TFPO column: prisoners of gravity - US BoB vs NASA

The US Box of Business takes on NASA at the Supreme Court in a feeble attempt at satirizing one of the most ridiculous things I've read in the news lately - and there's a whole lotta ridiculous out there.

Prisoners of Gravity: US BoB vs NASA


film review: w the movie

Some movies defy the quick, imprecise summary of a star rating, even the dual-pronged entertainment/craft kind. W The Movie is such a film. So, I'm afraid you'll have to slog through the whole review to get at film whose impression left me feeling ambiguously positive.

W The Movie: A Gonzo Bizarre Satire of George W. Bush

Entertainment: Pink
Craft: Blue


no post for "The Ladder" this week

I apologize for the lack of an episode of The Ladder this week but truth be told I kinda forgot. In between things I'm trying to wrap up Chapter 6 of a novel, which is rather critical as it marks the end of the first of three parts. I'll post another entry in the Secret Hospital plotline next week. Promise. I hope.


TFPO column: there's no healthcare signal in the noisy debate

The title says it all for this week's rant at The Front Page Online:

There's No Healthcare Signal in the Noisy Debate


film review: district 9

It would be easy to succumb to the action spectacle, bloody and explosive as it is. So let's be honest: a particular piece of alien military technology that makes a memorable appearance at the end isn't lacking in thrills. But at heart District 9's violent action carries with it a rich and unnerving subtext. And that subtext makes for a film that invites dissection and discussion long after the credits fade into black. It's a very different kind of movie from Moon: soft SF as opposed to hard. Yet in the tradition of good science fiction, it manages to bring together social commentary and hard-hitting storytelling within the classic context of humanity's first encounter with an alien race. Past the surface appeal of the film's craft and accessibility to audiences is a film of intelligence and sensitivity.

Review at TFPO: District 9

Entertainment: ** (out of two)
Craft: ** (out of two)
Gold star recommended!


the ladder - blueprint (part 3)

The Ladder – An experimental web-only fiction series that spans multiple story lines and characters…Tune in every Wednesday for a new installment.

The way to the hospital took them through residential neighbourhoods pitting flat-roofed houses and leftover bungalows against sizeable Ficus trees whose thick gnarly roots, pushing up and splitting concrete, wreaked havoc on the sidewalks. Eriq withdrew gloomily into himself, thinking of his brother, then trying not to think of him by cataloguing superheroes with addiction problems. Tony Stark, of course: Iron Man vs the “demon in the bottle.” Or before he was born, though he had many of those old issues, the Green Arrow’s sidekick Roy Harper, aka Speedy - Dennis O’Neal and Neal Adams’ memorable foray into the harrowing realm of heroin addiction. It was no Requiem for a Dream, but for comics it had been pretty intense. But Aaron was no hero. Just some punk with daddy issues. His mother would say the same of him. At least Eriq has his art. Aaron had shown an aptitude for math and science, but came to view it as pointless in light of his friends’ obsession with basketball and vandalism.

Vlad also thought of superheroes, noting that even the movie Hancock staked a claim for itself with an alcoholic superhero. But other than stories of heroics directed against drug dealers and powerful cartels, or the personal drama of overcoming addiction, what more was there to say? What kind of hero could rescue a drug addict from addiction?

Eriq considered a superhero with mind control abilities. Or maybe a superhero who could cure addiction by entering into people’s dreams. Certainly his dad wouldn’t be the hero Aaron needed, and his mother was overwhelmed. A story told thousands of times before – broken homes, devils in small plastic bags, all the usual heartaches. It all sucked. Stupid Aaron. He should know better – look at why Dad ran out.

Vlad didn’t entertain fantasies about a superhero who could rescue Aaron. It struck him as condescending, however much he had to admit it fit the challenge of coming up with a better Superman than Superman. As the trope went, we want to look up to heroes whose moral steadfastness inspires us to greatness. But it needed to be more than that. It needed to be…something. He didn’t know what. His own family background – Russian immigrants to the New World – was relatively free of the stuff of unnatural tragedy. Papa Kossakovsky, an autodidact librarian, and Mama, a housewife who had taken to gardening as a hobby and then a business, were ever-fixed marks that remained firmly unshaken by storm and

In the back seat, Mrs. Robertson stared out the window of Vlad’s venerable Jetta, chewing her lip and unconsciously removing her dark cherry lipstick. No thoughts of implausibly proportioned costumed heroes. No adventures in space or parallel dimensions. No saviour, except for a Jesus Christ who seemed ever more a fading wish. Only memories of a young girl in the community college’s nursing program, the handsome young English major with literary ambitions, an impetuous night in the janitor’s closet making love to the scent of pine-sol and rusty pipes. But forget all that: her baby was in the hospital, overdosed on whatever flavour-of-the-month of poison he’d ingested.


TFPO column (the disturbing incident of the child) and new MO in rotation

This week's Recreational Nihilist column is more of an expression of despair than anything else. The title, I think, speaks for itself.

The Disturbing Incident of the Child in the Movie Theatre

And this month is Morbid Outlook's 17th anniversary. My contribution involved more In Rotation music reviews. Clickety-click right here for reviews of GPKISM, Waves Under Water, and more.


film review - G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

I apologize for the week-long silence, but a much-needed staycation meant minimal time near a computer. But with this week's review of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, everything should be back on track.

There's much not to offer by way of preamble. Although I've never been a fan of G.I. Joe, I was certainly more entertained by the movie's trailer than the incomprehensible mess of trailer that announced the arrival of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Translation: I was actually looking forwarded to a little mindless B-movie entertainment. Alas...

Entertainment: no stars
Craft: no stars

Review at The Front Page Online:

G.I. Joe: More Zero Than Hero


the ladder - blueprint (part 2)

The Ladder – An experimental web-only fiction series that spans multiple story lines and characters…Tune in every Wednesday for a new installment.

Vlad’s blue eyes – icy but vivid – were anything but windows to the soul. The writer, who disdained metaphysics as, would have scoffed at the very notion of a soul let alone the idea that a glance into the eyes could reveal character. Eriq disagreed, of course; eyes, he often said, were an artist’s best means of revealing character in the printed page. Vlad would retort that living people weren’t drawings on paper and that “ocular fenestration” was only meaningful in the context of body language. It was one of many arguments they never resolved. But for all of Vlad’s disdain, Eriq could tell his friend was churning with ambition and worry beneath the glacial, haughty expression on his face.

“Superman,” said Vlad, reverently but also with clear distaste.

“Break it down for me.”

Not even Vlad could resist the pull of the Superman mythology or, at least, the idea of a Superman resplendent in his strength and power of flight. The steadfastly good hero all but invulnerable to evil, a desirable mirror image to that of unstoppable malevolence. The powerful saviour of the powerless. Even, of course, with the collateral risks of superpowers, dissected and analyzed countless times in comics and essays, Superman still possessed a kind of irresistible majesty. Vlad, raised on Superman and Batman and all the other icons just as Eriq had been, soaked up the fantastical promise of superheroism while aware that superheroes could just as easily be surrogate gods, harbingers of doom for a dependent humanity, catalysts of profound change. But he hated comics. At least, he hated the storytelling that often made comics little more than soap operas.

“It’s the lack of rules,” he said, animated in the peculiar way that only discussing comics or politics could evoke. “People die, they come back to life. You have magic, and aliens, and science fiction, and all these different genres mashed altogether. The Multiverse? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Just totally fucking kidding. It’s an excuse to do anything at any time. It’s ridiculous. Nothing means anything. Why do all stories have to quote ‘exist’ unquote in the same universe? But that’s not life. Right? That’s not life.”

And so on. That Superman was also an alien instead of a human irritated him to no end. “It’s like Von Daniken and his aliens-built-the-pyramids crap. Are humans really too dumb to do anything for themselves?”

“It’s a metaphor,” Eriq said, knowing full well that if anyone metaphor he didn’t like, it was Vlad. Distantly, he heard the phone ring – he didn’t keep one in his room because he hated the shrill disruption of his concentration while drawing. He ignored it.

“Yeah, yeah. Immigration to the US and all that. Of course I understand that. I’d still be in Russia otherwise. But think about it: Superman is superheroic because he isn’t human, and no human could ever hope to be Superman.”

Eriq was about to speak – he had a glimmer of an idea – when his mother’s voice jolted him. “Come down, Eriq! For God’s sake, get down here.”

Puzzled, Eric rushed down the stairs followed by Vlad, who wasn’t in quite the same hurry. They found Mrs. Robertson with the old-fashioned phone receiver in her hand, arm loose by her side. The expression on her face, one of corked anger and despair, put her at odds with the cheery peaches-and-cream décor of the living room. Eriq’s irritation turned to worry, then to resignation.

Mrs. Robertson wept. “It’s Aaron. He did it again. He…”
“That…” Eriq started before choosing instead to swallow the angry expletive. Vlad, who kept his expression neutral, remembered that the Robertson’s car was undergoing repairs at the dealer.

“I’ll drive,” he said.


TFPO column: race and the possibility of national dialogue

I don't normally feel compelled to comment on race related issues, especially when the news media is in feeding frenzy. Rightly or not, it seems to me that everything that can be said on the matter has been said. We know what the problem is. We know what the solution is. Or, at least, we have ideas of what the solution might be even if we disagree on the details. Yet, the spectre of racism haunts us still. The fundamental question is, is it still racism? And if it is, what is the underlying root cause beyond the obvious consequences of history?

Race and the Possibility of National Dialogue