review: avatar

For further proof that Avatar is an exercise in audience manipulation - viewers are fiddles, you see - consider how the Na'vi's appearance had to pass the "would ya?" test.

* (out of two)
* (out of two)

Avatar: Nobody Home in These Beautiful Bodies


the ladder - synapse city (part 5)

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

A squawk on the radio, cryptic nonsense words lost in static.

“I think that means we’ve been spotted,” the Equation says.

“I’ve got it covered,” the Engine says, stopping the Slicer nose-to-nose with a beat-up dumpster that looks like it hasn’t been emptied for months. One look at the Effect and she nods her understanding. She unbuckles her seatbelt, grabs a small black knap-sack, and exits the car into the lightless gloom of the alleys. The Equation’s face bends into a tight smile, but he keeps fiddling with the console.

“Delphi analyzed radio and sensor data. There are 37 cops deployed on foot, roadblocks on every street around Lumen’s lab, and 1 helicopter.”

“My kind of odds.”

The Engine, with a flashy white grin, pushes a small black button on the dashboard. The Slicer’s black exteriors gradually turns to rust and peeled silver paint; a classic jaunt turned wrecked jalopy. While the Slicer undergoes its urban camouflage, the scientist studies data readouts on the screen, schematics, plans. He thinks of the strategy behind the show of force. Police Commissioner Evelyn Grant Warren must have deliberately started the chess game. The prize: answer to the disappearance of Synapse City’s foremost metafictional physicist. And power. Always power. Because Dr. Artemus Lumen, whom the Equation studied with at the Synapse City University, studies phenomena that can alter the very fabric of reality. The Equation is, perhaps, the only to truly understand Dr. Lumen’s work. But to people like Commissioner Warren and her pet mobsters, like Boss Marcone, what counts are the results. So: a massive show of force to draw out the Equilibrium Trio. Possible scenario 1: create enough holes in the net to let the Trio into Dr. Lumen’s lab, find what everyone is looking for, then close the holes and set the trap. Possible scenario 2: blockade the lab and hold it hostage to force the Trio into some kind of action.

Or maybe the Equation doesn’t have enough to properly theorize. The only solution is to wait for the Effect to do what she does best: discover information that people don’t want discovered. Thus: scientist and commando wait in the camouflaged car, eyes open for movement against them, eager to move into action.


film review: leap year

The title of this week's review of Leap Year says it all.

Entertainment: no stars
Craft: * (out of two)

At TFPO - Leap Year: Skip It.


the ladder - synapse city (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. Better yet, subscribe by eMail to ink [and] ashes and get The Ladder delivered fresh to your inbox!

Note: I will post an organized list of links to all episodes of The Ladder to date next week so you can revisit episodes you may have missed or catch up if you're new to the series. As always, I appreciate your feedback and comments.

Though the Equation knows something about Dr. Lumen’s work he doesn’t elaborate, citing instead the need to gather confirming evidence. His partners, frustrated but accustomed to the Equation’s caution, leave him poring over the holographic display with a notepad in hand. Yawning, The Effect takes to the kitchen, raiding the fridge for a bottle of Chardonnay, and heads off to her sleeping quarters to read a science-fiction novel before going to bed. The Engine works out for an hour, lifting weights that would make most men squirm, then settles on the red leather sofa in front of the large flat-screen television. He doesn’t tune in, however, choosing instead to slip on earphones connected to a portable CD player. French lessons.

Shortly after midnight, however, an announcement on the police scanner catches Delphi’s attention. The hypercomputer promptly notifies the Equation, who sits at a console analyzing data from Dr. Lumen’s information map.

The radio, with a scratchy woman’s voice: “All units converge to 221B Cooke Street. Possible break-in in progress. Over.”

Various police patrol cars check in. The Equation, thunderstruck, hits the alarm button and the Equilibrium Trio’s headquarters fills with the two tones – one bass, one high – of the emergency call to action.

“What’s going on, doc?” says the Engine, who wakes up from his improvised nap on the couch like a panther ready to pounce.

“I’d like to know too,” says the Effect, who has traded her dress for black jeans and a turtleneck. “And thank goodness that chard tasted terrible.”

“Gear up and I’ll explain on the way,” says the Equation, already headed to the equipment lockers.

The Slicer cuts through the city night, a black phantom automobile that people only seem to register in their peripheral vision. Synapse City is asleep, but with one eye open. Characters lurk in the shadows.

“Cooke Street…that’s Dr. Lumen’s lab.”

The Equation looks at the Effect and nods his head. “Without the disc, they’re getting desperate. Dr. Lumen didn’t leave any hint of his whereabouts…we know that much. Either they learned something new, or”

“It’s a trap,” the Engine says, gritting his teeth as he takes the Slicer around a tight turn.

“Probability favours that scenario, yes.”

“So what’s the plan?”

The Engine offers another question: “What was Dr. Lumen working on?”

“That map,” says the Equation, “contains all known metafictions. He was sorting them, looking for something…but what…I don’t have enough information yet.”

A sudden deceleration sends them into their seats. The Engine reverses gear, backs up, then puts the gear in forward as he drives the Slicer down an alleyway. The radio scanner goes crazy with traffic; roadblocks, helicopters, the thin blue line gotten a whole lot thicker.

“There are more cops here than cavities on children’s teeth after Halloween,” the Engine says.

“Quite,” says the scientist. “But we may have to risk it. If we’ve missed something, if there is some clue as to where Dr. Lumen has gone, we have to take it. The consequences otherwise…”

“Speculate?” says the Effect.

“Dr. Lumen was, of course, known for his work on teleportation,” the Equation says. “A breakthrough, combined with the metafictional map…”

“You mean…”

The Equation nods his head again before turning his attention to the computer console. “A breakdown of barriers.”


TFPO column: climate change denial - it's all about politics

At last, the end of my series of commentaries on climate change denial. It seems like it was a long route to an obvious conclusion, but sometimes it's worth revisiting issues previously thought settled - if only because a vocal group continues to sow doubt when we need to be talking plans of action. So here, from newest to oldest, are the three pieces examining some of the reasoning and politics of climate change deniers.

Climate Change Denial: It’s All Politics

Why Won’t Climate Change Deniers Accept the Science?

Climate Change Denial, Science, and the Burden of Proof


film review: sherlock holmes

Ah yes, Sherlock Holmes. I have a few things to say about this notion of "bromance" that a few critics, like A.O. Scott, bandied about in their reviews. But it is late, so that discussion will have to wait for another time.

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

Review at TFPO: Sherlock Holmes: Deduce and Destroy


film review: up in the air

While the boxoffice buzzes with Avatar and Sherlock Holmes, it's worth making time for the wonderful and very human Up in the Air.

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

Review at TFPO:

Up in the Air: A Flight Worth Taking


happy new year!

Happy New Year, dear readers. I apologize for the relative silence over the holiday period, but I do tend to update only when I have something worth updating about. However, just to shows signs of life I thought I'd mention a few things in the works, notably reviews of Up In The Air and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus as well as others. Starting next week, things around here should be getting back to normal.

I wish you the best for 2010 and, as always, thank you for reading!

: f :