Saturday, September 26, 2009


Hold a mirror up to (virtual) life

Review of Gamer (2009)
directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

First, the supporting cast of this film is wonderful. Keith David, Ludacris, Michael C. Hall, and John Leguizamo steal every scene they are in. The two scenes when actors sing in character are incredibly effective and creepy.

It is strange to write this, but while I was very engaged by this movie, I am not recommending it to many people. “Gamer” reminds me of the 1975 “Rollerball”; it succeeds at being a movie about the spectacle of violence, something which “Gladiator” failed to do. In this case, it is the physical and social violence of virtual worlds. In “Gladiator” the violence is transformative; it is the main way that characters identify themselves. The violence in “Gamer” is inelegant, sudden, and ugly, and there is nothing expressive about it. It is something to survive and get through. However, there is a problem with making a film about violence: you risk creating what you are trying to examine.

If you are one of the millions who have familiarity with Sony Home, Second Life, Halo, The Sims, Team Fortress, World of Warcraft, and other virtual spaces, then you will immediately recognize when “Gamer” holds a mirror to a lot of features of those games: banning, overly bright colors, teabagging, absurd costumes, odd marionette-like movements, rudeness and childish acting-out, and of course, the miming of sexual acts with your avatar. If you are one of the millions who don't understand what any of that means, then “Gamer” will be an unredeemed pornographic mess.

As another commenter wrote, this is a dystopia; a warning, not a celebration. There is nothing titillating about watching Amber Valletta's character dressed in humiliating costumes, knowing that she has sold control over her body to another - that is scary and sad. At the same time, that is exactly the kind of thing people do with their avatars. The desire to completely control a figure in an imaginary circumstance is, at its heart, a very strange one, but it touches something very deeply in many people. Americans spend more on games than they do at the box office. “Gamer” is a flawed movie, but not one I can dismiss.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Faster than anyone better than me

It comes in under the closed door,
through the window screen,
pushing in under my eyelids,
into my nose, my ears.
It's getting in,
like a hard rain,
bouncing off bricks and doors,
its drops bending in their flight,
coming in under your umbrella,
to hit your shirt, your collar, your face.

I talk with myself to let it out,
because it's built up,
scaring people who can't hear
the other side of the conversation.
I try to stop and I can't;
it has to come out.

So, I reach for the bottle.
I reach for a book.
I reach for a game,
to get another hour
to chase it out, into a fantasy,
a construct where it can run
for another hour.
Another hour that work piles up
needing to be done.

Because when I touch something important it
screams sometimes,
or it whispers, which is worse.
I breathe and put up my hands
to struggle with it,
and I push it away and remember to
keep the pen moving.


Saturday, September 19, 2009



Never discard a dream.
It will not explode
when deferred, like an errant missile.

I bought the cut-rate bacon; it is nearly as good.
Put it in the oven for twenty minutes, but the fat wouldn't render.
Cooked it slow in a skillet, until it seemed right.
Pulled the strips of meat from the grease and chewed them,
wishing they were crunchy.

I leave old dreams in the freezer now.
They don't spoil, but the color changes.
I open the door, sometimes,
just to look at them.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Four seconds

This is a bad sign,

this strong, unnatural glee.
Someone just said hello to me,
and I stopped for four seconds
with a smile on my face.
one two three four
That is a long time.
Wait four seconds between two words,
any two words,
the next time you talk to someone.
Four seconds is much too long.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009



Wind struck the sea as I looked west. The sun
would dim and flare as distant waves rose and fell.
The black stern of my ship stood like a monument.
Did my father watch the same sun set,
leaning on his cane, feet planted in the dark earth?
Did he look east and wonder, “Are the same stars shining on my son?”
Peleus, will death wait for your child's homecoming?
Two men on deck make light, the tripod's fire
reflected down to me from their faces.
One smiles, gap-toothed, and calls for wine and dice.
Briseis, I remember, hip to hip
we slept while keener minds than mine made plans.

I see my mother on the rolling waves,
her shining feet do not quite touch the waters.
I will call to her soon, but not yet.

An hour ago, Briseis and she held hands and leaned
their heads together, deathless god and mortal woman.
The black ship hid me as I saw them kiss like sisters;
they rolled a chariot wheel between them, making it a toy.

When you play, you are free.

Fear of divine curse kept the men away.



The Pitch

“Burning Tower was a good movie,” I said.
“What was it about?”
I want to answer as best I can.
It had Shavian overtones, and I hadn't seen a film
that really showed me anything I hadn't seen before in months.
It had flaws, yes - sex was awkwardly handled,
as it is so,
so many times.
There were three lines that made me cringe;
howlers, howlers.
There was one scene in it that I had written a long time ago
before I had any balls.
Waking up from a dream,
my computer was on,
I typed for twenty minutes and
this motherfucker put this film together and took it from me somehow.
I love movies and
how do I say that?


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