RIORI Vol 3, Installment 92: George Noifi’s “The Adjustment Bureau” (2011)


The Players…

Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly and Terence Stamp.

The Story…

Senator David Norris is on the fast track to politcal success. Dancer Elise Sellas is on the fast track to becoming the elite ballerina on the New York theatre circuit.

It’s not in the plan.

There’s a plan? Sure, David and Elise are destined to fall in love. But not that way.

There’s a plan. There’s always a plan.

The Rant…

“Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean They aren’t out to get you.”

I’ve always appreciated that little witticism/message scrawled in ragged paint on a faux reclaimed wood panel sold in most Hallmark stores. It’s a curiosity, really if you think about it. I think it’s safe to claim that all of us at one time in our wretched, little lives that someone, maybe someones, hell even something is out to get us. Ruin our day. F*ck around with our credit score. Keying our car. Misspelling your name on that Starbuck’s venti latte (so that Mark gets your hot, foamy comfort rather than you, Matt). Dammit, someone’s out to get me. Rats.

That’s not to say I’m paranoid, it’s just that everyone is out to get me. Kidding (maybe).

Notice that I capitilzed “they” in the opening line. That’s not a typo, nor entirely accurate either. Pertaining to irrational fears of possible persecution, home invasion, wiretapping your kitchen, wiretapping your car, letter bombs stuffed with anthrax, the repo man, wiretapping yor dog, most of all that truck is nothing more than a product of a fevered imagination, maybe a result of brown acid. Or a binge watch of a Dennis Hopper movie marathon.

“I think, you want to know what I think? I think this is a crackpot idea!”

Thanks, Billy.

Paranoia is indeed crackpot thinking, like your meager life matters to humankind at large. Look in the mirror. Go on, go look. I’ll wait.

*sounds of sursurring Atlantic surf*

There. You ain’t special. You’re just another guy trying to make their way in the world, paying taxes, eating pizza and always on the hunt for the ideal parking spot. Like everyone else, even your kids. But on the other side of the coin it nags at you: there’s more than this, so why haven’t I found it? I’m so stressed. Is someone or something getting in my way?

Probably, like you being your own worst enemy and all those mistakes you made in college (like posting your kegstand skills on your LinkedIn profile. While doing a kegstand. Good times, good times, bad résumé). There may very well be a clutch of people who want to make things difficult for you based on your reputation and past bad decisions (read: kegstands). If so, maybe They’re just pissed you stole their parking spot. Being one’s own worst enemy can make Them a convenient excuse for your headaches. Or just plain confuse and/or derail your train of thought.

Face it. Some days it really does feel like the forces are collunding against you. Those bad days messed up with silly frustrations and epic fails alike. Traffic jam miles long on the highway when you’re on your way to that big interview and you can’t call ahead because either the reception is spotty or you failed to properly charge your phone from that all-nighter with Fortnight (and you with that big interview in the morning. For shame). All the coupons you collected for the market are either expired or for stuff the place doesn’t carry. That damned GrubHub delivery guy is clogging your spot again (after returning home to hop back on Indeed. That stupid Ethopian prince charity never panned out. Argh. Little bamboo shoots under the nails are these, and the pain can make you want to shake a fist at the sky. Don’t; it may start to rain. You hear what I’m screamin’?

All this musing on paranoia reminds me of a passage of a fave book of mine: Michael Crichton’s autibio Travels. Quit moaning. True the guy wrote potboilers, but they were very good potboilers (I heard even a few of his books were made into movies). Crichton’s travelogue covers his med school years, getting into writing and his world travels that informed a lot of his novels. Not surprisingly, his trademark frank writing about amazing things holds sway. Besides med school and globetrotting, there are a few paens to other odd situations he got himself into. Like him directing the film The Great Train Robbery starring Sean Connery. Like getting all psychedelic at the Institute Of Mentalphysics in the California desert by talking with a cactus (with, not to). Like the proper way to mentally bend spoons (it requires spirits, and neither of those). And like the time he had to consider his place in the realm of sexual politics.

Before I continue and although I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some of his books—Sphere jumps immediately to mind—I’ve found Crichton to be a very egotistical, sexist, racist writer. His frank technobabble style is so casual it almost reads like a science nerd’s thesis. You don’t understand? Well, haw haw, of course not and take my hand, you quark. Almost all his protags are white males, whose conflicts and foibles take many chapters to reveal. All females and non-whites’ flaws are out there all at once. Almost all his women are capable, but are strung up like Wonder Woman with her gauntlets welded together; impotent. Even in my pet Sphere, the antagonist may or may not be a black guy with an inferiority complex (no, that’s not a spoiler. I couldn’t really figure it out myself). Now, if you can get beyond all that happy crappy, Crichton’s stories are ultimately rewarding, if only with a sour taste in your brain.

Hang on. This is a parable about paranoia. I eventully get somewhere, right? Right? Anyway.

In his Travels, Crichton penned a chapter ominously titled “They.” Sounded like a script for a 1950s s/f B-movie. At first it read like Crichton, recently single, him having trouble making the scene again, naive since being out of the dating game for so long. It was the 1980s, fast to work and late to bed. Our esteemed writer felt truly wide of the mark, even when he managed to score some tail. He claimed to learn then that woman were following the design (albeit with yet to be processed Red Bull) institued by males back when Mike was…male.

The chapter spoke about guys in the 1980s trying to catch up with the career minded women who wanted it fast and quick rather than time consuming courting. It read all very sexist, like males were incapable of recognizing their emotional needs, and they  had it all together. The whole chapter read like a scared man who failed to try and understand female needs. He summed his experiences up with an inability to keep up with this “new kind of woman.” That being the career-driven, freewheeling and often “macho” kind of female that for good or for ill—in Crichton’s view—are climbing all over the early-80s social scene. And him getting lost in the shuffle.

Nonetheless it’s a thoughtful piece, “They.” Not necessarily a paranoid caution, but something to give one pause. I’m not talking about shoulder pads, feathered hair and lugging around an Osborne “laptop” on the way to the shareholders’ meeting who won’t give a nice guy a second glance circa 1984.  No. It’s about becoming vaugely aware that there might be a section of society at large that may indeed be scoping you out, sizing you up and maybe just plain getting in your way.

To paraphrase Hugh Jackman in Swordfish: “Stop f*cking up my chi.”

(Go with me here. I’m rolling.)

The curious thing about feeling paranoid, no matter who your They are, it’s never truly about They are “out to get you.” Get you. Okay, how? I barely get myself sometimes. Some nameless, faceless cabal are out to f*ck up your life because they don’t get you? They don’t even know you. All They might do—if They indeed are truly laying in wait to jam their SUV into your usual/infrequent parking spot bearing bags from Chipotle—is interfere. Mess up your schedule. F*ck with your system. Make you question sh*t you’re usually pretty sure about, like it being impossible to wiretap a Corgi. All that jumping. Really? They don’t know you.

Or do They? When the world feels like its conspiring against you, how come it feels so damned personal? So f*cking specific? Lightning struck thrice. Again with the fist. It makes a rational person begin to question the very fabric of their reality. He or she may not be paranoid, but dammit there sure are times when They might be creeping at your doorstep. Rearraging your sh*t. Shuffling up your well laid plans. Your routine getting shifted. Your familiar patterns get all out of order.

Sometimes, sometimes, such things being so out of order at times you—a normally rational person—wonder if some They is treating your daily affairs like a game of Yahtzee.

“Paranoia: you only have to be right once to make it all worthwhile…”

Politics is a dirty business, so it has been said. Makes strange bedfellows, too I’ve heard. Cliches aside, when one gets into the public eye goodbye privacy, hello microscope. You get to be a scion of virtue, too. At least to an adoring crowd.

Senator David Norris (Damon) knows this. He also knows how to politick. Using his “local guy from Red Hook” persona, Norris drums up the average New Yorkers into cheers and possible votes. He’s on the fast track, until some dirty laundry from his college days (inexplicably) comes back to haunt him, and may destroy his political career. Where’d that come from?

David’s fortunes seem to change meeting up with an aspiring dancer, Elise Sellas (Blunt). She’s lovely, vivacious and just the kind of girl David needs to be with to get both his head together and well as his frustrated heart. Elise comes and goes like the wind, and if it wasn’t for a fateful bus ride David may have never seen Elise again.

Well, that was how it was supposed to be.

David quickly learns that not everything a matter of chance. The sudden dirt a while back, once thought dead and buried? Elise meeting him in the mens’ room at one of his big deal speechs? Harry (Mackie) metaphorically falling asleep “at the wheel” and spilling the wrong coffee?

Strange things are afoot for David, and it all began by being on time. For some future…

This was different for me. In many ways.

I didn’t know at the outset that Bureau was based on a Philip K Dick story. Dick was a legendary s/f writer. I even read a few of his stories, and saw all of the movies based on his works. The list is short, but telling. Granted his name isn’t household regarding film adaptions like, say, Stephen King, Harry Potter or 3/4 of the Marvel titles out there, including those yet to written. Still, the fact that any of Dick’s esoteric s/f stories got the Hollywood treatment surprises me.

I say telling because most, if not all of Dick’s library regard reading it requires scratching one’s head into psoriasis. His isn’t casual s/f, and barely user friendly. Yet their adaptations into film usually work well (I credit the directors). I’ve seen Blade Runner (fave go-to film and duh), Total Recall (the first one. Can’t believe I have to quantify that), Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly (an early installment here at RIORI, and not a good one) and Bureau. So when I finally discovered Dick posthumously wrote the screenplay, I was like: “Oh. Okay.” Found this out after a 24 hour pause then on with the second act. The film made a lot more sense. Not in story, but in execution. Here’s what we got back from the lab:

Real quick. I feel it worth mentioning that Dick was a writer who was always asking questions. Primarily his muse was always demanding of him, “What is reality?” I also feel it worth mentioning Dick was a paranoiac, speedfreak and riddled with phobias (eg: he could eat in front of other people. Guess ol’ Phil wasn’t much of a “foodie”) that no doubt informed his work. All of his adapts have taken his musings to heart; from Blade Runner to Bureau, Dick’s films love to blur the edges about what you see is what you see. Now activate the esper machine, please.

Bureau is no different. The very slight undercurrent of paranoia looms large here. To think there is some omniscient team regulating reality, well that’s all about They, isn’t it? I say undercurrent for this film is pretty low-key for a s/f thriller. We got no Tom Cruise juggling balls here, literally or metaphorically. No. We have Damon’s scales fall from his eyes about how the “real world” works and off he goes, back to work and stalking Blunt again. In another movie of this ilk there’d be some drop and panic. Some all-powerful entity pulling humanity’s puppet strings to some end—good or evil, who knows?—might just give pause to the protag who stumbled on to such machinations.

With Bureau? Nope. This is an odd combo of mystery and rom-com, minus the com part. Heck, the hottest moments don’t start coming until well into the second act. Most of the time we’re wondering what’s so special about David that the Bureau takes interest in his career and nascent relationship with Elise. And what’s so special about Elise that also caught the eye of the men in the hats. We’re mostly left to scratching our heads, with no real answers in sight. If they ever come.

Not to say that Bureau is some sort of canard. The jagged story is engaging, but it requires patience. Meaning there was me, with furrowed brows and “What am I watching here?” bouncing around my brainpan. Any suspense in Bureau is created by the looming undertow of paranoia, psychology and passive aggression. All of it. All decent suspense films like to play with your head. Bureau decidedly does not play with your head, and that gets unsettling. Especially when our heroes go back to life as usual after being exposed to the real reality. After digesting all the craftiness the Bureau employs to keep reality on the straight and narrow, our pawns carrying on with their existence (a manipulated one) feels very…weird. Unsettling. The abnormal is the new normal, so don’t behave abnormally, David.

About Damon. After all these years I’ve never warmed up to his smarm. Most his memorable roles required him to be a callow youth (even into his late 30s. Ever see The Departed? Kinda distracting) against near insurmountable cinematic goobley-gook. Portraying a salt-of-the-earth politician, job requirements are lip service and charming the public? Smarm works here. And what is smarm but the behavior of a repentant assh*le? Well, assh*le may be a bit much regarding David’s everyday conduct, but said conduct is endearing when couched in insecurity. David’s whole world has gone all topsy-turvy, and believes (correctly) that forces are colluding against him. When all that artifice gets stripped away he is exposed. Naked. Volitile. Scared. Damon’s smarminess becomes the ideal gateway to earn the audiences sympathy. Clever. The same thing didn’t work in The Departed, remember? Sure different kind of movie, but same Damon. Turning Matt on his ear was a good thing, otherwise I’d keep replaying the scene where the Agents were slapping him around. Hell, after sitting through Good Will Hunting one too many times I’d be first in line to slap that smug grin off his puss.

I wasn’t familiar with Emily Blunt’s work prior to Bureau, but she earned me as a fan here (enough to be charged to see Mary Poppins Returns this Xmas. It was awesome, BTW). It’s always a treat to discover an actress who can pull of smart and sweet in the same breath. Such characters are so rare it takes and obscure Dick adapt to present one. Her steely Elise was the perfect foil to Damon’s overgrown gamin grin. Good chemistry, and I think the casting director earned their stripes pitting these two against each other. Granted their fractured relationship is the Maguffin here, front and center, but there was enough nuauce to let us know not all is as it seems, let alone theirs is just a fling. It’s the lurking paranoia again. Coincidences don’t just happen in David’s world. They are structured, and flinty Elise is the fulcrum on which David’s world now balances.

Sounds like heavy sh*t, right? Considering the source material and the whole “They are out to get you” stance, you may be right. Me? Wasn’t so sure. For such dire sequences to happen for the Bureau, there’s a kind of light-heartedness to the whole affair. So the speak. I took some patience, but I eventually realized that Bureau managed to (just barely) deftly blurred romance against s/f. Right, it was without the -com; precious little humor lurking within this grey movie. But in the final act we got the “love conquers everything” without the schmatlz and sniffles. That there’s a fluffy trifle, but for a Dick script? That’s…well, heavy. Overall I dug that.

Mackie is fast becoming a fave actor of mine. His Harry sets the wheels in motion, and across the film he’s the only emotional construct of the Bureau. He’s the canary in the coalmine, chirping about danger. A metaphysical babelfish, alluding to all that the Norris matter isn’t so simple by keeping him and Elise apart. Mackie is adept at using his body at converying emotion, especially his eyes. His is all so subtle, you’re not sure what you’re watching until you do. I know that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and it’s probably all about believing it when you see it, but as the painter Frank Stella once said, “What you see is what you see” (that’s an eponym from Travels. See? Full circle).

I was gonna talk about the tech side of Bureau (I dug the camera work), but that’s seconadry stuff, better suited for a Cameron tech splash. No. The only machine at work here in Bureau was…um. Okay. Ever seen a movie that was creepy yet not? The creepiness factor here is made known by making the abstract plot so…so rationalBureau is supposed to be high concept s/f, but picking at the scab of paranoia that haunts all of us? There is someone not only out to get you, but to lead you lemming-like to your ulimate fate? Feels that way sometimes, right? If not often. And chances are you won’t earn your audience back and Emily Blunt chose the ladies’ room.

I think this intallment has been one of my better ones. Sometimes laying off the snark and jokes makes it easier to explain what I got out of a film and maybe you, too. But it’s not like I’m directing you to watch Bureau. I’ll advise, but never demand, control you to watch a film I broke down here at RIORIB.

*cue Black Sabbath riff*

The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? Rent it. It takes time and attention to get going, but once Bureau does, you’re going to watch it again to break it down. And again. And again. And…

Stray Observations…

  • “This is the job.”
  • Men in fedoras in the 21st Century. Never a good sign.
  • “You’re bald.” Damon’s characters have always been good at busting balls. It’s disarming.
  • Why does it seem that would-be politicians running for office are often undone by past impetuousness of a long ago youth? Judge Kavanaugh, I’m looking at you.
  • “I just felt like someone was watching us.”
  • She was barefoot in the mens’ room?!? Gross!
  • “You matter, David. You really can.”
  • Editing blooper: Damon’s model of smartphone switches back and forth on the bus ride. Call me dork.
  • “That is…totally unexpected.”

Next Installment…

Bruce Willis wonders where The Kid in him went. Good thing a screechy Spencer Breslin appears to answer and horrify him. Where’s the dog?

RIORI Vol 3, Installment 91: Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!” (2009)

The Players…

Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey and a holy host of stand-up comics from the past 25 years.

The Story…

Ah, America’s Heartland. The Breadbasket, when most of the agriculture that sustains our fine nation is harvested for food, medicine and other vital consumer goods. And one of the most revered (and sometimes reviled) food production conglomerates Arthur Daniels Midland—ADM to you—is responsible from getting all that fresh corn to your tables. And cereal. And sodas. And Twinkies. And plastics. And so on.

But all is not well ADM. Vice President and corporate ladder climber Marc Whitacre smells a rat in his silo, and calls in the FBI to do their thing. Suddenly Marc is a whistleblower with dreams of rewards and promotions in protecting the interests of ADM.

Better wish him into the cornfield.

The Rant…

Out of general courtesy I’ll apologize for my long absence. I could tell you what I’ve been up to, but I know you don’t care. So let’s get to the matter at hand, shall we?

It’s funny. Steven Soderbergh evolved from art-house obscurity to award-wining director in only a few key strokes. Yeah, yeah. Lotsa directors get this left-handed complement. This guy named Spielberg jumps immediately to mind (though his oeuvre was never art-house; Night Gallery was as close as it got, but his ep starred Joan Crawford in her very twilight years. I guess that counts for something). This dude named Zemeckis went from slumming it with Used Cars to rocket to fame with the Back To The Future trilogy, not mention later on some commercial and critical goo-ga with a little film called Forrest Gump, Lieutenant Dan! Kurosawa wanted to be a painter; directing movies was a far flung second. Good thing he stunk at watercolors.

Considering the “meteoric” rise to fame and fortune of the esteemed above, most of their success laid in crafting films that both garner critical acknowledgment and a fun with a capital fun for audiences. Critical praise is easy to follow. The highbrow says what’s good and/or bad with a film and we grok them. What makes a person justify MoviePass’ existence is such a director getting the butts in the seats. Now, no one may argue that Saving Private Ryan is a critical delight, but it’s also a lot of fun. Harrowing fun, mind you, but entertainment is entertainment. And the box office results don’t lie. You did not need some PhD in film take their swipes. So there.

Soderbergh went from art-house whatever to major player in a few, mere steps. Out Of Sight and Traffic were terrific, bringing home the accolades and the profitable turnout. Soderbergh’s remake of Ocean’s Elevenfor good and for ill—made remakes a viable commodity in Tinsel Town. Hell, his remake spawned an entire franchise, and don’t let Sandra Bullock turn you off, wildcat. The ticket sales didn’t lie. Soderbergh may be onto something in making his movies get rave reviews and audiences wetting their diapers with aplomb. In simpler terms, he made a splash.

(Don’t groan. That is the best pun you’ve ever heard all hour.)

To wit, I breathe a sigh of frustration. A good director should rest on that: good at directing movies. Spin the tale. Let the actors roam. Get Junkie XL to cut the soundtrack. That sort of thing. Critical acclaim and audience satisfaction are not mutually exclusive. Wait, actually the audience matters most than any shiny shiny from the front row. I’m willing to betcha audience hoo-ha is more potent than critical blah. Remember, I’m no critic, just an observer. Movie critics make money. I sell blood to pay the rent. Kidding. It wasn’t my blood.

That being said (not the blood thing, not yet), I feel that the rabble may influence the highbrows more than they’d like to admit. What do these dopes with their Big Gulps and Trump bumper stickers know about cinema? Precious little, and that’s okay. Soderbergh’s CV, to them, came fully formed like Zeus hatched from Cronos’ skull. Tight drama, tight action. It works for me, too. Good movies are good movies, no matter how wobbly the director finds themselves on the front row at a Stones’ concert. Shouting out requests. And being heard. The snots with their columns may often bow down not to the doyens of cinematic f*ckery: the fickle, salt-of-the-earth, flavor-in-Columbus crowd. Them’s with their faith in MoviePass, y’all. Butts squarely in the seats.

What I am ultimately driving at is that cagey directors like Soderbergh made his name by not giving a sh*t about critical praise. They want to serve their muse and get others to go on the trip (not necessarily in that order). If he got some, hooray. I don’t give a sh*t if he was the first director to shoot a film on Mars with the remaining Monty Python troupe members recreating a live-action musical version of Akira. It would be entertaining, even without heavy drugs. And why do I claim this silliness? Because Soderbergh knows how to create films that are both solidly entertaining and innovative. And please the popcorn munchers and the highbrows in equal measure. Only Spielberg has straddled that line so well, but it took him a bit longer. I mean it took 11 years of films for Soderbergh to win his Best Director Oscar. It took Spielberg 25 years. That says something about canny filmmaking like Soderbergh: critical and commercial delights. Not an easy task to accomplish ever in Hollyweird when the bottom line is the bottom line.

This isn’t fandom gushing here. It’s respect, a hard won commodity in the realm of movie making. Which is oddly almost a thankless job in Hollywood. Can we say “creative differences” anyone? Ask Richard Donner about his truncated work on the blockbuster Superman II. Considering Soderbergh’s canon is full of quirky and edgy undertones his films deliver. The money. Hollywood might say thank you and not call on Richard Lester for Ocean’s XVIII.

It’s not like Soderberg is one of those crazy taskmasters like Hitchcock, Kubrick and Ford were, nor is he one of those odious filmmakers that subscribe to auteur theory. He just wants to makes films that serve his muse (and often id) and hopes the audience takes his hand holding the clapperboard. This apparent, amiable not giving a sh*t execution of his movies can make Soderbergh seem like some roguish dooshnozzle to the cinematic elite. Praise is given, sometimes reluctantly, and just like with all our successful heroes we can wait for the opportunity to take them down a peg or two.

Which is why when a popular, respected director with all but praise to their profession drops a turd in the punchbowl, Variety is all over it like Oprah on a powdered doughnut. Not every director has a sterling record. For every Raging Bull a New York, New York creeps behind. Scorsese had string of winners before the stinkers, and when the hose came out the furor of the guy “losing his touch” eclipsed the relatively recent, “no duh” praise to Taxi Driver, Mean Streets and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. The snobs accused and blamed Scorsese for calling it in, or worse. And boy did they sh*t the bed for it. Especially after Raging Bull was released.

I do have a point coming. Relax. Lemme take a bathroom break first…


That’s better. Better to pissed off than pissed on I say. What, heard that one before?

Sometimes an esteemed director “takes a risk.” Deviating from their usual bread and butter. Kinda like when horror porn enfant terrible Eli Roth to a break from stuff that bleeds all over stuff that bleeds and chose to be Halloween prankster and gave us the big adapt of The House With A Clock In Its Walls (starring Jack Black, no less). Eyebrows were raised. Was this some sort of joke? Yes, it was and I, for one, went along with it. Good movie. Lotsa creepy crawlies and frights and Black as the bumbling, chubby warlock. My kid thought it was too scary, and informed her of what kind of movies the director usually made. She said no thanks.

And no thanks to me either. I’ve seen a few of Roth’s output. I like scary, not vomit inducing. But him “taking a risk” directing a PG Halloween movie with magic and mayhem (“playing against part” if you will) well outside his comfort zone certainly got folks to take notice, of only for the wrong reason: how could Mr Hostel become Willy Wonka?

Granted, Roth isn’t really an esteemed director. Infamous and a grade A schlockmeister to be sure, but still the guy has a rep, a cachet. I think my above example rings true for those filmmakers are godheads to film geeks like you, me and them. Take Spielberg. For the first 15 years of his profession as director his stock in trade was in sci-fi and action/adventure flicks. When he strayed into the field of drama, people (and critics) went bugf*ck, to put it mildly. And based on a book! Written from the POV of a black woman! Quincy Jones did the soundtrack while John Williams cried in his beer! And introduced to the world to an edgy comic as a victim of domestic abuse!

World, meet Whoopi. Whoopi, meet the world and don’t let Oprah run you down.

Talking about taking a risk. The Color Purple must’ve invited more scrutiny about it was made (and by who) than the merits of the movie proper. What right does this 30-something, Jewish white boy have documenting the black experience? According to my fact checking department (of which I have none) the black community did scratch their heads as a collective whole as to what to make of this guy Spielberg taking such a “risk?” Well, even though I don’t give much credence to the AMPAS and its doctrine, Purple was nominated for 11 Oscars as well as cleaning up at the box office. Who wants some Selsun Blue?

Soderbergh is also know for being “risky” when helming a film. I’m not talking outright subject matter (although it’s well-understood his muse straddles a line between intimacy and sexuality), or even the story. He’s just so very staunch in his belief of let the creator create, regardless of their endeavors. It’s called integrity, my fellow popcorn munchers and to be a successful filmmaker in an industry that is always in a hot hurry to sell the newest “it” requires two things: a vision and a maverick conduct. Whenever Soderbergh takes his risks, it often comes up in the dailies he challenged himself a tossed off feel. Soderbergh’s manna has always been intrigue and tenuous relationships in his work. Makes no diff if it’s with Ocean’s (insert number here), Oscar winner Traffic or his take on Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic, existential sci-fi Solaris. Whatever it takes and go with the flow or blow.

That being said, comedy? Um, terra incognita. Sure, the Ocean’s movies had some funny stuff, but it was a crime caper first and foremost. Already established by 2009 as a director of merit, whose films are dense, terse character studies (even his Solaris, quit groaning) to tackle a comedic story based on real events inspired by It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad WorldWell, really?

Talk about “taking a risk” even though bowing down to a comedy is rarely regarded by the bent-nosed critics as such. For ardent fans of a director with a signature style it mostly requires extra Selsun Blue. For a director like Soderbergh who likes to challenge himself as his audience, going screwball might smell like career suicide. Especially casting a former captain of the proto Enterprise as a G-Man sans the holo avatar. But here we go.

Try not to notice Damon’s coif…

Mark Whitacre (Damon) is a rising star at ADM. He’s affable, knowledgeable and driven. He has his eyes on the stars, and maybe his head in the clouds.

Mark’s a rising star ADM. Good rep, astute, bright future awaits.  His boy scout mentlality and respect for his benefactors suddenly turns him into whistleblower when a rumor of ADM’s primary crop—read: corn—is being tampered with (maybe by Monsanto’s industrial operatives).

In hopes of gaining a lucrative promotion and becoming a hero of the common people, Mark inadvertently reveals his penchant for helping himself to the corporate coffers and threatens to derail the very investigation he helped to launch.

Well, what investigation? The FBI’s, of course. Special Agent Brian Shepard (Bakula) suspects that ADM is doing some price fixing, and because of Mark’s sterling record he might be the ideal—

Oh, you get it…


Soderbergh may make good, terse dramas and bouncy actioners. Comedy? Well, let’s just say the apple rolls away from the tree. And rolls.

Getting to the point Informant is screwy yet stiff. That odd combo seems to work here, but only to a degree. It feels kinda like an ep of “The Kids In The Hall.” Subtley surreal but not as overt. What am I watching? A comedy or sorts. It’s dry, mostly. I like dry humor. My humor is dry. The Informant is so dry it chafes. It gets a bit off-putting after a while.

I lay blame at the script. The story can’t make up its mind if the Informant! is a scrweball comedy, a manic caper when All The Presidents’ Men meets the Coen Bros circa The Big Lebowski (what else?), or a character study of a nice guy who wants to seen as nice and agrees to everything except using the common sense God gave Sylvester the cat. In short, the focus of the movie bounces back to the “A” plot, which is pretty straightforward after careening around in the B-plot, Mark’s fevered delusions of success. Informant! gets all scrambled, yet that may be the point. We’re looking at a man who is failing upwards but has convinced himself what he is doing working for the FBI (eg: climbing the corporate ladder, being an advocate on behalf of ADM, being a doting family man, etc) is the “right” thing, despite losing himself in his delusion.

Let’s cut to the chase: this is a decidely odd movie. Silly, really. It’s tough to follow the straight line towards what Soderbergh (tried) to get across here. Chuckles, sure. Maybe social commentary. Perhaps just an outlet for Damon to cut loose. Aye, that may be the rub.

Let’s talk about Damon for a moment. He’s the pinion upon which the whole wad spins, right? His Mark is an amalgam of Mr Slate from The Flintstones and Bud Abbott; superiority and insecurity’s hold on it personified. And what’s the most interesting— if not the most amusing—aspect of Informant! is the relation between how Mark’s grasp on the reality of his (self-inflicted) surroundings makes his “waking” life all the more surreal, which he does not acknowledge. With much force. His voice-overs are less random synapses of rationalization but rather a steam vent opening. Mark’s monologes are nothing but rationalizing, convincing himself if the right guy for the job. The “nice” guy.

That whole bit wasn’t conceived to be negative. After coming so far with RIORI I’ve learned how to write as a doosh without being a doosh. Well, still learning I guess. I’m not the biggest Damon fan. Sure, he’s a solid actor, reliable. And very predictble. Damon’s performance is so un-Damon it makes solid Damon almost unrecognizable. It’s a good thing. It allows young Jack Ryan (or even younger Illario) to go again his grain. Mark is the funniest thing about Informant! and he makes this flick ne big facepalm. Mark is insecurity incarnate, and also pulls of nerdy very well. Damon’s the only animated person here. Everyone else—including the much more earthy Bakula, who looks like he his head far from the clouds—are just dolts. Wallpaper. Makes Damon’s Mark all the more, well, marked. Is it a coincidence that stand-up comics comprise the supporting cast? They’re all laughing at him. I was. That was about it.

Again it was kinda tricky to follow where Soderbergh was going here. Right, comedy. But what kind? Was this some kind of corporate Three Stooges bit? Was it all about a fish out of the wrong water? A middle finger to the ardent Soderbergh audience? You can almost hear the dominos tumbling down. What adds to any comic unease is the incessant babble of Marc’s voiceovers, almost pleading for both sympathy for his plight as well as making a case for his criminal acts. Laughs in finger-pointing or you don’t know what else to do? Me? I caught the gig, but missed the show. A tight director like Soderbergh needs to be looser to pull of a giggle fest. Or a facepalm.

This movie is silly, and it’s hard to tell if that was on purpose. Knowing it was based on real events, were the real Mark’s escapades that hair-brained or was some sweetening spread across the script? Granted a lot of scenarists take liberty with the source material (eg: that pen trading thing in A Beautful Mind? Never happened, nor the ceremony ever existed. Sorry, Montblanc). I figured the writers of Informant!  did their darndest to make the film laughable. Under comedy-rube Soderbergh Informant! played out as laughble.

Like Bakula’s ‘do.

“Al? You there?”

The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? A mild rent it. This is a first. The Informant! (despite my grumpier, assured yammerings over lesser movies) is the first flick here that was just not my thing. It was a solid film, well cut, but had a hard time holding my attention or churning up laughter. Despite my steaming, I can still recognize what I recognize.

Stray Observations…

  • “What else is there?”
  • Corky?
  • Bakula sports an amazing hairstyle, akin to pro football coach crica 1976. Must’ve leapt there for ideas.
  • “This involves price fixing in the lycene business.” Hide the children.
  • “You let me know about it, and I’ll tell my Dad.”
  • Pay phones. Stupid things.
  • The way Mark’s brain is wired you can almost hear the fuses blowing.
  • Never trust a guy who says, “Trust me” holding a large glass of whisky.
  • Remember Woody Allen’s Sleeper? Yep.
  • “Well, I think maybe I should go back to the hospital.”

Next Installment…

Matt Damon (and Emily Blunt) is on the run from The Adjustment Bureau. Wow! So?!?


RIORI Vol. 3, Installment 1: Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium” (2013)


The Players:

Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga and Sharlto Copley, with Diego Luna, William Fichtner and Wagner Moura.

The Plot:

In the mid 22nd Century, the wealthy elite has divorced themselves from an overpopulated, toxic Earth to live out an exclusive, eternal life of luxury on the space colony known as Elysium. Such an Eden is the envious life of those left behind, and for one Max DeCosta, getting there may be the only chance of saving his own degrading life.

The Rant:

For those who’ve kept paying attention, this is the first installment of the third (and hopefully final) iteration of RIORI. It’s for two reasons, one practical and one we’ll call sympathetic.

First (in short), the practical: I finally fine-tuned the blog to a setup of maximum efficiency and minimal fuss. In real life, I make my living as a cook. That being said, us cooks must work with an economy of motion. I’ve read other blogs out there. No doubt so have you. Some are very pretty, models of webtech, which we should all aspire to. They posess lots of splash-and-dash and eye grabbing visuals that might make your forget you visited a blog to read something above all else…and try to ignore that Disney bug in the corner.

Popular blogs—the ones that might garner sponsors—look quite professional (e.g..: users paid for the premium ticket. I’m broke, so I work with what I got). A great deal of them read like they had the NY Times as underwriters. Well written, user-friendly and just the right amount of eyewash to separate them from the dross. These precious few are the high watermark that us in steerage try to aspire. That and those of us who try to follow grammatical logic (haven’t figured out the “your/you’re/you are” trifecta yet? Go review you Funk’n Wagnalls, and we’ll chat never, okay?). I’d like to think that’s so, such streamlined blogs of untrammeled verbiage. Simplicity and economy.

It’s hard these days of immediate text overflow to differ between good online content when it happens or just a lot of shock-and-awe-with-your-unwanted-selfies-in-that-truck-stop-stall-with-the-crumpmled-tallboys-of-PBR-at-the-heels-of-your-widdershins-Candies. I still suck at it. I am trying to not contribute to it. And about those beer cans? Tsk-tsk.

I’ve always strove towards efficiency and economy. Tried to. I’m no Hemingway, but I think most writers owe him a debt of gratitude in showing how to tell a story with just enough words to convey both meaning and feeling. Following that example—at least when it comes to sheer effectiveness—I’m trying to keep RIORI slim and trim, easy to access and minimal on the sparkly. Trying to. The focus should be on the semi-regular posts—the words and stories—and not the ever-alluring bells and whistles. We can access enough accidental porn via spam, thank you very much.

On the flipside, as a caution, most other blogs I’ve frequented look like a six-year old high on glue let their older sibs smatter their tweets onto solid hypertext to make the galaxy know that their kitty is such a good, good kitty. Such a good kitty. That and there’s a lot of spelling misteaks. I’m not passing judgment; I’m just reporting on what I’ve seen. Just sayin’.

*draws squeegee across monitor, hitches up belt and feels fattened by the marrow than only prime blogging can bring. Checks lock on door*


Second (in long), the sympathetic: The intro page at RIORI shouts its intent, ribald as it is. I’ve made no apologies; I warned you after all, and yet week after week you come back for more abuse. Thanks, by the way. But like the germ for all good stories—at least, I’d like to think this a good story—an original idea never occurs in a vacuum.

In the summer of 2013 I was tasked to work in a glorified snack bar at the country club I chef at. I did it for two summers, which were two summers too many. For one, the kitchen’s heat was insufferable. If you stood still long enough, you could watch hydrogen atoms merge with oxygen atoms and their osmosis would collect on your eyebrows. Yeah, it was hot.

For two, the clientele were basically the Disney Channel audience on speed. Kids aging from afterbirth to frustrated tween demanded at full volume where the f*ck their chicken fingers were. These were the spawn of the alarmingly wealthy; kids always tapping away at their iPhone 6 in 2012. I was the go-to man for “You wanna super-size that?” What I wouldn’t have given for a hankie soaked in chloroform and a polo mallet.

For some perspective, I was once the sous chef at a white tablecloth restaurant complete with a fey sommelier and an ever-changing menu that reflected the months. Not seasons, months. My chef was into a seasonable/sustainable doctrine that hadn’t seen such fervor since the first draft of Mein Kampf. After years of keeping salsify fresh with a milk bath and cultivating mint and sorrel in the restaurant’s backyard, I had to (being a new dad and a newfound family to support) seek out a gig that paid better and eventually promised health bennies.

Enter the club, and the ensuing chicken fingers.

I arrived then at what I now know as the “cattle call.” Summer’s a big deal at clubs. Being an operation based mostly on a summer sport, it would go to follow that during those heavy, hot days, with numerous would-be golfers champing at the bit to play a few rounds, folks might get a slight peckish. The club had several satellite kitchens opened to fill the members’ hungry needs. In turn the place took any willing applicants they could, regardless of experience.

Read: I was a sucker. But a sucker with a wife and kid. You’ll suckle at anything then.

Two sentences: I needed the job and needed the benefits. I did not need to dunk fries for the children of effete wastrels absconded to the bar because their offspring was a secondhand notion. Not that I’m bitter. Hey, want my recipe for balsamic moules a la basquaise? Of course you don’t. Go to Red Lobster. They won’t have it either.

In spite of the heat and the thankless tasks of feeding, babysitting and allowing my knives getting rusty, I had a simple pleasure in working with some good guys. All of them summer folk and they possessed a resigned, genial, shrug-and-nod attitude to the place. Most of the time working with good people in a sh*tty work environment will make the day feel a lot less like work and more like a day just getting on.

Despite the craptastic, cramped conditions, insufferable heat and nary a sous vide well to temper, it was a well-paid gig. And thanks to the bennies, I’m assured I can always afford to be sick. It was what it was, and I’ve always hated that axiom. I still do, but after the club’s snack bar summers, I’ve learned to understand it. I only pray that you, dear reader, never have to understand it also.

One of the cool guys I suffered through summer with inadvertently planted the seed that would germinate into Rent It Or Relent It. Again, I assure you it’s a good story. Again I at least think it is. Most of the best stories are personal. You still reading? Okay:

Jordan was at least my junior by a decade. I’ll spare you the magnifying lens of nostalgia. The fact that he liked Vonnegut, Neutral Milk Hotel and the works of Terry Gilliam as I did says enough. Good taste, no matter what the age, is always welcome.

I know that Jordan occasionally visits this blog. For any digressions from the conversations we’d had, I’ll employ the Man Who Shot Liberty Valence escape clause: if the legend is better than the facts, print the legend. He’s an honest soul; I’m hoping he’ll forgive any embellishments. Then again, we worked late and were both doped-up with heat. Some things get cloudy.

Anyway, we worked the night shift. We were left alone to close up the place. This permitted some down time and interesting conversations would ensue. Work stories, travel stories, this and that. One night Jordan told me about a movie his friend had seen and he wanted to see also. It was Elysium, and was directed by the guy who brought us District 9. I hadn’t seen 9 yet but heard good things about it and its director, Neill Blomkamp. Jordan had seen that film and was jonesing to catch Elysium. I just kind of shrugged and nodded. I heard some flap about 9, also a lot of quacking about its class warfare theme. From what little I knew of the movie and people’s reaction to it, I was surprised to hear that most people didn’t get the apartheid allegory. Jordan wasn’t surprised at this. He was more along the things of, “You know how people are.” Me? I’ve all but given up.

After Jordan finally saw Elysium and reported back to me, he was kinda bummed. All the hype surrounding Blomkamp’s big-budget, name-actor sophomore effort was for naught. He was disappointed that the film was so, well, blah. It had no real twists and turns, very straight-forward. That and Jodie Foster had this inscrutable accent that was very distracting.

I told Jordan that, yeah, that’s happened to me too. A big deal movie turns out to be not such a big deal after all. This got me to wondering and I shared my thoughts with Jordan. There ought to be some website out there that warns us about seeing “blah” movies. Not movies that outright suck, but disappoint, fluster and lead the audience into a state of post-viewing, “…The f*ck?”

That’s when it hit me. Jordan and I had seen many movies that had this effect. Jillions of them were already floating in under-supervised RedBoxes around the planet, just waiting to be inflicted on unknowing movie watchers. The horror!

I had to do something.

So that’s it. Really. And here we are. Since August of 2013 RIORI has tracked down and picked apart dozens of “blah” movies, all to save you from possibly wasting precious time and money. You’re welcome, by the way. And if you haven’t appreciated my screeds here (yet you keep returning), blame Jordan. It was more or less his idea in the first place.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t as good a story as I had thought. Whatever.

Onto this week’s time waster, the Maguffin that got this ball of wax rolling…

Los Angeles has always been a sprawling city. It teems with millions of people from all over the country—nay—the world to set up shop and try to live out some existence that passes at most productively and at least manageable.

That’s the 21st Century we’re talking about. In the 22nd Century, all LA is meager existence. Meager, poverty-ridden, toxic and diseased. Not just LA, but the Earth as a whole. The world has become an open sewer. The destitute live hungry, diseased lives. And to make matters worse, the way out, the Promised Land mocks the rabble from orbit.

Earth’s ultra-beyond-belief rich established the space colony Elysium as a haven from the scourges that ravage the planet. Every day on Elysium is idyllic, serene and free of worry. Perfect. Magic technology allows Elysian citizens to live in a virtual paradise, free from aging and sickness, not to mention having to intermingle with those dirty savages on Earth below. Elyisum is basically a big “f*ck you” to the troglodytes planet-side. Yes indeed, the rich are different.

Max DeCosta (Damon) is an ex-con trying to live the straight and narrow in a shanty town of overpopulated, deteriorating LA. His days consist of work and his nights of sleep, thankful to have that amidst of all the sh*t he has to swallow. In the face of soulless police robots randomly attacking the poor populace to air pollution that could choke a walrus, Max considers himself one of the “lucky ones.”

Until an industrial accident takes that little bit away from him.

After suffering a lethal dose of radiation poisoning at the plant where he builds said robots, he’s facing at most five days to live. Now sick, Max knows of illegal “immigrants” hot-wiring shuttles to get to Elysium and access to their healing tech. Most of these “escape routes” are blown out of the sky, and those that do make it there are captured and are trucked right back down to sh*tty ol’ Earth again. If they’re lucky.

Facing a grim fate, Max hangs up his goody-two-shoes schtick, seeks out help to get to Elysium and fix himself before time runs out. He’s not sure what’ll kill him first: the radiation, the robots or the missiles. What Max is sure of is that he’s not going to kick off anytime soon, and flawless Elysium holds the solution…

There’s nothing quite like a sci-fi parable. When you think about it, almost all sci-fi stories are parables. Leave the dictionary alone; I got your back.

A parable is an allegorical story. Y’know, one with a message. It’s usually steeped in social commentary and a lot of “look out, you could be next” symbolism. Most sci-fi, which is usually designed for outright escapism, can be some pretty dark stuff. A lot of sci-fi books/films almost always have a shade of darkness to them. The 1984 adaptation’s a good example, so is THX-1138, Blade Runner, The Terminator, The Day the Earth Stood Still (not the one with Keanu, you simp), Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Silent Running, even Starship Troopers and the original Godzilla, before God. Sniff around and you’ll probably find more examples. The future’s not all bright and sunny most of the time in the not-too-distant.

After District 9, Neill Blomkamp established himself as an astute observer of class warfare via sci-fi allegory (despite the fact that a lot of moviegoers missed the point. In some way, I guess that’s good; apartheid was vile, and since now a generation doesn’t get it…well, let’s call that a semi-good thing with an added plus of disregarding certain U2 albums). Elysium isn’t all that different than 9. It’s more pointed, but has a more straightforward story than its kin. That’s sometimes welcome, especially if it’s executed with a keen sense of purpose. In the case of Elysium, that purpose is to entertain first and preach later. Sometimes parables don’t have to be serpentine in getting a message across. Sometimes directness paired with action film implementation is all you need to get by. It’s a lot more fun that way.

Elysium starts off with some very compelling visuals. The trading off between Earthscape and the space colony is very earnest in setting up boundaries via the issue of unlawful “border crossing”. Elysium itself looks like, well literally, Elysium. The curling space colony recalls Larry Niven’s Ringworld saga, doubtless an inspiration for Elysium. It looks like a perfect world, in reflection of the sh*tastic life on Earth. Those rouge shuttles remind me too much of the open-air caravans of migrant workers being trucked back and forth between the Cali border and home to Mexico. I guess Blomkamp did a good job. Future LA looks like it’s begun to revert back to its natural desert climate, all dust, dirt and desperation. This future looks just plain worn out, I like grimy sci-fi; please refer to your Blade Runner notations.

There’s some darkness here with a crude sense of humor—usually delivered by the symbolic robot paradigm—that gets rather chilling after a while. The humans on Earth are the horde, totally worthless and easily expendable (save for Max; he is our hero after all). The automatons act more human—at least regarding being fully functional and sinister like their masters—than that of their flesh-and-blood counterparts, especially when it comes to quelling the mob.

Elysium plays out a like the proto-Philip K Dick story. Dick’s muse was “what is reality?” If the world of Elysium reflects Dick’s hard-nosed sense of existential muckraking, it’s taking a backseat with the pointed commentary. The metaphors of Elysium are as obvious as an exploding cigar at a state funeral, but executed with the élan of the original Die Hard; Max is the utmost reluctant hero. He ain’t fighting to win, he’s fighting to quit puking. Through his trials, Damon’s Max acts with a serious “What the f*ck is happening?” vibe. Such disbelief reflects the audience’s expectations—Max is doomed, he gets wired up (meta-allegorical considering that robot-producing Armadyne caused his plight in the first place), tears through dusky LA nigh invulnerable, desperately searching for a way out with a lot of emotional obligation involved.

I think I might have just described all of John Wayne’s early vehicles. The Duke was always the strong, silent type, and Damon seems like he’s channeling a taste of that in his Max. However he doesn’t have a heart of gold by any means, only a sense of conscientiousness and more than a little need for retribution. He’s a unwilling hero with a purpose, albeit one who’s MO is highly personal. It a literal matter of life and death.

Max as everyman—at least him an example of the rot that plagues future LA—is in stark contrast to our villain, Foster’s Secretary Delacourt. She epitomizes everything that is wrong with Elysium society. I love villains whose motives are despicable but are executed under the belief that what they’re doing is for the good. That’s more or less how serial killers operate. Delacourt is a conniving, opportunist zealot disguised in a thousand dollar suit and a perfect coif. She’s power hungry without the frothing at the mouth and mustache twirling. Despite being the voice of reason and law in Elysium, she’s underhanded and self-righteous, couching her power plays in the name of “the greater good.” She’s a sci-fi version of one of those Fox News pundits who think they know which way to steer America while advancing their personal gain and ever inflating their—as Bill Hicks once put it—“fevered egos.” In the case of Elysian society’s betterment, Delacourt “knows what’s best,” enough to employ mercenaries to destroy the hijacked shuttles and hack into the brains of politicos that stands in the way of her private agendum. It’s okay though, she only has the “children’s’ interests” in mind. Mwa-ha-ha.

Both Max’s and Delacourt’s aims are clearly set, and the pacing reflects that; Max is not one to go off half-cocked, nor is Delacourt. Again, I lean back onto my bitchy muse of engaging cinema: pacing. Elysium has a leisurely pace, with no hurrying the story despite Max’s impending death. However it feels appropriate. Max is just chattel, like the rest of the scrubs downstairs. Why should his life be any different? But it is his life, and Max has the right to survival regardless of his predicament. Even with all the chase scenes and gunplay, Elysium’s pace is methodical. Scene by scene follows Max’s progression from average joe to techrat fighter to revolutionary (as well as reflecting Delacourt’s nefarious chess games) is very deliberate and engaging. It may play out to some as too straightforward and predictable, but it has a progression that is executed with precision and simplicity. Not all parables have to be so forthright to get their message across. Saying that, Elysium is very satisfying.

So after sweating it out in the infernal snack bar, a good way to kill time and keep my hand in the writing game emerged. Once during that humid summer I brought in manuscripts of some of my completed short stories and novel I had labored over for year. I let Jordan and the servers peruse them in a half hidden way to fluff my ego under the guise of healthy criticism. Jordan saw through that ruse as easily as most people eat food, breathe and go into spiraling credit card debt. You know the thing about fooling most people yadda yadda yadda.

Still, Jordan planted the germ and I guess I’m forever in his debt. That and he got me to see a sturdy little sci-fi action flick, which I enjoyed even if he felt gypped. No matter. What did eventually matter (after getting RIORI off the ground, off of FaceBook and onto a practical blog) was that I got out of that damned sweatbox snack bar with most of my sanity intact. I’m still a cook, and still endure the stressors that come with it—excluding my dubious choice of voluntarily watching dubious movies—but at least I don’t have to beg to have an audience pore over my diatribes and endless pontificating about what you fools should see and/or steer clear of like a hooker ninja with both ADHD and the siff.

The club kitchen still rolls on and I with its endless punches. I’m still in good financial standing if it comes to contracting said STD, and I try to flee from chicken fingers as long as I can.

But sometimes I miss the mint.

The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? Rent it. It’s a solid, grounded sci-fi parable, with very little preaching. Nothing is out-of-sorts, the acting is solid and the pacing is precise. Such things appeal to me. Welcome to Volume Three!

Stray Observations…

  • Foster is struggling with her accent, whatever its supposed to be. Speaking of which, what the hell’s Kruger’s?
  • “Now it’s time for the real fun…”
  • Carlyle’s got a nice ride.
  • I need a gun like that. F*ckin’ Canada geese.
  • Nice football metaphor there, Spider.
  • Max tearing off that robot’s head was really satisfying.
  • Um, how can a car outrun an aircraft that can reach supersonic speeds in 15 seconds? Biodiesel, I tell ya. Biodiesel.
  • “What’s in it for the hippo?” An honest, tender, fleeting moment.
  • Palm trees. Nature’s icon of the idle rich, even off-world.
  • “It’s just a flesh wound, mate!”
  • Elysium: any place or state of perfect happiness; heaven. It could only happen in outer space.
  • “You wouldn’t believe what I’m looking at right now.”
  • I tried very hard to make this installment as well written as I could. I’ll admit I’m a hack, but most hacks try to do well. Consider this all a tribute to my fellow misfit Jordan, who just did what he did. We all need some friendly inspiration now and again (“Could I interest you in a little pot?”). Keep enjoying SD, Jordan, and don’t follow my errors.

Next Installment…

Oye ¿como va, Spanglish? De nada, you gringos.