Pearls Of Wisdom

Gautama sits in his golden cloister,
mouth shut like a tight, complacent oyster,
silent, his shiny pearls clamped in himself
like a greedy man hoarding his vast wealth.
But what does the Buddha know, anyway?
He was nigh-thirty on that fateful day
when he rode forth into his father’s realm
on a grand chariot, a crown his helm.
He saw suffering thitherto denied
unto him while he long sheltered inside
amidst the opulence of his palace,
his life a draught from the golden chalice.
The bitter dregs were apparent, at last,
though he was still blinded by his high caste.
He saw an old man, a sick man, the dead,
and an ascetic, and though highborn-bred
he still worried about himself, of course,
(not others), and he wondered if the source
for removing such pains was self-denial.
So he sat under a tree for a while,
forty-nine days, they claim, though I do doubt
he sat that long, for he was bound to spout
about how great he was, how he alone
would discover Moksha, all on his own,
and he had to expel his piss and poo
so his bowels could be enlightened, too.
Be that as it may, his lotus soon gaped
and he saw Nirvana when he escaped
from the world’s pains, yet returning to preach
to any poor peasant within his reach,
saying, “You, too, can escape rebirth’s wheel
if you would only submit, bow, and kneel
and deny yourself less than what you now own,
which is already little, and on loan,
but as a prince I can tell you the worth
of such possessions on this fickle earth.
Life is suffering! The world is a trap!
Deny yourself—drink the bodhi tree’s sap!”
Most people shrugged, or only rolled their eyes,
and continued their work, already wise
to the ways of the world, to the hard truths
the prince could not learn from beneath the roofs
of his palace, his birthright, his clam shell,
that privileged heaven devoid of hell.
And then he began to raise his temples,
spreading his message like pox-born pimples,
no doubt using his princely position
to thwart other ascetics, his mission
privileged by connections to the courts
throughout the land, favors, toady cohorts,
his franchise spreading like a fast-food chain
or death-cult concerned with its earthly reign.
But he let go of some earthly trifles,
like his wife and child, that which oft stifles
a cult leader when he wants a fresh start,
free from the past—pure in his holy heart.
But Gautama could not shake his wife loose,
for earthly bonds are stronger than the noose
and will follow a man into his grave,
yet he was, if anything, a shrewd knave,
and said that women could not be allowed,
and, thus, his wife was lost among the crowd.
But after many complaints from his aunt,
Siddhartha did, eventually, recant,
saying, “Women can be nuns, I suppose,
but you are lesser than monks, because bros
come before hoes, and so you must obey
the lowliest monk, and do what they say.”
Then Gautama’s cousin rose against him,
saying Gaut was corrupt, given to whim,
and partook of meat, despite Buddhist laws
stating beasts could not be slain just because
monks and nuns hankered for pork or for fowl,
but only incidentally, somehow.
(What a roundabout loophole to ensure
you could eat sentient life and remain pure!)
But this would be your undoing, buddha,
not unlike Nagas and the Garuda
as the bird stamps claws downward to pin them
as fangs bite upward to sting with venom.
For you, too, hankered for non-vegan food
and though you forbid harm to beasts, your mood
was for pork, which was brought to you forthwith—
you ate it without so much as a sniff
and thereafter fell quite ill, your belly
sloshing and tossing, your bowels smelly,
taken to the grave by a bit of pig,
which is ironic for someone so big
in the world’s pantheon of myths and gods,
your shadow looming large, against the odds,
since you were not meant to be a being
at all, nor ego, nor soul, but fleeing
matter, space, and time, freed from such rebirth
that continues to populate the earth.

But speak, buddha, and let us hear the clink
of the pearls, of what you happen to think
is best for us peasants beneath your throne—
tell us what you think, what you alone
discovered after leaving your shelter
and saw, at long last, the helter-skelter
of Life, of the world at large, and its woes;
tell us what it is, naif prince, you suppose
is the source of our suffering, tell us
what we already know, be not jealous
of your unique viewpoint, your perspective
on Life, the existential elective.
I should like to hear the clink of your pearls
when you speak and your lacquered tongue unfurls.

Dune 2021 Review

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90

Dune 2021 Review

“They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.”

From the poem Desert Places, by Robert Frost

Imagine this: a sweeping panorama of desert places, the camera scouring the curves of dunes like the sensuous contours of a lover’s body as she lay in the imitation of some elusive profundity both mysteriously silent and, ultimately, pointless. Which panorama is in question? Choose one at random within Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune and it will suffice, being that they are all indistinguishable from each other. This movie pretends to have something to say, and something to feel. It has neither. It is a vapid exercise in eco-fetishism; a lingering voyeuristic conceit of substance suffused with a director’s ego at the cost of plot and character. Lingering special effects shots and character reaction shots are abundant and shallow, reminding of the gawk-fests that riddle so many Shonen anime adaptations. Some scenes are iconic—scenes with figures and spaceships arrayed around them—but like the religious iconography of the Bene Gesserit it is planted superstition with little import except to impress gullible minds with eye-glazing rituals. Only, it is not so successfully manipulative as the Bene Gesserits. And the reason why is that the director is more concerned with making desktop backgrounds for fanboys than actually telling a compelling story.
There is a willful juxtaposition of the impersonal, hostile environments and gigantic technology with cosmically-dwarfed characters. This is commendable. The world of Dune is impersonal and hostile. The problem is that the movie fails in the attempt to anchor audience via empathy to the plight of the characters. There are characters in the dunes of Dune, but they are lost in the rumbling sandstorms like Fremen shadows. Few actors are characters in Dune. The only exception that demonstrates impressive range is Rebecca Ferguson’s Lady Jessica. She is, by turns, motherly, defensive, capable, noble, powerless, powerful, and conflicted. She is the embodiment of the desert, though she is a Bene Gesserit witch that has never been on Arrakis before. She protects her son, but is also compromised by her Bene Gesserit loyalties. She makes for an interesting character, just as she does in the novel. The conflict on her face during the Gom Jabbar scene is excellent. It is too bad, then, that no other actor has the opportunity to demonstrate their acting range, mainly because the camera is obsessed with scenery more than the script and acting.
Paul Atreides is the presumptive protagonist of the movie. Timothee Chalamet is competent as the figure who will eventually become the god in a Fremen religion. He is scarcely believable as a warrior, however. For a young man trained by Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, and trained in the Weirding Way by his mother, he should not be so slight of frame and bearing. It is difficult to suspend disbelief at his martial prowess. Being a martial artist myself, it is not unbelievable that someone such as Bruce Lee could generate extraordinary power (despite never weighing more than 150 lbs in his life), but Chalamet is not Bruce Lee. He is built more like Mick Jagger than Bruce Lee. While one might lend credence to his prowess via the Weirding Way and its advantages, there is nought in the film that recommends the Weirding Way as any substantial advantage except in use of the Voice. Within the novel the reader is at liberty with Paul’s thoughts and, so, can be familiarized with his character, his motivations, and his pain throughout the narrative. In the movie we have no such privilege. Chalamet attempts to convey Paul’s conflicts with self, his circumstance, and his enemies, but not so much as is needed for it to win over the audience. The problem with Paul is the problem with several characters: not enough screentime to develop them and to invest the audience into their plights. This is a terrible oversight when we consider that Paul is the protagonist of the film (insomuch as he is The One prophesied to lead the Fremen against their enemies). And what is more lamentable is the fact that there are character moments neglected by the director. For instance, when Paul kills Jamis, Paul does not cry as he does in the novel, something which signifies his loss of innocence as a 15 year old having to kill for the first time in his life. This is a conjuncture point where his character grows alongside his legend, for his tears are misinterpreted by the Fremen as a sign of honor for the dead Jamis. Offering water to the dead, by crying, is something the One would do. Fremen rarely afford the dead such extravagances. Thus, a needful character moment is excised at the detriment of the character. Lynch’s Dune movie attempted to avoid the chasm between character motivation and audience awareness with scenes narrated by the characters’ thoughts. While this has been derided by some, it may be the only way the characters’ motivations might be explained more fully in the cinematic format, however gaudy it seems. When the main character is diminished because his range is limited by the script, the film suffers by its director’s poor choices.
Another character that suffers from the script is the seemingly primary antagonist, the Baron Harkonnen. Played by Stellan Skarsgard, he is visually intimidating (at first), floating while draped with a long space muumuu tapestry, but his menace is soon squandered; or, at least, never fully realized. He should inspire dread—with his guttural vocalizations and his unearthly, almost phantasmal mobility, and his black oil (?) rehabilitation baths—but ultimately he is nowhere near as disturbing as the flamboyant Baron Harkonnen in Lynch’s version. The latter is outlandish and creepy, whereas Villeneuve’s Baron is aesthetically impressive, but ultimately shallow. Like Paul, Vlad is never given enough screentime to be menacing. We are supposed to be afraid of him because we are supposed to be afraid of him. The Harkonnen world is likewise interesting—from the scene of Aztec-like battle preparations and the throat-singing, to the plastic-veiled women-in-waiting and the Baron’s gimp-suited multi-limbed pet—but it passes by so quickly that it seems underdeveloped. While Feyd is not necessary to the narrative yet, it would have been nice to foreshadow him as a threat in some way. There is Bautista’s Glossu Rabban, but he is both over the top and, simultaneously, has such little actual screentime that he seems almost extraneous.
As for the other characters, they are cursory, superficially-glancing sketches taken from the novel. Stilgar, as played by Javier Bardem, is enigmatic and mysterious, and manages to make an impression despite little screentime. Oscar Isaac is fine as Leto Atreides, and the scene where he asks Lady Jessica—whom he starts to doubt after the Gom Jabbar trial—to protect their son is impactful, especially since he asks her not as Paul’s mother, but as a Bene Gesserit. The alienation and desperation within the scene is palpable. That said, Leto’s death seems hollow and does not resonate. Duncan Idaho does not impress. Jason Mamoa plays Jason Mamoa, much the same as in every film in which he appears. Some have said Mamoa brings “humanity” to the film, but he seems to bring only bad jokes and a cowabunga mentality. His death is hollow as well. No death seems impactful in the film. Josh Brolin should be a good Gurney Halleck, yet he also plays himself: a grumpy old warrior who does not seem to have any capacity to play music. The joke about Halleck’s inability to smile is overplayed and misplaced. Bathos and melodrama dog the film. The slow-motion dream sequences are overdone, overused, and bring the film to a lethargic halt too many times. The whole film swoons into an imbecilic stupor at these moments. The bagpipes scene is jarring and absurd. The scene concerning fig trees is needless. The lingering vista shots could have been halved, making for a leaner runtime and better pacing. The soundtrack is overbearing and histrionic. Either it blares with loud, distortion-pedal foghorns or it trills with melodramatic lamentations. The dirges ring hollow as they attempt to project the emotions which the characters fail to elicit. No one wants to be told how to feel when watching a movie. They want to feel it naturally as a consequence of the characters and the plot. The cues are, thus, try-hard and mishandled.
For all of the criticism leveled at Lynch’s Dune (and often rightfully so), the costumes of the Bene Gesserit witches and other characters are iconic and otherworldly. The Bene Gesserits of Villeneuve’s Dune are overtopped with boxes and fabric as if they are mobile tents. The still-suits are bland compared to the Lynchian version. The ninja helmets are laughable, as is Chalamet’s superimposed face on the stuntman’s head. The sets are sometimes impressive, such as the Harkonnen world, and sometimes bland (Caladan). The mural of the sandworm with a its maw arrayed with a halo is an excellent use of iconography to encapsulate the Fremen religion, as well as the themes of the film. The cgi is inconsistent. It oscillates between beautiful and lacking verisimilitude. It is nowhere near as bad as the SyFy series, but at least the SyFy series manages to convey the character drama competently. Villeneuve’s movie holds the characters at the distance, in the midground or the background, letting the backgrounds paradoxically assume prominence in the foreground. Space is an impersonal place, but the desert places need to be somewhat welcoming to their audience. The desert mouse is not convincing, especially since the camera lingers on it so closely. The director, therefore, is too in love with the special effects and aesthetics to ever be in love with the characters. It is the same problem plaguing Prometheus. Appropriately, one of the writers of Prometheus shares writing credit on Dune, alongside the director.
For being so reliant on slow-moving spectacle, one would hope that the action sequences would be riveting. They are not. The action sequences are few and far between. They are the crests of the dunes, whereas the rest of the plodding sequences are spent meandering through vales. And even the crescendos of action are fumbling, stumbling exercises for the actors. The fight choreography is inept, closer to the cartoonish acrobatics of the Power Rangers than the low standard of passable Hollywood mediocrity. The flipping and the spinning, the languid motions of the fighting (particularly Paul’s fight with Jamis), and Mamoa’s flying knee-strike on wires are all examples of underwhelming moments of action premised to quicken the blood only to leave the audience tepid, if not cold. There is no catharsis, like intended, but laughable turgidity that often is concealed in other Hollywood films (like the Dark Knight trilogy) by quick-cuts of the camera. Here, however, as always in this film, the catatonic camera lingers on the slow, clumsy movements as if they are of great import. Perhaps it is due to the limitations imposed by the actors and their inelegance with stunt work. Roger Yuan, the fight choreographer, has credits in many movies with impressive action set-pieces. The only logical conclusion to this is that a master craftsman can only accomplish so much with the material given to him.
Overall, the film could have benefitted from an editor, more competent screen-writers, and a voice in the room to tell Villeneuve that his shit does, in fact, stink (shit or get off the pot, Villeneuve). The runtime could have been halved and the characters could have been humanized more thoroughly. My wife said it was like looking at postcards for three hours while a woman occasionally screamed at you. I suppose that is how someone covers the hollowness of desert places: yell enough times and the echoes layer atop one another until it seems like there are many people in the hollows speaking to one another when, in fact, it is just a director in love with his own voice. As it so happens, no character really speaks to another, and the film never really speaks successfully to its audience. The sand settles slowly in the hourglass as the runtime winds down. The camera zooms in on each grain as if it is of great meaning, but it isn’t. When the hourglass runs out, what do we have? A single dune at the bottom and nothing loftier in the other half of the hourglass.

Paraphasia, Or Modern Poetry And Word Salad

The emperor wears no clothes,
but he is layered in words—
word to word, the weaving shows
no sense given in ten words.
Layered in motley and phrase
signifying but nothing
as he grandstands in a daze
his wardrobe nought but stuffing.
His word-robe’s a collection
of kitschy artifice sewn
without any reflection
as he struts around his throne.
And all his little vassals
praise his “beautiful” word choice,
proving those in their castles
require no meaningful voice
to rule tasteless sycophants
and such obsequious friends,
never needing fashion sense
when he decrees the new trends.
Tailors can patch together
such words that are as mismatched
as “puppy-love” and “tanned leather”,
no one scoffing at what’s patched.
But a truthful little boy
will still have his honest word,
and though it may well annoy
he must point out the absurd:
“Your words don’t mean anything,”
the boy says, “They’re just random.
Randomness never does bring
more poetry in tandem.
Rather, it’s a game of chance,
a lottery that is drawn
in service to happenstance
as you babble on and on.”
Alas, the boy’s committed
as a blind, deaf, and dumb mute,
all thinking him slow-witted
while the Fool, being astute,
(as all Fools must truly be)
commends his ruler, then smirks,
and, smirking, asks, “How came thee
unto such masterful works?”
“Whatever words come to me,”
the Emperor says, “I jot,
but give it little mind—see?
For nothing ruins like thought.”
The Fool laughs. “Aye, by my troth,
that seems with little thought seamed,”
he says, though none become wroth
at the slight he thereby schemed,
for they are clueless cattle
all chewing meaningless cud,
praising pretentious prattle
like children playing in mud.
“Jabberwocky,” the Fool notes,
“has been used by Popes and Kings,
just like weasel words, or stoats,
to tout many inane things
while meaning nothing at all
save to rule by inanity.”
The Fool tumbled down the hall,
lest they hear his sanity.
“But we also must reflect
on such poetry and how
the Dunning-Kruger effect
steals sense from every brow.”

Word Salad

There are cockroaches scurrying
in the jumbled salad bowl
of the midnight special,
unashamed within the neon light
of this downtown diner.
Do not try to persuade me
that they are almonds
as the other patrons praise the chef
and vomit profusely on the counter.

Haiku Reviews: Death Stranding


This is a new series I am attempting to start and continue for a while.  It will concern reviewing anything for which I feel inclined, whether it be a book, movie, tv series, or whatever.  Today I happen to feel inclined to review Hideo Kojima’s videogame “Death Stranding”.

These fetch quests offer
a postal loop that ticks off
my P.O.ed boxes.

Following a strand
with fumbling fingers, he frayed
the storytelling.

A Fragile ego
cannot weather the time-fall,
the wrinkles showing.

My red flags were raised
when I first saw the gameplay—
no mail is good mail.

Addressed to fanboys
and Konami with love, yet
dead on arrival.

in grenades of blood and shit
and Monster piss-takes.

The Higgs particle
is deus ex machina,
but can’t save the plot.

Released just in time
for Christmas, it delivers
the holiday ham.

Poems About Poems

Slam “Poetry”
without latitude,
like a star leeching
only to die
in the stage-lit sky.
Showing a lot of sass
and growing to critical mass—
appeal by keeping it real
as to how you feel,
a plastic feel, a scenery meal
of emotions with the drama
overlarge, yet small—a diorama.
Overrated while masturbated.
Your slam doesn’t jam
except like jellied ham.
It’s Instagram spam,
flimsy flimflam.
Anyone can rhyme,
given some luck,
given some time,
given a fuck,
but the scheme
and the theme
have more to score
than a mediocre meme.
Wade out of the shallows,
fade out from the tallows,
parade out to the gallows
and try to hang
with my gang
of poets, of know-its,
before you blow bits.
Show some class
even when wiping your ass,
because the masses
can give only so many passes
to the pretentious
before they lynch us.
Try to understand
that even in Wonderland
you are undermanned
with whatever word-rhyme
allows meaning and flow,
without catching, like birdlime,
to halt you as you go.
There is always a speed limit
for someone of a dim wit—
you are only veering left and right
with one headlight,
like a car on slick roads
while sliding on toads
come out to feel the rain
and listen to the thunder,
not of applause
as you blunder,
but of a worthy cause.
And while you seem to know
how to put on a show,
that foghorn sure does blow
every time you roshambo
for your petty tugboat row.

Rupi What’s-Her-Name
A confection of
colorless cotton candy
substance and sophistication
and sold popularly to
sweet-tooth instagram sycophants
from a mollycoddled generation
longing for safe spaces away from the
carnival grotesqueries
of life.
Put her cotton candy words
in your mouth
and they dissolve precipitously;
easily digested, for there is nothing
of substance
in their wispy conceits.
Eaten and forgotten
upon the same instant,
nothing lingering as an
nothing to chew
as it
vaporizes vapidly
on the malnourished palate.

Soap opera soapbox antics
and papier mâché frailty,
the outsized pinata of an
easily busted heart
spilling suicide notes
written on Starbucks napkins.
Before you go hang your
Emo effigy
from a church’s belfry,
Your pity-party has got the
Fire Marshall
Mellow out the melodrama
and the melancholy
you melon-headed colic baby.
You treat your podium as if it was a
chopping block
and every time you step up to it
the greatest tragedy is taking place.
Your persecution complex is less
and more
What are you a martyr for?
Who isn’t?
Cupid has made a
St. Sebastian
out of everyone, whereas
some of us wear the quills like wings
to ascend the past
and you act like a canary in a collapsing coal mine,
but you are just high on your own
You don’t have a broken wing,
only a
compromised spine.

Game Of Thrones TV Character Critique Haikus

Edgelord supreme, you
killed many men, but died of
cringy dialogue.

Veritas varies,
but the truth heard in the flame
meant nothing at all.

Jon Snow
Dead from betrayal
by the inept screenwriters—
remained dead plot-wise.

I thought you would change
to a villain with time, but
also with reason.

“The smartest person”
literally no-one says—
entitled yas-queen.

You lost half your nose
in your nosediving plot arc,
and half of your brain.

The Three-Eyed Raven
saw all, and did not one thing
except bait and switch.

Shortchanging others
as the most frequent sellout,
now master of coin.

The Night King
Your hand shatters steel
and downs dragons, yet cannot
pierce Stark plot armor.

All season in the
Red Keep—or in the red wine?
Just window dressing.

Who would have thought that
the Kingslayer would be killed
by Lord Hightower?

Snuffed out all at once
in the dark, then stoked larger
in ashes later.

Grey Worm
Failing to avenge
his queen in court, he must have
no brains and no balls.

Having twice the eyes
he has in the books, he still
lacks half the vision.

GOT Story Arcs For Seasons 5-8
The Mummer’s Dragon
lost its stage curtain wings while
Winter came and went.

Hodor, Hodor, Hold
the door, Hodor, Hodor, Holed
up their own asses.