The Horse

5 Jan

The horse is dead.

I’m not quite sure how the horse died.

The horse died? They ask.

Yup, I say, and I point. Most just stand there. A few cry out. A few look confused

What horse? What the fuck? they say.

I don’t know where the horse came from, I say.

It just showed up one day? they say. It just showed up one day, I say.

It showed up one day and we all said:

Where the fuck did that horse come from? No one could say.

I suspect a few people were in on it, but then again, I’m not sure if there is something to be in on.

Either way, the horse is dead now.

 

We split up the horse into many parts; everyone got one.

I put mine up n a shelf. Sometimes I look at it and try to remember what the horse used to look like.

I mean, before he was split up and dead.

I think it was pretty. I mean, I think it was fucking beautiful. You know?

I don’t really know anymore.

 

I had a picture of the horse.

It was taken a while ago. When? they ask. I don’t know, maybe last year?

The horse is just standing there. In the background there’s a car.

The horse is just standing there, and there’s someone  else in the background.

Who? I don’t know. Does that even matter now?

It looks peaceful, I think. The horse, I mean. He just looks. He just is.

Well, he just was. Fuck. The horse is really dead, isn’t it?

All that’s left is that picture. And the piece on my shelf.

 

I look at the piece sometimes. It’s not gross or anything: it just is.

It sits there. I never touch it or anything, I just look at it.

I guess sometimes I expect it to do something.

Like what? they ask. I don’t know, I say. Just something. Like, move or something.

But it never does? they ask. It never does. It just sits there.

Because it’s not the horse. The horse was; this is. There is no more is for the horse, just was.

So this can’t be the horse.

 

Then what the fuck is on my shelf?

What is that thing? A part of me wants to knock the shelf down, find a stick, and just poke it.

I mean, what is it, really? It was the horse, but it’s not the horse anymore.

I have the picture of the horse; this isn’t the horse. It’s something else.

I think I hate it. I don’t really know what it is, but I think I fucking hate it.

 

It’s gone now. All of it. It’s all gone.

I called the others and they got rid of theirs, too.

So I guess that’s it? they ask. Yeah, that’s it, I say.

The horse is still dead, but at least there’s that, right?

Yes, they say. At least there’s that.

Best Music of 2010

23 Dec

A list of my favorite albums of 2010. Happy Holidays everyone!

40. Land of Talk – Cloak and Cipher

39. The Morning Benders – Big Echo

38. Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard

37. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

36. Future Islands – In Evening Air

35. Lindstrom & Christabelle – Real Life is No Cool

34. Ratatat – LP4

33. Matthew Dear – Black City

32. The New Pornographers – Together

31. The Books – The Way Out

30. Yeasayer – Odd Blood

29. Caribou – Swim

28. Junip – Fields

27. Maximum Balloon – Maximum Balloon

26. Drunken Barn Dance – Grey Buried

25. Nathan K – Newspapers and Prayers

24. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

23. Of Montreal – False Priest

22. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me

21. Frontier Ruckus – Deadmalls and Nightfalls

20. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

19. Beach House – Teen Dream

18. El Ten Eleven – It’s Still Like a Secret

17. The National – High Violet

16. Tunng – …And Then We Saw Land

15. Sleigh Bells – Treats

14. Breathe Owl Breathe – Magic Center

13. Dirty Projectors & Bjork – Mount Wittenberg Orca

12. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

11. Janelle Monae – The Archandroid

10. The Black Keys – Brothers

09. Spoon – Transference

08. Phantogram – Eyelid Movies

07. Mountain Man – Made the Harbor

06. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

05. Seabear – We Built a Fire

04. Four Tet – There is Love in You

03. Menomena – Mines

02. LCD Soundystem – This Is Happening

01. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Rules for Original Card Game “Towers”

6 Dec

A few years ago I started devising the basic rules for a traditional card game called Towers. I tested it with a few friends and it sort of fell apart. Recently I returned to the game and spent some time re-working the rules. My girlfriend and I have played it extensively and love it, as does almost everyone else we’ve introduced it to. This game is an original creation of mine and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out. I have written rules to the game and am very interested to see both how easy it is to learn the game from the rules and what people think of the game. Enjoy!

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Review: “The Walking Dead” Episode 3

15 Nov

After last week’s decidedly flat episode, “The Walking Dead” returns with an episode that is light on action but heavy on drama and character development. Though the relative lack of zombies might disappoint some viewers, “Tell it to the Frogs” has the important job of laying the emotional foundation for several key characters, and it wastes no time getting there. Though the new character Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) was one of last week’s most annoying distractions, his appearance in the beginning of this episode really made him a sympathetic character.

The episode opens with Merle handcuffed on the rooftop in Atlanta muttering semi-coherently to himself. Though Rooker comes perilously close to over-acting at times, his delirious ranting about how going to prison for assault was worth it just to see a man spit out his front teeth solidified one thing about the character: he really is irrational and insane. Knowing just that small bit of his back-story makes his actions in last week’s episode consistent with his character, no matter how irrational (and poorly written) they seemed at the time.

In defense of the writers, one of the most dominant themes in the comics is how dealing with the end of the world makes characters act irrationally and then go crazy with guilt, regret and/or responsibility. This is the first episode of the show that really brings that theme to the forefront as Rick and Co. return from Atlanta and Rick is reunited with his family. The scene where Lori and Karl see Rick for the first time is one of the best moments of the show because we know that Lori’s look of utter disbelief is both due to the shock of seeing her husband (whom Shane said was dead) and the guilt of knowing she had betrayed him (with Shane, conveniently). Sarah Wayne Callies isn’t the best actress, but she proves in this episode that she’s far better with facial expressions and body language than dialogue (I think most people would say the same thing about Robert Kirkman, incidentally).

These small moments lay the early sparks for the fireworks coming in the next few episodes, and by far the biggest walking powder keg is Shane. Jon Bernthal is one of the better actors on the show, even though his character wasn’t given a whole lot to do in the first two episodes. In “Tell it to the Frogs” Bernthal is acting on a tightrope as he tries to conceal the disappointment of seeing his best friend alive, knowing that his life, which has improved significantly since the dead started eating the living, would go back to how it was before the outbreak. When he loses control and beats Carol’s husband Ed halfway to death we see him just starting to lose his grasp on reality, which I’m guessing the writers will milk for all they can over the next four episodes. It’s these small dramatic moments that make this episode so great, though I have a feeling that we’re likely to see more balanced episodes (like the pilot) during the rest of this season.

Three episodes in I think the creators are finally getting comfortable when it comes to deviating from the source material. Though many of the changes in “Guts” seemed (at least at the time) to be change for the sake of change, I think Darabont and Kirkman understand that it’s more important to be faithful to the tone and themes of the comics than to strictly follow the plot or firmly adhere to the characters as originally written. A good example of this is the scene with Carol and her husband Ed, who isn’t originally in the comics. Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t been reading the series, Carol is put through the emotional rigor time and time again but Kirkman never really give us much explanation as to why she might be reacting the way she does. Though putting her in an abusive relationship may not be the most original way to explain why she goes crazy, I think it will make her slow descent into insanity much more convincing, assuming her character on the show follows a similar path. Again, things are changed but these changes add more gravity, detail and explanation to the characters and events.

This episode ends with Rick, Glenn, T-Dog (sigh) and Merle’s brother Daryl venturing into Atlanta to rescue Merle. Though I won’t spoil it, I will say that the ending gives me confidence that the show can handle the dark and disturbing turns that make the comic so interesting. Three episodes in I’m pretty happy with how the show is coming along. Even at it’s worst “The Walking Dead” is still highly entertaining while at it’s best it pulls plenty of emotional punches and lays the suspense and intensity on thick. As the inevitable showdown between Rick and Shane begins to emerge I’d wager that we’ll be seeing the emotional drama interspersed a little more evenly with the action scenes and zombie carnage.

 

A quick note: I know my blog has basically turned into a Walking Dead blog as of late and I promise to update with some original content sometime later this week.

Review: “The Walking Dead” Episode 2

9 Nov

After a very impressive debut, “The Walking Dead” returns with an episode that honestly falls rather flat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to like about “Guts,” but there are also some aspects of the episode that make me a bit worried  about what we might see down the road. However, before criticizing the episode too much it’s important to consider what this episode had to accomplish: “Guts” begins with Rick Grimes, a police officer from Kentucky who’s searching for his wife and son, trapped in a tank surrounded by zombies in downtown Atlanta. This episode had to show Rick’s escape, introduce new characters and set up next week’s episode, which will likely be the emotional sucker-punch this episode wasn’t.

To put “Guts” in terms of the show “Lost” (which I am an undying fan of), this would be the episode where a big action scene from last week is resolved and the characters spend the rest of the time walking through the jungle and talking, all to set up the next episode. The reason I bring up “Lost” is because it was notorious for having weak episodes that served as bridges between strong episodes; on their own these bridge episodes were pretty disappointing, but when taken in context with the rest of the season they made a lot of sense. What I’m trying to say is that when dealing with episodic drama, sometimes there are episodes that are incredibly satisfying and others that simply put the pieces in motion but don’t carry much emotional weight themselves.

That being said, there were major issues I had with this episode that need to be fixed for the rest of the show to work: the dialog and the awful new characters. Admittedly the dialog in the premiere wasn’t amazing, but it worked. In this episode, specifically the majority of the department store sequence, the writers have shown that they are hit or miss when it comes to handling group dynamics. When two characters are on screen things are fine, but any more than that and everything seems to lose focus. What’s really telling, though, is that the dialog is only bad for characters that weren’t originally in the comics. Rick, Glen and Andrea all seem believable, while the new characters—Merle and T-Dog in particular—feel like contrived stock characters that don’t really do or say anything worthwhile.

Now, I completely understand that in an adaptation some things have to be cut while other things are added. A panel-for-panel recreation of the comics just wouldn’t work, and if you need more proof of that go watch “The Watchmen” again. In the comics the entire Atlanta scene takes all of 11 pages, so in order to make “The Walking Dead” work as a show dramatic elements had to be added, scenes had to be expanded and new characters and situations had to be introduced—I get that. But did we really need a character like Merle who did nothing productive and whose dialog consisted almost entirely of racist cliches? In the comics Glen is alone when he discovers Rick up shit creek without a paddle, so Darabont and Kirkman must have had a good reason for adding these new characters, even though they do absolutely nothing besides add melodrama and give Rick and Glen someone to rescue—right? Perhaps these characters will get developed later on, but more than likely they will end up being picked off by zombies as the cast is whittled down to the main characters.

The reason this worries me is because “The Walking Dead” is a massive ensemble piece, so if the writers are struggling with introducing large numbers of characters and are having trouble with capturing group dynamics now, how are they going to handle larger set pieces with even more characters, like the prison or Woodbury (assuming, of course, those places are included in future seasons)? So far they’ve handle the scenes at the camp pretty well, though we’ve only gotten a brief taste of the group interaction there as of yet—which will definitely change assuming next week’s episode already gives us the reunion between Rick, Lori and Carl.

It may sound like I didn’t like this episode, but really these issues are pretty much limited to one long sequence, while the rest of the episode is pretty great. “Guts” gets better as it goes on, and everything leading up to the end—especially a surprisingly grisly sequence involving Glen and Rick covering themselves with zombie guts in an attempt to mask their delicious scent—are genuinely great. The introductions to both Andrea and Glen work really well for setting up their characters, and Glen is actually given a lot more to do in this episode than he does in the first several issues of the comic.

Again, as I said in the beginning of this review, “Guts”  really sets up events that will take place in future episodes, so judging it on its own just doesn’t work. If the next episode, “Tell it to the Frogs,” hits the emotional notes this episode failed to reach then I’ll be happy. Oh, and if anyone hasn’t heard yet, “The Walking Dead” was renewed for a second season and will expand from seven episodes to thirteen!

Until next week, check out the preview of “Tell it to the Frogs” below, but be warned: there are some significant spoilers for both this week’s episode and parts of next week’s.

Review: “The Walking Dead” Episode 1

27 Oct

This Sunday is the premier of AMC’s latest show, “The Walking Dead,” based on the graphic novel series about a group of survivors trying to stay alive in the wake of a zombie epidemic. While big budget action films based on graphic novels are nothing new, I can’t think of any TV shows based on graphic novels. Yes, there have been plenty of shows based on popular superheroes over the years, but not a graphic novel series aimed squarely at mature audiences.

There could be a number of reasons why film has been the medium of choice for comic adaptations, but it most likely comes down to the fact that people will spend $15 to see a stylized, generic action film in theaters. The fact that it’s taken this long for a network to realize that television is the perfect medium for a graphic novel adaptation is surprising considering both graphic novels and great TV shows are slow-building, serialized dramas that tend to emphasize character development and plot over special effects and explosions.

As far as source material goes, you really can’t get better than Robert Kirkman’s series. “The Walking Dead” is one of the best comic books because it’s not about the action, which is saying something for a series about zombies. Instead, Kirkman focuses on characters, relationships and the psychological effects brought about by the zombie apocalypse. Really, there’s so much content here that turning it into a film just would have restricted the end result.

And that’s really why this series in particular makes so much sense as a TV show. Even the best films adapted from books, such as “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter,” are frequently criticized for the amount of content the creators were forced to eliminate in order to fit within time constraints. But for “The Walking Dead,” that just wasn’t the case. Judging by the series’ first episode, “Days Gone Bye,” the show’s creators weren’t afraid to expand upon the characters and situations in the books, thereby really making the material their own. Two characters in particular, Shane and Morgan, benefit greatly from a few extra scenes and some back story.

But really, the show’s quality was never going to be an issue with Frank Darabont in control. Though he’s basically only made four movies since the 80s, he has proven his merits as both a writer and a director with “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile,” both based on the work of Stephen King, whose shorts stories and novels are notoriously difficulty to turn into good films (at least, the vast majority of them turn out to be duds like “1408”). Like King’s work, “The Walking Dead” is all about tension, atmosphere and emotions, so Darabont is really one of the best possible people to be handed the reigns of the show.

One of the things I thought about as I watched the first episode was just how different “The Walking Dead” is compared to what audiences have come to expect from zombie films and horror in general. The show moves at a slow and methodical pace, choosing to build tension and tease character development out gradually rather than give us heavy doses of exposition followed by frenetic action. Granted, that’s to be expected when comparing a 90 minute film to a six hour series. But, interestingly, one of the things I remember vividly while reading “The Walking Dead” in trade paperback form for the first time was how quickly it moved. In contrast, the first episode deals with events from only the first issue (of which there are currently 78), which explains why the creators were able to spend more time on Shane’s relationship with Rick and give Morgan more back story. “Days Gone Bye” feels incredibly tight and well paced, though, but it has me curious about how far they are going to allow the plot to progress by the end of the first season’s six episodes.

Of course, because “The Walking Dead” is an AMC shows it has very high production values and an incredible attention to detail. The make up work on the zombies is short of amazing, and eclipses even the best big screen zombies. Bicycle girl, in particular, is just awesome; I’d put her as the wallpaper on my desktop if it didn’t also kind of terrify me.

Really, the only criticism I have with the show is that I can’t sit down and watch all six episodes in a row. It will be interesting to see what else is changed as the show continues, but based on one episode I think it’s safe to say that “The Walking Dead” is both a faithful adaptation that will please fans of the comic and a work on par with some of the best recent zombie films. Oh, and if you haven’t read the comics yet, shame on you. They are seriously awesome.

 

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17 Oct

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