Legally Haunted: Stambovsky v. Ackley

April 14, 2017


Our childhoods warp us all.

There are many things that I think I have made abundantly clear on this blog that I love on this blog. I am here today to talk about two of them. The first is the supernatural. I am a skeptic so I do not actually believe that much of the supernatural actually exists. Unexplained phenomena are just things waiting to be explained by science. However, I still love fantastic stories for the great fiction that they are. Ghost stories are particularly epic and can vary on a spectrum from touching to terrifying. Even the most benign stories used to chill me to the bone until it dawned on me that all of the stories were unproven. Still, it is still fun to suspend my disbelief and get a little scare now and again.


I mean, I learned more law from this guy than my folks.

The second thing that I have gotten into more recently is the law. I am currently very close to getting a paralegal certificate at the local community college. My parents are both lawyers and so I grew up just outside of the legal profession. You see, anyone in the legal profession really cannot talk about their cases too much due to confidentiality issue. Also, it is probably best not to talk about such things in front of children as a lot of cases are either boring or inappropriate for kids. Now, I am facing the same thing as I work on an internship. So, you will never see me tell stories on here about my work and that is probably for the best anyway. However, that does not count for famous cases that I was not involved in.


I mean how can you tell that it’s haunted. That’s profiling.

When Karen Ackley and her family moved into their house in the 1960s, they were warned by neighbors that the house was haunted. She was pretty sure, after her own observations, that there were three ghosts haunting the house. One was a Navy Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and the other two were Lord George and Lady Margaret who lived in the 18th Century. She brought in two of the usual charlatans (who I will not publicize) who confirmed her suspicions that the place was haunted. The hauntings mostly centered around experience Ackley’s daughter and grandkids had but there were one or two reports from Ackley herself and the man who would marry Ackley’s daughter. Ackley specifically wrote a piece for Reader’s Digest detailing, among other things, that the ghosts gave gifts to the children. These gifts disappeared later.


Who you gonna call? A lawyer!

Later, her family sought to sell the house and they did so to a Jeffrey Stambovsky. To his horror, he found out that the house he had just signed a contract to purchase was haunted by poltergeists. In any fictional world, he would hire some Ghostbusters to just clean the place out and have the Ackleys pay for it. In the real world. you apparently go to court. He filed for an act of rescission which is, in this case, a request for the courts to revoke or cancel an agreement. He wanted to back out of buying the house because he felt that the Ackleys owed him a duty to inform him of the poltergeists before he moved in. The argument was that the law should not compel performance of a contract that is not fair and open. By concealing the information about the ghosts, Ackley tainted the contract by not acting good faith. The dissenting opinion talked about the doctrine of ‘caveat emptor’ which is ‘let the buyer beware’. They insisted that Stambovsky should have done his research but the majority opinion granted the cancellation of the contract.


It was the biggest case of its kind since State v. Stantz, et al.

Nevermind that this whole ‘haunting’ was mostly made up of stories from children or adults who were breathing in paint fumes or were half awake. The New York courts had ruled that ‘haunted’ was an actual condition for real property to have. However, thankfully, at no point do they speak as if ghosts are a known thing that actually exists. The ruling is based on the bad reputation that calling a house haunted causes. Once you get past the Ghostbusters and Shakespeare quote in the opinion, the actual opinion is more about whether a seller should be able to get away with concealing information. The court held that taking advantage of a buyer’s ignorance is distasteful and should not be able to be hidden behind a doctrine like caveat emptor. It was a decision that helped promote fair dealing in the real estate market in New York. So now you know!

Media Update 4/13/2017

April 13, 2017


Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23

I had seen this on Netflix for a while but once again I needed a reference before I watched this. Kate Leth was talking on Twitter about how this show was actually pretty good. After enjoying Krysten Ritter on Breaking Bad, Big Eyes and Jessica Jones, I am pretty much solidly a fan. This show has the wild kinetic energy of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the crazy meta-ish humor of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The show is about a small town girl dealing with a psychotic city woman as her roommate after her life implodes. Krysten Ritter is the sarcastic psycho. She is fans with actor James Van der Beek who is still living off of Dawson’s Creek. The new roommate is played by Dreama Walker and she is great as a naive person slowly learning the ways of the world. How did this get canceled? The show is really funny and smart and, best of all, it is filled with surprise after surprise. I feel like it has been a while since I have watched a comedy show where I did not know what was coming next. It is only two seasons long because network television is fickle but I will probably watch them all at this rate. I definitely recommend it.


The Crazy Ones

There have been a couple shows and movies about advertising before because obviously examining the minds of people who make commercials is interesting. This was one of Robin Williams’ last projects and it is very worthy to be near the finish line of a fabulous career. Robin Williams plays a commercial creator who is clinically insane but he is reined in by his daughter and staff. His daughter is played by Sarah Michelle Gellar who is using the great comedy chops she built up on Buffy. Their bond as a father/daughter advertising team is the core of the show and a lot of the great moments from the show. They are joined by a copywriter who is too pretty and successful for his own good. Also, an artist who is perpetually put upon. Finally, there is their assistant who comes off as ditzy at first but secretly may be the smartest one of the group. This show made me laugh hard and loud as I tried to keep up with Williams. As a bonus, every episode ends with bloopers where we see the cast drive each other nuts.


How I Met Your Mother

I have heard a whole lot of conflicting reports about this sitcom mostly based on the ending which has been already spoiled for me. However, it has some awesome people in it and that is what I loved right off the bat. Jason Segel is good at playing a big doofy, loveable guy. Neil Patrick Harris plays a really fun smarmy jerkwad. Alyson Hannigan is always charming and lovably sarcastic in whatever she does. Cobie Smulders is a badass and funny woman. Josh Radnor is pretty much ok. Most of my enjoyment of the show comes from watching them busting each other’s chops. The premise of the show is ridiculous, of course. Most “how I met your mother” stories are maybe a minute long. At least in the first few episodes, the main romance plot is awkward and pathetic but it must get better, right? It also has a laugh track which is a definite negative. I do not need to be told when to laugh. I really did like what I saw so far (well mostly) so I will probably give it more of a chance. I actually don’t think I could recommend it, though.

Music of the Week:
Mandopony – Die Anywhere Else

The Avett Brothers – Ain’t No Man

Brass Construction – L-O-V-E-U

Kid Cudi – Day ‘N’ Nite

Suicide Silence – You Can’t Stop Me

Weekly Update:
– I started Season 6 of Blue Bloods
– I kept watching Lucha Underground
– I picked Wynonna Earp Season 1 up again
– I watched more Glitter Force
– I am so close to finishing Iron Fist
– I watched a little more Dice, Camera, Action
– This week’s theme is “Crazy Sitcoms”

The King

April 12, 2017

When Arano showed up to the meeting place far below the city, Carana could only sigh and pinch the bridge of her nose. He was just so impossible. He was impeccably dressed like he always was in a bright white cotton shirt with a scarlet vest, the color of the holly berries adorning the doors in the city above. Here Carana was in her most uninteresting dress with her hair wrapped up in rags to hide its color. She had gone incognito to a secret meeting and here was this show off basically advertising the meeting. Arano just stood there waiting for Carana to speak as if he was not already in trouble.

“You idiot,” She said. “I should gut you right here.” She yanked the rags off of her head, revealing hair almost as red as Arano’s vest.

A knife appeared in his hand seemingly from nowhere. “Just try it,” he replied. “They will never hear your screams this far underground.”

“Impressive,” Carana smirked and shrugged. “Your reputation precedes you and does not lie. They said that you were fast. Deadly too.” The man’s reputation was fearsome but unprovable. Of course, just because nobody could prove anything, that did not mean that it was all a lie. It just meant he might be the perfect man for the job.

“You have to be in my line of work,” Arano said, his eyes narrowing a bit. His body projected a feeling of ease and a carefree attitude but Carana could tell that he was a tightly wound spring, ready for action.

“At ease, I called you here in peace,” Carana said. She showed her palms to the man and smiled gently to show that she meant no harm. Of course, she had plenty of weapons in easy reach. She had what looked like fancy knitting needles hidden on her person. They were coated with belladonna and could take down even the strongest enemy with a single scratch. She breathed easy knowing that as fast as this fox was, she would still survive if it came to it.

“But not for peaceful purposes,” Arano said with a smile. “You do not call an assassin lightly. You call with a purse and a target and then you step aside.”

” I have a purse and a target but I will not step aside.”

“No?” Arano asked. “Little sparrow, I do not need your help.”

“I am no sparrow and we’ll see if you need my help or not when the talking is done,” Carana said. Her eyes went hard as she stared at the man, unflinching and unafraid.

“So what are you then?” Arano asked. He leaned against the wall. He was a little more relaxed but no less dangerous.

Carana let out a long, slow breath. “The city above has become a dark place. The kingdom around us has grown colder and less and less kind until the people suffer unbearably. People are tired of fighting for justice when justice should come naturally. We cry out for relief and none ever comes. When I was a little girl I may have been a sparrow but those days are a distant memory. The world has made me a wolf. A wolf looking for blood.”

“A wolf. I see it now,” Arano said softly. “You know that blood never really washes off, right? You cannot return to your simple life once the deed is done.”

“I have weighed everything before I contacted you. Don’t start worrying about my soul.”

“Fair enough,” Arano said. “I suppose it is not really my concern. My concerns remain the two items I mentioned earlier.”

Carana pulled a large coin purse from the small of her back and tossed it to the professional assassin. “I would never ask you to work for free.”

Arano caught the purse and a puzzled look spread over his face. He opened the purse and found it full to the brim. “This is far too much. I find that suspicious.”

“We took up a collection,” Carana said. “We wouldn’t want you having an excuse to say no.”

“One last cry for justice, hmm?”

“Yes,” Carana said. “One last stab at getting a fair deal for the people. Literally.”

Arano frowned. “Which means I am not going to love the answer to my other question, am I? Your words and this amount of money mean difficult work.”

“Are you complaining already?” Carana asked. She shrugged and walked toward him with her hand held out casually. The gesture was clear and loudly proclaimed ‘nevermind’.

Arano pulled the purse away and shoved it in a satchel at his hip. “Complaining? I would never. I will kill anyone at anytime. If enough money could be raised, I would kill God.”

“How about the King?”

“The… King?” Arano asked. “The people cry out for the blood of the King, hmm? The poor and destitute would give their last coin to see the King dead at their feet. You could have asked anyone to do this but you asked me.”

“And your answer is?” Carana asked. If the answer was no, there was no way she could ensure his silence without his death. She did not want to kill this man even if he was a killer himself.

“My answer? I’m flattered,” Arano said with a fox smile. “Flattered and excited. In the end, when blood gushes from his wounds and his eyes begin to close. When the end is rushing up to meet him. The King will learn to fear the wolves.”

John Waters: This Filthy World

April 12, 2017

I mentioned over a year ago that I spent a lot of my childhood living in a house not far from where John Waters lived (and probably still lives). I do not live there anymore so I do not mind saying that I lived in the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood and it was maybe a five-minute walk to where Waters lived. The whole time I lived in the neighborhood, I never saw him. The adults told us that was where he was. When we went trick or treating, his house always just had a bowl out front. We were always told he was a recluse and not to bother the guy which we always respected. Now I know that’s not entirely true. After seeing Crybaby and Hairspray (his more kid-friendly films) I was a fan and I did not want to get on his bad side. Later, when we were chased out of a large apartment complex’s garden, we were looking for a place to play. One of our parents asked John Waters and we ended up playing in his back yard for a long time. It is still a fond memory.

John Waters was the king of stories about outsider culture. He talked about the cool or terrifying thing happening just beyond the borders of the establishment. That track record has influenced me for a long time in my life. Especially lately, I have been pushing the borders of what I know and exploring culture new to me. While Nikki Minaj may not have been new when I discovered her, her work was new to me and I was glad I found it. That spirit has also guided me to push against boundaries. John Waters created truly nasty (yet funny) films and was unafraid to get dirty, gory or to draw outside of the lines. It makes me less afraid to check out stuff that I might have been nervous about revealing I watched. I listen to pop music, I watch all ages cartoons and I enjoy some traditionally “girly” entertainment partly because of Waters’ displays. He also contributed to the dark and campy parts of my sense of humor.

This movie is John Waters’ one-man show from a few years ago, a show he toured but this performance was in New York City instead of Baltimore. While I would have loved if the footage on Netflix was in Baltimore, it actually worked out better. A large part of his show is him explaining why he loves my hometown of Baltimore and I could not agree enough with him. He talks a lot about the charm that Charm City has even though we are some of the craziest people. He talks about trying to be a rebel in Lutherville, the age old problems of trying to rebel against the suburban machine. I also found it funny that he pushed literacy since he’s from The City That Reads. Like Waters, I love Baltimore for all of its weird quirks and interesting people. His joy at talking about the city is the way I felt when I returned from New Jersey to the land of my birth and how I feel about the 410 every day that I wake up.

The majority of the rest of the show is about John Waters’ career which I have followed ever since I discovered him in the nineties. Of course, that is not remotely when he started. John Waters and his friends got started in film as crazy independent filmmakers. They made movies expressly made to screw with people. They were shown at midnight. Inspired by filmmakers like William Castle and Kroger Babb, he wanted to viscerally affect the audience. That is why Pink Flamingos ends with a drag queen literally eating crap and also why Eat Your Makeup has the same drag queen playing Jackie Kennedy during the infamous assassination. He hired an elemental drag queen named Divine and a band of misfits and they shocked the world. That attitude filtered into his later career as he brought so-called ‘real’ actors into the fold and made them into misfits too. Stars like Johnny Depp, Melanie Griffith, Edward Furlong and Kathleen Turner got to show different sides of themselves.

Overall, I loved this movie. While John Waters is not exactly a stand-up comedian, that was pretty much where his delivery was. He has a lot of fun standing on stage to tell some great stories and deliver funny one liners. He moves at a fast clip so you barely have time to recover before the next laugh, outrageous statement or gross out moment comes. There is nobody on Earth quite like John Waters and it is clear that he knows it. He is delighted by each reaction he gets even if it is revulsion, maybe especially if it is revulsion. He plows ahead at full steam and the crowd loves it. I am so proud that I come from the same city as this man.

Ion Flow

April 10, 2017

I woke to the sound of the base alarms going off. The sound made my eyeballs jiggle in their sockets and made the rest of my body feel like jello. I scrambled to get out of my bunk and stood for a moment in my boxers trying to get my bearings. There was a chill in the air which meant that something was wrong. I reached out to turn the lights on and they flickered for a moment and then the fixture exploded with a loud pop. I flinched. I realized that there must be some sort of electrical problem. There were never electrical problems at Base Victor. It was close to a solar panel array and had state of the art energy storage.

I reached for the disk on my bedside table without having to look. It was nearly a year since I had started as a researcher at Base Victor, a forward research station on the moon over Arcturis. All of the little things had become easy through the routine. I slapped the disk against my chest and I closed my eyes as cloth spread over my body. The bodysuit would keep me warm with the malfunctioning climate systems. I immediately felt more prepared for the emergency. The cloth over my feet hardened into boots. I grabbed my jacket and walked out into the hallway and tried to get the jacket on as I ran toward somebody who could tell me what was happening.

Like its name might suggest, Base Victor was a lonely place. The highest number of staff members I had seen in the base was fifteen and that had been maybe one week before many of them were transferred. The base currently only had five staff members. It was divided up into different laboratories and offices that researchers took over and practically lived in. My office was set up with shelves and shelves of recently discovered books. We had already deciphered the alien language a few years ago and now I was trying to piece together the history of their civilization. I was starting by trying to sort books into fiction and non-fiction.

I stormed down the hallway toward the Command Action Center. It was the one common area beside the kitchens and it was supposed to be the nerve center of bases like this. Most days it was neglected but now I could guess that it had four people in it. Make that three, Holly turned the corner ahead of me and looked at me with an exasperated look in her eyes. She stomped toward me and I slowed my pace to a stop as she approached. In the flickering emergency lighting, her pink hair practically glowed.

“Where have you been?” She shouted.

“The alarms woke me up,” I shouted back. The alarm shut off so my next words still sounded loud even though I kept myself from shouting them. “I was up late reading a book of poetry.”

“We have an emergency,” Holly said as if they had been waiting for me.

“Can it be solved by reading more poetry?” I asked and I believe that Holly nearly slapped me. Her eyes narrowed and I shrugged. “What? I know nothing about engineering or science like you and Arif.”

“It’s some weird sort of ion storm. It is messing with most of our systems as you can see,” She said, releasing her anger visibly.

“Will we survive?” I asked. I was a little shaken knowing that our two scientists were not exactly sure what was happening yet.

“I think it will pass. Arif seems to agree,” She replied, leaning against the wall for the moment. She looked tired. It looked like she might have been up for hours already or maybe she had not gotten to sleep yet at all. There was always a danger of that out here, free from the conventions of the time cycles of normal society.

“Should we go back and check it out some more?” I asked.

“Only if you promise to lean against the wall and not touch anything. Can you promise that?” Holly asked. She had a smirk on her face that felt insulting. Well, sort of insulting. She was not in the wrong.

“I promise,” I said. “I’m curious what’s going on.”

“Come on then, poet,” Holly said. “Follow me.”

We walked back the way she had come to reach the Command Action Center. Arif was lounging in front of a console, not really working on the problem. He looked like he was deep in thought. He snapped to attention when Holly and I entered the room. I dutifully leaned against the wall with my hands behind my back. I may have smirked when I did it.

“There’s a strange build-up of ionic charge,” Arif said. He looked at me. “Before you ask, it’s strange because there’s little to no atmosphere out there. It’s almost like a lightning storm. It shouldn’t exist.”

“Maybe it just wants to exist,” I offered. I got looks for that comment.

“Holy shit, we’ve got incoming!” Holly yelled, rushing up to a console. Before I could ask what that meant, the base was raked with what looked like lightning. It was both terrifying and awe-inspiring and I pressed myself closer to the wall as if that would save me. Holly and Arif scrambled around trying to monitor the situation. I saw the emergency teleporter start to glow in the corner and even I knew it should not do that. Before I could alert them, it exploded.

We all hit the deck, our training kicking in. Thankfully nothing was breached and there was no explosive decompression. Instead, there was a glowing figure standing where the teleporter had been. As the glow faded away, I stood atop the rubble looking confused. Against the wall, I was confused too.

Heavy Metal

April 10, 2017


Metallica – Blackened

The very first album I owned was a tape of Metallica’s And Justice for All. It was mine but only because my parents bought it for me. I did not really know much about Metallica, but I wanted to get something different from what my parents were listening to. It is not that I disliked The Rolling Stones or Lynyrd Skynyrd but I wanted to find my own thing too. When my dad let me put the tape in his car as he drove, I felt like my voice was being listened to. The music blew my tiny mind. I had never really experienced the loud, raucousness of heavy metal music. The guitar work was amazing and energetic and I felt like James Hetfield was yelling right into my brain. I felt like we were driving two hundred miles per hour and I loved it.


Black Sabbath – War Pigs

Black Sabbath are often known as one of the progenitors of heavy metal as a genre and in particular, they helped start the doom metal subgenre. Like Metallica, their music and vocals reverberated inside of me. I sang along to Ozzy or Dio as I tried to study and later as I drove my crappy first car in high school. I loved the epicness of each song. One of the first albums I bought with my allowance was the Ozzman Cometh: Greatest Hits. It was actually a UK import that came with some additional tracks including the awesome Faeries Wear Boots. As an angsty teen, I really got behind the darkness in Black Sabbath’s tone and lyrics. It was so unlike everything we had to listen to in school and what my parents listened to.


Flyleaf – Cassie

I would be remiss if I did not talk about the women of heavy metal. The first female metal band that I discovered was Kittie and I was instantly enamored by Fallon Bowman’s classic heavy metal death growl mixed with more melodic singing. At some point, somebody clued me into other bands and I discovered Flyleaf. I figured that them being a Christian band was roughly equivalent to all the bands I listened to that talked a lot about Hell so I put that aside. I now seek out female vocalists in heavy metal and hard rock (I have two Pandora stations for this) as I love the mix of a strong female voice with heavy metal instrumentals. Lately, I have found more modern outfits like The Agonist, Battle of Mice and The Birthday Massacre all of which let their genres bleed a bit.


Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast

As I got older, I not only sought out new stuff but I looked for stuff from the past that had not been played on the radio. I became a big fan of Iron Maiden and some other great bands from overseas. I had already been a fan of bands like The Scorpions and Pantera but I was deep into discovering stuff new to me. I really got into Rammstein when they briefly poked their heads into the American mainstream. I discovered Dio’s post-Black Sabbath band Heaven and Hell which quickly became a favorite (along with his solo work, of course). Thanks to Chris Jericho and the video game Brutal Legend, I found even more new and old heavy metal bands to listen to. I discovered all sorts of different flavors of heavy metal and I am still discovering new stuff.


LADYBABY – Nippon Manju

Of course, as music continues, genres keep bleeding into each other. Artists seek out new takes on older musical styles and try to produce new stuff. It was one day on Facebook of all places where somebody posted a band called Babymetal. Their intention was to mock and surprise us about what the music industry has come to. I was actually inspired. I had already been sort of a fan of vocaloid and Japanese pop music since the early 2000s but the two genres had a baby called “kawaii metal” which also includes Ladybaby and Dazzle Vision among others. Around this same time, I also got into the combination of heavy metal and comedy, mostly through the band Steel Panther. A lot of heavy metal bands go on about satan or dark powers in their lyrics to evoke the forbidden for the sake of rebelliousness (and probably to scare parents). Steel Panther does much the same with rampant misogyny. It is a parody of the oversexualized lyrics of bands like AC/DC or Van Halen. I have to say that if these lyrics were not done as parody then I would be boycotting them no matter how good their instrumentals are. They are not for the lighthearted but they can be pretty funny.


Steel Panther – Death To All But Metal (Explicit)

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

April 8, 2017

I guess I have the same interesting relationship a lot of people have with firearms. I am a strong proponent of gun control because I believe that guns have never really done anything good. They can only accomplish something less bad because, with a gun,  somebody is eventually getting shot. People getting shot is kind of a bad outcome. I would like to live in a world where fewer people get shot or even none if we can swing it. But I understand that in fiction, guns are cool. All of the cool action heroes use guns at some point or another because the bad guys give them no choice. Of course, in the world of fiction, they rarely have ricochets or bullets missing their target and hitting an innocent person. I love westerns, action movies, and anime with guns. On another part of this blog, you can even read my ongoing series Redcross which features a fictional Arizona sheriff who wields her father’s gun.

I grew up in the city and went to a private school so most guns I saw were in fiction or were talked about on the news. My first actual experience with guns was when I went off to Camp Shohola up in Greeley, Pennsylvania. I regularly signed up for riflery class for several years while I was in camp. It was technically a sport but it was definitely for kids who did not actually want to do sports. We would fire rifles at a range from our bellies and shoot paper targets. Having that much force in my hands and breathing in all of that gun smoke was kind of exciting. My next experience with guns was when my uncle brought me to a SWAT team gun range and let me fire a SWAT service rifle which fired three bullets for each squeeze of the trigger. Other than paintball, my only other experience with guns was going to a gun range down in Florida where I fired actual guns. It was actually kind of scary.

The gunfight that actually happened at the OK Corral is one of the most famous that ever happened. So many movies have been made about the incident, so why did I pick this one? Well, it started with a G but more importantly, it was on my list of 1001 Movies To See Before You Die list that I have been consulting for ideas of what to watch. This is a classic and I felt it was important to see how this was done in the period when most of my favorite westerns were made. The actual famous gunfight only took 30 seconds from start to finish and three men lay dead at the end of it. The key figures involved were outlaw Doc Holliday and lawman Wyatt Earp. This happened in the infamous Tombstone, Arizona. Of course, I have visited Tombstone and Old Tuscon (a theme park and movie studio) where much of the film was shot. This film covers the two years before the famous gunfight.

Wyatt Earp is played by Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster. At this point in his life, he has been a lawman for twenty-five years. He is a little tired but he is a man who believes in justice and defending the people of the frontier. He always speaks in an even tone and his gaze is hard and serious. Doc Holliday is played by legendary action star Kirk Douglas. He is an old and sick but still debonair criminal who has pissed off seemingly every other criminal in the old west. He oozes charm and is getting tired of being a trouble magnet and having to protect himself from both the law and the other criminals. The two of them strike up an unlikely partnership out of necessity. Along the way, we also meet characters played by DeForest Kelley, Dennis Hopper and a whole host of western character actors. Everybody does a great job in a melodramatic sort of way and really brings the characters to life.

Overall, I really liked this movie. Since it takes period over a year in various towns in the west, it gets time to breathe. We get to know the characters and we get to see the development of the begrudging partnership and unlikely friendship between two men who should hate each other. The score is very middle of the road classical music (nothing like later Morricone stuff) but it suits the movie just fine. There is also some narration through song that actually works. The camera work is mostly nothing fancy but some of the shots are really masterful which makes the little touches all the more important. Some of the romance subplot feels unnecessary but it makes for some calmer story beats to rest the characters.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

April 7, 2017

I have always loved a good story. When I was little, there are two sets of stories that I remember best. The first was reading from a Disney storybook with my mom and once I knew how to read, I read for my brothers with my mom’s supervision. Undoubtedly, that is when and where I became a Disney nerd. The other stories were the ones my uncle made up when I was staying with him and my cousin. That was probably one of the many events that incited my passion for writing. When I was a little older, I discovered Roald Dahl. By the end of third grade, I had read every single Roald Dahl book. This had a bit of a different effect on me.

Roald Dahl sold books on the Brothers Grimm model of storytelling. He was not afraid to go dark because his childhood was dark. Just go and read his autobiographies and that is clear. He lived through World War I era England but that is not all. He also pretty much encountered all of the nasty characters from his books and short stories suffering through the British school system. His childhood was brutish and a struggle but he made it through to write about it happening to other people. The mix of that darkness and adventure made me less afraid of the lesser obstacles in my childhood. It also allowed me to embrace that darkness and contributed to me loving Halloween as much as I do.

I have said it before and I am sure many people would agree that Wes Anderson movies are strange. I think Wes Anderson delights in being weird and that is kind of one of the points of this movie. The animation is kind of difficult to adjust to. Anderson purposely had it filmed at a lower frame rate in order to clearly point out that it is stop-motion animation. It makes some of the movements a little jerky. He also used real fur for the animal puppets which makes the fur sort of squirms around especially on the faces. But, much like Team America: World Police, the characters inhabit those awkward puppets through the magic of both puppetry and animation. It helps that Anderson has always known how to frame his storytelling. Every shot is beautiful.

The story is kind of in two parts that are blended together really well. The original story was about a fox trying to feed his family but the farmers he steals from try to hunt him down. They go to outrageous lengths to try to kill the fox and his family and the community suffers. The foxes eventually outsmart the farmers and learn to survive. It was a tale about a father (who Dahl identified with) trying to protect his family and getting through the hard times as a result. That story is still there in this movie. In addition, there is another half of the story which is very Wes Anderson. It is about a dysfunctional family and community and learning to live not only with other people but yourself too. It is delightfully weird and quirky. It is helped along by brilliant voice acting from a lot of great people but especially George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman and Eric Anderson.

Overall, this was a really great movie. I was not sure how it would be considering some Roald Dahl adaptations are not very good. This one ended up more like Matilda and Willy Wonka than James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I really should not have doubted it as Wes Anderson is a great artist and he had a good backbone of a story to work with in the first place. Also, the animation was done by Henry Selick who directed Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas which are two of my favorite animated films of all time. I definitely recommend this. It takes a bit of effort to get past the weirdness but what lies beyond is both touching and funny.

Media Update 4/6/17 – 500th Post!

April 6, 2017


Moana

I look forward to every Disney animation release with great excitement. I try to see them in theaters but I have had to rein in my budget a lot recently. I have been a fan of the Rock since 1996 so I had a lot of excitement when I found out that Dwayne Johnson would be in a Disney film. When I found out that the movie covered his native Polynesian culture, I was over the moon. Island culture is so cool and I have learned bits of it from interviews with Johnson and other sources. The movie is directed by the team of Ron Clements and John Musker who directed The Little Mermaid, Alladin, Hercules and other great traditionally animated Disney films. This was their first CGI animated film and they knocked it out of the park. The music was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda (before he became a mainstream sensation) and a musician named Opetaia Foa’i. They worked so well together that every song either made me smile or pulled directly at my heartstrings. Dwayne Johnson was hilarious as the headstrong demigod who lost his way. Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho was almost instantly my new favorite Disney protagonist. She was caught between family, tradition, and doing what is right. I just found myself smiling non-stop except when the movie was making me cry. As a side note, some people have criticized The Rock’s singing and I can only tell them they are crazy. He had more heart and charm in his voice than some of the most technically proficient singers I have heard. I wholeheartedly recommend this.


Manchester by the Sea

I had heard that Casey Affleck got an Academy Award for this one but the premise kind of warned me away. I do not usually watch a lot of sad movies because they pull on me and I have suffered from depression in the past. However, my mom got the DVD and I was not watching alone. The movie has a central linear story with dramatic flashbacks to an earlier time. This is important because refreshingly they do not put in any subtitles explaining what is happening. The movie is unrelenting and devastating and both my mom and I felt like we had been on a roller coaster afterward. The movie is about how we react to life when the bad things happen and our plans are derailed. I can see why people praised Casey Affleck’s performance as he had to basically play two different characters. His character resonated with me as I could see myself in the depths of numb depression in his performance. Nobody is a shining example of humanity in this movie but that is life. The characters struggle to make healthy decisions while their world threatens to completely crumble around them. I cannot begin to describe it but the movie was strangely comforting. I definitely recommend it but brace yourself.


The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

I have spoken before how weird and offbeat Wes Anderson’s films are. He goes to great lengths to showing people acting weird in extraordinary circumstances. He has a list of actors he almost always uses and expands from there and they all know his style. This one is about a sea exploration documentary crew that knows next to nothing about marine biology or really anything. The movie stars Bill Murray but he is not really the protagonist. Much like A Christmas Carol’s Scrooge, Steve Zissou is actually the antagonist for most of the movie. The real protagonists are Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, and Zissou’s long-suffering crew. Along the way, we meet Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Angelica Huston and Willem Dafoe doing what they do best (which is stealing scenes). Like most of Anderson’s movies, this is a character driven piece full of quirky, flawed, and interesting people. However, unlike his other movies, this one did not have as much of a driving story at least not until the second half. It was entertaining but not as much as movies like Rushmore or The Grand Budapest Hotel which had more of a forward thrust and less aimless wandering. I would recommend it to fans of Wes Anderson and weird, emotional movies.

Music of the Week:
Hot Chip – Ready For The Floor

Nickelback – Animals

The Dead South – In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company

Ariana Grande – Everyday ft. Future

Unsun – Lost Innocence

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “The Sea”
– I am watching Blue Bloods Season 5
– I am almost done with Iron Fist now
– I have two remaining episodes of Haven
– I watched more Lucha Underground
– I watched a little more Glitter Force
– I watched more Dice, Camera, Action
– This is officially my 500th post!

Electrical Malfunction

April 5, 2017

Once again, I woke up before my alarm could go off. This time it was an hour before my alarm was set for seven in the morning. I tried to close my eyes again but sleep did not come. My eyes were tired and my brain was fuzzy. I had plenty of work to get done so I guessed that I might as well get to it instead of wasting any more time in bed. It was at that moment that I figured out that my eyes were not the only part of me that were tired. My limbs were heavy and refused to work at first. Great, my implants were on the fritz again. I hate mornings.

I struggled to reach for the diagnostic panel in the headboard but it was slow going. I was born with a physical defect that made it hard to gather enough energy to get through the day. Physical movement was a chore as a kid mostly because eating and breathing became difficult. My folks paid for the implants to fix the problem and pretty soon I was running and playing with the other kids with no problem. The implants were first generation so I never got to the level of an Olympic runner. (The implants were banned from the games on the day I got them anyway). They also were not stable twenty years later. It was not fatal but it was annoying.

I pressed the button on the headboard and a blue light came on on my wrist as the devices wirelessly connected. I groaned and turned my head to look at the screen as the thing fired up. First generation technology was so slow. When the display finally came to life, it showed that the implants were only running at half power. I pressed the button to reboot the system and felt the implants shut off. My limbs became like lead and my breathing slowed. It felt like I had some sort of double pneumonia that made it nearly impossible to move. If the implants failed to reboot, a message would be sent for assistance.

I hoped they would reboot, I did not have the money for a medtech technician to come out. Besides, the things were so old now that most technicians had to look up a manual before they could do much work on it. I realized that this might take a while if I was unlucky. I should have signaled the office of the possibility of me getting in late. For once, it was a good thing I woke up extra early. I had two cases open to investigate and I had to get downtown to do it.

A while back the police force had become too overburdened after it was pretty much gutted to get rid of all the corruption. As they rebuilt the system, they restructured new investigative units who were made up of unarmed civilians. I had gotten in on the new unit when it was getting started and I enjoyed the work. Most of the work was done digitally but there were also new drones used for gathering witness statements and doing forensic work. It was a brave new world and I did not want to risk losing the job by being late.

The screen above my head let out a pinging noise and I was suddenly able to breathe deeply. I used that to breathe out a sigh of relief. I sat up slowly as the extra oxygen made me light-headed for a moment. I tested out my arms and they moved fine. My legs kept steady under me as I stood up. The screen showed a hundred percent efficiency so it was time to relax for a minute in the shower before I got dressed. I made a mental note to get the tech looked at the next time I got a little time off to see one. I had a feeling it was going to be another one of those days.


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