Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Doing Cartwheels On Doomsday Afternoon by John Yamrus, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Doing Cartwheels On Doomsday Afternoon

John Yamrus

Epic Rites Press

Sherwood Park, Alberta, CA

117 pgs




popular opinion


has ruined

the world.

it has

too many


can do


John Yamrus is a gas. What I mean by that is as a book reviewer, you really come across a collection of poetry that just gives you a hoedown of the mind. Mister Yamrus poems are insightful in a self-explorative way, and I really enjoy them. I don’t know what his distribution deals are, and I don’t know whether his poetry will gravitate towards all of those readers who write and love poetry. I do know that they gravitate quite well with my psyche, and that is why I am highly recommending Doing Cartwheels on Doomsday Afternoon. The book itself has a nice layout; the paper quality is strong; and the words are filled with fire. I love the poems in this book; the collection moves with its own flow and descends into the mind of the reader. So dig it kiddies; get a hold of Epic Rites press, have your local bookstore carry the books, and purchase a copy for yourself while you’re at it. This is hands down a fine collection of poetry and I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lucid Membrane by Tantra Bensko, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Lucid Membrane

Tantra Bensko

Night Publishing

180 pgs

$30.00 full color, $10.00 B&W

ISBN: 978-14662-100-7-3

The rest of the story shall go unexplained, but the steps were the first token of my affection for the birds, and we shall end there. They became being.

Tantra Bensko’s Lucid Membrane is a collection of stories poised in sincere vision. This book will follow you, haunt you, possess you, and grasp you with its equality. The prose within these pages seduces and lingers; it’s like reading a non-existent cubist painting , a renditio so to speak, of a world that hangs between worlds. I have long been a fan of Bensko’s work; I love her narrative flow, her command and construction of the non-linear language. I receive books from her on a regular basis and have witnessed firsthand, her development and growth as a writer, and I have not been able to put down her work yet. I highly recommend Lucid Membrane. Tantra Bensko is a writer of the first order, and simply put, her words need to be read.

To hear interview with Tantra click HERE.

from "PhotoluminAssence"

"And I had been saving up since I was a kid for my destiny, since I knew I had one, just didn’t know what it was. I kept my money behind my mirror, so whenever I opened the mirror box, I would see myself, tell myself, yep, dude, this is it. You’re the one. It’s happening, you just don’t know how. And the stash was huge, but not huge enough. I had to start giving tats to people in secret before I could make enough to patent it. No one could know before I did.

So it had to be only the unpopular geeks, or they’d have girlfriends who would find out. I mean, no way were those guys going to get lucky any time soon. At least not until they had the tats. Then they might get notorious enough that they’d get some girl, maybe even a hottie, who knows. Luckily, it didn’t show up in the daytime, or it would be obvious during gym. And it had to be someplace that wouldn’t hurt too bad, someplace they’d like to show off when they could. They all got into the idea of a special tat on their butt. They could moon people with it. That’s the kind of thing that made Guyerson laugh so’s he’d spit around the edges of his mouth, kind of squeaked. Reminded me of the hamster. But way stretched out."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life by Anthony Reynolds, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life

Anthony Reynolds

Omnibus Press

London, UK

321 pgs


ISBN: 978-1-84938-138-3

Leonard Norman Cohen was born at a quarter to seven in the morning to Nathan and Masha in Montreal on the Friday of September 21, 1934.

Let it be known right here and now, that Leonard Cohen is a legend; a poet, novelist, essayist, songwriter, musician. He is the original Renaissance man of the mid twentieth century as far as music and poetry go. Cohen is a true master and his story is nothing short of breathtaking, humble, and brimming with inspiration.

Now, I don’t know is available yet in the US, but if you can locate a copy on the internet, I strong urge you to do so. This is the second biography of Cohen I have reviewed in the past year, and in my opinion, this is the better of the two. Now, I don’t know when you were born, but I was raised in a time when Leonard Cohen was at first primarily known as a novelist: with his outrageously original Beautiful Losers; this book, I may add, holds up as a contemporary classic of 20th century literature.

A few years later, I discover Leonard Cohen the lyricist through a couple of his songs sung by Judy Collins. A year after that, I discovered Leonard Cohen’s first solo album, and a year after that, I discover Leonard Cohen the poet. Needless to say, this man is a chameleon of sincere talent who blows my mind with every challenge he succeeds. So if you’re a Leonard Cohen fan, this book is a must buy. Just go out and get it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE, movie review by Travis Hedge Coke

Inland Empire, written and directed by David Lynch, is a showcase for the awesome, fragmentary genius of Laura Dern's acting, the history and impact of our shared experience as lifelong audience to film and television, and the closest to Lynch's short films as any of his features have every gone. Inland Empire is, in part, about a woman trapped in a movie, in a radio play, in a fairytale, in a fear, in a narrative, and I think I know how they do it: every time I see the movie there's scenes missing, different scenes appear that were not there the last time. Every successive experience with Inland Empire is different. How else?

Lynch has admitted to going into the project that became the movie, Inland Empire, without a cohesive narrative, script, or intending to communicate anything specific to the audience. He wrote passages on the fly, shot scenes as a set or an idea presented itself, as actors were available, and would interpret scenes or narrative/emotional strands with the help of the Bible. Lynch would read passages from the Bible and apply them to aspects of the movie. And, too, the DVD version of Inland Empire presents us with another movie, More Things That Happened, which illuminates and complexifies for us, Inland Empire and the Bible.

The more you experience Inland Empire, the more that one can compare it to or study it via, the easier it is to believe that more of the film is understood. But to experience it, to feel it, one need only sit in front of a screen as it plays. Lynch has said before that he is more interested in what a piece of art does, than what it means, and Inland Empire is made to do. Going by what it means, appears to mean, maybe that is what gets you stuck, like Dern's Nikki Grace becomes stuck in the role of Sue, or how we, as an audience, can stick her in the role of the prostitute from the beginning of movie or a quintessential Woman role, a fairytale and archetypal Little Girl or a mundane woman living in her sister's house unhappily. Dern's character is transfixed, but we, the audience, also transfix her. Our transfixion comes strongly from our past experiences with moving pictures, with narratives. Inland Empire gives us homages and pastiches to genres, modes, and detournements specific works (including The Shining and Rambling Rose) to encourage this transfixing. Inland Empire also reuses and manipulates our familiarities so we more readily see them for the artifice, the nostalgia and training that they really are.

Part of me really hopes that Inland Empire is Lynch's direct response to that silly David Foster Wallace essaic commentary on David Lynch and influence (and the observation, "Quentin Tarantino is interested in watching somebody's ear getting cut off; David Lynch is interested in the ear") by creating his biggest remix of cinema exposure since the Southern Gothic Wizard of Oz Elvis Musical that was Wild at Heart. Sometimes. Quixotically. (Maybe.) More of me hopes that it is not a direct response to anything. GI Joe used to tell kids every week that “knowing is half the battle” and maybe it's best if we just don't have a fight.

Friday, November 18, 2011

San Francisco Poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, reviewed by BL Kennedy

San Francisco Poems

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

City Lights Foundation

San Francisco, CA

96 pgs


ISBN: 978-1-931494-01-3

Golden Gate

At the Golden Gate

A single plover far at sea

wings across the horizon

A single rower almost out of sight

rows his skull into eternity

And I take a Buddha crystal in my hand

And begin becoming pure light

Praise Beers Bookstore. I never know what I will find on any given day when I cruise their aisles. Well it just happened that today, (I think it's Tuesday); I found myself in front of the poetry section (the used poetry section) and lo and behold, there it is, a book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti that I had never seen before. Now, mind you, I’ve read A Coney Island of the Mind and enjoyed it very much. You might say it was the beginning of my beat period. It’s a book that over the years, I and many, many other people are going to love: I’ve assigned this book among many others to every one of my students.

So now we have San Francisco Poems, and we have Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the older, more mature version of that Post-Beat Generation voice, and we find the poems to be mature, well executed, and talking to us from the page. This is a fabulous little book, and from what I understand it’s the first volume in the Poet Laureate Series currently published by City Lights Books. So I highly recommend it, and if you manage to find a copy in your local neighborhood bookstore, buy it. But if you don’t and you have to go a roundabout way, still buy it. In other words, JUST BUY THE BOOK. You won’t go wrong.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Doctor Zhivago Boris Pasternak A New Translation by Richard Peuear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Doctor Zhivago
Boris Pasternak
A New Translation by Richard Peuear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Pantheon Books,New York, NY
$30.00,513 pgs
ISBN: 978-0-307-37769-2

Reviewed by BL Kennedy

They walked and walked and sang “Memory Eternal”, and whenever they stopped, the singing seemed to be carried on by their feet, the horses, the gusts of wind.

Before her recent passing, the poet Do Gentry turned me on to this book. Hey look, I’ll plead ignorant; I’ve never read Doctor Zhivago until this new translation. Up until now, all I knew from Zhivago was the movie, which I’ll tell you right here, has absolutely nothing to do with the beauty that this book invokes. This new translation makes Doctor Zhivago a classic of 20th century literature. You simply have to indulge yourself and pass into Pasternak’s beautiful prose. It is in and of itself seduction on the highest order. I’m not gonna say a lot about this recent translation, but I will say this: it is hands down one of the most beautiful novels that I’ve ever had the opportunity to read in my life. So if you have a chance to go to your local bookstore and purchase this copy of Dr. Zhivago, well, you can’t go wrong.

Monday, November 14, 2011

SUPERGODS by Grant Morrison, reviewed by BL Kennedy


Grant Morrison

Random House

New York, NY


444 pgs ]

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6912-5


This certifies that: (your name and address here) has been duly elected a MEMBER of this organization upon the pledge to do everything possible to increase his or her STRENGTH and COURAGE, to aid the cause of JUSTICE, to keep absolutely SECRET the SUPERMAN CODE, and to adhere to all the principles of good citizenship.

Okay. It’s no secret that my life as a poet was heavily influenced by my life as a lover of comic books. Add to that that I love science fiction and my love of B-movies. Grant Morrison’s book Supergods addresses the comic book part of my growth and evolution as a poet.

Let’s be clear here: we all need heroes. It is essential to our psychological growth. We need heroes. And Grant Morrison’s excellent critical text addresses just that subject: the importance of comic book culture to regular culture. High, low, it’s your call baby. Morrison is simply stating that comic books by far have had more influence on the development of contemporary American culture than they are given credit. I can go on and on and on, and tell you this and tell you that, but in the end, I’m just the critic who read the book, and this is my take on the subject. So what does that leave you with? It leaves you with the daunting task of getting off your ass, going to your computer, going to your local bookstore, and locating a copy of this wonderful book. Listen to me: I’m pulling you by the collar here. I’m not gonna tell you no shit, I’m just setting you straight. Buy the book.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Graffiti NYC by Hugo Martinez and with photographs by NATO, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Graffiti NYC

Hugo Martinez and with photographs by NATO (artist)

Prestel Publishing

New York, NY


150 pgs

ISBN: 3-7913-3673-8

The motivating idea in creating this book is that graffiti—has been since its inception, generally (and indeed intentionally) excluded from the institutional world of art. This book, the first in a series developed by members of New York’s ALL CITY think tank, is based on a fundamental conviction that graffiti is not an anthropological phenomenon to be dissected, not a social malady to be cured, but a legitimate aesthetic and cultural movement, born of a revolutionary spirit and a will to resistance.

I was at Beers Books in Sacramento, CA. My eyes drip over a copy of a book titled Graffiti NYC, and automatically everything that was part of my years of discovery (ages 14 through 18) blew through my eyes, my mind, and out my ass. All of a sudden, I was confronted with my youth. Don’t get me wrong, Grafiiti NYC is a book of high art, no questions need to be asked. It just is what it is. It records a time in New York City when graffiti artists became poets (or the other way around, depending on whose anthropological theory you read).

I really like this book. It's visually pleasing and brings up memories of a Bronx childhood past. If you can find a copy, I highly recommend it. But I must throw caution out, because Graffiti NYC is not for everyone. If you’re looking for theory don’t look here. If you’re looking for an academic study, don’t look here. But if you’re looking for passion and fine photography, this book is your creature.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

LOVECRAFT by Hans Radionoff, Enrique Breccia, Keith Giffen, reviewed by BL Kennedy


Hans Radionoff, Enrique Breccia, Keith Giffen

DC Comics


ISBN: 1-4012-0110-5

When I was a kid, there were only two paperback copies of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft available to the general public. They were really cheap Lancer paperbacks The Color Out of Space and The Dunwich Horror. Little did anyone know at that time that over the years, H.P. Lovecraft would become the 20th centuries to Edgar Allen Poe. Now, there is this beautiful graphic novel written Hans Radionoff, Enrique Breccia and Keith Griffen, which addresses the life of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and his visions. From his childhood, when his mother dressed him as a girl, to his troubled adulthood, where he would meet and ghostwrite for many people including Harry Houdini, Lovecraft was a true visionary. However, Lovecraft was often haunted by his own grotesque visions; he dedicated his life to writing blood-boiling fictional tales, all in an attempt to appease his living nightmares.

I found this graphic novel to be a beautifully executed introduction to the writings of one of America’s foremost authors of fantastic fiction. Think of the modern horror story, and automatically, you think of Stephen King, T.E.D Kline, Peter Straub, and Dean Koontz. All were deeply influenced by Lovecraft. The artwork in this beautiful graphic novel is stunning and very, very seductive. I understand that the film rights to this book have just been purchased by Ron Howard, and yet, there is still another big name produced who has plans to film a biography of Lovecraft (a long overdue project, I may add). So look, I’ll lay it to you straight: I’ve never been one to pull my punches. This is hands one of the best graphic novels that I have ever seen which concerns itself with a legendary writer. Buy it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Do We Even Need Printed Books Anymore? by Lindsey Wright

Technology has made it possible to do just about anything digitally; from getting a degree through online classes to video chatting with people from opposite ends of the globe. Although the vast development of technology has been very beneficial, it has also made us depend on technology excessively. For example, our main source of information and entertainment comes from the Internet. People don't even read printed books or newspapers much anymore and often prefer to go online and read their favorite magazine and newspaper articles. This leads us to wonder whether there is even a need for printed material anymore. Basically, why stick to old technology like printed books when we can access them through the new technology of digital text?

In order to determine if printed books are indeed obsolete, we must thoroughly examine the pros and cons of each medium. One of the greatest benefits of eBooks is that they can be downloaded quickly from anywhere you have a computer screen. As such, eReaders are so popular because they are extremely convenient for travelers. Also, if you have a tiny apartment, storing your eBooks on a Kindle is very accommodating. Another perk is that eBooks cost less than the average printed book and are lighter to carry around.

However, if you work on a computer all day, looking at another screen isn’t going to be as relaxing and enjoyable as reading in print. Besides being potentially tiring to the eyes, there are a few other negative aspects of going digital. For instance, every book is not available online, and not all eReaders carry all publishers’ books. On the other hand, with a bit of research, you can almost always find the book you desire. Books can also be sold, traded, recycled and reprinted. They are easy to borrow or loan out. Best of all, print books are affordable to give as gifts and are great collectors’ items when bound in leather and beautifully embossed. Printed books are truly works of art, while eBooks are not.

When considering printed versus digital materials, it is important to note that Rita Toews, who is the founder of “Read an eBook Week” feels that there is no comparison whatsoever between the two types of reading material. She believes that eBooks are perfect for writing about things that change or advance regularly, while books are permanent records. Think about the damage that technology has done to the English language. Social networking through websites, texting and instant messaging is making solid English replaced by abbreviated slang. Punctuation has gone out the window. Think about what this could mean to future generations. What if the unthinkable happens? For example what if something cataclysmic, like a nuclear war, or a natural disaster that destroyed our electrical power. Would our children or grandchildren be able to communicate without computers? Would reading end because the printed word no longer existed?

Clearly it is a mistake to quickly throw out the old to make room for the new. If we ever do have another ice age that destroys life as we know it today, old books have a far better chance of being found and translated by new races than CDs, DVDs and eBooks. All in all, it is crucial to maintain printed materials. They will always have a place among mankind to not only entertain, but document humanity.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shoji Kawamori's Macross Plus, movie review by Travis Hedge Coke

There's a line from Airbats, “Your a good person. And, you like airplanes,” which shows some prioritizing. Lucky for me, I share those priorities, and so a film about three people trying desperately to be a good person, all of whom like airplanes? I've forgiven the fact that all the characters outside the central love conflict are stock roles and virtually forgotten that a plot requiring three adults to return to their hometown simultaneously for two unconnected reasons is just more than a bit implausible. I'm in love. Failing heroism, misled decency, and airplanes? I'm in love.

Macross Plus is fast. This is not a movie meant to be heard, or to be played as background to other focuses; you have to give it your attention. Yoko Kanno's diverse score runs the range of guitar plucking, abstraction, taiko drums and the in-world pop songs of Sharon Apple, computer-generated pop sensation. The mise en scene is exceptional, the sense of motion elegant and exciting, and narrative, characterization, emotion and context are delivered as much in the visuals as the dialogue and foley effects. It has to be a fast film, not only to leave time away from plot-progression for amazing flight sequences and gorgeous concert footage, but to enmesh us in the speed with which these characters live.

The three principal characters of Macross Plus have been running from themselves and each other since they left high school, since they left their hometown, and now that two of them have returned as test pilots for competing prototypes and the third for a concert she is both manager for and also, secretly, the soul for and more. Oh, yes, “and more.” The singer, so far the audiences know, is an artificial intelligence, and artificial entertainer, but it is Myung's mind, her talent and passion that she represses in herself, which the audience experiences at every concert. Three people trying to constantly sublimate their self to avoid a replay of one bad moment in their past and thereby ruining their present.

It has been said that to love someone means to prize their desires above your own, but what if you have an incorrect view of their desires? Their needs? Is the road to Hell not paved with good intentions? What good is trying hard and being kind if that kindness, that effort, comes from a broken perspective tinged with self-reprimand and undeserved judgment? If that misunderstanding is intentional? If it is excuse? What are the differences between possession, control, and love if they all come from what feels to be righteousness, care, and - oh so dangerously - a good place?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky by Sylvia Cranston, reviewed by BL Kennedy

HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky
Sylvia Cranston
G.P. Putnam
ISBN: 0-87477-688-0

This is a big book about a big woman and her influence on the 19th and 20th century. In fact, this book is about her worldwide legend. Helena Blavatsky was a cigar smoking, hard drinking spiritualist with a mouth that would make a sailor blush. Now, some 100 years after her death comes this incredible and very critical biography of her life and work in the creation of the modern Theosophical movement. HPB, as her friends would call her, remains one of the truly extraordinary figures of all time. The woman was truly a trailblazer and a visionary who introduced Eastern religious and spiritual thinking to the Western world.

Helena Blavatsky’s prolific writings have influenced poets, writers, philosophers and scientists up to the present day. All of her books, including the highly influential The Secret Doctrine are still in print, although they were published more than century ago. This is Sylvia Cranston’s first large scale biography, and what a subject to pick. This woman took fourteen years of her life to research and write this incredible biography. It focuses on Blavatsky’s teachings as well as her fascinating life. All in all, this is a very impressive book about a fantastic and enlightened lady. I highly recommend that you secure a copy of HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky. You will not regret making the purchase.
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