Monday, October 31, 2011

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

I have read eight novels/short story collections by Haruki Murakami.

 All in french.

A Wild Sheep Chase
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End Of The World
Norwegian Wood
South Of The Border, West Of The Sun
The Elephant Vanishes
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (my personal favorite)
Kafka On The Shore
After Dark

There are two reasons for that. First, one of my literature teacher (who speaks ten languages) has told me the french translation was very faithful to the original and secondly, I am mainly francophone, so whenever I read something translated, I'm going to seek in in my first language because I will understand better. I read the Americans and the Brits in English because I can understand the original words, but all my Japanese novels are in French translation. 

But it might not happen for 1Q84. Here's why.

The English translation by Jay Rubin is priced twenty-one dollars at my local bookstore. This is decent, affordable even. Hardbacks are usually around twenty-five, thirty. But check out this travesty. Belfond Editions have published 1Q84 in not one, but two volumes they have respectively priced thirty-five bones each. On top of that, they have designed the ugliest covers to go along.

This is horseshit. I have the freedom to chose in which language I can read a book and I would LOVE to read it in French, but I get an edition that's more than twice the price AND I get the ugliest pieces of lazy design to go along with this? I don't know who took the decision to do this, but they are obviously banking on the fact that none of the french Murakami readers are bilingual. The worst part in that is that I will be called a traitor for reading it in English, but I refuse to pay more than twice the price for an uglier edition that's split in two books. 

You heard me.

Unless somebody picks up the ball that Belfond Editions dropped, I'm reading the latest Murakami in English.

Book Review : Ray Banks - Gun (2008)

Country: Scotland

Genre: Noir

Pages: 80/150 Kb

Buy it for a dollar

Not every book can be of an epic length, but not every book needs to be, in order to shine. Of course, readers will remember more fondly a novel they spent weeks with, but a book that owns its length, whatever it is, will be amazing. Even moreso, the shorter it is, the most often the readers will go back to it. GUN is one of those peculiar literary objects. It's not even a hundred pages, but it's airtight, bulletproof storytelling. Ray Banks is one of the writers I've been the most buzz around online and everybody I know that's into crime fiction has read GUN. I went through it last week, in one frenzied sitting of compulsive reading. I know now why Ray Banks is so beloved by his readers and no matter how many people have read GUN already, it's not enough. General Mills should by the non-exclusive rights to it and distribute on USB keys in Cereal Boxes. It's short, darker than a moonless night and it's going to keep you tense like a piano wire for about two hours. That's more than what you average movie can do.

Richie is a troublesome youth who' just out of juvenile detention center and looking for some quick money. He finds the road to Goose's house. The local coked-up, handicapped mobster. He offers Richie something simple enough. Go in the bad part of town to recuperate a gun for him. Sounds like easy money to Richie who's urge of getting money is only overshadowed by his urge of being somebody and purvey to his girlfriend Becka's needs, so she can stop bitching about his lifestyle. But when you cross the line and enter the bad part of town, breathing, walking and wanting something all put you at risk. Richie's about to learn this the hard way.

The fascinating thing about GUN is not its story. It's a fresh spin on a commonly used idea, yes. But it's still another local mob story. What sets it apart from the pack is how Ray Banks built its world. There's nothing overdone here, no useless words. Every step Richie takes, every reactions, every detail is important and it's brought up with such expert pacing that your stomach is going to knot up in a ball at page three and going to get tighter and tighter. It feels a little controlled at times, restrained in you will, but it works. There's no passionate narrative explosions and sometimes the local slang sent me to the dictionary, but really, it's just a short jab and it hits you right on the nose. It's not complex and it's not epic, but it's not meant to be. It's meant to be swift and accurate and it succeeds effortlessly. 

Movie Review : The Tree Of Life (2011)



Recognizable Faces:

Brad Pitt
Sean Penn
Jessica Chastain

Directed By:

Terence Malick

The movies of Terence Malick are a reassuring thing for arthouse films enthusiasts. In a demented Hollywood system, he's still kicking it old school, a sweet reminiscence of a time when "author cinema" was a wanted commodity. He's not easy though, while his movies are pure eye candy, they lend to use the concepts of time and length to their full extent in creating some new ways to tell things. Malick said in interview that THE TREE OF LIFE was the movie he wanted to make for a long time, so I was a little bit worried he would make things overly complicated. This is the way things goes sometimes when you want to talk about some subjects too hard. But Malick being a great (and more important EXPERIENCED) director, he manages to keep it arthouse, intelligible and non-pedantic for about most of the movie. THE TREE OF LIFE dips its toes in self-indulgence, but remains an intelligible and interesting reflection about the meaning of life. 

You have to have a stomach for arthouse if you want to sit through this, because like most Terence Malick movies before, it's pretty long and the structure is more experimental than usual.  Jack O'Brien (Penn) seems to be very successful. He wears suits and works in a skyscraper buildings. But Jack looks like a lost soul, he's haunted by images of his childhood and by the struggle he's had with his faith. THE TREE OF LIFE explain his complex relationship to his father, a strong and rigid man who was a Godlike figure in his own house. Young Jack (Hunter McCracken) is witnessing the acts of God and the acts of his father and tries to figure out his places in the greater portrait. THE TREE OF LIFE is that, plus about thirty of forty minutes worth of footage about the creation of the universe. Good times.

I think I get it. Really, most of the viewers were befuddled by Terence Malick's latest but I think I understand what he was trying to say. You are as much a part of the universe as the universe is a part of you. Everything, every beginning, every cataclysm, every end, ends with you. It's a very powerful feeling. With that in mind, the narrator Jack is reflecting on his relationship to his creators. His tough dad and the evanescent dream that was his mom. The way of nature and the way of grace, as he exposed it so well. The dialog is scarce and most times there's an off-screen voice narrating. It's done in Malick's trademark poetic way, but he tends to get overboard with the spiritual diatribe. Some of Malick's writing is touching, some sound like desperate attempts to touch something meaningful through language. 

I'm sure this movie is going to grow on me with time. I've seen enough in my life to recognize that Malick is somewhere further than me in life and I'm sure I'll get a completely different meaning out of this by the time I'm forty. Still, I thought it was beautiful, but JUST a little bit overdone. Those stills of a cavern that looked like a carved up chocolate brick, what were they supposed to represent? The inmost cave? Malick knows better than to use such clichés, even in his creative approach. Those "beach scenes" (I don't want to spoil their nature, they are important to the movie) are a weird way to give closure to his character and I think reflect troubles he had to find a suitable conclusion. I loved THE TREE OF LIFE, thought it was very ambitious and a visually beautiful without relinquishing the narrative. Malick finds the subtle little ways to make it work and blend his craft seamlessly into his story. I wasn't gung-ho over it like I was over THE THIN RED LINE, I thought it was confused at times, but overall it's another solid movie by Terence Malick

SCORE: 82%

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Terrorvision - Tequila

I would like to thank my friend David Barber for bringing this song to my attention. While I have zero background information to give you about Terrorvision and that I'm more of a whiskey guy than a tequila guy, but holy shit. This is better than Prozac to cure any kind of dread known to mankind. Whenever I have the wonderful idea to play this in my house, I stamp a stupid smile on my face and dance to the bourbon bottle. If you're reluctant to press play, imagine this song as a mix of Beck in one of his good days, with a touch of rock n' roll attitude. All done with that mystifying charm the Brits all have around booze. Rejoice your ears.

Terrorvision - TEQUILA

Ode to Jose the curse of Cuervo,
So hard to say no though it gives one the fever,
Pretends to be friendly,
Then it's all over, over,
It's all over, over,
Pretends to be fine,
Then the curse of Tequila,

It makes me happy,
Con Tequila it feels fine,
Con Tequila when the doors are opened,
And con Tequila when they're calling time,
That's the curse of,

Sierra sunrise and Margarita,
They'll break your heart in the desert heat,
Tell you you're thirsty,
They'll tell you you're sober, sober,
It's all over, over,
They'll tell you you're fine,
Then the curse of Tequila....

If there's a lot on your mind it's there to help you forget,
To relax and rewind and leave behind the regret,
First sip makes you well before you know it it's time,
And you're saying to hell with the salt, lemon and lime,
Salt, lemon and lime, time Tequila,

That's the curse of Tequila.....

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Dark Pages - Fiona Johnson

Fiona Johnson is a jack-of-all-trades. She's a writer/reviewer/editors, which makes her even more efficient and bouncing off the walls than yours truly. In other words, she's an awesome all-doing, all-seeing, multitasking superhero that writes crime stories. She has a recurring character named Gemma, which you should really check out. She released an anthology titled KICK IT with Trestle Press,under her pen name of McDroll, quite recently. 

If you're curious, you can get it for a buck here.

The killing rampage continues! Barney flees Glasgow and heads for seclusion in a Highland Monastery but the monks have many secrets. In THE CUTTING EDGE OF BARNEY THOMSON, Douglas Lindsay delivers a hilariously satirical tale with a devilishly clever plot.

OK, so I’m pretty sure not many (if any) of you so called crime/noir readers have ever picked up/downloaded the magnificent CUTTING EDGE OF BARNEY THOMSON by Douglas Lindsay, the world’s most under-rated writer of all time. See after you’ve read this, not only will you go and do the clicky thing on this one but you will go totally ape and buy the whole series of 8….yes, I said 8, Barney Thomson novels.

Oh how I’d love to have the wit and sarcasm that oozes from every pore of Mr. Lindsay’s wee Scottish body. How I could bask in the glory of knowing that I’ve written some of the best crime fiction in the history of crime fiction writing! He is the full package, as they say. I’ve just picked Number 2 (THE CUTTING EDGE incase you forgot) at random instead of Number 1, THE LONG MIDNIGHT, because, well being a second child myself (sniff) I’m often overlooked.

So what have we got? Mad monks, two CID officers who would rather shag each other than hunt for Barney, our hero – the Millport barber, (except that comes later), driving snow up to your oxters and loads of blood curdling slashing with open razors.

Brilliant stuff!

If you are a real cheapskate (and who isn’t) then if you go and get yourself on the Blasted Heath mailing list, you’ll get a FREE copy of THE END OF DAYS and you will finally discover why our ex PM, Big Broon, had such a funny hairdo.

Lindsay knows how to write, I love what he does, this is what makes me want to write - what more can I say….go learn from the master…

Fiona Johnson lives in Argyll, Scotland and writes and reviews crime/noir fiction. She has had stories published at Shotgun Honey and The Flash Fiction Offensive. She is currently putting together an anthology of stories with her partners in crime Thomas Pluck and Ron Earl Philips called 'The Lost Children' which originated from a challenge set at Flash Fiction Friday. All profits will go to Children 1st and Protect. More information on this project can be found at

Book Review : Daniel Woodrell - The Outlaw Album (2011)

Country: USA

Genre: Literary/Country Noir

Pages: 167

Daniel Woodrell, not unlike Iggy Pop, gets leaner and meaner as he's growing older. He's never been the one to write epic eight-hundred pages novels, but with THE OUTLAW ALBUM, he's outdoing himself on every level*. It's a hundred and sixty-seven pages of relentless short stories about broken and dispossessed people, trying to get through the day by any means necessary. While his themes remain faithful to what he always writes about, one doesn't really read Woodrell for the thematics alone. It's an aesthetic trip, like reading Raymond Carver or Ernest Hemingway. THE OUTLAW ALBUM is full of these beautiful, courageous and and slightly darkened people we love to read about in Daniel Woodrell stories. Some of them felt more real then some people I know. Woodrell is a magician at finding tiny, delicate things, buried under four feet of dirt and THE OUTLAW ALBUM  is a great addition to his legacy.

My favorite story of the collection is titled BLACK STEP, in which the narrator Darden is caught up in a difficult family situation. She way Woodrell portrays the family through the eyes of his narrator is stunning. The description he makes of his parents is one of the most beautiful things I've read in months, maybe years. I don't quote often, but this one is worthwhile:

They tell me Dad committed suicide for reasons he dreamed up. His mind was too active. He had a round mind and it roamed. He could imagine any kind of hurt. He could imagine the many miseries of this world flying over from everywhere to roost between his ears, but he couldn't imagine how to get away. Ma loved him passed his end and has never kissed another man. She loved his mind, his round, roaming mind that made her feel a glowing inside her skin between those spells of blight (p.50-51)

Other stories captured my imagination as well, like UNCLE where a young girl has to take care of her once abusive uncle who was turned into a vegetable or WOE TO LIVE ON, which is the longest story of the collection (about thirty-five pages) and has just enough weight to its pages to keep you turning them at a steady rhythm. He savantly mixes delicate beauty and fatality together and makes his stories bounce of the page. It's quite the experience in reading immersion. 

 It's strange because it's kind of a business-as-usual success for Daniel Woodrell, so I feel I have already said everything I need to say about him. He's an expert craftsman that takes care of every detail with the minutiae of a miniature model builder. His stories are not aggressive and when they are violent, it's told with enough distance that it's more of an echo than an immediate drama. THE OUTLAW ALBUM is another amazing book by Daniel Woodrell and while he doesn't get out of his comfort zone, he makes it comfortable for his readers too. It's lean and mean enough so that everybody can enjoy them. It's a very hospitable book, if there is such a thing. Want to try out Daniel Woodrell? Give THE OUTLAW ALBUM a shot.

* As far as the Woodrell books I have read.

Movie Review : Reckless Indifference (2000)



Recognizable Faces:


Directed By:

William Gazecki

A good documentary is ideally supposed to floor you like a overhand right and yet leave you conscious and angry enough to make you want to fight back. This is exactly what RECKLESS INDIFFERENCE does. If you don't like cops and highly doubt the fairness of the judiciary system like me, this movie is going to hit the spot. But I'm going to go even further than that. I was especially moved by RECKLESS INDIFFERENCE because it tells the story of a world I know. A world where kids are let loose in the street without supervision, because their parents don't really care what they're doing, because they don't think they can be up to anything bad. A world where drugs and petty criminality aren't an effect of poverty, but of boredom and lack of foreseeable future. That's the world I grew up in, as well as Jimmy Farris, Mike McLoren, Brandon Hine, Micah Holland, Jason Holland, Chris Velardo and Tony Miliotti. I walked away from it without a hitch, but they were not so lucky.

Chris, Brandon, Tony and the Holland brothers were hanging out one night, looking to get high and drunk, because they had nothing better to do. They rolled out on a tear, stole the wallet of a young mother and decided for a really obscure reason to drive up to Mike McLoren's house, where he was smoking pot with his friend Jimmy in his "fort" (which really was just a teenage debauchery spot where the evidence he sold drugs was found). For some obscure reason, a fight broke out, both Jimmy and Mike got stabbed by Jason Holland and Jimmy died from a stab wound to the heart. The mechanism of justice starts to unravel and the five kids get arrested. Jason admits he stabbed the two kids, but they are tried for armed robbery which implicates every member of the event to the same level. Four of the five kids get life in prison, three without the possibility of parole. Chris Velardo, for being the driver gets eleven years in jail. Now, everybody's life is fucked.

I'm not saying everybody but Jason Holland should have walked away from this without a slap on the wrist. I would've agreed to prison terms for everybody. But life for little shithead teenagers? Something in this trial went wrong and it's what RECKLESS INDIFFERENCE is putting under the microscope. First of all, Jimmy Farris' dad, Jimmy Sr. is a LAPD cop and it's EVIDENT that he had something to do with the armed robbery conviction. William Gazecki proves in RECKLESS INDIFFERENCE that he is lying through his teeth. He said he wasn't present during the interrogation as everybody else interviewed, including the prosecutor says he was. Witnesses saw him talk to the judge. The chief of police of the LAPD got involved and wrote a letter to the judge asking to make an example out of the four kids. It's a teenage scuffle gone wrong, could have anybody shown a little perspective? 

The accusation is almost solely based on Mike McLoren's testimony, which is highly disputable. First, Gazecki plays the tapes of the interrogation where he changes his version many times, saying his memory of the events was bad (understandably so, he got stabbed many times and lost a lot of blood). Also, he's a drug dealer. There are photographic evidence of his drawers being full of weed and cash. If one of those seven kids was on the wrong path, it was him. Prosecutor Jeff Semow is asking the jury to believe McLoren's testimony because there are elements that incriminate himself for his weed traffic in it, but it's later proved in appeal that McLoren had inked a deal with the prosecution giving him immunity for his testimony. Also, he refused to participate in the documentary. How can his side of the story have more worth than Brandon Hine's? Harvard lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz puts it best. They have been condemned by a judiciary fiction, buildt by Mike McLoren and the prosecution.

But I think what angered me the most in this documentary was the parent. They lost a son, yes I understand that. It's devastating. But Jimmy Farris Sr. denied the right to a fair trial to these kids. He played himself as being the better human being. I was shocked to hear Jimmy's mother sermon the other parents after the verdict, saying it should serve as an example to keep an eye on your kids. I wanted to take her by the shoulders, shake her up and yell: "WHAT THE FUCK, LADY? YOUR KID WAS SMOKING WEED WITH THE LOCAL DEALER THAT NIGHT. WHO KNOWS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF HE HAD A WEAPON ON HIM?" But like I said. The kids deserved punishment. Life for Jason Holland would be fair to a certain extent. But it wasn't a fair trial and it was a cruel and unusual punishment to turn them all in for life. They weren't gangbangers, they certainly weren't armed robbers, they were just stupid. Putting Brandon Hine and Tony Milotti in jail for life is not going to accomplish anything but revenge. Just give the kids a fair trial. Gut-wrenching movie. 

SCORE: 97%

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Compendium Of Cool

I always want to note down all the cool links I see in a week, but I never do. But here's some of the cool stuff I found this week. This Book Riot thing is doing an awesome job at keeping me away from my work. The reading pathways are getting very cool. This week was Haruki Murakami and David Foster Wallace were featured, two writers I particularly love. Jeff O'Neal's Critical Linking section is also getting addictive as all hell. This little site is completely devoid of pretension and yet educates people about books, little by little.

The friends of Dead End Follies have been pretty busy this week. Ray Banks has received a book blurb for DEAD MONEY by non other than Lee Child! I also read GUN, his novella that everybody in the world by me had read. Everybody in the world should read it too. It's short and should be delivered on USB keys in cereal boxes. Heath Lowrance is having a series of guest posters at his blog, so you might wanna read that. I might or might not appear in this series, I will leave you hanging. Oh and the lovely Brenna at Literary Musings is reviewing THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson. So you might wanna stop by and learn a few things. 

In conclusion, if you're looking for a good Halloween scare, check out Cracked, Seven Creepy Urban  Legends That Happen To Be True, Part Five. Or read Jeff Caxide's guest post on writer Peter Farris' blog. About real horror movies that will scare the shit out of you.

New Game Diaries For November - Uncharted 3

I don't do this nearly enough. Last game diaries I wrote was for L.A NOIRE in May, a game I played through in about ten days*. Since then, I have played two games only. I finished RED DEAD REDEMPTION and am well into INFAMOUS (not sure I will have time to play this through). The reason why I haven't played much video games this year is that I spent an obscene amount of time furiously writing and reading my young and angsty ass off. There's been a lull in the creativity this month (as you might know already) so I have spent some of those blank minded hours playing INFAMOUS and PORTAL 2, with Josie. Since November is a BATSHIT INSANE month for video games releases **, I will organize my schedule better and make some time to play some of those god-awesome games.

First stop? UNCHARTED 3! *thunder roars*

If you're not familiar with the adventures of Nathan Drake, he's awesome and he's not and that's exactly why I'm so attached to him. He's an annoying pretty boy type. Athletic, wisecracking jock who has never encountered lady failure before starting to fuck with war criminals types. Fortunately for us gamers, seems like the staff of Naughty Dog Games is sharing my opinion about the guy and have started to thoroughly beat the shit out of him in UNCHARTED 2. There's something satisfying in seeing a jock guy on the razor's edge and giving him a second chance. According to the numerous raving reviews they push the darkness button even further down and the action scenes are even more over the top***.

UNCHARTED 3 will probably be the only diary I do this month (because I have to write also, you know?) Expect SAINTS ROW: THE THIRD for December.

* A game that was really good, also.

** Three of my favorite franchises releasing their newest games.

*** While over-the-top action scenes are often very boring on the big screen, I can assure they never get old in video games, where you have the perform the crazy over-the-top things.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rage Against The Machine - Bombtrack

Whenever I start to really like a record, I have this weird compulsion of trying to find the manliest song on it. The song that will make me grow a beard and scare my neighbors into submission if I play it loud enough. The most celebrated song on the first Rage Against The Machine album is KILLING IN THE NAME, but it's far from being the manliest. It's the most danceable. Back in the days where you didn't need David Guetta and amphetamines to dance, I have seen girls shake their booty to this song. But RATM's first album being a very manly one, there are more terrifying songs than KILLING IN THE NAME. It's been a close race, because there are very manly songs like BULLET IN THE HEAD and FREEDOM on there, but BOMBTRACK is my choice. Because the chorus consists in wishing harm on somebody, Zach De La Rocha awesomely grunts before the guitar solo and it used to freak the shit out of my sister when I played it loud. Here it is for your ears:

Rage Against The Machine - BOMBTRACK

Hey yo, it's just another bombtrack...ughh!
Hey yo, it's just another bombtrack...yeah!
It goes a-1, 2, 3...

Yeah, it's just another bombtrack
And suckas be thinkin' that they can fake this
But I'm gonna drop it at a higher level
'Cause I'm inclined to stoop down
Hand out some beat-downs
Cold runna train on punk ho's that
Think they run the game

But I learned to burn that bridge and delete
Those who a level that's obsolete
Instead I warm my hands upon the flames of the flag
To recall the downfall
And the businesses that burned us all
See through the news and the views that twist reality

I call the bluff
Fuck Manifest destiny

Landlords and power whores
On my people they took turns
Dispute the suits I ignite
And then watch 'em burn

With the thoughts from a militant mind
Hardline, hardline after hardline

Landlords and power whores
On my people they took turns
Dispute the suits I ignite
And then watch 'em burn

Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn

Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn

It goes a-1, 2, 3
Another funky radical bombtrack
Started as a sketch in my notebook
And now dope hooks make punks take another look
My mind ya hear and ya begin to fear
That ya card will get pulled if ya interfere

With the thoughts from a militant militant mind
Hardline, hardline after hardline

Landlords and power whores
On my people they took turns
Dispute the suits I ignite
And then watch 'em burn

Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn

Movie Review : Death Sentence (2007)



Recognizable Faces:

Kevin Bacon
Kelly Preston
John Goodman
Garrett Hedlund

Directed By:

James Wan

DEATH SENTENCE was one of those Spike TV promoted movies a few years ago. While they have endorsed the odd good action movie in the past (THE EXPENDABLES, LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN, PRIEST), the Spike TV seal of approval often means that the viewer's experience will range somewhere in between bad to incredibad. They seem to think that male demographic accepts everything that has tits and/or guns in it. But since I'm close to be Kevin Bacon's number one fan in the universe (right after his mom and his girlfriend) and that it was free on T.V last Saturday, I couldn't resist the temptation of watching this hardboiled looking piece of cinema. But by doing so, I overlooked another important detail. It's directed by James Wan, who also directed the first film of the not-so-enthralling SAW series. The result is predictably a mess, but a so-bad-it's-good kind of mess. Who's responsible for that scarring piece of crap? James Wan? The novel writer Brian Garfield? (who also wrote DEATH WISH?) I'm not too sure, but I'll tell you one thing. This lives up to Spike TV's seal of crappiness.

The story is eerily similar to DEATH WISH and so is the execution. So bad that I actually looked up to see if both were inspired by the same novel, but they are separate titles. Nick Hume (Bacon) is the VP of an insurance company. He's a rather good guy and lives a dream life with his wife Helen (Preston) and his two sons, having only the problems that people with a dream life have (like having his jock son for favorite). One night when he comes back from Brandon's hockey game and discusses the possibility of sending him to Canada to pursue Brandon's dream, they stop in the crummiest gas station of the ghetto and Brandon finds the way of being the victim of a gang initiation within thirty seconds after he set foot outside the car. He gets his throat slashed, only to survive for hours and die at the hospital (yeah, I know). But that's only the first step towards the path of destruction for the zero-survival-skills family (also known as Hume family). When Nick learns the killer is only eligible to a three to five years stint, he decides to drop the charges and take his vengeance the old and dirty American way. Him and his piss poor surviving skills.

What's so funny about this movie is how so fucking serious it takes itself and yet, its really poor ideas to back everything up. Nick Hume is a laughable character and while his lack of survival instinct is supposed to make him look fragile and endearing, his lack of common sense doesn't. He declares war to a dangerous bunch of thugs and commits murders out of an emotional response and unlike any other human being who would take time to reflect and be frightened by his own actions, he acts even more recklessly and you guessed it, puts his family in greater danger. It's frustrating at first, but after a little while there's kind of a Benny-Hill'esque charm to it. Josie and I ran out of sympathy for Nick Hume very soon and laughed out loud for most of the second half of the movie. It's too bad, because despite that it's a little over-stylish, it's a spirited attempt at doing an old school hardboiled movie. There's none of that shaky cam "chaos cinema" bullshit style going on. James Wan overkilled a little bit, but not too much. 

So yeah, Kevin Bacon's die hard approach to acting combined with this crazy, clunky character he was given to work with results in a pretty messy performance, but this should age strangely well. It's ridiculous enough to do so. I haven't read any Brian Garfield novels, but I think this strange alchemy might have been achieved through ridiculous writing and an honest, almost undying desire to turn these silly characters into something larger than life. DEATH SENTENCE isn't good cinema, but it's decent. It's not even a good story. It's one hell of a slapstick performance made by actors who had absolutely nothing to work with. It has the feeling of those seventies movies where the perched mic showed up three or four times and the extras made funny faces in the background. It's unacceptable as a professional product, it's silly and it tries to make death dark and sexy, but it has the charm of an amateur theater group performance. It's not something you want to rewatch, but it's a great movie to exercise your sense of humor to.

SCORE: 47%

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Lost Children Anthology - Cover Reveal

Isn't it awesome? Thanks to Thomas Pluck and Fiona Johnson again for having me featuring on this project. For those who don't know it yet, THE LOST CHILDREN is an anthology of stories that will benefit Children 1st and PROTECT, two organizations that defend the rights of children, in the U.K and in the United States respectively. Here's a quick interview I gave that explains my reasons why I wrote my story UNDER THE GAZE OF SATURN in the first place. There will be more writers talking about their contribution until the November 1st release date. Make sure to bookmark the official anthology blog and come back often.

Tuesday's Sanity Check

October has been a pretty shitty month, creatively speaking. Part of it is my fault and part of it is just life that has been getting in the way. I wrote one (very good) short story and one chapter of my novel. Pretty unforgivable numbers, but at the image of my year in writing as a whole. Conflicted, dissatisfying, despite the few noticeable achievements. While in 2010, I hammered at my keyboard like a visionary madman and wrote a lot of shit, in 2011 I've been a little more self-conscious and by wanting to make things work, I have too often sat out to think things over and over again in my head.

It's all part of the learning process, I guess.

But why had October been so awful in particular? In late September, I wrote about three novel chapters, had the idea for Lowell Sweeney and wrote the first story (which has recently been accepted for publication, as you may know). That's a huge productivity peak I had for about ten days. Then came October and the fight card I organized on the fifteenth. I spent the first half of the month devoured by stress and fearing for my sanity in the last streak. But it's been ten days already since then. I've written my OFF THE RECORD story in that time (which I think you will like), but other than that? Complete blank.

For me, writing non-fiction and fiction are really two different things. While I could write non-fiction on the floor of a moving bus, covered in mustard and stacked in between two giant pieces of bread, I can't write fiction in the same conditions. Not good fiction anyway. For that I need winning conditions. Silence, focus, the right idea and that intangible groove you get into when you found the right angle to write from. Having all those elements on your side is possible, but it's very fragile. It's like being in a soap bubble. Once you're in there, you can't move, can't talk, can't listen to music, can't look away. I just keep on writing or the bubble is going to burst and I'll have to start it all over again. 

When the world becomes a gust of wind, bubbles don't do very well. Now I have to figure out how to build a bubble machine or how to turn my writing spot into a dodgeball. Very cute allegories, but it's up to me to turn this into tangible realities. See you next Tuesday.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Riding The Bullet's Breath

I lived through another Harold Camping apocalypse and walked away safely, so I can tell my tale. Maybe some of you will think I could leave the old man alone with his delusions, but please be aware that he's been predicting the end of the world since I was six years old. He's been fucking with people's mind for an awful long time. Many gullible people in quest for an answer to the meaning of life have turned their life savings to him, thinking the only important thing would be that most people repent before it's over. He dilapidated complete lives worth of money in silly advertising. So I will bang on the old crook at every opportunity I can. 

It's been a pretty uneventful day, as usual when Harry talks about blazing fireballs and doomed sinners. I woke up around nine, wrote my blog post, went to the barber to exchange gruesome partying stories as usual, walked Scarlett, napped and during the evening, I went for dinner with Josie and AT and watched TAKE SHELTER at the AMC Theater, which was genuinely more scary than anything old Harold could say or do. It was a propos, like watching slasher movies on Halloween, which made me think "Really, how is it going to happen?". Let's look at a couple of scenarios.

a. Natural Disaster

I think it's the most likely to happen. See, the Earth has a regulating system. The more intensely you fuck with it, the bigger the disasters. While I don't think ONE big catastrophe will doom mankind, I think if it's bound to happen, it's going to be a streak of events. Imagine a two weeks long hurricane, followed by an eartquake of a record magnitude? Think about what happened to New Orleans during hurricane Katrina and put this time two, over the whole world. While you won't have the end of planet Earth and not even the extinction of mankind, you have a pretty good Mad Max/Fallout scenario.

b. Nuclear War

While I don't disregard the possibility of a nuclear bomb wiping off a country from the map, I doubt that an all-out nuclear conflict will ever happen. Those weapons are way overpowered and could cause way too much destruction way too soon. Populations would turn against their leader, because they would fear a reprisal strike from the enemy. As powerful as it us, too many people have access to nuclear weapons to make any use out of them. They're bound to make the war forever stalemate into those ugly clustered conflicts that we know.

c. Cosmic Disaster

On a long enough time scale, this one WILL eventually happen. The most likely scenario is that the sun will explode in four billion years and burn everything on Earth within thirty minutes. Then it's going to swell to one thirds of the galaxy before shutting down and dying. But it's given a lot of credit to humanity to say we will last that long. Outer space is like a galactic free road in a wasteland. We can get obliterated by anything and turn into a booksmart memory for the next species, like dinosaurs were to us.

d. Godly Intervention

Let's pretend there is an old man on a cloud. According to the Bible, nobody but Jesus has ever seen him. They have seen signs and interpreted nature unto his will. I don't rule out that there is a God (although I don't think he's the old man on the cloud, that guy's name is Zeus), but in case he wants to obliterate mankind, I think he's going to do it through the proper channels (read a., b. and c.) We're going to know it in advance that we fucked up and the time has come and everybody will pit the responsibility on a thousand different scapegoats. So we would never know until we get upstairs. Or downstairs for the naughty ones.

My insider in the banking world explained to me one day that value wasn't set in stone. If nobody believes that a ten dollars bill is worth ten dollars, it's worth nothing. It's just a piece of paper. This is also applicable to Harold Camping. He built the Family Radio network to broadcast the christian message, but instead he used it as a platform to give credibility to his predictions. A nice old man in a suit, foreseeing the end of the world on the radio looks more credible than a crummy old man foreseeing the end of the world in the street. Yet, those two men are saying the same thing. 

So when's the next prediction, you old false prophet? So I can feel like I'm riding the bullet's breath on my most quiet day?

Book Review : Heath Lowrance - Dig Ten Graves (2011)

Country: USA

Genre: Dark Literary/Horror/Noir

Pages: 185 kb (eOriginal)

Buy it here

I have read Heath Lowrance's debut novel THE BASTARD HAND last winter and thought it was really good. While it clearly stated its inspirations (Flannery O'Connor, Jim Thompson), it brought a fresh, creative view of the southern novel and a delightful cynicism to the plate. That's more than most writers on their first try. When he released DIG TEN GRAVES last summer, I told myself "Cool, he pieced up some of his earlier stories together for his readers", not expecting anything much out of it. I thought it would be a quiet interlude in between two novels. Turned out I was wrong. Mr. Lowrance doesn't fuck around whenever he picks up his pen. Surprisingly enough, I liked DIG TEN GRAVES even more than I liked THE BASTARD HAND. This collection shows not only an improvement from Lowrance's prior release, but also a clear and continuous line of thoughts, which is what separates the great writers from the rest of the pack.

First, let me tell you about that storySouth Award nominated IT WILL ALL BE CARRIED AWAY. It's beautiful. More than beautiful, it's a magnificent short story about the power of melancholy and the violence of time. It's hard to explain, but the narrator reads in the newspaper that a girl he used to know died of an overdose in the back seat of a car. Not his ex-girlfriend, just a girl he knew and who he spent a very peculiar, yet very important moment with. The power of her name alone, a name he has kept buried for the longest time, brings him back to this moment with a twenty years perspective gap. This is a very powerful story that could easily be compared to a darkened spin on the Wong-Kar Wai movies. It would make a tremendous movie in itself.

While IT WILL ALL BE CARRIED AWAY is one of the best stories of the collection and it's the first, many other stories pack some power here. INCIDENT ON A RAIN-SOAKED CORNER is an intellectualizing look on the chaotic and frail nature of life. THE MOST NATURAL THING IN THE WORLD is a gripping reminder of our animal nature. But beyond the stories, what is truly remarkable is the coherent line of thoughts that goes through the collection like an invisible thread. The stories of DIG TEN GRAVES aren't taken from pure outside inspiration. There are recurring themes like hurt and injured protagonists, looking only to survive. Loss is also a theme that connects all of the stories together. It's more obvious in certain ones and more subtle in others, but it's always there. The characters of Heath Lowrance are deconstructed in a way or another and they never really seek wholeness, but barely survival. Given that the themes are sometimes very common, there is such a thing as a Heath Lowrance universe and it's the mark of great writers. After reading DIG TEN GRAVES, you will be able to know when you're reading a Lowrance, without even checking the cover.

It's always exciting to witness a writer find his voice and his universe like that. While the stories are a scatter shooting of different genres, it actually helps focusing on the quality of the writing, rather than to scan through for known elements. Heath Lowrance has a style that is how own, characters that are his, I can only see his career going upwards after reading such a strong release. I had discussions with the writer in the past, where he said he disliked to be pigeonholed in a genre and after reading DIG TEN GRAVES I can understand why it doesn't suit him. A few of the stories stretch the border of his philosophy a bit thin (ALWAYS TOO LATE, which was my least favorite of the collection), but it's really not hindering the overall quality. If you have a Kindle, you have to check this one out. It's dirt cheap and it's straight out amazing writing. Keep Heath Lowrance on your radar, because he just picked up a lot of steam.

Movie Review : Take Shelter (2011)



Recognizable Faces:

Michael Shannon
Jessica Chastain

Directed By:

Jeff Nichols

I take a certain juvenile pride is telling you that I have watched TAKE SHELTER on Harold Camping's predicted apocalypse date. It probably means nothing to you, since it's a recent movie and most of you haven't seen it yet, but once you will you're going to understand what kind of terrifying ordeal I have went through. While the doomsday omen predictably turned out to be bullshit, TAKE SHELTER almost achieved to blurred the line at the end of the day. It's a very efficient psychological thriller that walks a fine line in between an apocryphal threat and mental disease. Thanks to AT for dragging Josie and me in the theaters to see this. The man is so much more on the ball than me with new movies. TAKE SHELTER is slow, dark, atmospheric and incredibly fucking mean spirited. In other words, it's my kind of movie.

Smart movies often do that. Their action is slow and mundane, but the tension is razor sharp and signs of a deeper, more visceral intrigue are scattered around, sometimes obvious and sometimes hidden in the picture perfect game of Michael Shannon. He plays Curtis, a family man in his thirties who's afflicted with terrible nightmares. In fact, they are night terrors. Nightmares from which you wake up screaming and still feel the effects when you're awake. He's dreaming of a storm, of oily rain and people going crazy. The dreams often take extension into his reality. He has delusions (his arm hurts after he dreamed that his dog bit him) and straight out hallucinations (he sees a panicked bird flock in the sky, hears thunder on a sunny day, etc.) While Curtis is scared to be afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia like his mother, he doesn't know what he should do of those dreams. So he starts building a storm shelter to protect his family, the only thing he holds dear in the world, despite the judgment of his neighbors who all think he went crazy like his mom.

Let me tell you about Michael Shannon. I have discovered the depth of his acting game in Werner Herzog's MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE, but I didn't understand how accurate Herzog's casting pick was until I saw TAKE SHELTER. Michael Shannon is an actor who channels the very essence of the legendary Klaus Kinski, who was Herzog's muse and a man who had a post-doctoral education in playing violent nut cases. He puts this inner psychopath to fruition in TAKE SHELTER, it's not even funny. He is terrified and terrifying. Shannon has already been nominated for the Oscars for his supporting role in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, but I think he will be nominated this year again, for the leading honors. It's by far the most convincing lead performance I've seen this year. He's better than Ryan Gosling in drive (strangely, he's not that much more talkative). Just wait for that community dinner scene. It's crushing and beautiful.

While Shannon spearheads the movie, he's not the only shining star. Jessica Chastain is also really good as his loving but frightened-as-all-hell wife, but it's the director Jeff Nichols who takes the silver medal in this movie. He shows a genuine research about hallucinations and doesn't turn it into a freak show. Curtis is exposed to images and feelings that could very well be true or just the creation of his mind. TAKE SHELTER is also beautifully paced, although you have to have a stomach for the slow approach for watching it. It's a movie that takes its sweet time, so it can scare you more efficiently. What makes it more realistic and less of a "peak a boo" movie is that it plays on a fear that everybody has. Vampires, monsters, zombies, serial killers and other boogeymen all require a higher level of suspension of disbelief than our own demise, in those turbulent times. TAKE SHELTER's low key, almost quiet approach will work its way on you like an hacksaw, if you don't need fast paced action and Hollywood editing to be happy. It requires a certain cinematographic culture that goes beyond the blockbuster approach to appreciate, but it packs mean power.

SCORE: 90%

Sunday, October 23, 2011

John Frusciante - Going Inside

It's somewhat of a Red Hot Chilli Peppers thematic month. Here's a fact that is very little known among their fans, their guitarist John Frusciante (who battled the most severe drug addiction of the group) has recorded quite a bit of solo albums. In 2001, he released this very interesting piece of experimental rock titled TO RECORD ONLY WATER FOR TEN DAYS. It's my favorite album of his and GOING INSIDE would be my favorite song. In my humble opinion, he has a more interesting voice than Anthony Kiedis and his music shows that he hasn't forsaken the idea of experimenting with his music. His lyrics are also very introspective and genuine. I am very excited to post this because I know very well than his solo projects are obscure. Here is for you, my favorite song of his.

John Frusciante - GOING INSIDE

You don't throw your life away
Going inside
You get to know who's watching you
And who besides you resides

In your body
Where you're slow
Where you go doesn't matter
Cuz there will come a time
When time goes out the window

And you'll learn to drive out of focus
Of you
And if anything unfolds
It's supposed to

You don't throw your time away sitting still
I'm in a chain of memories
It's my will
And I had to consult some figures of the past
And I know someone after me
Will go right back

I'm not telling a view
I've got this night to unglue
I moved this fight away
By doing things there's no reason to do

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Words of United States Marine Corps Sgt. Shamar Thomas

This video surfaced not long ago on the YouTubes and it's important enough to take five minutes of your attention. Sgt. Shamar Thomas, who spent fourteen months in Iraq, defending his country, walked down in the street and told the New York City Police his piece of mind about their behavior on the Wall Street protestors. Was it staged? To a certain extent, I think so. I think Sgt. Thomas didn't explode at the right place, at the right time, but instead he walked down Wall Street with a camera guy, looking to use his title and function to make a statement. Either way, what's happening here is pretty fucking loaded. There's a soldier, who fought for his country's values and philosophy, who's ripping apart a group of people charged to serve and protect the population, but who are instead protecting an institution against the unrest is caused by acting recklessly. In those dark times where media groups like Yahoo and Facebook are censoring information about these protests, I am taking right of the domain I own to share the words of Sgt. Thomas, as we should all do. Because there is no honor in this.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Dark Pages - Heath Lowrance

If you have a Kindle, you should really try the terrific DIG TEN GRAVES

I am very happy to have Heath Lowrance for you this week on MY DARK PAGES. Heath has been blasting his way through the ranks of the most solid dark fiction writers in 2011. I loved his first novel THE BASTARD HAND, but his short story collection DIG TEN GRAVES saw both of my legs off. I have also heard that his latest THAT DAMNED COYOTE HILL is even outdoing them both. He's a writer you don't want to let off your radar. Here are his dark pages...

Most of the really important things in my life, I don’t remember the details. I don’t know why. Too much drinking as a younger man? Too many drugs? Too many blows to the head? Whatever the cause, my brain is like a sieve when it comes to the things that we normally think of as important.  The day I got married, the day my daughter was born, the day I sold my first story—those events are almost like second-hand accounts I heard once, a long time ago.

But I remember, vividly, reading Jim Thompson for the first time.

Jim Thompson, the Mad Prince of Psycho-Noir. A man who wrote more than his fair share of mediocre books, but more than made up for it by the sheer genius and bravado of a handful of other books. Game-changers. 

For me, it was POP.1280. Some fans will cite THE KILLER INSIDE ME as Thompson’s best, or maybe THE GRIFTERS. And maybe I’d feel the same way if I’d read one of those first… but I didn’t. I read POP. 1280 first, and it had an impact on me that I’m still feeling now, almost twenty-five years later.

That first chapter, with its surprisingly laconic humor—Nick Corey, High Sheriff of Potts County, telling us how he just doesn’t know what to do, he’s so torn up he can barely finish his heaping breakfast and how he can only sleep for eight or nine hours before waking up again… and how finally, after thinking and thinking, he comes to a decision: he decides he doesn’t know WHAT to do.

He’s a likeable doofus in that first chapter, a sort of grinning good ole’ boy who wouldn’t harm a fly. And that right there? That’s Thompson setting you up, tricking you into looking the other way before shoving you out in front of a moving bus. Because as POP. 1280 moves on, you start seeing different facets of Nick Corey: the cheating husband, the cruel manipulator, and finally, the full-on delusional monster. Nick Corey is no doofus, no easy-going Andy Griffith. He’s a sociopathic genius and maybe even the very embodiment of evil.

I’ve read POP. 1280 ten or twelve times now, and each time I marvel at Thompson’s skill at parceling out clues and indications that not all is right in Corey’s head. I marvel at the escalating drama and violence, the subtle shift away from crime thriller and into surreal character study. 

And yes, I’m aware that a fondness for Jim Thompson is a bit of a cliché these days. Fuck it, man, I don’t care. There’s a reason Thompson is so beloved by fans of dark crime stories, and I see very little point in pretending otherwise.

Discovering Thompson led me, as a young reader and writer, into a startling new world of literature that I had no idea existed. Those Black Lizard re-prints, you know? Eventually, I found my way to many other great noir writers of the past. Loved many of them. But the only other one to really shake me to my foundations was Charles Willeford, a book called BLACK MASS OF BROTHER SPRINGER.
But that’s another story, I reckon.

Book Review : Josh Stallings - Out There Bad (2011)

Country: USA

Genre: Hardboiled

Pages: 241

Praise the Lord (or Satan, maybe), only six months after the publication of the very solid BEAUTIFUL, NAKED AND DEAD, there was already another Moses McGuire novel out. It was love at first sight for Moses and me, last Spring when I read this bleak and desperate tale of a big, strong man with a heart too tender for the life he was living. Fueled by loneliness and a sensitivity you don't often see in hardboiled character, Moses took action to make amends about his past mistakes, but also to make amends with himself, so that he could sleep at night. I loved every second of it. The second volume of his adventures, OUT THERE BAD, came out to raving reviews and the word out was that it surpassed the first novel in every way. While I thought it was incredibly hard to do, I jumped into OUT THERE BAD like a kid on his presents at Christmas Eve. Did it held up to its praising reviews? Almost. While I don't think it was "better in everyway" I thought it was as competent as BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD and exposed us to a different side of Moses.

A few months after the events of the first novel, Moses is still working at the club. He catches a young Russian stripper blowing a client in the parking lot and like the good hearted bouncer he is, proceeds to thoroughly kick that client's ass. Well, believe it or not, it gets Moses fired by Uncle Manny and sends him reeling and finding solace in another stripper's arms in another club where he undoubtedly falls in love. The stripper Anya is being schooled in the ways of the world the hard way and sees in Moses a guy who seems to be decent as well as being a highly trained killing machine. She hit the jackpot, because that's exactly what Moses is. She needs him to find her sister who has disappeared on her way to L.A from Yaroslavl, Russia. Since Moses is on a mission to save the little beauty left in this shit world, of course he accepts. He also proceeds to anger the Russian mafia, which is the equivalent of singing your own death warrant.

I found OUT THERE BAD to be quite different from its predecessor BEAUTIFUL, NAKED AND DEAD. While in the first one, he was brooding a lot on his condition (what made him so endearing to me), he's way too busy to do that here. OUT THERE BAD is the proverbial shit-storm. Moses walks into it like a pilgrim in the desert and manages to find some incredibly resourceful people along the way. Of course, Gregor is still there, along his side being his badass self, but he meets some joyfully deranged fellows that join his crusade. OUT THERE BAD is a fast paced riot of a novel. That's what makes its charm because you can't really look away, step over a line or space out. The language of Josh Stallings is simple, yet it keeps you trapped on the page, yearning for more. It's quite the feat that only the greatest pulp writers from the forties and fifties could achieve. 

If I had to chose which one of OUT THERE BAD or BEAUTIFUL, NAKED AND DEAD was m y favorite, I'd go with the first one because it's darker and more atmospheric as the second volume is more of a relentless action galore. It's paced like a shotgun blast and will have you finish it in one or two sittings. OUT THERE BAD is another stone set in Moses McGuire legacy as it exposes his skills when war is raging around him, like Kikuchiyo in Akira Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI. The alienation slowly dissipates as tension rises and in the middle of a bullet storm, running for his life, Moses is at his very best. If you're looking to get into Moses McGuire, I would suggest you start with the first novel that is a tremendous character study on the guy, but if you liked it and yearn for more, then OUT THERE BAD is the next logical step for you. A fun barnburner of a novel.

Movie Review : This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)



Recognizable Faces:

Kevin Smith
Maria Bello
Jack Valenti

 Directed By:

Kirby Dick

I don't think the common folk realizes there's any problem with the MPAA rating board. You go see a movie, you browse the selection at your local theater, choose and that's it. That's why there are people like Kirby Dick, who get inside the movie industry and explain things. If the MPAA rating board has remained so quiet and out of public ire is that their motive rating often makes or breaks a film. If they select NC-17 (No Children Under Seventeen allowed, formerly known as Rated X), a movie will receive absolutely no advertising budget and will be turned down by most theaters in America. They have become, for films that like to risk and push the envelope, almost the soul holder of their fate. And too many times they turn the movies down. That's why, fellow viewers of awesomely violent movie, you have to often find the best films from internet forums or from obscure arthouse video clubs. That's also why Kirby Dick is onto them and made THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED to expose how biased and unreliable the rating board is.

You have to admire Kirby Dick's resolve to get to the bottom of this. He hired an actual private detective to work with him and pierce the thick veil of secrecy around the MPAA rating board. It's common knowledge that the raters names aren't made public, but these people work in a gated building with high security and they are jealously kept anonymous by the MPAA overmind which art the moment was a gentleman named Jack Valenti. Dick and this lovable lesbian PI (they actually talk about it during the movie) go as far as searching the garbage bags of raters for evidence and they find some. They find work sheet where movies have been rated, only to realize this system isn't clear at all. They found the sheet for GEISHA for example, who was rated PG-13 despite having some scenes of a crude sexual nature and GET RICH OR DIE TRYING (the hilarious 50 Cent attempt at making a biopic about three years into his career), who's rated R almost for violent language alone. What kind of rating system is that? 

Also, even within their own "official" rating criteria, the MPAA board are confusing and sometimes all-out unfair. While violence with graphic depictions of blood will cause a movie to be rated R, a film with what has been called "aberrational conduct" will be rated NC-17. What aberrational conduct means, I don't know, but it can be stretched pretty fucking thin. Wayne Kramer, director of THE COOLER has seen his movie rated NC-17 because it depicted...female orgasm...and has about half a second of female pubic hair also. It's a beautiful scene between Maria Bello and William H. Macy and it's being called aberrational conduct? Any depiction of sex that goes beyond the face-to-face, we're doing the missionary for two minutes, are qualified as aberrational conduct. THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, also states (altough they didn't prove it) that they count the hip thrusts during intercourse. What is that? Why would every movie would have to be family friendly. How about real? Anybody still remembers what it means?

Kirby Dick has shot an unbelievably irritating movie, but that's how a good documentary should be made. It should inspire its viewers into action. The movie climaxes with this great scene where Kirby Dick appeals of the NC-17 rating he was given for the movie you're actually watching. He gets to talk to a lawyer from the appeal board, who rude beyond belief. Dick is a pretty smart guy and keeps his demands reasonable, so Mr. Lawyer, displaying his best showcase of command presence, makes a fool of himself. It's quite something. So what's the MPAA rating board? A bunch of random people who have gained a grip on Hollywood and don't want to let it go. They are self-congratulatory and pedant, at the image of their grand dooda Jack Valenti. They have become childish and unreasonable and THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED exposes them with great efficiency. In the end, what makes this movie awesome is that it breaks through every closed doors and a Hollywood juggernaut gets owned by a guy named Kirby Dick.

SCORE: 89%

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Guardian's Book Season Opening Line Contest

I have been contacted via email by this nice gentleman working for The Guardian's PR department, who offered me a link to this video. Now, let me reassure you and tell you I haven't transformed into a cheerleader overnight, but I think this is cool. If you live in the U.K (and I know quite a few of my readers are from there), you can click on this link and identify the six novels from which the opening lines are from. You can win a Kindle along with the six titles you have identified. If you're not in the U.K, just play along and show some goddamn curiosity afterward. Those novels (those I identified and read, which is three) are very good, classics of literature and you would find them enlightening I'm sure. Plus, The Guardian is a cool web site, so check them out a little bit while you're at it.

And U.K readers, please win a Kindle for all the Kindle-less people in the world!

A Few Words On The Occupation Movement...

On September 17th, the American people have started occupying Wall Street and it's a very good thing. I'd even say that it's very healthy. The people shows that they understand what is going on and that they are ready to action, like a boxer before the first round bell. I'm using Dead End Follies today to state publicly that I support the movement. Given the nearby opportunity, I'd go walk and occupy a nearby spot to show my solidarity. I'll be the first to admit I'm caught in the middle class trap with its fragile comfort, but it's something that's been gradually disappearing since the eighties. There's the rich and the poor and the poor are starting to grossly outnumber the rich.

The robber that holds up a convenience store is hungry. Whatever he's hungry for, he has a need for which he can't provide and not the intellectual resources to find an alternative way. He most likely grew up in a poor neighborhood, in a family that couldn't provide very well for his upbringing. Daddy turned to alcohol because he was out of a job and mommy wasn't the kind of person meant to have kids at all. I'm not looking to make excuses for criminality here, but you have to understand it's just one of the threads in a well-oiled economic machine. Criminals aren't born this way, they are engineered by many variables like necessity, unfairness, poverty and lack of consequences.

This is how criminal bankers are born. The suit and the high office job are the full plate armor of the twenty-first century. It's not considered criminal to pull forty thousand jobs, so you can keep your two-million dollars bonus for efficiency at the end of the year. The bankers and high officials read Ayn Rand, who for had for sole talent to speak to the egos of people, and slaughter the market economy for their own personal interest. Money, for addictive personalities, is like any other drugs. The people who turn neighborhoods into slums and turn honest workers into desperate criminals are all wearing a suit to work and are living in a quiet, insulated, multimillion dollars house in a gated community.

It's important to let them know we are here and we are onto them. That maybe money is just an invisible currency they trade everyday, but the people that they pull it away from are very real. So far, Occupy Wall Street has been a tremendous success. Violence has been limited and the protesters aren't to blame in most cases. The movement is making its way around the world and slowly, people are walking in their street, claiming them back. We're not going away. I don't think that Occupy Wall Street is going to change the world in six months, but it's going to make the suits think a little bit and more important, it's a sign that the masses aren't asleep. We know what's going on and we're not happy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Harold Camping Apocalypse Extravagenza RE-LOADED (Get Your Tickets At The Door)

It's the end of the world, again. To be more precise, five months ago was the rapture, where the righteous were taken to heaven by a vengeful God and us sinners left to suffer horribly for five months before judgement day. Since I was not chosen on that day (or anybody else to my knowledge), I spent my time on a hike of death with my boxer Scarlett on Mt. Royal. But then, Harry said that the rapture was spiritual. Because God was all-merciful and wanted to spare his children all the suffering. So those who have been chosen know it in their heart, or not. 

It's nice of God to let me have seen DRIVE before fucking things up.

Well, it would appear that everything is still going on according to the program. Friday, the Earth is supposed to be engulfed by a great ball of fire in about a second or something like that. Last time I checked, the only ball of fire in the sky was still far away and even if it explodes, according to scientists, it would take about thirty minutes to roast us all. So I'm not too sure about this. But guess what? I have a day off work next Friday and I am going to entertain you with my apocalypse on Twitter. My order of the day looks like this: Get up, write my daily blog posts while eating breakfast, pay a visit to my barber Ronnie (if he's not dead yet) and then go on ANOTHER hike of death with Scarlett and a Joe Rogan podcast in my ears. Finally, it I make it to the evening alive. I'm going to take Josie out to the restaurant.

Follow my apocalypse this friday on Twitter - @BenoitLelievre

Book Review : George Pelecanos - Right As Rain (2001)

Country: USA

Genre: Hardboiled

Pages: 332

If you have watched a little five season HBO series titled THE WIRE, you know who George Pelecanos is. In fact, you have probably seen his name times and times again in the credits. He's one of the famous crime writers along with Dennis Lehane, Richard Price and Ed Burns, who have collaborated with David Simon, the creator of this haunting piece of television. On a cold and rainy book shopping day, roaming the aisles, I had decided to give a try to Mr. Pelecanos' novels because I didn't have anything better to do that day. The first title that caught my attention was HELL TO PAY, in the Strange/Quinn PI series, so I decided to give a go to RIGHT AS RAIN, which is the first of the four novels of the cycle. Something in the titles of those books grabbed me by the guts. RIGHT AS RAIN, HELL TO PAY, SOUL CIRCUS, HARD REVOLUTION, fuckin' righteous, right? So are the novels living up to their tightly wrapped, neato presentation?

That's another story.

It's not that it's particularly bad, but RIGHT AS RAIN is stretched out so thin, it always leaves you one foot out of the novel. There are multiple narrative threads here. First, the story of Derek Strange, an ex-cop now turned private investigator that's mandated by the mother of a dead policeman to investigate the circumstance of her son's demise. The catch is that he's been killed by another policeman in service, who was himself exonerated from all blame. That other policeman is Terry Quinn, who gets his own storyline or almost. Doubt is still casting a shadow over his mind, so he's soon offering Derek Strange a helping hand in his investigation. There is also another storyline involving Earle and Ray, respectively father and son, who are on their way to Washington D.C for an impending drug deal. I don't know about you, dear readers, but I'm somehow fed up with reading about the random drug dealing losers. But I sucked it up, telling myself that it had to be linked to the story somehow.

While there is nothing that profoundly annoyed me in RIGHT AS RAIN, there are little things that kept bugging me throughout the reading, like bumps and cracks on an old-beat up road. First, there are those lengthy scenes where Strange and Quinn are taking care of their respective lovers. That makes them endearing characters for sure, but it has absolutely no incidence on the stakes of the story. The first ones are cute, but it becomes a drag, because the story loses focus. You're getting caught in the not-so-special lives of Derek Strange and Terry Quinn and you lose sight of what they are really after. The drug deal intrigue is also problematic because it's taking all the little streets instead of taking the highway. When you get something as mundane as a drug deal in your novel, just PLEASE cut to the basics. 

But, George Pelecanos is a very good writer, so no matter how lost in the woods he seems to be, he always finds the trail. Because the main mystery is really good. The death of police officer Chris Wilson is every bit as puzzling when the shooter himself doesn't really know why he shot one of his colleagues like that. That's a great premise to start with. There are many circles drawn around it, but Pelecanos comes back to the point and delivers the goods. RIGHT AS RAIN was a good hardboiled novel, but it suffers from a lack of focus. Patient readers will get through it and take in what's good about it, but I think many experienced crime fiction readers will get fed up before reaching the end. Will I give Derek Strange and Terry Quinn a second run? Maybe, it's not like the book pissed me off or anything. It's just going in too many directions at the same time. Plus, the second book of the series is HELL TO PAY, who caught my attention in the first place.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Breaking The Girl

There are many conspiracy theorists around the internet that affirm that artists are more creative on drugs. The career of Red Hot Chili Peppers is a very good argument for that theory. In 1991, they were all cooked up on heroin and they released BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIC, one of the most important albums of the nineties and arguably the best funk record ever made by white people. It contained some of the grooviest beats since the glory days of Bootsy Collins. Songs like Give It Away, Suck My Kiss, Power Of Equality, Under The Bridge and the song I'm sharing today, Breaking the Girl didn't age one day in twenty years. It's still better and more actual than music that's done today. Music that RCHP themselves are doing today. Here it is for you.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers - BREAKING THE GIRL

I am a man
Cut from the know
Rarely do friends
Come and then go
She was a girl but I'll never know
Soft but estranged
We were the two
Our lives rearranged
Feeling so good that day
A feeling of love that day

Twisting and turning
Your feelings are burning
You're breaking the girl
She meant you no harm
Think you're so clever
But now you must sever
You're breaking the girl
He loves no one else

Raised by my dad
Girl of the day
He was my man
That was the way
She was the girl
Left alone
Feeling the need
To make me her home
I don't know what when or why
The twilight of love had arrived

Twisting and turning
Your feelings are burning
You're breaking the girl
She meant you no harm
Think you're so clever
But now you must sever
You're breaking the girl
He loves no one else

Twisting and turning
Your feelings are burning
You're breaking the girl
She meant you no harm
Think you're so clever
But now you must sever
You're breaking the girl
He loves no one else

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dead End Follies Awards, The Categories

The Dead End Follies Awards are coming soon. The ceremony will be held at an undisclosed date during the first week of December (it's gonna be a surprise) and throughout the month of November, I will scatter posts about the nominees. The winners will win absolutely nothing, but the bragging right to have won an award from an up-and-coming web site. Also, maybe a widget for your website. I'm working on it.  But right now, let me introduce you to the new categories for this year. There are twelve of them. The books eligible are the books I have read in between two Awards ceremony. So far there's close to seventy of them and I will post the exact list on November 1st. Living or dead writer, famous or struggling, I don't really care. The Dead End Follies Awards are the best of my year in reading. There will be four nominees by category. 

Best Novel - Self-explanatory and yet the hardest choice to make. The book that rocked me off my socks the most throughout the year. Best Novel nominees might not be eligible for lower prizes

Best Character (Male) - The characters nominated will be those I bonded the most with. The characters that made my suspension of disbelief go down in flames.

Best Character (Female) - Granted I have more of a distance with female characters, the nominees will be those characters that challenged that distance and made me forget what sex they were. 

Best New Writer Discovered - I am discovering dozens of new writers every year. The nominees in this category have transformed me in a complete gung-ho fanboy.

Best Literary Novel - I'm a big fan of crime fiction, but this is a category solely reserved for the literary writers who don't like to necessarily kill people or write about meth fiends in their novels. 

Best Crime Novel - The evil twin sister of the prior category. Which novel was the darkest, sickest and most twisted of them all?

Best New Book - This category is reserved to books that have been published in 2011. I have read a considerable number of them, compared to last year.

Best Series - Sometimes (more frequently in crime fiction), there are characters who survive many novels and live to tell about it. I have read a few this year and the best of them all will win this award.

Best Non-Fiction Book - I read very little non-fiction, but I do read some. Blame it on David Foster Wallace if I love to read essays so much. 

Best Short Story - I have read about a gazillion of them in 2011. They are all over the web, the magazines and the anthologies. They are calling cards for young up-and-coming writers. 

Funniest Book - Humor is a very tough concept in written fiction. You need a special set of skills to rock it and make people laugh at your book. 

Best Book Cover - This one's a bit shallow, that's why it's going to be the first award given in the ceremony. But still what cover sold me its book best?