vegas review: criss angel/cirque du soleil's believe

The short version of how I would describe this awful production is: sucks donkey balls. Unfortunately, that's not the kind of colourful metaphor my editor at TFPO is looking for. So, here's the more elaborate, articulate warning that you ignore at your own peril if you choose to see Believe in Vegas:

Criss Angel’s Believe: Some Things Just Shouldn’t Happen in Vegas


october in rotation music reviews at morbid outlook

This month's In Rotation at Morbid Outlook features Vergil, Silent Killer, Revolting Cocks ("RevCo") , and the new single from the Cruxshadows.

Note: Surprise deadlines at work interfered with my plans for another chapter of The Ladder. (Sorry, Nick.)


the ladder - secret hospital (part 6)

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

The guards were dressed in a black armored combat uniform developed as part of the Future Combat Missions project. Despite plans to release versions of the Future Force combat uniform to regular infantry troops, only the most elite and secret military units were deployed using the most cutting-edge technologies. Powered exoskeletons; networked, HUD-enabled helmets at the locus of a tactical sensor and communications array capable of providing 360 degree situational awareness; intelligent weapons that interfaced directly with the headgear to provide greater accuracy and synchronize fire with other networked assets; smart armor both lightweight and resistant to bullets and fire – the Red Cell Guard Detachment was the best equipped force to stand watch over the patient code-named Red Queen. They stood motionless, half a dozen faceless menaces, while another dozen both in and out of uniform remained on stand-by in nearby barracks. Only a single khaki-uniformed man, fresh-faced and freckled behind a podium imbedded with security and door controls, showed any visible signs of humanity.

Dr. Poole stepped out of the cell with a faint smile; candlelight in the darkness of stern military discipline. He hummed to himself as he eased his way past the unsmiling Captain and through the corridors.

“You seem pleased with yourself,” said a voice. Lieutenant Jazara Jones; Nurse Jones. She walked alongside him, fresh from her rounds and carrying a clipboard.

“A breakthrough, you might say.”

Maram had, at long last, put some small, delicate measure of trust in him, however hesitant. She let herself fall into his arms, head turned to look over the shoulder as if afraid he would let her fall. When he caught her as promised, she repeated the exercise with eyes closed.

“How did you do it?” said Nurse Jones.

The psychiatrist smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling. “Apple pie; you gather the ingredients, you roll the dough for the pie crust, then you put it in the oven and take in the warm apple-cinnamon smell. Finally, the pie is ready. All it takes is patience and love.”

Jones looked at him with an expression of such ferocious doubt Dr. Poole felt like prey to a lion. “You sound like a self-help book.” A smile softened the blow. The psychiatrist studied the nurse’s face, not offended by her skepticism but puzzled.

“What made you decide to follow in your mother’s footsteps?” he said. It threw her off; she had been expecting a sharp comeback, some form of reproach.

“I wasn’t going to at first,” she said. “But when you grow up with military families, you see things…”

Jazara had met many veterans, young men and women who were physically or psychology maimed – often both. Most were vets from the first Gulf War. “All good people,” she said, “who needed looking after.”

Dr. Poole could not point to a similar, direct call to compassionate action; a college roommate with early onset schizophrenia, a shell-shocked grandfather who fought in World War II, a drastic case of mental illness in his personal sphere of influence. Yet while completing his residency, he became fascinated by the influence of the mind on pain, a question that led to a fascination with the mind itself. A rotation in the cold, sterile corridors and cells of a psychiatric ward – a world of screams and delusions, of sheer unreason and otherness. Filled, childishly perhaps, with Foucault on one hand and the psychiatric heroes of literature (somehow Abraham Van Helsing counted among these) on other, he felt drawn towards exploring that mysterious of all human frontiers. Exploring – and curing what had once been dismissed as demonic possession.

As they reached his office, it seemed to Dr. Poole as if the nurse had something else in mind.

“Oh, nothing,” she said when he offered her the proverbial penny. “I’m just wondering what she’s like…you know…”

The psychiatrist unlocked the door and switched on the light. He looked at Nurse Jones with an expression of sympathy, like a mall Santa looking at a child asking for something that he or she couldn’t possibly receive.

“There is a reason Red Queen is beyond idle curiosity,” he said.

Whatever reply Jones intended to offer was drowned out by an announcement on the public address system. “Well, I guess I’d better not keep the director waiting.”

Dr. Poole wished her a good afternoon, adding advice in a soft, old voice, “The wisest choice is always easiest in retrospect.”

Before she could ask, Dr. Poole closed the door and her summons to Colonel Di Nova’s office repeated on the loudspeakers.


film review: where the wild things are

Question: What does it say about a movie that it is about childhood, stars a child, but isn't the sort of movie children should watch?

Where the Wild Things Are:

Entertainment: zero stars
Craft: * (out of two)

Full review at The Front Page Online


general update and new TFPO column

My apologies for the inconsistent updates, but life has been on the wee bit erratic side. The Ladder will continue with a new installment next week, and since this week's column didn't post on time I was delayed in linking to it here. Without any further delay, I give you...

Not Another Obama Column

Tomorrow: a review of Where the Wild Things Are.


film review: whip it

Roller derby makes all the difference...along with a few other things that make fun and believable what could otherwise have been a giant cliché.

Entertainment: ** (out of two)
Craft: ** (out of two)

Whip It: Rollicking Entertainment, Not Whiplash


the ladder - blueprint (part 4)

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

A waiting room like all waiting rooms – nondescript, inoffensive, with beach scenes on bleached wall and a vending machine filled, ironically, with candy bars and chips. The corridor bisecting the rows of chairs with worn blue cushions hummed with tight-lipped nurses and sour-faced doctors rushing along with insomniac medical residents, visitors, and the occasional shuffling or rolling patient. When they arrived, the overweight Latina handling phones, computers and impatient visitors like a calm octopus regretfully informed them that they would to wait for news. So they sat. And they waited.

While Mrs. Robertson retreated into quiet suffering, eyes moist but filled with resolve, Eriq sketched furiously on a large pad of paper. Vlad watched as vast scenes of superhero carnage unfolded in jagged black and white linework – caped muscle men and tightly-clothed women against armies of robot with volcanic eyes and the armament of a dozen Abrams tanks.


Mrs. Robertson stood up every so often to ask the receptionist for news, only to be told that the doctors were at work and would come out when ready.


Eriq was more angry than worried, fully expecting Aaron to bounce out of the intensive care like a doped-up tigger. What angered him was knowing that his brother would make yet another resolution to quit, yet another promise to his mother to be a good son, yet another attempt to do his part in healing the family. They’d been through it before, stuck in some hellish cycle of expectations and false hope.


Vladimir Kossakovsky remembered his years in the old Soviet Union, but only as if his memory were fogged in. He was nine when glasnost took hold and, in the euphoric freedom that emerged from a new age’s birth, his parents felt compelled to finally escape to the American Dream instead of suffering through the painful pangs of a transforming county. He had memories of that inimitable Russian stoicism, muted opinions, whispers, and a small candle to hold out against the looming shadow of the KGB. Why he thought of this now, he didn’t know, except perhaps for the fact that he caught a look between Eriq and Mrs. Roberson, a guilty exchange that suggested the familiar spectre of uncertainty.


What kind of mother was she? For a moment – a brief, stabbing moment – Mrs. Robertson wished Aaron would die, picturing him on a hospital bed lifeless and with tubes. Not out of punishment, only to spare him the wasted life of a junky or criminal. Oh dear God, she prayed. Why am thinking that? Of course she didn’t want him dead. She wanted him whole and returned to her. She wanted him living up to his potential. But if he wouldn’t listen to her or his brother or to the doctors – what hope did he have?


Eriq also thought of Aaron’s death – how it would be better for everyone – and the self-loathing bubbled up and burst from his pencil onto the page in the form of grotesque battle scenes. But what love did his brother have for him? When he needed someone older and stronger help fend off the bullies, someone more mature to dispense advice, where was Aaron?