Sunday, August 14, 2016

E-musing EPUC

Wow, that last post seems kind of harsh, doesn't it? Here's something a little lighter from the Eat Poop U Cat gang.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

No more slugs!

Do you remember when little girls were made of sugar and spice and everything nice? And little boys were made of slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails? (And maybe some kids were the other way around?)

Well, no more worries!

Now we have cell phones. And we're all made of wires.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The end of the search

"I couldn't possibly join the search party," I said to my guests. "I walked 11 KM last night at work. I'm a wreck." Indeed they had witnessed my slow painful descent on the staircase.

When we broke for dinner, off to pick up something cheap, the giant police van was still there, down the lane, and the mounted police and the crowd, and the ambulance crew still waiting around hopefully, the stretcher all ready to go, laden with life-saving gear, piled on it and hanging off of it with just enough room left upon it for an undersized twelve year-old; just 60 pounds worth, should one turn up.

The boy had health issues, an under-developed mentality and a penchant for hiding. He'd limped away without shoes and without his medications. He couldn't have gone far, everyone said. We'd all checked our garages and backyards and even our closets. And later we checked them again.

When darkness came I checked the internet, sure he must have been found. "I'm sorry," I told my guests. "I'm really at loose ends." They understood. We called it a night.

The crowd had dwindled down to a few. The officer said, "I'm sorry, we can't suggest what you should do. After dark it's not safe. We can't ask anything of the public after dark."

"Look," I said, knowing I was about to be profoundly lame: "I'm a Commissionaire. I have training. I know safety; first-aid. I've worked in corrections. I've worked with sex offenders. Trust me. Be indulgent. Tell me where you need someone looking."

He smiled painfully. shook his head and shook my hand. "Anywhere."

People had been searching all day. What was I going to accomplish by following their tracks in the dark? Was there a really any chance at all I could save someone or was this just about comforting myself?"

Still willing to act like a fool I called an old friend who believed she was psychic; who'd dreamed of missing children before and believed in the visions; who'd once told me that my writer's blocks were nothing but fear. But I could not reach her on the phone.

I stared at the Google map and all my intuition pointed at the golf course.

A golf course is a dark dark alien world at night, the ground invisible and treacherously hilly; the greens and ponds indistinguishable at a distance. A sky full of stars that portend nothing. I'd expected to run into other hopefuls there but there were none.

I had to be sparing with the flashlight batteries. A discarded shopping bag; a lost towel, things like these became a white Special Olympics t-shirt in the dark and I fumbled to turn on the beam with hope and dread. "What the fuck am I doing here?" I kept asking. And why aren't my legs hurting? What's up with that?

The route I had planned went out the window the moment I left the parking lot. I had no clue where I was and it didn't matter. I was pretty sure I'd twist and ankle soon and roll down a hill and in the morning some golfers - or searchers - would find me instead of the boy and I'd have to apologize for their disappointment.

In the morning I talked to neighbors. I could not share their optimism. Abductions are very rare, I know, but nothing else made sense at this point. He was small and walked with a limp. Yet again I thought of his parents and yet again I had to push the thought away. I cannot imagine. It's unimaginable.

This afternoon the phone rang but I could not get it because I was busy holding the roommate's ancient shadow of a dog in an ersatz standing position so she could drink from her bowl; an accomplishment too rare to dare interrupt.

The message was from a friend. "They found him! I don't know any details but they found him!"

"Yes!" I shouted at the ceiling. "Yes! Yes!" I squeezed into shoes and bustled outside. "They found him?" I asked at the first gathering. They had. He'd gone in precisely the opposite direction as the golf course. All along he'd been a few dozen yards away from my own backyard in some kind of drainage tunnel. So close! How had they missed him again and again?

"Is he okay?"

None were eager to answer. "I don't think so," said the man.

"He's pretty sick?"

"The paramedics didn't go to the boy," said the woman. "They went to the mother."

Monday, August 01, 2016

Cosmic reference changes course in a hurry

Another telephone-pictionary creation from my Eat Poop U Cat club:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hey look, it's me

Hello there. Sloth here.

I don’t know that I should apologize for my long absence here. I don’t presume that my writings here are doing anyone any great favours.

I seem to have stumbled into some major aversion to writing of late which is kind of ridiculous since I basically gave up a decent career in order to write (in essence) and doubly so given this is a camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing) month and I have a goal to reach and I’m barely 15% of the way there.

I’ve been bloody lazy frankly and it’s no surprise to me because I haven’t been sleeping well for a long time now and when I’m tired I make nothing but lame, short-sighted decisions.

Sleeping is a very complicated thing for me due to shift work and a serious sleep apnea condition which is treated by a CPAP machine which requires regular care in order to perform well. There are actually a lot of little things I need to proactively do in order to make good sleep possible and many of them I am not doing nearly enough due to laziness and poor decision-making... due to lack of sleep. Vicious circle, see?

There are a few more reasons why it’s odd timing for this falling out of love with writing but I will bother you with only this one: I started a new novel which is literally the fifth different attempt to basically try to express the same set of core ideas. The first four all derailed for various reasons but they were learning experiences which I think was really the main goal.

This time I seem to be right on the mark. The first few chapters look great. And the weird thing is: I think that makes me afraid. And perhaps I’ll figure out how to properly explain that sometime soon.

Anyways… I’m trying to get back on the bandwagon. I’m vowing to get busy attending to my sleep issues and to get back to this blog very regularly. But I’ll be trying to keep the posts short.

This was a lame post, I know. They’ll get better. I’m just happy to hear my fingers tapping. Baby steps.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Travolta

“I'm from a working-class family. We didn't have a lot, but we had the arts. You're talking to a guy who is making a living at doing what he loves doing - acting, singing and dancing. So any career ups and downs were not that significant to me; the only things that really powerfully impinged on me were my losses, and there were many in my life.”—John Travolta, undoubtedly thinking of his first child, Jett, who died at age sixteen following a seizure.

“I don't think I'm very cool as a person. I'm just better than anyone else at acting cool.”

The heart is a lonely hunter…

74. A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004, USA)
Scarlett Johansson, John Travolta, Gabriel Macht

This is a warm earthy film with rich dialogue and much to say on the fragile nature of relationships: friendship, family, pseudo-family and self.

Roger Ebert explains it well: "What can be said is that the three actors inhabit this material with ease and gratitude: It is good to act on a simmer sometimes, instead of at a fast boil. It's unusual to find an American movie that takes its time. It's remarkable to listen to dialogue that assumes the audience is well-read. It is refreshing to hear literate conversation. These are modest pleasures, but real enough."

Said Carina Chocano of the L. A. Times: "…deep-down, a redemptive makeover story drenched in alcohol, Southern literature and the damp romanticism of the bohemian lush life in New Orleans. A lovely noble rot pervades the film in much the same way that it does the city, a longtime repository of lost-cause romanticism. If there's something a little bit moldy about the setup (drunken literary types, hope on the doorstep, healing from beyond the grave), the movie is no less charming or involving for it, and it's no less pleasant to succumb to its wayward allure and wastrel lyricism.”

The ending might be accused of being predictable, but so what? The story is legitimate and like any other, should not be perverted for the sake of surprise.

Writers: Ronald Everett Capps, Shainee Gabel
Director: Shainee Gabel (Anthem)
Budget: unknown
IMDB rating: 7.2

75. Michael (1996, USA)
John Travolta, Andie McDowell, William Hurt, Jean Stapleton, Robert Pastorelli

Here Travolta’s capacity for bold presence is put to work as a heavenly angel with some very down-to-earth habits; a sort of divine mind with very human urges. If categorized a comedy, it is one of depth. I found it delightful and amusing though critics seemed not to know what to make if it. Nonetheless it was a box office hit, ranking in the year’s top twenty.

Writers: Peter Dexter (Mulholland Falls), Jim Quinlan
Director: Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia, Lucky Numbers)
Budget: $46,000,000
IMDB rating: 5.6

76. Phenomenon (1996, USA)
John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, Robert Duvall

Oddly, Travolta starred in a second 1996 fantasy-drama box office hit, also about a character with extraordinary powers put to work in rather altruistic aid of those around him; but here an everyman turned genius by some apparently supernatural event.

This story is more serious; more of romantic bent than comedic and touches the heart a little deeper.

The film and its principle actors earned attention from a variety of awards including MTV wins for best kiss (Travolta/Sedgwick) and Eric Clapton’s song Change the World.

Writer: Gerald Di Pego (Instinct)
Director: Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure)
Budget: $32,000,000
IMDB rating: 6.4

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Tallest Bridges art Nearest to Heaven

Should you figure you linger at a stopping ground;
Your real home a gift yet received,
Then oughtn’t you quit your farting around
And pack your bags and leave?

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Why Trump is ahead of his time

If cats have nine lives, how many lives does capitalism have?

Nobody ever builds or buys corporations in order to maintain their wealth; but only to increase it. The wealthiest of Western society keep getting wealthier, yet money doesn’t grow on trees. Money is still just points on a ledger; a share in a finite system. The rich can only get richer through growth within a limited pool. Capitalism is a pyramid scheme and the base of that pyramid maxed out the realm of North American productivity a long time ago, when our particular manifestation of capitalism (be it pure or perverted) should have asphyxiated.

Yet this ghost of capitalism keeps feeding the elite.

What are these bonus lives which keep money flowing uphill? I see it as this:

1 – Waste. Though the workers of society cannot collectively afford to purchase all the products they collectively produce, we keep on producing too much, and we stockpile shelves and warehouses and destroy “non-fresh” food and imperfect-looking produce and breed billions of livestock to eat far more food quantity than what they eventually return to us in meat. We advertise everything to death which addresses no consumer need, which convinces our dull brains to buy outrageous shit we don’t need (and which in fact harm us) and redundantly pits brands against each other for no greater purpose but just to fight one another in the pursuit of growing faster than the other guy grows. And best of all, we produce enormous volumes of weapons, ammunition and war machines and outrageously phony excuses to declare enemies and blow things up so as to then have to manufacture them again, along with all the pretty coffins.

2 – Globalization. We drag poorer nations into the capitalism game by lording power over them, inflicting world trade conditions upon them in drag as charity and forcing them to bid for the privilege of being our slaves and producing our groovy swag at the lowest possible cost, thus unavoidable: child labor, slave labor, compromises in safety, compromises in environmental protection. A lovely boon: we outsource our pollution and divert blame for global warming when truly it is squarely ours.

3 – Oil. We destroy critical components of the biosphere in order to dig up millions of years worth of liquid sunshine (and other fossil fuels), releasing those toxins into the air and powering machines, the sub-slaves which give we elite slaves; you and me, a privileged life. For as long as oil lasts (a mere blip of time by any real perspective) it is the machines harnessed to the grindstone instead of us.

4 – Matricide. North American natives have always understood Mother Earth; have always known that it is she who gives us life. We feed the Western Imperialist machine beyond the capacity of our own labour by mortgaging the Earth with no means to repay. Already we’ve destroyed more than half of fresh water sources, more than half of the world’s topsoil and more than half of the critical wetlands and rain forests. We have literally crippled the biosphere to the point that it is no longer a game of rampant subtraction. We are into exponents now because we have triggered massive feedback loops in the system. We have drawn down the Earth’s capacity to support life to the point that it is already tail-spinning.

5. Financial buggery. When the pros from various financial corners try to explain their little vistas of the ever-increasing complexities around the thousand-and-one ways we’ve concocted for money to change hands without any product or value of any kind materializing, I quickly run into acronyms or jargon which I do not understand and I wonder if there is a human being anywhere who has a handle on the whole entire picture? I suspect there is not one. It’s just becoming clear that our capitalist system of the rich skimming off the labour of the not-rich is growing and complexifying to allow greater means and layers of skimming and re-skimming.

6. Population explosion. Do I need to explain why seven-point-something billion people on a planet with as limited a biosphere as ours is an obscene perversion? I am going to assume that I do not need to explain why seven-point-something billion people on a planet with as limited a biosphere as ours is an obscene perversion.

7. And here I will concede. I’m not going to get to nine. Winner: cats.

The obvious problem with all of these bonus lives is that they are all very swiftly drying up. Oil reserves, all other natural resources, opportunities for global imperialist frontiers; all of it is currently maxing out as we speak. We’re heading into crash mode.

And as everything crashes; water, food, social stability, the viability of individual nations and the U.N., unraveling slowly at first and gathering momentum, the global hatred toward Europe and North America and (fairly or unfairly) especially toward the United States of America, will rapidly increase, not just out of blame but from desperation, as elite nations (generally the least affected by climate disaster thanks in part to wealth and in part to geographical irony) maintain slower depletion of privileges, as other societies descend more swiftly into unavoidable hunger and violence.  

As America draws even more hatred and is targeted for its rarefying assets, it will require more and more justification for privilege and exclusion and militancy and will need more and more delusional reasons to hate back. Hate, however deluded, will literally become the essential ingredient to the new dwindling version of the American Dream/Nightmare.

I don’t presume that Trump understands this or that perhaps his people do; his elite cohorts who usher him down this path. More likely, I suspect, understanding only exists in the collective insanity of their instinctive minds. In any event Trump is serving as a shock absorber. Just as gas prices spiked hugely in the early millennium, taming our reaction, soothing our outrage, falling back down before soon migrating upwards again, Trump is normalizing hatred of the other and getting killed by the backlash that some of us are still capable of.

Trump won’t win this presidency, I suggest, because it’s still too early for hate to overtly and unapologetically rule, but later, when the essential wave of hatred must roll into the realm of normal, it will not be so noticeable. And the media will be bored of it. Perhaps Trump is a martyr to his people, perhaps a sacrificial lamb.

He may be scum. But at least he’s taking one for his team.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Rules and boundaries do not apply!

In a very special town the laws of nature are bending wildly to spectacular effect just as the "rules" of literature have moved aside to clear the path for this unique story of intimate neighbors in an infinite landscape, delivered by a voice of rare grace and presence. It is perhaps a fairy tale; one of immediate warmth, gathering momentum and a glimpse of cosmic joy; a resonant celebration of life and a rare celebration of narrative! 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

My current feelings toward dieting

Monday, April 25, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Sanity

"Sanity" is a very interesting word if you really look at it. It suggests a level of clarity which I rarely witness. Indeed I don’t perceive that the infantile state of human consciousness allows for legitimate sanity, (or perhaps not without a lot of work and good fortune) despite how much the instinctive mind goads us to believe otherwise. I don’t perceive that the human being is a sane creature; not even remotely close. I gather this from the way people talk and how it demonstrates the way they think. I see it in most normal behavior and all that we inflict as a society. And I see my own tenuous dance with sanity, or at least the shadows thereof, when I immerse myself in solitude and penetrate my internal mind to a degree I have only learned to do in the last nine or so years, and which I very easily might never have learned to do without good fortune.

Let us explore the slipperiness of the ever-struggling human mind:

70. Happiness (1998, USA)
Jane Adams, Lara Flynn Boyle, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Camryn Manheim, Dylan Baker, Cynthia Stevenson, Jon Lovitz, Louise Lasser, Ben Gazzara, Molly Shannon, Elizabeth Ashley, Jared Harris

Ten minutes into this film I was glaring at my partner demanding to know how this perverse material had entered our home.

“I don’t know! It was in the comedy section!”

Soon though, I caught on that the comedy was dry and dark and yet, ultimately refreshing. A lot of buried baggage gets dragged up from a lot of deeply developed characters in a way that bears some honesty and responsibility and artfully lights it in a way that we can safely deal with it - unless you bear some specific traumas perhaps? And are prone to the trigger concept?

Todd Solondz is one of the best character-driven movie makers out there and this one is a bold example.

Its themes, while very important and under-represented, caused havoc for the project in terms of marketing and accessibility while the excellent Roger Ebert ranked it the fifth best film of the year, stating, “...the depraved are only seeking what we all seek, but with a lack of ordinary moral vision... In a film that looks into the abyss of human despair, there is the horrifying suggestion that these characters may not be grotesque exceptions, but may in fact be part of the mainstream of humanity....It is not a film for most people. It is certainly for adults only. But it shows Todd Solondz as a filmmaker who deserves attention, who hears the unhappiness in the air and seeks its sources."

Writer/Director: Todd Solondz (Storytelling)
Budget: $3,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.8

71. Heavy (1995, USA)
Pruitt Taylor Vince, Liv Tyler, Deborah Harry, Shelley WInters

And here’s another low-budget masterpiece of singular vision which delves deep into the human psyche with startling realism and which again, will probably, tragically, be hard to find:

The deceptively simple tableau concerns a diner where ordinary people work. The magic of the film reveals there is nothing ordinary about ordinary.

Says Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times: "…a small, quiet miracle of a movie in which tenderness, compassion and insight combine to create a tension that yields a quality of perception that's almost painful to experience." Well said. This patient, integral film bled buckets of empathy out of me.

Ebert called it “extraordinary.”

Writer/Director: James Mangold (Walk the Line)
Budget: unknown (independent)
IMDB rating: 7.0

72. Black Swan (2010, USA)
Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Benjamin MIllepied, Vincent Cassel

Watching this film was like handling dynamite. It’s a spring-loaded cerebral thriller.

To capture and maintain the penultimate role: the Swan Queen of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, is life or death to a young ballet dancer, and what she experiences is… compelling to say the least. The layers of duality richly explored here: black swan versus white swan; instinct versus consciousness; person versus artist, and in a strange particular light: primary dancer versus understudy, make for an almost psychedelic viewer experience.

I suppose that officially, this was awkwardly crammed into the horror movie genre but I don’t personally see it that way, and if you bear any allergy to the horror genre, I suggest it should not apply here.

Portman won Best Actress Oscar; one of five nominations for the film.

Writers: Mark Heyman (the Skeleton Twins), Andres Heinz (Love Written in Blood)
Director: Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream)
Budget: $13,000,000
IMDB rating: 8.0

73. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005, USA)
Documentary by Jeff Feuerzeig starring Daniel Johnston

I believe this is honestly the most fascinating and deeply moving true story in the history of music. There is no doubt at all that Daniel Johnston’s story is thrillingly unique.

What would cause a major record label to enter a mental institution and offer a patient the most generous, forgiving, open-ended multi-album recording contract in the history of lawyers? I will surrender no spoilers. You’ve got to see this to believe it.

The film takes us deep into the realms of mental illness, of the beast called fame, and of the critical value of music and the arts well beyond the commercial.

Johnston came into this world with every deck stacked against him and in a rigid society driven by contrived false-drama-building structures, he cut straight through the whole mess, and leaving his own messes in the wake, granted, he forged a life of legitimate adventure and almost inexplicable success. Stunning, truthful, painful and beautiful.

A lot of people are understandably at a loss; who can’t understand why other people regard Johnston as a genius. Of course, genius is a totally subjective word, but I am immovably one of those other people.

Writer/Director: Jeff Feuerzeig (Half Japanese: The Man That Would Be King)
Budget: unknown
IMDB rating: 8.0

Short List:
Bill (1981, USA) Mickey Rooney, Dennis Quaid
Of Mice and Men (1992, USA) John Malkovich, Gary Sinise
I Melt With You (2011, USA) Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe

Friday, April 22, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Road Trip!

Okay, I’m two days behind but determined to catch up by Sunday! I’ll be trying to keep it short.

I love road trip stories. Such an excellent tool for throwing characters into whatever environment they require along their journey, that they might learn something about the world, and more significantly, about themselves. Here we catch heroes at pivotal moments of their own lives; their greater journeys, with the opportunity to grow.

66. Sideways (2004, USA/Hungary)
Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh

Everyone raves about this best-pal California wine tour movie and it can be hard to know why. It seems like such a simple affair. But there is something really magical in a subtle, witty, down-to-earth  comedy that is really genuinely funny while remaining genuine in every other way. It reflects our most common dealings with friendships and intimate relationships in a way that is penetrating but ultimately a celebration. Sandra Oh is gorgeous with a spot-on performance and Paul Giamatti is dynamite as the struggling everyman with fears and insecurities we have all known too well.

Very special and re-watchable. Deliciously funny and the perfect movie to watch with five friends and twelve bottles of wine. Yes, if you’d like to know how to host an Official Interactive Sideways Night at your own home, I am the original architect! just shoot me a message, and plan on a lot of sleeping bags!

Dozens of accolades include nominations for five Oscars including best picture. It won for best adapted screenplay. Ebert called it “the best human comedy of the year.”

Writers: Rex Pickett (the novel), Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (Jurassic Park III) 
Director: Alexander Payne (About Schmidt)
Budget: $12,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.6

67. As Good as it Gets (1997, USA)
Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr.

Master actor Jack Nicholson was born to portray every possible variety of off-balanced character. This role required a softer touch than usual and Nicholson responds with subtlety, taking the Oscar for lead male. Hunt took the counterpart Oscar and Kinnear’s supporting role was one of five additional nominations for the film. Hunt and Nicholson also won the matching Screen Actors Guild awards which I personally consider of more integrity and substance than the Acadamy Awards.

Of course these performances could not have reached this apex without the sensitive writing and brilliant arsenal of laugh-out-loud one-liners provided by writer Mark Andrus.

Struggle, redemption and an excellent lesson in the joy that can be had while living within our limitations. Sweet, endearing and damn funny!

Writer: Mark Andrus (Life as a House)
Director: James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment)
Budget: $50,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.7

68. Goonies (1985, USA)
Sean Astin, Jeff Cohen, Josh Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Kerri Green, Corey Feldman, Jonathan Ke Quan

I’m not sure any actual roads appeared in this movie but it strikes me as having that sort of adventurous plot structure.

The magic here is in the style which is one that mesmerises me: from the film’s beginning to end it is a frenetic  jumble of conversation which miraculously pours out smoothly. It’s like every character is lit up and  naturally bursting out without queues and yet somehow not tripping over one other. It appears as meticulously aligned, inexplicably genius acting across a wide group of actors, yet how could such a jackpot occur? And among children no less! This is so rare to see and I can only assume the genius lies in the script (adapted by Chris Columbus from a Spielberg story) and in some brilliant director’s process which I cannot imagine! and still requiring a set of actors all running at top form. Even though it is supposedly just a kids movie, I am in awe of that accomplishment.

Pure magic for the kid in all of us!  

A sometimes-possible-sometimes-probable sequel exploration has been bantered about for what seems like forever. Astin has been quoted saying, “It’s definitely going to happen!” but I really have my doubts. Too much time has passed which only snowballs the difficulties, and I doubt it would garner a budget suitable to such aspirations as would naturally arise out of the surprise success of the original.

Perhaps some magic is just not meant to be worn thin.  

Writers: Steven Spielberg (Poltergeist), Chris Columbus (Gremlins)
Director: Richard Donner (The Omen)
Budget: $19,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.8

69. Rain Man (1988, USA)
Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino

I can think of no better performances in the careers of either of these actors: Here Cruise and Hoffman portray such warmth and pain and persistence in this conflict of priorities. It is a testament to the power of love and the gravitational pull of family; a finally crafted emotional ride on the path of self-discovery, intentional or accidental. Hoffman and the film ran rampant over the Oscars and two dozen other award enterprises.

Always a special experience to watch this every five years or so. Kleenex alert!

Writers: Barry Morrow (Bill), Ronald Bass (Snow Falling on Cedars)
Director: Barry Levinson (Good Morning Vietnam)
Budget: $25,000,000
IMDB rating: 8.0

Short List
The Hangover (2009, USA/Germany ) Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha