Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cat Power says...

'The moon is not only beautiful, it is so far away, the moon is not only ice cold, it is here to stay...When I lay me down, will you still be around, when they put me six feet underground, will the big bad beautiful you be around...Everyone says they know you, better than you know who, everyone says they own you, more than you do.'

-Cat Power ('The Moon', The Greatest, Cat Power, 2006)

Photography: The Moon






 
Last night, I found myself sitting on a big rock with a few of my closest friends. Our timing was perfect, because as we sat down, the moon started rising over the mountain. I don't have a professional camera, and it really just looks like a dot, but I thought I'd share anyways, because who doesn't like looking at the moon? Mother nature provides free entertainment! Enjoy!

These pictures were taken by Chessterr Hollowberry, in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, 2012.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ian McKellan says...

'How do I act so well? What I do is, I pretend to be the person I'm portraying in the film or play. You're confused. No, it's very simple, case in point. Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson comes from New Zealand, and says to me, Sir Ian, I want you to be Galdalf the Wizard, and I say to him, You are aware that I am not really a wizard. And he said, yes, I'm aware of that, what I want you to do is to use your acting skills to portray the wizard, for the duration of the film. So I said, okay, and then I said to myself, Hmm, how would I do that? And this is what I did. I imagined what it would be like to be a wizard, and then I pretended, and acted in that way, on the day. And how did I know what to say? The words were written down for me in a script. How did I know where to stand? People told me. If we were to draw a graph of my process, of my method: Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Action, Wizard, You Shall Not Pass!, Cut, Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Sir Ian. You see? Now you would be pretending to be John in this play, and, how would you know what to say? Well, the words would be in the script. And you would learn the words, you will not have the script on the night, and that goes for everybody, there will be no scripts on the night. You learn the words! You will receive them as if you were saying them for the first time. Because if you did have the script, it would break the illusion, and the whole thing is illusion, do you see, you are not really John. You are pretending. And that...is acting.'

Ian McKellan (playing himself, 'Sir Ian McKellan', scene written by Ricky Gervais and Ian McKellan, Extras, 2006)

Note: This is my favourite thing that Ian McKellan has ever done. I never truly understood the craft of acting until he laid it out for me so clearly. As far as fake wisdom goes, this is perfect.

Jack Dall says...

'Well, I did my part. This will be the last time we see each other. If ya get the show, they'll bring in some young producer, if ya don't, well then that'll be that. In any case, I told you what I know, and the rest is up to you. It's just...if you can do it. That's it. Listen, you're a good guy. I'm not gonna say I think you can do it because I really have no idea. But I hope you do. And now, I'm gonna tell you what I know to be the three rules of show-business: Number 1, look em in the eye and speak from the heart. Number 2, ya gotta go away to come back. And number 3, if someone asks you to keep a secret, their secret is a lie. You got that?'

-Jack Dall (played by David Lynch, 'Late Show: Part Three', Louie, written by Louis C.K., 2012)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

JJ Grey also says...

'Mama, don't you know how much I miss you, but I am stronger, stronger now, all these children, cold faces, Lord, they followed me somehow, I got to get away right now..Mama, ain't a day go by I don't think about him, well, I can see his face still, dull grey eyes burnt out to ash, Lord, hell and gone again, I got to get away from him..I'm walking on moonlight, walking in the starlight place in my mind, walking on moonlight in the day, sipping on dew drops, float above the green treetops and it all, walking on moonlight in the day.'

-JJ Grey ('Dew Drops', Orange Blossoms, JJ Grey & Mofro, 2008)

JJ Grey says...

'It's all about home, man, you know. That's where we're all headed, where we wanna be. Wherever it may be. I was born and raised in Florida, just across the line, an imaginary line between there and here. But it's all about having them places where, you can just feel it, you can feel somethin come through, somethin shinin through, somethin *whoosh*...takes you away from the world of problems, the world of worry, the world of...care, you know. And for me, that little place is a place called Lochloosa, right there between Gainesville and Oak County, Florida. A place where you can leave all the bullshit behind, for just a few minutes, you know. Get in a boat, maybe, sit on the bank, whatever you wanna do, watch the sunset on the other side of the lake. Take your boat out there and drop a hook over the side maybe, you don't even care if it's baited at that point, man. Maybe get an ice cold beverage of choice, and forget about all the stuff that you gotta deal with when you leave there. When you find that place, you hold onto it, you know. And somebody told me, well, you just go there to escape reality. And then I thought about it for a minute, and was like, well, maybe I do go there to escape reality, but then I thought a little longer, and I was like, no, Hoss, you got it backwards. I go there to get to reality, and get away from all these problems that I invent. So long live places like Lochloosa, if you got it, you hold it, and feel it every chance you get. This is a little song, a tribute to a place near where I live, may it stand like it is, for as long as I'm alive and as long as it can, man. Hopefully nobody will ever tear it down and put up a condominium. I don't think so, nobody wants to live that far out. Yet.'

-JJ Grey (The Introduction to 'Lochloosa', Brighter Days, JJ Grey & Mofro, 2011)

Video: 'Lochloosa (live)' by JJ Grey & Mofro


This is the live version of JJ Grey and Mofro's 'Lochloosa', from their Brighter Days album. His opening speech hits me to the core every time, the opening harmonica shows a master at work, and that guitar solo near the end blows me away. Easily one of my favourite live performances (up there with 'Melinda' by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) of all time, so I thought I'd share.

'Homesick, but it's alright, Lochloosa is on my mind...'

Visual: JJ Grey & Mofro





 

In the jaded world of popular music, I don't need to tell you that there are a LOT of phonies, money-grabbers, show offs. So it's easy to be disenchanted by the music you listen to, knowing that a true musician is rare to find these days. JJ Grey, and the boys in Mofro, should give anybody hope that music can still come from a good place, the soul.

I became a fan of JJ Grey & Mofro's music at the recommendation of my friend Corlin Rosewater. Although this groovy group has been putting out albums since the early 2000s, I've only known about them for a couple years now, but they'll surely be a band I listen to for the rest of my life. Even Corlin himself believes that he'll never again find a music group that he likes as much as Grey and Mofro. So why all this passion and love for a soul funk group from the south? Because they put so much passion and love into their music. With sincere and thoughtful lyrics, infectious grooves, and a song for any mood or occasion, I'm really surprised that JJ Grey & Mofro haven't caught on in a big way. Sure, they have loyal fans and I'm sure they do quite well for themselves, but despite Corlin's best efforts to spread the word, they aren't a common band name that everyone knows. This probably doesn't bother JJ too much, as long as he has a guitar in his lap and a nice view of nature, I'm sure he's just fine with the way things have gone.

Today, I'm having a little bit of a JJ Grey lovefest, and it starts with this photoset. Hopefully, in the process, I can earn JJ and the boys a few new fans, and help current fans celebrate the greatness that is JJ Grey and Mofro. They may not rock very hard or produce super popular club anthems, but if you're laying on a beach ('Blackwater'), cruising down the road ('Ybor City'), sexin it up with that special someone ('Move it On'), or burning one down with the boys ('Ten Thousand Islands'), JJ has a song for you. And even if you're in a lonely, rainy day sort of mood, there's always 'Dew Drops' or 'Pray for Rain' to soothe your soul. It's sad that we live in a world where the Gagas rule and the JJs slip under the radar, but it's also comforting to know that there are some honest musicians still trying to spread the love, and the funk.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gord Downie says...

'We'd like to do a song now, if we could. It explores the realm of catharsis, and my arse is capable of more flush. And adolscence, in essence, is all about trust...First, we'd climb a tree, and maybe then we'd talk, or sit silently, and listen to our thoughts, with illusions of someday, casting a golden light, no dress rehearsal, this is our life..that's where the hornet stung me, and I had a feverish dream, with revenge and doubt, tonight, we smoke them out...Stare in the morning shroud, and then the day began, I tilted your cloud, you tilted my hand, rain falls in real time, and rain fell throughthe night, no dress rehearsal, this is our life..that's when the hornet stung me, and I had a serious dream, with revenge and doubt, tonight, we smoked them out...You are ahead by a century, but this is our life, and disappointing you's gettin me down.'

Gord Downie (Intro and Lyrics from the live version of 'Ahead by a Century', Live Between Us, The Tragically Hip, 1997)

Random Lady at the Coffee Shop says...

'It's nice to see someone still trying to hang on to this last bit of summer.'

-Random Lady at the Coffee Shop (noting that I was wearing shorts and sandals and it's the end of September. Remember kids, don't let the 'weather' dictate your state of mind, stay sunny, 2012)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brandon Boyd says...

'Okay, now the monster is awake, it won't rest until there's nothing left, maybe ever and anon..I forget about the pain, someone bending light comes along and flowers lean towards the sun..Some people fall in love and touch the sky, some people fall in love and find quicksand, I hover somewhere in between, I swear, I can't make up my mind.'

-Brandon Boyd ('Quicksand', Light Grenades, Incubus, 2006)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nathan Young says...

'She's got you thinking this is how you’re supposed to be. It's not. We're young. We’re supposed to drink too much. We're supposed to have bad attitudes and shag each other's brains out. We were designed to party. We owe it to ourselves to party hard. We owe it to each other. This is it. This is our time. So a few of us will overdose, or go mental. Charles Darwin said you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. That's what it's about - breaking eggs - by eggs, I mean, getting twatted on a cocktail of class As. If you could see yourselves. We had it all. We have fucked up bigger and better than any generation that came before us. We were so beautiful. We're screw-ups. I plan on staying a screw-up until my late twenties, or maybe even my early thirties. And I will shag my own mum before I let her, or anyone else take that away from me!'

-Nathan Young (a desperate speech given on a rooftop, in an attempt to cure a bunch of teens who have been brain-washed into being perfect angels, played by Robert Sheehan, '1.6', written by Howard Overman, Misfits, 2009)

Visual: The Cast of 'Misfits'










Meet the Misfits! I'm currently making my way through this weird and wacky British sci-fi comedrama, then I'll post a full review of the series. The basic premise of the show, created by Howard Overman, is that a group of juvenile delinquents find themselves stuck out in a storm and are struck by lightning. Of course, this results in powers, though not necessarily 'super' powers. Turns out they aren't the only ones affected by the storm, and each episode we typically meet someone else with powers, and more times than not, they are out to do no good. The powers usually tie in to the character's personality, so the shy guy can turn invisible, the slutty girl can seduce anyone with her touch, and so forth. But the powers can't always be controlled, and aren't nearly as fun to have as you may expect.

One of the strongest aspects of the show is its unpredictability and willingness to experiment with their own rules and format. And they surely don't make it look like a wild good time to have supernatural powers, the characters suffer from their 'gifts' more than they benefit from them. It's full of humour, a fair share of cringe-worthy douchbaggery (since these are petty teen criminals), some brutal violence, and engaging science fiction themes. If you're in the mood for a show with a fresh and creative take on an old premise, Misfits is worth your time. I think my power would be something to do with controlling my surroundings through the written word. What would yours be?

Image #1: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Curtis

Image #2: Iwan Rheon as Simon

Image #3: Antonia Thomas as Alisha

Image #4: Lauren Socha as Kelly

Image #5: Joseph Gilgun as Rudy

Image #6: Robert Sheehan as Nathan

Image #7: Ruth Negga as Nikki

Image #8: Matthew McNulty as Seth

Misfits was created by Howard Overman

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mary says...

'Always build a John up. If he has any sort of body at all say 'Oh, don't ever hurt me.' A John is different from a sucker. When you're with a sucker you're on the alert all the time. You give him nothing. A sucker is just to be taken. But a John is different. You give him what he pays for. When you're with him you enjoy yourself and you want him to enjoy himself, too. If you really want to bring a man down, light a cigarette in the middle of intercourse. Of course, I really don't like men at all sexually. What I really dig is chicks. I get a kick out of taking a proud chick and breaking her spirit, making her see she is just an animal. A chick is never as beautiful after she's been broken.'
-Mary (Junky, William S. Burroughs, 1953)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Narrator of 'The Imp of the Perverse' says...

'No sooner had I spoken these words, than I felt an icy chill creep to my heart. I had had some experience in these fits of perversity, (whose nature I have been at some trouble to explain), and I remembered well that in no instance I had successfully resisted their attacks. And now my own casual self-suggestion that I might possibly be fool enough to confess the murder of which I had been guilty, confronted me, as if the very ghost of him whom I had murdered - and beckoned me on to death. At first, I made an effort to shake off this nightmare of the soul. I walked vigorously-faster-still faster-at length I ran. I felt a maddening desire to shriek aloud. Every succeeding wave of thought overwhelmed me with new terror, for, alas! I well, too well understood that to think, in my situation, was to be lost. I still quickened my pace. I bounded like a madman through the crowded thoroughfares. At length, the populace took the alarm, and pursued me. I felt then the consummation of my fate. Could I have torn out my tongue, I would have done it, but a rough voice resounded in my ears-a rougher grasp seized me by the shoulder. I turned - I gasped for breath. For a moment I experienced all the pangs of suffocation; I became blind, and deaf, and giddy; and then some invisible fiend, I thought, struck me with his broad palm upon the back. The long imprisoned secret burst forth from my soul.'
 
-The Narrator (Imp of the Perverse, Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)

Thinking about 'The Imp of the Perverse'

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt from Edgar Allan Poe's The Imp of the Perverse and when I did, I expected to move on to whatever inspired me today. Well, it turns out that today, I'm still inspired and engaged with that strange piece of writing. Before yesterday, I hadn't thought about it for years, probably since when I studying the story at university. When you're an English Major you have to deal with lot of various styles of genres of writing being referenced and analyzed, and if you're lucky, some of it ends up actually being worth reading. I'll admit it, in my days as a student, if I wasn't intrigued or excited about an assigned text, chances are I didn't read it. This says more about my own preferences than the quality of the writing I avoided, I'm sure I missed out on some great stories along the way. But I'll always be grateful for the amazing stories that I wouldn't have known existed if it weren't for some creative professor's reading list (Morvern Callar, Candide, and Three Day Road, to name a few).

Also on that list would be Edgar Allan Poe's The Imp of the Perverse, a combination essay/character study/murder mystery piece of short fiction that came up in a '19th Century American Lit' class that was required for my major. Anyone that follows this blog or knows me in person probably knows that I prefer modern writing, that's where I seem to find the most enjoyment, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate classic literature if it hits me in my brain spots. My first experience with Poe's work, besides a billion pop culture references to his various classics, and besides the 'For Young Adults' version ofThe Pit and the Pendulum, was in that American Lit class. Other thanImp, we also readThe Masque of Red Death, which is a subject for a whole other blog post.

The first creative aspect of The Imp of the Perverse that struck me was the format, a mix of academic essay and character study, with a nameless narrator who first discusses the notion that we all have an impulse to do things we know are wrong, then goes on to tell his story. The Narrator admits, even brags, that he used a poison candle to murder a man whose property he wanted. It was a perfect crime, and for years he would comfort himself with the idea that he's safe from ever being caught, if only he can control the urge to tell someone. If only. What starts as a nagging itch turns into a full blown confession and our Narrator has found himself sentenced to death. They never would have known if he didn't sabotage himself, so why did he? That's the question of the story.

With that plot set-up alone, I'd be curious about the story and likely would have enjoyed it. But the technique that Poe decided to go with, where he treats the piece like a psychological essay about the human condition, adds so many other levels of analysis and interpretation. It's a master strategy of introducing a thesis, prying into the reader's subconsciousness, get them either agreeing or arguing with you, and then following up with an anecdote that not only entertains the audience but also acts as evidence for the original point. So why did the Narrator betray himself and give into his self destructive impulse? According to the Narrator, who may or may not represent Poe's own views, argues that every human being is born with the ability to do evil, with the inborne urge to destroy or self-destruct, sometimes in really small ways, sometimes in huge ways. That being said, the Narrator isn't remorseful about committing murder, he's proud of himself, but he's terribly guilty for telling anyone about it.

During the first half of the story, where the Narrator is laying out the human race as he sees it, he offers three examples of the sort of impulse he's talking about. The title of the story, specifically the wordPerverse, has the common reader expecting something sexual or depraved, but this story works with a somewhat different definition of the word. Here are the examples:

1) The first one is a bit more complicated than the other two, but it basically describes the urge to be coy, to tease a listener when you have information that you know they want. The term Poe uses is 'circumlocution', which means to say too many words for a concise idea. As a result, your listener feels a tiny form of torture, as they can sense that you're not telling them something. This is one way that we, according to the Narrator, give in to the imp of the perverse.

2) I think every person that's about to read this second one can probably relate: procrastination. Turns out, even back in 1845, people left things until the last possible minute. The Narrator describes this impulse in a sort of cat and mouse game with yourself, where you know that you'll be screwed in the end, but you can't resist holding off progress just a little while longer. And while others may be affected by your procrastination, this impulse is interesting because you're consciously torturing yourself. If you just did the work in the first place, you wouldn't get the nervous sweats around deadline time.

3) The third example of humanity's uncontrollable impulses is the one that I quoted before this post. This one talks about a very specific and personal feeling that we may all get, but probably nobody shares too often. You're standing on a bridge, a rooftop, the edge of a cliff, and you don't necessarily want to jump right off, but for a moment, maybe you fantasize about it. Maybe you play a little 'what if' game with yourself, think about what the sensation of falling might be like. And since lately I've been finding a way to bring every topic back to Louie CK's stand-up or tv show, this particular impulse reminds me of a scene in the 'Daddy's Girlfriend (Part 2)' where Louie and Liz (played by Parker Posey) are on a super high rooftop and she's urging him to come to the edge, but he's terrified. This turns her off big time, but just before that, she accuses Louie of not being afraid of the fall, but being afraid that he might give in to the temptation to just jump. That's the impulse of the perverse.

And if you ever needed any proof that Edgar Allan Poe is a masterful writer, compare my description of the third impulse to the quote before this post, where he describes it. There's poetry, imagery, psychology, and philosophy all wrapped up in one paragraph, that's more than words on a page, that's an experience. And at the time I originally read this story, I was swamped in some really dense and confusing 'Literary Criticism' writing, so I very much appreciated Poe's fresh (albeit 1845) take on the scholarly essay, elevating it to a genre-bending masterpiece of both academic and entertainment value. And it'll always interest and overwhelm me to think about the fact that over 150 years later, a story likeThe Imp of the Perversecan have a guy like me flipped upside down with thought about the human condition, relating my own experience to words and ideas that were presented over a century ago.

I find myself agreeing with most of the Narrator's ideas, I do find that we can be self-destructive in the weirdest psychological ways and that most of the time, you're contending with yourself. In the case of The Narrator, I believe that he knew exactly what he was doing when he started his confession, there was no supernatural urge from deep within, it was basic human vanity. He couldn't stand that he had pulled off this amazing scheme, (which even by today's standards, a poisonous candle is pretty genius), and no one would ever pay him recognition for it. He knew that confessing his crime would land him on death row, but after years of assuring himself that he was 'safe' in his anonymity, he'd rather die known for something than having lived a safe and boring life.

The Imp of the Perverse by Edgar Allan Poe is a fairly quick read, but as you can probably tell, it is in no way a light read. This is the sort of writing that really sneaks past your guards and gets the core of however it is you feel, it isn't just escapism or something to do when you're bored, this is the type of writing that gets people thinking and talking and maybe even changing. That's writing I can appreciate.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Narrator of 'The Imp of the Perverse' says...

'We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss – we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain. By slow degrees our sickness, and dizziness, and horror, become merged in a cloud of unnameable feeling. By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as did the vapor from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the Arabian Nights. But out of this our cloud upon the precipice's edge, there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genius, or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height. And this fall – this rushing annihilation – for the very reason that it involves that one most ghastly and loathsome of all the most ghastly and loathsome images of death and suffering which have ever presented themselves to our imagination – for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it. And because our reason violently deters us from the brink, therefore, do we the more impetuously approach it. There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him, who shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge. To indulge for a moment, in any attempt at thought, is to be inevitably lost; for reflection but urges us to forbear, and therefore it is, I say, that we cannot. If there be no friendly arm to check us, or if we fail in a sudden effort to prostrate ourselves backward from the abyss, we plunge, and are destroyed.'

-The Narrator (The Imp of the Perverse, Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)

Pam Halpert says...

'And that was our summer. Don't you guys have everything? I mean, it's just a paper company. (Well, we're more following you guys to see how you turn out). Oh, yeah, I guess we were kinda dramatic in the beginning, huh. Well I don't think anything's gonna change in our lives now, with work and two kids, nothing interesting is gonna happen to us for a long long time.'

-Pam Halpert (played by Jenna Fischer, 'New Guys', written and directed by Greg Daniels, The Office, 2012)

Note: Though we've seen the Office crew speak to the cameramen all throughout the series, this is the first time we've had a 'behind the scenes' look, the cameraman actually spoke! I loved this moment from last night's Season 9 premiere, as it mocks the show's original premise, brings to light Jim and Pam's marital boredom, and really sets up that this is the last season and the characters have gone as far as they can go. I've all but given up on The Office since last season was pretty lame and unfunny, but this moment gave me some hope that there is still some development and surprises in store.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Louie says...

'Look, I know you don't feel the same way about me, I get, I know that, I'm not stupid. I don't, it's fine. I'm actually fine with the way things are, that I'm in a constant state of agitation, it's actually better than any real requited love sex thing I ever had. I'm saying, I want to be your friend, and it's okay with me that there's nothing else, but can I just, can I just tell you one time the way I feel about you? And I'll be your friend, and I won't press you to be anything else, I promise, if you just let me get it out, one time...Pamela, I'm in love with you. Yeah, it's that bad. You're so beautiful to me..shut up! Let me tell you, let me. Everytime I look at your face or even remember it, it wrecks me. And the way you are with me, and you're just fun, and you shit all over me, and you make fun of me, and you're real. I don't have enough time in any day to think about you enough, I feel like I'm gonna live a thousand years cause that's how long it's gonna take me to have one thought about you, which is, that I'm crazy about you Pamela. I don't want to be with anybody else. I don't, I really don't. I don't think about women anymore, I think about you. I had a dream the other night, that you and I were on a train, we were on this train and you were holding my hand, that's the whole dream, you were holding my hand, and I felt you holding my hand, I woke up and I couldn't believe it wasn't real. I'm sick in love with you, Pamela, it's like a condition, it's like polio. I feel like I'm gonna die if I can't be with you, and I can't be with you. So, I'm gonna die. And I don't care. Cause I was brought into existence to know you, and that's enough. And the idea that you'd want me back, it's like, greedy. I'm doin a bad job at this...'

-Louie (played by Louis CK, 'Subway/Pamela', Louie, written and directed by Louie CK, 2011)

Note: If you've ever seen Louie's stand-up, you'd never expect that vulgar man to have a speech like this in him, but that's what his 'sitcom' is for, to showcase his many sides. And yes, he gets completely shot down.

Holden McNeil says...

'I love you, and not, not in a friendly way, although I think we're great friends, and not in a misplaced affection puppy dog way, although I'm sure that's what you'll call it. I love you, very, very simple, very truly. You are the, the epitomy of everything I have ever looked for in another human being, and I know that you think of me as just a friend, and crossing that line is the furthest thing from an option you would ever consider, but, I had to say it. I just, I can't take this anymore. I can't stand next to you without wanting to hold you, I can 't look into your eyes without feeling that longing you only read about in trashy romance novels, I can't talk to you without wanting to express my love for everything you are. And I know, that this will probably queer our friendship, no pun intended, I had to say it. Cause I've never felt this way before. And I don't care, I like who I am because of it. And if bringing this to light means we can't hang out anymore, then that hurts me. But God I just, I couldn't allow another day to go by without just getting it out there, regardless of the outcome, which, by the look on your face is to be the inevitable...shootdown. And you know, I'll accept that. But I know, I know that some part of you is hesitating for a moment, and if there's a moment of hesitation then that means you feel something too. And all I ask, please, is that you just, you just not dismiss that, and try to dwell in it, for just ten seconds. Alyssa, there isn't another soul on this fucking planet who has ever made me half the person I am when I'm with you, and I would risk this friendship for the chance to take it to the next plateau, because it is there between you and me, you can't deny that. Even if, you know, even if we never talk again after tonight, please know that I am forever changed because of who you are and what you've meant to me, which, while I do appreciate it, I'd never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of.'

-Holden McNeil (professing his love for his lesbian best friend, played by Ben Affleck, Chasing Amy, written and directed by Kevin Smith, 1997)

Note: While Ben Affleck and Kevin Smith do get their fair share of criticism and downright hate, I still consider this to be a classic speech, both for writing and Affleck's performance of the monologue. I think any romantic-minded guy has the dream of being able to drop the love-bomb on a girl in this style, but no one's ever really that eloquent in real life, are they? Chasing Amy belongs in a 90's time capsule and was the first Kevin Smith film that I really liked, and still one of my favourites (along with Dogma and Red State). A great movie for those who are looking for sex jokes mixed with romance, buddy comedy mixed with chick flick, and sharp and realistic dialogue mixed with hilarious and heart-warming performances by Ben Affleck (who I'll probably never praise on this blog again), Joey Lauren Adams, and Jason Lee.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Xavier Rudd says...

'I sit by my window, with everything I've done, doors that I've opened, and webs that I've spun, and the candle beside me, burns to the left, and the rain on the clay, sends a lizard to it's nest..and there'll be a time, when I hold you again, with my arms spread out, on my chest you will rest, I'll write you a letter, with everything I know, about the weight of the world and the way things could go...Now the ocean connects me, to everything I know, by mellowing my mind, so my heart it can call, with these trees as my witness, I'll slice up some fruit, and each to their peaceful good intentions and truth..there will be a time, when I will hold you again, with my arms spread out, I will dive right in, so now here is your letter, with everything I know, about the weight of the world and the way things could go.'

Xavier Rudd ('The Letter', Food in the Belly, Xavier Rudd, 2005)

Photography: Nature Shots at Cliff Park






 
Photos taken by Chessterr Hollowberry at Cliff Park in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. I have more than one waterfall in my town, how awesome is that.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bob Dylan also says...

'Well, I'm living in a foreign country, but I'm bound to cross the line, beauty walks on a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine, if I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born...Come in, she said, I'll give ya shelter from the storm.'

-Bob Dylan ('Shelter from the Storm', Blood on the Tracks, 1975)

Bob Dylan also says...

'Suddenly, I turned around, and she was standing there, with silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair, she walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns...Come in, she said, I'll give ya shelter from the storm.'

-Bob Dylan ('Shelter from the Storm', Blood on the Tracks, 1975)

Bob Dylan says...

'Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved, everything up to that point had been left unresolved, try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm...Come in, she said, I'll give ya shelter from the storm.'

-Bob Dylan ('Shelter from the Storm', Blood on the Tracks, 1975)

Visual: Mr. Dylan



Bob Dylan, 1975. A wild rambling lunatic or a thoughtful genius poet? Yes. Enough said.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut says...

'Which brings us to the arts, whose purpose, in common with astrology, is to use frauds in order to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on inside. And on and on.'

-Kurt Vonnegut ('Address to Graduating Class at Bennington College, 1970', Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons, Kurt Vonnegut, 1974)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Photography: DVD Cover Film Collage

This is a collage that I put together from selected DVDs in my good friend Merv Quantas's widely ranged collection. I was going for nostalgia more than quality, though there are a lot of great films here. Enjoy! Created by Chessterr Hollowberry. Enjoy!



In no particular order, these are the films presented in the collage: Dazed and Confused, Fight Club, The Big Lebowski, Fifth Element, The Usual Suspects, Die Hard, Pineapple Express, Speed, The Boondock Saints, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Face/Off, Total Recall, Knocked Up, Zombieland, Blow, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, True Lies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Smokin Aces, Dogma, Terminator 2, Top Gun, Rock Star, Office Space, Lock Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels, Superbad, Hobo With a Shotgun, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Almost Famous, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Big Trouble in Little China, Playing God

Oliver Tate says...

'There are some much-underrated words used in Chips's porn magazines. Razzle contains a very candid letters section where readers describe their sexual enterprises. Often, as the sex bcomes more passionate, the words become more evocative. 'Lick my shaft' gives a sense of strength and an implication of coal mining. 'My rock-hard cock.' 'My throbbing rod.' You couldn't fail to be good in bed if you were the proud owner of a 'raging love-pole'. One more word that may be useful in the heat of passion: dong. Dong sounds like someone very important has just arrived. Describing the vagina throws up just as many, if not more problems. I have been trying to think of my own words. I came up with undermouth. I came up with undermouth. I came up with undermouth. I'm not sure what this sentence means.'

-Oliver Tate (Submarine, Joe Dunthorne, 2008)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Excerpt from 'Parts of Noah' (7): Noah meets Dizzy and the Bus Incident

At the bus stop, there was a girl whose life story I knew from the moment I looked at her. She wasn’t even sweating, so I should have known what I was up against. How many of you have said the same. What are you up against? Watching her made my thoughts flow quickly, just a series of images flickering before my eyes, pictures that reminded me of her. Sunflowers. Cheesecake. A cold shower on a hot day. Her eyes were closed, her lips were moving, and she must have been singing a song from her memory because her ears held no earphones, only two earrings, dangling, homemade. She was standing off the edge of the curb, perfectly balanced, barefoot, her heels out in open air. On the bench I was her audience, and there was not another soul around us. No humans, no animals, no demons. She didn’t move so I got used to her quickly and my mind returned to my stagnant, old thoughts. I wondered if the skeleton lady was dead in her grave yet. I also wondered if Cash’s dad had risen yet. I wondered if Cash’s shotgun missed, where that bullet would end up. The girl stepped forward and opened her eyes, blinking from sunrays and winning me over like only a complete stranger can. The bus appeared behind her and she spun around and stepped in, not acknowledging the driver at all, and not paying. 


----

The street I was on with this strange girl had been ghost town empty, but the bus was full of daywalkers, except for one seat. I sat beside her and our legs touched and I might have smiled, I can’t remember. Across the aisle sat a tiny girl, totally unaware of the cruelties this world has to offer, covered in what had to be her own puke and she didn’t seem bothered in the least. No one owned her. The bus passed Cash’s house and I heard a shotgun blast. My lip twitched slightly and the person in front of the vomit girl puked all over himself, probably because of a terrible smell that I couldn’t experience. I wondered what the weird girl beside me smelled like, probably something like strawberries or green grapes. She was humming some tune like she was the only person in existence, a song I didn’t recognize but wanted to learn. I looked for her reflection in the bus window, crossing my eyes so I wouldn’t see the wreck of a town that was flying by, but I didn’t detect one. I heard a gag and a splash and the man in sitting in front of me fell forward, heaving and choking. The girl showed no sign of being affected by this and I could only wonder how bright Cash’s smile would be if he could witness this.

(End of Excerpt)

This is original writing from the short story titled 'Parts of Noah'. Please credit this work to the creator, Chessterr Hollowberry. Thanks!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dan Auerbach says...

'Pick you up, let you down, when I wanna go, to a place I can hide, you know me, I had plans, but they just disappeared, to the back of my mind...Oh can it be, the voices calling me, they get lost, and out of time, I should've seen it glow, but everybody knows, that a broken heart is blind, that a broken heart is blind..'

-Dan Auerbach ('Little Black Submarines', El Camino, The Black Keys, 2011)

Visual: The Black Keys

I can proudly say that I was a fan of The Black Keys about one album before they hit it huge and became official Rock Stars. The honesty, passion, simplicity, and soul behind their music is impressive and infectious, I'm just about always in the right mood for from Keys. I know, I know, they sold out and their music is everywhere and that drummer guy says a lot of stupid stuff, but let's forget all that and celebrate what matters: the music. So today, it's all about The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney.







Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sean Bateman says...

'She looked at me, not grinning. The hippie could be sharp. What was I getting at? I didn't know. All I know was that the sex was terrific. And that the hippie was cute. She loved sweet pickles. She liked the name Willie. She even liked Apocalypse Now. She was not a vegetarian. These were all on the plus side. But, once I introduced her to my friends, at the time, and they were all stuck-up asshole Lit majors and they made fun of her and she understood what was going on and her eyes, usually blue, too blue, vacant, were sad. And I protected her. I took her away from them. ('Spell Pynchon,' they asked her, cracking up.) And she introduced me to her friends. And we ended up sitting on some Japanese pillows in her room and we all smoked some pot and this little hippie girl with a wreath on her head, looked at me as I held her and said, 'The world blows my mind.' And you know what? I fucked her anyway.'

-Sean Bateman (The Rules of Attraction, Bret Easton Ellis, 1987)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jimi Hendrix says...

'Anger, he smiles, towering shiny metallic purple armour, Queen Jealousy, Envy, waits behind him, her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground, blue are the Life giving waters taken for granted, they quietly understand, once Happy turquoise armies lay opposite, ready, but wonder why the fight is on...my red is so Confident, he flashes trophies of War and ribbons of Euphoria, orange is young and full of daring, but very unsteady on the first go round, my yellow, in this case, is not so Mellow, in fact, I'm trying to say, it's frightened like me, and all of these emotions of mine keep holding me, from giving my life to a rainbow like you..but I'm, yeah, I'm bold as Love...'

-Jimi Hendrix ('Bold as Love', Axis: Bold as Love, Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Edward Norton says...

'Fight Club—which I have to say I think is the best film I've been involved in—part of the thing which is really terrifying and great about it is that it's highly ambiguous, not in its morality, but in its message. It's pretty unapologetically neutral in terms of its suggestions of what you're supposed to take from it. I think a lot of popular films let you walk away without your having to think about them much more because they've delivered what they want you to know about them. When I watch David Fincher's other films, Seven especially, I thought that it was almost like philosophy in the sense that it was structured like a dialectic. He had an idealist and a cynic, and he put them at heightened extremes of the modern world, and the film never resolved in the sense that he left it for you to decide: who did you feel was right? He just dumped a lot in your lap and I liked that and I felt like Fight Club was even more so. It was a dark, comic, sort of surrealist look at some of the dysfunctions of our generation and of young people who are feeling out of sync with the value system they are expected to engage in.'

-Edward Norton (from an interview with Robby O'Connor, The Yale Herald, 1999)

Visual: The First Rule... by Justin Reed

 

When it comes to fan art, it's hard to find a better representation of the source material than Justin Reed's Fight Club interpretation. With the mix of realistically portraying the characters with the twist of cartoon style, Reed's poster is a great example of an artist putting his own unique creativity into pop culture icons. If you enjoy this poster, I'd highly recommend researching Justin's other work, he has many itriguing interpretations of highly loved films like Scarface, Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange, and more.

The photo featured here wasn't pulled off the internet, I took a 3-picture panorama of the poster on my bedroom wall. The university that I used to attend would hold yearly poster sales and I'd usually browse and wait for something to catch my eye. As soon as I saw Justin Reed's The First Rule of..., I knew it had to be on my wall.

For today's post, I couldn't get a straight up picture of the poster that I was satisfied with, so I broke it down into 3 frames and with the magic of my camera, the seams matched up perfectly. People like Justin Reed inspire me to embrace my creative aspirations and show my love for pieces of work that have influenced my life. Enjoy this poster and check out the rest of Justin Reed's work!

The First Rule... by Justin Reed, 2009.

Fight Club is written by Chuck Palahniuk (1996) , and adapted to film by David Fincher (director) and Jim Uhls (writer) in 1999.

The Narrator played by Edward Norton, Tyler Durden played by Brad Pitt, and Marla Singer played by Helena Bonham Carter.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chuck Palahniuk says...

'I had just done this hideous radio interview in Berlin for German public radio. At one point, I meant to say 'Sieht so aus als haettest du all dein Deutsch vergessen,' which means 'I guess I've forgotten so much German.' Only I misconjugated the verb 'vergessen' to 'vergast', and when I came out of the interview, the publicist was furious with me. 'Vergast' is the past tense of the verb 'to gas people to death.' I even said 'Deutsch' wrong - I put an 'r' in, which turns it into meaning 'German people' instead of the language. What I actually said was 'I'm so sorry that I have gassed to death so many German people.' I was mortified. (What happened? Did you hear any backlash?) No, I fled. I got on a train and I was out of there and I just felt awful, I had insulted thousands of people. How could I say that? And I started thinking, maybe it's our crimes, the things we do hideously wrong, that gives God some pleasure in ending our lives. Maybe it's our sins that give God consolation when he finally has to give us cancer.'

-Chuck Palahniuk (from an interview with Claire Saddath, Time magazine, 2009)

Master Storyteller: Chuck Palahniuk's Story Intros

Starting a story can be one of the most difficult aspects of the entire writing process. To establish the narrative voice, set the tone of the story, and successfully intrigue your reader, it takes creativity and intuition. Being the master storyteller that he is, Chuck Palahniuk is quite impressive at kicking a story off in a way that you don't dream of stopping at the 1st page. Here are 5 great examples of how Chuck P starts a story, enjoy!

'If you're going to read this, don't bother. After a couple pages, you won't want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you're still in one piece. Save yourself. There has to be something better on television. Or since you have so much time on your hands, maybe you could take a night course. Become a doctor. You could make something out of yourself. Treat yourself to a dinner out. Color your hair. You're not getting any younger. What happens here is first going to piss you off. After that, it just gets worse and worse.'

-Victor Mancini, Choke, 2001

'One dude stood all afternoon at the buffet wearing just his boxers, licking the orange dust off barbecued potato chips. Next to him, a dude was scooping into the onion dip and licking the dip off the chip. The same soggy chip, scoop after scoop. Dudes have a million ways of peeing on what they claim as just their own.'

-Branch Bacardi (Mr. 600), Snuff, 2008

'Where you're supposed to be in some big West Hills wedding reception in a big manor house with flower arrangements and stuffed mushrooms all over the house. This is called scene setting: where everybody is, who's alive, who's dead. This is Evie Cottrell's big wedding reception moment. Evie is standing halfway down the big staircase in the manor house foyer, naked inside what's left of her wedding dress, still holding her rifle.'

-Shannon McFarland, Invisible Monsters, 1999

'Testing, testing. One, two, three. Testing, testing. One, two, three. Maybe this is working. I don't know. If you can even hear me, I don't know. But if you can hear me, listen. And if you're listening, then what you've found is the story of everything that went wrong. This is what you'd call the flight recorder of Flight 2039. The black box, people call it, even though it's orange, and on the inside is a loop of permanent record of all that's left. What you've found is the story of what happened. And go ahead. You can heat this wire to white-hot, and it will still tell you the exact same story.'

-Tender Branson, Survivor, 1999

'Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die. For a long time though, Tyler and I were best friends. People are always asking, did I know about Tyler Durden.'

-The Narrator, Fight Club, 1996

All passages written by Chuck Palahniuk.

The Chuck Palahniuk Experience

Before I discovered Chuck Palahniuk, almost 10 years ago, I didn't have a favourite author. There were a number of writers that I knew and respected, and as a 12 year old I probably would have said Stephen King was the best writer of all time, but I didn't have a true writing idol until I became acquainted with Chuck P's stories. I saw the film adaptation of Fight Club before I even realized that it was based on a book, and upon my first viewing, I definitely didn't 'get' the film, I didn't appreciate it at first the way I would after multiple (like, 100) viewings. Once I became a fan of the film, I went out in search of the source novel, and this is how I met Chuck Palahniuk. One day, I’ll write a more in-depth review of Chuck’s body of work, but today I’ll focus on the man himself.

Chuck Palahniuk is one of those public figures who is much more known for the work he has produced than for his actual name. He’s written a dozen novels, inspired two films, and has written several essays, articles, and personal-narrative pieces, yet people generally don’t recognize the name. Usually when I’m discussing literature and the inevitable ‘So, who do you love reading?’ question comes up, I go right to Chuck Palahniuk, and usually, whoever I’m talking to is put in the awkward position of not having any idea who I’m talking about. Then, when I follow up with, ‘You know, he wrote Fight Club, Choke, etc.’, I’ll either get a polite, ‘Oh, I’ve never read him’, or, ‘I didn’t know those movies were based on books!’. If I’m lucky and I’m speaking to the right person, the name Chuck Palahniuk is met with adoration and shared admiration, though some people do know who he is and hate his style of writing, I can accept that. If I do happen to meet a fellow Palahniuk fan, it’s most likely an instant friendship. His opinionated narrative style and often disgusting and offensive subject matter are quite polarizing for his readers, but I’ve never met anyone who’s luke warm on Chuck Palahniuk. If you know the name, and know his work, you either greatly respect his voice as a writer, or you think he’s a misogynist asshole know-it-all.

The first time I read Fight Club, it was an eye-opening experience for me, as both a writer and a reader. It’s a complicated book, with a non-linear narrative and a lot of heavy themes for a young mind to take in. Skip ahead a decade, now I’ve read his dozen books all multiple times (Exceptions: I’ve only read Diary once, and only made it halfway through Tell-All), and no other writer has ever made more sense to me than he has. With the level of social commentary, character interaction, violence, sexuality, surrealism, horror, and masterfully crafted plotlines that Chuck brings to his work, he helped me realized that there are way less ‘rules’ for writers than I had ever realized. So many scenes and paragraphs and even sentences had me reacting with, ‘You can write that? Really?’ As a writer, it was amazing for me to see the lengths that a successful writer could go in telling his story and sending his message. Since discovering Chuck P, I’ve read much more offensive and disgusting fiction than what he has to offer, but he’ll always have a special place in my mind as the man who showed me how effective offensive writing can be when it has a point.

That all being said, I’m not such a blind fanboy that I can find no fault in Chuck Palahniuk’s writing style. Though I do fully appreciate every effort he puts out, he isn’t always successful in the execution. Anyone that’s familiar with his work knows that Chuck has a few stylistic habits that he likes to reuse in his body of work. A major one of these habits is the repetition of a key line or phrase throughout the story, and usually it’s a series of repeated lines or phrases. In my opinion, this almost always works to really drive home the theme and to create a feeling of unity through the story. However, I’ve had the feeling in a few of his novels that the narrative was getting repetitive and he had already made his point. Also, there’s the ‘gross factor’ in Chuck’s writing, as he really does like to experiment with every type of bodily function that he can think of, and I try to warn new Chuck P readers about this. I personally don’t get disgusted by his writing, but I can see how his blatantly graphic style could turn off the more sensitive readers. While reading Chuck’s collection, I’ve also caught him from time to time falling into the dangerous trap of ‘a writer’s high’, where the flow of the paragraph is so catchy to the writer’s brain that he has a hard time reigning himself in. The effect of giving in to the addictive feeling of the ‘writer’s high’ is that you can come off too clever for your own good, too in love with your own writing that you just can’t stop, you just can’t punctuate that sentence until you’ve said every beautiful thing you have to say, no matter how long it takes or how hard it may be on the reader, you keep writing because you feel like a God of words that can’t be stopped until the rhythm of the amazing sentence you’re writing allows you to stop. (See what I did there? Writer’s high).

Now that I’ve got the criticism out of the way, let me share what I do love about Chuck’s work. First, he has perfected the persona of the anti-hero narrator, the story’s speaker who isn’t someone you’d ever want to know, but you find yourself hanging onto every word. His writing is lively and amusing, full of sharp wit and brutal sarcasm, and although his ideas and concepts are complex and unique, his writing style never has you running for a dictionary just to understand the sentence. And while he may not describe it this way, I find that his writing isn’t just for pure entertainment or escapism, he’s trying to teach his readers about what he believes to be the true nature of our relationships with each other and with this planet we’ve found ourselves on. I definitely don’t always agree with what Chuck says about the world, but at least he has me thinking, attempting to see things in a different way. I also find him to be a huge inspiration when it comes to conceiving female characters. There’s the criticism that his female characters don’t always sound authentic and that they are clearly written by a man, but I like his type of odd, flawed, quirky females, even if they aren’t completely realistic, he puts a new twist on the female voice.

It’s the sad truth that even our favourite artists won’t have their talent forever, every band or actor or writer eventually declines, it’s natural and any fan of anything almost comes to expect it. Chuck Palahniuk’s golden era of novels, the way I see it at least, starts with Fight Club and ends with his masterpiece, Rant. The novels that came after that (Snuff, Pygmy, Tell-All, Damned) still show quality work and prove that Chuck P has a lot left to say, but he’s also seemed to have lost a bit of his fire from the early days. Maybe because I was a young angry male reading his version of angry males and it made sense to me, but I find his newer work to be a bit harder to relate with. His recent novels have been more like comedic episodes than grand statements about humanity, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, he’s obviously grown into himself as a writer and isn’t as bitter about the world anymore, that’s natural. For as long as Chuck wants to fill the blank page with his psychotic imaginings, I’ll be following him. And as long as I have access to his body of work, I’ll have clear inspiration for why I want to write and the type of writer I want to be.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ron Swanson says...

'On principle, I never say anything that another person is obviously trying to get me to say. My first wedding ceremony took two hours because after the priest said, repeat after me, I fell silent.'

- Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman, 'Pawnee Rangers', written by Alan Yang, Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, 2011)

Visual: Ron Swanson Fan Art

Ron Swanson, played by Nick Offerman, is gradually becoming a TV icon, a great example of a character that has transcended the show that made them famous. There are several variations and interpretations of Mr. Swanson's image, all created by passionate and talented fans. I thought I'd share some of my favourite Ron Swanson fan art. Note the theme of bacon and eggs. I'm excited for Season 5 ofParks and Recreation, starting Sept. 20th. If Leslie's speech at the end of Season 4 is any indication, the show is planning on going in new directions and challenging the viewers. I'm always up for that, so we'll see what they come up with. Enjoy!







Image #1 by Sam Spratt

Image #2 by Tom Trager

Image #3 by Blain Hefner

Image #4 by Ross Maute

Image #5 by Jade Sheldon

Meursault says...

'And I felt ready to live it all again too. As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself - so like a brother, really - I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.'

-Meursault (The Stranger, written by Albert Camus, 1942, translated from French to English by Matthew Ward, 1988)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tom Petty says...

In response to the question: 'You've mentioned how she likes to play you your old albums. Has she connected you with your own legacy and made you see your body of work in a new way?

'Yeah, in some ways she has. One thing she was surprised by when we started to hang out was when I said, 'No, I don't listen to Tom Petty. We don't play that.' She said, 'Well, that's kind of a problem for me, because I really like this music, and I do, I play it.' And I said, 'Well, you can play it, you just can't play it around me.' And she didn't understand that, why I wouldn't listen to my own work. And I said, 'It's not that I don't like the work, it's just that I spent a lot of time being really close to it. And when I listen to it, I don't really kick back and listen to it. The whole experience goes through my mind again, and I think of what could have been better, or whatever. I really analyze it when I hear it.' She still talks about when music plays, sometimes it's hard to talk to me. If we're riding in a car, and the radio's on. Any music that I get interested in, I suddenly can't hear anybody talking because I'm listening. And she'll be like, 'Hey! I'm talking to you.' And I'll say, 'I'm sorry, I was listening to the bass on this...' But she will, from time to time, say, 'Listen, you're gonna listen to this. We're gonna put this on.' And it's a good experience from time to time, because listening to an album you've made when you've been away from it for years and you don't even know what's coming next, you do hear it like the listener heard it. And I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by it. I hear it and go, 'God, that wasn't a waste of time. We really did do something that is pretty good.' So she does that for me. She does bring me down to earth a lot. She's very good about bringing me down to earth and saying, 'Listen - things are good. You've got a lot going good here.'

-Tom Petty (Conversations with Tom Petty, Paul Zollo, 2006)

Tom Petty says...

'I was in love with a girl on marijuana, she said, if I'm not stoned, I don't wanna, but she got so paranoid, her place I would avoid, I was in love with a girl on marijuana...I was in love with a girl on cocaine, she had everything goin but her brain, we'd talk endlessly for hours, but by morning it goes sour, I was in love with a girl on cocaine...through ecstasy, crystal meth, and glue, I've found no drug compares to you, all these pills, all this weed, I don't know just what I need...I was in love with a girl on LSD, she'd see things I'd never see, she broadened her perspective, then I got more selective, I was in love with a girl on LSD...through ecstacy, crystal meth, and glue, I've found no drug compares to you, all these pills and all this weed, I don't know just what I need...I was in love with a girl who drank beer, til bad breath and all she disappeared, she was blowing up real bad, but when she left I was still sad, I was in love with a girl who drank beer...I was in love with a girl on china white, we were married for a year one night, her memory still lingers, because I burned all my fingers, I was in love with a girl on china white...I was in love with a girl who drank coffee, there was times when I couldn't keep her off me, that caffeine got her goin, but her ugly side was showin, I was in love with a girl who drank coffee...I was in love with a girl who was a dealer, I was fraid somebody'd come and steal her, we never used to fight, but the phone rang day and night, I was in love with a girl who was a dealer...(sure as hell, she got popped by the big guys).'

-Tom Petty ('Girl on LSD', B-Side to the 'You Don't Know How It Feels' single (from Wildflowers), Tom Petty, 1994)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chris Butler says...

'It was so much influenced by the stuff that I grew up with. We talk a lot about the movies and TV shows that influenced it but you’re right — certainly, from my point of view, I wanted to challenge kids. I do firmly believe that the best children’s fiction does challenge kids. Not in a preachy way. It doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. Roald Dahl is a perfect example of someone who is dark and challenging but very, very funny. It becomes frustrating when you see people reacting against that. It goes back to the beginning of time in the tradition of folk and fairy tales. If you ask anyone of our age group or older what they remember most from their childhood it’s likely to be some scary villain from a Disney movie or a book. It is a rich tradition and it’s something that’s been slightly blanded out.'

-Chris Butler (co-director and writer of ParaNorman, from an interview with HollywoodChicago.com, 2012)

Film Review: ParaNorman and the Animated Film Experience

One of the keys to a long-lasting and healthy relationship is the ability to enjoy each other's interests, even if it doesn't come naturally. For ChinaCat Sunflower and I, this isn't usually difficult, since we're both passionate about film and music and a lot of our personal tastes align. When it comes to seeing a film in theatres, we're usually in agreement. Yes, I did kind of drag her to Predators a couple years ago, and yeah, she's dragged me to a few big-budget Hollywood type movies that I wasn't too excited about, but for the most part, we happily walk hand in hand into the movie theatre to see a good crime drama, action, or sci-fi. I bring up this point about couples because recently, I took a break on my usual bias against animated/3D films and invited my favourite girl to see ParaNorman (directed by Chris Butler/Sam Fell, written by Butler) in the theatres. There's a few other films out there that I'd rather see, but I knew that she's been intrigued by supernatural comedy adventure for some time, and I thought I'd treat her by not putting up a fight. And wouldn't ya know it, I had a good time.

Before ParaNorman, the only animated film I had ever seen in theatres was Toy Story, back in its original run, when I was 10 years old. Of course, I loved it, but that was back when computer generated animation was a novelty and I had never seen anything else like it. Since then, the only other animated film I'd watched from beginning to end was Monsters Inc., again, back when computer generated animated features were still new to the world. Skip ahead several years, and now it's not an exaggeration to say that we're just a bit over-saturated by animated (with the recent addition of 3D) film, so much so that I can't even keep track anymore. I used to be able to count these types of films on one, maybe two, hands, and now there are hundreds. And while these are usually regarded as 'kids movies', adults have taken just as much of a liking of these animated adventures, and the creators usually try and add a dirty joke here or there to keep our interest, and it must work.

Although I've only officially seen two computer-animated films, I have given a few other ones, such as The Incredibles, a fair chance. And every time, I find myself losing interest rather quickly. Most of the time, the storylines are geared towards a younger audience and there's a lot of style over substance, not much to really dig my analytic claws into. Of course, there's the option of just watching movies for fun, rather than constantly studying and criticizing them, but I have the brain of an English Major, a brain that needs to be stimulated by masterfully crafted plot, symbolism, and subtext. After a bit of pondering, I've realized that one of my favourite aspects of film is the performances of the actors. The way my brain is wired, I need to be able to read someone's face in order to connect with them. In the case of animation, I find myself having a much tougher time connecting with the characters and maintaining my interest all the way until the end. A lot can be said for the intricacies of facial expressions, and while there's usually talented actors voicing the characters, I also have a hard time relating the voice to the figure on screen. I'll be the first to admit that this is my own problem, and of course is not the fault of the creators of these films, just a personal down-side of the medium itself.

Leading up to seeing ParaNorman in theatres, I saw a trailer and a few commercials, and I'll admit that I was intrigued. I didn't expect to actually see it (until I had the impulse to cave and invite my girl), but I appreciated how morbid the film seemed to be, with the inclusion of ghosts, witches, and zombies. Plus, the character design seemed unique and creative, and the jokes in the advertisements showcased some refreshing wit on the part of the writers. You're probably expecting me to turn now, to say that I was totally wrong and that the film was a failure. But that wasn't the case. I liked it as much as I think I could ever like an animated film, and I was much more entertained than I initially expected to be.

Here's a quick summary: Strangely gifted kid Norman Babcock is a social outcast in his small town because he believes he can communicate with the dead. And he can, but nobody believes him. Then, we the dead start to rise because of a ancient curse, who do you think has to step up and save the day? That's right, Norman. The film makes it clear, right from the beginning, that it exists in a supernatural setting, as we see the ghosts that Norman sees, beginning with his deceased Grandma. The film also emphasizes that one of its major themes is social stereotypes and how we shouldn't be so quick to judge eachother. That being said, we have the misunderstood outcast, the chubby geeky sidekick, the lipgloss princess big sis, the bully with a soft side, the dumb jock, and the goofy parents. Usually, I'd roll my eyes at such an obvious set-up of characters, but I think that they all worked within the context of the film, since their stereotypical natures are both mocked and examined.

The storyline offers a lot of excitement, adventure, tension, and heart, but the main attraction for me was the style of (stop-motion) animation. The character design definitely follows it's own sort of physics when it comes to dimension and shape, and the result is that all the characters appear awkward, flawed, ugly, and just plain weird. Again, this is a movie about outcasts and stereotypes proving their worth, so if it was a bunch of pretty people battling the undead, the message would have suffered. Also, in the realm of special effects, with the action sequences and monster design, the execution was both exhilerating and unique. I can honestly say I've never seen any animated film (commercials count here) that looks quite like ParaNorman. I found myself overlooking the fact that I was watching an animated movie, and feeling like I was watching a film like any other. This is an impressive achievement. Quick note on the 3D aspect: As always, I felt like the addition of 3D was a cheap gimmick and didn't really add to the entertainment factor, it just made my eyes tingle, and not in a good way.

Going into the film, I hadn't my usual research about the actors involved, so I was equally pleasantly surprised by those I recognized and frustrated when I couldn't place the other familiar voices. Kodi Smit-McPhee, who voiced Norman, has proven his dramatic talent in films such as The Road and Let Me In, but here he gets to be a bit more of a kid than usual, albeit a very strange kid. If his role choices are any indication, I think Smit-McPhee is worth keeping an eye on as he makes the always difficult transition into being an adult actor. Tucker Albrizzi, who I'm not familiar with, voices Norman's sidekick Neil, who successfully provides a lot of the comic relief throughout the film. Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin do an exceptional job of voicing the parents, and John Goodman is very recognizable and consistently loveable as the voice of Norman's like-minded uncle. Anna Kendrick does a great impression of an airheaded teenager with attitude, playing Norman's sister Courtney, and Casey Affleck (who I was shocked to see in the credits) voices dumb jock Mitch, the object of Courtney's affections throughout the film. Then there's Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who nobody knows by his real name, but everyone knows as Superbad's McLovin) as the typical bully Alvin.

Regarding the fact that ParaNorman is being advertised as a 'kids movie' or 'family film', I'm not sure about this choice. The film isn't strictly meant for adults, but I also wouldn't deem it appropriate for a 4 or 5 year old kid. First, the animation is actually quite scary and is violent in some parts, though it does help that the characters don't look like realistic humans. Secondly, there is a lot of adult humour that a typical kid wouldn't appreciate. I understand that most of these types of films try to include hidden jokes for the parents, but I found that ParaNorman was almost geared more towards teenagers, with a lot of not-so-subtle innuendo about masturbation and teenage lust. Then, there's the big 'shocker' at the end, when Mitch casually mentions that he has a boyfriend. But wait, this is a family film! Children shouldn't know about gay people! ...right? The fact is, the joke was more about Courtney's completely useless efforts to romance Mitch, not the revelation that he's gay.

This topic is worth it's own post, but to put it briefly, I feel that a homosexual character has just as much as of a place in a film as a heterosexual character. Being gay didn't define Mitch, his stupidity and athleticism did, the gay thing was almost a throwaway joke that you might not have caught if you weren't paying attention. But of course, close-minded parents are freaking out, urging others not to take their children to the film, cursing the creators for allowing such a terrible thing as someone's sexual orientation (wait, what if Mitch had said he had a girlfriend, they'd be freaking out too, right?) into a family film. My reaction to the 'I have a boyfriend' line was: Wow, nice. Very progressive. A sign of the times. And that's it. There's ghosts, witches, zombies, curses, violence, and murder, but a line about being gay is the one that gets people all bothered. What a world.

Since this is considered a 'family film', the moral undertones are clear and easy to understand. Being different isn't bad, accepting others is good, and loving each other is the key to solving any problem. Pretty easy to digest. What makes this film special for me is the unique character design, the adventurous atmosphere, and the fact that 'weird' kids are given a voice of their own. This is a great movie for any kid or teen who is interested in morbid tables of the undead, and is just as satisfying for an adult who still has a sense of humour and can appreciate creativity on screen, no matter how it's delivered. Overall, I'd recommend ParaNorman, just have an open mind and do a bit of research about what you're getting into. I won't all of a sudden run out and see all of the animated films that I've been avoiding for the past decade, but I will be more open to giving animated films a chance.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Skyler White says...

'This is it. This is what you've been working for. I rented this place and I started bringing it here because, I didn't know what else to do. I gave up counting it, I mean, I had to, it was just so much, so fast. I tried weighing it, I figured, one bill of any denomination weighs a gram, and there are 454 grams to a pound, but, there's a variety of denominatations, so. (How much is this?) I have no earthly idea, I truly don't. I just stack it up, keep it dry, spray it for silver fish. There is more money here than we could spend in a lifetime, we certainly can't launder it, not with 100 car washes. Walt, I want my kids back. I want my life back. Please, tell me, how much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?'

-Skyler White (played by Anna Gunn, 'Gliding Over All', written by Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad, created by Vince Gilligan, 2012)

Breaking Bad Review: Season 5 (First 8 Episodes)


Disclaimer: If you aren’t an already informed and passionate fan of Breaking Bad, this post probably won’t make any sense to you. I hate to leave any reader out, but this is kind of a fans-only thing. So come back tomorrow when I go back to other topics! Or read it anyways for my wit and charm.

 
Since Breaking Bad debuted in 2008, it was never intended to run forever. Vince Gilligan had a clear arc in mind and knew that it would take 5 seasons to do the story justice. I always like this style of television drama better than most network shows who have it in their best interest to keep their shows running for as long as they can, so they can only go so far with their characters and plotlines. But a show such as Breaking Bad, or Dexter, or The Shield, for instance, have the end in sight as soon as the show begins. That means the writers can put their characters through absolute hell, because they know that the universe they're creating is finite, so revealing major secrets or killing off half the cast resonates stronger and is easier to pull off. Earlier this year, it came as a shock to most fans that AMC decided to split Breaking Bad's fifth and final season into two 8-episode half-seasons. It makes sense, from a business perspective, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't damn annoying that I now have to wait 10 months to experience the (bloody) resolution of one of my favourite shows. Of course, it is just TV, and life goes on. Next July will come soon enough.

In the televised world of embarassing 'reality' shows, tired soap operas, try-hard reboots, repetitive crime-drama procedurals, and everything in between, it's rare to find a show that genuinely and creatively surprises, shocks, and entertains all at once. Of course, you know what I'm going to say: Breaking Bad is that show, for me, at least. Now, I understand that the world of drug distributors, criminals, liars, schemers, and murderers doesn't qualify as everyone's source of televised pleasure, and at times, I find myself almost feeling guilty for enjoying a show about such bad people. It's not an exaggeration to say that in order to fully appreciate what Breaking Bad has to offer, you have to 'break bad' yourself. Yeah, people on the show get murdered, sometimes even children, but it's important to remember that creator Vince Gilligan isn't out to exploit criminal acts for pure pleasure, this is a show about consequences. It's hard to find another television drama with such a long memory, and even the most terrible acts are never just glossed over, there's always a result for each action, even if it comes episodes or even seasons later.

Breaking Bad has enough of a buzz that even people who don't watch the show know the basic plot: A high-school chemistry teacher learns that he has cancer, and resorts to manufacturing and dealing meth in order to provide for his family after he's gone. And Gilligan has made it clear from the beginning that this will be a story about the rise and fall of a criminal kingpin. So when Season 4 ended with Walter White murdering his biggest nemesis, it was pretty clear that Season 5 would be the season that Mr. White was on top. For the most part, this expectation was carried out to perfection throughout the first 8 episodes of Season 5. If anybody is wondering, 'Where the hell was the villain this season?', you've missed the point. Whether we like it or not, the lead character, the man we're supposed to be cheering for, he is the Big Bad. And while some still question the realism of a mild-mannered pushover husband such as Walt taking such a dramatic turn within the course of a year (in the show's timeline), this is where the cause-and-effect nature of Breaking Bad comes into play. And it's also important to remember a theme that was emphasized in these 8 episodes: Even before the show ever began, Walter White was a bitter man who believed he deserved more than he got. Sure, it's about the money for him, but even more than that, it's about the thrill of the power, the buzz he gets from breaking bad.

The major theme I picked up throughout these eight episodes was the theme of transition, for just about every character. We see Walter making the transition into full-blown Heisenberg, truly believing that by killing Gus Fring, he is now The Boss and should not be questioned. And as things continue to run smoothly for him, his ego grows to massive proportions. Then there’s Jesse Pinkman, who many believe to be the conscience of the show, although he is also a drug manufacturer and murderer. This season was all about Jesse’s doubt, his fear of Walt, his urge to leave the criminal lifestyle behind. But as we saw in his final scene of this half-season, there’s not much out there for him, outside of the world he and Walt created. Other transitions include: Skyler, everyone’s least favourite tv-wife, transitioning into Walt’s captive, unable to stop him and also unable to leave. Hank, transitioning into the role of head supervisor for the DEA, being forced to give up his hunt for Heisenberg. And Mike, legendary tough-guy, first tries to make the transition from Gus’s hired security to Walt’s hired security, then when the heat gets too hot, he tries to leave. Thanks to Walter, he also had to transition into death. It’s very refreshing that even in the final season of a series, we’re still seeing these characters grow, transform, and decay.

Also, throughout this half-season, we were treated to a few fun schemes and capers by Walt and his crew. From the ridiculous magnet sequence in the season opener, to the genius idea of using fumigation tents as a cover to cook meth in people’s homes, to the absolutely intense train robbery, Gilligan and the writers really pushed the boundaries of what we as an audience would accept. Some people cried ‘jumped shark’, but I bought most of what I was sold. All the logic of the show doesn’t have to make sense to the world I live in, it just has to make sense to the universe that they live in. Since season 1, we’ve been asked to go along with crazy science and insane circumstances, and the fact that the level of these situations increased so high this season is only a testament to Walter’s own rise to criminal royality. But, as always, when the characters are at their highest high, reality comes crashing in. In this case, it was the cold-blooded murder of a teenage boy that ended this party. And although Walter insisted that his ‘empire’ keep on as planned, things weren’t really the same after that moment.

As far the quality of this season goes, it probably goes without saying that I enjoyed it. I realize that any television series is going to have it's weaker moments and plot holes, but I felt that the overall vibe stayed true to the evolution of the first 4 seasons. I predicted early on that we would see camera angles and techniques that we'd never seen before on the show, and I was right. Even in it's fifth year, Gilligan's crew haven't run out of ideas, and always have a fresh idea about how to shoot a particular scene. As for the performances, everyone, even the characters that annoy me, were top notch. Bryan Cranston has proven that he's a master of dark comedy, and Aaron Paul probably had the toughest job out of anybody, since his character (even moreso than Walt) has gone through the biggest transformation since episode 1, season 1. Each episode had a good mix of action, development, dialogue, montages, and of course, violence. Watching the boy get shot really made me hate the show, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the gruesome prison-killing-montage in the last episode. Mike's death was special for a couple reasons. First, because it was Walt's first passion kill, not out of necessity or self defense, just because he was mad. Also, because it was a tragic end to a fan favourite. But finally, it showed how talented Gilligan's crew can be when it comes to handling the material. Mike is dying, so we're heartbroken, but we're also treated to an amazing view of a sun shining over a creek. This show does an amazing job of mixing in the beautiful with the terrible, and that scene was one of the best examples of that. 

One aspect of this season that I didn’t predict was the addition of new characters. With all that’s happened to our main cast up until this point, I felt like there was enough drama to carry the season without any fresh faces. However, three new characters joined the show. First, there’s Lydia, the ultra-paranoid executive who has broken bad a long time ago and was working for Fring before Walt executed him. I love the energy that Lydia brings to the show and she has proven her worth both as an asset for Walt’s distribution network and for us fans as a talented actress. Next, there’s Todd, the wild-card. As soon as he was introduced, I had the feeling he’d be trouble, and I was right. Finally, there’s Declan, the leader of his drug network, who in the 7th episode of the season is convinced by Walt himself that he should be a part of the Heisenberg team. Although things seem to be running smoothly between Declan and Walt, I’m fully expecting him to be a villain in the back half of this season. From a writing perspective, I can see why these characters were introduced. Lydia, on paper, is a convenient solution to a lot of the technical problems behind Walt trying to build his own network, especially after Mike has ‘moved on’. And Todd, aside from being unpredictable, was worked in so that Jesse’s character could move on and Walt would still have an assistant, maybe one with sensibilities that are more suited to what Walt asks of him. Declan’s character is still a mystery, but I assume he was brought in for added tension in the last 8 episodes, when his deal with Walt inevitably goes wrong.

At the beginning of the season, Gilligan pulled a very tricky move, providing a flash-forward into Walt’s life a year from now. He’s at a Denny’s, hair fully grown back, appearing depressed and alone, with a fake name, and the need for a very deadly weapon. This scene raised a hell of a lot of more questions than it answered, and even at the end of episode 8, it’s only speculation as to how Walt gets to this point. Gilligan has revealed (it must be so difficult to be a show’s creator, having to hold in all these secrets from super passionate fans) that Walt is returning to protect somebody. Who that somebody is, and who they need protection from, will remain a mystery for now. However, at the end of the season, Walt (in my favourite Skyler scene of the season), receives his most effective reality check when his miserable wife takes him to the storage unit where she hides all of his money. All of his ego, his wild talk of building an empire, all of the lying and manipulation and murder, it all became quantified in that pile of money, more than anyone could ever spend in a lifetime. This comes after a 3-month montage of Walt’s new organization running like clockwork. Sure, Walt’s a power-hungry ego-maniac who wants to rule the world, but he also seems to feed off of problem-solving and seemingly impossible challenges. So whether it was the boredom of actually succeeding, or seeing the actual result of all his efforts sitting in that storage locker, he tells Skyler, ‘I’m out’. At this point, he’s the Gus, with a whole bunch of people (who likely don’t make nearly as much money as he does), relying on him. So when the Kingpin quits (and I believe Walt when he says he’s out), his people may revolt, which could be why he needs that Scarface gun we see him buy in the flash-forward.

Then, of course, it wouldn’t be a (half) season of Breaking Bad without the cliffhanger. Here’s a very rare spoiler alert. Stop reading if you don’t want to know. Okay? Understood? Good. Hank knows. He finally found the piece of evidence he needs to start to put it all together, and the look on his face that closes out the episode gives us every indication that he is now officially suspicious of Walt. So with all the questions that we’re already left with, like is Walt really out and will Jesse be pulled back in, now we’re left wondering how Hank is going to deal with this situation. It’s not as easy as, ‘Walter White, you’re under arrest’, not when he’s the ASAC (I actually don’t know what that stands for) of the DEA and his brother-in-law turns out to be the very guy he’s dedicated a year to capturing. I had a feeling that the very last shot of episode 8 would be Hank’s ‘I know’ face, and I was right, which is always a nice feeling. But if I think for a second that I know how the final 8 episodes are going to play out, I’m probably dead wrong. That's probably enough Breaking Bad love for now, though I could probably keep writing about this show until next July comes.