::Literate Blather::
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Season's Greetings

To celebrate the holidays in style DaRK PaRTY will be taking the week off. We'll be back with the best in literate blather on Jan. 2, 2007.

DaRK PaRTY wishes our loyal readers and wonderful contributors a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We want to take the time to single out some of the fantastic people who agreed to be interviewed for our "5 Questions About" feature or had the courage to trust an up-and-coming literary site with their most valuable commodity -- their fiction and poetry.

So very warm holidays wishes and a very special thank you to:

- Viking, my loyal brother and the best damn technical administrator in history
- Rev. Colson Crosslick, Arkansas' brightest far-right Christian preacher
- Merete Jankowski, Denmark's finest art historian
- Graphic Designer, Paul Ocepek
- Truth seeker, Matt McLaughlin, senior editor at Media Matters for America
- Joe Lavigne, owner of Arcanum Cafe
- Canada's undiscovered great poet, Rebecca Traquair
- NESN Sportscaster and good friend, Tom "T.C." Caron
- David O'Connor, producer, writer, and co-star of "The Captain Humphrey's Project"
- Writer and humorist, Matt Neuman of the Ironic Times
- Poet Beki Reese
- Artist Johniene Papandreas
- Irene Mar, the world's biggest Tintin fan
- Best-selling novelist and all-around good guy, R.A. Salvatore
- Jimmy Walter, millionaire and 9/11 conspiracy theorist
- Novelist and outstanding writing teacher, Laurie Foos
- Next generation poet, Floetry Spades
- Drummer Billy Conway of Treat Her Right and Morphine (stay loose, dude!)
- Michael Phillips, Bukowski fan and struggling writer
- Author and blogger, Glenn Greenwald
- Poet Kara Emily Krantz
- Simon Keller, B.U. professor and philospher
- Abstract poet, Salvatore Antonio Cavataio
- Online scare writer, Alex Severin
- Horror writer, L. Kenyon
- Joseph Kosiewska, fiction writer and gifted critic
- Comic book writer and columnist, Matt Fraction
- Tony Carrillo, writer and illustrator of F-Minus (he owns a freakin' robot!)
- Jess Myers, poet and writer
- B.U. English professor and Shakespeare lover, Jennifer Formichelli

DaRK PaRTY has plans for global domination in 2007, including a redesign and better proofreading.

See you in 2007!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Hitchcock and Character
Hitchcock’s 5 Greatest Character Films

In the opening scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt,” the camera looms in on Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) stretched out on the bed of his rooming house in a suit, eyes closed, hands folded across his chest. He is a perfect imitation of a corpse at a wake.

A pile of money lies scattered on the end table, a few bills having tumbled to the floor. The light from the half-shut blinds stripes Uncle Charlie’s face symbolizing the internal conflict of good and evil.

Enter the landlady, a gregarious older woman who naively informs him that two men are looking for him. Through Uncle Charlie’s callous disregard for the kindly landlady and his deep, detached questioning, we discover the men are obviously police investigators.

The landlady departs and Uncle Charlie rises slowly from the bed – reborn. He quaffs a glass of whiskey and then hurls it violently to the floor where it shatters.

In less than three minutes, Hitchcock has given us an intimate portrait of the character of Uncle Charlie.

Hitchcock is famous as the master of suspense and a director of technical achievement, especially in the use of light and shadows and unusual, but human, perspective camera angles. But often overlooked is Hitchcock’s ability to create rich, dynamic characters like Uncle Charlie.

“Shadow of a Doubt,” often cited as Hitchcock’s favorite film, is a perfect example of the complex characters Hitchcock introduced to viewers. Uncle Charlie is a serial killer called the “Merry Widow Murderer” who hides out with his sister’s family to avoid a police sting designed to bring him to justice.

The reason why Uncle Charlie becomes so terrifying as a character is because Hitchcock humanizes him. He brings him into the fold of the Newton family – a loving, eccentric family who worships the Uncle Charlie they think they know. At times, we forget that Uncle Charlie is a killer because of his charm and obvious delight at being in the presence of his extended family.

Joseph Cotten gives a stunning Jekyll and Hyde performance aided by Hitchcock’s masterful use of shadow and camera angle to paint a portrait of a tortured man nearing the end of his criminal career.

DaRK PaRTY presents Alfred Hitchcock’s 5 Greatest Character Movies – those films where Hitchcock’s dynamic leads create complex and fully realized characters:

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Synopsis: Uncle Charlie, a serial killer who strangles older women, retreats to his sister’s suburban home in California to hide from the police. His namesake and niece, Young Charlie, begins to susp
ect that her favorite uncle might not be the man she thinks he is.
Character: Uncle Charlie
Actor: Joseph Cotten
Why it Works: Unlike other villains, Uncle Charlie becomes human to the viewer; in fact many in the audience might be rooting for him to succeed and escape the police dragnet that is closing in.
Great Detail from the Film: His secret finally out in the open, Uncle Charlie pulls Young Charlie into a seedy barroom and as they talk he begins to twist a napkin in his hands as if it were the neck of one of the victims. When both characters realize what Uncle Charlie is doing the tension is thick with suspense.

Rear Window (1954)
Synopsis: A photographer confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg wiles away the boredom by watching his neighbors out his rear window. He begins to suspect that one of his neighbors may have murdered his wife.
Character: L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries
Actor: Jimmy Stewart
Why it Works: Stewart’s character is literally a Peeping Tom. Bored by his injury, he spies on all his neighbors using a zoom lens. His indiscretion becomes justified when he catches a murderer. Jeff is a rather unlikable character – arrogant, conceited, and aloof. Yet Hitchcock makes us care for him.
Great Detail from the Film: When Jeff, his girlfriend, and nurse watch a lonely woman next door try to commit suicide and sit mesmerized as if watching a film – and then suddenly realize that they have the power to intervene.

Rope (1948)
Synopsis: Two New York intellectuals, Brandon and Phillip, murder their friend, David, in order to commit the perfect murder. They hide his body in a chest and then throw a dinner party inviting David’s family and girlfriend. Their plan begins to go awry when their former professor, Rupert Cadell, shows up and begins to suspect foul play.
Character: Rupert Cadell
Actor: Jimmy Stewart
Why it Works: Rupert is the center of the film as his teachings allegedly drive the two intellectuals to kill their friend. The build-up to his arrival on the screen is intense – and Jimmy Stewart delivers a breathtaking performance as the distracted, remote professor with a hidden and surprisingly intense love of humanity.
Great Detail from the Film: Brandon and Phillip argue about strangling a chicken with an intensity that makes Rupert to suspicious and leads him to sarcastically bait them with the dialogue: “Personally, I think a chicken is as good a reason for murder as a blonde, a mattress full of dollar bills or any of the customary, unimaginative reasons.”

Suspicion (1941)
Synopsis: A roguish playboy named Johnnie Aysgarth meets a lonely, spinsterish woman named Lina McLaidlaw. Johnnie woos her away from her rich parents and they are married. Afterwards, she discovers that he’s a broke gambler.
Character: Johnnie Aysgarth
Actor: Cary Grant
Why it Works: Hitchcock plays both sides of Johnnie’s personality to perfection so that the audience is never quite sure if he’s a charming rogue or a murdering sociopath. Hitchcock provides the audience with unguarded looks at Johnnie where we’re never quite sure where he stands. It’s a complex and unnerving performance by Cary Grant.
Great Detail from the Film: When Johnnie’s best friend, Beaky, drinks a glass of brandy, he has an allergic reaction to it and appears to lapse into a coma. As Lina becomes distraught, Johnnie gets a mischievous glint in his eye that seems to lock in the fact of his friend’s weakness. It’s the audience’s first real indication that Johnnie might be less than harmless.

The Birds (1963)
: Socialite Melanie Daniels meets bachelor Mitch Brenner at a pet shop. They share a moment and Melanie spontaneous buys two love birds and whisks off to Mitch’s home to deliver them. She ends up being trapped with Mitch and his mother and sister as birds begin to attack human beings.
Character: Tippi Hedren
Actor: Melanie Daniels
Why it Works: Melanie is a complicated character – a put together, spur of the moment woman who is deeply passionate and romantic under her sophisticated veneer. Tippi and Hitchcock create a compelling, mysterious woman who carries the movie on her back.
Great Detail from the Film: The tit-for-tat, rat-a-tat-tat dialogue between Melanie and Mitch creates great romantic tension and also builds their characters. At one point, Melanie says she volunteers for Travelers Aid at the airport. Mitch asks if she is helping travelers. Melanie’s deadpan response: “No, misdirecting them.”

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Fiction: Escape, Artist

by Joseph Kosiewska

First you must wait until the trunk you are stuffed in hits bottom. Any random movement, the unguarded twist of a neck, the flexing of an elbow or knee, even an anxious rolling of the eyes, can turn your prison upside down and leave you helpless on your knees, your forehead pressed flat against the floor, your handcuffed wrists irretrievably locked behind your thighs.

The wait in any event is a short one, a gently swaying fall through darkness, as brief an eternity of uncertain fear as any you are likely to encounter in your gently swaying fall through existence, and before you know it your trunk has settled in the sand and sea-muck, has half-filled with water. The soaked burlap sack that surrounds you like a placental membrane now adheres to your nose and mouth like the smothering hand of a murderer, but by this time you have already looped your arms around your rope-bound ankles, have opened your handcuffs with the wire stowed inside your sleeve, have begun to pull the burlap down around your head.

You can inhale once more, perhaps twice if you are quick enough, before the last bubble of air escapes and leaves you there to do likewise or die.

This time, however, a miscalculation. You’ve forgotten the wire, or misplaced it, or dropped it in the darkness. The sack has been too securely tied above you. The false bottom refuses to slide open. You find yourself in an unforeseen circumstance: trapped, really trapped this time, in fifty feet of translucent water, your tricks useless, your strength and courage illusions, the clichés of Death pouring in on you like the collapsing walls of DeMille’s Red Sea.

A projectionist enters, on cue, his arms loaded with the usual slides --- Rorschach blots of passing clouds; lithographs of painful indiscretions, embarrassments, stupidities; an occasional shot of the wife and kids, or of your pet dog Alexander --- and as you watch, transfixed, so to speak, by the monumental nonsense of your own history, biology begins playing tricks on you. Pulse rates increase, bowels loosen, organs swell to embarrassing proportions.

It is not expected, then, that in these circumstances and at this point --- what the existentialists call the moment de desespoir --- you give a thought to the impatient crowd waiting anxiously above you for your resurrection. After all, what do you care for the bug-eyed, barrel-shaped old matrons, the bald impotent old men, and the rest of that hopeless lot who are looking to you, you of all people, for that peculiar fulfillment they themselves lack the wherewithal to seek? What are these mere spectators to you?

It pains me, here in my own parody of a womb, to explain this. You're not in that trunk just for the hell of it, you know. The people up there depend on you. They’ve paid good money to see your act. Think of them, then, before you give it up, standing pale and pathetic on that deck, expecting a miracle. Think of them as you yourself go down for the last time in their place, caught in the hopeless tangle of their diminishing dreams, weighted down by the ruins of your own useless techniques.

Yes, think of them, ripe for joy or disappointment, and escape, damn it, escape, you sniveling, self-centered charlatan, escape

(Joseph Kosiewska was born in New York City in 1950. He holds a Masters in English Literature and has been publishing fiction and poetry since the late seventies, his work appearing in Pulpsmith, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Buffalo Spree, Phoebe: The George Mason Review, Psychic Radio, Isaac Asimov’s SF Magazine, and the Sunday magazine of the Buffalo News, among others. He spent several years teaching Freshman Comp at SUNY Buffalo, spent many more years in retail management, and was once a dressed extra in "The Natural," a baseball movie starring Robert Redford. He is the author of THE SECRET NATURE OF SPACE AND TIME, a story collection published by SynergEbooks. His novel BREAKING GLASS will be published next year. Currently he lives with his wife Jeanine in Buffalo, NY.)

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Friday, December 15, 2006
5 Questions About: Comic Books

(DaRK PaRTY has a passion for comic books – having sent our childhood visiting Flea Markets to buy old copies of Spiderman, Richie Rich, Hulk, Casper, Hot Stuff, Ironman, Avengers, and Conan comics. So naturally we knew that we’d eventually our paths would cross with Matt Fraction, a graphics novel author and columnist at Comic Books Resources (CBR). Matt has written “Last of the Independents” (with Kieron Dwyer), “The Five Fists of Science” (with Steven Sanders), “Casanova” (with Gabriel Bá), Marvel Comics’ “Punisher War Journal” (with Ariel Olivetti), and “The Immortal Iron Fist” (with Ed Brubaker). His column with Joe Casey at CBR is called “The Basement Tapes.” We wanted to discuss comic books in general and superhero comics specifically with Matt. So we did.)

DaRK PaRTY: What comic book superhero changed everything?

Matt: Superman and The Spirit-- the Tigris and Euphrates of this little empire... on their backs and on the backs of their creators, the industry was built and fortunes have been made and lost on all sides of the equation. Gerard Jones' excellent “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of Comic Books” covers it with a mix of scholarship and narrative of which comics history needs more.

DP: Everyone is familiar with Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. Can you provide us with a list of lesser known superheroes that you believe deserve more recognition?

Matt: I always had a soft spot for The Flash and Green Lantern as a kid. One guy ran real fast and the other made things happen with his imagination and a magic ring-- can you think of two better heroes for a hyperactive kid to have?

Really, though, I don't think superheroes need more recognition—a lot of people seem to think that's all comic books can be about, so the less exposure they get these days the better. Why not talk about characters like Tara Chase, from “Queen and Country or David Kohl in “Phonogram,” or Ruben Flagg, in one of my favorite comics of all time, “American Flagg!” or David Boring or Jimmy Corrigan or...

DP: What is the biggest misconception people have about comic books?

Matt: That it's BANG! POW! POP! Batman-style camp superheroes. There's a lot of that, and a lot of that is done excellently, but comics don't have to be any more or less limited in their scope than literature or film. I think a lot of people in comics feel like they need to apologize a lot. I hate that.

DP: Hollywood is in a love fest with comic book superheroes -- especially those from Marvel and DC. What three superhero movies do you think Hollywood got right? What three do you think bombed?

Matt: Uh...

Well, “Unbreakable” was a great superhero origin movie, as was the first “Matrix,” but neither of those came from comics first. “Danger Diabolik” is tremendously great but that's not a Hollywood movie. Umm... the first “Heavy Metal” was epically faithful to its source material and delivered exactly what the magazine delivered.

Bombed? Remember the “Captain America” movie with J.D. Salinger's son as Cap, and he had fake ears poking out of the side of his mask? I thought “X-Men 3” was completely moronic, but it made a billion dollars so what do I know?

DP: Who is your favorite superhero and why? And who do you dislike and why?

Matt: Spider-Man, probably. I think he's got a great gimmick and the best supporting cast in comics.

I dislike only the unimaginative, the derivative, the muddled and exploitative. The dull and dumb and boring superheroes. Those are the ones I dislike.

Read our interview about Superman here

Read our interview about James Bond here

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Essay: A Question of God
On the surface, the question of God is an enormous one.

“Does God exist?”

But in reality the answer is quite simple: No.

It’s a matter of probability. There is no scientific evidence – not one iota – that there exists in the universe an omnipotent, omniscient being that can read the thoughts and direct the actions of every living being.

"When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself."
- Peter O'Toole
Pascal’s Wager
One is tempted to fall back on Blaise Pascal’s wager in this situation. The mathematician said that the chances for God’s existence were slim, but the penalty for guessing wrong was significant. If you believe in God and are right, you are rewarded with everlasting bliss. Contrast that with not believing in God and being right. The reward is a dirt nap. Wrong, however, and one faces eternal damnation.

So, according to Pascal, it’s better to believe. But Pascal may have been being facetious because can you really fake belief in God?

“Pascal’s wager could only ever be an argument for feigning belief in God,” Biologist Richard Dawkins writes in his book “The God Delusion.” “And the God you claim to believe in better not be the omniscient kind or he’d see through the deception.”

Coming to the realization that I’m an atheist was not an easy path. I’ve struggled with the idea of God and religion since I was a boy. I was raised Catholic – with all the trappings, ceremonies, and solemn mysteries of faith (as well as the not so subtle threats not to wander off the reservation or face dire consequences).

"I'm not normally a religious man, but if you're up there, save me, Superman!"
- Homer Simpson
I’ve flirted with church attendance throughout my adult life – going to Catholic masses and even a period where I went to a Congregationalist church. But the bouts of faith never took. Organized religion always falls back on tired religious platitudes, the contradictions and downright silliness of the Bible (not to mention the outright cruelty), and the bizarre absolutism of church canon (is it really wrong to never to have an abortion?).

In the end, I fell back on wondering why the most powerful being in the universe would care if I ate a hamburger on Fridays during Lent.

Science vs. Faith
It also comes down to science. At one time, Christians insisted that God placed the Earth at the center of the universe and that the sun, the planets, and everything else revolved around it. Christians persecuted scientists who dared to suggest otherwise – calling it an attack on religion and God. We now know that the Earth is but a tiny satellite in the far corner of the universe – revolving around the sun. Christians had to reluctantly adjust. And despite, mounds of scientific evidence that man (and all life on earth) evolved through natural selection – fundamental Christians continue to fight the obvious.

Christians (and I don’t mean to pick on Christianity, but it’s the religion I’m most familiar with) continue to explain any gap in science with one answer: God. Until, that is, science finally fills the gap with a more logical explanation. Then they scurry back to another gap. Unfortunately for religion – the gaps are getting fewer and harder to find.

"The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."
- Oscar Wilde

As human knowledge progresses (chemists are now trying to create life in the laboratory – and eventually they probably will) it begins to be clear that belief in an omnipotent, omniscient being who controls the universe like some enormous puppet master is rather archaic. Religion appears to be a leftover remnant of our primitive past when lightning and thunder were God’s wrath rather than a naturally occurring weather pattern.

Long Odds
Fundamental Christians argue for a “designer” theory; that the universe is too complicated to have randomly occurred. But everything is random. Take a look around you. What were the improbable odds that the coffee cup on your desk would have ended up there? A thousand years ago your own birth was an improbable equation. Think of all the events that had to line up to make it happen and how the odds improved each time the event before it occurred. Then, finally, your parents are born and all that had to happen was the long-shot of them meeting, falling in love, and reproducing (and the one sperm among the millions that was you had to win the race).

The fact that any of us are living – is an astronomical ridiculous mathematical improbability. But those long odds are true about everything in existence.

Darwin’s theory of natural selection will also remind us that moles, lily pads, elephants, and redwood trees didn’t just “occur.” It was a long, slow process of evolution where the hardiest, most beneficial traits survived. Moles and redwood trees didn’t just “occur” they were slowly and painstakingly created over millions of years.

Celebration of Death
There’s also another factor. Call it the gut check. If the average religious person (and 73 percent of Americans believe in God, according to Harris Poll taken in October, 2006) truly believed in God and an afterlife, wouldn’t that belief manifest itself in the way we view death? Americans view death as sorrowful and the prospect of it scares most people.

"Angels dancing on the head of a pin dissolve into nothingness at the bedside of a dying child."
- Waiter Rant
But why is this? If heaven exists – wouldn’t death be cause for celebration? Wouldn’t we look forward to our deaths? Wouldn’t we envy those who died before us because they are with God and in heaven with all of our ancestors? The answer, of course, is that most people – deep down – understand the contradictions and improbability of the existence of God – especially one who reads our thoughts and intervenes in our actions sporadically and without design.

The idea of no God, however, frightens most people. But it shouldn’t. Life is just as precious without a supreme being. You are still you. The people in your life still exist and our societies will continue to function and run and thrive. The control, however, belongs to us.

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Monday, December 11, 2006
10 Finest Soundtracks in World History

Movie soundtracks have come a long way, baby. It has only been in the last two decades that music has become an integral part of any Hollywood blockbuster. And why not? What captures an era better than music? A great song can push a good movie into a great one. You can even forgive the disappointment of a summer bomb if it really rocks.

DaRK PaRTY has compiled a list of the 10 Finest Rock Soundtracks of All Time. These are the soundtracks that made music important in Hollywood and have withstood the test of time.

Repo Man (1984)
Why: The album is an innovative masterpiece of what happens when you slow down hardcore punk music. The result is cheesy, fascinating, hilarious, and a more fun than watching bad TV with Black Flag.
Best Song: “Institutionalize” by Suicidal Tendencies
Worst Song: “Bad Man” by the Juicy Bananas
Biggest Surprise: Burning Sensations cover of Jonathan Richmond’s “Pablo Picasso.”
Better Than the Movie? No, but its damn close. How could any album be better than a movie that features the line “John Wayne was a fag”?

Trainspotting (1996)
Why: The album is an eclectic blend of punk, electronic, and alternative music that beautifully captures the hip, coolness of the drug sub-culture in London. It’s one of those soundtracks that gets better every time you listen to it.
Best Song: “Trainspotting” by Primal Scream
Worst Song: “A Final Hit” by Leftfield
Biggest Surprise: “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed
Better Than the Movie? Yes. The album has staying power. The only thing you leave the movie with is the scene where Renton dives into a filthy, shit-covered public toilet.

Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Why: This album is responsible for making disco cool. So think about how good an album needs to be in order to do that.
Best Song: “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
Worst Song: “Night on Disco Mountain” by David Shire
Biggest Surprise: “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy
Better Than the Movie? Hell, yes. Despite its blockbuster status, the movie is lame-ass and certainly hasn’t aged as well as the music.

Singles (1992)
Why: The movie and soundtrack captured the Grunge scene that blossomed in Seattle and introduced the world to Pearl Jam.
Best Song: “Would?” by Alice in Chains
Worst Song: “Battle of Evermore” by The Lovemongers
Biggest Surprise: “Nearly Lost You” by Screaming Trees
Better Than the Movie? A big head nod. While the movie was a fun romantic comedy – the music lives on.

8 Mile (2002)
Why: It’s a massive jam session of old and new rappers – put together by Eminem – that celebrates and re-energizes the genre.
Best Song: “Lose Yourself” by Eminen
Worst Song:Battle” by Gang Starr
Biggest Surprise: “R.A.K.I.M.” by Rakim
Better Than the Movie? Ah, yeah. There was a movie?

Valley Girl (1983)
Why: The “Valley Girl” soundtrack helped kick-started the whole alternative sound of the 80s.
Best Song: “Eyes of a Stranger” by Payolas
Worst Song: “School Is In” by Josie Cotton
Biggest Surprise: The three songs by the Plimsouls
Better Than the Movie? Yes, sir. The movie was a forgettable teen romance starring Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman (who?).

Purple Rain (1984)
Why: The album shot Prince into the stratosphere – and introduced an entire new way to make a movie – build one around an album.
Best Song: “When Doves Cry” by Prince
Worst Song: “Computer Blue” by Prince
Biggest Surprise: “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince
Better Than the Movie? An even split. It’s hard to think of them as separate.

Harder They Come (1972)
Why: Reggae music is one of the characters in this movie and it shows in the soundtrack. It also proved to people outside of Jamaica that reggae wasn’t just Bob Marley.
Best Song: “You can Get It If You Really Want” by Jimmy Cliff
Worst Song: “Johnny Too Bad” by The Slickers
Biggest Surprise:Pressure Drop” by the Maytals
Better Than the Movie? Yes. The movie was a Robin Hood rip-off. It’s the music that shines.

Pretty in Pink (1986)
Why: The movie captured 1980s teen angst perfectly and it was the music that helped this film retain its time capsule like appeal.
Best Song: The best song isn’t on the soundtrack, but is in the movie. “Positively Lost Me” by the very underrated, should have been huge Rave-Ups.
Worst Song: A tie between “If You Leave” by OMD (the song that replaced “Positively Lost Me”) and “Get To Know Ya” by Jesse Johnson
Biggest Surprise: “Pretty in Pink” by the Psychedelic Furs
Better Than the Movie? A tie goes to the film.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Why: Perhaps the coolest soundtrack to one of the coolest movies ever filmed.
Best Song: “Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield
Worst Song: “Comanche” by the Revels
Biggest Surprise:Lonesome Town” by Ricky Nelson
Better Than the Movie? No. The soundtrack rocks, but come on! It’s John Travolta and Bruce Willis at their best.

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Friday, December 08, 2006
Under God's Right Arm: Favorite Bible Stories

By: Rev. Colson Crosslick

As we head into the Christmas season, I thought I’d share some of my favorite and most beloved histories from the Old Testament. Christians can often overlook the wonderful guidance and moral lessons that can be found between the pages of the Old Testament. I find these three stories perfect for children.

Noah’s Ark

This is remarkable story of hope is one I often tell to the children in my Bible class. Noah was 600 years old when God came to him (can you imagine the things Noah got to see in his lifetime?). God told Noah that men were wicked and filled with malevolence so he decided that he was going to annihilate every living creature on earth by drowning.

So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air – for I am grieved that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7).

God commanded Noah to construct an ark large enough to fit a male and female of every species of animal. Amazingly, Noah was able to use shipbuilding techniques not in existence in the ancient world to build the largest wooden ship in history (it pays to have a personal relationship with the Lord!). Once the ark was completed, Noah and his family herded up pairs of elephants, zebras, lizards, eagles, rhinos, tigers, lions, penguins, walruses, squirrels, polar bears, kangaroos, and thousands of other species into the ark along with enough food to last hundreds of days.

Then the Lord tore opened up the heavens: “And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:12). After 220 days afloat, Noah sent out a dove and the dove returned with an olive leaf in its beak. The flood was over! And to celebrate the destruction of mankind and a new beginning, God created the rainbow and promised never to kill men with flood waters again.

David & Goliath

This is a heartwarming story and a powerful lesson for children about overcoming what appears to be overwhelming odds. It also reminds me of a good Mel Gibson action flick!

King Saul and the Israelites were poised to face the Philistines in an epic battle. The Philistine champion was Goliath (a giant warrior standing over nine feet tall!), who boasted that if any Israelite could defeat him one-on-one that the Philistines would surrender. Every morning, Goliath taunted the Israelites.

Finally, a boy named David could no longer stand it. He insisted to his brothers that he could kill Goliath. His words were heard by King Saul, who upon hearing David’s strategy for battle agreed to let him fight the mighty Goliath. On the day of the fight, young David took only a staff and six round stones to the fight.

"Come over here, and I'll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!" Goliath yelled.” (1 Samuel 17:44). Using his sling, David felled the mighty Goliath, leaped forward, grabbed Goliath’s sword and sawed off his head. Victorious, David held the decapitated head high over his head! The Philistines fled in fear!

To honor King Saul, David presented him with the bloody prize. The smaller, younger, and weaker David murdered the larger, older, and stronger man by using his God-giving wits. That is a lesson for all of us.

Adam & Eve

The story of Adam and Eve is probably the most important event in world history (it’s amazing to me that most “secular” history books chose to ignore it because it really isn’t a religious event in many ways). The story is the turning point for humanity because it introduced original sin when Eve allowed herself to be seduced by Satan and in turn entrapped Adam in her conspiracy (which is why women are sometimes called “The Devil’s Gateway”).

One can only wonder at the beauty of the Garden of Eden. All of God’s creations working in perfect harmony. But God ordered Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But Satan, disguised as a serpent, tempted Eve with his wicked words and got her to eat from the tree – betraying God. She also fed the fruit to a naïve Adam and the result was that they realized they were totally naked.

When God returned to the garden – Adam and Eve hid from him, humiliated by their supple nakedness (one can only imagine how perfect they were as the first human beings created by God!). God was enraged by the violation and threw Adam and Eve out of paradise and in the process made them mortal.

The children in my Bible classes are fascinated by Adam and Eve (and often titillated by the nakedness – which proves that we still possess original sin!). But there are great lessons in this historical piece about loyalty, obeying your superiors, and the power of vengeance.

(The Rev. Colson Crosslick is pastor of the Pretty Good Shepherd Church in Ripsaw, Arkansas. His favorite history book is the Bible. He also writes the regularly appearing column Under God's Right Arm for DaRK PaRTY.)

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006
5 Questions About: F Minus
(In the bleak, often unfunny world of daily comic strips there has emerged a savior. A comic strip that – dare we say – is so hilarious that we try not to have a hot cup of coffee nearby in case of dangerous spills caused by shaking guffaws of laughter. Move over Blondie! Get out of the way Garfield! Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out Family Circus! There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s not wearing pants. Let DaRK PaRTY introduce you to Tony Carrillo – the artist and writer of F Minus, one of the most hysterical new comic strips in years. F Minus can be seen in newspapers across the country, including the Boston Globe and the New York Daily News. Tony, 24, was born in Arizona and when not penning F Minus experiments with saxophone playing and actually owns a robot that serves him cocktails.)

DaRK PaRTY: Were you one of those kids in high school constantly doodling on their notebooks?

Tony: I was a good student, but I was a major doodler. Visualization was important to my comprehension. Geometry was the only math class I felt comfortable in. Drawing a monkey sliding down the slope of a hyperbola somehow helped it all make sense.

DP: So you end up at Arizona State University and win an MTV contest that launched your career as a cartoonist and now, at the tender age of 24, your daily strip is in hundreds of outlets. Can you give us your version of this amazing launch story?

Tony: I was on the fast track to becoming an unknown artist, selling my drawing to delis and butchers, which they would use to wrap cuts of meat (apparently my art was cheaper than wax paper). In my sophomore year at ASU I saw an advertisement in the school newspaper asking for a new cartoonist. The ad said, “Can you draw? Even just a little? Apply to The State Press.” So I sketched up three bad little cartoons and submitted them. I remember I was in a dollar store when they called me and told me I had the job.

I spent the next four semesters drawing F Minus five days a week. Once in a while I would see one cut out and taped to a wall or bulletin board on campus. I started my website www.fminus.net and built a little fan base. I was once recognized by a fan in an elevator. “That was it.” I thought. “My 15 minutes of fame. And it was only 23 seconds long.” I had been submitting my comic to contests for some time. F Minus placed second in the Associated Collegiate Press Cartooning Award, and third place in another. The one I really wanted was the Charles Schultz award, but it didn’t even place. The award went to a Manga style comic that year. I was crushed. That was the day I started my feud with one of the contest judges, Al Roker.

I was in my final semester of my senior year and preparing for a life of hard work in the food industry, while saving my money so I could afford to frame my Fine Arts diploma. One day my editor at the State Press emailed me about a new contest, the first ever MTVu Strips contest. MTVu is a branch of MTV that broadcasts to universities around the nation. There were 700 schools involved, and the contest would award the best college cartoon with a development deal with United Features Syndicate. This was a much better prize than the Schultz award, which was just money. I would have blown all of that on candy in a few weeks anyway.

I submitted F Minus to the MTVu contest. Soon I was notified that F Minus was a finalist. The top comics were then subjected to online voting, and separate voting by cartoonists Scott Adams (Dilbert) and David Rees (Get Your War On). Over 200,000 votes were cast, and F Minus came out the winner. Oddly enough, I think I was in a dollar store when I got that call too. I went to New York and got to tour the United Features Syndicate building and meet the editors there. I spent the next six months working to develop F Minus, and post my comics every day www.comics.com.At the end of the six months they had the option to syndicate F Minus nationwide or to pass on it. To my delight (and the delight of my landlord), they decided to go with it.

On April 17th, 2006, F Minus launched nationwide and can now be seen in newspapers such as the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle, the New York Daily News, and many others.

DP: How would you describe F Minus to those innocent masses that have yet to experience it?

Tony: I think it is easier to describe what F Minus is not. F Minus has no plot or regular characters, no political slant or pop culture references. There are no precious moments or thought-provoking issues. In fact, the less thinking, the better. That’s my motto. Really, my goal is simply to get a laugh every day. Sometimes it’s silly or absurd, sometimes unintentionally profound, but if it gets a smile, then I’m happy.

DP: You break a lot of taboos with the strip. I remember one with a handicapped man in a wheelchair flipping the bird to a "Walk" sign and another one with a father and son standing outside Big Splash Water Park with a sign that warns that urine levels are "moderate" today. Have you always had a quirky sense of humor and where do you draw your inspiration from?

Tony: First of all it’s never my goal to offend anyone. However, if I come up with an idea that I think is funny, I’ll submit it even though I know it may lend itself to misinterpretation. In fact, whenever someone is upset about one of my comics, it’s almost always because they have assigned some meaning to it that I didn’t intend. One reader, unhappy with a particular comic, accused me of being sexist against men. I’m still shaking my head over that one. The only person that wrote to me that had a right to be angry was a professional clown. I actually do hate clowns.

I try to draw my inspiration directly from life. If I hear a word or phrase that is even remotely funny, I’ll write it down in my notebook and try to turn it into an actual comic idea later on. For me, it’s important to stay out among people. There’s so much untapped comedy in your average overheard conversation.

DP: What are your three favorite comic strips and why?

One of my biggest influences is Bob Mankoff, cartoonist and editor for the New Yorker magazine. I love the simplicity of his drawings and the insanity of his ideas. He wrote a great book called “The Naked Cartoonist,” a must-have for aspiring cartoonists.

When I was a teenager I really got into Bloom County by Berke Breathed. I was amazed at how much depth there was to each character in that strip. The prospect of creating a whole world like that is intimidating. Maybe that’s why I don’t have any regular characters…

Finally, I still love Calvin and Hobbes. When I was a kid, I always associated with Hobbes the tiger. The problem is, at some point it occurred to me that Hobbes was an imaginary being. Being forced to question your own existence is really not healthy for any 12-year-old.

Read our interview with Cartoonist Harry Bliss here

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Hollywood's Most Awkward Nude Scenes

“I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were 22 with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progress religious experience.”
- Actress Shelley Winters

Hollywood loves to show-off the effects of five-hour daily work-outs. What better way than a nude scene? The only problem is that for every Bo Derek in “10” (1989) running down the beach in slow motion or the eye-popping, unexpected nudity of Katie Holmes in “The Gift” (2000), you get those bizarre, unexplained, and sometimes jarring scenes that you leave you perplexed and even… uncomfortable.

A bad nude scene can make you feel like a Peeping Tom rather than an engaged observer. DaRK PaRTY has collected a short list of the worse nude scenes in film. We call it our anti-Sharon Stone list:

Halle Berry, Swordfish (2001)

There’s a lot wrong with “Swordfish,” which features a blockbuster cast of John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, and Halle Berry. This dull action flick fails to succeed on just about every level – and, amazingly, blows Berry’s first nude scene. The beautiful Berry showcasing her breasts was much hyped, but the scene is, well, uncomfortable. It’s not sexy, it isn’t brash. It’s kind of sad. There she is, on a lounge chair, misguidedly trying to seduce Jackman’s character, who really isn’t into it. You’re left to cough into your fist and wait for it to mercifully end.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

“Fast Times” nailed high school life in the early 1980s and the performance by a young Sean Penn as the surfer, pothead Jeff Spicoli is spot-on. The worst part of the movie is Jennifer Jason Leigh’s nude scene. She has just lost her virginity in the boat house and watches her lover, Mike Damone, quickly get dressed so he can get the hell away from her. The camera lingers on her, showing a slight bulge to her belly, and the distressing expression on her face as she realizes she’s been a one-night (day?) stand. It’s awful and depressing. Besides, it pales in comparison to the movie’s other nude scene – featuring the gorgeous Phoebe Cates tearing off her bikini top in slow motion. Now that’s a nude scene!

Bob Hoskins, Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

This is one of those silly British comedies that supposed to steal your heart when you aren’t looking. It’s an exploitive mess that comes together because of the winning performance of Dame Judi Dench in the title role. The most disturbing and perplexing scene, however, is just after Bob Hoskins’ character convinces the chorus line girls that they have to bare it all to save the theater. During rehearsal, they insist that he, too, undress. So he does and you’re agape at the full frontal shot of old Bob with a bit too much meat on his belly and one of the strangest bodies in film. Thankful, the scene ends before you can throw up your popcorn.

Kathy Bates, About Schmidt (2002)

What was Kathy Bates thinking? Inflicting this much pain on viewers, well, there should be a law against it. Bates shows us her “assets” in a hot tub scene with Jack Nicholson, that if used as a commercial for wonder bra would increase sales by tenfold. After your initial horror (and an urge to tear out your eyeballs), you’re left simply left shaking your head in bewilderment.

Julie Andrews, S.O.B. (1981)

Mary Poppins exposes her breasts in a forgettable movie directed by her husband, Blake Edwards, in a movie about a desperate director who convinces his wholesome actress wife to pose nude in his new movie in order to save it. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. And yeah, it’s uncomfortable to watch a 45-year-old actress expose herself for the sake of exposing herself.

Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Harvey Keitel shows off his acting chops in “Bad Lieutenant” and turns in a daring, no-holds performance. The film includes a full frontal shot of Keitel – in the throes of a drug overload. It’s one of those scenes that make you wince. Keitel has an oddly lumpy body with long, spindly arms that, quite frankly, closely resembles that of an orangutan.

Elizabeth Berkley, Showgirls (1995)

Actress Elizabeth Berkley (from the wholesome "Saved by the Bell" TV series) spends a full 20 minutes of this terrible, monstrosity of a movie – naked. It’s 19 minutes too much. There’s little sex appeal in any of her scenes (and her acting is stiffer than her fake breasts). The sex scene with Kyle MacLachlan in a swimming pool resembles a drowning. Less could have been more. You end up feeling sorry for Berkley, who was paid the equivalent of minimum wage for the honor of being exploited by director Paul Verhoeven. You get to the point where you just wish someone would buy her a nice sweater.

Terry Bradshaw, Failure to Launch (2006)

Apparently, Terry Bradshaw will do anything. Having made a career of being the resident buffoon on FOX-TV’s “NFL Sunday,” Bradshaw brings his act to the big screen in this blah romantic comedy starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. Bradshaw plays McConaughey’s bumbling dad and by the end of the film has creating a “nude” room for himself and happily stomps around in it – butt naked. The scene is entirely unnecessary and leaves you in stunned silence.

Read our list of the most "unromantic movies" in Hollywood

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Monday, December 04, 2006
Poem: The Strangest Thing

By: Jess Myers
We were having dinner

at some fancy place

I had the truffle linguine Alfredo

--have you ever noticed

how truffles taste

earthy, moist like

deep tongue kissing? Amazing...

it was then I realized

everyone’s feet were hidden

under the table linens,

and I wondered if they were all

foot-fucking under the tables in this fancy joint.

And there it was like some

missing piece in the jigsaw mysteries

of high society, like judging good wine

or setting too many forks at the table.

Well, alright, I want in the club too,

so I kicked off my shoes

worked your manpiece around between my

toes, and then, the strangest thing

I think the wine quivered in the glass

just before the geyser

blew our table ten feet straight up.

We should have tipped the waiter extra

for scraping our food off the ceiling

but I think he understood

you were too wiped out

to reach for your wallet.

(Jess Myers graduated from Ithaca College in May of 2006, with a degree in creative writing. Her work is largely autobiographical, though she sometimes calls it fiction, because she takes perverse pleasure in seeing what meaning people ascribe to her life. Her favorite writers are David Sedaris (whose reading inspired her to change her major from vocal performance to creative writing), Dorothy Parker, and Flannery O'Connor, to name a few. Jess is also a trained equestrian and archer. Her full portfolio can be found on WritersCafe.org.)

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Friday, December 01, 2006
The Best of Bond

It’s difficult not to be seduced by James Bond movies.

What’s not to savior? He’s a suave secret agent with a license to kill. A rapscallion who is tougher than a sack of nails, as relentless as an army of carpenter ants, and with the courage of a grizzly bear. He makes love to deliciously gorgeous women with names like Pussy Galore, Honey Ryder, and Holly Goodhead. He drinks his martinis “shaken, not stirred” and never seems to lose when he gambles.

And he utters dialogue like this gem from “Diamonds Are Forever.” (1971):

Girl: Hi, I'm Plenty.
James Bond: But of course you are.
Girl: Plenty O'Toole.
James Bond: Named after your father perhaps?

However, in recent years, the Bond franchise became as bloated as a whale carcass washed up on the beach (and smelling as bad as well). They were overproduced, explosion-laden "events" that began to resemble the more forgettable Roger Moore films in the mid-1980s when Moore played the role as if he were Austin Powers and not Ian Fleming's 007.

Then along came the new James Bond film “Casino Royale” (2006) starring what many thought was a bad choice as 007 – actor Daniel Craig. This stripped down, back-to-basics action movie may, in fact, be the best James Bond movie ever produced. It already ranks higher in viewer satisfaction than any other film in the franchise at Internet Movie Database.

In honor of the refreshing new life breathed into the series by "Casino Royale," DaRK PaRTY presents the 7 Best James Bond Movies (before “Casino Royale”). And, just for the heck of it, we also threw in the three biggest bombs.

The Best

Dr. No (1962)

The first and perhaps the best and where Sean Connery utters the infamous “Bond, James Bond” line for the first time. The franchise has its heart – and its origins in this excellent original. The plot is pure 007 – Bond heads to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow British spy and ends up embroiled in Dr. No’s plan for world domination. Beautiful women (Honey Ryder), flirtations with Miss Moneypenny, and even an underground liar for the villain. It’s all here.

Goldfinger (1964)

This is the movie where Connery really settles into the character of James Bond and shows us how brutal and single-minded 007 could be. The movie pits Bond against gold-obsessed tycoon Auric Goldfinger, who launches a plan to destroy all the gold in Fort Knox. The movie features one of the series’ best villains – Oddjob, a savage, deaf mute with a razor sharp fedora, and one of the dirtiest named Bond girls – Pussy Galore.

Live and Let Die (1973)

This is Roger Moore’s best Bond movie and the film responsible for making the release of a 007 film into a stunt-filled event (the speed boat race is excellent). It also features a bad guy named – get this – Mr. Big. Moore made Bond lighter than the dark, violent type crafted by Connery. That style worked for Moore in this film – but not so much in others. This movie also has the best theme song by far with Paul McCartney and the Wings putting some heat into into “Live and Let Die.”

From Russia with Love (1963)

The first Bond movie to feature SPECTRE, the worldwide criminal organization. This could be Connery’s darkest portrayal as Bond. He’s violent and ruthless as shown in his fight with ex-KGB agent Rosa Klebb (and her poison-tipped shoes) and his battle with Red Grant in a speeding train.

Goldeneye (1995)

The first Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan gave fans hope that Brosnan would revive the sagging franchise. Unfortunately, after a scary good performance in “Goldeneye,” Brosnan collapsed under the weight of heightened expectations. But this film was a great mix of Bond sophistication and over-the-top action. Bond is sent to Russia to track down the murderers of 006 – only to find out that his friend is now part of a plot to use the weapon “goldeneye” to destroy London.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Another back-to-basics Bond (amazing how those back-to-basics Bond films seem to rise to the top of the heap). Less of Roger Moore’s one-liners, fewer explosions, and more focus on Bond the character. This movie introduces the second best Bond villain – the iron-mouthed Jaws. This is the last film where Roger Moore was able to pull off 007. The plot was almost secondary with Bond discovering a plot to abduct U.S. and Russian nuclear submarines.

License to Kill (1989)

This is the most underrated film in the franchise. While Timothy Dalton never seemed comfortable in the role of 007 – he nailed it in this episode. Bond hunts down the drug lord who murdered his best friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter. Dalton plays Bond as a rogue agent out for blood – and you can see the seething vengeance in Bond’s eyes as he walks a tightrope with the law and his own ethics.

The Worst

A View to a Kill (1985)

This is one of those excessive, over-blown Bond movies that forgets about character – and goes for explosions instead. And it features one of the worst acting performances by a Bond girl – Grace Jones. Hideous. Notably only in that it was Moore’s last Bond film and that Duran Duran sang the title song.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The villain in this horrible movie is a media baron. He wants to start World War III so he can sell more newspapers in China. I wish I were making that up. The movie is literally stolen from Pierce Brosnan by actress Michelle Yeoh (as a Chinese secret agent). She’s faster, tougher and smarter than 007.

The World is Not Enough (1999)

The film that nearly destroyed the franchise. Bloated beyond measure. Pierce Brosnan looks tired and irritated and the usually superb Robert Carlyle is left floundering in the role of arch villain Renard. Miss this one at all costs.

5 Questions About: James Bond

Ode to the "Bourne Supremacy"

A Slightly Intoxicated Batman Give Career Advice to Aquaman

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