Thursday, June 20, 2013

Something in The Water: A Saint Louis Rockumentary
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Something In The Water: A Saint Louis Rockumentary

Something in the Water: A Saint Louis Rockumentary takes a look at the electrifying classic rock scene in St. Louis in the late 1960s and 70s. From a unique St. Louis sound, to the origins of album-oriented rock radio, to R & B influenced musicians, to stadium concerts and festivals, Something in the Water examines a unique time in St. Louis history. Told entirely through interviews and rare archival footage and photos, Something in the Water is a fun look at the region's musical subculture, told in a style as free form as rock itself.

The contribution of Saint Louis to Rock and Roll is discussed in the documentary, Something in the Water. It features interviews with band members from Head East (adopted St. Louis band), Pavlov’s Dog, Mama’s Pride (who were readying for a world tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd the day before their airplane crash), and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils; former DJs from KSHE radio also discuss the importance of St. Louis radio on the evolution of rock and roll nationally. It also shows how stadium shows, such as the Mississippi River Festival, started in St. Louis long before big shows like the California Jam played. Irv Zuckerman promoted bands for big concerts. St. Louis's own Bob Heil wrote the book on sound. Quite a case is made for the influence of Saint Louis as the mecca for rock and roll's evolution. 

"Something in the water", the saying, denotes a reason for the success of a group of people from a certain region. Man, those Aussies sure put out some fine writers; must be something in the water. Get it? Good. Let's continue.

Steve Scorfina sums it up best, “St. Louis is ground zero for rock and roll.” 

Let's sse what he means by this.

St. Louis Radio is discussed as the tool for rock and roll's successful growth. Because many stations limited their songs to 3 and a half minutes, many of the indie bands never were played. When they were played, they only reached regional fame, but missed national success. FM radio began to play longer songs and more indie stuff, but the stability of the bands prevented them from more play. Once a band was recognized, if there wasn’t a follow-up record to play, the band’s success was temporary. But it’s a catch-22: without consistent play, how could the band afford a second lp. Very few bands found their way out of this vicious circle. KSHE radio helped break the Catch-22 by taking on AM radio.

KSHE Radio Logo

AM played top 40 hits. FM played requests and DJ favorites. FM discovered the art in rock and roll; even as AM hit leaders like the Beatles began to put out songs like I am the Walrus, which wasn’t played on AM, FM picked up these new radical songs. Whereas AM played Immigrant Song by Led Zep, FM played Since I’ve Been Loving You. 

When the tide turned and FM began to dominate and control the market, New Wave and Punk were the songs of choice. Prog Rock was ignored, called Dinosaur Rock by the new wave of 80s djs. So bands from the 70s, who never made it as AM hit makers, never gained the recognition on the new powerhouse FM radio. Many of the seventies bands still had the look of the hippies, so they were ignored in light of the new wave suits or punk leather and body piercing. Such bands as Ted Nugent, Sammy Hagar, REO Speedwagon, got KSHE play, so St Louis helped shape much of the new prog rock scene, playing bands like the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Head East, Mama's Pride, and Pavlov's Dog.

Mississippi River Festival

But it wasn't only radio that helped shape the growth of rock and roll in Saint Louis. The city was the first to host a stadium sized concert, setting the stage for other states to follow suit. The Mississippi River Festival hosted some of Rock's biggest bands: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, ELP, YES, and up and coming bands like the J. Geils Band, the Eagles, and the James Gang.

My favorite contribution featured in the documentary, aside from Steve Scorfina's interviews where he expands on questions he addressed in my interview with him, was the story of Bob Heil. 

Bob Heil

Bob Heil created the "big" sound for bands such as The Who and the Grateful Dead, and others. He is the only sound technician to be invited to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He created the Quadraphonic sound for The Who's Quadrophenia tour. Thus the rock and roll "big sound" is attributed to St. Louis's own Bob Heil.

There are many more stories that support Scorfina's claim that Saint Louis is ground zero for Rock and Roll. When one thinks of the origins of “Rock”, one conjures images of San Francisco (Acid Rock), Seattle (Grunge), Los Angeles (the Doors), New York (Glam Rock). This documentary supports Steve's claim with substance and fascinating stories, interviews and plenty of archival footage. Indeed, when one discusses Rock and Roll from now on, the city of Saint Louis must be mentioned in all earnest and respect. 

See the documentary here:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Stations of the Sun (2013)

Available soon.

Reviewed by Anthony Servante


Since arriving on the British underground scene in 1992 Mooch have made twenty two albums covering a wide musical range, from ambient to electronic to rock to psychedelic via all stations in between.This summer solstice sees the release of an album long in the making – eleven songs covering the pagan wheel of the year: eight festivals (two solstices, two equinoxes and four Celtic cross-festivals), plus two songs forthe Oak King and Holly King who symbolically battle every solstice, and a final song covering the whole year. Featuring new recruit Beck Sian (a cousin of Kate Bush blessed with a similarly wondrous voice) the new album covers ‘seventies folk/rock/progressive territory in the style of bands such as Renaissance. A second newcomer Shelagh Teahan sings some of the songs. As ever all the music was written by Steve and recorded at his Studio-by-the-Stream in ShropshireUK.




Once the music of the 1600s threw off the shackles of Medieval music’s rigid form, Renaissance music was free to explore melodies with more emotionally human themes (not so religious as the Medievals) in addition to experiment with harmonies not reliant on choirs and chorales. The sound went from Gregorian chants to troubadour ballets, from monophonic to polyphonic.

Monophonic music makes every part of the song equal as everyone sings the same thing. With polyphonic, the parts expand in importance as they harmonize with the other parts, making the whole group of parts important to each other.

The difference between mono and poly music.

As the music became more layered, the themes also changed; love of god changed to love of man and woman. Thus the music rhythm reflected the cadence of the love story, seduction or declarations of affection. But Renaissance music still kept its spiritual leanings even as the themes evolved. After all, earthly love was a gift from God, the flip side of the coin, so to speak. So it wasn't uncommon to have songs of the seasons reflecting Springtime for love, for nature was the clothing of God. As more themes were added, more voices enriched the quality of the music. Harmony in music echoed the harmony of man and woman in nature.

Before discussing the sound of Mooch and its polyphonic styling, let's listen to some of today's Post-Renaissance music. “An enormous diversity of musical styles and genres flourished during the Renaissance, and can be heard on commercial recordings in the 21st century, including masses, motets, madrigals, chansons, accompanied songs, instrumental dances, and many others” (Wiki). 

Steeleye Span plays traditional Renaissance music with electric instruments. The focus for them is the storyline of each song. Note, however, the use of harmony to accentuate the tale of King Henry.

King Henry by Steeleye Span

The band Renaissance explores more instrumentalism in addition to the harmonies in the telling of its tale. Annie Haslam brings her operatic vocals to rival the orchestral movements here in Opening Out.

Opening Out by Renaissance, featuring Annie Haslam

Then we have Blackmore's Night. When Richie Blackmore, formerly of Deep Purple and Rainbow, fell in love with Renaissance music vocalist Candice Night, he revealed that at heart he, too, held a fondness for the music of the 1600s England. Updating its sound with electric instruments and orchestrations, the elements brought to the genre by Steeleye Span and Renaissance with Haslam, Blackmore keeps the proceedings simple and melodic in the song Under a Violet Moon. It's almost an exaggeration of traditional, but an honest one.

Under a Violet Moon by Blackmore's Night

Which brings us to Mooch. A note on the band’s name – in Britain ‘to mooch’ means to enjoy quiet or relaxed time, usually not doing very much…


Steve Palmer fronts the band Mooch. He writes the music and pulls the talent together to capture the sound for each release. In Stations of the Sun (2013) Steve captures the Renaissance stylings of polyphonic music. We have the lush harmonies, simple instrumentation, and spiritual leanings. He forgoes the modernization and bloated orchestrations of his idol Renaissance, and is closer to Gregorian than Blackmore's Night, most of the time, but comes close to Night on the less spiritual songs, like Come-A-Maying, which is virtually all celebratory. 

Although Mooch feels joyous, it is not for celebration but mainly for spiritual meditations. Note the titles of the songlist: The Yule Garden, The Holly King and the Oak King, Imbolic Chant, Equinox, Come-A-Maying, Summerland, The Oak King and the Holly King, Fred Barleycorn, Looking Inward, A Samhain Mask, & Wheel of the Year. The seasons play an important role in these songs. But it is the melody that will capture the listeners. When I first heard The Yule Garden, I had to hear it one more time before I heard the rest of the list. By the time I got to The Holly King and the Oak King, I had listened to The Yule Garden at least a dozen times. And with each song, the haunting melodies and somber spirit of the cadence creates a styling at once Renaissancian and Modern, a mix of the three aforementioned bands, but uniquely all its own. One can't help to listen to each song more than once or twice or more.

A sample track:

This is not just a tribute to Renaissance music; it is the new, post Renaissance. Here there is mist and cloud and morning along crooked streets with minstrels playing and lovers heading to church. Here are beautiful harmonies that transport you to begone ages. Steve Palmer aimed high and hit his target. In Stations of the Sun, his band Mooch has captured its inspiration and made it something new for the listener. We do not go to the Renaissance Faire; via this fine music, the Renaissance comes to us. 

Stations of the Sun by Mooch: A Sampling

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Poetry Today: Trends & Traditions 3
Edited by Anthony Servante 

Let’s discuss the premise before looking at the words. It is an axiom in academic writing that poetry must speak for itself. A writer cannot interpret meaning for the reader, giving insight to his own words as if they required his presence to clarify the work’s intents. The poem must stand up to the scrutiny of the reader alone. All poetry, artwork and links belong to the respective authors and are used here on a one-time basis only. Thank you. 

With this axiom in mind, we proceed to our poetry for today; we have works by Belladora Maria Ahumada, Michael H. Hanson, and Sabrina Fontaine Kaleta.

Let’s begin with the artist/poet, Belladora.

Biography: "Belladora Maria Ahumada has offered her poetry and art for two decades. In 2003 she attended the Leonardo de Vinci College in France for her first art show. She also had the pleasure of teaching an art class. In 2006 she traveled to TN to record a CD with Jim Kelly. This was recorded at Tom T. & Dixie Hall's studio.  Her poetry has been enjoyed by thousands. She was recently featured in the book "Indiana's Got Talent." Bell was also the creator of the 3D world Castles which was retired in 2006. As a freelance writer she welcomed the opportunity to showcase her work in prestige trade papers such as the AntiqueWeek, Auction Exhaange and Farm World. Her photography has also been published for other writers."


 "Wild Angel"
A wild angel
Can capture a star
Or rope the moon
She can fly beyond time
And be back at home before noon
She can drift
Upon any cloud
Dance inside a storm
She is what women are made of
When love goes wrong
She can turn up the heat
Or take you between
The depths of cold
And until she heals
Her wings will not fold
She can whisper
What you need
Or soar away
For she is the feather of freedom
That alters men and play
Don't be too harsh
To judge her
For she was once simple and true
But time altered her life
From the mold of men like you

Secret Love by Ahumada

Tangled Hearts
Your love is tangled inside me
Like my skin is to my flesh
Not one day passes
I am not your captive without rest
Vines that escape from my heartbeats
Fall to the floor like sprinkles of empty calls
Just wilted leaves that drink from my memories
Recalling our love's fall
I stare back to yesterday
Wishing I could save what we knew
But we created too many endings
Of me without you
If your heart ever gets empty
Take home these heartless leaves you left behind
Then my tears won't nourish nothing
And your name won't live inside

Wild Angel splits the narrator three ways, which is traditional for Romantic English Poetry, you know, William Wordsworth, John Keats, those guys. The point is to draw the reader into the emotion of the main narrator, the voice behind the "you" and "she" in the poem. At once, the reader is the object of the "angel", that is, "men like you" (meaning the male reader). Earlier in the poem, the word "men" serves to address all males, then narrows the field with the use of the pronoun "you", which would be me or any male reader. And still earlier, the angel is described with typical romantic symbols (star, moon, cloud, etc.) as a distant coquettish bird, narrowing the distance between "men" and extending it with swoops and dives. In romantic terms, love is unattainable, but it can be experienced as temporal as we experience our short life. Thus, it is we who have "molded" this vision of the "wild", another term for temporary nature, cyclic in her seasons. And so the angel is death as much as life, as love begets new life by draining lovers of their life essence via marriage and having kids and such.

Tangled Hearts extends the love metaphor for death, only here in terms of plant-life. "Leaves" represent the transitory nature of romance. But Belladora ties the "vines" to her body, heart, skin, thus the fallen leaf symbolizes "love's fall" (here a play on the word 'fall' for failure and autumn, a season known for its beauty and relation to death) or the decay of the human form. Without the cyclic nature of romance, the female has no role to reproduce and becomes an individual, equal to man. Our narrator asserts her individuality by rejecting the "heartless leaves" of "man", and proclaims, "Then my tears won't nourish nothing/And your name won't live inside." No man, no child--leaving woman for woman's sake. A sentiment worthy of Mary Shelley, our female Romanticist who wrote Frankenstein. Nature couldn't make the perfect male for her, so she made her own. As much as the narrator wants her "freedom", so to speak, she still needs a man, her heart forever "tangled" to the temptations of companionship.  

Next we have our old friend, Michael H. Hanson. 

Portrait of Michael H. Hanson

Biography: Michael created, and co-wrote, the first three books in the Sha'Daa shared-world anthology series (Sha'Daa: Tales of The Apocalypse", "Sha'Daa: Last Call", and "Sha"Daa: Pawns). He also has two collections of poetry in print ("Autumn Blush" published by YaYe Books and "Jubilant Whispers" published by Diminuendo Press).

For more information on Mike, his poetry, his fiction, and his Sha'Daa series, visit:


Sea Of Me (rhyming version)
by Michael H. Hanson
You will not drown within this sea of me,
be not afraid of my tumultuous waves
that look so daunting from your vantage point
yet are the most gentle of wet enclaves.
My undercurrents are subtly sweetened
enticing even experienced swimmers
who sense I’m much more than a placid soul
betraying occasional amber glimmers.
My waters are dark, yet warm to your touch,
a bottomless bath of silvery moonlight,
a moist and welcome amniotic tub
granting a magic weightlessness each night.
Fear not crossing my splashing boundary,
you will not drown within this sea of me.

Mike's inspiration for this poem

Sea Of Me (free verse version)
by Michael H. Hanson
You will not drown within this sea of me,
be not afraid of my tumulous waves
that look so daunting from your vantage point
yet lose their bite in my gentle shallows.
My undercurrents are somewhat hidden
surprising the experienced swimmer
who wrongly assumes I’m a placid soul
unworthy of exploratory plunge.
My waters are dark, yet warm to your touch,
an endless bath that stretches to moonrise,
a wet and welcome amniotic crib
granting sweet and familiar weightlessness.
Fear not crossing my splashing boundary,
you will not drown within this sea of me.

Addendum: In true poet fashion, Mike has taken Sea of Me to the next level and has woven it into a Shakespearean sonnet, using the traditional rhyme scheme of the Bard. Here is Michael H. Hanson's 3rd Variant on the sonnet form:

Sea Of Me (3rd Variant)
by Michael H. Hanson

You will not drown within this sea of me,
Be not afraid of my tumultuous waves
That look as daunting as eternity
Yet are the most gentle of wet enclaves.
My undercurrents subtly console,
Enticing even experienced swimmers
Who sense I’m much more than a placid soul
Betraying occasional amber glimmers.
My waters are dark, yet warm to your rub,
A bottomless bath of silvern moonlight,
An ebullient and amniotic tub
Granting a jaunty weightlessness each night.

Fear not my daring splashing reverie,
You will not drown within this sea of me.

Michael is a poet. He loves words. He also loves art. It is here he finds much of his inspiration for writing poetry. I read the "free verse" version of Sea of Me on Mike's Facebook page, where he posts many wonderful poems accompanied by the paintings or photographs that inspired the words. But I noticed that the poem was a modern free form version of a sonnet, the Petrarchan poetry form that swept the world in the 1200s. When I mentioned this to Mike, he wrote a sonnet version of the same poem. Of this I shall discuss.

Let's get the meter and structure out of the way. Using a new form, Mike applies an DA0A0B0B0C0CDD structure, without predictable meter, not quite free form, but not quite iambic pentameter either, the meter common for the 14 lined, ten syllable per line sonnet. The rhyme scheme for Petrarch and thereafter Shakespeare was ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, each couplet of letters ending with the rhyming word. Note in Hanson's scheme rhymes with the grouping of first and third line endings, concluding with a heroic couplet. The 0s I placed in his rhyme scheme represent free verse or non-rhyming pairs. As such, Mike explores his "rhyming version", a modern approach to the form. He maintains the words of love, the carpe diem pleadings of the narrator that are common in the Italian and Shakespearean versions, but departs from structure to allow the emotion to shine. Although I'm sure the Bard could argue that it shines all the more when formally metered and lined.

Yet Mike invokes the imagery of the sea to strengthen the romantic leanings, putting at ease the nervous lover who shies away from her paramour, "You will not drown within this sea of me." The sonnet here in both forms works as seduction from a bygone age, the Renaissance or even the Romantic Period, playing on the double-entendres of the sea and drowning  for surrender and sexual abandon. It is an immodest metaphor for lust, with the charm of a rogue with a devious pen in hand. The Sea of Me is a timeless piece of poetry, which in the hands of Michael H. Hanson, gives modern poetry a competitive edge with the masters of the past.

Which brings us to Sabrina.

Biography. "I’ve been writing poetry and other bits for over twenty five years. Though, admittedly, the decade before this was latent (I won’t say inactive). As I return, I find that my voice remains constant. Specific topics may change and I may grow, but it’s really all about identity - finding it as a whole and in its bits and pieces; claiming it; understanding it brings us together as much as it separates us; embracing the paradox of it; and ultimately, taking it out into the world, without shame or restraint. That to me is the greatest rebellion - Owning yourself." (For more on Sabrina, check the link under her pic. Thx).



We talk to each other in shadows,
On the cusp of meaning,
Unable to be pinned down.

We think of the next thing,
Or the last thing,
Or two things.
Not looking,
Shouting across rooms,
I am louder than I ever mean to be but never as intelligible.
We hear nothing but the conversation in our own heads,
And the life we’re living there and not here.

We’re preoccupied but not occupied,
By children, work, chores.
It all seems to blend together,
Even when it shouldn’t.
With all this din,
We forget that we actually agree.

Our child spoke in pictures,
when words eluded him.
Now, with words more ready,
Language is still not sufficient.
The piano speaks better.

I listen to him play,
And nothing else,
And I remember us,
All of us.
I am amazed.

Love doesn’t vanish with words,
Or thoughts,
But it can be muted.
It speaks volumes
when I forget it all.
Sit with me quiet,
Not silent.
Let us be known.

Sabrina Fontaine Kaleta

I never know I’m gone,
Until I’m back.
Still, I don’t stay.

That chocolate cake won’t stay uneaten.
I will yell at my children,
Forget everything I ever read,
Until I remember.

Over and over again,
Enlightenment washes over me,
Evaporates like L.A. Rain -
Too soon.

Once you expect it to be easy,
It gets worse.
That book Oprah sold you will only help you buy another.
There is never one right answer.

I find an answer and am smiling like an advertisement.
Tomorrow, I might find another.
Or be out in the wilderness,
Breathless and numb.

In those moments,
I exhale.
Forgive myself.
And find the road back -
Quicker each time.

Sabrina Fontaine Kaleta

The Beat Generation worshipped the Romantics, especially Percy Bysshe Shelley and Wiliam Blake, the old and new schools for the nouveau Roman Movement of the early 1800s to its demise with the rise of the Victorian Era writers (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for one). Here the objective correlative weighs heaviest, T.S. Eliot argues; he says, "which posits a connection among the words of the text and events, states of mind, and experiences" (Wiki). In other words, the poem must act as an object, as a work of art, measurable, defined, and calculable. Although each reader may view the poem differently, the poem alone is the basis for each view. You may hear an echo from my axiom for measuring the critical value of poetry from my introduction; that is because Eliot is the father of modern criticism. But I have taken the axiom a step further and included a subjective correlative (my words) to his objective correlative (Eliot's words). The reader is a part of the poem, just as laughter from the listener is a part of the joke. Emily Dickinson said it best, "Split the Lark--and you'll find the Music--". What this means is that the music is not inside the bird, nor the meaning inside the poem, but both inside the listener and the bird itself, or the reader and the poem itself. The reader needs the poem to make it a poem, while the poem needs the reader to make it Art. (But isn't that a marvelous image: splitting open a Lark and looking for a song.)

To the poetry of Kaleta now.

Here are two examples of Beat Poetry. Speak echoes Howl by Allen Ginsburg and William S. Burrough's Language is a virus from outer space, instances where the spoken word belies communication: "Language is still not sufficient" the narrator cries. Here the objective correlative is the unspoken nature of the intent of the words, that which the words cannot capture, namely, the subjective correlative: Love. In Kaleta's words, "Love doesn’t vanish with words". And within the words neither does it appear. It is to be found in ourselves, in couples who love, not who speak of love. Our poet sums it up: "Sit with me quiet,/Not silent./Let us be known". Ironically, it is with words that she captures the needlessness of words, like a true Beatnik.

In Enlightenment, Sabrina plays on another Beat theme: the presence of nothingness and the nothingness present. It reminds me of the old song (I forget the name of the songwriter), I Know Where You Want to Go, But You Can't Get There from Here. Or Homer and Jethro's How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away? With Kaleta, she juxtaposes "gone" with "stay", "forget" with "remember", "L.A. Rain" (perhaps a bit too regional for out-of-towners, but I get it), and finally "breathless" with "exhale". These are oxymorons, you know, like "virgin mother", two opposites that create a new singularity. In typical Beat fashion, Sabrina travels through the nothinglessness that these oxymorons represent and each time gets closer to finding a presence there; she summarizes her journey thusly, "Forgive myself./And find the road back - /Quicker each time". For it is in the journey that we find home; home is an illusion that we aim for. Even Jack Kerouac "On the Road" understood that.

I really loved reading the works of Ms. Kaleta. There's a world-weariness about her poems that not only takes me back to the Beat '50s but forward to the Cyber Age of Poetry with the restrained enthusiasm of a critic who sometimes forgets he is a reader first above all.

Thanks you, poets, for sharing with our readers here at the Servante of Darkness Blog, and thank you, readers, for joining us today. I welcome poems for our next column. If you have two or more poems, the subject topics do not matter, send them to me at, and be sure to write "Poetry" in the subject line. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Purge (2013)
Starring Ethan Hawke (Assault on Precinct 13), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones).
Written and directed by James DelMonaco (Assault on Precinct 13, The Negotiator).
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

USA poster

European poster (note release date)

Summary: (Note this is the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis includes "an America wracked by crime and overcrowded prisons", which is never mentioned in the movie. Press kit, perhaps?).
If on one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences, what would you do? In The Purge, a speculative thriller that follows one family over the course of a single night, four people will be tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves when the vicious outside world breaks into their home. In an America wracked by crime and overcrowded prisons, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity-includingmurder-becomes legal. The police can't be called. Hospitals suspend help. It's one night when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. On this night plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become when a stranger comes knocking. When an intruder breaks into James Sandin's (Ethan Hawke) gated community during the yearly lockdown, he begins a sequence of events that threatens to tear a family apart. Now, it is up to James, his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their kids to make it through the night without turning into the monsters from whom they hide. Directed by James DeMonaco (writer of Assault on Precinct 13 and The Negotiator), The Purge is produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister), Platinum Dunes' partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form (The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), as well as S├ębastien Kurt Lemercier (Assault on Precinct 13).(c) Universal

Metonymy. I mention this word often in my reviews and articles. It means the small represents the whole. For instance, we know that the first time we saw The Simpsons, we noticed that Bart called his father Homer, not Dad or Pa, but by his first name. What can we gather from this without watching any more of the episode? Well, we know that the boy has little respect for the older man; we know that the father allows it, so it’s been going on a while. We know the boy is used to having his way; we know the father doesn’t care one way or the other if the boy has his way. Everything we surmise from this small use of the word “Homer” is called metonymy. The Purge is a fine example of the literary term.

Let’s see how.

What we hear and what we know but don’t see.
  • The Religious Left has taken over the USA. Possibly in the 2020 election, as the movie takes place in 2022. Every other word spoken on the television is “God” this and “God” that.
  • The homeless problem has not gone away even though the statistics boast a one-percent unemployment rate and a booming economy. If anything, the homeless probably stand out more. We can also note that the homeless man being chased by the “purgers” is wearing dog tags, so he must be ex-military. War has either ended or continues, but the veterans are still getting shafted by the government.
  • Poor people (and the homeless) are the targets of the purgers. The term “cleansing” is a synonym for the purge, thus implying that certain types of undesirables are being removed from society on the day of The Purge. With the removal of social programs, the poor would be more visible in an economically strong community (house in disrepair, unmowed lawns, etc), thus making them viable targets for a cleansing.
  • The majority of the USA is happy with The Purge. It works. The removal of these bad elements is placed in the hands of the people, out of the government’s social services. Crime stats are low because potential robbers, thieves, and other criminals who survive poverty by such means, are being eradicated once a year, like a Spring cleaning.
  • There is still a class system as Level 10 citizens are off-limits to the purgers. I guess levels one through nine are open season then. We never learn any more of this “level” system, but we know the Level 10 are no doubt responsible for the annual purging and its marketing, which we see a lot of on the TV.  

Onto the movie now.

The Sandin family consists of father James, mother Mary, daughter Zoey, son Charlie, a perfect nuclear group save for a shaggy dog. They are rich. Even the wealthy neighbors comment on how rich they are. James installs security systems, and he sells quite a few; why, he’s even getting a bonus for selling the most at his job. Though no one says it, he is a profiteer, a carpetbagger, per se, since he’s not a purge participant nor does he speak of “God” the way the others throughout the movie do. Everything is hunky-dory for the Sandins who plan to skip the Purge again this year by turtling themselves into their armored walls securing their home and catching the whole 12 hours of fun on TV; they also plan to catch a movie on video too (Disney, I bet).

Normal nuclear couple: James and Mary Sandin

A corrupt version of the nuclear couple

Then the seams of Sandin perfection start to show. Teenager Zoey has an older boyfriend whom she doesn't want her father to find out about; Charlie wonders why his parents don’t participate in the cleansing. Then there’s the matter of the homeless veteran that Charlie lets into the house after the Purge has started. The religious lefties outside want their homeless prey back, and they have the means to crack open that armored turtle shell. And the Straw Dogs massacre begins.

Yuppie college kids out for a purge

I must point out that I have left out a number of potential “spoilers” because they are so crucial to the plot turns that only seem cut and dried, but believe me, the metonymy of this movie foreshadows much of the twists and surprises. The Sandin household is a microcosm of the new Leftist macrocosm. This movie is not horror. It is suspense. But the metonymic overtures are all horror. Throughout the movie, on the TV, there are reports of gruesome killings (purges) all over the USA (Dallas, Texas is number one in kills, for instance--get it? It's a joke). Remember The Cabin in the Woods (2012) where we hear about all the killings all over the world via TV, but only witness the one cabin where our heroes are. Again, a microcosm of the macro. (As a matter of fact, CITW would be a great double-feature for The Purge!).

Cabin in the Woods as bureaucracy 

I really looked forward to this movie. Overall, it delivered the goods, and although I discuss metonymy and its importance, I wished director DeManaco had shown a bit more of the new government (see: Hunger Games). The Purge is more than a “horror” movie, as it is being marketed (all the trailers were for horror films); it is a political statement from the 99%ers. But with a twist, which I cannot reveal here. That would spoil all the fun of the ending. So, if you want gruesome deaths and vicious murders, this might not be your cup of tea, as they say, but you might enjoy it as a rental when it comes out. For those who like a bit of political savvy behind their horror flicks, this might work for you. Might not. It worked for me. I feel cleansed.

Afterthought: A third of the audience was so mesmerized by the ending that they remained behind even as the theater staff cleaned out the popcorn bags and soda cups. We gathered in the first three rows and actually discussed the movie. This went on until the next group of movie-goers shooed us away. I haven’t seen this happen at a movie in a long time. I first saw it happen at a midnight screening for the first showing of Eraserhead by David Lynch. Hope The Purge finds its audience. The showing I attended was about 3/4 full. The group that shooed us was bigger. Hope they aren't expecting a horror movie. There’s lots more there than just killings to appreciate.

Note: The Purge pulled in $14 million bucks on Friday alone, $30 million overall, and it's only Saturday. AFTER EARTH, you paying attention? 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

To Sleep Gently By Trent Zelazny

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

To purchase, click here

Book summary:
When career criminal Jack Dempster gets caught and put away for five years in prison, he finds time to seriously reconsider his chosen line of work. Before he can make any serious decision, some old acquaintances track him down with a proposal. They want him to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico. With the help of an inside man, he's to lead a small group of professionals on a daring robbery of the El Dorado Hotel, one of the finest and most secure establishments in the Southwest.

Double-crosses, love triangles, and immersion in his own self-destructive past conspire to lead him to ruin. It's not easy to sleep when searching for normalcy in the heart of a brutal past. 

Trent Zelazny

Author biography:
Trent Zelazny is the Nightmare Award-winning author of To Sleep Gently. He is also an international playwright, as well as the editor of the anthologies Mirages: Tales From Authors of the Macabre, and Dames, Booze, Guns & Gumshoes. He was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has lived in California, Oregon, Arizona, and Florida. He currently resides back in Santa Fe. He is the son of the late science fiction author Roger Zelazny. He has a son named Corwin.

Sit back, turn to page one of To Sleep Gently, and watch the world around you turn to black and white. The Crime Noir has begun, and the modern master of the genre has taken you back to the olden days of the Noir novel, where big time robberies, bad guys in nice suits, femme fatales in sexy dress, and a hero torn between going straight, a law-abiding Joe, or hitting it big with One-More-Heist. Welcome to Trent’s world. Pour yourself a bourbon on ice, light up a Camel filterless cigarette, and pull up an ashtray.

Our hero is Jack Dempster, fresh out of prison after five years. Sounds like he spent more time in the library than in the yard brawls, so he has GED on his mind, get back to school, go Ossie and Harriet, Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver all in one fell swoop. But his ex-prison mates have other ideas. There’s this hotel, see? Lots of cash. Ours for the taking. Now doesn’t that sound better than an education? Apparently it does as Jack takes the job.

Santa Fe Noir: Trentville

Trent brings the Noir form to the modern age in his beloved Santa Fe, New Mexico, casting shadows where writers such as David Goodis, Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark, and Lawrence Block, W.R. Burnett, Horace McCoy, Day Keene, and Cornell Woolrich have left their mark (sited from Trent's interview at: Roger Zelazny is to Science Fiction, Trent Zelazny is to Noir. Not only does he love the genre, he has re-invented it and made it his own. He’s gone way beyond classic Noir writers Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane and studied the work of the original Noir writers many of us fans have overlooked. He could teach a class in Noir if he chose to, and I'd be the first to sign up.

Trent's idol and muse: David Goodis

Note the Noir cover art.

And Trent’s studied his subjects well. He’s captured the look, the themes, and the characterizations common to early Noir and melds them with his own Noir novels. To Sleep Gently is his early attempt to recreate the tone and texture of the forties and fifties writings. He has since evolved his style in works such as “Shadowboxer, A Crack in Melancholy Time, Butterfly Potion, and his latest, Too Late to Call Texas. He is also the editor of the anthologies Mirages: Tales From Authors of the Macabre, and Dames, Booze, Guns & Gumshoes” (Amazon bio). [I am preparing a review on the latter as I write.]

To Sleep Gently has the feel of a classic 50s tale of darkness and desperation, with love that has to be earned with blood, sweat and bullets. A page turner worth the paper cuts.

Stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was a M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie. I'm sorry, I meant Shyamalan. Once the media darling for film critics and movie fans alike, Sham has had some ups and downs since his Oscar nominated hit, The Sixth Sense. During his ups, publicity followed his upcoming films with equal parts anticipation and dread. Could he pull off another Sixth Sense? Or could we expect another Lady in the Water? Although his movies have made money overall, what with the international market buying what he had to sell, the American market was cautious, even suspicious; many felt that the director was trying too hard to replicate the success of his ghost story by giving his films his trademark "twist ending", often at the expense of his waning fan base who tired of waiting for the next surprise finale that never came.

M. Night in the dark again

Now we have After Earth. In its first weekend in release, it has bombed. I was the only viewer in the showing I attended this afternoon. But I didn't let that influence me. The movie alone provided the reasons for its lack of an audience. The trailers tried their best to focus on the "monsters" of the film, but ultimately it is a one-man show, and that man, young Jaden Smith, cannot carry the movie.

The Ursa senses fear

A father and son (Will Smith as the Ranger General and Jaden Smith as the Cadet who flunks Ranger school) crash land on Earth, one thousand years after being chased off the planet by the "flora and fauna" and creatures, who have evolved to hate mankind, presumably for all the oil spills and global warming. Nature must really hold a grudge since man hasn't even been around for 1000 years! The General has both legs broken, conveniently turning the movie over to the Cadet who has the chance now to redeem himself by finding the tail section of their busted up spacecraft and sending the distress signal. Only he has to fight his way through all those man-hating creatures we mentioned earlier.

Which brings us to the special effects. They aren't special. Jaden would have look more convincing fighting the blue screen. There was a queer little episode with a giant condor that takes to the human who tried to protect the bird's young from predatory cats. What the bird does for the Cadet is the stuff worthy of a M. Night Shyamalan ending, but I guess Will Smith had another ending in mind, so the director just threw it in where it had little to no effect on the plot. Will wanted a big showdown between the Cadet and the Ursa, a creature that "sees" fear, but is blind to the fearless. The General is fearless. Will the Cadet be? I wonder.

Jaden and Will

But let's not feel sorry for Mr. Shyamalan; his films have surely passed one billion bucks worldwide. Just 'cause his films bomb here in the States doesn't mean the Euros don't take a shine to his self-professed brilliant films. So, let's consider what critics are calling a bomb. After Earth earned 27.5 million opening weekend. With that Euro money, I'm sure it's bound to make a profit, given the money or lack of spent on CGI.

So, how was the movie? Not as good as an episode of the old The Outer Limits show, but almost as good as an episode from the new The Outer Limits show. The monsters could have been better. You don't need CGI for that, just good imagination, which is sorely lacking here. All that techno-babble can't replace a good set of fangs on a space alien. Plus, we expect to see more Will Smith in a Will Smith movie, but he wanted to showcase his son Jaden here. Our loss, not his. Would I recommend it? No. Even if it makes 100 million next weekend, I'll stick to my guns. M. Night Shamalamadingdong has another Euro hit on his hands. The rest of us will just have to wait to see if his next film pans out. Get it? Pans.