Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Photography: Pumpkin Art

Halloween is probably my only favourite holiday, if you can call it that. Let's call it a 'special day', one where all of society agrees to lose their minds for a day, dress up in costumes, celebrate violence, and of course, eat tons of candy. And carving pumpkins is a strange art form that comes along with Halloween, one that I've been embracing over the past couple years.

Today, to honour one of the weirdest cultural traditions we have, I'm posting ChinaCat Sunflower's (on the left) and my (on the right) pumpkins from the last three years. Yes, that is a two-face style Batman/Joker design on the bottom right. I used Tim Sale's versions (from 'The Long Halloween' and 'The Dark Victory') of the characters as a template, I love how Sale does Joker's teeth. Happy Halloween!

 
 
 



Photographs taken by Chessterr Hollowberry in 2010, 2011, 2012.

Bob Dylan says...

'As some warn victory, some downfall, private reasons great or small, can be seen in the eyes of those that call, to make all that should be killed to crawl, while others say don't hate nothing at all, except hatred...Disillusioned words like bullets bark, as human gods aim for their mark, make everything from toy guns that spark, to flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark, it's easy to see without looking too far, that not much is really sacred.'

- Bob Dylan ('It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)', Bringing it all Back Home, Bob Dylan, 1965)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Scott Stanton says...

'Down river from the city, the air was clean but the water was gritty, but we still swam in it anyway, I remember jumping off the old train bridge, there were no cliffs in the prairies where I lived, down in chesterman's valley, skipping rocks to the other side, shooting at the log that was floating by, those were the little games that we played, just trying to pass the time any way, and the big bush party down by the water, where I met the river rider and the farmer's daughter, he told stories all night long, singing songs til the morning come...Down in chesterman's valley, there lays a bridge made from a lightningstruck tree, on the other side directions will be easy, just listen for the raw guitar strumming, you can come along and find me.'

- Scott Stanton ('Chesterman's Valley', Trust Us Now, Current Swell, 2007)

Photography: Gold Creek






 
Time for some more sweet nature action. Took these pictures at another river spot at Gold Creek. Even on a cold, rainy day, the river's still flowing. Who says nature time is only for the summertime?

Photos taken by Chessterr Hollowberry in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.

The Joker says...

'Remember? Ohh, I wouldn't do that! Remembering's dangerous. I find the past such a worrying, anxious place. 'The Past Tense', I suppose you'd call it. Ha ha ha. Memory's so treacherous. One moment you're lost in a carnival of delights, with poignant childhood aromas, the flashing neon of puberty, all that sentimental candy-floss...The next, it leads you somewhere you don't want to go...Somewhere dark and cold, filled with the damp, ambiguous shapes of things you'd hoped were forgotten. Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes. Like children, I suppose. Haha. But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon. If we can't face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? We aren't contractually tied down to rationality! There is no sanity clause! So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there's always madness. Madness is the emergency exit...You can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away...forever.'

- The Joker (The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore, 1988)

Visual: The Killing Joke

From ChinaCat Sunflower, the best girl ever, this is the best birthday gift ever: The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. I've already written a review about the graphic novel, but now, I own it. This deluxe edition features an introduction by Tim Sale (one of my all-time favourite Batman artists), and has an entirely new colour palette by the original penciller, Brian Bolland. In the original, John Higgins' colour scheme is very bright and fantastical. Bolland's colouring takes an entirely different direction, coming off as cold and sterile as Arkham Asylum itself. It's quite interesting to see how two artists can approach the same source material in completely different ways, and I still haven't decided which colouring I prefer.

The Killing Joke is more than just your average comic book, this piece of art practically defines the term 'graphic novel', with memorable and disturbing animation and universal themes about the fragility of human sanity and how far good and evil really are from each other. Sure, there may be more practical gifts, but this here masterpiece is the reason why I have birthdays.






Photographs taken by Chessterr Hollowberry.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jerry Seinfeld says...

'Well, birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and how little we've grown. No matter how desperate we are that someday a better self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know it's not to be. That for the rest of our sad, wretched, pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end. Inevitably, irrevocably. Happy birthday? No such thing.'

Jerry Seinfeld (played by Jerry Seinfeld, 'The Visa', written by Peter Mehlman, Seinfeld, created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, 1993)

Note: This is Jerry's best attempt at being depressing, after George (Jason Alexander) begs him to stop being so funny, worried that his date will find Jerry more entertaining. Jerry ends up bumming everyone out so bad that George's date just wants to go home afterwards. Now that's comedy! Since I launched this blog back in June, I've been waiting to post this quote on my birthday. Done!

The Old Woman says...

'With great effort, I disentangled myself from the mound of bleeding corpses and dragged myself beneath a big orange tree that stood on the bank of a nearby stream. There I collapsed from fear, exhaustion, horror, despair, and hunger. Soon after, my overwhelmed senses fell into a deep sleep that was more unconsciousness than rest. I was in this state of weakness and insensibility, between life and death, when I felt something pressing and wriggling against my body. I opened my eyes and saw a handsome white man, sighing and muttering between his teeth, 'O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!''

- The Old Woman (Candide, Voltaire, 1759. Translated from French to English by Peter Constantine, 2005)

Translation from Italian to English: 'Oh, what a calamity it is to be without testicles!'

Ralph Waldo Emerson also says...

'We are as much informed of a writer's genius by what he selects as by what he originates.'

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (from 'Quotation and Originality', Letters and Social Aims, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1876)

Ralph Waldo Emerson says...

'Some men's words I remember so well that I must often use them to express my thought. Yes, because I perceive that we have heard the same truth, but they have heard it better.'

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (from 'Character', Lectures and Biographical Sketches, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1883)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jimi Hendrix says...

'I'm not the only soul, accused of hit and run, tire tracks all across your back, I can see you had your fun, well, darlin', can't you see my signals turn from green to red, and with you I can see a traffic jam straight up ahead.'

- Jimi Hendrix ('Crosstown Traffic', Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1968)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jeff Winger says...

'No, woman. None of us have to go to anyone. And the idea we do is a mental illness we contracted from breathmint commercials and Sandra Bullock. We can't keep going to each other until we learn to go to ourselves. Stop making our hatred of ourselves someone else's job and just stop hating ourselves.'

- Jeff Winger (played by Joel McHale, 'Origins of Vampire Mythology', written by Dan Harmon, Community, created by Dan Harmon, 2012)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mitch Hedberg says...

'You know, I'm sick of following my dreams, man. I'm just going to ask where they're going and hook up with 'em later.'

- Mitch Hedberg (Mitch All Together, Mitch Hedberg, 2003)

Mitch Hedberg's 'Mitch All Together': 10 Jokes

Mitch Hedberg was a one of a kind comedian. Sure, observational and one-liner comedians aren't very rare these days, but I've never seen another comic with anything close to the peculiar wit and comedic charm that Hedberg had. Unfortunately, bad drugs killed him back in 2005, but he left behind a lot of material to laugh at and appreciate. A major aspect of Mitch's comedy comes with his pacing and delivery, so I definitely recommend listening to his albums or watching his DVDs. But, for the purposes of this post, I've chosen 10 jokes from his Mitch All Together album that are hilarious no matter what. If you like Mitch Hedberg's approach to comedy, check out Steven Wright and Stewart Francis.

And now, here are 10 jokes from Mitch All Together, have fun laughing at this ridiculous world we live in. You died too soon, Mitch!

'I saw this wino, he was eating grapes. I was like, Dude, you have to wait.'

'I don't have a microwave oven, but I do have a clock that occasionally cooks shit.'

'My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.'

'Imagine being killed by a bow and arrow. That would suck, an arrow killed you? They would never solve the crime. Look at that dead guy. Let's go that way.'

'Fish are always eating other fish. If fish could scream, the ocean would be loud as shit. You would not want to submerge your head, nothing but fish going, Ahhh fuck! I thought I looked like that rock!'

'An escalator can never break--it can only become stairs. You would never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience. We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there.'

'I want to hang a map of the world in my house, and then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations that I’ve traveled to. But first I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map, so it won’t fall down.'

'I wanna get a job naming kitchen appliances. Seems like the easiest job ever. You know, refrigerator, toaster, blender...you just say what the thing does and then you add 'er'. Kitchen Appliance Naming Institute. What's this do? It keeps shit fresh. Well, that's a Fresher. I'm going on break.'

'I was walking by a dry cleaner at 3 a.m., and it said, Sorry, we're closed. You don't have to be sorry. It's 3 a.m., and you're a dry cleaner. It would be ridiculous for me to expect you to be open. I'm not gonna walk by at 10 a.m. and say, Hey, I walked by at 3, you guys were closed. Someone owes me an apology. This jacket would be halfway done!'

'I've got an oscillating fan at my house. The fan goes back and forth. It looks like the fan is saying, No. So I like to ask it questions that a fan would say no to. Do you keep my hair in place? Do you keep my documents in order? Do you have 3 settings? Liar! My fan fucking lied to me. Now I will pull the pin up. Now you ain't sayin' shit.'

All these quotes were written and performed by Mitch Hedberg and featured on his Mitch All Together album, 2003.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hunter S. Thompson says...

'I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright...Or maybe 'stupid' is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find people and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I...And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots.'

- Hunter S. Thompson (excerpt from 'The Last Crazed Charge of the Liberal Brigade: The Shrewdness of Richard Nixon, the Deep and Abiding Courage of Hubert Humphrey and All of His New Found Friends...Jimmy Carter at Home in Plains, One Year Later the Leap of Faith', Hunter S. Thompson, issue #214 of Rolling Stone, 1976)

Note: This article may have been under the pen name Raoul Duke, and it was featured in The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time, by Hunter S. Thompson, 1979.

Raoul Duke says...

'Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era - the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run...but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive and in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant...History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of 'history' it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time - and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.'

- Raoul Duke (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson, 1971)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tom Petty says...

'Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks, some doors are open, some roads are blocked, sundowns are golden, then they fade away, but if I never do nothin, I'll get ya back someday...All around your island, there's a barricade, that holds out the danger, that holds in the pain, and sometimes you're happy, sometimes you cry, half of me is ocean, half of me is sky...Some things are over, some things go on, part of me you carry, part of me is gone...But you got a heart so big, it could crush this town, and I can't hold out forever, even walls fall down.'

- Tom Petty ('Walls (Circus)', Songs and Music from She's the One, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1996)

Vern says...

'You know, one of two things happens when you meet your heroes. Either they're assholes. Or they're just like you are. Either way, you always lose.'

- Vern (played by Jay Paulson, Imaginary Heroes, written by Dan Harris, 2004)

Note: As far as family-drama films are concerned, Imaginary Heroes isn't widely recognized, but it's one of my favourites. With an outstanding cast that includes Emile Hirsch, Jeff Daniels, Sigourney Weaver, and Michelle Williams, and a unique and heart-breaking plotline, this film is highly recommended to anyone that like a story about a family being pushed to its limits by tragedy and inner turmoil. This was the film that showed me how well Jeff Daniels can really act when given the right material. Not a happy movie by any means, but one of the most engaging and well-written dramas that I know about.

Merle Travis says...

'Some people say a man is made outta mud, a poor man's made outta muscle and blood, muscle and blood and skin and bone, a mind that's weak and a back that's strong.'

- Merle Travis ('16 Tons', Folk Songs of the Hills, Merle Travis, 1946)

Note: This iconic folk/country anthem has been covered by several musicians in varying genres over the years. While I give credit to the original by Merle Travis, the version that I listen to the most is by The Dandy Warhols, off of their 2012 album, This Machine. Other notable musicians that have covered '16 Tons' include: Tennessee Ernie Ford, Johnny Cash, Bo Diddley, Stevie Wonder, Tom Morello, and about a dozen other artists.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maynard James Keenan also says...

'We barely remember who or what came before this precious moment, we are choosing to be here, right now, hold on, stay inside, this holy reality, this holy experience, choosing to be here in this body, this body holding me, be my reminder here that I am not alone in this body, this body holding me, feeling eternal, all this pain is an illusion.'

- Maynard James Keenan ('Parabola', Lateralus, Tool, 2001)

Maynard James Keenan says...

'Something has to change, undeniable dilemma, boredom's not a burden anyone should bear, constant over-stimulation numbs me and I would not have it any other way...It's not enough, I need more, nothing seems to satisfy, I don't want it, I just need it, to feel, to breathe, to know I'm alive.'

- Maynard James Keenan ('Stinkfist', AEnima,Tool, 1996)

Note: For a song that uses ass-fisting as a metaphor, it really is a poignant commentary on the challenges of maintaining passion in a long-term relationship. That's how I interpret it, anyway.

Visual: Tool

Have I mentioned how much I admire and respect Tool? These days, I don't typically get into the metal side of rock music, but I think most Tool fans can agree that these guys transcend any sort of genre limitations. Sure, most of their music is moody, depressing, angry, cynical, and down-right mean, but the way they masterfully craft their songs impresses me every time. It may be dark music, but it's by no means thoughtless or empty. They definitely aren't a band you would just casually throw on to fill the silence, you really need to invest yourself in each album to fully understand and appreciate what they do with the creation of music.

I've had the pleasure of witnessing Tool live in concert twice, and both times they've proven to be one of the loudest and most colourful live acts in existence. Although they haven't set an official date for their next album, it's coming! And when I finally get a chance to experience it, I'm sure they'll once again redefine themselves and blow me away. Until then, enjoy looking at the weird geniuses that comprise one of the most unique bands on the planet, Tool.


 




Tool is Maynard James Keenan, Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, and Adam Jones. I did not take any of those photos or design the Tool Eye logo, and I give full credit to whoever is responsible for these images.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Narrator of 'No Country For Old Men' says...

'It was a cold blustery day when he walked out of the courthouse for the last time. Some men could put their arms around a crying woman but it never felt natural to him. He walked down the steps and out the back door and got in his truck and sat there. He couldnt name the feeling. It was sadness but it was something else besides. And the something else besides was what had him sitting there instead of starting the truck. He'd felt like this before but not in a long time and when he said that, then he knew what it was. It was defeat. It was being beaten. More bitter to him than death. You need to get over that, he said. Then he started the truck.'

- The Narrator (No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy, 2005)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rick Grimes says...

'No one is going anywhere. I am doing something, I'm keeping this group together, alive. And I've been doing that all along, no matter what, I didn't ask for this! I killed my best friend for you people for christ sake! You saw what he was like, how he pushed me, how he compromised us, how he threatened us. He staged the whole Randall thing, led me out to put a bullet in my back. He gave me no choice! He was my friend, but he came after me. My hands are clean. Maybe you people are better off without me. Go ahead, I say there's a place for us, but maybe, maybe it's just another pipe dream. Maybe, maybe I'm fooling myself again. Why don't, why don't you go find out yourself, send me a postcard. Go on, there's the door, if you can do better, let's see how far you get. No takers? Fine. But get one thing straight. You stay, this isn't a democracy anymore.'

Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln, 'Beside the Dying Fire', written by Robert Kirkman and Glen Mazzara, The Walking Dead, created by Frank Darabont, 2012)

Note: This marks the beginning of what Mazzara calls The Ricktatorship. If the opening of Season 3 is any indication, it seems to be working. The group is much more disciplined and confident in their skills. But how long will it last? The Governor may have something to say about that.

TV Review: The Walking Dead

Last night, The Walking Dead television series made a gory comeback to AMC with the premiere of its third season. After a hotly debated first season, and a highly criticized second season, fans and critics alike have been either excited for dreading what the next season may bring to the beloved zombie-survival series. With the widely publicized addition of iconic graphic novel characters Michonne and The Governor, as well as the tease of The Prison as the end of the last season, fans of the comic book have a lot to look forward to in this upcoming 16-episode run. Having started and caught up on the graphic novel during Season 2, I write this review from the perspective of someone who is a fan of both versions of The Walking Dead. I plan on writing a full review of the comic series one day soon, but for now, let's stick to the television show. As much as I'd like to speak about every element specifically, I have a feeling this will be long enough if I just stick to my general impressions, so that's what I'll do.

Anytime you attempt to adapt a written and/or illustrated story over to a live action format, there are inevitably going to be compromises and issues that arise. Also, if the source material has a passionate and dedicated fanbase, there's the added pressure of trying to win them over while not copying the original to the point where it's redundant. The style of The Walking Dead series is exactly how I like stories to be transferred from one medium to another. The key characters are there, as well as familiar settings and story arcs, but as soon as the television series begins, it's clear that it's not a shot-for-shot remake of the comic series. There are characters who are added/omitted, or introduced earlier/later, or killed off before/after it occurs in the original narrative. Also, just because something major happens to a character in the books, doesn't mean it'll still happen to that character, or even at all. Keeping the storylines and characters fresh was a great choice by the writers/showrunners, and what's important here is that they've maintained the overall atmosphere (and carnage) of the original, so that we can still recognize the show as an adaptation/interpretation and not something else entirely.

On the surface, The Walking Dead series, in both of its forms, is about one of everyone's favourite 'what if' fantasies: a zombie apocalypse. A police officer wakes from a coma to find that 90% of the world is now a zombified monster that craves the brains, flesh, and blood of the living. He reunites with his estranged wife and son, joins a group of fellow survivors, and the game is on. However, like any great piece of horror/science fiction, the heart of the story lies in its major themes: Figuring out what's right when everything has gone terribly wrong, maintaining humanity in a world of zombies, and deciding where to draw the line between necessary survival and being just another murderous monster. The lead character, Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln), is anything but a straight hero, he's a complex character who struggles to be a good man and do what it takes to protect his loved ones. This dynamic introduces a lot of tension and moral dilemmas, and other than excessive zombie violence, this is the main attraction of the series for me.

It's important to note, for those unfamiliar with the series and possibly interested in giving it a chance, that this isn't all-out zombie action. I find a lot of the show's critics expect too much in the way of pacing the action, when it's entirely understandable that these survivors wouldn't be fighting zombies every minute of every episode. Robert Kirkman, the comic's creator, understands that in order for there to be tension, we have to care about the characters, and in order to care about them, we need to know who they are and what drives them. Achieving this takes dialogue, conversations, exposition, the kind of stuff that brainless viewers can't stand. Although, I will admit that at times, the dialogue can be overly melodramatic to downright cheesy, but I can forgive the writers for trying to add depth, even if it falls flat sometimes. As for the performances, there is a large and varied cast who all do the best they can with the material they are given. That being said, some performances definitely outshine others. Special shout out to Jon Bernthal's portrayal of Shane in Season 1 and 2, he played a perfect mix of sympathetic anti-hero and downright asshole.

This isn't a show about the undead, it's a show about the living, and how they deal with the situation they are in. There is at least one wicked zombie kill per episode, sometimes much more than just one, but please expect the action to slow so that the characters can process the horror that they're experiencing and develop accordingly. That all being said, I should mention that while Kirkman appreciates the need for fans to connect with the characters, I've never seen a creator be so cruel to its characters, he really puts these people through living hell, both in the comic and the show. So just when you think you have a favourite character, one that you really care about, the next scene they're being ripped to bits. It's a mean way to go about writing a popular story, but it also keeps the suspense right up and keeps the surprise factor high, so much so that you're almost afraid to turn the page or watch the next scene.

One of the main highlights of this television series is the design of the undead walkers, which comes from the talent and creativity of the make-up artists and the dedication of the extras, who really have to delve deep into their zombie personas. In order to live up to Charlie Adlard's amazingly realistic and gruesome animation in the comics, the showrunners fully embraced the fact that they would have to go all out with the design of the zombies. Even if they are only on screen for a second before they're re-killed, each zombie has its own backstory and varying level of injury/decomposition. I've heard about a million different complaints regarding this adaptation, some of them reasonable, but I almost never hear any criticism about the portrayal of the zombies. In terms of current shows that stimulate the eyes, as well as the brain, The Walking Dead is easily one of the best I've seen. It has its problems, like any show, but cinematography and design help elevate this series past a regular old survival drama.

In the first season, the show did exactly what an opening season does: The characters are introduced and outlined, the story is set, and the rules of the universe are offered. Of course, the production value of any first season won't be very high, and the characters aren't very fleshed out, but as an introduction to the series, the first 6 episodes do their job quite well. The second season, as per usual, looks a lot better in terms of cinematography and overall budget, and now that we know the basic personalities of the main characters, the writers can start to really mess with them and test what each character is made of.

The first half of Season 2 deals with a disappearance of one of their own, and the 2nd half deals with the aftermath of that situation, as well as the increasing turmoil over how the group should be led, and also a major dilemma about whether to execute a stranger who knows too much and is connected to potentially bad people. And it all culminates in one of the most exhilerating and terrifying sequences I have ever witnessed on television, as their safe haven is overrun by a herd of walkers, bigger than they've ever witnessed. While the pacing was a bit uneven, and some of the character development was problematic, I enjoyed Season 2 a lot more than most people. Sure, I could nitpick the logical inconsistencies and brag about how much better I could have written it, but at the end of the day, it's escapism entertainment in a one hour episode, there's no point in tearing it apart. If it doesn't work for you, that's totally fine, not every TV show will impress every viewer. For me, there was enough in the way of action, dialogue, suspense, gore, and humanity to keep me interested.

Which brings us to Season 3, the one that I expect will be notoriously remembered for years to come, whether or not the story sticks to the comics. In the opening of the episode, we see a different group from last season. Time has passed since we've last seen them, and even the weakest members of the group have been trained to better deal with scavenging and zombie combat. They run like a well-oiled machine under Rick's command, which is refreshing, since a major criticism of the show has been some of the character's uselessness and ineffectiveness. I like this development, because the more these character adapt to this new world, the more the writers have to work with. And let's just say, with the zombie-killing aspect down, these character may start to feel a little too comfortable, right before they meet the true villains of this world: other people. A huge theme of the comic series, one that has very much run over into the show, is that zombies are actually the easy part of this survival tale. It's the other survivors, the ones outside our main group, that pose the biggest threat to these characters. Up until this point, the survivors have only had to deal with the undead, a couple of strangers, and one of their own turning psychotic. There hasn't been a clear villain in the series yet, but that's exactly what the Governor is for, to show them just how brutal this new world can get. As the tagline for this season says: Fight the dead. Fear the living.

Overall, I was quite satsfied with the premiere of season 3. It introduced the characters all over again, as well as the main setting of the season, The Prison. We didn't get a glimpse of the Governor, but we see Michonne and her new friend Andrea heading out to find a better situation, which will inevitably lead them right to the Governor's doorstep. So I'll be patient for now. Once again, with a new season, we see yet another step up production quality. Plus, a whole lot zombie kills, as the group tries to create a safe haven in The Prison. Most importantly, this premiere set the tone for this season, teasing at inner conflicts and the dangers to come. Also, there were enough shout-outs to the lore of the comic series to keep the hardcore fans happy, as well as enough of a different direction to keep things fresh. I'll likely post a full season review once the season comes to an end, but for now, I'll be tuning in every Sunday night for some disgusting zombie action, interesting character development and interactions, and the sinful delight of watching this season's Big Bad live up to his comic series reputation. Remember, we ARE the Walking Dead.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Robert Kirkman says...

'There are certain boundaries for different mediums. I think that having the month long break between issue to issue or the 6 month break between volume to volume — you can push boundaries to a certain extent on a regular basis, more so than you can on a television show. So there might be instances where we go as dark as the comic in the show, but then we cut short and try to do something else and try to shift gears. People on a couch want to be entertained, they don’t want to be completely depressed. That said, we’re definitely going to go to those places. There are some things coming up in the 3rd season that I can happily and proudly say exceed some of the darkest things that we’ve done in the comic. I think people are really going to be pretty shocked with a lot of stuff that’s coming. The show is gonna have teeth, the show is not going to be a watered down version of the Walking Dead [comic]. Seeing it thus far, you’ve got zombie autopsies, Sophia, and there is definitely a lot of dark stuff going on in the show, and it’ll continue.'

- Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead comic series, from an interview with Steven Sautter, www.welovecult.com, 2012)

Visual: The Governor (The Walking Dead)

The Governor, who appears in The Walking Dead issues 27 - 48, is one of the most iconic and brutal villains I've seen in any form of fiction. In Season 3 of the television show, which premieres tonight, The Governor will be introduced, played by David Morrissey. I've never seen Morrissey in anything else, but judging from the promo pictures of the actor in character, I think that he suits the role well, even if he's going to play it differently than the comics villain.

Some villains are fun to cheer for, but the Governor is a murderer, torturer, rapist, and pedophile, so it's pretty easy to loathe him and hope for his painful demise. The rivalry between Rick and The Governor is exciting, disturbing, and heart-breaking in the comics, and I can't wait to see how it comes to life on the television screen. If The Governor is even half as ruthless in the show as he is in the comics, then he'll likely become a notorious TV villain for the ages.






Image #1: From issue 32, The Walking Dead, illustrated by Charlie Adlard and gray toned by Cliff Rathburn.

Image #2/#3: Courtesy of AMC.

Image #4: From issue 42, The Walking Dead, illustrated by Charlie Adlard and gray toned by Cliff Rathburn.

The Walking Dead comic series was created by Robert Kirman, 2003, and the televised adaptation was created by Frank Darabont, 2010.

Visual: The Walking Dead, Season 3

The Walking Dead returns tonight for its 3rd season. Having read the comics, and also knowing that the show-writers like to play with our expectations, I'm very intrigued to see how the upcoming 16 episodes play out. If it's anything close to the Prison arc in the comics, then we should be in for some highly entertaining, but viciously disturbing, television.
I know that this televised adaptation of the comics has more critics than fans, and even as a fan of both versions I can admit that the TV show has it's problems with pacing and characterization, but hey, it's still fun to watch and always an amazing feeling to see a story transformed from page to screen. To celebrate the premiere, I'm posting some Season 3 promotion pictures that I found around the internet. Tomorrow, I'll post of a full review of The Walking Dead television series, and I hope my fellow fans enjoy the premiere.

I'm pretty sure most, if not all, of these photographs/posters are courtesy of AMC. If not, I give full credit to whoever is responsible for the images in this photoset.

The Walking Dead comic was created by Robert Kirkman, 2003, who is also very involved in the TV show, which was created by Frank Darabont, 2010.







Anthony Kiedis also says...

'My shadow side so amplified, keeps coming back dissatisfied, elementary son, but it's so..my love affair with everywhere was innocent, why do you care, someone start the car, time to go, you're the best I know..my sunny side has up and died, I'm betting that when we collide, the universe will shift into a low..the transvestites that we have seen are treating me like Benzedrine, automatic laughter from a pro...My what a good day for a walk outside, I'd like to get to know you a little better, baby, God knows that I really tried, my what a good day for a take out bride, I'd like to say we did it for the better of...I saw you there, so unaware, those hummingbirds all in your hair, elementary son, but it's so..the disrepair of Norma Jean could not compare to your routine, balarama beauty going toe to toe...My what a good day, just to let it slide, I'd like to say we did for the better of...I thought about it and I brought it out, I'm motivated by the lack of doubt, I'm consecrated, but I'm not devout, the mother, the father, the daughter...Right on the verge, just one more dose, I'm traveling from coast to coast, my theory isn't perfect, but it's close...I'm almost there, why should I care, my heart is hurting when I share, someone open up and let it show...You don't form in the wet sand, you don't form at all, you don't form in the wet sand, I do.'

- Anthony Kiedis ('Wet Sand', Stadium Arcadium, Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2006)

Note: Anthony Kiedis is one of the most creative and talented lyrical wordsmiths of the last two decades, but I'll be damned if I know what most of his songs are actually about. And while social commentaries, thoughtful subtext, and meaningful themes are always appreciated in music, it's also fun to just get lost in the poetry and rhythm. But hey, if any of you ever speak with Kiedis, ask him what the hell he's talking about and let me know.

Anthony Kiedis says...

'She's only 18, don't like the Rolling Stones, she took a short cut, to being fully grown, she's got that mood ring, her little sister rose, the smell of Springsteen, a pair of pantyhose...this talking picture show is leaking through a silhouette, she said, my man, you know, it's time to get your fingers wet, your hustle's busted when you can't afford a cigarette, the last I heard from you, you were screaming, handle it...Knock the world right off its feet and straight onto its head, the book of love will long be laughing after you are dead, fascinated by the look of you, and what was said, make a play for all the brightest minds and light will shed.'

- Anthony Kiedis ('She's Only 18', Stadium Arcadium, Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2006)

Note: Although the Peppers have released many great albums with dozens of well-written songs, I feel like Stadium Arcadium is the pinnacle of all they ever needed to do as a band. With 28 songs of all different styles and moods, this ambitious double-disc could have been the band's last effort, as I don't think they'll ever release anything this special again. From beginning to end, Stadium Arcadium offers something for everyone, and while their newest album has some outstanding tracks, it also kind of seems pointless to try to follow-up this masterpiece.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Narrator of 'Haunted' says...

'Silly names for real people. As if you cut open a rag doll/and found inside:/Real intestines, real lungs, a beating heart, blood. A lot/of hot, sticky blood./And we were supposed to write short stories. Funny short/stories./Too many of us, locked away from the world for one/whole/spring, summer, winter, autumn - one whole season of/that year.'

- The Narrator (excerpt from the poem 'Guinea Pigs', Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk, 2005)

Job Description: A Poem About Director Denial ('Haunted' by Chuck Palahniuk)

Haunted, published in 2005, is probably Chuck Palahniuk's most ambitious project to date. The novel is a mix of short story anthology and fictional narrative, with 19 narrators/characters and 23 stories, which are all prefaced with a poem. Basically, you have 17 writers locked away for what they thought was a simple writer's retreat. Then, in order to have the best survival story, they all begin to sabotage eachother and themselves to the point of starvation and suffering, all with the goal of being famous afterwards. In the midst of all this craziness, each character is narrates their own story, which range from brutal body horror to psychological trauma to science fiction and monster tales. Today, I'd like to share a poem that introduces one of my favourite stories in the book. I highly recommend reading Haunted in its entirety, but only if you have a really strong stomach and a wicked sense of humour.

Job Description A Poem About Director Denial

'A police officer,' says Director Denial, 'has to protect a
      Satan worshiper.'
      You don't get to pick and choose.

Director Denial onstage, the tweed sleeves of her blazer
      disappear around her back,
      where her hands are holding each other
      hidden, the way you'd stand for a firing squad.
Her hair, salted with gray and cut short to look bristling
      on purpose.

Onstage, instead of a spotlight, a movie fragment:
      A security video, grainy black and white,
      of suspects under arrest, standing in lineups for
           identification by a witness.
      Suspects wrestling with handcuffs, or their coats pulled
          up in back
      to hood their faces as they go to court.

Onstage stands Director Denial, with the bulge of her
     shoulder holster
     swelling one lapel of her blazer.
Her tweed skirt hemmed above the cuffed white running shoes,
     the shoelaces double knotted.

She says 'An officer of the law has to die for pretty much
     everybody.'
     You die for people who kick dogs.
     Drug addicts. Communists. Lutherans.
     You die to protect and serve rich kids with trust funds.
     Child molesters. Pornographers. Prostitutes.
     If that next bullet has your name on it.

Her face crowded with victims and criminals, black and
     white,
     Director Denial says, 'You might die for welfare
           queens...'
     Or drag queens.
     For folks who hate you, or folks who'd call you a hero.
You don't get to discriminate when your number comes up.

'And if you're really stupid,' Director Denial says, 'you die
     still hoping.'
     You made the world just a little bit better place.
     And maybe, just maybe, your death
     will be the last.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Henry David Thoreau says...

'A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.'

- Henry David Thoreau (Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854)

Photography: Goose Lake

On holiday Monday, my good friend Agata and I took advantage of the sunshine and headed to Goose Lake. Before she suggested it, I had no idea this lake existed in my town. It's a pretty challenging uphill hike, but I find that most of the best nature spots require some hard work to get to. Can you believe it, early October and the lake was still swimmer-friendly. Enjoy these pictures!

Photographs taken by Chessterr Hollowberry at Goose Lake in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, 2012.







Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Robert Plant says...

'And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles, thanks to you, it will be done, for you to me are the only one.'

- Robert Plant ('Thank You', written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin, 1969)

Homer Simpson says...

'And Lord, we are especially thankful for nuclear power, the cleanest, safest energy source there is. Except for solar, which is just a pipe dream. Anyway, we'd like to thank you for the occasional moments of peace and love our family has experienced. Well, not today. But, you saw what happened! Oh Lord, be honest, are we the most pathetic family in the universe or what?'

- Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta, 'Bart vs. Thanksgiving', written by George Meyer, The Simpsons, created by Matt Groening, 1990)

The Post Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Post

Now, I don't usually write holiday-themed posts, but something about this past (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend has me inspired. From the dubious origins of the holiday all the way to what the idea of Thanksgiving has transformed into, it's a great excuse to eat a fat turkey and gather around loved ones. There's Christmas for appreciating family, friends, and presents, Valentine's Day for romance, Halloween for some fun and horror, and then we have this holiday whose meaning has been morphed into, essentially, a day to just be happy you're alive. I guess if every other day of the year is a time to reflect on what you wish you had or how things could have gone, we have Thanksgiving as a reminder to stop and appreciate the simple fact that we're alive, and all the awesomeness that comes along with that package deal. So, I'll do my part by listing 27 things that I am thankful for on this holiday Monday. I'll present it in the order that these pop into my head. Here goes:

I'm thankful for...

1. Chinacat Sunflower, my best source of happiness, support, and loving.

2. Music. Rock and roll, alternative, funk, blues, folk, just about any kind of music that gets me through the day and inspires me. Don't tell my human friends, but Music really is my best buddy.

3. My human friends, who are always good for a conversation, a jam session, or some nature time.

4. My older brother, who really is just a friend of mine. He helped shaped my (nerdy) interests and taught me a lot about life (and how to be evil) along the way.

5. The fact that I have a house to live in, a stocked fridge, a warm bed.

6. Perry. Perry is my car, named after his periwinkle colour tone. He's kind of a piece of crap, and he's been through a lot over the years, but I've come to think of him as a second home, a place where I can blast my music and get lost in my thoughts and get to wherever I need to be.

7. The fact that, while it's not a full-time position or enough to fully live on, I'm getting the chance to work as a freelance editor and put my education to good use.

8. My secondary education. I might have hated the process at the time, but looking back, going to college and university was an great experience. And it's awesome to be able to carry an intellectual conversation.

9. Conversation. Whether with a random stranger or a close friend, I'm thankful for anyone who knows how to have a meaningful conversation.

10. The sunshine. I'm thankful for it now more than ever, because it's early October and I'm STILL able to wear shorts and sandals. Hell, my friends even swam in a lake yesterday. Not too bad for 'Autumn'. For a giant blazing ball in the sky, the sunshine does wonders for just about anyone's mood. Keep on shining!

11. Mother nature. Trees, rocks, rivers, lakes, beaches, mountains, the beautiful blue sky, intense rainfalls, a landscape coated in snow (when I don't have to be in it), it's all a great source of entertainment and self-reflection. Put me next to a river, on a beach, or in the forest, and I'm a happy dude.

12. My piano keyboard. It was quite a slow start, considering I bought it about 4 years ago, but I'm finally learning how to play this thing and I love it. From jamming with my friends to learning the blues scales to composing my own songs, it's an amazing form of expression and a great way to pass the time.

13. A strong cup of coffee, with a lot of cream and a little sugar.

14. A frosty pint of beer, or a bottle, or a sleeve, can, anything that carries beer and allows me to drink it. Thank you.

15. Recreational (natural) substances. Enough said :)

16. My laptop, named Black Shadow Thunder, because I've had him (notice I like to personalize my inanimate objects, eh?) for two years now and he's never given me any trouble. My laptop allows me to write, listen to music, watch television and films, read, and learn. All from the comfort of my bed!

17. Television. Maybe not entirely as a medium, because TV is capable of doing a lot of harm for general intelligence and the destruction of brain cells, but I'm thankful for well written, well acted, hilarious or dramatic television. I think that TV can be a helpful source of entertainment, as long as you know how to use it.

18. Films. Same as television, an awesome form on entertainment, from the mindless variety to mind-blowing films that have me rethinking everything. I'm thankful for actors, screenwriters, directors, producers, and anyone else involved that gives their life and their heart and soul to providing the general public with an hour or two of escapism.

19. My ipod/ipod alarm clock. I've had the same ipod for over 5 years now, and while it may be severely outdated, it's still there for me everytime I press play.

20. I guess, you know, I'm thankful for living in a (mostly) peaceful part of the world where my life isn't constantly in danger and I'm not starving. It's a hard thing to truly be thankful for, when you think about how others are suffering worldwide, but I can admit that in the birth lottery, I did quite alright.

21. That being said, I'm thankful for Canada. More specifically, British Columbia. Even more specifically, Maple Ridge, for having some of the sweetest nature spots I could imagine. And it's a nice close distance to the City of Vancouver, which is a piece of art in itself.

22. Food. It seems quite general, but if I tried to get specific then the list would go on forever. So just...food. Anything that I can eat and it tastes delicious and doesn't make me sick.

23. I'm really thankful that I was born at a time where the world was already up and running. I'm very appreciative that things like electricity and transportation was already sorted out when I got here. I mean, there's always progress to be made, but being born in the 1980s sure as hell beats being born in the Dark Ages, I would imagine.

24. This shouldn't be so low on the list, but I'm thankful everyday (even if it's a love-hate situation, and even if I seem cocky for mentioning it) that I have the natural ability to express myself through writing, both personal narrative and fiction. Although it's a talent that can be learned, I'm super grateful that I was born with a knack for the written world. Now let's see if I can make money from it!

25. My parents, for being there for me, the way parents do.

26. It may be a cop out, but I'm using this slot to be thankful for any other aspect of my life or this world that I may have left out. It's my list, I can do what I want.

27. Finally, I'm thankful that I have a forum like this, which gives me the opportunity to
share, discuss, and learn from others about this crazy world and the people living in it. On top of that, I'm thankful for anyone, anywhere, anytime, who reads something that I've written.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dwight K. Schrute says...

'Women are like wolves. If you want a wolf, you have to trap it. You have to snare it. And then you have to tame it. Keep it happy, care for it, feed it, lovingly, like an animal deserves to be loved. And my animal deserves a lot of loving.'

- Dwight Schrute (played by Rainn Wilson, 'Valentine's Day', written by Michael Schur, The Office, 2006)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ernest Hemingway also says...

'Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.'

- Ernest Hemingway (A quote featured in Papa Hemingway, A.E. Hotchner, 1966)

Note: The actual date of this quote is unknown, so I went with the year that it was published. I completely agree with Hemingway's philosophy towards language and how to use it in order to write effectively. I acknowledge that literature is a great way for people to learn new words and phrases and to add to their vocabulary, but at the same time, every moment that a reader is wondering about a definition or looking at a dictionary is one less moment that they're engaged in the narrative. Like Hemingway, I also know how to use the fancy words, I just usually choose not to.

Ernest Hemingway says...

'Then there is the other secret. There isn't any symbolysm. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.'

- Ernest Hemingway (excerpt from a letter to Bernard Berenson, Ernest Hemingway, 1952)

Note: I've only read one of his stories, but the more I Hemingway quotes I read, the more I admire this guy. Of course, the story I read was The Old Man and the Sea, back in high school, and I would have loved to bust this quote out on Ms. Lang when we were spending weeks studying the symbolism and underlying themes. If the writer himself says there's nothing to read into, then all the english majors in the world can't argue with that. But analyzing can be so, so fun.

Excerpt from 'Parts of Noah' (8): Noah and the Burnt Lady

The only remarkable encounter I had on my journey back to a stain that used to be my dog was with a woman I cannot name. You could call it gut instinct, you might think I’m leaving something important out, I have no idea why I walked into the hospital ruins. Maybe I heard Dizzy singing her favourite lullaby and I’d taken the snot colored pill. Maybe I heard my mother laughing and laughing and laughing and I’d taken the pus colored pill. Maybe I really truly thought I’d find Mai in there and somehow this day might be all right after all and I hadn’t taken a pill at all. I know I threw a rainbow colored one into a sewer beside a grease stain that looked like the puke stain, the blood stain, the face I recognized but could never recall. Cash says there was never a functional, healthy hospital in this town, that it has always been burnt, completely hollowed out and occupied by skeletons and ghosts, mice and ash everywhere. Maybe I heard whispering, something so faint and so familiar that I had to follow it, right to her room. What she might have said was ‘save the boy, not the dog’ over and over and over. She seemed to have a story to tell but was burnt so badly, reduced to some destroyed, charred version of whoever she used to be. This survivor had clearly been sedated during the fire, and no matter what Cash says I know I remember a time when this hospital was alive and running, and the people in it even might have cared. All Cash told me as he sat on the steps outside was if I ever feel lucky for anything, it’s that I can’t smell the wreckage and the death, the ash and coal burnt smell of everything inside that hospital. I didn’t find Dizzy in there, and I didn’t find my Mom or Mai, but I did find a woman I cannot name, and she might have been whispering ‘save the boy, not the dog’ and maybe you can tell me what she meant by that. Her blankets, her gown, her hair and most of her skin had been burned black, so deep that she must not have felt any pain.  I felt like I should speak to her, but there was nothing to say and when I tried I only coughed and remembered to breathe. 

(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!

Sam Roberts also says...

'If love is a cult, we are all believers, cruel, passionate underachievers, fools lashing out at the dreamers, kiss the enemy and kill the redeemer, we are indeed a dying breed, we are the people of the sky, so when the river floods and you're made from mud, get yourself up high.'

- Sam Roberts ('Mind Flood', Chemical City, Sam Roberts, 2006)

Sam Roberts says...

'When it comes calling, will you heed the call? When it gets heavy now, will you let it fall? And as the loon cries, it opens minds, the stream reflects these Northern climes, through these days we walk the line, sixteen dollars and a couple of dimes. There've been a number of times, took a step back, couldn't read the signs, cross the plains til they start to climb, down to the valley where the river winds. Sing it for me, sing it for me, when the water comes down, get yourself up high.'

- Sam Roberts ('Mind Flood', Chemical City, Sam Roberts, 2006)

Photography: Gold Creek

Today was likely the last truly summer-y day of 2012. So, of course, I had to get outside and enjoy it. Here are some pictures I took at one of my favourite nature spots, by the river at Gold Creek, in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Until next year, summer!

All photos were taken by Chessterr Hollowberry.
 

 





Friday, October 5, 2012

Jeff Winger says...

'Alright everybody, I want to say something, everybody sit down! You know what makes humans different from other animals? We're the only species on Earth that observes Shark Week. Sharks don't even observe Shark Week, but we do. For the same reason, I can pick up this pencil, tell you it's name is Steve, and go like this *snaps pencil* and part of you dies, just a little bit, on the inside. Because people can connect with anything. We can sympathize with a pencil, we can forgive a shark, and we can give Ben Affleck an Academy award for screenwriting. People can find the good in just about anything, but themselves. Look at me. It's clear to all of you that I am awesome. But I can never admit that because that would make me an ass. But what I can do, is see what makes Annie awesome. She's driven. We need driven people, or the lights go out, and the ice cream melts. And Pierce, we need guys like Pierce, this guy has wisdom to offer. We should listen to him sometime, we wouldn't regret it. And Shirley, Shirley has earned our respect, not as a wife, not as a mother, but as a woman. And don't test her on that, because that thing about the jukebox was way too specific to be improvised. And Troy, who cares if Troy thinks he's all that, maybe he is. And Abed, Abed's a Shaman, you ask him to pass the salt, he gives you a bowl of soup, because, you know what, soup is better. Abed is better. You are all better than you think you are, you were just designed not to believe it when you hear it from yourself. I want you to look to the person to the left. Sorry, look at the person sitting next to you. I want you to extend to that person, the same compassion that you extend to sharks, pencils, and Ben Affleck. I want you to say to that person, I forgive you. You've just stopped being a study group, you have become something unstoppable. I hereby pronounce you: A Community.'

Jeff Winger (played by Joel McHale, 'Pilot', written by Dan Harmon, Community, 2009)

Note: This is the first, of many, Jeff Winger speech on Community. I know they've pretty much overhauled the entire show, but I hope that's one element they keep, because Joel McHale nails it everytime. Community returns on October 19th!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut says...

'Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college. And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I'm kidding. For instance, join the National Guard or the Marines and teach democracy. I'm kidding.'

-Kurt Vonnegut (A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut, 2005)

Note: Even before I read this book, I had a grudge against semicolons, I never use them. I feel like a period or a comma can get the job done in any situation. It's nice to know that one of the most clever authors of all time feels the same way. I once texted this quote to a fellow English Major, Wayne Mugsby, and it upset him so much so that he'll never read Vonnegut or even discuss his stories. Vonnegut has written controversial satire about war, religion, politics, you name it. But it's his stance on semicolons that turned my friend off. What a world.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rian Johnson also says...

'We had a tremendous young actor, Pierce Gagnon, who was five years old when we shot this. For him it was just getting to scream at the top of his lungs. It was fun. Pierce is a great actor and he just really had a great time doing those scenes. And it is the sort of thing also where a sequence like that is put together in little pieces. So it’s not like the full impact of what it’s going to be like on the screen is apparent to anybody on the set when you’re shooting it. Also, a lot of it had slow motion stuff. So you are shooting something that doesn’t look that impressive, and it’s only when you put it together in the context of how you build up the sound design and everything you realize how disturbing it all is.Which I think is a really good thing, especially considering it was a child actor on set. You are just getting bit, by bit, by bit, and do this, and going through this thing and that thing and that thing. It’s only in the edit room it all comes together into something kind of disturbing.'

-Rian Johnson (writer and director of Looper, from an interview with Brian Salisbury, www.filmschoolrejects.com, 2012)

Rian Johnson also says...

'Well, I think you start with a thread line. It’s not until I get the whole thing formed and step back that I can even see where the genre elements come in. If you started from, 'OK, I’m going to weave this genre into that genre and subvert it with that genre,' that would probably be a bad place to start. You’ve got to begin with the story that you’re telling and begin with figuring out where that has to go in order to get to the emotional and thematic place you want by the end. And then you’ve got to look at the needs of that and use the tools of genre to kind of support that and to get it there. So, for instance, it does lead to a thing where the beginning of the movie has like this noir twinge to it because the world of the city is a very dangerous world where it’s dog-eat-dog and people use violence to get what they want and to protect what’s theirs. And then Sara’s world has a much more western feel because it is, as opposed to the dirty vertical of the city, it’s the flat clean horizontal of the farm. It’s got those wide open spaces and there’s a totally different feel. That’s to support this moral sort of dichotomy that I was hoping to build that comes down to the big choice at the end for Joe, which is the city’s way of doing things versus Sara’s way of doing things. So it’s about using, hopefully, the tools of genre to support the construct that you’ve got in your head, which is coming from a story-based and thematic place.'

-Rian Johnson (writer and director of Looper, from an interview with Brian Salisbury, www.filmschoolrejects.com, 2012)

Rian Johnson says...

'Well, it was near future. I wanted it to be very grounded. And I wanted it to be recognizable. My thinking was that we’re asking the audience to absorb so much in that first half hour of the movie with the rules of Loopers, and time travel, and the TK stuff. I wanted the world to be something that didn’t take that much energy to absorb, where you looked at it and said, 'OK, I know where we’re at.' And so, near future, dystopia. There are some fun touches in there, and hopefully it holds together in a cohesive way that is kind of unique. But overall, I didn’t want it to be having to figure out how the technology in this new world worked. I wanted you to just kind of see it as a natural evolution of the world that we live in now. So all the design decisions kind of came from there. You know, and also from a story place. It made sense, to me, to make the world that way because all these characters are acting in very self-serving ways. Joe is doing everything he can to protect his piece of the pie at the beginning. So to show the world around him and why he’s like that, it showed that it’s either you have your stack of silver or you are in the gutter. That was important as well.'

Rian Johnson (writer and director of Looper, from an interview with Brian Salisbury, www.filmschoolrejects.com, 2012)

Film Review: Brick, Looper, and Rian Johnson

Back in 2005, a genre-bending independent film titled Brick, written and directed by Rian Johnson, was released. The film was more or less ignored by film-goers, although it did earn itself a modest cult following. On my older brother's recommendation, I watched Brick. And then I watched it again, and again, and yet again. It provided one of those magical film fanatic moments where I truly felt like I was watching something original. Skip ahead 7 years, and Johnson's third film, Looper, has just been released, finding immediate success in its opening weekend. Now, I suspect that a lot of people will be going back to watch, and likely enjoy, Brick. I'd love to include Johnson's second film, The Brothers Bloom, in this review, but I haven't had the chance to see it yet. So I'll stick to Brick, Looper, and the two episodes of Breaking Bad that Johnson directed.

Brick, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, takes all the mystery, style, and edginess of an old-school film noir flick and sticks it into a modern day high school. JGL plays an outcast with a violent streak who embarks on an investigation into his ex-girlfriend's murder. On the way, he meets all the usual suspects: dangerous thugs, a femme fatale, and of course, the criminal kingpin. All of this would be entertaining enough, but the fact that Johnson opted to have teenagers/young adults play these roles adds a fresh twist to an old genre. Walking the line between darkly humourous satire and a dreadfully dramatic atmosphere, Brick still stands out as one of the most unique mystery movies I've seen.

One of the most outstanding aspects of the film is the way in which the characters speak, using old-time mobster slang and translating it into modern day, fast-talking, stylish dialogue. I guarantee that you won't catch everything that's said on the first go-around, but chances are you'll want to rewatch the movie as soon as it ends anyways. This was the film that began my actor-crush for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and marked Rian Johnson as a director that I knew I should keep an eye on. I highly recommend Brick, especially for those craving a new take on an old story. Note: This seems to be a theme with the movies I review on here, but this really isn't a date movie, a sunny day movie, or anything to put on and casually watch. While it never felt like a chore, Brick is definitely a film that you have to dedicate attention and mind-power to.

About half a year ago, a science fiction film titled Looper found its way onto my radar. I saw a trailer and was immediately excited about the cast, which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Paul Dano, and Jeff Daniels, all actors that have impressed the hell out of me in one way or another in the past. I also took note that Rian Johnson, who I had all but forgotten about since Brick, was the film-maker behind this sci-fi time travel mind-screw. I'm not usually super excited about anything from the science film genre, I tend to like my entertainment grounded in the world I know, but I figured that if Rian Johnson could do for the time travel genre what he did for the film-noir genre, it was worth a shot. Over the weekend, my wait ended, and I finally had a chance to seeLooper.

The basic premise of the film: In the year 2072, time travel has been invented, and quickly outlawed, thus the technology is being exclusively used by criminal organizations. And since human-tracking technology has made it impossible to hide or dispose of a body, these criminal organizations have found a neat solution, sending their targets back 30 years to be murdered on the spot by low-level hitmen known as Loopers. Gordon-Levitt plays one of these Loopers, Joe, and things get awful messy when he shows up for a kill, only to find that he's meant to kill his older self, played by Bruce Willis. (known as 'closing your loop'). He hesitates, Willis gets away, and the game is on. It's a huge mistake to let your intended target escape, so Joe desperately tries to find his older self and finish the job. For anyone who is familiar with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the first thing you'll notice about his role in this film is that his face has been prosthetically mutated. The reason for this is that he's essentially playing a younger Bruce Willis, and I assume that Johnson decided that it was easier to make JGL look like a younger Willis, rather than to make Willis look like an older JGL.

Now, the description that I've included above isn't anything that you wouldn't be able to put together from commercials or trailers. However, due to what I found to be a very clever marketing campaign, the plotline I've described is really only half the story. What the trailers don't tell you is that humans have not only developed time travel, but a number of them have also developed telekinesis. And it's no coincedence that Joe's future self was sent back to be executed, because a future crimelord known as the Rainmaker has taken control and is hell-bent on closing every Looper's loop. So Old Joe, having witnessed the murder of his one true love, has fought his way back in time to find the Rainmaker as a child and kill him, thus preventing this whole situation. As Jeff Daniels' character, a mob boss named Abe, says, 'All this time travel stuff can fry your brain like an egg.'

Now that you know the story, I'll share my thoughts on the film. I liked it. End of review. Just kidding. Often, when I'm dealing with science fiction films, I find they can be too gimmicky, too preach, too confusing, or too overwhelming. I respect that most sci-fi is about making a statement about humanity and the dangers of technology, but I'll always be a fan of character-based plot, which is why I found myself quite impressed with Looper. For a future-based film that involves corrupt crime organizations, time travel, and telekinesis, it really does feel like a small film. Actually, half of it simply takes place on a farm. We don't see any epic revolutions, or cities collapsing, or the threat of the apocalypse, the scope stays on the core group of characters and really revolves around Joe trying to decide between his own short-sighted and selfish ways, or taking a leap of faith and saving his future self. That's a dilemma I can sink my teeth into.

As with any sort of time travel narrative, logic becomes a very slippery thing to hold on to. You want to just sit back and enjoy what's being presented, but there are naturally so many loopholes and possibly plotholes that only get more complex and troubling the more you think about it. Thankfully, Old Joe has a solution for that, let me paraphrase: 'I don't want to talk about this time travel shit!', and 'We could talk about it all day, but here's what you need to know'. So, in a way, the movie itself gives the audience a pass, asking us to accept the premise and not to think too hard about it. Essentially, this isn't a film about time travel, that's only the set-up to get the characters where they need to be. This is a film about morality and doing what it takes to be a hero.

A few notes about the lead performances: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in my opinion, doesn't really have anything else to prove as an actor. He's done it all and done it well, so mimicking Bruce Willis's mannerisms and taking on his facial features may have been a challenge, but I never doubted that he could do it. If you're a fan of Bruce Willis, you'll like him as Old Joe, no big surprises there. And if you aren't, well, there's other actors here to enjoy. Emily Blunt, who plays Sara, the mother of young Rainmaker, does her job well, portraying the right amount of emotion and strength, when necessary. Then there's Cid, the young Rainmaker, played by Pierce Gagnon. At only 5 years old, this boy steals the show, acting more realistically and impressively than I've seen a lot of adult actors be able to pull off. His performance really is unbelievable and is probably the best reason to see this film. Trust me, if this kid sticks to acting, he'll be a huge star. Jeff Daniels takes a nice turn as one of the main villains of the film, and only convinced me more that he's an actor worth watching. And a quick note about Paul Dano, who has a small role as Seth, a fellow Looper, this guy is an amazing dramatic actor and I highly recommend checking out his other roles, notably Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood.

Finally, I want to speak a bit about Rian Johnson's portrayal of the future, which is one of my favourite aspects in the film. Rather than stick to the old formula of huge skyscrapers, flying cars, and floating holograms, the film-maker chose to take a more realistic route to get us from the world we know to the future world that he presents. Sure, there are some huge steps in technology, but, as it would be in real life, only the super rich or super corrupt have access to these. Poor people are poorer than ever, and the city that Looper is set isn't anywhere close to a futuristic paradise. Johnson offers one of the best representations of the future that I've ever seen on film, because I can actually imagine the world looking this way, with floating motorcycles flashing through the ruins of lower-class surburbia. And as I mentioned, a large portion of the film takes place on a farm, which looks like any old farm, just aged by 30 years. The effect that this has is important, because we aren't constantly questioning how this future world came to be, and instead, we're focused on what's important here, the characters and their stories.

And, for those that don't know, how cool is it that he's directed two episodes of Breaking Bad? The first was 'Fly', the 'bottle-episode' from Season 3 which polarized die-hard fans, some calling it pointless and boring, and others calling it a dramatic masterpiece. The other episode was from the recent 8-episode run, titled 'Fifty-One', which also divided fans, due to it's lack of action and very small scope on Walter and Skyler White. The scene where Skyler walks into the pool and Walt jumps in after her, oh man, chills. Both these episodes are two of my favourite from the entire series, and I hope to see Johnson bring his unique vision to both the big and the small screen in coming years.

Overall, it's amazing to see Rian Johnson go from a nickel-and-dimes film like Brick to a Hollywood blockbuster like Looper, and it's very refreshing to see that even on a grand stage, he still cares about an engaging story and interesting characters. He doesn't have enough material to warrant my favourite director's list, but he's definitely a film-maker that I'll be keeping a close eye on in the future. Your homework assignment: Go watch Brick, and go see Looper.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Fool also says...

'We'll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee there's no laboring i' th' winter. All that follow their noses are led by their eyes but blind men, and there's not a nose among twenty but can smell him that's stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following. But the great one that goes upward, let him draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again. I would have none but knaves follow it since a fool gives it.'

-The Fool (King Lear, William Shakespeare, early 1600s)

The Fool says...

'I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They'll have me whipped for speaking true; thou'lt have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o' thing than a fool, and yet I would not be thee, nuncle: thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides and left nothing i' th' middle.'
-The Fool (King Lear, William Shakespeare, early 1600s)

Note: I'm not the world's biggest Shakespeare fan, but I do respect the man's ability to mix humour with heartbreak, wisdom with insults, and violence with romance. I read my fair share of Shakespeare back in the high school and college days, and King Lear has always been my favourite work of his, and The Fool is easily one of my all-time favourite Shakespearean characters. He's the only one that can tell the stubborn King Lear any sort of truth or criticism, because he's a fool that no one takes seriously. Yet, somehow, he's the most intelligent and wise character in this play. I won't bust out the Shakespeare too often on here, but today felt like a good day for it. Oh, and the date is vague because there are multiple editions, but we know that the first version was written between 1603 - 1606, then revised and re-issued later on.