Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fear the Walking Dead Midseason Finale:
Don't Fear the Pozole

by Anthony Servante

Still here. Then read on.

In Season One of Fear the Walking Dead, we witnessed the zombie apocalypse expedited with relative ease. A protest against police brutality erupts into a zombie feast, and we can't tell the difference between the brain-eaters and the unruly mob. Immediately the National Guard takes over the East Los Angeles area (played with great aplomb by City Terrace right next door to Cal State University Los Angeles) where the outbreak has been contained by the guardsmen who are themselves breaking ranks and splintering as the zombie masses begin to outgrow the armed soldiers. We also witness the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rushing to find a cure to stop the outbreak. But there is no hope, as any zombie apocalypse fan knows all too well, for those "characters" caught in the middle of it all. The first season ends with the survivors boarding a yacht and heading for safe harbor--destination unknown. 

But here is a good spot to meet our cast. The Clark family includes matriarch Madison, her live-in mate, Travis, and the angst-ridden Alicia and her brother, struggling junkie Nick (the best thing about the show); then there's the Salazar family: father Daniel (Ruben Blades, overqualified for this supporting role), mother Griselda, daughter Ofelia, Travis's ex Lisa and son Chris. Victor Strand owns the yacht and invites the surviving members of the families to join him on his journey. 

In Season Two, we continue to see how quickly the world has turned savage, and I'm not talking zombies here; I'm talking the humans. If we consider for a moment that society is breaking down, one usually waits a modicum amount of time for the authority and infrastructure to right itself up from its fallen position. We wait for the cops to tell us what to do; we wait for the politicians to tell us where to go for help. Even when the cops and politicians disappear, we still wait for them by listening to the radio, watching the TV, or searching the internet. And when those modes of communication fail us, we then seek leaders among our community, with people we know and trust. The Pastor, the retired firefighter, the Marine who served three tours of duty. Someone we "believe" we can count on to know how to handle this very scary situation. Even the nerdy kid who knows all about zombies from reading so many books and watching so many movies becomes a source of information to garner comfort about facing the predicament of staying alive. But in season two, we jumped from outbreak to acceptance without a bump in the road or a road map to show us what direction to go to survive the apocalypse. We're on a yacht and we're in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. So what's for dinner?

In The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes awoke from the hospital right in the middle of the apocalypse. We learned about the outbreak (past tense) as he learned about it from other survivors. In FTWD, we were supposed to see it unfold more slowly, but that wasn't the case. At least Rick's story began In Media Res; the Clarks and Salazars were there at the beginning, skipped the middle, and entered "Mad Max" turf without having to witness the devolution of society into anarchy. Has anyone written a zombie book where society doesn't fall apart because of a zombie outbreak? That would be an original story. So, anyway, FTWD speeds right into anarchy on the ocean, fighting pirates, making rash decisions about what to do with castaways rafting in the middle of the sea, and fending off zombies who cannot drown and pose the same threat at sea as on land. But let's get to the crux of the story by jumping ahead.

Our passengers on the yacht discover they are heading for Mexico, to a ranch that is a safe haven from the walking dead (we've heard that one before, right?). After a few more bumps in the road, we finally reach the ranch. A flashback shows us that Strand is Gay and his lover Thomas own the ranch. Now the Mexican myths and culture can direct the story from this point on. 

Number one, Mexicans believe that the Dead are as much alive as the living. We even celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Day) to remind us that our loved ones passed on are still with us. We even serve a plate for them at the dinner table on this day. The line between life and death is blurred and Nick who covers himself in the blood of the dead so he can walk among the zombies as if he were one of them seems to represent a life-in-death persona just as the zombies represent the death-alive personas. Thomas's mother Celia sees the zombies as biblical, real because they are "alive", not animated, but living people, loved ones, family and friends. She even keeps them locked in a room and feeds them various farm animals. Note also that Celia has no qualms about turning the living into zombies; she's doing them a favor by murdering them, for they are closer to God in their new incarnation of death. 

Number two, the family lines become blurred as well. When life is holy, the giver of life is holy; when death is holy as well, so, too, is the giver of death holy. The mother figure is both giver and taker of life, for life and death are now as one. Celia kills you to make you part of the family, to care for you, to worship you as a part of God's plan. Celia and Madison have opposing views on this "voodoo" belief as Daniel calls it. Madison believes that keeping you family alive is keeping them from death, not vice versa. Travis and his son Chris must face similar dilemmas when Chris cannot discern living from dead; the young man has a talent for killing zombies, but he is confused that by killing the living, they live again as zombies. He can take life from the dead and give life to the living by killing them. Needless to say, he poses a danger to his family and friends and exiles himself to work out this confusion on his own, but his father chooses to be with his son to help to guide him on this spiritual conundrum. 

Number three, Celia likes to poison her victims to help them reach that godly state of the undead. As a mother and cook, her food represents life sustenance and death. Pozole, a stew made up of vegetables and chucks of pork, is a comfort food among many Mexicans, Central and South Americans. Everyone loves Pozole. Chris eats the pozole without any fear of it being poisoned. However, the others, especially Daniel, refuse to eat it, knowing Celia's pennant for serving deadly treats (just ask the local church goers and the priest--oh, wait, you can't; they've all become zombies). Everyone staying on at the ranch trust in Celia's judgment and would eat the pozole no matter what; however, for the visitors who arrived with Strand, the pozole may or may not be their last meal. Chris, because he has that affinity with the dead, has no problem eating the stew. As far as he's concerned, the worst that could happen is that he'd be walking with the dead. Hell, he already does that. 

We break at the midseason of FTWD with the incarcerated dead being released, the Clark and Salazar families broken up as the survivors flee back to the yacht, and the ranch in flames. Whether Daniel and Celia are still alive is up to the writers during the break. The trip to Mexico was interesting, but contrived. The "voodoo" was stretched a bit too thin, but I enjoyed the whole conceit of the family as mimetic of Life with a capital L. Whenever family was involved, death was always at hand (note that Chris threatened to kill the son of the man who pretended not to speak English--unless he led Travis away from his hiding place). Fathers and sons, mothers and sons and daughters are always at risk in season two. But it's that bowl of pozole that will stay with me. It's tradition in my household to have pozole every Sunday after church; it's also a tradition for a woman seeking a husband to seduce a man with a good bowl of pozole. There's a saying in Spanish: The first step to the grave is the walk down the marriage aisle. How appropriate, then, that we end season two's midseason break by tossing aside that bowl of pozole and setting the zombies free. Can't wait for FTWD's return in August 2016. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Poetry Today: Trends & Traditions 
Elegies In Memoriam

Compiled and Formatted 
by Anthony Servante
May 2016

John Keats (1795-1821)

Elegies have come in many forms over the years. The kind words at the wake, the memorium at the funeral, the toast after the burial. And just as the first handful of dirt is tossed over the coffin, the words are carried off in the fleeting winds of time. But Elegy Poetry is forever. It is concretized with the ink of wisdom and love. Think of "Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats" by Percy Bysshe Shelley or "In Memoriam: A.H.H." by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and you remember the words as much as the person the verse memorializes. To continue this poetic tradition, I invited poets to elegize loved ones with a Elegy Poem. With us today, we have Michael H. Hanson praising singer/songwriter Prince, Anthony Crowley commemorating the Godfather of Glam Rock David Bowie, Lemmy Rushmore lamenting the passing of Rock Giant Lemmy Kilmister, Kim Acrylic honoring Doors legend Jim Morrison, Anthony Servante remembering the Cinema Icon Sal Mineo, and Bridget Wishart immortalizing both her father and her friend "Sunny" in word and song. We renew the inscriptions on the monuments of our memories with these elegies for our readers to share. 

We begin with the wordsmith Mr. Hanson.

Michael H. Hanson
For Prince (1958-2016)

The Abdication
by Michael H. Hanson
A flock of paisley angels sing while wearing raspberry berets, you were the revolution's king whose reign will now no longer blaze.
Heaven sheds tears of purple rain for nothing can compare to you, yes even when your name was slain it had to resurrect anew.
You must have known it was the time that chocolate flesh would not endure, that your love symbol could not rhyme in a harsh world that was not pure.
This is a sad indigo night, our grief is at a concert pitch, a curtain call of violet light, you're crossing the graffiti bridge.
Beneath an April cherry moon sign O’ the time in Eden’s clime the rainbow children welcome you and muses sigh as all doves cry.
 RIP Prince, 1958 - 2016

Anthony Crowley
For David Bowie (1947-2016)

Space Age Chameleon

A distant dreamer overseeing an earthly crowd
an eternal changing illuminating face
a planetary thinker refreshingly awakens
a golden space boy with reflective eyes from Mars
Shining with a fashionable smile
the composing of terrestrial music
voiced within the comfort of the stars

Unwrapped visual spectacles
In an age of a curious kind
Cupid's one-willed, arrowed explorer
Pierces humanity with a social accepting glow
Returning to Mars with an inventive suitcase in hand
once a living astral nomad
other worlds begin to cheer
a new age deliverance
from a space age hero
composing the words of life
the Duke's arrival of glitter from sand

Dancing from a new born sun
solar spectators with Icarus wings open wide
a new world tomorrow upon the black star ride

© Anthony Crowley 2016

Lemmy Rushmore
For Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015)

King of Kings

he was cooler than cool 
without needing to try 
truly one of a kind 
yet a regular guy

to the stage he would step 
always ready for war 
where he’d see that his fans 
would be rocked to the core

through the years he evolved 
yet he’d never conform 
such a legend he was 
yet so charming and warm

in that rough voice he had 
like he’d gargled with blades 
he’d claim manners were cheap 
and he had them in spades

such a chivalrous gent 
yet a metal machine 
with a look and a way 
unlike any we’ve seen

Rickenbacker in hand 
his strong will was imposed 
for the music he lived 
and great tunes he composed

he wrote lyrics that killed 
he brought crowds to their feet 
and held them by their throat 
until that final beat

he may not have fit in 
but he carved his own space 
it seems Lemmy’s the one 
none can ever replace…

Lemmy Rushmore
For Lemmy Kilmister

Kim Acrylic
For Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

"Jim Morrison On His Death Day."

Was it his demise or his blacked out birth?

Did it begin when buried or while on earth?

That he inspired the mad creators,

The drug riddled masturbators Wings made from claws,

His hands firmed into wild paws.

An intense genius master,

Mythical, rock ''N' roll disaster.

Always worshipped from a far,

Dead in a bath, raised in a bar.

A back door, dark clown man,

Such a delicate, ginger, fawn fan.

Voice of frozen ribbon and lace,

Fallen angel so far from his Grace.

No fear just a craving for a death,

Welcomed the unknown with each passing breath. 

Such magnetic perversion up on stage,

Backstage was always underage.

The legend came forth fast in mere years,

Indians dancing, stoned on imported beers.

So to the Lizard King we will forever say cheers!

Anthony Servante
For Sal Mineo (1939-1976)

(On February 12, 1976, Sal Mineo was coming home late one night to his apartment building in West Hollywood after rehearsals for "P.S. Your Cat is Dead"; he was stabbed to death by a robber who insisted he didn't even know who his victim was. Mineo was only a few yards away from reaching his apartment when he was attacked. His cries for help fell on deaf ears. Early on in his career, Mineo was in high demand for film roles after winning critical praise and Academy Award nominations in such movies as "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) and "Exodus" (1960). When Hollywood discovered he was Gay (homosexual, although he preferred the term "bisexual"), his career came to a stand-still, but he persevered through television roles in such programs as Combat!! and Columbo. P.S. Your Cat is Dead was the upturn for his career as Hollywood began to accept the Gay community behind and before the camera, but his untimely death ended his return to limelight. Sal Mineo has become an icon to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community (LGBT). His death served notice to the Hollywood community that the Gay community was no longer going to be silent about their perceived indifference to its members, for many believed that no one came to Mineo's aid because he was Gay. It has since been learned that Sal in all probability was the victim of a robbery. Still, the community continues to honor him.) 

An Ode to a Midnight Rainbow:

by Anthony Servante

When you burned like a fallen star
on the grass of the Griffith Park Observatory;

When you felt the hot breath of a million fans
reading your name on the movie marquees; 

When you fell from grace with one bite
from the apple of Hollywood's taboo tree;

When you hit bottom but cherished
the promise of gazing skyward once again;

When you rose like a Phoenix 
on the television screens across America;

When you found hope born anew
on the theater stage and tomorrow
and tomorrow;

When you were alone with Death
in the shadows of a Hollywood alley;

When you cried for help
and Life slowed to a prayer for a hero
in a town of cowards;
When a past of stardom didn't matter
and a future of hope closed its eyes;
When a nudge from Mr. Immortality was no comfort
as the first drop of blood was spilled;
When the last memory was forged
in the acceptance of the inescapable
and help arrived after the curtain fell--

We carried your heavy soul to Heaven 
brimming with your tears
falling from our eyes 
and we were one step closer
to your forever and forever.

Rest in Peace,
Sal Mineo. 

For her "Dad" and "Sunny"

B Wishart September 2015

I can see you smile in my mind
I can feel your hand over mine
And I miss you, oh I miss you
All the time

I hear your voice in my sleep
Tears fall but I can’t weep
Every day (every day every day….)
Every day is just the same

Walking through my dreams you live and breathe
Your presence gives me peace, leaves me weak
And I miss you oh I miss you
All the time              

Sail the seas of space and time
Build a bridge that’s yours and mine
Wear your wings and when you fly
Take your time, take your time
Say goodbye  

    A Song for Sunny 
  (lyrics below)

Call Your Name
B. Wishart Aug 1993

Look back and see
Your family
And their pain

They don’t know why
You took your life
They’ll never be with you again

Can you hear her call your name?
Can you hear her call your name?

You set your spirit free
To another destiny
You didn’t wait to see
What could’ve been

You’ve gone
And you’re so young
To be leaving us
To grieving
In a life
That seems
Too bare
Without you there


Thank you, readers, for visiting today and sharing the joy of sadness as only poetry can capture. And thank you, poets, for your words. Until next time, we look forward to your comments and thoughts. Feel free to say a few words for a loved one of your own.