Monday, December 31, 2018

My List of the Best 2018 Movies


Black Panther

I loved the comic in the '70s. It was great to see him come to the screen this year. Though his costume has been modified to the point that he seems to be just another Iron Man, I had to roll with it and accept the changes since I had read the book. A cool soundtrack and a group of strong women just as powerful as the titular hero made for a satisfying debut. I was caught up in giving the Wakanda forever salute as well.


Avengers: Infinity War

Someone asked me how I felt about this film, and my response was, "I'm just glad I was alive to see it." Sounds grandiose, I know, but it juggled so many of my childhood heroes with such a deft touch. It also subverted the usual supervillain trope by making Thanos's aim something that is an unresolved, and seemingly unresolvable, problem in the real world. I felt sympathy stirring in my heart for the big guy. It all ends with a truly epic battle and a lump in the throat.

Leave No Trace

A dad with PTSD and his daughter choose life off the grid, and struggle when they are caught and forced by society to rejoin the mainstream. The daughter warms to it, but the dad has trouble adjusting. The film shows us that there are pitfalls on either side, and that maybe the choice is not so clear. By the end, I wasn't sure who had it better. Good performances by Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie.

Zama

A tale of Argentina during the colonial era. Zama is a magistrate in a small village who yearns for an assignment in a larger town with more opportunities. Promises to send his request to the King are always delayed. He assaults a colleague and is exiled to a remote area among the native population, with one of whom he has had a child. To escape this situation, he joins a party that is sent out to the countryside to find a notorious bandit, who apparently was not executed as originally thought. There he meets with the consequences of colonial abuse and oppression. The incessant bird calls serve as the main soundtrack, almost to the point of distraction, but the atmosphere is palpable. The air is haunted by a dark history, not to mention the spirits of the oppressed.

Blackkklansman

My favorite film of the year. Spike Lee's adaptation of a true story about a black law officer who penetrates a Colorado chapter of the KKK, with the help of one of his white colleagues. The story takes place in the early '70s, when it was difficult enough for a black person to lead an everyday life without being pushed down. The payoff at the end, with Ron Stallworth telling off David Duke over the phone, was one of the most satisfying moments of the year.

In This Corner of the World

My favorite anime this year. A tale of Japan during World War II on the home front. Suzu, a
young woman with artistic talent, loses her drawing hand to an American bomb. She struggles with the loss, and the increasing bombing raids by B-29s as the progresses. We get a real feel for what it was like to be on the receiving end of such power. In the end, the film shows us that our enemy is as human as we are, and that war is ultimately a human failure. Though one side may win, it's a life of peace that loses, and war just continues.

The Florida Project

The days of a resilient young girl and her flawed mother as they find shelter in a somewhat run down hotel. The child roams the area with her friends, begging money for ice cream and getting into trouble. Her mother doesn't have a steady job and resorts to selling perfume at first, then her body. It's all set in the fever dream of tourist Florida, with its Disney-inspired flights of commerce and its lush green spaces behind the artificial facade. You get lost in this atmosphere until Brooklynn's luck runs out. The final scene represents Brooklynn's ultimate escape.

Fahrenheit 11/9

Michael Moore strikes again. Yes, it's about the election, but it's also about how we got there. Clinton and Obama are not spared in his film, she for her ignorance during the campaign of swing states Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (which all went to Trump), and he for his bungled response to the Flint water crisis. I was particularly shocked at how Flint was used by the US military for simulated urban war games. Buildings were bombed from above, and troops and tanks flooded the city. You can hardly believe it's happening here, but Mr. Moore shows us again why we need him, and why he's the true American populist.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Up For Air

It's been some time since I've sent a note from the North Coast.

Though it's been quiet here, I have been writing more elsewhere. In my journal, and in some new stories which I've finished. I'm submitting exclusively to paying markets now. These are much tougher to break into. Despite getting reacquainted with the persistent sting of rejection, I'm going to keep charging the ramparts. Acceptances are great, but getting a check for one would be a further validation.

It's tough to find new movies that I want to see these days, so I've begun looking back in time to find them. Since about last year or so, I've concentrated on watching French new wave films (mostly Godard), and those by Kurosawa. It's been an amazing run of films so far. If I had to pick favorites at this point, they would be Godard's My Life To Live, and Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. There've been others as well, such as Jean Pierre Melville's Le Samourai, and Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story. All of these and more from these periods are outstanding filmmaking.

My momentum has been slowed recently by the closing of the Filmstruck site, to which I had subscribed. Criterion plans to open its own app in the spring though, and I plan subscribing there. It's hard to call yourself a film fan if you haven't seen many of these movies that are considered exemplars of the form. I feel like I've only just scratched the surface.

On TV, I'm watching season 2 of Humans, and season 3 of The Last Kingdom. It took some time for Humans to grow on me, but they treat the conceit of realistic androids seriously and with intelligence. There are other details that bring such a future to life, such as real humans developing the urge to live like their synthetic counterparts. The Last Kingdom is my necessary occasional dose of Dark Ages insanity. The show really brings the pagan edge, and in this current season, alliances seem to shift as rapidly as the winter winds. I finished season 2 of Preacher a little over a month ago, and it was much better than the first season. There was one moment that still makes me laugh whenever I think about it.

I hope to be posting more often into the new year. Health issues the past couple months reduced my energy, and I saved what I had for the fiction. But I'm slowly improving, and will use my time as wisely as possible.

Tomorrow is the solstice. After then, the light begins to return in the northern hemisphere. The prospect of another spring and summer on this planet is reason enough to hold on.

Peace, and have a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Short Story: Memories of a Stargazer

My new short story, "Memories of a Stargazer", is available at Event Horizon magazine. You can access it via PDF download for issue 3. The print version will be available soon.

Please go to the link and check it out.

https://eventhorizonmagazine.com/


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Earthbound

I've been a runner since I was 15.

I started in anticipation of joining the track team. Ever since that year, 1980, which was a few years into a running boom in this country, I've rarely taken breaks from it. The only time I can truly recall is back in '96, when I had mono. I was out of work for a month, and obviously didn't do any running either. All I wanted to do was sleep.

When, in my mid-30s, I no longer wanted to run outside all winter, I joined a gym and hit the treadmill, A couple years after that, I bought my own so I wouldn't have to travel anywhere after work. I bought a new one a few years ago, after running hundreds, maybe thousands of miles on the old one.

I've been fortunate to be mostly injury-free, with one exception--my right calf. I strained it twice. The first time was in 2001, and I think I only missed a couple workouts before I was back on the road. There was a more serious tear in 2009, in which I actually heard the infamous pop, the moment at which part or all of the muscle separates from the achilles tendon. In my case it was just part of the muscle, but I didn't run for close to six weeks. For a compulsive runner such as myself, it was torture. I counted the days. I missed most of a summer due to that injury, but I was back up and running after that lengthy hiatus.

Now, eight years after that last injury, I had pain in the same muscle again, and it forced me back off the road. I took a 2 week break, then tried again. Took another 2 week break, then tried again. Then took 4 weeks. After that, I tried to ease my way back into a routine, as if the muscle wouldn't notice. After a couple months of running once or twice a week, I realized it wasn't improving. So six months ago, I stopped completely. I've only run short, slow workouts about once every month or so, to see how it feels. After my latest attempt last weekend, the muscle still doesn't feel like it's ready.

I'm mystified this time. I've been to the doctor about it. He sent me for an ultrasound, to check for a blood clot. The found none. Yet here I sit, still unhealed completely. I do feel better than six months ago, but whenever I take to the road or treadmill, it seems like the injury is just there, below the surface, ready to rise again and put my comeback on hold. I've rarely known such frustration. We have such advanced medical technology, but it is apparently powerless to tell me how much longer I need to wait before I can safely run again.

I know this is an injury that can't be rushed. If it's not ready, the only thing that will help is more rest. In the meantime, I'm not getting my cardio, and have been exploring ways to get it without running. I've looked at other machines, such as ellipticals and rowing machines. After trying one out recently, the rowing machine feels like a good alternative. You do use your legs on it, but I can get by without using my calves too much. It's the option I'm leaning toward right now.

In the meantime, I remember the charger I used to be. Suiting up and heading out even if temperatures were close to freezing. I ran outside one December evening about 5 years back and wondered why my hands were steadily going numb, despite the thin gloves I wore. I shook them throughout the route and gradually they warmed. When I got home, I checked the temperature. It was only 15 degrees. I was so focused on the workout that I didn't check conditions first.

I've gained some weight, and have to watch my calorie intake even more closely. Perhaps the rowing machine is the answer, and will give me a good outlet. My next medical appointment is in May. If I'm not running by then, I will discuss options with my doctor. Perhaps a referral to an orthopedist, and some physical therapy. If nothing else, this injury has taught me some patience. But I do miss it. Running has been many things to me. Stress release, treatment for my heart murmur, a mood raiser and a decent hedge against anxiety. A constant companion and refuge since my early teens. I'm not ready to bid it farewell just yet.

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Short Story: Florid

My new short story, "Florid", is out now in the autumn issue of Escapism Literary Magazine.

You'll be prompted to sign up, but it's free.

The link is below. Please click through and check it out.

Thanks!

https://issuu.com/escapismliterarymag/docs/escapism-03

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Silver Age

There was a time when I could climb walls
Hurl flame
Leap between mountain peaks
Lift trucks over my head and run
                                                           Acrossthecountryinamatterofseconds

I was drunk on such power
In my prime I used it to help them
Saving lives
Gratitude and wonder poured from their faces
My name in the headlines
Fame opened all the doors
To world leaders, celebrity, women
Excess, disillusionment, regret

Almost i m p e r c e p t i b l y ...

I began to ignore their cries
Nearby, and those across the seas
Yet I could hear them all
They were rebuke, condemnation
In desperation I used an ice pick to stab at my ears
The relief last only moments as my body swiftly healed

My favorite dreams are filled with scenes
Of mundane existence
A normal life never lived

Many years later, I am not so impressive
My hair grays like theirs
Islands of pain bloom in my sinews
I drown out the cries with television and music
A white noise machine while I sleep
I tell the press to stay away
There are no more pronouncements
Lofty rhetoric rings falsely these days
I live a hermit's life
Far away--but never far enough

Last month I hiked Everest
Alone, without oxygen
I reached the summit in three hours
Before, it would've taken mere minutes
The view was amazing
But it was cold, and I was tired

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Morningstar

I'd noticed earlier this year a new trade paperback for the Lucifer series from DC's Vertigo imprint. I gave it a try, and while it turned out to be not my thing, my fond memories for the previous run were reawakened.

Cover of
Lucifer Book 3: A Dalliance with the Damned
I decided to dig out my old TPBs--Mike Carey's run from 2000-2007, 11 books in all. I'm already into book 4 and enjoying the story even more than I did back then. Carey's writing is literate and layered, alluding to the power that these mythic beings possess, but parcels out the grand displays in a measured way, making them that much more shocking. The art tag team of Peter Gross and Dean Ormston each bring their own strengths, showcasing mostly Gross's graceful lines, with episodes of Ormston's gothic, heat-mirage images, cast in ominous slanted shadows, highlighting the supernatural aspect. It's a world out of your wildest, most salacious dreams, or nightmares, depending on your mood of the moment. The story will beguile you, and in its own devilish fashion, rapidly turn on its heel and show its fangs. Lucifer is a complex character, born an angel but seduced by his own power and a fierce independent streak. He runs the table, but there are times when he gets more than he bargained for. His resilience is tested by an antagonistic heaven and a jealous host of other demons, all looking to dethrone him, or at least make a favorable alliance.

Can't recommend this series enough. If the new run doesn't work for you, give this one a try.

My List of the Best 2018 Movies

Black Panther I loved the comic in the '70s. It was great to see him come to the screen this year. Though his costume has been m...