A decade shall conclude a bit differently than envisioned.
A decade shall commence a bit differently than envisioned.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I haven't had time to watch or listen to some of the most acclaimed films/albums of 2009, but what I have been able to do is get bombarded throughout the year by every hot Korean pop single without even trying. They're inescapable, ubiquitous. They follow me wherever I go: to the convenience to buy beer, smokes, and condoms (in that order!); when I'm out shopping; when Kmart and I are consuming a thieves' ransom -- avec 소주, 맥주, and the alcohol Voltron that is 소맥 --in fusion-food gastroforbestestinal glory; when I turn on the radio in a stolen car.
You learn to accept it. Sometimes, you learn to like it, and not in an ironic way. Just as there are five stages of culture shock, so too are there five steps to K-pop inundation: 1) That's so awful? Who listens to that?, 2) The girl in the middle is kinda cute, though, 3) [Googling for images of Lee Hyori], 4) Yeah, it's garbage, but whuddaryagonnado?, and 5) You know what, this is actually pretty good!.
Keep that in mind while we reminisce over the year that was, the soundtrack of (y)our lives:
(Also keep in mind that, while this list is chock full of girl groups, it's a sign of the times rather than Spakros perving out. Really. I could listen to these tracks without the videos, although I won't say I dislike them. No, I won't say that.)
5): Kara, "Mister"
4): Clazziquai, "Love Again"
3) Brown Eyed Girls, "Abracadabra"
2) SNSD, "Gee"
1) SNSD, "Genie (Tell Me Your Wish)"
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 7:38 PM
Monday, December 28, 2009
Pro or anti, what the hell difference does it make to the guy who gets his ass shot off? -- Sam Fuller
Pro or anti, I suppose Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is a war movie in the same way Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous is a musical or Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights is a porno. Set in Iraq in 2004*, a series of intense vignettes -- with almost no plot save for a countdown until the company's rotation -- depict the insanely dangerous missions of the three men of Bravo Company, a bomb-disposal unit.
Sounds like a war movie, doesn't it? But what Bigelow has done instead is craft an incredibly authentic allegory about addiction**, using the Iraq War as her backdrop.
The film opens with war correspondent Chris Hedges's quote that "war is a drug," and it certainly is for Sergeant First Class William James, played wonderfully by Jeremy Renner. James joins Bravo Company early in the film, and at first he appears to be a nice enough addition the unit; it doesn't take long, however, for his comrades in arms to realize just how reckless James can be. Undeniably skilled, yes, yet nevertheless reckless. Unlike other professions, bomb disposal doesn't allow for do-overs. Not only does James risk his own life, he risks those of fellow unit members Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie, Papa Doc from 8 Mile) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). Is it really surprising, then, that when an opportunity presents itself Sanborn and Eldridge contemplate murdering him?
Explosives disposal is James's drug. He gets off on it. We see the almost sexual lust the danger provides him, like a junkie getting a fix. And while James revels in the Nirvana of his exploits, for the viewer the level of suspense raised during each mission is positively Hitchcockian. There's a reveal early in the film that is as goose bump-inducing as anything in modern horror.
Of course, with addiction comes abuse. James's craving might ultimately get himself killed, but before that comes a decline in mental function. There are only so many hits for a junkie, only so many drinks for an alcoholic. Eventually, substance abuse catches up with its abuser, and for William James this current deployment may be where the seams start to unravel. James is a high-fuctioning addict when he joins Bravo Company -- with fewer than than a couple of weeks left before rotation, not so much.
Credit Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal for making a film about substance abuse that is never heavy-handed or trite. Yes, The Hurt Locker reveals its hand at the beginning, but it isn't until late in the film that we understand just how literal Hedges's quote is and how it resonates when applied to William James. The slasher genre is often maligned for relying on tropes and having a lack of fresh ideas, but war films can be equally cliched, the difference being that instead of imaginatively created new breeds of killers/forms of onscreen murder, all a war movie needs to invigorate the genre is a new war, the more authentic the better.
Good thing The Hurt Locker isn't a war movie, pro or anti***.
* Two anachronisms in the film: neither YouTube nor the Xbox 360 was around then.
** Vive alliteration!
*** What it is is possibly 2009's best film. I can't decide yet whether it or Inglourious Basterds (also a war-movie-that-isn't-a-war-movie) ranks at the top of the films I've watched this year. I haven't seen a lot of possible contenders (although I plan to), but for shits and giggles here's Herr Spakros's list of the best five films he's seen this year:
Honorable Mentions: Paranormal Activity, The Hangover
5) Up (a sublimely imaginative story Johnny marred only by its too-brief third act and an unconvincing villain)
4) District 9 (I will protest by drinking a two-liter bottle of soju and eating a Blue Russian cat if Sharlto Copely isn't given a Best Actor Oscar nod)
3) Watchmen: Director's Cut (my favorite movie of the year)
Tie for now: Inglourious Basterds (extreme tension by way of humans disposing humans, the payoff in the series of buildups before the carnage, save for its climax) and The Hurt Locker (extreme tension by way of humans disposing bombs set by other humans and a truly great analogy for the rush that comes from narrowly skirting death)
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 5:55 PM
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Seiken Densetsu 3 aka Secret of Mana 2 (as dubbed by fans)
September, 1995 (Japan only)
Action role-playing game
Why It Made the List
Back in the autumn of 1993, Square released Secret of Mana with considerable fanfare, and for good reason; the game was, by all accounts, the epitome of digital excellence. At heart the story of a boy, a girl, and a magical midget, Square's title was the stuff dreams are made of -sure, one could argue that anything with magical midgets basically develops itself, but whatever- and, furthermore, it satiated gamers' collective desire for something akin to The Legend of Zelda in form, except that in the case of Secret of Mana, the legend itself was challenged by incredible graphics, seductively engaging musical numbers, compelling storyline, and an intrinsically likable cast of cartoonish characters.
Beyond that, you should also know that the game supported up to three players; and let me tell you, the first time I played through the game was in the company of two friends. Basically, we were (give or take a few hours) a sorry but diligent fellowship dedicated to destroying the Dark Lich and his cronies, and to this day I have fond memories of our trials, tribulations, and taco breaks. More than the technical and artistic merits of the game, it was the potential for comradery that affixed me to the Secret of Mana, and like all sensory-deprived children, I eagerly awaited what I had assumed to be the inevitable sequel, as it was far too popular a game to get left behind in the mire of mediocre Super Nintendo products, right?*
Wrong. Seiken Densetsu 3 never saw the light of day outside of the Land of the Rising Sun for reason of...Well...There's never been, to my knowledge, a definitive answer given to that enigma. Some have blamed it upon programming quirks (also known as glitches) so glaring as to be far too time-consuming to remedy to warrant release to the world at large, while others attribute the project's abortion to an understaffed localization crew. Yet another hypothesis is that the nearly-simultaneous development (and subsequently underwhelming release) of Squaresoft's Secret of Evermore took precious resources away from the SD3 project or, in a slightly more acidic vein, that Squaresoft was rather bitter regarding the lukewarm response to Evermore and opted to 'punish' gamers by abandoning SD3. Rumors have persisted for years; I'm scarcely the one to put them to rest, suffice it to say that Seiken Densetsu 3 has never been officially released in English (or any second language, for that matter), ostensibly limiting it to those for whom Japanese is easily understood.
Seiken Densetsu 3 has yet to be released in licensed fashion, but the story doesn't end there. At the turn of the millennium, a team of dedicated fans pooled their resources for the explicit purpose of making the game available to a much wider audience than ever before, and that's how we've arrived at where we are now.
The game's on the list because it's amazingly fun and that it could -by all rights**- have remained nothing more than a sore spot within many-a-manchild's memory.
* Yeah, 'cause there's never been any manner of disappointment involving Nintendo. Never ever.
** Your mother's got nothing on the saucy bitch entitled Legality.
Posted by Kmork at 9:22 PM
Open the door, wax the whistle. There are pies on sale here; peaches, too. Hungarian women in pink lingerie. Mulch. Cold sores. I wrote a map to Heaven on the back of a Bennegan's napkin. Pat can't say jack shit. Kids need to be taught that sometimes pickled olives have pits instead of pimentos, lest they break their teeth. Bring it to a boil. Knives with rubber handles are easily utilized, scissors with plastic ones not so much. Means. Ends. Little pills in a tiny translucent envelope. A gorilla eating custard. Foam. Curtis, you have sand in your ears. Fat gray hippos landing on airstrips. Wheat stalks as far as the eye can see, black clouds hovering like predatory ghosts. An ingrown eyelash. Test patterns from the Eastern Bloc. Golfing atop the Sears Tower! Cuttlefish. Boogers. Time comes, every life has a climax. Slowly; slower, please. Take this tie off me. You're going to enjoy a painful death, avec bacon. Push me, shake me, thrash me, throw me. There are two beady green lights in the dark office across the way, the eyes of a modem or an alien. Frosting. I knew a guy who thought he was joining a book club and ended up recruited into a cult. There is no destiny in Pac-Man. Leather goods for sale. Did you really sleep with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Lost, found, lost again. "The Last Time" sampled by gargoyles. You put on your sunglasses now, kiddo. Hello, James, your violin died yesterday. We are in space, surrounded by hostile elements: jagged chunks of asteroid matter, blue tubes of acid. When I wake up there better be a bowl of granola at the table. Fuck, no more cans of hairspray. Carrot. Try to pretend like you're having fun, Eugene. Chapped lips. Carp. A boat motor coughs its last breath. Put on your peonies and let's play some dodgeball. The prettier you get the uglier I get. The vacuum cleaner is broken. If you touch my bowling ball one more time I'll stab you in the belly button with this fork. Reggae. The grass is slick from the morning dew, framing Geoffry Andrews's corpse in a limp funeral of seasonal ambivalence. Waking up on winter mornings, when my ankles crack they sound like a beetle's exoskeleton snapping in half.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:02 PM
Friday, December 25, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Little nine-year-old Iggy Pierce wakes up at close to a quarter of four, only a few hours after he fell asleep while reading the second chapter of his Madeleine L'Engel book, the one that begins, "It was a dark and stormy night," the one present he was allowed to open on Christmas Eve.
The rest would have to wait until morning, his mother said. Tradition, she said, and Iggy knew it well. The Pierces spoiled their two sons, partly out of affection but mostly to keep up with the yuppie Joneses among whom they lived, who similarly heaped small mountains of gifts beneath and around the Christmas tree, mountains which appeared to double in size come the morning of December twenty-fifth, after Père Noël had deposited his usually wished-for -- or in rare cases unwanted -- cache of presents sometime in the night before slinking away like a benevolent phantom and leaving only trace cookie crumbs and half-drunk glasses of milk as testament to his visit.
This is unbearable to Iggy, an annual test of will. He knows he's not alone in his torment, that millions of children feel likewise. There's homework, trips to the dentist, waking up early on Sundays to sit through boring church sermons, department store shopping with his mother, long car rides cross country to see his grandparents; in all, a lot of waiting and a lot of unpleasant tasks. There's a pot of gold at the end of this particular rainbow, Iggy knows, but still it's unfair. He understands, has been told by his parents, teachers, and MTV, that there are kids in Ethiopia and other places who don't get Christmas presents because it's too hot or too far away for Santa to go there, kids who go days without food or water even, and he feels bad for them, he does, but he's only nine, and he's grown accustomed to the way things are here in Moncton, New Brunswick, not so far from the North Pole, not too far for privilege.
Mostly it's his heart beat. Rapid, excited. The butterflies in his stomach, too. Minus the cottonmouth, he feels physically the same way he does whenever he has to make a speech at the front Mrs. Meyer's third-grade classroom, the same way he feels when he's sent to the principal's office or his bedroom and awaiting a scolding (Principal York) or a spanking (Steven Pierce). This is how Iggy understands irony.
His mind is likewise jumpy. Fidgety. Darting from one unfinished thought to the next like an obese lady hastily taking bites from every foodstuff on a buffet table. He speculates. He tries to stop speculating, but the attempt is folly, like wishing water into wine. It's a miracle that he was able to fall asleep, really. An aberration.
Iggy Pierce is going to go downstairs, to see his gift-wrapped bounty, but first he has to pee. He stands, waits, shivers, then shakes, mindful not to flush so as to avoid waking his snoring parents or the ghosts of his forebears who occupy the attic above which creaks and moans on hot summer nights and icy winter ones alike. The first mission of his campaign completed, he sneaks downstairs and into the dark living room where the Christmas tree stands and his treasure awaits like an undiscovered ore of childhood lust, the Christmas lights adorning the bushes outside his sole source of illumination to guide him.
He checks his stocking first, a fat sock full of sugary, chocolatey allure. Greedily, he eats two Ferrero Rocher and a giant Toblerone triangle the size of his palm. He thumbs through a book of crossword puzzles and opens a Life Savers Christmas Book to espy its riches. Butterscotch. Beautiful. When the stocking's contents are stuffed for the second time today into its wool casing, it resembles the gangrenous limb of a wounded man, bulging at the top and skinny at the bottom.
Iggy Pierce's eyes then feast upon the prodigious mound of gifts stacked neatly to the left side of the tree, a magical ejaculation of boxes from the beige carpet, a pyramid of fulfilled wishes that resembles the tree in its tiered conicity. Here and there are cards fastened by Scotch Tape that he'll read begrudgingly, "out of tradition," prompted by the dictators of a falling regime.
At first light, Iggy sets to work. Like his father, he can't wrap a present worth a damn, and he knows that opening each one -- quietly and carefully picking at myriad applications of tape like a grunt in a bomb disposal unit -- to reveal its hidden joy will hence result in a feeble attempt to rewrap it, but he doesn't care. His plan is to open them again in a few hours' time fast, before his folks can see the crumpled mess of piss-poor repackaging beneath each. This makes perfect sense to the smart boy.
The first gift he opens spoils the surprise of the one three levels beneath it, but Iggy is far from upset at the revelation. It's a video game cartridge, Kung Fu, for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The second is a Transformer, the one that turns into a gun but not Megatron, the guy who's stationed on Cybertron, the one with the cyclopean eye. This is turning out to be the best day of Iggy Pierce's young existence.
A box three feet long in width and four in length is the foundation of Mount Iggy, and this is to where the lad next turns his attention. Because it's big. The biggest. That doesn't always pay off, he knows; there might be a knitted sweater and a pair of ugly slacks inside, but in life young and old size hints at grandeur. The promise of expansive greatness.
This time, Iggy rips the gift open top-wise, consequences be damned. There's something in that box akin to enlightenment, he feverishly believes, an unseen blessing of beauty, a map to Heaven, perhaps.
Beneath sheer gift paper, coiled like an extension cord, is an angry serpent. A king cobra. It welcomes its liberator no more warmly than it would its captor, lunging at Iggy's wrist and biting hard. The boy recoils in pain and terror and dumbfound indignity, clutching his wrist and holding it to his breast in an expression almost resembling pride, not pain. The snake crooks its caped head over the box then slithers to the carpeted floor like oil poured onto water. It studies its offender then strikes.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 6:32 PM
Sunday, December 20, 2009
"Hello, friend," Wesley Kerr spoke to the moon above, a pockmarked fat circle haloed in blurry mist. "Thought I might sit out here tonight, hold palaver with you while I eat these few remaining rations."
He produced a flattened candy bar, still in its wrapper, from his parka's inner breast pocket. A small carton of chocolate milk was placed between legs akimbo. With numb fingers he opened the carton first then the candy bar wrapper, placing the cracked chocolate oblong widthwise over the carton's gaping mouth before saying a prayer to his deaf-mute god. His lips moved spasmodically, near imperceptibly, like those of a man speaking in dreams, and to an observer only the crisp, sputtering whiteness of his breath revealed any effort at sonorousness.
That futile task completed, he reduced the candy bar by half in a single bite. He gulped down the chocolate milk and prodded his molars for remaining bits of peanut and nougat with his tongue. His appetite ambivalent, he tossed the rest of the candy bar aside, where it landed on the pavement like a skipping stone on a frozen lake.
"Know I'm gonna do it," he said to the bleached satellite. "Knew it for a long time. Fixing up the courage used to be the obstacle. 'Courage' isn't the right word, I guess, 'cowardice' is more like it, but from where I sit both are pretty near the same."
"S'funny, actually. When I was a kid I used to imagine living in a world all by myself, one where I could go to the mall and take any damn toy from Toys 'R' Us I pleased. Such a shame that when fantasy became reality I wasn't interested in toys no more. I suppose that's what they call irony."
The moon is patient in the sky, listening to Wesley Kerr's sermon.
"I read Robinson Crusoe when I was in grade school. Jack London's 'To Build a Fire' when I was in my senior year. Fantastic fucking stories of survival, they are, even if the guy in 'To Build a Fire' dies eventually, though not by lack of trying. That knowledge didn't help a lick when all the power went out and the water got poisoned, however. Wish someone woulda wrote a manual about how to survive this mess is what I'm saying. Wish somebody woulda told me I might someday be Robert Neville without the vampires. Probably other folk out there like me, but I ain't care to look more, done my share of scouting. I'm just a ghost haunting gas stations and convenience stores for water, vittles, and the occasional smut mag is what I am nowadays."
A bird chirps in the woods behind like a loose plucked guitar string.
"Times are hard, sure. The hardest. But it's not all bad. Today I drove a motorboat! Never imagined I'd do that. Never imagined I'd do a lot of things I've done these past two weeks."
"But I gotta tell you, there's not too much fight left in Reggie Kerr's son, no there isn't. My tank is empty, I reckon and acknowledge. Pretty soon I'm going to be the same as these ballooned dummies I see all over, and that's when the horror will stop. Hopefully. I have no business fighting the inevitable any longer. It's not in my DNA. Were I the protagonist in a Tom Clancy book or the leading man in a Hollywood movie I might have the gumption to recreate the world, but I'm not and I can't. I can't even keep myself from sneaking sips of whiskey when I wake up in the middle of the night, cold and desperate. No, what I have planned is easy, fast, and painless, like a trip to the dentist, or so they say..."
The mid-December chill blanketed Wesley Kerr in an arthritic hold. He coughed and shivered. His sneaker-clad feet felt like appendages a world away. He tried wriggling his toes and wasn't surprised by their lack of feedback. His fingers were mostly unresponsive. The Walther in his parka glowed. It's not so hard to pull a gun trigger, even for a man with frost bite. The easiest thing in the world, in fact. That in mind, Wesley closed his eyes and waited for nature or instinct to make its move.
He fell into a hypothermic sleep before either could.
"Wake up," a bloated man says.
It's morning and the sky is gray and Wesley is still alive, barely.
"I said wake up," and the man kicks him.
Eyes crusted by sleep or pall of death, Roger Kerr's grandson opens his to a chubby monolith of hope. Here is a man, here is a savior.
"Get up and let's go," the man says. He fishes a crooked cigarette from his jeans pocket and lights it with a gold Zippo.
"Are you real?" Wesley asks, nonplussed.
"I'd ask you the same thing if I didn't already know better."
"Do you have a name?"
"Sure do. Blake Blevin. Now get in the car. But before you do, please take off that stupid hat."
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 4:39 PM
Friday, December 18, 2009
[Note: this post contains very mild spoilers (basic plot description and minor character analyses) of Stephen King's Under the Dome.]
I have a suspicion that Stephen King (No. 9 on my GNOAT list*) made a bet with someone, possibly Kristy Swanson, that he could pull off writing an epic novel over a thousand pages in length with a male protagonist named Barbie. If so, King needs to collect on that wager.
There are a ton of characters in King's latest book. The novel is even prefaced by a daunting list of its principal players. But none is more central than Dale Barbara, a.k.a. "Barbie."
And perhaps that's fitting. After all, the concept of the novel is the exact same as The Simpsons Movie: a town is cut off from the outside world by a barrier. Chalk it up to poor timing on King's part (he claims he's never seen The Simpsons Movie, although I'm more than a little dubious that Uncle Stevie never heard about the film's premise). Regardless, the novel's plot is the culmination of years (King wrote 450 pages of a novel with a similar concept, set in an apartment block, titled The Cannibals, before abandoning the manuscript in the mid-80s), a genius for crafting memorable, archetypical characters (only The Simpsons and The Wire can claim such a feat), and an innate, Rod Serlingesque gift for conjuring up what-if scenarios sifted with a light layer of social criticism**. King is a red-blooded sub-genre fanatic to the core, but while artists in other medium such as Beck and Quentin Tarantino receive praise -- as well as their share of detractors, admittedly -- for their influences, Stephen King is more likely than not relegated to airport novelist status by his contemporaries, his champions regarded as peons without the God-ordained talent to spot a shoddy writer. When King was announced to receive the National Book Awards lifetime achievement award in 2003, Harold Bloom called him an "immensely inadequate writer," comparing his work to penny dreadfuls***. Ironically, Harold Bloom has a dog named Spot and a cat named Tabby****.
So Under the Dome's main character is Barbie, a short-order cook honorably discharged from the U.S. Army. Pass Go, collect two-hundred dollars. I'm with you so far, Stevie. The antagonist is James "Big Jim" Rennie, the town's 2nd selectman, a rotund, power-hungry opportunist. If you don't catch the Bush-Cheney, Red State-Blue State conflict in the book's first couple hundred pages, you're pretty much a dumbass, but it won't affect your enjoyment of the novel one bit.
In no way is Under the Dome heavy-handed in its underlying message, however. It's overt, sure, but never does it swerve into parable. The tale is what matters most, in this case. I believe the novel will survive and flourish*****, because all well told stories do, over time; and the greatness of Under the Dome is defined by its characters and not its concept, one which is inherently Kingsian yet for the most part window dressing. There is a supernatural presence that has placed these people beneath a microscope, but you're not concerned with what caused this clusterforbes as much as you are worried about how the town of Chester's Mill will pull through it.
Trust me, while Under the Dome is at times as predictable as peanut butter and strawberry jam******, there are change-ups; characters you have pegged as key players in the "plot*******" might meet a surprising demise, while hitherto unassuming characters might make an unexpected return. And that's fair, because it's anything goes under the Dome********, and in storytelling the storyteller is king. In this case King.
What an awesome novel. Make sure you pick it up. It's available everywhere: bookstores, airports, Mars, Bundang. You won't put it down if you do.
Unless, that is, you're in outer space.
And when I say I'm picking my seat, it means I'm scratching my arse. Going to the movies, get it?
Neither do I.
* Now there's a spoiler. And while you're here -- don't worry, the text above isn't going anywhere; sit down and split a can of Welch's Grape with me, how's about? -- I should probably explain that GNOAT (Greatest Novelist of All Time) includes more than a few non-novelists. Heck, I have Shakespeare at No. 1! Let's just say that the list, if or when I ever complete it, isn't exactly objective. If it were, Roger Ebert wouldn't be at No. 11 (more spoilers!). I just thought that GNOAT rolled off the tongue a little better than GWOAT. And I was kinda drunk, kinda in this case meaning my brain was drenched in alcoholic beverages (beer, soju, Calvin Klein's Eternity). Regardless, when everything's said and done, it'll all make sense. You have my solemn word.
** When he's hitting on all cylinders, I mean. The man certainly has his share of dookies in his oeuvre (see: From a Buick 8, The Tommyknockers, the conclusion of The Dark Tower series).
*** Oh shit, Bloom probably hates on Alexandre Dumas, too, No. 6 on the GNOAT list!
**** I made that up. If you're still here -- sipping on your fizzy grape soda -- you probably don't care.
***** HBO has already optioned it for a mini-series. Can't wait to see that fucker. Fan-wank casting: Chris Evans as Barbie, Noble Willingham's resurrected corpse as Jim Rennie (failing that, Thomas F. Wilson), Patrick Wilson as Andy Sanders, Jackie Earle Haley as Chef Bushey, Vin from season six of Hell's Kitchen as Carter Thibodeau, me as Horace the clairvoyant dog...
****** DON'T READ THIS IF YOU DON'T WANT CLIMAX SPOILERS, EVEN THOUGH, WITH KING, YOU KNEW, AS ASSUREDLY AS A CANINE PISSES ON A CARPET, IT WAS COMING: there's an explosion. A big one, perhaps the biggest. I've criticized King's tropes on this blog and face to face with like-minded -- read: constantly retarded -- folks, yet King pulls it off spectacularly. However milquetoast you might compare King's writing from old to new, past to present, he thrusts down the carnage hammer in the book's climax, saving only a chosen few from its wrath. Toward the novel's end, King is an Old Testament God, punishing the wicked and virtuous alike, turning the character of Ollie Dinsmore into his Job.
******* Stephan King plots books like I make life decisions, which is to say that he makes it up on the fly, then goes back to correct his mistakes, if possible.
******** Admittedly, the book's "good guys" get far more shine than its baddies. The chess board pieces are positioned early on, and while some on the dark side are pulled into the ivory, no one from the White crosses over into the Ebony (or the Crimson, in King's world). Please don't call me a racist for that analogy. I'm skirting spoilers like land mines and using chess metaphors like a high school dropout. Go easy.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 7:04 PM
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Wednesday, December 16
A man was in the kitchen this morning. Christie saw him too. She had an earache and wanted to watch cartoons. She woke me up but I was cold and wanted to sleep more. I gave her a shove like the ones daddy does with his friends when football is on and they get excited. Christie didn't like it. She cried. She said the man in the kitchen didn't have any pants. She's such a baby sometimes. Always is more like it.
I like Christie alot but I don't always show it Mom says. She says I will when we get grown and our agediffer doesn't matter. Dad says like a bees knees she will and he laughs. Dad likes to laugh. So do I and so does Mom and little Christie. I love them all alot.
I feel bad right now because Christie was right. There was a man in the kitchen and like Christie said he didn't have any pants. He didn't have a shirt either. He was as naked as the day he was born is what Mom would have said if she saw him. But Mom was pfast asleep. Dad too. Only me and Christie saw him.
He wasn't a bad man. Bad people take things and hurt people. There are alot of bad mans but he wasn'T one of them. He was just hungry. I think he was starving because he ate a whole box of special K and the baskin robbins icecream and the rolls on the table and the butter. He scared Christie, but she doesn't know yet how to trust people. She thinks Grover is scary and he's not. Now that I'm older I know he just was hungry. Maybe his Mom never gave him anything good to eat.
When Christie started crying he ran outside. He looked really sad. I wanted to give him a scarf because he would be so cold outside without pants or a shirt. But he left before I could.
Dad asked me who drank the eggnog when he got up. I said I didn't but Christie did. She poured it down the kitchen sink i said.
When we grow up I'm gonna hug Christie and tell her all the bad things I said don't matter anymore because we're grown up and better people. THat's what big sisters are for!
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 10:46 PM
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Stepping out of his apartment and into the icy, mid-December chill, Adam Carrick declares, "It's fritzing cold!" his words muted to a mumble by the scarf drawn over his mouth, his breath instantly condensing in tiny wet beads against the scarf's itchy wool. His slacks are pressed and presentable, but what they make up for fashion-wise they lack in warmth. Adam is no fan of long johns -- which are for fishermen, farmers, and fags -- but a pair of those badboys, regardless the color, would do him well right now, because a harsh wind blows, and his legs are numb. Damn numb.
Pfreezing! shouts Carrie Garth's inner voice, the one that cares little for correct spelling. Because, she muses, it is p-freezing; there's cold, and then there's this. Substitute the P for whatever crude oath you know, or make up one of your own, girl, she thinks. She checked the weather this morning while her kettle boiled, and she thought she'd bundled up accordingly, but no. Gusts of blustery wind slap her exposed cheeks like a skeletal hand, and it feels as though the broad side of an icicle sword is pressed against her forehead.
Adam is walking toward the bus stop, head down. His ears are red and screaming, twin satellite dishes receiving a signal of cold that his brain deciphers in capital letters: COLD!
Carrie wishes she had gloves on. Her hands are thrust deeply into her coat pockets, but they're still chilly, as are her toes. It is a day unkind to extremities, and the leaves feel it worse than the branches, the pawns before the bishops.
There's a red light at this particular crossing, on this particularly cold day. As our two subjects stand ten yards apart, each bound in opposite directions, Adam is humming a Counting Crows song, Carrie wriggling her toes to the beat of GZA's "Cold World."
Then the light turns
Adam starts on his side, ahead of the pack. For him, this is a sprint for warmth. His office is five minutes away, and he will get there in under four, bet your sweet bippy. He will assuredly be cold again, but he never wants to be out in this cold. Because it's cruel. Unnatural. Like mentally retarded babies and aspiring basketball superstars' busted knees.
Carrie is lost in thought, imagining herself a frozen human icicle, much like Jack Torrence at the end of Kubrick's mindfuck film. But she picks up the pace when the throng before her commences marching. She has only thirty or so strides to the bus stop, and while that won't provide warmth, on a day like today she's ready to go wherever any bus, whichever one stops first -- even if it goes to the atomic wasteland of Ilsan -- will carry her. Because it's cold. It's certainly been colder, somewhere -- definitely in Antarctica -- but that can't placate a near-hypothermic person, much like a starving Alabama boy can't compare the hunger he feels to the plight of Sudanese refugees. Carrie is cold. Degrees of temperature can measure its force, but not its blow.
Stepping down from the bleached white-gray curb, she walks onto the crossing on toes as untrustworthy as a punch-drunk prize fighter's. Ahead of her, eyes straight and narrow, is a gentleman. It's insanely cold, but Carrie Garth isn't mad in the mentally disturbed sense; she knows what she sees, and her vision is true: Prince Charming, if for one night or every one to follow for the rest of her life.
Adam pauses midway through the intersection. Love at first sight is bullcrap, so he's been told, but here is an angel, one with bushy eyebrows and a feminine mouth that even John Romita Sr. could never draw, a bow turned downward in the cold, perhaps upward in warm weather; an elastic mouth that just might reveal the secrets of life.
"Sorry," Carrie says as they bump shoulders while passing.
"Excuse me?" Adam says, turning around.
"You brushed me. Or maybe I brushed you. Anyway, sorry."
"My fault entirely."
Sadly, it's too fucking cold for conversation. Too cold a world, where displaced Sudanese boys are eaten by lions.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:57 PM
Monday, December 14, 2009
Yes, that's me. I've tried to keep it a secret for so long, but in this digital age the secret's bound to come out, and I'd rather confess before risking further embarrassment. I was teased in school -- elementary, junior high, high -- about it, and this is my way of preemptively suturing old wounds before they're reopened.
The man I am is a lot different from the boy I was, but we're still pretty much alike. Minus the pubic hair and alcoholism.
Meet Eoin. He still doesn't say much, but at least he lost the glasses. I'm still addicted to ketchup, though.
And fries. My demons will forever haunt me.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 10:31 PM
Sunday, December 13, 2009
**Spoiler Alert! Don't watch this if you're currently playing, or intend to play, Persona 3.**
Paint me curious, but with seven minutes and thirty-seven seconds to enjoy life (after learning the secret of life, as it were), what would you do?
Say what you will; but I probably wouldn't be so altruistic. Then again, you're not me.
Posted by Kmork at 3:13 AM
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
May 9, 1978
Spakros, who will later go on to create the Internet, Furbies, environmentally friendly fuel sources (water, urine), and who will bed seven members of Girls' Generation*, is born. Dr. Manhattan decides to return to Earth from Mars.
Sometime in 1979
My mother puts a purple, paisley teddy bear in my crib. Horrified, I toss the bear out of the crib, onto the floor. My mother puts it back in, because I can't speak yet and tell her not to. Yes, my first memory comes from the crib, before I could walk or talk. You think I'm lying, I know; but that's what happened. I can't remember the plot of Miller's Crossing or what I ate for breakfast this past Sunday, but I remember that. Vividly.
Other Foggy Dates That Ushered My Infanthood into Childhood
- Watching a double feature of Star Wars and Empire at two years old. Yoda scared the piss out of me until Frank Oz, the voice of Grover, spoke, soothing me like a warm blanket. Other cinematic half-memories include Gremlins (Phoebe Cates almost ruined Christmas, but I must have been too busy staring at her doe eyes to comprehend the weight of her words**), Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Bambi, and The Secret of Nimh. They sure don't make em like they used to.
- Cabbage Patch Kids. They had signatures on their asses like Asians have Mongolian spots! I received one as a grading present***, only the boy Cabbage Patch Kids were all sold out, so I got a girl instead. Her name was Elvira. Surprisingly, this didn't turn me into a homosexual. Quite the opposite: I like to think it made me understand women better. In fact I know it did.
- Pac-Man. I can empathize to a certain extent with North Koreans, brainwashed cult followers, and fans of the Wu-Tang Clan, because if anyone ever calls Pac-Man anything except for the greatest video game ever made, he or she will require a tetanus shot. Because I just bit him/her. Hard. I will defend Pac-Man as the best video game ever created until I die (Thursday, December 24, 2009, at 9:13 PM).
- Cake. I hate cake. Why? I have some theories. Everything for a toddler is about cake: when it will come next, what kind of frosting it will have. Cake babies. Cake is to kids what crack is to fiends****, their methods of intake different but sharing the same result. Cake makes kids high. It's a drug for children. I'm only half-joking here; cake is dangerous. It incites microcosmic riots. It's a bad drug. I could go on*****.
- Mr. Rogers/Mr. Dressup/Fraggle Rock. (Word to Casey and Finnegan.) Fueled by a contact high in their genetics (and possibly cake), kids of my generation were raised with creative programming. The 70's zeitgeist of imaginative freedom for old and young would soon fall under the Cold War Curtain of the 80's (and Dallas, and cocaine), but it lingered, and I was there; and I fucking witnessed its transcendence. Soon I would be too busy worrying about naked women to care; but it was, to paraphrase the great Charles Dickens, a fucking blast.
There was a time when my biggest concern was whether the piece of candy I swallowed whole would kill me (my mother assured me it wouldn't, then made me drink hot water to melt the candy when I didn't believe her). Then came life.
This is mine.
With guitars. In stereo surround and close-captioning for the hearing impaired.
* at the same time!
** If there's any justice on this orb, Ms. Cates will read this and be thankful that I may be one of the few straight men alive to mention her and not reference her nude scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Until she reads this footnote, that is.
*** For graduating from kindergarten. Way to set the bar low, Baby Boomers.
**** I plagiarized that from the SAT analogy section
***** Cake is the de facto term for illicit products, especially drugs; and there's a reason for it. Because cake is a narcotic. Cake will lead to the collapse of mankind. Of this I am seventy-two percent sure.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 7:36 PM
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Mr. Porter's eleventh-grade classroom was absent half a dozen students when Fourth Period History was supposed to begin at twelve thirty-five. That was normal. Aside from the students who were at home sick, you could always count on potheads like Kerry Busby or Ranjit Chand to show up a few minutes late, red-eyed and silent, slinking to their desks like adolescent geriatrics (or, in Mason Marr's case, surprisingly ambulatory, considering the thirty-four fluid ounces of Commander Vodka he regularly drank over lunch on an empty stomach). Anything longer than five minutes, however, and Mr. Porter would lock the door for the rest of the period, passive-aggressively damning tardy students to No-Hall-Pass Purgatory. In other schools, or with other teachers, such an act might be akin to anarchy, but Mr. Porter (James to colleagues, Jimmy to friends) wasn't like other teachers, and Lattimore High was unlike any school.
James Porter didn't demand respect; he didn't need to. It was given to him automatically, almost supernaturally. Picture Bobby Knight without the insane outbursts and you'd have a near facsimile of James Porter, right down to the gray hair, ruddy cheeks, and prodigious gut. The man was like a cocked handgun in the hands of a tweaking meth addict, except that nothing set James Porter off.
Well, almost nothing. Porter coached the Lattimore Jaybirds, the varsity girls' basketball team, and there was one instance -- and one instance only, as far as everyone in Clarkson County can recall -- when he lost his cool: the time Janey Reardon double dribbled on the final play of the Jaybirds-Flares regional semi-finals, the Jays down a single point with fourteen seconds on the clock. James Porter was a strict coach, but he always diluted his criticism with a measure of kindness, an almost Zen-level control. Not so on that night. What James Porter did was walk onto the court and slap Janey Reardon so hard in the face that the sound echoed throughout the gymnasium. Janey first fell to the floor, then threw her hands to her blazing cheek, her legs pumping backward in agony and the heels of her sneakers frantically trying to dig into the hardwood. James Porter stormed off the court, washed his face in the girls' locker room, grabbed a fifth of Wild Turkey from the bed of his pickup, and drank it sitting on the gravel parking lot outside the eerily silent gym. The next morning he drove to the Reardon house out on South Bend, apologized to Janey and her folks, then drove to Lattimore High and handed in his resignation.
Wouldn't you know it, James Porter was asked to return the following Monday. The kids, the faculty...hell, everyone in Clarkson loved him too much to see him go. When word got out that Porter had accepted the school's offer, Janey Reardon herself sat at the breakfast table with tears of happiness streaming down her cheeks, the left one as red as a candy apple.
Which made it all the weirder that Mr. Porter (Coach Porter to Kelly Olsen and Hetty Greer) wasn't in class when twelve thirty-five turned to twelve-forty, then to twelve forty-five. A pall fell over the classroom, each student nervously awaiting Mr. Porter's entrance. Finally, at twelve fifty-three, Braydon Goines stood up, whispering to his deskmate, Angie Sommers, "Fuck this, I'm going to go find out where Mister P is."
He was stopped in front of the classroom door -- held open by a wooden wedge at the bottom, feebly fighting the cylinder close piston at the top, losing badly -- by a rotund Asian man with Fuller Brush-bristle hair and a pink nose.
"Sit down, turdburger," the man said in a calm, fey voice. Then: "OR I WILL HAVE YOUR BALLS!"
Braydon Goines did, skittering back to his desk like a soaking-wet Shih Tzu in a downpour. The other students held their eyes on the man, whom they assumed insane. Because if he wasn't, they were. It was either or.
This day couldn't get any weirder if it started raining dildos, thought Stacie Frank, immediately wondering whether the plural of "dildo" should be spelled with an S or an ES. Jeff Clemons, studiously examining his Terry Brooks Sword of Shannara novel for continuity errors, looked up to see a fat man toss a leather briefcase onto Mr. Porter's desk with a resounding thump. Emile Lansky, sitting in the front row, quickly caught wind of the behemoth's breath, a mixture of mint leaves and what he could only identify as scrotum sweat.
"My name," the substitute teacher addressed his gaping-jawed class, "is Kenny Chen. It's so nice to meet yeww!"
"Hell's bells," Archie DuMont snickered, "this subbie's as faggy as a rubber sword."
Two seconds. That's all it took. In one second Archie D was laughing uproariously, the next he was sprawled on the floor, blood spouting from his bottom lip like a sanguine irrigation outlet.
Kenny Chen was not done.
"C'mon, you fuckers! This will be the greatest day in ma la-eef! You, want some? You, sloe-eyes? You there, with the purple backpack?"
Somewhat sated, Kenny Chen sauntered back behind the desk, comfortable in knowing that, for now, those assholes, those babies, were under control.
"Mr. Porter is sick today, and I will be your substitute teacher," he spoke once more, calmly, as though no ruckus had occurred. "Fuck with me again, however --"
And that's when Kenny Chen's words were interrupted by an explosion, a big one. Chris Marconi's grenade exploded in his locker, blowing the right wing of Lattimore High's second floor to hell and high water and igniting the chemistry lab below it.
As the students ran in panic from Mr. Porter's classroom, Kenny Chen remained calm while intoning, "I expect your homework to be on my desk tomorrow, at nine o'clock, you heathen cork sockers. If it's not, I'm going to tell your mothers."
"NO CARTOONS!" he cackled as the last of the remaining student body fled.
Then he laughed harder, a full belly laugh that made him shake in his chair like an epileptic colossus.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 7:15 PM
Princess Mombi: So I'm coming up to Seoul this weekend.
Me: For that Guns N' Roses concert, yeah?
Mombi: That's right! And you can have the pleasure of treating me to a late lunch on Sunday, though not too late because my dad and I have to be at the show by seven.
Me: Sure. We can eat anywhere you like, just so long as- Wait. Hold up. Did you just say that you're going to see GNR with your dad?
Mombi: It's my birthday present to him.
Sparkles: Big news! My poop's no longer coming out purple!
Posted by Kmork at 7:03 PM
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Yangpyeong County is beautiful. Nestled amidst the mountains of Gyeonggi Province (Korea's Ontario!), the area gets a bad rap because, apparently, it's where men go to cheat on their wives*. And while that may be partially true, Yangpyeong is, for Seoul denizens, the perfect close-to-home get-away. I would not lie to you.
If you can withstand the carsickness-inducing winding mountain roads, Yangpyeong offers something for every season (water skiing in the summer, Donner Partyesque banquets in the winter). There's even 쁘띠브랑스 (Petite France), where, amazingly, you'll feel as though you've been teleported into Europe's third-greatest country. No one speaks English, and they treat visitors like dogshit.
I'm kidding, of course. While I would never in a million years recommend Petite France to, say, Kmart (or whatever he's Ron Artest/Kobe Bryant/LeBron Jamesing himself these days), it's a great place to take a date. (Or two, you sly dog, Mister Choi.) Trust me, take a few photos, eat a traditionally French meal of donkatsu or fried rice, and she's yours. You think I'm lying?
Yangpyeong's treasure trove of delights is, for me, still relatively unexplored; I'm there in a heartbeat at the soonest opportunity to find more, even though our "pension" (it's European; look it up**) was smaller than Avon Barksdale's prison cell, and the heat was turned off at night, leaving my bride and me to fuck for warmth***.
Enjoy the following notes and photo essay.
- High Kick Through the Roof is enjoyable as hell. I love that show like I love my...
- I'm no chef, but cooking thin slices of pork over a roaring flame probably won't yield the (Mr.) choicest bites.
- Under the Dome is the 2007 New England Patriots' regular season for me right now: perfect. I just hope the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl isn't its climax.
- Expensive wine is fortified by cork! Makes me feel like a drunk beaver!
- Props to Taster's Choice and their Caramel Latte instant coffee blend. It's taken thirty-one years, but, finally, I can have candy for breakfast and not risk chastisement. When Jack Daniel's introduces its Hangover Hashbrowns -- replete with whiskey-infused potatoes -- my dream of justifying my every urge/addiction will come full circle.
- Tiger Woods, Warren Moon, Jason Kidd: I share your pain. A woman should never hit a man.
(Gag Concert is my Kryptonight, and I have a sandwich to eat, so the rest of the pics'll have to wait. Tomorrow: Spark-penis!)
* I'm blushing a little. Full disclosure: Legs and I took a trip there in early 2008, and while I was 100% divorced from my ex-wife at the time, that cow stole the mail which was still being delivered to my former residence, saw my credit card bill, and threatened to sue me for infidelity.
I never said my ex was rational. (Nor did I say I didn't cheat on her. I just didn't do it in that case.)
** Naver speaks: An apartment-cottage that people pay too much for, simply because it's out of the way and far from prying eyes; Especially popular with university students, because they can't fuck their boyfriends/girlfriends at home, and DVD bangs get old after the second experience.
*** sad face
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:05 PM
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Numerous individuals have informed me that, to their discerning tastes, all the Friday the 13th films blend together into a massive DQ Blizzard with chunks of Suck; and I, being the benevolent, Confucian-style Santa Claus that I am, have decided to make your task as simple as possible. To that end, I grant you, Defenestrated Reader, the theatrical previews for each of the sequels in order to give your memory a much-needed kick in the nuts.
Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
I've lost count at this point, but I do believe that sometime this weekend I'll have passed the 1000 mark on random encounters in the
I'm going to divulge something rather unsavory about myself tonight, and be forewarned; it's not the cool he's crazily awesome! revelation we'd all like it to be, and it centers, ostensibly, around an idiotic film entitled Return to Oz.
Return to Oz? Seriously? I know (I know) but just hear me out. Believe it or not, I elected to see the film in the theater with my sister and mother (as an aside, my brother went to see The Goonies instead, that fool) and, sparing you an elaborate synopsis, one of the antagonists of the movie was the villainous Princess Mombi, a witch that had thirty-one interchangeable heads. Sounds simple enough, I suppose, but you should know that my mother resembles the actress who portrayed the main head, Jean Marsh (similar age, to boot), and it was a decidedly surreal experience to sit in a darkened theater with a woman who looked like the maniacal, head-changing woman on the screen.
To the point, I was at an impressionable age when I saw the film, and I can't stress enough just how much that freaked me out. Honestly, there was a period in which I feared that some woman living on my street had a secret stash of heads she could don at will, mainly for the purpose of tormenting unlikely children.
Later, it became less of a fear of literal head-swapping, and more of a metaphor for the opposite sex in general. Still later, that metaphor precipitated a strange fascination toward women.
I'll say no more, if only to preserve my illustrious reputation.
Recently, I spoke with Sparkles (over a dinner consisting of soju, French fries, and Spam casserole) regarding a future PK post pertaining to the murder of a young, female child (fictional of course, as that's an act which is far from my ideal pastime), and it wouldn't have revolved around the travesty of killing the child, per se, but rather the lackadaisical attempts by the perpetrators to shift blame upon one another, the caveat being the guiltlessly malignant manner in which each of the culprits effortlessly deflects such hollow accusations.
Regardless of my intentions, the PK Daddy issued a stern reprimand in response to my seemingly callous proposition, and insisted that I refrain from said endeavor. Now, I'm not sure if I approve of his vituperative censure, and I never made any promises, but I'll probably skip that post, because yeah, I can see how it would rub many-a-reader the wrong way.
For dinner tonight, I ate a convenience store sandwich, followed by half a bag of cheddar Goldfish, a bottle of Budweiser, and a swig of soju. And you wonder why my sperm is such a creamy shade of jade.
(So turn it up and break it down.)
Posted by Kmork at 1:13 AM