[film]Green Room

I watch a lot of movies. In all honesty, though many of them are entertaining, few of them are truly excellent movies. Enter Green Room. Green Room tells the story of a punk rock band who thinks about nothing more serious than staying as true to their punk rock ideals as possible. Until after one fateful gig in the heart of Neo Nazi skinhead territory in the Pacific Northwest. From then on their main and only concern is survival.

It’s a pretty basic formula for a movie and one that’s been done in many forms. Where others fall flat and feel formulaic, Green Room was far more effective.

5 things Green Room did right:

1. Sir Patrick Stewart is the leader of the skinheads. Maybe I should put forth a full disclaimer of how big a Patrick Stewart fan I am. We did, after all, choose to watch this, because it was his birthday. That not withstanding, this is a side of Stewart rarely seen. As far playing villains, it’s not something he does enough in my opinion. He played one in the easily forgettable movie called Masterminds. He also was the best Captain Ahab on film to date. Here he leads a fantastic cast and shows how much his element it is as the calm and almost benign seeming Darcy.

“Gentlemen, you’re trapped. Things have gone south. No doubt. Now, whatever you saw, or did, is no longer my concern. But let’s be clear, it won’t end well.”

2. It feels realistic. If you’re going to set a movie in a scene, it’s really nice if it feels like the creators actually know that scene. Too many movies rely on tropes and cliches to get the point across. The beginning of this movie feels like my late teens/early 20s. It’s extremely realistically portrayed.

3. Everything has a point. The beginning of the movie starts off with two members of the band siphoning fuel so they can get their van on the road again. This ends up coming into play later in the film for a plan of the skinheads. Nothing feels like an extraneous moment and that keeps the tension high.

4. Nobody’s an idiot. Protagonists and antagonists are both realistically intelligent and dealing with a situation as best they can. This is actually the most refreshing thing about Green Room. Too often survival movies have to fall back on people doing stupid things in order for the story to move forward that no one would do in real life. No such case here. Traps are recognized as such, but they walk into them because they have no choice. When the protagonists decide to make a run for it, it’s out of desperation and they know they might not all make it. Little things like this make the movie more convincing.

“Now we won’t all live, but, I don’t know, maybe we won’t all die.”

5. It’s gory and brutal, but not unnecessarily so. I am a gore fan. I even enjoy movies that are just gore on gore strictly for the sake of gore. This is not the movie that would have worked in though. It could have easily gone this route, but wisely kept the hardcore scenes to a minimum and where they were most effective.

I highly recommend Green Room. It is that rare film that is tense, smart and entertaining. I even lost the dead pool we had going for who was going to survive and I rarely do that. (It’s a good thing, I promise. It means it’s not at all predictable.)

Let me know what you thought (about the film, the blog, how fucking amazing Sir Patrick Stewart is) in the comments.

[Ink]Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Trilogy

I was initially wary of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. A large chunk of the appeal for people lay in what seemed more than a bit gimmicky. Books that depend on gimmicks (with a few brilliant exceptions) tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Add to that my hit and miss experiences with young adult fiction and it’s no surprise I wasn’t interested in this series from the get go.

However, fellow readers whose opinions I respect seemed to love it. Describing anything as peculiar will always sway me a little bit. So I gave it a shot. There were aspects I loved, aspects I hated and aspects I was completely indifferent to. So let’s delve in to my time spent with Miss Peregrine’s charges, their friends and one American boy who starts off thinking he’s average in every possible way.

(Maybe this goes without saying, but from this point forward there be spoilers aplenty. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

“I had just come to accept my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar

The first line: I love a first line that grabs you and gives you a decent idea of what’s coming. I don’t think it’s always necessary, but when I find one I get giddy. The first line of this is delicious. It’s the very first step in Jacob Portman’s journey from boring, ordinary boy from Florida to so much more.

The photos: The appeal of this book hinged on the fact it was a story told in tandem with genuine old photographs. It starts off in the first book working very well. It’s obvious that the story was crafted around the photos. They contributed to what is a somewhat spooky feel that permeates the entire first book. Unfortunately in the second and third books, they more and more felt like they were forced in. It’s obvious when some of them have been doctored to fit the story instead of the other way around. By the end, I wouldn’t say they were distracting, but they were mostly just there.

“Strange, I thought, how you can be living your dreams and your nightmares at the very same time.”
Hollow City

The story itself: The first volume of this trilogy was excellent. It kind of tells like a ghost story at parts, but instead of being haunted by spirits, it’s haunted by monsters and children. Jacob is trying to discover the secrets of his recently deceased grandfather’s past and the out there stories he would tell. Thinking he will find perhaps some clues to the past, instead he finds the past is alive and well just how his grandfather left it by means of a time loop. Time loops are places created by ymbrynes that occupy the space of a day and provide safety and immortality to the peculiars inside of them.
Unfortunately, where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children created an atmosphere of mystery and the unknown, Hollow City just creates an atmosphere of drudgery. I honestly can’t even tell you how much I remember of this book except there was a lot of walking and complaining. The idea being that Miss Peregrine has been kidnapped and the children have set out to find her. In the process they find some other interesting peculiars, but for the most part they meander. Meandering is totally something they have in common with the plot. It ends with a twist that instead of being completely shocking just makes the meandering leading up to it that much more pointless and annoying.
If Library of Souls was a season of Supernatural, it would be Season 8. Season 8 was the season everyone said Supernatural was good again. In reality Season 8 on is just not as awful as seasons 6 and 7, but nowhere near as brilliant as the first five seasons. All of which is a long rambling way to say that it’s much better than Hollow City, but not even close to as good as Home for Peculiar Children. They find where everyone’s been taken. Hoorah. They spend a lot of time figuring out how to get in only to kind of blunder into every single thing they need at exactly the right time. (I have a love/hate relationship with this plot device. In a way it’s probably how things would play out in real life, but in another way I don’t read fiction about monsters and peculiar children for realism.) It’s all tied up with a nice (and completely unconvincing) happy package.

The peculiars (and animals and ymbrynes): Riggs does an excellent job of developing their pecularities to be convincing and real. He spends a little less time on the characters themselves. Everyone ends up feeling very one dimensional as the story progresses. Everyone has one defining character trait and that’s all they ever really show. It’s seriously bad enough that when one of the children die in the second novel, I didn’t even really care. She was also one of my favorites. Part of this is the offhand way it’s told to the reader and part of it is that one dimensional characters don’t tend to evoke much sympathy.

The monsters: The monsters are super well developed and go from creepy (wights) to terrifying (hollowgast). The hollowgast in particular are some of the most compelling monsters created in any fiction, let along young adult fiction. I absolutely think they were one of the best parts.

“And then those awful teeth came unlocked, its mouth reeling open to admit three wiry tongues into the air, each as think as my wrist. They unspooled across half the room’s length, ten feet or more, and then hung there, wriggling, the creature breathing raggedly through a pair of leprous holes in its face…”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The love story: There’s a love story. It’s there. It genuinely doesn’t contribute a single thing to the story. There are points where it’s so much a square peg forced into a round hole that it’s distracting. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but love stories are not necessary. Sometimes boys and girls go off and adventure together and are just friends. That’s okay. I promise.

Summary: There’s some brilliant moments here. Overall I don’t regret reading it through to the end. (After all, I wouldn’t have gotten to read the bridge heads in Monty Python voices if I hadn’t. That was a glorious reading moment for me. And really, didn’t they seem like a Monty Python sketch?) In general though, what started out as being super promising and interesting turned into something that was only one step above average.

Postscript: I forgot that this series gets a major thumbs up for book design. The books are beautiful and the pages are thick. They’re solid volumes to hold in your hands. So really, really well done in that aspect.

So if you made it this far, tell me what you thought of this review or of the trilogy in the comments.

[ink: ink and bone]


Ink and Bone
(The Great Library: Book 1)

Rachel Caine

Set in a dystopian world that imagines the Library of Alexandria never burned, Ink and Bone is a book for those that love books. It begins with the striking scene of ten year old Jess Brightwell watching a man destroy the only existing hand copy of On Sphere-Making by Archimedes by eating the pages. His resulting revulsion sets the tone for a story about humanity, knowledge and power.

Jess lives in a world where the Library has absolute control over all available reading material and owning real copies of books is banned. Instead they depend on alchemy to mirror text to what are called blanks. Human nature being what it is there is a bustling black market trade in real books. The Brightwell family is a predominant figure in this market, but Jess only feels like he is constantly used by his family. In order to get a set of eyes and ears into the Library, Jess’ father sends him to study and become part of of the Library in Alexandria itself.

There he meets his diverse fellow students (postulants) and begins to learn more of the dark nature of absolute control that is the real business of the library. Their motto is “books before people” and they embody it to the very core. This has created a fanatical opposition in the form of Burners. Burners hold that human life is more important than a book or knowledge and make repeated attempts to burn Libraries to bring down the Library and it’s iron control.

This is a fully realized world of alchemy and steam where it feels like every detail matters. It’s only the first book in a series so the explanations of the actual alchemy aren’t terribly in depth, but I strongly suspect we’ll learn more about it in the sequel(s). There are “living” statues powered by gears and steam that invoke a subtle feeling of dread. There’s a war where the price of knowledge over human life is fully explored.

Ink and Bone definitely feels like a young adult novel, but it’s a very good one. The writing is periodically simplistic and there’s a somewhat forced love substory. For all of that though, it’s an immensely enjoyable read. As stated above, it’s a book lovers book, but it’s also so much more than that.

Rating: 7.5/10

[ink: world war moo by michael logan]

Published: June 2015
Genre: Zombies, infection, snarky
Sequel to: Apocalypse Cow


Full disclosure: I wasn’t the biggest fan of Apocalypse Cow. Given the premise of zombie cows and being majorly endorsed by Terry Pratchett I thought it would be sillier. At the end of the day it ended up feeling like a pretty average zombie apocalypse novel. Decent enough, but not really reinventing any type of wheel. I debated even reading the second one, but since I had already picked it up from the library, I figured I may as well.

This is one of those cases of a sequel surpassing the original. It’s all around snarkier and full of subtle humor. The addition of human zombies makes for a more entertaining and unique read.
First off, they’re not zombies in the traditional sense. If you think of 28 Days Later as an infection movie and not a zombie movie, then the same logic applies here. I’m not terribly interested in the absolute semantics of the term though, so from here out it shall be referred to as a zombie novel and anyone who wants to can argue the point to their heart’s content in the comments, their blog, wherever.
Now, that being established, I love zombie everything. If there’s one complaint to be had though, it’s that there’s not a lot of variation in your zombies beyond fast ones and slow ones. This book steps in with my favorite kind of zombie: the thinking variety. It showcases that there are always those that will fight their instincts and those that will surrender completely to it in the most over the top ways.
Another thing I love is snark. This book possesses the perfect amount of it. Just enough to lighten what is by it’s very nature a pretty heavy plot with morality quandaries left and right, but not so much that you don’t care about said quandaries.

All in all, it’s a good choice for fans of the zombie genre. It would be recommended to read Apocalypse Cow first, because it’s one of those stories that definitely needs the complete background. World War Moo is all around a better offering though.

Rating: 8/10

[flash fiction: dance]

This night there were devils shining in the bright moonlight. Beckoning her forward and repelling her away. A battle in her bones set to the beat of an ancient drum. A building sensation starting in her gut and working it’s way out until she was stomping towards the brightest moon beams, with devils weaving around her, over her, through her. A pounding and stomping that took away all thought, all breath, every piece of her until all that was left was the rhythmic, orgasmic emptiness in which she felt for the first time whole. Darkness wending around her ankles, creeping upwards, seductive and unwelcome. A small part of her crying out to stop the tribal frenzy. That voice struggling to be heard over the boom, boom, boom that spoke to her primitive wants.
Minutes, hours, days pass and the sweat pools around her turning the dust to mud and wringing out her inhibitions. In the moonlight she is reborn and she is finally beautiful, shining in all her monstrosity.
And this is how a demon is born. From moon, dance and freedom from inhibition. And this is how a new night is born in which she will rule and all will learn how to fear.

[poetry: caged]

walking through the woods one day
alone and falling out of love
she came upon a tree somewhat strange
with a door covered and engraved
words strange and unreadable

perhaps it wasn’t the wisest choice
perhaps it was the broken heart
perhaps she never should have
perhaps she knew she shouldn’t

but she turned the handle
opened the door
walked into another world

worlds can be better
worlds can be worse
worlds can just be different
worlds can be exactly the same

several moments of silence
in a darkness so absolute
she thought her heart itself
had finally stopped and died

then her heart started beating
then it all seemed a blur
then she felt a searing pain
then she felt the world shrink in

awareness of light crept in
inability to move at all
a desire to spread her wings
a vague idea that this is new
something that wasn’t there before
a feeling like always being trapped

hours spent trying to remember
hours wondering what freedom was
hours fighting hopeless tears
hours of ennui setting in

and now something new and unknown
the approach of a thing
like a tremendous herself
a rumbling as of thunder a voice
an opening door to a cage
a hand that pulls her up
a cavernous mouth opens

then silence and a darkness unending

Writing prompt image courtesy of Nighthags Writing Corner.

[ink: bad feminist: essays]

Bad Feminist: EssaysBad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: This started as a review. I’m not sure it ended as one. Apologies for that.

Feminism. I don’t know if there are many words that are as wrought with conflicting definitions and reactions as this word. At heart, it’s the belief that men and women are equal and, as such, deserve equal rights. Rarely is anything as simple as it is on paper. Feminism is often perceived as the fight to prove that women are better than men and feminists as hating all men. There are certainly those feminists that seem to fit this stereotype. They seem to be the most vocal at times unfortunately.
Here’s the thing though, there is no one way to be a feminist. As much as it’s become a dirty word, feminism is at heart something that will only benefit everyone. Often I feel alone in the ways that I sometimes laugh at inappropriate jokes, wear lipstick and currently depend on my husband to carry pretty much all of the financial responsibility. I also haven’t read all the major feminist literature out there, because frankly most of it just isn’t all that interesting.
Enter Roxane Gay and Bad Feminist, her collection of essays.

Gay turns the lens on politics, pop culture and society at large on matter of race and gender. She does so in a way that doesn’t demand you agree with every word she writes. There is a tone more of “this is my story, this is my voice, stop and listen for a moment”. She talks about modern feminisms in all it’s strengths and shortcomings (mostly when it comes to race, but also when it comes to rigidity). This is a message that needs to be put out there. If it makes someone uncomfortable, well maybe they should look at why that is.

Some personal thoughts on a few specific essays that happened to be my favorites:
“Peculiar Benefits”: Ah, privilege. One of those lovely words that gets thrown around too much and starts to lose meaning (something Gay herself points out in this essay). The issue with privilege is that it’s insidious and often times people don’t realize they’re benefiting from it. Living in a first world country, we all benefit from some form of it. I am a Caucasian, straight perceived woman. I benefit from a lot of privilege. There was a point in my life when I had more than a bit of a shoplifting habit. I don’t think I would have managed to carry on for as long and on the scale I did without being white. Maybe to you this isn’t the best example. In a society that increasingly declares anyone who isn’t white deserving of whatever fate the police dole out to them, because they broke any law, it seems like a perfect example to me. So, really, just acknowledge your privilege. Gay makes the excellent point that no one is asking you to apologize for it, just acknowledge that, yes, indeed it is there.
“What We Hunger For”: This was the gut punch essay for me. I am not exactly a fan of the Hunger Games like Gay is, but I understand that catharsis it is for her. The story told here is one that I get far too well. The careless actions of boys who probably don’t even think of me even though I think of them often to this day. The careless words thrown around by other kids that were salt continually rubbed into the open wound of emotional destruction. Slut, whore, easy. Words I hope my own children never use, because of one side of a story when the other side is sullenly and suspiciously silent. (Words I hope they never use for any reason.)

Every essay here is excellent, but these are the two that stood out for me. There were times I laughed with Gay, there were times I cried. More than anything I feel like this is the kind of collection of essays that I feel expanded my world a bit. I saw the world for a moment from the perspective of someone who has had to look through a different lens than I have. There are similarities though. Even if some of those similarities are painful, that is where the hope is. Yes, we are all different and we are all unique due to skin color, sexuality, gender, a million things. We are also all similar in ways that communication across those lines shines a light on.

I am an intersectionalist feminist. I am a bad feminist. I am flawed. We are all flawed, but we are trying to do better. That is the biggest take away from this collection.

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[ink: girl in a band]

Girl in a BandGirl in a Band by Kim Gordon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First, a couple of disclaimers to explain how I came into the experience of reading Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl in a Band:
Disclaimer 1: I am not now, nor have I ever been a rock star so I am perhaps not qualified to judge how a rock star writes her memoir.
Disclaimer 2: I despise the term girl crush, but at one point in time that is the only term that could describe how I felt about Kim Gordon. I imagined that I wanted to have sleep overs with her where we ate ice cream and talked about all the important things like how hard it is to be female in male dominated fields. (This was back when I was convinced I was going to be a hard boiled, hard as nails war correspondent.) This strongly influenced how I felt starting this book even if I’ve perhaps matured just a bit past this feeling.

Kim Gordon is a bass player, artist, clothing designer, feminist icon and over all cool female archetype. She’s also now a memoirist. Memoirs always seem like tricky things with a high degree of hit or miss possibility. There’s a balancing act in the best ones of honesty and entertainment. The stakes are especially high when you’re someone with a following like Gordon’s I would imagine.
I honestly found myself a little disappointed. It was interesting for a quick read, but I don’t feel like I walked out of this knowing Gordon herself much better than when I started. I know about her projects and the hows and whys of them, but she spends a large amount of time holding back who she herself is. The juxtaposition of it starting and ending with the end of her marriage and band (something inherently emotional and personal) makes it feel a little disjointed.

The best points of this memoir are when she talks about her relationship with her mentally ill brother and how she doesn’t feel like she always fits with the world she’s in. It’s entirely possible that both of these things are due to over identification. I’m not going to preclude the possibility. I also was raised in a household with mental illness. I also struggle with feeling like a constant outsider no matter where I am or who I’m with. I think it also has to do with this feels like when she’s the most emotionally naked and vulnerable. Selfishly, this is what I want in a memoir and these are the moments she comes closest to giving it to me.
It’s also interesting learning about all her reasoning behind her artistic and musical pursuits. I’m eternally interested in how pieces come together to make art and music. This was definitely the main focus of the book. It felt like her comfort zone.

There were parts I felt were overdone and detracted from the story. There are points where it feels like a grocery list of name dropping. I do genuinely understand that Gordon has been a major player in the music and art scene for over three decades now. She’s bound to know many people that the average person does not. If they had a real impact and they’re brought up that isn’t name dropping to me. There’s territory here where it feels like people who had minimal impact are mentioned just because of who they are. Maybe it was something that was lost in editing.
Also, if you didn’t know it before, you will know by the time you are done with Girl in a Band that Kim Gordon really does not like Courtney Love. It’s okay to not like someone. I don’t think there is an obligation to show absolute solidarity with someone just because you are both women in music. I do think it might be a bit much to devote as much time in a story about her life focusing on Courtney Love and talking about how much of a train wreck she actually is.

All in all, it’s a decent memoir. It’s not going to change anyone’s life and Gordon is characteristically holding back, almost exactly like she does on stage. She’s not ever going to be a transparent person. That is at the end of the day what makes her the paradigm of coolness and perhaps it’s better that it wasn’t taken away here.

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[throwback thursday]dishwater dull

Originally posted 10/24/09 on a different blog.

So, I’m sitting here with a fairly large amount of chemicals on my head, burning in some parts, itching in others, and this is the pre-dying part. I’m not even sure what all chemicals I’ve put on my head, which may be a bad thing. The fact that I have approximately 57 minutes left of it sitting on my head also disturbs me.

All of which is a weird segue to my point. I am not the world’s most confident person, I just play one on t.v. and fake it really, really well most days. There are cracks there if you know where to look for them and how to look at them. Take the hair dying and the fact that the majority of people I know have never seen my real hair color. It’s possible my own little sister has never seen my real hair color. It’s not so much that I hate it or dislike it, as it is it’s boring. It’s not exciting. It’s this shade between dark blonde and light brown that just is. If you’ve ever had the term dishwater applied to you hair you’d probably understand my complex just a little bit.

The first time I died my hair it was a disaster. I was 14 and it was supposed to come out strawberry blonde. Instead it came out a shade that was closer to piss yellow. It was awkward. Then again, I kind of remember most aspects of 14 being awkward. Even more awkward than all the resulting 16 years have been. I didn’t give up though and I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve gone from black to red to pink to green (not a good shade on me I might add) to bleached blonde to dark purple and (in recent years) back to blacks and reds. What do they all have in common? They’re dramatic. They’re in your face. They’re obviously not natural. And they are miles away from “dishwater”.

I honestly believe on some level that my hair could be a metaphor for most aspects of my life. I’m not a terribly interesting person really. A little kooky, perhaps, but not exciting. There isn’t much pizzazz in me. I’ve spent years trying to fake it though. I think I even convinced a few people along the line that I was. I’ve put myself through mental rungs just like I’ve put my hair through chemical rungs. At the end of the day, I’m still not comfortable with being as boring as I am. Maybe someday I’ll come to terms with it and it’ll be the same day I’m comfortable with not having vibrant hair either. I don’t see it any time in the near future though and I wonder if true happiness eluding me is part of that.