Bläeckfisk is the Swedish translation for the word octopus. I am not Swedish, but I do own a lot of furniture from Sweden and I like octopuses while admiring their multi-tasking ability. I would like to travel to Sweden at some point, plus I think it is a pretty cool looking word. Anyhow, speaking of words, I guess you could say that is why we are here. Words are the foundation for way we try to wrap our thoughts around everything in the galaxy. The tendrils that lead to emotions and curiosity. I am not here to solve the mysteries of the universe, just to discuss words in general. Specifically words written by other people and have been printed off and slapped between two slices of thin card stock. Many of these sandwiches go on to bigger and better things, some bigger and better than others. So, I guess we will be talking about those as well. If you share an interest in words or enjoi seeing what they can look like in action....välkommen! (Swedish for welcome.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

B25: A Man Lies Dreaming By Lavie Tidhar

"All I could see was the money she was holding between those long slim fingers. She moved the roll of notes back and forth, idly. I had been penniless before, and poverty had made me stronger, not weak, but that was in my former life. My life was different now, and it was harder to be hungry."

Audacious. Gutty. Provocative and contentious. Four little words that sum up this incredible book about an alternate history of the life of Adolf Hitler. After "The Fall", Wolf is reduced to a private detective who now swims in much murkier, shallow waters than he is accustomed to. The setting is in London where the Communists have taken over, not Hitler's Nazis. Antisemitism still runs rampant around the city and boils hot under Wolf's skin. With that being said, he has no other choice but to take up a missing girl case from a Jewish woman looking for her lost sister. While scouring the bowels of the city, Wolf endures countless brushes of agony, expertly penned by Mr. Tidhar. He is beaten. And defiled. And reduced to the lowest scrap of a man you could imagine. No doubt, hypothetical punishment for the wretched stain on humanity he became in real life. Wolf reaches such a low point that you really can't help almost for feeling sorry for him. Almost.

While many parts of this book with make you as a reader shudder, it is one of the best books I have read this year. Especially considering how it reminded me of an all time classic The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. Along with the detective tale centered around Wolf, there are intermittent flashes to concentration camps, directly reminding us that of the despair that has wrapped its claws around the 1930's and 40's. It is not a light read, but one that is amazingly conceived and crafted and worth not only reading, but owning. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

B24: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

"I treaded the carpet backwards from my parent's door, alone and awake, and I caught sight of the painting of the cowboys at sunsets, smoke rising from their campfire in the foothills, black and even as it sought the coming darkness."

This is a powerful little story from first time author John Darnielle. I find it really difficult to find a story that keeps my attention when told in the first person, but I had no trouble charging ahead and sometimes backwards and to the side with this book. It is expertly written and anyone who is a fan of unique prose and sharp technique will enjoy this book.

The story is centered around the life of Sean Phillips and takes us across several dimensions of his life. Most of what is discussed is post "accident" where something horrific has happened to Sean's face. We find out what happened in the middle of the book, which really helps shift into focus the surrounding events of Sean's life. The why is what really drives this book, so much so that we are left wondering up until the last page. More so than the "accident", the central theme in this book is the power of the human mind. After his life shattering event, Sean creates a mail-in-of-sorts role playing board game, helping him scrape out some sort of income. He often retreats to the corners of his mind when out in public, or being gawked at in therapy, planning out the next series of moves. The disposition he carries as a result becomes impressive as he copes with the reality of his life's trajectory. Sean literary creates a different world inside his head and is able to function in real life because of it.

I really loved this book and suggest picking it up. Obviously a work of fiction, Sean's story is one that will stick with me for awhile. Not too mention one amazing book cover. Read this one people.

Friday, December 4, 2015

B23: California by Edan Lepucki

"All at once, sudden as a hiccup, they reached the end of labyrinth."

It feels good to be back. Not that there hasn't been a ridiculous amount of writing taking place, more on that later, but I just wrapped up an interesting book for anyone searching for something this side of dystopian. I have mixed feelings on this one but think it is definitely worth a read.

The story takes place in the not-so-distant-but-sort-of faraway-future and natural disasters have wrecked havoc on the United States. So much to the point that entire cities and social structures and civilized behavior has been forced into the wilderness. We soon meet Frida and Cal, a couple who is doing their best to maintain any shred of decent living in a forest outside of Los Angeles. They have not been too adventurous to this point, but between ennui and curiosity they start asking some interesting questions to the one man, a trader, they know to interact with others living beyond their camp. The pull to find out who else is out only grows and soon our happily married couple sets out to discover what and who is living beyond the beyond. The ringleader of what is out there will shake both Frida and Cal to the core.

I really enjoyed the setting and plot but where I think this author really shines is through her dialogue. It is both entertaining and witty and helps keep the story moving along its trajectory while keeping us wondering about the fate that is awaits our couple. This book makes you think of our future and touches on many current issues that we can only hope unfolded differently. I recommend stuffing someone's stocking with this story, they will be intrigued.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

F39: American Sniper-Directed by Clint Eastwood

"It puts lightning in your bones and makes it hard to hold onto anything else."

I am not sure there will be a more talked about movie this year than American Sniper starring Bradly Cooper. This film is polarizing and has plenty of talking points, but let's start with a few words about the latest film by Mr. Eastwood. First of all, Bradly Cooper plays a solid, not spectacular role as Chris Kyle, Navy Seal. Watching the film you are convinced that the four tours that Chris went on over in Iraq did impact him greatly. Chris's PTSD forces a struggle in acclimating back to civilian life and Cooper plays out this part of his role really well.  However, the acting around his character is sub par and I feel really short-circuits of much of the anticipated drama of the plot. Personally, I found the pace of the movie sluggish and American Sniper is missing a spark that is always the hallmark of a great war film (Hurt Locker/Lone Survivor). There was nothing I loved about the film, although I was entertained for most of it.

The real intrigue around this film is the dynamics with how the film is being seen. People came out in record droves and smashed box office records to watch a film that celebrates the most prolific sniper U.S. Navy's history. Of all the cinematic achievements in story telling ever created, a movie about a sniper now holds more than a dozen attendance records. About a sniper. Sniper's kill. A lot. Death. Shooting. Usually hidden from view. I'm amazed how even the subject has gotten people to the leave their homes and make it to the theater for the sake of being entertained. And while I do have a great deal of respect of what our armed forces do to protect everyday life in America, this film circles the wagons back to the question of what was really achieved fighting a war in Iraq in the first place. Several of the soldiers in the film clearly question their purpose abroad, but not the main character. 

I've read that many people have labeled this film as propaganda although I stopped short of taking it that way. In fact, I am still not exactly sure how I take this film on a level above entertainment. In that regard I guess it is a unique cinematic experience. During the ending credits the theater was silent and the air was thick with a deep sentiment that I haven't ever experienced before at a movie house. I did see the film with a British friend who commented after the film "You Americans love your heroes. The patriotism in that film, I have never seen anything like it." He was not being snippy but rather made some good points. American Sniper will strike a nerve with many different types of people and their reactions will all differ greatly. I applaud Clint Eastwood for creating something to talk about and shining the spotlight on a topic that the public can wrestle over. Like it or not, see this film and decide for yourself. 'Merica, F-ya!


Monday, January 5, 2015

F38: Exodus: God and Kings-Directed by Ridley Scott

"You sleep so well boy, because you are so loved."

The story of the Exodus is one of the greatest stories ever told and Ridley Scott does a handsome job of bringing it to life with a modern slant that I am sure angered many. While the actual story of Moses and Ramses is well trodden and steeped in Biblical lore, Ridley develops the plot around the combustibly enduring relationship between the two brothers. We know the outcome, but this movie takes us all for a ride that we have not been on before, and it starts with Moses.

Gone is the staff. The bushy beard. The archaic preaching and striped robes. In their wake is a much more military minded Moses that we soon discover is devoid of any faith, Hebrew or Egyptian. While exiled, Moses suffers a head injury tending to his flock and begins to see God, who appears to him in the shape of a 10 year old boy. The kid is a curious approach by Scott, but ultimately I feel a very successful one. Israel literally translates into "he who wrestles with God" and Moses could be the poster child for this concept, constantly questioning what he is instructed to do. Even as the movie is drawing to a close we can feel this inner struggle with Moses over not just his life's purpose, but the legacy that he is leaving behind. I liked how this version focused more on how a single man can spark a revolution with his people and carry out arguably the largest migration of people in human history, rather than centering the plot around the mysticism of the plagues. Which, interestingly enough, were presented in an a logical order, pressing the issue of scientific possibility onto the screen.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film and recommend it to anyone who loves ancient history. I simply found the scope of what Egypt could have been like 4,000 years ago to be intoxicating and Ridley Scott did an incredible job of bringing the pages of history to life. Staying historical, this movie did have its shortcomings but breathes new life into an old epic tale and I feel is worth seeing.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

B22: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage-By Haruki Murakami

"The past became a long, razor sharp skewer that stabbed right through his heart. Silent silver pain shot through him, transforming his spine to a pillar of ice. The pain remained, unabated."

Another sterling read by sensei Murakami. If you have never picked up one of his works, you are really missing out. Murakami has an effortless style of writing that is both minimal and cognitively layered. His words create a clean yet searing image of the world around his characters, ultimately leading them down some version of the proverbial rabbit hole. This newest work is no exception. It is masterly written and unfolds like a forgotten memory. More so than any of his other books I have read, Colorless features a new empathetic protagonist, Tsukuru Tazaki that anybody who has experienced strong friendships during their high school years will be able to identify with.

The plot is about friendship and the perpetual craters that they form along the ridge of a person's existence. Some are shallow, but other's can be much deeper and of much greater consequence. Tsukuru's group consists of two other boys and two girl. Five friends, emotionally connected who shared everything. At a time in their lives when personalities are galvanized and life path's are forged, the five friends were inseparable, each contributing to the group in their own way. As the reality of college drifts closer and closer, the group suddenly and inexplicably exiles Tsukuru, severing all contact. Tsukuru, fractured, is set a foot in a dark forest of uncertainty and wavers between extinction and reconstruction. He does manage to find his way out and years later meets a woman who refuses to progress their romance unless Tsukuru explores the painful reasons behind his expulsion. 

I really cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. We have all had friendships that have dissipated or morphed into something that we could never have conceived possible and this story is a simple reminder that life is ever changing. Relationships shift, flow and ebb and the only constant is that unforeseeable way that they will end up. But, that is have the fun of the game of life; not ever knowing what is next. Pick this book up and when done, pass it on to a friend. You will be glad you did. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

F37: Fury-Directed by David Ayer

"Ideals are peaceful, but history is violent."

 History is without a doubt violent, as is this movie. But, boy was it awesome. I highly recommend seeing this new release starring the Pittster as a war hardened sergeant during WWII. For all the movies that have come out on the subject, it is really amazing how every year it seems, there is a new take or new glimpse into those dark years on the planet Earth. This movie packs a wallop as any good war movie should, with plenty explosions and mud and guns and grenades and body parts flying across the screen. It does do something different though that we have not seen, it profiles one of the most important tools that was used during the effort: The Sherman Tank. 

WarDaddy (Pitt) is the commander of a group of misfits fighting hard to end the war. They have crossed over into Germany territory only to have one of their mainstays torn to shreds. His replacement comes in the form of an fresh out-of-training greenhorn, played expertly by Logan Lerman. The plot is pretty straightforward from there, with WarDaddy taking the new gunner under his wing and doing everything he can to toughen him up for survival's sake. This movie reminded me of a favorite book of mine All Quiet on the Western Front, which was written in 1929. It follows the path of a group of youthful soldiers, not unlike our tank pals from Fury and how they would actually prefer to stay together in harms way on the front line versus return home and go their separate ways. If anything, this film reminds us of the incredibly thick, elastic relationships soldiers share and how, despite the abhorrent nature of circumstances surrounding them, they would make any sacrifice asked of them. 

See this movie. The shear scope of what you watch will blow you away. Brad Pitt's role teeter's on improbable, but the rest of the cast is marvelous. The tank on tank action scene is epic and I wouldn't be shocked to see Fury bag several awards. MACHINE!