Atop His Tower


He stood atop his ivory tower with a grin and swagger unbefitting for his age.  He had become callous, twisted, the very villain that he had once despised.  He fit the role perfectly.  His cloak billowed out into the fading light, folding and shifting, mimicking silken spectres caught in the twilight.

He had once been told:

Those who are not honest are more-truthful in the night.  It brings a certain gravitas to conversations that can rarely be replicated in the day’s light.  It’s our devout understanding of humanism, that drives us to bleed into others…but, only in the dark.

Why look into the eyes of your tormentor?

Flashes of gold and scarlet, beg pedanticism, but hardly do we relish in candor during God’s hours.  We want the truth when He’s away, and rightfully so.  Our sins are our own, once shared.

Evergreens spread into the valley like Ross’ happy trees, and not only did he not notice or care, he desired to burn them.  He needed the crackle and the heat to ignite that missing spark—  The one that had been missing, but ‘oh-so’ yearned for.  His scruff hung, like a dangling preposition, casting shadows upon his cheekbones—  Filling in the lines that had been scratched over.  His should-be blue eyes remained perpetually grey now.  They couldn’t shine for what they couldn’t see.  They could only show what they felt.

It began to rain.  The moon had risen—high and tight—blossoming into fruition, desperately calling to forgotten astronauts and lonesome bees.  It was impregnated by a lost spouse.  One that she had never met.  One that she wanted to know, but never would.

The man in the cloak stood, defying a God that he refused to believe in.  It poured.  Lightning cascaded through the sheets of rain like a wayward speedster looking for the reverse to be true—  Caught between the heavens and the ground it finally struck in a boom and a flash.  The Evergreen laid broken and split, smoldering like a corpse.  It gasped its last breath and then escaped into the cold, cold rain.

He remained.  Watching.  Ever-present.  Assuming the role of villain; making sure that the world still turned, or rather…

…burned.

Ivory Tower by TSONLINE via DeviantArt
Ivory Tower by TSONLINE via DeviantArt

Smoke & Hips


The mood was devilishly sour, which matched my Whiskey Sour in a Reeves’ ‘most-excellent’ manner.  I’m prone to alcoholism, but I forget often.  Something with how the world hazes over when you’re properly inebriated…it makes life seem more real.  A moment of clarity in a world that is bent on capitalizing on broken, lovestruck people like myself.  I arched my back to desperately try and pop the ache, but like most things of late…I failed miserably.  I finished off the whiskey, ordered a shot of ironic Skyy, drank that, and ordered a Sex on the Beach.  It was a bit out of character, but (hey) you only live a blurry once.  Someone brushes my shoulder and taps it twice in quick secession—   Quick, but light.  I turned.  Amidst the cliché club lights and the deep boom of the bass I saw a beautiful brunette with long curly locks staring back into my grey eyes.  We embraced—our lips touching gently (at first) and then exploded into something more…  Suddenly the Skyy seemed not so ironic, nor the Sex on the Beach.  We parted, she tipsied, and I caught her by the small of her back.  We leaned in close—  One of the beauties of cliché nightclubs.

“Where are John and Greg?”

“Who?”

“Who?” I owled.

She firmly grasped my hand and led us through a haze of smoke and hips.  Dreams, wet and dry alike, were being forged between all of the lonesome souls that we cascaded through—  Emotions compounding upon emotions, ad infinitum.  We weaved and parried between those looking for love in all the wrong places, or those looking to forget all together.  Eventually, we arrived back at our nice nook nestled within the cranny of sin. We slumped together in loud whispers.  Chiding each other for not being close enough—  Asking superficial questions just to pass the time between stolen kisses.  As my hands inched closer and closer to the prize…my thoughts…my drunken thoughts…wafted to yet another brunette.  This one was tearing off her ring in muted frustration and driving…driving away.  The music suddenly shifted, and those that were dancing scuttled as those that weren’t filled the newly created void like flotsam washing upon the dance floor.  A quick peck snapped me back to the moment…and to Diana.

“Do you want another drink?”

“Is that rhetorical?”

“Is that?” she smirked.

I watched her as she walked and weaved back into the sea of people.  My best friend John—and Diana’s friend Greg—slid into the booth beside me.  Greg seemed to be an introspective, giant of a man who had never gained the courage to tell Diana his true feelings.  John and I had only met him tonight, but even with just a few brief comments we both saw how Greg felt.  Diana was either clueless or never had the heart to let him down properly.

I heavily bet on the latter, while John the former.

John was a different beast all together.  John is a stocky Irishman who pounded drinks to drown his own recent and equitable sorrow.  Who knew that fucking a married woman, who was engaged to yet another man, would end so badly?  Clambering out of low-hung windows in the dead of night and sprinting across Cheney farm fields was never what our old Track & Field coach had in mind, but John used what he was taught and he did it well.

I swear when John chased the worm the worm ran.

For whatever reason, there was an electricity that clung in the air about us that evening.  It hovered and crackled with intensity.  John and Greg lamented, while my sorrow extended elsewhere.  Whether it be sex, sorrow, or sex to mask sorrow we all found our reprieve that night.

“Where’d you guys head off to?” I shouted above the music.

“Outside.  We both needed some air.”

“You okay to drive?”

“No, not yet— man.  I need to sober up a bit.”

“No worries.  I’m in no hurry.”

Diana slid in close next me.  She sipped both drinks before passing me one.

“What is it?”

“Just drink it,” she smiled.

I took a large swig, which finished half the cup, “It’s got bite.”

“That’s because it’s 151 and Coke.”

“Nice!  If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were trying to get me drunk?”

“Nah, just loose.”

“I’m already loose.”

“Cool, your jets turbo.”

I grinned, “You started it.”

She returned my grin, and kissed me yet again.  By this time Greg and John and begun instinctively conversing to avoid the awkwardness that would have come at a table filled with more-sober company.  However, no one noticed the intimacy building between Diana and I…save for perhaps Greg, but even he was distracted with light-hearted conversation.

John leaned over to me and shouted once more, “I think we’re going to go outside, again.”

“You alright?”

“Yeah, I just don’t feel so hot.”

“You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I just need a couple of minutes.”

“Ok…we’ll be out in a bit.”

Again, the two stumbled off to get some air, and I stayed to get selfishly closer to Diana.  She wasn’t the one, but she was for this evening.  We talked and drank for a while more, and eventually we followed in the footsteps of John and Greg, and headed for the exit.   The cold November air stung like a hard dose of reality.  Diana and I were both drunk enough to be able to ignore it, but John and Greg sat side-by-side along the curb entrenched within the harshness of it.  Together they had cried and swapped stories.

Diana and I gave them their privacy and sauntered off towards our own sort of recovery, but I’ll never forget the tearstained cheeks of Greg…nor my best friend, John’s.

That was a lie.  It was in the moment that a looked back into Diana’s eyes.  My sadness ebbed and my drunken heart punched out, whether Greg was there or not.

Tonight was a night of nights.

Book review: “The Martian” by Andy Weir (2012/2014)


The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a vivacious reader, but very rarely am I truly surprised by a book. I spend most of my time reading books to edit for others, ARCs and galleys to review, or graphic novels and comic books for pleasure and review. Like all writers and readers, I have my tastes. Science fiction, fantasy, and action-adventure are some of my favorite genres, but because I critically analyze these genres, and I read an immense of content, I don’t often stumble upon a novel that captivates my attention by providing a high-quality read with the excitement of a new creativity. “The Martian” by Andy Weird delivers. It is riveting and fresh. It is reminiscent of highbrow science fiction films, but layered with nuance that only a novel can achieve.

I received “The Martian” as a galley via Crown Publishing Group—which is an imprint of Random House—and I chose “The Martian” based solely on its synopsis:

“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

It plucked at my sensibilities in an abstract and I immediately requested it. It arrived a scant week later. I was graced with an ornate hardcover, a beautiful smell, and a gorgeous slipcover with an astronaut caught in Martian sandstorm. The colors are vibrant— Orange and red with a hint of a white spacesuit caught in the throws of survival.

In a word: Exquisite

“The Martian” follows NASA astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and a mechanical engineer, on the third manned mission to Mars, Ares 3. The novel begins with a bang. Readers are not privy to the mission setup, crew members, landing, and the circumstances to Watney’s predicament. Without ruining the suspense and discovery, Watney is presumed dead and left on Mars (when in fact he is not) and is forced to survive on Mars without any means of communication till interplanetary comms can be reestablished or the next Ares mission arrives…four-years in the future.

The rest of the novel focuses primarily on Watney and his survival. Through the use of his mechanical and botany background, Watney comes up with some pretty ingenious ways to prolong his rations, Oxygen, water, and transportation. The narrative is primarily composed of Watney leaving logs for himself (or as a testament to his journey and untimely death), so the technical side to his endeavors are filtered through his warm and charming personality, which lightens what could be an overly scientific text— Changing a potential negative into a strong positive. Weir deftly avoids a common issue among science fiction writers with clever character development and use of perception.

The rest of the novel proceeds like Alfonso Curacao’s Gravity. It is deeply individualistic, but symbolic. The writing isn’t stretched by only focusing on a single character, because as the novel goes on it begins to layer in Watney’s support team on Earth. It provides a wonderful message of hope due to the global cooperation that is required to bring home an astronaut stranded on another world. “The Martian” doesn’t pull any punches or use its arsenal before the tale is done, either. It continuously builds upon the tension set by Watney’s survival till its climax. Its ending is extremely satisfying— One of the best that I’ve read in years.

After reading Andy Weir’s “The Martian” I was awed by the level of detail, character development, and sheer quality of the narrative. It is one of the best science fiction written and should be considered along the likes of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. If you get a chance try and read “The Martian” before the Ridley Scott-Matt Damon film adaptation, which is set to release in November of 2015— It is sure to be hit.

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Episode recap: Gotham S.1, Ep. 3 — The Balloonman


balloonmanGotham’s “The Balloonman” takes a much different tone than prior episodes—  You can almost see the visible growing pains as it flexes, to find its footing within the market of genres.  It is almost as-if the bloat of Gotham is weighing heavily upon the FOX’s executives’ and producers’ shoulders.  It is solidly placed, but they are still beginning to show signs of television fatigue.  That careful balance between cop show and comic book show still hasn’t been fleshed out properly by Gotham, but it stretches to get closer still with “The Balloonman.”

“The Balloonman” is the first episode to hit home on the episodic nature that Gotham needs to get into.  Like I’ve mentioned before, Gotham is struggling to appease comic book fans and television goers and—for granted—Batman is a force to reckoned with.  The iconic Caped Crusader has spawned countless successful media properties over the course of several decades and comic book-wise it continues to reach the top of the charts in terms of sales and accolades.  However, how do you make a series about Batman not be about Batman, and still keep fans coming back for more each and every week?  You make it a cop show centered-around the GCPD.

Gotham begins to hit its cop show stride with “The Balloonman.”  It begins to break away—albeit just for a moment—from the disjointed campiness of past installments, “The Balloonman” tries to shake its identity crisis by picking a formula and sticking to it.  Focusing on a criminal that is (you guessed it) attaching balloons to ‘legitimate’ criminals and sending them sky high to their deaths is more-interesting than past villains, merely because Jada Pinkett Smith’s overacted portrayal of Fish Mooney isn’t involved…anything without her is better.

However, even with the inclusion of a minor criminal that draw the attention of GCPD for just a moment is better than before, but it is still…well…Balloonman.  The episode tries to embrace a cop drama, but it is still executed rather poorly.  I praise the effort, but for Gotham to survive it needs to take a creative cue from similar supernatural cop dramas such as ABC’s ForeverForever takes a cliche premise, but back it up with a clever slant and an episodic quality that draws audience members for an hour-long, twisty and clever journey through the investigative process.

This is what Gotham needs to be.

The writing for “The Balloonman” is fairly straight-forward and there isn’t even an attempt at providing a feint or a ‘food for thought’ moment for the audience  The writing belittles fans in its simplicity, and if you are up to date on your actors and their respective appearances it will be quite easy for you to immediately spot the non sequitur…and thus the Balloonman.

Even though the writing is lackluster, I do appreciate the angle that they are trying to take, more-so than a superhero epic that is forced to exclude Batman due to the premise.  In my opinion, for Gotham to survive and be a multiple spanning series it desperately needs to become a ‘cop show.’  It needs to invest in providing in depth investigations with surprises and unusualness, all the while focusing on the character growth and camaraderie of Detective James Gordon and Harvey Bullock.

Unfortunately, at this juncture, television shows such as Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are doing it better.  If you’re inclined to catch a superhero show to fill in the time between the films, check out the aforementioned shows, because Gotham isn’t cutting it…yet.

(SOURCE: Episode recap: Gotham S.1, Ep. 3 — The Balloonman)

Episode recap: The Flash S.1, Ep. 1 — The Pilot


The Flash - PilotI have never been so excited to watch the pilot of a television series.  And, to be fair I don’t usually get caught up easily in the hype of television.  Network marketing campaigns try to pander to universality, but even with this in mind I never have been so anticipatory for a ‘fresh-out-the-gate,’ new series.

I am a comic book nerd, and like all hobbies…I have my favorites.  As much as I love the CW’s Arrow, I was a neophyte to the topic.  Till recently, I had not read many Green Arrow graphic novels.  He just wasn’t a character that I was interested in at first.

However, the Flash (specifically Barry Allen) has always been one of my favorite comic book characters.  I love the lore and I have read nearly every Flash comic since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, so when the CW announced a television series based on the Scarlett Speedster I was ecstatic beyond belief.  Once the mid-season finale of Arrow/Barry Allen crossover aired to audiences last December, the idea of a quality Flash series was proven and solidified…and I was hooked.

The Flash pilot begins with a brief introductory scene showing Barry Allen as a boy and the traumatic event that goes onto to shape the rest of his life (think Bruce Wayne expect more-hopeful in the end).  From there, the narrative springboards to the present— Starting before the conclusion of last season’s Arrow crossover.

Barry Allen has just returned to Central City and he is getting back into the groove of being back.  In stereotypical Allen form, he is late to an investigation as the acting crime scene investigator but one of the cops at the scene (and adoptive father played by the talented Jesse L. Martin) covers for him.  With only a set of tire treads and manure, Allen inevitably discovers the whereabouts of the criminals via his laboratory—  The very place in which he gets struck by lightning and doused in chemicals.

Essentially, the beginning serves as an introduction to Barry Allen, the supporting cast, and the overall aesthetic of Central City, just as any good pilot should.  The casting and writing are excellent.  Grant Gustin play a believable, young Barry Allen.  He portrays all of the little nuances of the character—  He’s clumsy, he’s perpetually late, but he has a good heart.  He tries to do good, even when he doesn’t always have the means.

The cast is rounded out by Law and Order alum, Jesse L. Martin, as Barry’s adoptive father and Central City Detective.  Tom Cavanagh plays Harrison Wells, the brilliant (but mysterious) scientist, mentor, and ultimate creator of metahumans within Central City.  The rest of the cast are primarily unknowns, but unlike FOX’s Gotham all parts are played with a sense of realization and believability.  This is especially impressive considering the nature of the show.

The writing is just as well-constructed as the casting.  It is surprising how much is packed into the pilot; the writing team took great lengths to respect the history of the character.

The pilot segues to the Flash’s origin and roughly depicts the same events that were shown at the end of the Arrow episode, Three Ghosts.  It then passes nine-months (throughout the term of his coma).  This is where the show gets interesting.  It is the first series to show metahumans— People with powers.  This is momentous for television, because in times past when they have tried to depict superheroes with powers it has come off incredibly cheesy and quite often bombed with audiences.  With the exception of Smallville, which carefully skirted Superman’s power set for years, television series’ have not dived headlong into CGI and in essence true superhero shows till CW’s The Flash.

The Flash has no qualms showing Barry running at high speeds, and the show pulls no punches by showcasing one of his primary villains right out of the gate—  An individual who also has fantastical powers.  The show does a wonderful job of introducing audiences to one of DC Comic’s greatest characters.  It holds true to the lore with only a little bit of a shake-up in terms of arrangement for television purposes, but nothing so far off the mark that it contradicts its origins.  The CGI and representation of the metahumans is superb.  Considering what the budget must-be and the risk it is to shoot a television series with a heavy reliance of individuals with superpowers the risk-reward nature is successful.

There are a ton of little Flash easter eggs and references to the Flash comics, so check out last Tuesday’s pilot episode and see if you can spot them.  Countless upon countless articles and posts could be written about all of the little facets and feats that The Flash pulled off last night, and as time permits, I will most-definitely be covering them throughout The Flash’s first season.

And, if you glean anything from this review…watch The Flash Tuesdays at 8/7c.