Monday, February 22, 2010

Review of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Okay. Wow. This is a great film. It has fantastic dialogue, fantastic acting and a very thoughtful plot.

Movies that are faithful adaptations of stage plays have a feeling all their own. The focus of the playwright is dialogue while the focus of the screenwriter is action. When play dialogue makes its way onto film, the effect is curious. Cinematography stops mattering as much. Instead of switching scenes every few minutes, it's every twenty or so. Some might even say that the freedom which film affords over the stage is being lost. As long as you lose yourself in the dialogue, it doesn't matter. Dialogue-driven tension has an intensity that is very different from action-driven tension. Shades of emotion, pauses and powerful language can cause gasps just as easily as any car chase.

This is another film with a twist ending. It is to my shame that when the credits rolled, the subtleties of the ending had gone over my head. I didn't understand and I was forced to re-watch. I should mention that it was a complete pleasure to watch a second time. And yes, I "got it" the next time through.

While the actors were great all around, I think the most groovy were the women-folk. Elizabeth Taylor is loveably awful as Martha, the discontent and obnoxious professor's wife who, despite her protests to the contrary, brays. Sandy Dennis, who I had never heard of before this viewing, surprised me with her performance, starting out little and mousy and becoming loud, drunk and hilarious, especially when she claps her hands in glee, shouting, "Violence! Violence!"

It's truly a movie that approaches perfection for what it is. It achieves its every goal and has absolutely no down side.
18 immoderately consumed alcoholic beverages out of 20

Friday, February 19, 2010

Review of "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James

I've read some great horror fiction in my time. I thought I was in touch with horror. Then a friend sent me a copy of Casting the Runes, a collection of short fiction by M. R. James. I then realized I was missing an essential piece of the genre.

James' style is unique. The target audience of the stories is obviously educated men from a century ago. Each tale is told from the perspective of a university alumnus with a passion for history. Usually this alumnus is beckoned somewhere he ought not to be by his curiosity, attracting the attention of some malevolent being. James' attachment to this viewpoint is unwavering. He refuses to yield the POV to anybody less educated, even if the actual story occurs to somebody else! He uses Latin freely, expecting that his readers will know what it means. This perspective is part of what makes James' style special.

Apparently, James admitted in his lifetime that he had no use for ghost stories where the apparition is friendly or helpful. It shows. The handling of the supernatural is superbly creepy. The entities of these stories are at best angry and frightening, at worst directly dangerous.

One of my favourite aspects of his writing is that, for the most part, if anything overtly scary or supernatural occurs, it happens mid-paragraph. Most other writers put the frightening occurrance at the start of a paragraph to emphasize the fear. Not so with James. Many times my eyes slipped uncomprehending over the words and I had to do a literary double-take and re-read, mirroring the disbelief and shock of the characters in the story. It's a fascinating writing technique.

There is yet another aspect of these stories which blows my mind. Conventional writing technique tells us that writers of horror/fantasy/sci-fi have to fully explain fantastic events for the sake of suspension of disbelief. For instance, H.P. Lovecraft is a master of inserting his supernatural events in history and explaining, if not what evil force is at work, why the force is at work. James does not. Frightening events happen to the characters of his stories without explanation and end suddenly. Rarely are readers spoonfed the identity of a ghost or the reason that it is restless. Questions are always left unanswered. The forest is just haunted and nobody remembers why. The effect is unsettling.

These stories are a century old now and some readers may need time to adjust to the prose. However, the tales are worth the effort. They are unique and creepy. Don't expect the type of horror that splatters gore on shower walls. It's not his style. Instead, expect the type of terror you feel when you walk up a staircase from a basement and feel something rushing up behind you. Expect the terror of knowing that something angry is watching you from the woods.

4 1/2 heretical prayer-books out of 5

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Disaster that is Art

I'm sure this will be a long post. Grab your coffee and sit back for an epic.

In 1981 Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers released his album, "Northwest Passage". The title track was a hit and became a cornerstone of Canadian culture. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has admitted his own love for the song, saying that Northwest Passage is the closest thing Canada has to an unofficial national anthem.

And this is where things get hypocritical. In the last election, Stephen Harper, whilst on the campaign trail and defending his government's $45 million dollar cut to arts funding, said that (paraphrased) ordinary Canadians don't care about arts funding.

The hypocrisy? Stan Rogers was a Canada Council funding recipient. I think it's fair to say that without the Canada Council, the CBC and other forms of government arts patronage, Northwest Passage might never have happened. In short, Harper likes Canadian culture but doesn't want to pay for it. I would be more angry about his comments, but I'm not necessarily sure that he's wrong when he says that ordinary Canadians don't care about arts funding.

This blog post is not about my Prime Minister's hypocrisy. It is about what is wrong with art, music, writing, film and stage today in its execution, funding and the public's understanding of it. It's about why ordinary folks don't care. It's about how artists either starve or work jobs to which they are not suited and undervalued. It's about how our educational system and artists themselves are deepening the divide between art and its audience. It's about the cultural black hole that is being filled by American values. In short, the arts are in the toilet and nobody wants to fish them out.

An uncomfortable truth about artists is that they need patrons. When an artist begins the slow process of building his or her career, practicing their craft, building contacts and reputations and expanding their portfolio, only the very lucky make any money. Those that do make money do not make a living wage. Therein lies the problem. People like living. Generally, if given the choice between following a dream and survival, people choose the latter option.

Artists in this situation therefore must squander their talents and waste their lives working unskilled jobs. For many artists, this secondary career becomes their only career. Some get tired of never earning money with their art. Others are forced into their non-artistic job to afford housing or children.

Patronage feeds artists. It lets them use their talents. It lets them quit those jobs they never wanted to work anyway, providing employment for other people who also need feeding.

Many businesspeople and politicians don't seem to understand this. When viewed through the lens of the free market economics, it makes no sense to support the arts. To the economy, starving artists are starving because they are creating product with no demand. They deserve their fate. Why waste money on something nobody wants?

It's a disconnect from reality. The longer artists practice their craft, the greater the demand for their product. If they can't feed themselves and produce their art at the beginning of their careers, they will never create demand.

About 500 years ago in Italy, the greatest revolution in the history of art occurred. It was the Renaissance and its power was fueled by patronage. Obscenely wealthy noble families, such as the famous de Medicis, kept artists in business with their favours and commissions. They competed with each other to see who could patronize the most beautiful art. It was a societal priority. I could go on and on about the Renaissance, but to attempt to do so within the confines of a single paragraph would be a terrifying injustice.

Well, them days is gone. Yes, our society has obscenely rich people. Yes, many of those people are patrons of the arts. However, it's fair to say that art is no longer a societal priority. Our societal priority, and I challenge anybody to contradict me, is sports.

Don't believe me? We just spent $8 billion dollars for a two-week party in Vancouver called the Olympics. For that amount of money, Canada could have paid more than 100,000 artists full-time minimum wage to practice their craft for three years. Want more proof? Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a city of 200,000 people can barely keep its Symphony orchestra afloat. By contrast, late 18th-Century Bonn, a city of 10,000 people, had two orchestras and produced Ludwig van Beethoven. Canada produces top-notch NHL players, not musical genius.

Where art is to be found, it's quick and dirty. As Capitalism has entrenched itself in North American society, it just doesn't make sense to produce anything that lasts or is of high quality when you can cut corners. Open the newspaper and look for illustrations. Chances are, you'll see quickly-drawn, highly-abstracted first-drafts drawn in ink. Take it from me, the newspapers of yesteryear put love and effort into their drawings. How is it that the primitive, sub-humans of medieval Europe managed to erect towering, beautiful cathedrals and castles with their low population and lack of machine tools? Because to them, the art of their construction had value. Today with our ballooning population and marvelous technology, there is no reason to make a beautiful, stone WalMart with gargoyles and ornate carvings that is meant to stand for a thousand years. It's just cheaper and easier to barf out tin boxes by the hundred with concrete floors and unfinished ceilings.

Shouldn't we be ashamed that tiny villages full of toothless, smelly, gruel-eating apes who believed in werewolves could make prettier buildings than us? Nope. Nobody cares.

However, there is one branch of art that our society truly treasures: film and television. It is the divine art of the modern age, combining visual art, film, music, writing and crafting into one marvelous spectacle that we take for granted. For Canadians, most film is an abstraction. It shows up on our screens from very far away, created by people we don't know, and often it is free. Unlike other art, film and television is big business and is profitable. It replaces our need for art on a local level by beaming in easy entertainment. Why go out to a concert when you don't have to leave the couch and be entertained for free?

It's all too easy to forget that this multi-billion dollar industry is the result of the efforts of many tiny little artists who had to claw their way to success. It's also a little scary to think about how many Canadians are working in Hollywood and New York because they couldn't make their film careers work in Canada.

Canada used to have a film industry in the 1980's. Not just a coastal-temperate area that American companies could film TV episodes for cheap. Not just an annual film festival in Toronto that American celebrities attend to look pretty. I'm talking an actual industry. Funding was high. Tax breaks allowed random companies to produce a movie in Canada just to save money at tax time. Compared to Hollywood, yes, it was chintzy. Yes, most of the movies that were made in this period were low-budget horror flicks of dubious quality. But Canadian artists were working. In Canada. It all stopped when governments cut their film incentives and funding. Now this place is a howling wasteland for film, dependent upon the low-value of the Canadian dollar for survival. Pathetic.

It's not just the amount of arts funding that is at issue here. It is the method of distribution. It's an old problem. English author Samuel Johnson, for instance, refers to a patron as, "one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help". Simply put, our system of government arts patronage gives the lion's share of money to people who have already established their careers.

I understand the thought-process that goes into it. Why waste money on an unproven artist? What makes an artist? If we start handing money out to nobodies who call themselves artists, surely fakers and layabouts will emerge to take advantage of our generosity. However, it is undeniable fact that starving, unknown artists, the people who need the money most, are being denied funding and offered a pittance when others are receiving large amounts of money they don't need. What's the point?

But you know, it's not just clueless politicians, bureaucrats and apathetic citizens that are causing all this misery in the art community. In many ways, the artists and educators that teach it are bringing it upon themselves. The sad fact is that art education is in horrible shambles.

I took art classes every year in high school. Not once was I taught to render on paper or in clay that most basic of artistic expressions, the human form. I had to buy a book called, "How to Draw Super Heroes and Heroines" to learn its value. I also took Creative Writing courses throughout high school and University, yet nowhere was I taught classical story structure: I had to learn that from screenwriting books after University. The education system taught me English but not how to use it to influence the hearts of humans. Similarly, I took a music degree in University and between my Theory classes and my Orchestration classes, I learned the bare bones of music composition, yet a basic element was denied me. No instructor was willing to tell me the meaning of those chords to the human ear and their emotional effect on "ordinary folks".

Unbelievable. Artists are being trained without the basic tools that will make them successful. I've been submitting short stories to a mutual review site lately and almost nobody knows anything about classical story structure and are shocked when I let them in on what seems to be this huge secret! Why is this happening? As you might have guessed, I have a theory.

You see, in the last century, the "modern" era began, followed by the difficult-to-define "post-modern" era. In these eras, guided by odd notions about "progress" as applied to art, artists started trying to be different than each other. They came up with genres that were at first reactions against the rigid forms and styles of the previous centuries, and then tried to invent new languages and modes of understanding. Abstract art, twelve-tone scales and nonsense versions of English were produced. The score of one piece of music, for instance, contained no musical notes: merely the phrase, "Crawl inside the vagina of a living whale." Some performance artist took snapshots of his self-inflicted castration. Recently, some students were arrested for skinning a cat alive and calling it art.

Honestly, is it any wonder that there is little demand for this product? As the artists of the modern eras invented their new languages, they left their audiences behind. Stuck on traditional ideas of art, "ordinary folks" paid for new artistic forms that weren't quite so radical: Hollywood movies, graphic novels, jazz and rock music. All these forms were ones that did not completely shun the lessons of the past.

Meanwhile, the lame-duck grade schools were at work. Somewhere along the way, it became "uncool" to constrain kids with artistic rules. It was during this era that the "personal essay" became the highest form of pubescent writing. In art rooms, children were encouraged to "do their own thing".

The post-modern high-art snobs who are entrenched in universities and the hippie grade-school educators are very different but they seem to have one thing in common: they don't believe in creative limitation. They expect that artists young and old should do their own thing and create their own artistic language from scratch.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with creative limitation, here it is. Apparently, the human brain finds it easier to be creative if it has a set of rules to work with or against. By removing the lessons of the past from curriculae, the education system has made being creative actually more difficult for students.

Some people may be reading this and thinking that I'm an artistic conservative. I'm not. If you like post-modern art, it's not my place to criticize you. It's not my place to say what I like is better than what you like. My point is that by leaving important information out of the curriculum, Canadian artists are being denied a critical part of their education which will help them connect with their audience. Wouldn't it be better to teach students the rules of their art as society understands them, then give them the choice later whether they wish to transcend them?

Rest assured, friends, art is not as mysterious as some persons would have you believe. Part of it is craft and can be learned. Many of my teachers in the past had me thinking that creativity is this elusive thing that descends upon you like luck, cannot be controlled, that certain persons are born with. That's partly true, some people have more talent than others. But all art involves learning how to use a tool and using your brain in conjunction with it. It takes practice and it takes proper training. Why would we send our poor artists alone into the world without that training?

So here we are. Ordinary folks don't care about art and those of us that do can't define it. For most people it's a mystery. People love music but have no idea how it's created. Abstract art hangs on gallery walls that is valued either for the artist's reputation, the overlong explanations that justify them, or their shock value. Post-modern music rattles in crumbling concert halls, played by under-funded orchestras, tolerated by audience members who when asked what they thought of it are obligated to say, "It was interesting". American television beams into our homes, each reality TV show slowly crowding Northwest Passage from our collective memory. New schools are being constructed without music rooms. If Mozart was alive today, he might just be serving you coffee.

So what the fuck are you going to do about it? Do you even care?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review of Unforgiven

I first saw Unforgiven when I was a fifteen. At that age, as many readers can confirm, certain things go over your head. The moral ambiguities were lost on me and the action seemed boring. I'm glad I had a chance to see it as an adult.

One of the great things about this movie that defies the Western genre is its realistic depiction of killing. Without giving much away, I'll say that certain characters have problems with the act of pulling the trigger and its aftermath. Unlike many of its Western sisters, Unforgiven goes to great lengths to show that it takes a special kind of hombre to kill a man and be okay with it. Much of the action deals with the characters coming to grips with the reality of death.

Unforgiven also pulls yet another great genre-buster: heroism is nowhere to be found. And unlike certain other Westerns on AFI's list, for example (glorious fanfare of bum-music) The Wild Bunch, the characters are still likeable. William Munny (Clint Eastwood) and his escort are assassins lurking on the fringes of a quiet small town to murder two men who probably don't deserve it. Yet we like and identify with them. Heroism is particularily absent when killing is afoot. The shootouts are unhappy affairs that involve a lot of misery and running away.

If this show has a down side, it's probably Clint Eastwood's stilted acting during some of the early scenes where he is conflicted about the impending assassinations. Or perhaps it's some on-the-nose writing in those scenes. Or a combination of both. Regardless, when William Munny leaves this phase and hardens, Eastwood's acting also improves when he enters familiar dramatic territory and gets lots of chances to deliver his characteristic icy squints.

Something about the ending doesn't seem quite right to me either. Perhaps I missed the important philosophical message, but it lacks a coda wherein we see how the characters lives are affected by the story. Instead we are treated to a some scrolling captions which hint at a coda but answer few questions. This violates the old rule, "Show, don't tell". I won't go into more detail for fear of spoilers.

It's a complicated movie that has something for action-craving Western fans and intellectuals. However, the sudden ending keeps it from being perfect.
4 shots left in the Spencer Rifle out of 5

Friday, February 5, 2010

Review of Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event

Wolverine: So tradin' liberty for safety's what's passin' for "sensible" these days? 'Cause I seemed to think the motto of America -- and I'm Canadian, so that might be why I'm confused -- used to be, "Give me liberty or Give me Death".
Maria Hill, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Are all Canadians this judgmental?
Wolverine: When it comes to America, pretty much.

Marvel Comics is known for its flawed heroes, the moral ambiguity of its stories and its dark settings. Amongst its darkest settings in recent memory is its Civil War series, Marvel's comment on the erosion of civil liberties in America. I have now read ten of the Civil War graphic novels and feel I can offer some thoughts.

Like all things wrong with the modern world, it starts with a reality TV show. The New Warriors and their leader Speedball are having trouble finding supervillains to fight on national television. Desperate for ratings, they attack a group of fugitive villains that are out of their league. Amongst the fugitives is Nitro, a man with the ability to cause explosions around him, who promptly asplodes the New Warriors and half of Stamford, Connecticut in the process. 612 people, including 60 children are killed.

As always happens when kids get killed, everybody overreacts. Congress passes the Superhero Registration Act, requiring all super-powered heroes to register their identities with the government, undergo training and become Federal Marshals. All those who refuse to register will be imprisioned. Leading the charge is Tony Stark (Iron Man), who sees the need to enforce accountability amongst a group of people who are essentially vigilantes with the ability to kill hundreds of people. Interestingly, the Registration Act's greatest foe is Captain America. You see, he grew up before World War II and is attached to an America which no longer exists. He sees the Act as yet another step toward an American police state and rallies unregistered heroes around him. The pro-and-anti-reg heroes resolve their differences the only way know how: shooting each other and killing innocent people in the crossfire.

The message of Civil War is the perfect comic-book product of the George Bush era: Which do you value more, security or liberty? America's prison population swells. Heroes put their loved ones in danger when the government unmasks their secret identities. The government uses villains to arrest "the good guys". Heroes are held as "unregistered combatants" in "undisclosed locations" in North America. All of this is done with the willing participation of the citizens and representatives of the United States.

Along the way, all the heroes torture themselves. The Pro-registration heroes suffer from the guilt of locking their former friends in jail and the severity of measures which must be taken to maintain order. The Anti-registration heroes, outnumbered and hunted, find themselves assaulting police officers, destroying property and hurting bystanders. Everybody believes what they are doing is right but everybody also questions if what they are doing is right.

Such are the moral complexities of Civil War, and Marvel Comics continues its reputation for cerebral writing. However, Marvel also has another reputation, one that it shares with other comic publishers: comics can be kinda dumb. The Civil War series is very large and has room for both reputations. The quality of each volume varies significantly in both writing in art. Here is a quick guideline for what are must-reads and things to avoid. This list is not all-inclusive as I haven't been able to get a hold of all the titles. If you don't see a volume listed here, it's because it was either mediocre/okay or I haven't read it.

READ: Civil War. Author: Mark Millar. Illustrator: Steve McNiven.

This volume presents the basic events of the Civil War as Iron Man and Captain America trade insults and blows. It has all the major themes of the series, all the necessary action. Yet, something is missing. The book has too many heroes to concentrate properly on their trials, too many climactic events to show. Overall, it felt rushed. As well, the art can be confusing during some fight scenes. Overall, it's a mediocre volume. Unfortunately, it also essential to read if you want to understand what's happening in other volumes. I suggest you read it, prepare to be a bit underwhelmed and enjoy it when you can, then move onto better volumes.
3 of our former friends locked in the Negative Zone Prison out of 5

READ: Civil War Frontline, Volumes 1 & 2. Writer: Paul Jenkins. Various illustrators.

Frontline is essentially a more in-depth examination of the Civil War, providing the detail that is missing from the main volume. It is told from the perspective of three people: Ben Urich, a reporter from conservative fish-wrap The Daily Bugle, Sally Floyd, a reporter from liberal rag The Alternative, and Robby Baldwin, aka Speedball, the hero who survives the Stamford explosion only to become the most hated man in America. The two reporters learn more about the new world order as they grow closer while Speedball deals with his guilt for his involvement at Stamford. I have nothing bad to say about these books. They are perfect in their own way. They have all the moral ambiguity I love, but perhaps not as much fighting as comic readers would expect. I rarely cry while reading, but I actually found myself becoming bleary-eyed at a few moments, something unheard of while I've read graphic novels. There is a third book in the series which I am trying to get a hold of, but honestly, the story wraps up nicely in these first two volumes.
4 1/2 attempted assassinations out of 5

AVOID: Fantastic Four Civil War. Buncha writers and artists.

The Fantastic Four are riven when Mr Fantastic follows his utilitarian, pro-registration agenda at the expense of the morals of his wife, Invisible Woman. This volume starts okay and has an amusing digression when The Thing moves to France and has a refreshingly old-fashioned adventure helping his new French friends foil a dastardly plot to undermine Paris. However, the story soon meanders and finally halts in an unwarranted Fantastic Four 45th Anniversary Special. 45th? Really? What is that, the corrugated chip-board anniversary? If the 45th anniversary means the Fantastic Four are going to ruin a decent graphic novel, what are they going to do on the 50th? Invade classic works of literature and ruin them? In any case, the anniversary special contains lots of in-jokes, pointless shatterings of the fourth wall and yet another lame appearance by Stan Lee. Stew-pid.
1 times clobberin' out of 5

READ: Wolverine Civil War. Writer: Marc Guggenheim. Artist: Humberto Ramos.

In the aftermath of Stamford, Wolverine sets out on a lonely quest to find Nitro, the villain who killed 612 people. As he relentlessly tracks Nitro, he pisses off S.H.I.E.L.D., the Atlanteans, corporate America and even his fellow X-Men. The writer apparently wrote a few episodes of television's C.S.I. and it shows. Normally, C.S.I. zippy one-liners piss me off, but when they're coming out of Wolverine's mouth, they're hilarious. Wolverine rampages around, making enemies, maiming people, occasionally getting the shit kicked out of him but always returning to brutally right wrongs. The art is over-the-top, cartoony and yet gritty, enhancing the fun atmosphere of the book. It's great.
4 1/2 sneaky back-attacks out of 5

AVOID: Ms. Marvel Civil War. Writer: Brian Reed.

Just so you know, most of this volume concerns events that don't have anything to do with the Civil War. There's a story that starts promisingly with single mom Arachne running from the government while trying to fetch her child so they can flee to Canada. It has promise, but abruptly stops when another version of Ms. Marvel appears from a parallel dimension and they fight. Then some other thing happens with some stuff happens and... I dunno. It was kinda stupid. Maybe it has merit on its own, but for Chrissake don't cram a bunch of material into a book called "Civil War" that has nothing to do with the Civil War. Cheap assholes.
1 fight that could have been avoided if everybody just talked to each other out of 5

That's about it. The Marvel Civil War is rewarding and profound if you look in the right places and get through the mediocre opening volume. The best parts of this series were worth the slog through the disappointing parts. If you decide to investigate this series, I hope these reviews will be helpful. I'll devote a little more time in the future to some of the volumes that I missed, but for now I'm hungering for some books with fewer pictures.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Review of Tootsie

It's the simple tale of a man who falls in love with a woman while he's impersonating a woman. And she thinks he's a lesbian. And he attracts every old man he meets. And his current girlfriend begins to suspect that he's gay. Okay, maybe it's not that simple.

Cross-dressing stories are familiar to us all. They were well-trodden territory for writers in the English Renaissance and thereafter. They were probably popular before too, but I wouldn't know because I haven't investigated. What Tootsie has to offer that was not-so-familiar in 1982 was the added complication of sexual-orientation ambiguity. When starving actor Michael Dorsey cross-dresses to get a female part on a soap opera, it is purely for monetary reasons. He finds himself in a variety of sexually uncomfortable mixups.

It's pretty funny. The dialogue is well-written. Perhaps it's not a masterpiece of American cinema as the AFI claims, but it's still worth watching.

It just wouldn't be a review by me if I didn't mention something about the music, would it? See, in Tootsie there's this song called, "It Might Be You" that pops up during a montage and the credits. It's a simple number with male voice (Stephen Bishop) and electric piano. It's also awful. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that this piece a' shit was nominated for Best Original Song in the Academy Awards and spent eight weeks in the Top 40.

I'd like to go on a rant about the 80's and the strange cultural warping of taste that occurred. What were we thinking, honestly? Why did we think those primitive synthesizers and electric pianos sounded cool? Sadly, this digression must be ranted another time because I have not thought it through fully.

So, funny movie, funny characters, funny dialogue, miserable music.
4 deadpan Bill Murry lines out of 5

Fire in the Head

I am feeling very passionate right now. About what, I don't know. Is that odd? Perhaps some words violently tapped upon my keyboard will reveal the mystery.

I often get in moods like this late at night. I feel I am on the verge of something great and profound. I want to shout the injustices of the world and reveal some great hidden truth.

Underneath this urge is the threat of crippling nostalgia. My memory is a curse. While I struggle with basic concepts like, "I have an appointment at 3:30 today," I have a vivid memory for my place in the past. Long-gone smiles, remembered smells and snatches of music torment me. I can close my eyes and recall a moment almost perfectly. I get lost and when I open my eyes I want to cry. Days gone by can never be relived.

It doesn't matter if the memory is from a rotten time in my life. Why on earth would I want to be back in the mid-late 90's? Was I not frustrated, lonely, socially retarded, terrified of women and defeated? Yes I was. But there was this one time I was looking out the window of my apartment on Broadway at night, a Radiohead B-side was playing and giant snowflakes were falling. I stared into orange street lamps, feeling cold air leaking through the window. The radiator clicked and cooking dust drifted into my nostrils. I was lonely but content. I was free. It was the late 90's, I was there and I will never be so again.

Even as I sit here typing I wish I could just have an hour in that time and place, walk Broadway as it used to be and visit the young versions of my friends. We were so... I don't know... heady? Full of possibility. Now reality has scarred and scattered us. I miss us, those young people with their cigarette smoke, ironically-enjoyed b-movies and their, "What do you want to do?" "I dunno, what do you want to do?". I miss my apartment. I miss how it all made me feel.

Aw, Jeez. I guess I've strayed into crippling nostalgia. It's at times like this I must remind myself that the 90's weren't that great. Three of the ten top-selling albums from the 90's were by Celine Dion. There was this huge recession that nobody acknowledged, this awful, boring, drawn-out economic slump that affected everybody except baby boomers. My apartment had mice. Mealworms lived beside my bed. Dr. Jim Pankiw was my MP.

This isn't working. Thinking about the 90's vermin is making me nostalgic. I should probably just stop typing. Before I do, if any of my 90's friends are reading this, I'll just say I love you. We should hang out and watch a lousy movie sometime.