have in a collection of short stories).

Short story collections are hard to talk about because they're just that: a collection of stories. One is about a guy who gets a job playing trumpet at an army-esque school and falls in love with his boss's daughter. Another one is about a man who is trying to get over the fact that his wife left him because she was in love with another man: a comatose country singer. My favorite story, however, was about a pilot who picks up a runaway bride.

As he approached the plane, though, he noticed a figure sitting on the lower port wing. Lord God, he thought. Charley. Waiting to pound him. John struggled to come up with some way of avoiding a fight, something he could say, but when he neared the plane he saw that the figure wasn't Charley at all. But the girl. The bride.

She was still wearing her wedding dress. On her feet were a pair of scuffed black boots. Her hair hung down the front of her shoulder in a long red braid. To John she looked like a discarded fairy-tale character, a princess plucked from a storybook and dropped onto the wing of his plane in a heap of twinkling fabric.

I left a note, John said to her. I'm not trying to sneak off.

The girl nodded at a valise sitting beside the plane's wheel.
I am, she said.

pg 242-243


by. Maxx Barry

A creative marketing whiz named "Scat" teams up with an intelligent and business savvy girl named "6" and together they attempt to sell a new idea to Coca-Cola. But they're about to get a first-hand look at just how ruthless the world of marketing can be.

I read this book on a whim because my friend Nick recommended it to me, so I wasn't sure what to expect. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a lot of fun and the story got me hooked and wanting to know what happens next. Oddly the book I find myself wanting to compare it to is Atlas Shrugged.

I actually really like about 2/3's of Atlas Shrugged. Before it gets wholly ridiculous and super preachy it is just an interesting story about these business owners (of railroads and steel factories) that are trying to compete with the odds stacked against them. Since I don't know much about owning a business or of competing in the business world I found it really interesting. This book is interesting for similar reasons, except that unlike Atlas Shrugged: it's talking about the world of marketing and not steel or railroads, it's rather funny, and it doesn't go off the rails in the third act.

Then maybe, Logistics says, sharing a secret, we should market her.

Silence, as the room digests this.

Could you please explain that remark, please? 6 says.

Apparently, Logistics says, sharing a secret, Hollywood studios have been renaming stars for years. To make them more appealing to the public. Big stars, like Kirk Douglas and even John Wayne—his eyes sweep the room—used to have stupid, hard-to-remember names. But with a new name, they became famous. He tips a wink in my direction. Perception is reality.

I struggle mightily against the urge to lean across the table and smack him. Saying Perception is reality to a marketer as if you're handing out clever advice is grossly insulting. It's like saying to an accountant: Now make sure those numbers add up; or to a new mother: You know, you have to feed them or they die. Never, never do it.

pg. 211

58. [CB]

Tiny Little Fly
by. Michael Rosen
illustrated by. Kevin Waldron

A children's book about a little fly who gets on all the animals nerves.

Okay, I really liked this one. The art had a really interesting look and style to it. Plus the book was really big so all the pictures really had room to stretch out. And I think it was written really well and would be a fun one to read to a kid. There's rhymes and sections with sound effects that you could have a lot of fun with.

Would I consider buying it for myself despite the fact that I don't have any kids? If I saw it used? Yes. I probably would.

Tiny Little Fly
sees great big toes...

Tiny Little Fly
sits on Elephant's nose.

Great Big Elephant
winks one eye,
says to himself,
I'm going to catch that fly!

Great Big Elephant winks the other eye.


But off flies the fly.

59. [CB]

Cats' Night Out
by. Caroline Stutson
illustrated by. J. Klassen

The story of the alley cats who're called to the streets every night by the sound of music and their love of dance.

The entire time I was reading this one I couldn't help but think about my friend Sarah. Because Sarah, you see, actually does like to get dressed up and go out in the evenings and dance. Which is pretty much what this book is all about.

Not to mention that mister Jon Klassen does the art! Ever since I read I Want My Hat Back I've been tracking down and reading books Klassen has done the art for. I love his stuff. Love love love it.

Oh, and I really like the rhyming in this book. The combination of good poetry and awesome art means that chances are high that I would buy this one if I saw a price I liked. Although the chances are also high that I'd end up writing "These cats are all you" inside of it and shipping it off to Sarah.

From the alley, music drifts.
Shadows sway to a trumpet riff...

Two cats samba, dressed in white,
on the rooftop Saturday night.

Four cats boogie, rock to the blues,
in poodle skirts and saddle shoes.

In the city,
windows light.
How many cats
will dance tonight?

60. [CB]

Say Hello to Zorro!
by. Carter Goodrich

A dog is pretty content with life until a new dog comes to the house and messes everything up!

I don't know. This book just wasn't doing it for me. But it isn't bad by any means. The art's good, but it doesn't take up enough room in my opinion. The story's okay, although a bit simple, but it'd be good for teaching kids about coming to terms with having new siblings (or parents or whathaveyou) in the house and how it can be annoying at first to have things be so different, but how it can also lead to good changes as well.

So yeah. It has some stuff going for it. It just didn't happen to be my particular cup of tea.

Mister Bud had it pretty good.
Everything was just right.

He had his own house.
His own bed.
His own toys.
His own dish.

But most of all...

He had his own schedule.
And everybody stuck to the schedule.

It went like this...

61. [CB]

Little White Rabbit
by. Kevin Henkes

A little rabbit is headed home and sees all sorts of interesting things along the way that spark his imagination along the way.

The art style on this one isn't really the kind up my alley, but it's still a pretty good book. It did a lot of things that I liked. I liked how it showed how using your imagination in your everyday life can be fun. I liked how the pictures gave an image to some different words (like "tall" and "over" for instance), and I liked that the rabbit had a loving family.

Soon little white rabbit was home.
He still wondered about many things,
but he didn't wonder who loved him.

62. [CB]

Blue Chameleon
by. Emily Gravett

The lonely chameleon is blue. Even though he tries to fit in by changing color and shape, neither the swirly snail, the green grasshopper, nor the spotty ball wants to be his friend. But there must be someone just like him.
-inside flap

Oh, man. This book is really simple and yet I love it anyways. It is just so much fun. I loved the art, I loved how goofy it all was, I loved that a chameleon was trying to befriend random objects, I really loved really clever way they showed the copyright info, I loved it all. It's writing and storyline were all pretty simple, but who cares. It was so fun that after reading it once I immediately read it again.

63. [GN]

Batman: The Black Mirror
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock & Francesco Francavilla

Dick Grayson comes face-to-face with a figure from his past and it forces him to consider if people can actually change.

Once again I read something just because it was written by Scott Snyder. Once again I wasn't disappointed. I will admit though that at first I wasn't so sure about this one. It seemed a little too typical Superhero comicy. But once it got going then it all fell into place. I mean, damn. The ending to this thing is intense. Not to mention that there is some really spooky stuff in this one. I was actually getting a bit spooked. I definitely was not expecting that. Plus when you find out who the villain is? So good. I had a lot of fun reading this one. I kind of wish I hadn't returned it already so I could read it again.

When I was a boy, my parents kept a big map of the country tacked to the wall of our dressing room.

The map had pins stuck in all the places our troupe was going to stop that season.

Different towns and cities were marked with different color pins.

Blue pins meant small towns...which meant small shows, less dangerous tricks.

Red pins meant big cities. So, big shows and more dangerous tricks.

All the stops were marked red or blue...

...except for Gotham City, which was marked by a black pin.

According to my father, the black pin meant no holds barred. Pull out all the stops. Bring down the house.

It meant put on the biggest, riskiest show of the season. No catch wires. No safety nets. Everyone pushing themselves to the limit.

I remember one time I asked my father why. What made Gotham so special?

And my father, he looked down at me and said...

...some places just have a hunger to them, son.

And you either feed them what they want...

...or you stay far, far away.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Eat Your Peas

Since my phone seems to be dying I figured I should finally get around to taking some photos off of it. While doing so I came across these photos of a note I wrote to my theater coworker Greg.



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The New Pornography -or- In Defense of Monogamy

I’ve invented a new form of pornography.

We all know how traditional porn works: it’s just naked naked naked, skin skin skin. Nothing but nudity. After a while you’ve seen so much epidermis that everything begins to lose context. Breasts lose their shapely resplendence and their capital b to become breasts. Just breasts. Like a carriage returning to a pumpkin, they lose their magic and revert back to what they are: mammary glands. Sure they still come in a variety of sizes and shapes and colors, but what’s the point?

The same thing happens to every part of the body. From the mysterious feel of the privates to the elegant elongation of the limbs. After seeing too many they lose their grandeur and you begin to feel like a doctor who’s just going through the motions. And this process isn’t limited to specifics, but to the full figure as well. The thrilling beauty of a bare body is soon lost. Just as breasts lose the magic of their individuality, so do the people. No longer people, in fact, but simply images of people: more akin to objects than individuals.

But not anymore.

The answer is so simple it's obvious after you’ve considered it. We simply do away with the mountains of mammaries, the volumes of vaginas, and the profusion of penises. We narrow our focus. We go from the panorama of an establishing shot and zoom in for a tight close up. We focus in on the individual.

Not just any individual, no, that would be too easy; nothing but a case study. The key lies in exposing yourself (no, not in that way...just yet). Gone is the way of unintimate anonymity. Replaced instead with familiarity. Why leer at pages of strangers when you can find an individual who actually knows you. Not only knows you, but likes you! Loves you even! Imagine it!

The moonlight isn’t subtly framing just any breasts in pale moonlight; they’re gently illuminating Her breasts. That goofy looking dong isn’t just any dong, that’s His dong! If you were to lose yourself in their body you’d be able to find your way by the familiar constellations of freckles that dot the landscape. Round the tattoo she regrets but that you secretly find endearing, left at the scar from where he fell off his bike, make a stop at those laugh lines for the scenic outlook of their smile.

Yet some naysayers are surely saying, “You are mistaken, good sir! Why, limiting yourself to only one individual would be a great bore. It would be like limiting yourself to looking at one painting for the rest of your life.”

But oh ho ho, dear reader, for that is where they are mistaken! A person is not a painting. A painting is only good for looking at, but a person is good for so much more. A person evolves. Each part of their body is constantly changing, stories and memories attach and detach to every piece creating a flowing tapestry that only you will have the experience and expertise to decipher.

Now there’s a multimedia experience that is sure to put any other to shame.

And yet, while this type of pornography I’ve invented is extraordinary, it is also fragile. One wrong move could potentially ruin everything. But that doesn’t mean you can no longer engage in art appreciation. For if you feel the need to take in a few painting or some artistic photography, just be sure to follow museum rules: look, don’t touch, no loud noises, be respectful, go home when you’re done.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Movie List 2012: March

You know what? I don't think anyone even reads these lists. But whatever. I'm gonna do them anyways. It's fun to be able to have a record of such things. Anyways, let us take a walk down the road that is all the movies I watched in the month of March.

* = rewatched



Source Code

When a terrorist bombs a train, authorities fear a larger attack is yet to come. The only hope of finding the identity of the bomber in time lies in an experimental piece of technology. Using a computer program scientists are able to create a recreation of the 8 minutes before the bombing occurred. A confused operative finds himself hooked up to enter the recreation and must repeat the experience until he can find the bomber. But as he repeats the situation he begins to question the nature of his role in this experiment.

Genre: Mind-fuck Sci-Fi/Action

I was curious about this one ever since I saw the trailer for it, but I wasn't sure. But I finally managed to get a copy from the library and DAMN! It was a lot better than I was expecting. I was expecting the main hook of the story to be the idea of this main character repeating the same 5 minutes over and over, like an Action version of Run Lola Run or something. And yet the real hook is the mystery of who this guy is, how he got to be here, and the development of his character along the way. If you go in wanting to see a typical action movie you're probably going to be disappointed, but if you go in expecting an interesting Sci-Fi movie then you're in for a treat.


Attack the Block

A gang of street youths must protect their home from alien invaders.

Genre: Sci-Fi-Action Comedy

I love love love the premise to this one, but apparently that was my first mistake. The writing is kind of dumb, the aliens look so stupid it's hard to take them seriously, and I really didn't care about any of the characters.


The Artist

When talkies start to sweep the world of film, a once famous silent film star finds himself struggling to accept the change.

Genre: Silent Film

I only saw this because we had it at the theater forever and people would not shut up about it. I went in thinking I'd hate it, but I actually enjoyed a lot of it. It's a lot of fun. It's rather clever, well shot, and well acted. There just happened to be a few things that bothered me. I don't like that the main guy is flirting with this girl while he's still married. I don't like that the girl didn't really have any character development to speak of. And I don't like that there's really no reason for this girl to love this guy as much as she does.

Oh, and sometimes she wears this fur coat thing that looks hideous and shouldn't be worn by anyone.


Milo & Otis

A puppy and a kitten are best friends and go on an adventure.

Genre: Animal Adventure

This movie is just so strange and unlike anything else. There's no people, the animals are real, and the animals don't talk. Well, technically the characters talk, but it's just the narrator doing voices over the footage. No peanut butter in the mouth or anything. These things alone make it so very different from anything else. The closest thing to it that I can think of would be Homeward Bound. But that movie had humans and individual voice actors.

To be fair Homeward Bound also doesn't sport the allegations of horrid animal cruelty that Milo & Otis does. I mean damn, it's entertaining and fun, but as an adult you have to wonder about some of the messed up shit they put those animals through.


It Started With Eve

A rich man is at death's door and his son has come home to see him one last time. The man says he wants to see his son's fiancee before he passes, however, the son can't find his finacee and grabs the coat-check girl to play the role. But when his dad makes a miraculous recovery the son finds himself in a bit of a pickle.

Genre: Old Comedy

The theater I work at is going to be doing a Deanna Durbin film series in June so I've been trying to track down and watch some of them beforehand. I do the Twitter for the theater so it helps when I can actually say something about the movies.

I don't know what else to say other than it's a very silly's just so silly in the oddest ways possible. The dying father character is just so cartoonish, and the Deanna Durbin character jumps at any chance to sing, and there's a pinch's really the kind of thing you'd have to see to really understand what I'm talking about. It's pretty fun...just really silly.


Christmas Holiday

An army officer is on leave for the holidays and when his plane gets grounded he winds up hearing a woman's story about how she fell in love with her criminal husband.

Genre: Old Noir

Another Deanna Durbin movie that is inexplicably bizarre. The whole thing starts out as the story about this army guy, but then the Deanna Durbin lady keeps butting in with her story and it turns out the army guy's story doesn't matter at all. Why is he in the movie then!? Why not just tell the Durbin storyline from the beginning instead of doing it in flashbacks? Plus there is an incredibly long church scene. And by "Church Scene" I don't mean "Scene occuring in a church" I mean "Scene that is straight up footage from a real church service that goes on forever." Durbin's acting is great though and it's really creepy seeing Gene Kelly playing a bad guy.


Exit Through the Gift Shop

An eccentric man gets caught up in the underground world of street art and decides to make a documentary about it. However, infamous street artist Banksy decides to turn the tables and make his own documentary about the man.

Genre: Documentary

This is probably one of the most interesting documentaries I've ever seen. Not only does it talk about street art (which I think is fascinating), but it also really makes you think about what exactly Art is. If you like street art or just art in general I strongly recommend it.


Everything Must Go

A recovering alcoholic has just lost everything. His job, his car, his wife, and even his home. And even all of his stuff is on the lawn. Not having anywhere to go he returns to drinking and eventually is forced to hold a yard sale to get rid of everything he has left.

Genre: Drama

Will Ferrell is a surprisingly good dramatic actor. I wasn't really expecting that. But he's really very good. The movie does a great job at showing that alcoholism isn't always the wife-beating, no shirt ranting that you see all the time. Sometimes it just consumes your life as it slowly ruins it and takes everything that you cared about from you until all that's left is the booze. And yet overall the movie is hopeful. It shows him hitting rock bottom and discovering that he isn't just the sum of his posessions, that he does have something great to offer the world, and that his addiction is getting in his way.


Yes Man

Carl is a bit of a stick-in-the-mud and it's not only making him miserable, but it's threatening to ruin his relationship with his friends as well. But things change when he goes to a seminar that tells him to say "Yes". Now he's saying Yes to everything and everything is working out for the better. But can saying "Yes" bring on its own set of problems?

Genre: Jim Carrey Comedy

It's a Jim Carrey Comedy, what's there not to like? Ok...I lied, Mr. Poppers Penguins was impossibly stupid, but this one's pretty fun. Not the greatest thing under the planet or anything, but it's a simple movie that's quite enjoyable. The cast is great: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Rhys Darby (particularly fantastic), John Michael Higgins, plus the side characters were all really fun. My only big complaint is that I don't really see the chemistry between Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel.


Double Jeopardy

A woman is convicted of murdering her husband, but while in jail she learns that he is secretly alive. After getting paroled she seeks to find him and, exploiting the 5th Amendment, kill him. Yet her parole officer isn't so convinced that she's telling the truth and is determined to stop her.

Genre: Action

Oddly this is Ashley Judd's movie, but she isn't all that great. Instead of playing the falsely imprisoned woman it's like she's actually playing the cold woman who murdered her husband. But who cares about her? Tommy Lee Jones steals the spotlight from Judd throughout the entire movie. He's the much better actor and he makes his character so much more interesting and complex than Judd's. And despite the movie's faults I really do rather enjoy it.


Paranormal Activity 3

A camera loving videographer in the 80's records his experiences with a supernatural presence in his house.

Genre: Found-footagesque Ghost Story Horror

It seems that my friends are determined for me to see every one of these except the first one.

Anyways, it's alright. It's got a number of parts that gave me the creeps and some of the things they do with the camera are really pretty clever. But the thing I just couldn't get over was the fact that it was taking place in the 80's. It is terribly distracting and makes it little hard to take it seriously.



A loser with lots of creativity manages to get a job managing a local failing UHF TV station and his quirky ideas begin to turn the place around.

Genre: Bizarre Weird Al Comedy

This movie kind of seems like a bunch of sketches that were strung together into a movie. The sketch parts are pretty funny like "Gandhi II" and "Conan the Librarian", and some of jokes are enjoyable, but the actual plot to the movie is pretty hokey and cliche.



A married couple dies and finds themselves as ghosts, bound to their house and to a bizarre set of afterlife rules & regulations. But when a new family moves into the home and wants to change everything, the couple has to get the hang of this haunting thing real quick or else risk hiring a professional (yet shady) bio-exorcist by the name of Beetlejuice.

Genre: Quirky Dark Comedy

People have been telling me for years that I need to see this movie, but it never really seemed up my alley and thus I never bothered. But I finally got around to it. Frankly it was a lot better and a lot worse than I imagined it would be. It just didn't seem to know what kind of story it wanted to tell.

I mean you've got Tim Burton running the show so of course you're going to get some wonderfully memorable visuals, so you're starting off well. Then you've got a couple who dies and finds themselves bound to their house, a surprisingly bureaucratic system of the underworld, them attempting to learn how to properly haunt their house, their developing relationship with the girl who's moved into the house with her family. It's great stuff.

The real problem is Beetlejuice. I mean the real movie isn't about him at all and yet he's the title character and they keep shoehorning him into the plot. But he's just distracting. You don't need him at all. If you are going to have him in it then you've got to go all the way. In fact he could just have his own movie: A former assistant to an underworld caseworker who got fired and went off on his own to become a bio-exorcist, but now he needs to find someone to marry him so he can return to the land of the living. That's a pretty interesting premise if you ask me.

But mashed together neither plot reaches its full potential.


Wizard People, Dear Reader

An unauthorized and unofficial audiobook reimagining of the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that chronicles the story of the godly Harry Potter, his best pal and warrior Ronny "the Bear" Weasel, and their (admittedly skilled yet mostly awful) friend Harmony.

Genre: Auto-track Movie Parody / The Most Amazing Thing Ever

Wizard People, Dear Reader is the creation of a guy named Brad Neeley. Having never read the Harry Potter books he saw the movies and decided to create an audio book version of the story, but to make it more interesting he made it so that it could be played along with the movie.

I cannot put into words just how hilarious this thing is. The writing is pure genius. It is impossibly clever. It works on so many levels. I really could gush about this thing forever, so I'll spare you that. I'll give you a brief anecdote instead. This month I watched it with my friends from work, Rusty and Max. I had earlier gotten Max hooked on it, but we both hadn't been able to coerce Rusty into watching it. We finally were able to get him to watch it and we all laughed ourselves silly. Afterwards Max and I asked Rusty how he liked it. "Oh, I guess it was alright," he replied. What!? He laughed and laughed hard throughout the entire thing and yet he "guesses" is was alright. Some people I tell you.

To wrap things up, just know that I've watched/listened to this thing more times than I can count. In fact I've even got plans to watch it yet again later in the week. It's just that good. In fact, here I'll help you out. It's all on Youtube. Here's the first chapter:

Or if you prefer you can listen to it. You won't catch the little jokes referring to things on screen, but it's written so well and in audiobook format so it really is great either way. If you want to go down that road you can download the audio here.

What? You're at work/class/a funeral and can't watch videos or listen to anything? Well here's
the full transcript!

So there. I've done all I've can to make it as easy as humanly possible for you to watch/listen/read the brilliance that is...Wizard People, Dear Reader!



When a man's wife is stolen from him he feels helpless. And then he has an epiphany and begins to dress as a superhero and bring vigilante justice to the wrong doers of the world.

Genre: some-undefinable-type + Comedy

I say this a lot, but I don't know how to explain this movie. It is just so very strange. It had some great moments, some memorable characters, and some pretty funny parts. But in the end? It just seemed like other things did it better. I suppose it has a lot of elements similar to Kick-Ass, but I found that it resembled Defendor much more. Except I felt Defendor was much better. It devloped its characters better and therefore had much greater emotions. Plus I hate it when movies have a "Women in Refrigerators" moment [that's when a female character is murdered/raped/tortured for no other reason than as a lame plot device to fuel the male characters' stories]. SUPER did use an WiR plot device and thus I take umbrage with it.