Second-Hand Idiocy

When I was a kid, in my fifth grade health class, we were assigned to make our own fake cigarette brands. These were supposed to act as the honest alternative to cigarettes. So instead of Camel, we made Cancer; Newport became Not Cool; and Marlboro became Bone Marrow. Give me a break, I was ten, and that was the extent of my wit (some would say it still is). The point is, this was supposed to teach children about the dangerous effects of cigarette smoking. Fast forward almost two decades later, and Canada now covers about seventy-five percent of the pack with an image and a fact about the harmful effects of smoking. You’ve got your somber, your painfully obvious, and your more abstract, among a whole host of others seen here.

I wrote this post to talk to you about how stupid the whole thing is. Does this deter people from buying cigarettes? Not at all. In fact, of the images above, do you know what the most popular one is? It’s the empty crib. Why? Because, and I quote, “Most people don’t necessarily have children, so the empty crib isn’t disturbing to them.” That was said to me by a woman, with a grin on her face, like she had just Rain Man-ed her way through Vegas, and had mentally outsmarted the system (and herself) of feeling any sense of guilt. The least popular? It’s obviously the cancer ridden tongue. I’ve had people throw that pack back to me as if it was possessed by Linda Blair herself. That just leaves Leroy. Who’s Leroy? He’s the somber dude with a hole in his throat. The first time a customer asked me if he could have the Leroy pack, I was confused as all hell. And then he showed me that this guy actually had a name underneath of the quote.

What’s my point with this? It’s just the absurdity of it all. Canada tried covering its cigarettes from the public eye, and now uses that space as a billboard for whatever it chooses to advertise (usually it’s gum, go figure). There’s no deterrent. Anyone who wishes to smoke knows they exist behind those black covers. It’s as if the next logical step in their minds was people would literally be frightened away by the packaging. Smokers don’t care about the packaging. It’s probably a mere five second uncomfortable glance to them at best. And while many come in an joke about the packaging, and about their intentions to quit, most of them would rather just play trade the pack as if they were some rare Pokémon card. You know what might work better? They should come in, ask for their cigarettes, and I should take their money without giving them anything. That’s the point, isn’t it? To make them feel bad for purchasing cigarettes? Showing them pictures of people dying, or pregnant women, or kids coughing isn’t doing anything. They’re not losing sleep over it. But if they started losing money over it, that might start to make a difference.

But I’m clearly biased. I am the Merchant of Death after all.

Juvenile NamsaKe

Simple, Complex Failures [Anonymous]

They told me keeping a journal helps, but I’m sixty-eight, and I have no use for the internet. I find myself still writing letters. I never mail them. There’s an odd sweetness in watching them pile up inside of my study drawer. I never seal them. You hated that I chose to say one sentence in five. You hated that I never had an answer for when I sighed. I found your letter written on the inside cover again. I remember where I was when they shot Jack; his brother too, and I was a draft dodger. I can finally admit that now. It’s how I ended up in the Great White North, where I met you. I don’t regret it, even though I’ve lost friends to Nam. It’s a twisted sense of survivor’s guilt, but I think I paid for it in the end. They eventually settled on calling all of you the “lost generation.” I suppose it’s only fitting that I’ll always feel lost without her. I used to read Alan Seeger to you, and you’d get annoyed, calling me old-fashioned, and crazy. My students never understood the correlation between poetry and war. They laughed at me, that such beauty could come from such beasts who didn’t deserve it.

November 22, 1963
March 14, 2012.

To whoever wrote this,

I’m done thinking,
pretty sure I missed it,
pretty sure I missed you,
whatever happened, happened.

Book ends? We were
nothing but cliffhangers.
How did it begin?
I wish I had all the answers.

Bad days, Thursdays,
she’s outgrown her yellow bow.
Lost her, lost hope?
We’re almost at the end now.

No much time,
you’ve took it all,
you’ve left me none,
yet I still took the fall.

Sinking,
grains of sand muffle my mouth.
Red buckets overflowing, and
roses, take your thorns out.

So long my friend.

— Chester J.Keating

The Drama Queen of Bel-Air

I’ve got no words, I think I’m speechless. They told me to forget about you, so I guess I’ll sleep less. Maybe I should’ve reached less, to something more attainable? Unbreakable was my heart, and now it’s in pieces. You were my peace, so how did you lead me to war, with heartbroken troops now fighting for everything I longed for? Now abandoned without hope, I said all that I could spoke, now it’s Lana’s turn to talk, about the gargoyles that she broke…just to see you.

[Lana]
Gargoyles, standing, at the front of your gate.
Trying to tell me to wait,
But I can’t wait to see you. 

So I run, like I’m mad, to heaven’s door.
I don’t wanna be bad,
I won’t cheat you no more.

Roses, Bel Air, take me there,
I have been waiting to meet you.
Palm trees in the light,
I can see, late at night.
Darling I’m waiting to greet you,
Come to me baby.

Bar’s packed, yet I’ve never felt this empty. Last call? I’m wasted on texts and winking smiley’s. Band played an MJ tune, I cursed that sketchy song. They didn’t know Aerosmith, so I was left to dream on. Alone, while the crowd’s having a great time laughing. I’ve had five refills while my food’s still arriving. It’s not surprising. I’m always served late, and sometimes not at all (fuck you Phoenix of all places). I ate too much. Saved room for dessert, but my heart ached too much. (That should’ve read stomach.) Oh forget it, you’re pathetic, but I’ve got to give me credit. (And me alone?) And you alone.

[K’Naan]
Picture the morning, taste and devour,
we rise early, pace up the hour
Streets is rustling, hustling they heart out
you can’t have the sweet with no sour.
Spices, herbs, sweets and the flour
she came out precisely the hour
Clouds disappear, the sun shows the power
no chance of a probably shower. 
Is it true when they say all you need is just love?
(Is it true?)

What about those who have loved
Only to find that it’s taken away?
It must feel great to have a namesake, to have someone sing about you, and have it mean shit. Found out my name means “Singer of the Lord’s Praises.” Pretty sure the Lord’s going to be disappointed. Pretty sure I’ve been singing about the wrong person, with the wrong verses, and without any purpose. Overthrow the Lord, the King, the belief. All so Jokers think they can have the Queen. All so everything is not what it seems. All so people think she could’ve been happy with him.
[Lana]
Don’t be afraid of me,
Don’t be ashamed.
Walk in the way of my soft resurrection.
Idol of roses, iconic soul.
I know your name.
Lead me to war with your brilliant direction.
In light of recent events, sleepless nights, and countless reassurances, I guess there’s only one question that remains, or that I keep hearing is, despite outward appearances, and internal interference with, and the best of our own perseverance’s, do we ever dock in New York, or become more than an unwritten storybook? I’ll never know what a hangover feels like, but you’d warrant one. You’ll never know what one-sided heartbreak feels like, but you’re starting to. Mysteries are only as good as their answers. No more beating around the bush, get to the heart of the matter.

[K’Naan]
What did the young man say
Before he stole you away on that fateful day? 

If beauty was in the eyes of beholder
How come everyone hushed when she walked by?
How come girls would look just to scold her?
How come the angel wanted to hold her?
Beauty remained in the eyes of the beholder. Everyone’s speechless now that I’ve told her. Girls would only look just to scold her? They’re just jealous only an angel’s worthy enough to hold her. I’m no angel, and those girls need pity. I always knew your name, and the plans we made to go to New York City. I’m in Shame like Fassbender, drinking, and pulling all nighters, trying to connect but being shunned by has-been-ers, and people who don’t give a shit, people who tell me to quit, and stop ruining my life for you, and stop ruining my life for this. Never has it occurred to me more that I’m just a writer, not some saint, and certainly not some fighter. I lost round one, yet I keep swinging. It’s now round twelve, give up, you’re not winning.

Jas feat. K‘Naan feat. Lana Del Ray

Let the Skyfall

Skyfall

Skyfall (2012)

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan

Cinematography by: Roger Deakins

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem,
Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Albert Finny

Rating: A-

The Daniel Craig trilogy finally comes to an end, yet somehow manages to set the path for even more exciting things to come. There are those who will argue that the latest entry in the James Bond franchise is very much a stand alone, and that it has no previous connection to Casino Royale (2006) or Quantum of Solace (2008), but for me, Skyfall is every bit as connected, and every bit as necessary, to the development of Craig’s 007.

All cards on the table, I think Craig is the best Bond this franchise has ever seen. I know there are Connery loyalists, Moore apologists, and I myself, grew up on Brosnan, but objectively, given Ian Fleming’s original conception of Bond’s character, Craig literally transcends the pages of Fleming’s original novels and gives us a Bond many haven’t seen, or taken notice of, since George Lazenby (a lot of you just went who?). If Casino Royale was a reboot, and Quantum was every bit a sequel to it, then Skyfall is the final piece of an already well established puzzle. Craig’s Bond has gone from “The bitch is dead” to “This man and I have some unfinished business” / “I never left.” Hell, the last scene of Quantum, of Bond walking away in the snow and the appearance of the classic gunbarrel sequence is, not only worth the price of admission alone, but a clear indication that Bond is slowly becoming the Bond of the past.

With Skyfall, Bond comes full circle. Bond comes home. I realize that doesn’t seem to mean much, as he’s always been a part of MI-6, and he’s always been 007, but in two films, he’s never been at home, or even comfortable in his role. He became a Double-O agent in the first one, and spent much of the second one trying to get revenge, and while both instances have been personal, they’ve remained close matters of the heart. It’s never involved home, be it MI-6, but more importantly, home, as in England. This film changes all that. The villain, Silvia (Javier Bardem), changes all that. He’s an old agent out for his own revenge, from M (Judi Dench) and MI-6.

I could talk about stolen NATO lists, and the fact that Bond returns from the dead (all done in the opening minutes and followed by Adele’s brilliant Bond theme), but those are not the heart of why Skyfall worked for me. Every relationship built, be it between M and Bond, between Bond and Silvia, Bond and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), or even Bond and Q (Ben Whishaw), is a masterful example of why this character has sustained the test of time for 50 years. No, it hasn’t always been flawless, but at the heart and soul of this franchise is a man and his absolute love and loyalty for his job, and if that means he has to lose the love of his life to become completely devoted to that cause, so be it. That’s the kind of man he is. He’s a broken man, who can only be fixed, or even slightly put back together again, by those that put him in the field to be broken in the first place. It’s toxic, but it’s home, and he’d do anything for that organization.

This Bond has always had weight, but this Bond is finally fun, and it’s about time the franchise found that balance again. There had been far too many complaints that Craig’s Bond isn’t a wise cracking, constant one-liner equipped agent, but I never felt that way. The sheer dry wit on display his first two times out the gate was magnificent, and I feel bad for anyone who never understood that the humor came entirely out of the situation, and the film never felt the need to beat your over the head with “insert one liner here.” I could watch Bond’s first meeting with Vesper on infinite loop, it’s that brilliant. With Skyfall, Craig lets Bond loose (translation: Bond smiles more), and he doesn’t lose any of his personal depth in the process, which I find was a sacrifice many of the previous Bond films made. On top of that, he’s now got the gadgets, he’s back at the old M’s office, complete with Moneypenny and Q in tow.

I’ve already raved about Craig, and his ability to bring Bond to the 21st century with grace and style, but also with toughness, yet at the same time, a sense of chipped armor. His supporting players however, are equally as important. Dench proves time and time again that her M is not only a great one/force to be reckoned with, but no one could better pass the torch on than her. Javier Bardem is a treat to watch. The man knows how to embrace a villain like the best of them, but he also brings these nuances that are hard to ignore. His Silvia is by far his most outrageous incarnation yet. There’s just something about him that makes you want to keep your eye on him, even when he’s not entirely in focus/frame. Rounding out the cast, you’ve got Naomie Harris, who rightfully earns her place as the new Moneypenny. We’re so used to her being this prim and proper, behind the desk kind of gal, but she more than proves her worth in the field, and it only strengthens any relationship her and Bond will share down the line. Lastly, there’s young Ben Whishaw, who I think is the only one who can stand up to Bond in a way that no other could. He’s obviously much younger, but he’s smart and arrogant, and when it comes to having fun, he’s perhaps Bond’s only equal.

I’d be a fool not to mention Roger Deakins’ cinematography. This is perhaps the most beautiful film I have seen this year (and I still haven’t seen Cloud Atlas), and it is hands down, the most beautiful Bond film they’ve ever made. Every set piece, every landscape, hell, every bit of the frame, is oozing with the potential to be a work of art in its own right. This brings me to Sam Mendes, the man who put all of this together. I don’t think anyone doubted that the director of American Beauty, Road to Perdition, or Revolutionary Road could make a horrible Bond film, but I don’t think I expected so much sheer love for the material, both old and new. He perfectly captures, and understands Bond’s nature, his very essence, as both a part of MI-6, but with those around him. This world, that 50 years of Bond on film has created, is his world, and we never lose sight of that.
So, 50 years? This is only the beginning.

War [Dreamers v. Lovers]

I’m at war with a dream.

I notice your sad smile when you walk in. You don’t normally sit there, and I don’t normally stare. I use your desk as an arm rest. You don’t seem to mind. I throw my pen in the air, but fail to catch it. It lands by your feet. I think I catch you smile again, but your face is turned away from me. The teacher at the front of the room speaks of parallel poems, and perpendicular lives, yet somehow, how not a single person ever seems to meet at the radius, because the circumference is far too great. I never liked geometry, and I was only now beginning to discover chemistry. American literature spans generations, city blocks, and townhouse dreams. Your notes are thorough. My notebook is blank, save for some Japanese symbol in the top right corner. How come I’ve never seen you before? Why do I feel as though I’ve always known you, or better yet, that I’ve always been waiting for you? Why does it feel like life didn’t truly begin until you walked into mine? Am I scaring her? I’m scaring me. Do you think I’m really all that composed, and sorted together? Do you really think I could write twenty pages in a little less than two hours? I don’t know you, yet you’re about to take two decades of my life, and erase them, reboot them, remake them, and remake me. My dreams are no longer my own, but that doesn’t make them any less true, any less real, or any less perfect. Time may have derailed my life in more ways than one, but did you ever think that maybe I wanted to be derailed? I put my pen down, after writing down the word “renaissance” (without any context), and shading in the iris of a newly sketched eye in the middle of the page. I can never draw both eyes; just the one. It stares at me, its eyelashes uneven on both ends. The clock strikes twelve. I turn to face her, but only see her hair whip past my own eyes. I open my mouth to speak, but only her words come out. Hi, my name is, she says to the boy with the short brown hair beside her.

I’m in love with a dream.

— ConJured the UnKnown

Quantum of Solace

It’s lightly snowing outside. The room’s dark. The light turns on, casting my shadow on the framed newspaper behind me. I look towards the door at the smiling face that just walked in.

“Sit down.” The smile hesitates, before making its way to the far edge of the bed. “You’re Canadian.” The smile vanishes quickly. “It’s all right. I know that you are.” I stare at those eyes; those foolish eyes that ever thought they would get away with being happy again. “This man and I have some unfinished business.”

It’s lightly snowing outside. I walk out of the dark room, toss the necklace he gave me in the snow, and walk away.

[quantum n. the minimum amount of of any physical entity involved in an interaction.]

I’m down to my last [heart-shaped] twenty dollar bill (thanks Ani), writing for the umpteenth time about me, and time, and you, and mine, and yours, but not ours. I saw a kid reading Tuesdays with Morrie, and asked him how he liked it? He said it had life lessons, just like that, no expression. I read it back when I was thirteen, and couldn’t remember it for the life of me, except I understand now how crucial days can be, when that’s all you have, and that’s all you see.

I have a shitty memory. I can’t remember phone numbers, addresses, or simple directions. I don’t have the best track record with names, and while faces are easier to capture in my mind, I can spend a good portion of life just staring at everyone wondering where I’ve crossed paths with him or her before. Yet I remember every moment, every five second glimpse, every five hour engagement. I live life so I can be remembered by the following terms: “time travel,” “DeLorean,” “ninja turtles,” “hopeless romantic,” and “UTM/TV.” That last one can’t be right.

I sacrifice short term pleasures for failed long term satisfactions, not deeming myself worthy for either. I waste my own time, when I’m the only who gives it to me. The choices I  make are my own. The choice I made with you was not a mistake, not a waste of my time, and I hope it wasn’t a complete waste of yours. Rare individuals brought together for a self-proclaimed (and often times, a highly self-aware) sense of greatness. I met them. I met you. I met me. I knew me. I’m still not sure about you.

[solace n. comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.]

That moment when you realize that the “this man” was you all along, and it’s your own given necklace you’ve just tossed in the snow, and walked away from forever.

James Loved Vesper

For all those who clicked on this expecting an actual review of Quantum of Solace, I apologize for all this self-reflective bullshit. I’ll have more to say about that flick in my upcoming review for Skyfall.

Deleted Scene

I’ve been lying in bed, for what seems like a spring, two summers, and half a winter, thinking, hoping, and speaking of you. Fall dreams of false hopes, we changed like the colors of the leaves, yet our tree never shook, though we both kept axes at the ready. It was hard to write that goodbye. I often wonder if it was easy to read. Changed minds and hearts prevailed, for which I’m forever grateful. Regrets are a thing of the present, I’m your past, wish you were my future. Everyone’s connected except you.

That was supposed to be the start of a confession, some sort of consolation, but more importantly, the start of a conclusion. Yet I find myself conflicted. I feel as though I’ll look back on the above, not as the day it all ended, but the day the rest of my life began. So what was once supposed to be a rather selfish declaration, finds itself to be an awfully somber reflection, a reminder of what once was, and what may perhaps never be again.

November 5, 1955 – Doctor Emmet Brown slips on his bathroom toilet while trying to hang a clock, hits his head on the sink, and passes out. When he awakes, he has a vision, a picture in his head, of the flux capicator, the thing that makes time travel possible.

You were right. Maybe I didn’t have to say anything. Ever. I could have lived the rest of my life content with the notion that you probably knew, and that it would forever remain this unspoken moment in our relationship. It would change nothing. In fact, even now, I don’t believe it changes anything, but you wanted me to say it, and I can’t lie to you. To everyone else, the world over, I’d just be a writer, taking words and creating stories, perceived to be far removed from my own experiences.

I’d be no better than a greeting card you find, after going through the aisles at Wal-Mart, with what you believe is the perfect message encompassing whatever perfect moment you were trying to capture; or maybe I was just two dollars cheaper than the one with the built in noisemaker sound effect. Save for a placeholder for some cash, or maybe a gift card, it’s a hollow gesture to most, a simple “To” and “From,” scribbled with a pen that’s running out of ink, as they try to remember how to spell the person’s name, and whether “Dear” would be more appropriate than “Dearest.”

November 5, 1955 – Marty McFly arrives in Hill Valley from the year 1985 at the stroke of midnight. After crashing into old man Peabody’s farm, he makes his way into town, and severly disrupts the space-time continuum (not to mention his existence) by interfering in his parents’ first meeting.

So who are you in that analogy? You’re the entire left side of that card; the clean slate, the blank page, the pure white, with not a blemish or smeared pen mark on her. It’s as if no one dares disrupt the fine line between the written word and its muse. I never write on that side of the card. Ever. Maybe sometimes, I draw a balloon, or an animal, or a person’s name in block letters surrounded by cake and fireworks, but it’s always a distinct and separate space from whatever is on the other side of the thinly creased border, which when bent, is the only time both sides come together.

Years from now, when I stumble upon this, and if I’m lucky enough to stumble upon you, I’d like to take it all in, and just smile; that it ever got this far, that I finally said as much, that you always meant as much, and will continue to mean far more than anyone will ever know. These aren’t useless words amassed on a page for no reason. These are pieces of my heart that I finally bothered to pick up and tape back together again. I didn’t do a good enough job, because there are still rips, tear stains, and burnt pieces of ash, acting as a strange adheisve, where the pieces don’t fit together as well as they once did.

November 5, 2012 – Jas discovers the true meaning of a paradise paradox lost. He understands why Jack decided to stay on the island without Kate, and has an increasingly difficult time moving on with the other passengers of Oceanic flight 815; why Gatsby will never reach the green light situated at the end of Daisy’s East Egg dock, and has an increasingly difficult time moving on from the lavish prison he’s caged himself into; and why Abed will never be more than an observer, using pop culture to define his own relationships with the study group and beyond, and has an increasingly difficult time moving on from the meta world of Greendale.

I’ve been lying in bed, for what seems like a spring, two summers, and half a winter, thinking, hoping, and speaking of you. Fall dreams of false hopes, turned into the possibility of challenging the status quo. Light snow fell yesterday, almost blink and you’ll miss it, almost blink and you’ll miss me. It was surprisingly easy to write that massive block of text. I’ll often wonder if it was easy to read. I’ve probably run out of lifelines, and changed minds, and hearts. Yet I will remain forever grateful. Regrets exist for those who relive. I loved you is past, present, and future. Everything’s connected; now finally you are too.

I still haven’t seen Cloud Atlas.

— Welcome to [Jas’] HeartbreaK

Seamless Perfection

Argo

Argo (2012)

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Written by: Chris Terrio

Cinematography by: Rodrigo Prieto

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston,
Alan Arkin, John Goodman

Rating: A

I walked into the theater, opening night, and I was the only 23 year old in the room. Granted, I look about 40, but even if that was the case, I’d still have been half the room’s age. Everyone in there was probably 23 when the events depicted in the film took place.

The film opens with an old school Warner Brothers’ logo from the 70s. Now already I’m transported back to All the President’s Men (1976), The Conversation (1974), and Taxi Driver (1976), to name a few. This film embraces that wholeheartedly, and I’m not just talking about the production value. I’m talking the sheer aesthetics in putting together this picture to reflect upon, while simultaneously reliving the time period it so perfectly captures.

From the creative opening storyboard, to throwing us deep into the heat of the conflict, to watching a table read of the fake film in question, the film never forgets the fine line it’s balancing itself on. Ten minutes into the flick, and I was on the edge of my seat, as confidential documents failed to be shredded/incinerated in time, and armed civilians moved into the embassy. Do I know how this story ends? Sure, but does it still make the hair on my arms stand up at every instance of the six hostages almost being found out? Every damn time.

Six Americans managed to escape the Iran hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in 1979, finding safe haven at the Canadian ambassador’s house. Now it’s up to the CIA, the Canadians, a scruffy looking Ben Affleck, and a hilarious duo of John Goodman and Alan Arkin, to get them out, all by way of a fake science-fiction adventure film. Absurd is an understatement, but this film not only runs with it what is now a declassified true story, it single handily makes you laugh out loud one minute and then puts a gun to your head and watches you sweat the next minute.

There’s a moment when the CIA is planning this rescue operation–when it’s still not obvious that what will soon be known as the “Canadian Caper” is the “best bad idea” they’ve got–in which someone proposes to turn the six Americans into Canadian peacekeepers, sent to Iran to check on crops, and living conditions. He holds up an image, of an impoverished black child with no food, to which someone blurts out, “Those kids are black. Those are African kids.” I died with fits of laughter. Surprisingly, no one laughed until the following lines, of “We can get ethnically appropriate kids.” / “Are there starving kids in Iran?” / “I’m sure we can find skinny kids in Iran.” There are moments like this in the entire film that just had me grinning, and not even because the lines being spoken were particularly funny. It was just amazing to live those lives and those interactions.

The film on all levels, just gets what it is. It’s a political thriller running parallel with a Hollywood satire, and then both genres collide to create a perfect little gem, that is never watered down for an audience, yet keeps its fair share of thrills for them. Politics (and historical inaccuracy) be damned. Personally, I just don’t see how Argo doesn’t make the Academy’s top ten (or random nine). Even if it decides to go back to top five, I firmly believe it’s spot is secured; and not just with Best Picture, but with Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (take your pick with Goodman, Arkin, Cranston, etc.), and even Best Screenplay. Affleck nailed it, in every possible way. This film is seamless perfection, recalling the late, great, Sidney Lumet. Tense, taut, and insanely funny when it wants to be, it harkens back to an era of filmmaking rarely seen or appreciated these days.

P.S. If Argo fuck yourself doesn’t become a national slogan and/or battle cry, then something is seriously wrong with the world.

P.P.S. When, not if, Affleck receives an Oscar (of any sort) for this flick, I want whoever reads his name to just say Affleck, you the bomb in Phantoms, yo! That is all.