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, December 13, 2013

F29: Philomena-Directed by Stephen Frears

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." 

I liked this movie despite the absence of mind swirling action. There are no car chases and zero explosions. The ending will not send a jolt of excitement through your veins. In fact this movie is quintessentially the complete opposite of the last movie that was reviewed. What this film lacks in sexiness it makes up in depth of character and plot. It is like having a warm cup of coffee in a rocking chair on the porch of your mountain cabin. There is a sharp chill in the air that is beginning to weave its way through the blanket wrapped around your shoulders.  Quietly rocking, you look out over the tranquil landscape, and realize the allure of being trapped in this paradox. Beauty comes in different shapes and sizes and there are many wonderfully graceful moments to this picture.

On the surface the it seems to be a stuffy little story about a young girl who had a little too much fun at a local carnival in Limerick, Ireland. She goes on the give birth to a baby boy, Anthony, while entrenched in the town's abbey. Her future looks bleak as the nasty nuns who run the convent also just happen to have a small side business selling the children of the poor girls who live there to foreigners. They appallingly get the girls to give up their maternal rights, brainwashing them into believing that it is proper atonement for their carnal explorations. Oh the glory of God. Fast forward to modern times and our thrill seeking protagonist, played marvelously by the iconic Judi Dench, has decided that after 50 years of silence she must know what became of her beloved Anthony. She sets out on a quest with a former controversial news journalist that will ultimately lead her to the capital of the United States and the office of Ronald Reagan. 

This film is quite simple and in that simplicity I found it to be rather enjoyable. With all the bulky budgeted films out there and the anxious directors concocting the next big twist, seeing a movie that essentially plays out from a-z was refreshing. There are a few turns in the story and a couple of bumps in the road, but the real triumph of this film is the acting; specifically the interaction between Sixsmith the journalist and Philomena. Look for Mrs. Dench to garner several best actress award nominations in the coming months as her performance was brilliant. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

F28:Catching Fire-Directed by Francis Lawrence

"Let it fly."

By no means is this a historic achievement in film. It is however damn entertaining and quite thought provoking. The scope of the computer generated affects is imposingly alluring and the world that is created therein swipes your attention from the first majestic sweep of dismal District 12. You immediately get lost in the dystopian world that is Panem. Jennifer Lawerence is back as Katniss Everdeen for the second installment of the ground breaking series of young adult novels, The Hunger Games. Young adult novels. Distrust, revolution, butchery and carnage. What great material for the youth of our world. I know I spoke to these same ideas for part one of the series and yes, children are exposed to violence everyday, but having such an rabidly violent story thrust into the minds of young kids doesn't get any easily to swallow. 

The story has everything that would be captivating for a middle school student and adults alike. Action, adventure, suspense and a zest of romance. Having the privilege of working with this age group of humans, I can ascertain that the undercurrents of defiance and governmental brazenness are not recognized as being the crux of what this story is about. When I asked my classes about it, they mostly mentioned the romance and violent aspects as being what they savored the most. It is not that they are incapable of dredging out to central theme, its just that mechanism used to deliver it it too tantalizing for them to see past it. Much like Animal Farm and 1984, when read at the appropriate age, the kaleidoscope of intention surely will become clearer. I strongly encourage all my students after enjoying them now, to revisit these books later on in their literary careers. 

We all know the story of the Hunger Games and if you don't, shame on you. Take a week and hammer through the series. If not for your own interest then to stay in the loop with what has already become a world wide phenomenum. I would say my favorite facet of these books/films is that is it getting our youth reading and thinking. Yes they are strong in content and revel in themes that may be beyond their reach, but kid's interest in reading them has reached a feverish pitch. Is it better to read violence or to not read at all? Also, I love that the protagonist is a strong willed, obstinate female. It is refreshing to have a heroine that the kids are conversing about in their inner circles. Overall, Catching Fire is a good movie and will jump in rank if you have read the series. I thought the director stayed true to the writing and I fancied the gritty approach to telling the tale of the Quarter Qwell. Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a nifty appearance as Plutarch Heavensbee, while Stanley Tucci's role as Caesar Flickerman is simply awesome. See for your self what everybody is talking about and watch this movie. The revolution will not be televised.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

B19: Seiobo There Below-By Laszlo Krasznahorkai

" this case music-comes into being, is born, unfolds but then it's all over, no more, what must come as has, the realm dies away and yet lived on in this divine form, for all eternity its echo remains, for we may evoke it, as we do evoke it to this very day and hall evoke it for as long as we can, even if as an ever more faint reflection of the original, a tired and ever more uncertain echo..."

This is more than a book. This is not just a collection of stories that seemingly wonder along a worldly landscape, ping ponging from country to country. Or just a shallow breeze that reminds you of an intricate plot twist, crawling with indelible characters. Seiobo There Below is a work of art. It is Picasso. And Dali. And Pollack. It is perfectly random and beautifully carved out of words that will resonate throughout your library for years to come. In fact this might just be the most exquisite book you will ever own. Owning it is a must, as the depths of its contents surely will morph and transform with life's passing moments. Very rarely have I come across a piece of literature that has moved me the way this book has and I highly recommend it. 

Each chapter, numbered in the Finonacci sequence, tells a different story that connects to much bigger supposition. Determining what that abstraction is will vary from reader to reader; much like the interpretation of a fine work of art. Some will see tragedy, others triumph. All will grasp the value of the artist that is the main congruent vehicle throughout the book. In most cases, each of the independent stories are about something or someone that is laboring to create something. A heron struggling to sustain it's place in the food chain, a Japanese mask maker short on inspiration and a tourist blinded by the beauty of his life long dream to experience the Parthenon, to name a few. While each chapter is unique and has its own cultural backdrop, the stories are held together by hope itself. Anticipation of beauty can take many forms and does in this work.

Seiobo There Below is a challenge to read. The author's style uses essentially no periods and has the dream like feel of a single stream of thought. I found that reading a chapter then stopping helped me digest what my eyes were absorbing in the pages and I will be returning to re read certain chapters in the future. This book is packed with both a practical philosophy and a spiritual substance that is decidedly worth the journey. The title itself refers to a Japanese Shinto Goddess and her tree of immortality; appropriately named considering the lasting effect of reading this book. Holidays are right around the corner and this book will make for the perfect gift to anyone who loves erudition or has an infinity for thought provoking literature. Krasznahorkai has penned a true epoch and I feel fortunate that  I was listening to NPR last month when it was mentioned in book releases. Shout out to the Motherland, Hungarians rule.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

F27: Prisoners-Directed by Denis Villeneuve

“Complete the final maze and you can go home.”
Wow. I think I have lockjaw. You will sit on the edge of your seat, you will clench your teeth and your heart will race. Being a new dad, I figured that a movie in which two small girls are kidnapped would keep my blood pumping, but I was blown away by this movie. A hybrid of Winter’s Bone, Ransom and Seven, Prisoners is definitely worth seeing.  Hugh Jackman’s sheer presence and intensity is unnerving. He was born to play the role of hell bent-daddyoh-where the hell did you hide my daughter. His rage bleeds through the screen on his mission to locate his kidnapped daughter.
It is Thanksgiving time in Pennsylvania and two girls have gone missing. They were last spotted playing around a conspicuously corroded RV. The motorhome has been located and the apparent owner, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) has been apprehended. With the IQ of 30, it is becoming increasingly clear that Alex was incapable of masterminding and executing such a terrible crime. He seems to know something though, and that something will head Keller Dover (Jackman) to take matters into his own hands. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the hardnosed Detective Loki assigned to finding the girls, a role that he nails.
Overall, the acting is stellar, the action it top rate and the ending is well…..fantastic. I loved all the twists and turns of this flick and strongly recommend it. Will the Wolverine find the girls before it is too late?  How far will he go to get them back? Enter the maze of Prisoners and find out for yourself. Good luck trying to sleep after the show.


Monday, June 3, 2013

B18: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (371 pages)

"I don't know, maybe your experience differed from mine. For me, growing up as a human being on the planet Earth in the twenty first century was a real kick in the teeth. Existentially speaking."

Chew-chew-chew, pppppprrrrruuugggg....passsssssssssshhhhhhhhh pauuuuurrrrrrgggg bachew. Bachew. Chew. Chew-chew chew chew. Chew. Chew-chew. You can practically hear the quarters kerplunk when you crack open this brilliant little work by new author Ernest Cline. Summer is just about here and summer is the season of the quick-short attention span book. Look no further than Ready Player One. I loved this book. As evidenced by the logo of the blog, I have a special place in my past for vintage video games and this book is practically an homage to my youth.

The year is 2044 and life in the real world is a struggle. Earth has been over used and over populated and resources are scarce. A gray haze is draped across the landscape and danger is peeking around most city street corners. Neglect is king. The population spends most of their time plugged into a virtual simulation that allows them to become just about anyone, or anything they desire. Orcs, centaurs, super models, hydras, wizards and warriors. Nothing is off limits. Virtual schools exist in the OASIS program, educating 95% of world's youth. Power ups, quests and experience points are all that matter. Life is lived online. When the creator of OASIS dies, he leaves behind a mercurial testimony that turns the entire galactic universe on its ear. Locked away deep inside the program are three keys that open three gates; each containing a challenge that whomever completes first, score his entire fortune of several hundred billion dollars and the rights to run OASIS, Willy Wonka style. The best part being that Halliday was a rabid 80's fan and his entire challenge, known as The Hunt, revolves around circumventing 80's themed puzzles and vintage video games. Pacman. Q-bert. Ferris Bueller. Rush. Oingo Boingo. Voltron. Family Ties. Silver Spoons. Monty Python. The 80's are back and the quest is on.

Read this book. Even if online servers, haptic gloves and interplanetary coding are not your bag. Read it. You don't need to be a geek to enjoy the chase and cheer for the lovably aloof Wade Watts, our hero. Start your summer reading list off right......chew chew ba chew. Chew chew chew chew chew chew. Paaaaaaaaarrrrrrwwwww! Chew chew. Paaaaaaaaaaaasssshhhhhhhhhhhhh-zzzzoooo! Chew chew chew. Chew. Chew chew.....

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

F26: Iron Man 3-Directed by Shane Black

'What I am really wondering is when is my sandwhich going to get made."

Holy crow. What a ride. People go to the movies for all sort of different reasons, but to some degree everyone goes to escape from their own lives. Maybe you are dragged down to the movie house to endure a heart touching romance flick. Maybe a kooky indy psuedo-drama just came out by your favorite director. An international heist thriller, complete with killer car chase? Sure, sign me up. I have all types of different tastes in movies and really will watch anything. I enjoy em all. Some more than others, but I savor the metamophasis of ideas to words to eventual movement of everything that makes it to the screen and respect the process.

Let me say this, the third installment of the Iron Man franchise kicks ass. Major ass. This might be one of my favorite ALL TIME flicks. The plot is witty, the acting superb and the effects are ridiculously miraculous. It is unlike anything I have ever seen and it will blow your mind. As my students would say, it is way boss and should not be missed. See it. See it again. Then rent it. When released, own that sucker. It is a true masterpiece and something I can't wait to someday sit down with my kids and watch. In all honestly, I was not really expecting too much after really disliking Iron Man 2, but seriosuly friends, it is awesome and a garaunteeed can't miss blockbuster.

Tony Stark is back and this time fighting an international terrorist known as the Mandarin. When an old rival genetic regurgatation company suddenly starts to parrellel the attacks of the Mandarin, Iron Man is forced to save the day. And does he ever. The comic book genre has been pretty saturated as of late, but this is right up there with the latest Batman installment, if not a slight shade better. Every scene seems to top the last one and what I keep coming back to is how this movie relentlessly gives its audience something it has never seen before. Run to the movie house and see this. Thank you Shane Black, well done.


Monday, April 22, 2013

B17: Winter of the World by Ken Follett (938 pages)

"Surprise gave him a few second's grace and he ran freely along the street toward the church. He felt the scorch of the midday sun on his face and heard the pounding of his men's boots behind him and noted with a weird sentiment of gratitude that such sensations meant he was still alive."

Oh, Ken Follett. If you are looking for a solid page tuner, albeit a long, long, solid page turner...check out the latest installment of the Fall of Giants trilogy, Winter of the World. While I really do enjoy Ken's ability to craft an interesting story, my favorite aspect of his books is the historical context he uses to paint and shape his plot. In this novel, the curtain rises in Europe during the tumultuous year of 1933. Hitler is on the on rise, a revolution is brewing in Russia and the United States of America is in the midst of some "slight" industrial changes of our own.

Follett's equation for success may be a dash on the predictable side, but it works and well. Start with several families of different cultures. Sprinkle them out over a major historical event, having them unsuspectingly intersect here and there. Splash in some romance, knock off a couple characters, work in a truly despicable villain....and viola: BEST SELLER. Yes, his books may lack depth, but they certainly do not fall short on the entertainment side of matters. Reading his work is the equivalent of watching a reality show marathon on Bravo. It is not going to change the world or make you a better Earthling, but it will reel you in and sweep you up into the lives of these people he has penned. I would probably say get this one on your Kindle or iPad, as lugging around this little tank is less than optimal.  So far it has been a very enjoyable series that has spanned both World Wars. I will be looking forward to finishing this series sometime next year when the last book is released, most likely staged around the events of the Cold War. It is a long haul, so you had better get started. Kaboom.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

B16: Open City by Teju Cole (258 pages)

"This strangest of islands, I thought as I looked out to the sea, this island that turned in on itself, and from which water had been banished. The shore was carapace, permeable only at certain selected points. Where in this riverine city could one fully sense a riverbank? The water was a kind of embarrassing secret, the unloved daughter, neglected, while the parks were doted on, fussed over and overused."

I loved this debut novel by Teju Cole. It is written with an original voice and is built around the curious yet sometimes dubious interactions with everyday people that the main character encounters. There is a reason reality television is so popular, we as a culture are fascinated with people of all types and colors and sizes interacting with each other in an unexpected way that produces an organic sense of drama. This book follows Julius through the streets of New York and Brussels plotting out his encounters with the people around him. These streets take on a life of their own and force Julius to look deep into himself as he strives to become a more complete human.

Besides loving this book for its simplicity, it is masterfully written. If you are telling a story without there being a true story, you had better excel at capturing your audience with your ability to write. Teju Cole is a brilliant author and this book really feels like you are gazing a painting rather than filing through a stack of card stock. It is intelligent and historical. Radiant yet brooding. Soulful and simplistic. Floating through the streets of a new city is something I love to do and I have been to both NYC and Brussels. Cole captures the quintessence of both and brings them alive in his pages. This book is a vacation from most of what sits on the shelves of bookstores today and is something you want to check out. I'll be looking forward to his next trip.

Friday, January 4, 2013

F25: Silver Linings Playbook-Directed by David O. Russell

"It's not my fault! Blame Ernest fu#$^&g Hemingway!"

This film may have been slow at parts, but is worth seeing. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are both at their best and play fantastic characters with a slightly damaged mental compasses. This movie really comes down to being a unique take on the love story and is set in modern day Philadelphia. 

Pat (Cooper) has just been released form a mental hospital where he has been "rehabilitated" for his  bi-polar disorder. We later learn that he has gone his entire life without being diagnosed, but after witnessing his wife and a co-worker playing patty-cake in the shower, Pat simply snaps. His character is charmingly focused on reconstructing his marriage now that he been released. Tiffany (Lawrence) is not far behind suffering herself from a tragic ending to her marriage and the two form an unlikely connection. The two begin to find comfort in each other's instabilities and off we go. 

I did like this movie and thought that Cooper did a great job of making you believe that he was mentally ill.  There were several scenes that were fantastic in which his character came apart at the seams. Not that I enjoy seeing the train come off the tracks, but Bradley Cooper's dynamic acting in this film is a big change from most of his other work (Hangover, The Words, Limitless) and his effort deserves some applause. Sprinkle in some vintage Robert De Niro as the OCD-Philadelphia Eagles worshipping father and you get a really enjoyable, albeit unorthodox, love story that I recommend checking out. Excelsior!