May 30, 2012 at 4:30 pm (creative writing, culture, entertainment, ethics, exploring interconnectedness, fiction, history, humor, Indigenous People, life, literary fiction, movies, Native Americans, poetry, publishing, random, satire, Writing)
Tags: Alexie, anger, black humor, book review, books, boy, Business of Fancydancing, culture, dark comedy, education, family, father, fiction, Flight, foster children, grief, history, humor, identity, Indian, Indian Child Welfare Act, Indians, Irish, life, Native Americans, novel, random, reading, reviews, science fiction, Sherman, teenager, time travel, violence, Zits
Hehehehehehe. Okay, if you have no appreciation of dark humor stop reading right now and stay far away from Flight–far far away. Got it? I’m warning you. This is no sweet flight of fancy tome. Our hero is an angry fifteen year old male of Irish and Indian origin with some serious grief and father issues–among other things. Now sit back and sip your hot tea, latte or bloody mary and think about a young man who refers to himself as Zits. If you can’t relate then it’s probably in your best interests–and mine (yes, I do fear homicidal repercussions from unhappy readers)–to go nowhere near this particular Sherman Alexie book. That said, last night I stayed up very late reading Flight via flashlight outside on the front porch–much to the dismay of anyone who had their doors or windows open to receive my hooting laughter when I turned to page 146. Some folks do not find boiled birdies funny–and I do understand that such minds exist. On the other hand, there are minds, such as mine and apparently Alexie’s, which find self boiled birdies absolutely hilarious–especially in the context of a potentially violent encounter between a homeless Indian man and the usual well-heeled white dude. If by some means, like using your local public library, you garner a copy of Flight you too will be in serious need of comic relief by the time you turn to page 146. Though, hopefully, you’ll have found other darkly comic things to chuckle loudly about before page 146. But you’ll also have encountered several incidents of mayhem, murder and molestation along the way. The lives of foster children are not all filled with sugar mommies and daddies. Nor do many events in American history since 1492 recount pleasant Thanksgiving din dins between Europeans and Indigenous folks.
Ever wonder how to diffuse the building anger of teenager? Well, Sherman Alexie offers one way–history lessons of the ”not me” and the “me?!” variety. Yep, direct confrontations of some dark sad truths of reality provide the fodder for the adolescent mind to chew heartily on and time travel, complete with out-of-body experiences, is the medium. From the Battle of the Little Bighorn to the grief ridden friendly skies of a private flight instructor Alexie takes us on a journey through history. Along the way he’ll shred your heart, sew it back together without anesthesia, and then shove it back into your chest. You’re going to need every last piece of humor to endure the operation. If you’re not laughing when Harry Potter takes a swan dive–then you might be dead and gone. Or you’ve abandoned Alexie’s exploration of time travelling adventures as an instruction manuel. Each episode serves as a short story with ethical issues galore. FBI agent Hank Storm may not get your heartstrings trembling–but Gus, Bow Boy and Small Saint could very well lay you flat on the floor demolishing an extra-large box of kleenex–or soaking an extra-large cotton hanky.
Zits experiences violence in many forms via his out-of-body time travelling–and this makes him seriously consider his pains of loss, abandonment and identity. Children NEED fathers–preferably decent men who care about their welfare. That lacking, one must find family where one can. Sometimes the concept of ‘family’ has not a damned thing to do with genetics and biology. It’s got to do with who gives a damn.
I’ve been a fan of Alexie’s work ever since reading his collection of poems and short stories The Business of Fancydancing. Yes, there’s a film by that title too– and it’s a great film. But–it was the text that had me wanting to scream and laugh from one page to the next. Ever felt bushwhacked by a writer? Well that’s how I felt while reading The Business of Fancydancing. It was great. Disturbing at times, but great nonetheless. I will never forget the story of the man, Eve and the post office. Hell, I’ve never entered a post office since and not thought of the story. The same holds true for Flight. It will not numb or bore you to tears. Not sure you can relate yet? Okay, who has had bad acne? Raise your hands now.
The Official Website of Sherman Alexie–be forewarned–it’s a tad off kilter: http://www.fallsapart.com/
September 18, 2011 at 3:56 am (art, culture, entertainment, life, movies, random, Uncategorized)
Tags: art, culture, DRIVE, entertainment, life, movies, random, reviews
It’s BEAUTIFUL! Oh the cinematography is so effortlessly goregous that it ought not to be missed. Newton Thomas Sigel has an incredible camera “eye”.
No spoilers from moi. No siree.
Drive may well have THE BEST KISS recorded on screen ever!
This is what LOVE to Kill For looks like.
It’s blindlingly BRIGHT.
It’s not for the faint of heart.
What would you do for love?
August 19, 2009 at 1:03 am (ethics, humor, journalism, movies, politics, random, Uncategorized, Writing)
Tags: culture, District 9, entertainment, ethics, film, movies, politics, random, reviews
Ever venture into the movie theatre with no idea exactly what to expect from the featured presentation? Well I did this previous Saturday with my son and daughter who both desired to view “District 9″ based primarily on trailers and some internet buzz. This was one of those rare ‘positive’ surprises–using the word ‘pleasant’ would give the entirely wrong impression–”District 9″ from start to finish is not a pleasant viewing experience. What makes it a positive viewing experience is its brutually candid treatment of serious issues in a time when all we get is bs image spin from everyone except independent journalists like Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. I’m not going to bother recounting information you will find repeated in other sorts of movie reviews or on the IMD. Why should you pay to see “District 9″? You should see this film masquerading as a science fiction action thriller because it’s a hell of a lot more than its marketing image. It is forthright no holds barred social-political-ethical-economic-global commentary, which pulls no punches as it takes on racisim, technological advancement at all costs, the failure of journalists to do anything more than cough up government mandated spin, genocide, concentration camps, greed, big brother tactics, moral corruption, –and perhaps the strangest element of HOPE I’ve encountered in the film industry’s products ever. (If anyone knows of a better one, please do not hesitate to post it once you’ve seen “District 9″–you will understand why.)
So, by all means see “District 9″ for some intense, action packed, issue stuffed action and intellectual stimulation. If you go with friends there ought to be no lack of conversation over dinner and libations afterwards. Or if the hard topics make you uncomfortable go alone–but by all means see “District 9″ for the sheer irony of the inescapable reality of Aliens living in the slums of South Africa.
July 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm (Uncategorized)
Tags: "wildly entertaining", 28 days later, action, adam beach, adventure, amelie, audrey tautou, Aung San Suu Kyi, battle between good and evil, beyond rangoon, billy elliot, Black Robe, brotherhood of the wolf, Burma, creative writing, culture, economics, edge of america, entertainment, evil, film, Frances McDormand, franke potente, french films, genghis khan, history, horror, humor, Hungarian film, john steel, joyeux noel, Kontroll, life, lotus pond, love story, Michael Clayton, milagro beanfield war, Mongol, movie rental box, movies, Night Watch, off the map, people, photography, random, rangoon, red, reviews, romance, run lola run, Serenity, smoke signals, spalding gray, strictly ballroom, subways, tears of the black tiger, the commitments, the killing fields, the year of living dangerously, war movies, wrist cutters, Writing
Okay I’ve been resisting this impulse for weeks now but I’m giving into it wholeheartedly because all I see is red red red movie rental boxes everywhere and my loathing of them and what they represent has increased to the level of “Sledge-Hammer Now!” I’m not adverse to an appearance of Thor with his hammer at all–hint, hint (we do so adore the Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul…ah Dougie, your imaginative wit is sorely missed). Why do I abhore these vending machines of cheap fast flick fixes? For starters you can’t have a conversation with them. Nope. No one is ever going to discover some deliciously quirky flim like Wristcutters via a big red rental box. Big red boxes are just big red boxes–they do not view movies. They only ‘spew’ forth movies at the behest of a plastic card inserted into their mechanical guts. Big red boxes are incapable of sharing their delight of the visual imagery of a huge lotus pond in Tears of the Black Tiger. Big red boxes do not engage in debates about Michael Clayton being just another lawyer movie or not (I argue most definitely NOT becausse there’s no escaping the mental context of Tom Wilkinson’s incredible line, “I am Shiva the god of death!” and everything that concept entails in the film.) Anyone at a loss for why I consider the big red boxes lurking everywhere as Evil? If so–then try it this way: they’re one more mark of the devil incarnate in philistine mentality. And before anyone gets any ideas about taking moi to task over the word ‘philistine’ as a result of confusing it with an ethnic group–do so please, pretty please with raspberries on top–google the definition of the word before posting any hate mail or ye shall be soundly smoted–yes, I’m going with ‘smoted’ rather than smitten for you grammatical purists–and I will because I can and I can because this is ‘my’ blog post. Now, without any further self repression I offer some films to the sad soul of the blogger who couldn’t stand watching another real downer. I’ve gone about this list of the moment with the thought in mind of supporting the argrument of what the red box cannot and will not do for anyone. So, here are some films that probably will not be featured on the facings of said incarnations of evil(furthermore, they give the color ‘red’ a bad reputation). In no particular order:
Run Lola Run–and Franke Potente as Lola does just that three ways to a screaming climax.
28 Days Later–there are worse thngs than zombies to run from–as this film conveys when it turns into an entirely different sort of horror genre about midway.
The Killing Fields–Do tell if this kills your appetite for war movies after viewing. It certainly did squash mine for years. True story of Din Pran’s struggle to survive.
Billy Elliot–Let’s dance away from the dark side for a moment, shall we?
Off the Map–Hmm…This lifestyle might offer suggestions for everyone feeling the economic squeeze.
Black Robe–1634, Hurons, Quebec, Jesuits, need I say more?
The Commitments–Oh yes, indeed, the Irish have SOUL.
Amelie–And the French have Audrey Tautou who can beat the acting the pants off anyone at will when she’s at the top of her game–which is quite ofen. She’s got quality control under her belt.
Joyeux Noel—Something else from the French–1914 Christmas trench war–and not just the obvious battleground as the Irish priest discovers much to his dismay.
Kontroll–Another aspect of control–Hungarian style. Oh yeah, subways as hell? purgatory? redemption grounds? Totally cool.
Smoke Signals–Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling–and a young Adam Beach does listen listen listen to his friend’s stories as they road trip in search of some anwers.
Edge of America–A true story for the basketball fans among you. Wes Studi is the magic working mechanic in this Utah setting.
Strictly Ballroom–The movie one critic deemed much much better than Moulin Rouge. Dancing on the wrong side of the tracks in the land down under.
The Milagro Beanfield War–Because we do so love magical realism–and Joe Mondragon is so damn ‘cute’ even when dodging bullets.
Mongol–More epic history–Genghis Khan falls in love and what a love story it is. View on the largest screen availabe to you because the scenery is KILLER Beautiful and a character in its own right.
Brotherhood of the Wolf–”Wildly Entertaining!” The only movie screening I’ve attended where the entire audience stood up cheering and clapping at the end. I kid not.
The Host–Do NOT watch this dubbed the first time because it destroys the sound atmosphere. Go with the subtitles–you can read this therefore you sure as hell can read subtitles. The BEST monster movie ever–well so far. I mean who knows what these folks might dish up next!
Zero Effect–Quirky, quirky, quirky for fans of Bill Pullman (as this film shows the man really can act, he’s got more than a pretty face), detective mysteries, and eccentricity.
Night Watch–Ah the eternal battle between good and evil, light and dark, Russian style. Break out the vodka!
Bagdad Cafe–Magic in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Jack Palance as an artist, imagine that.
The Year of Living Dangerously–That actress from Alien and the Lethal Weapon guy before both of those lesser films.
Serenity—Because I can watch it, and the Firefly series, again and again and again and it NEVER gets old! True delights of dialogue, performance, substance, and fun and on and on and on.
Lastly, for now, Beyond Rangoon–for the acting of Patricia Arquette, Frances McDormand, Spalding Gray–John Steele’s photography–and for Burma and the ongoing insanity of Aung San Suu Kyi’s situation as the elected leader currently on trial for the apparent idiocy of an American man.
July 3, 2009 at 2:03 am (art, creative writing, ethics, history, Indigenous People, Lakota, Native Americans, poetry, politics, Uncategorized, Writing)
Tags: art, biography, books, Crazy Horse, Crazy Horse The Strange Man of the Oglalas, culture, He Dog, history, Lakota, language, Mari Sandoz, portrait, random, reviews, Short Bull, Tasunka Witco, warrior, writers, Writing
“Crazy Horse laughed, a sound they had seldom heard this last while. “I am no white man,” he said. “They are the only people who make rules for others and say: ‘If you stay on one side of this line it is peace but if you go on the other side I will kill you all.’ There is still plenty of room, my friend. Camp where you wish.”
If you’re searching for a biography to dig into in then I suggest ye seek and find a copy of Crazy Horse, The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz. It’s an oldie but a damn goodie if there ever was one. Several other writers have taken runs at rendering the life and times of the Lakota warrior. Kingsley Bray’s work is quite fine, but for my money, Mari Sandoz’s effort delivers the real goods. Why? Because she and Eleanor Hinman gathered information directly from people who actually knew Crazy Horse—He Dog, Little Killer, Short Bull, Red Feather. No amount of digging through papers can substitute for that sort of personal engagment with living sources with memories to share, the ability to answer questions, and provide details. Though by her own accounting, Sandoz also did a lot of digging through various paper piles. What’s perhaps most telling was her awareness of the expressive yet difficult to wield power of language and writing to convey the ‘unknown’ to others–an awareness that prompted her to state, “…I have used the simplest words posslible, hoping by idiom and figures and the underlying rhythm pattern to say some of the things of the Indian for which there are no white-man words, suggest something of his inner nature, something of his relationship to the earth and the sky and all that is between.” Some things can not be translated because there are no ‘equals’ for concepts, for values, for insights and connections from one language and culture to another which has no such concepts, values, insights or connections. Sandoz realized this essential ‘lack’ or obstacle and did her best to overcome it in order to try to get at the heart of a man, of a people, of a culture under intense assualt to become something entirely foreign to their natures. That’s a tough task for any writer working outside their own mental landscape. Sandoz took it on of her own accord and the fact that the resulting writing has the power to break through time and place and cultural barriers places the work in a class by itself.
At www.dawnhawk.org there is a Lakota artist’s portrait of Tasunka Witco and several renditions of scenes from his life. Short Bull carries on Lakota tradition of rendering history and culture via art.
June 27, 2009 at 9:16 pm (art, creative writing, humor, life, music, publishing, random, Uncategorized, Writing)
Tags: culture, early recordings, entertainment, Joan Osborne, life, love songs, music, passion, random, Relish, reviews
These days the incredible voice of Joan Osborne seems repressed and supressed by gentle pop tones in sad contrast to her intense versitility on Relish–which apparently was was too diverse both musically and content-wise for some easy marketing audiences. But I still hold out hope that one day Joan’s pipes will once again bellow with the beautiful unrestrained passions that rip through the songs on Joan Osborne: early recordings. Oh yeah, what power! What depth! What guts! With a voice like that she ought to take over the music world at large. “If God Were One of Us” was the palest shadow on Relish and holds no candle to any track on ‘early recordings’ . “Fingertips” ain’t no wishy washy lovey dovey song, but one hot no holds barred yell from a headlong fall in to an abyss of passion. “Match Burn Twice” shows there are no flukes when it comes to expressing physical love’s glories. She makes “Son of a Preacher Man” all her own. If “What You Gonna Do” doesn’t chill you to your core, then you ain’t listening. ”Flyaway” –what can I say about the lead song? She got my attention immediately the very first time I heard this album and held it for whatever was coming next. I don’t think a singer can lose such distinctive qualities forever so I hold out for the album when Joan’s voice again goes full blast no matter what the lyrics—a sort of ode to the true power of song. Quit ‘hiding’ Joan—SING SING SING like your life depends on it again! Like on “His Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles.”
June 27, 2009 at 3:16 pm (art, culture, exploring interconnectedness, life, music, random, Uncategorized, Writing)
Tags: art, Bobbio Italy, books, culture, de Nerval, diversity, highwayman, history, Irish priests, literature, Lorena McKennitt, love, Marco Polo, multicultural, music, Pissarro, poem, poetry, random, reviews, the book of secrets, travel
Some things just never grow old no matter how many times you listen to or read them or view them. Camille Pissaro’s landscapes, Gerard de Nerval’s poems, and Loreena McKennitt’s music. We all have our favorites–and sometimes we shuffle these from time to time, adding and subtracting, changing rankings as we discover new creations. Yet some things never get too far from our reach. Now of all the lovely music McKennitt has tossed upon the ears of the world, my remaing favorite is the album “the book of secrrets”. Its exotic silk road discovery flavor is what brings me back again and again. Mummers, priests and lovers ride the music from the past into our present again and again with their stories. It was strange hearing The HighwayMan for the first time since reading the Noyes’ poem a lifetime ago in the fourth grade. The ultimate poem of lovers willing to die for each other? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But Mckennitt sings fresh life into the story of black eyed Bess and her ever loving handsome theif. Other songs based on inspiration from her own travels to distant lands physically and intellectually reveal some taste of what an ‘ungobalized’, un-uniform world has to offer from culture to culture. In its own way “the book of secrets” is a paean to the virtues of multiculturalism with all its artistic riches. Like Marco Polo and the Irish priests of Bobbio, McKennitt searches out the exquistic arts of ‘new’ lands with ancient histories–and makes it all her own while retaining essences that entice the ears again and again.