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Noah ~ A Capsule Movie Review

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Noah

Noah ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

The long-awaited Noah is finally in movie theatres. Russell Crowe plays the biblical patriarch for whom God has assigned a special task: build a gigantic wooden boat, an ark, and place on it (or, according to the movie, allow them to come voluntarily onto the boat) one pair, male and female, of every animal on earth (everything that crawls, flies, walks or slithers, including snakes because they serve a purpose). Noah has a wife, Naameh (played by Jennifer Connelly) and three sons (Ham, Shem, and Japheth). God is disappointed in man and is sending a flood to wipe out every living thing on earth. Only Noah, his family (including his sons’ wives), and the animals on the boat will survive, the idea being that they will start afresh after the flood waters have receded. God has chosen Noah because he is a righteous man and hasn’t been “ruined by the world,” as, it seems, everyone else has.

Anyone expecting a faithful adaptation of the biblical story of Noah is going to be disappointed by this movie. While it is a slick and well-crafted piece of cinema, it’s a fictionalized account. Not enough is known about Noah to make a dramatic two-hour-and-fifteen-minute movie, so the filmmakers have had to improvise, creating events and people that never existed. For example, the wicked world is represented by the fictional character, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), who wants to live so badly that he stows away on the ark and is aided and hidden by Noah’s son, Ham, who is taking revenge on his father for not saving a girl he liked from the trampling hordes who were storming the ark.

While Noah and his family are on the ark, waiting for the flood waters to recede so they can once again walk upon dry land, tensions arise over the question of whether man will continue after Noah and his family are all dead, or if the world will be another unspoiled Eden in which only animals will live without the wicked and evil man to spoil everything. Noah is all for letting man die out with them, while his wife wants their children to live on in their own descendants. When Shem’s young wife, Ila, who is supposed to be unable to bear children, discovers she is going to have a baby, Noah vows to kill the baby unless it’s a boy.

While Noah is worth seeing, it’s not worth taking seriously. It’s entertaining in its way but no more believable than movies about hobbits. When the “Watchers” (fallen angels, who, as punishment from God, have become huge beings made of rock and mud) first appear early in the movie, you know you are in the realm of fantasy and not in a world that anybody is supposed to believe exists or ever existed.

Copyright 2014 by Allen Kopp 

Hold All Calls

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Hold All Calls ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
 

“Oh, how I hate Monday mornings!” Dakin said as he sat down at his desk.

“The countdown to the weekend has begun,” Christopher said. “Only one hundred and five hours until five o’clock Friday afternoon.”

“It’s too far away,” Dakin said. “I shall perish before then.”

“Well, you’d better look busy. Pinky is already in this morning and he’s not happy. Production is down again or something.”

Dakin took some papers out of the drawer and spread them out. “I hate everybody on Monday morning,” he said, “but I especially hate my parents for bringing me into the world and not providing me with a family fortune.”

“Alas,” Christopher said, “so few of us have a family fortune.”

“If I had even a small fortune, I would blow this place so fast.”

“A couple million would do.”

“I’d travel. I’d have a home on the Riviera and another one in Rome.”

“Only two?”

“Two to start with.”

“I hear somebody coming. Look alive!”

Agnes Simpkins came into the room, wearing a funereal black dress and a scowl on her face. She was looking at the floor and didn’t look at Dakin or Christopher. She walked to the far corner of the room, stood for a moment facing the wall, and went out again without speaking.

“What’s she looking for?” Dakin asked.

“Her soul,” Christopher said.

“Have you ever seen a more hideous woman? Her dress looks like she’s got it on backwards. Her hair looks like it was chewed off by a wolverine. Her lipstick looks like a chimp put it on for her.”

“There’s a rumor going around that she’s really a man.”

“That would explain a lot.”

“I think Pinky sent her in here to spy on us.”

Dakin shuffled some papers, held a pencil in his right hand and made a few squiggles. “I woke up with a headache this morning and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I really should have stayed at home.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Production is down, you know.”

“Hah!”

“If I collapse at my desk, go get somebody to help me, as long as it’s not Agnes Simpkins.”

“I’m sure she would be more than willing to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”

“I’d rather die.”

“Really, are you planning on doing any work today at all?”

“Not if I can help it. I’m too sick. I’m fine until I get to work and then after I get here I’m sick. I think it sounds like I need to stay away from work altogether for my health, doesn’t it?”

“It’s a conundrum.”

“I saw these friends on the weekend that I hadn’t seen in years. They own their own yacht. Can you believe it? They were going on a cruise in the Caribbean and they invited me to go along. I would love to have gone with them, but instead I’m here. I am in hell! Why was I even born?”

“Another conundrum.”

“And to top it all off, I’m hungry. I skipped breakfast.”

“I thought you said you were sick.”

“I am sick but that doesn’t mean I don’t desire food.”

“Anytime I’m sick, I…”

“How about if you be a dear and go see if anybody brought any donuts in today?”

“Why don’t you go?”

“I have all this work to do and, truly, I don’t have the strength to walk down the hall and witness the sickening sight of all those frightened little people working themselves into a frenzy just because production is down or something and Pinky is in an uproar. I mean, Pinky is always in an uproar about something or other, isn’t he?”

“I have a candy bar in my drawer if you want it.”

“That’s sweet of you but I really don’t want to eat candy on an empty stomach. It might make me vomit.”

“If you vomit, forcibly—and in front of everybody—you can legitimately go home sick. There’s nothing like a little projectile vomiting to drive home your point.”

“Yes, yes, that’s a good idea and I will keep it in mind.”

“How about if you proofread a report for me and correct any errors?”

“Oh, buddy, not you too!”

“Well, somebody’s got to get some work done around here.”

“I am not in any shape, physically or emotionally, to do any work today.”

“All right, I’ll do it myself.”

“Do you really care if it gets done or not?”

“I don’t care for myself but it would be nice to get it done.”

“’Nice to get it done’. I’m afraid you’re even starting to sound like them.”

“Please forgive me.”

“Where are you going for lunch today?”

“I think I’ll just stay here and get something out of the vending machine.”

“How banal! I’m going to take an extra long one today. I feel like walking down the block to Luigi’s and having some linguini in marinara sauce, a crisp salad, and spumoni for dessert. Would you like to come with me?”

“Somebody’s got to stay here and do some of this work.”

“Will you cover for me if I don’t come back?”

“I’ll say I haven’t seen you and I don’t know where you are.”

“Good thinking.”

Christopher put his head back and closed his eyes. “I can smell Pinky’s cologne!” he said. “He’s within thirty feet! Look busy!”

No sooner than the words were spoken, they spotted the man himself. He came toward them carrying a sheath of papers. He was winded, his face was red and the corners of his mouth turned down.

“Mr. Pinkley!” Dakin said cheerfully. “How lovely to see you! Is that a new toupee you’re wearing? It certainly looks handsome!”

“Humph!” Mr. Pinkley said. “I’ve heard reports that there’s been some hanky-panky going on in this department.” The wattles under his chin quivered with emphasis.

“Hanky-panky, sir?”

“Talking and loafing and not focusing on the work at hand.”

“Not focusing? I don’t know what would give anybody that idea, sir. We’re just as busy as a colony of beavers.”

“I’m warning you that I won’t have any slackers working in this company. If you aren’t prepared to give me a full day’s work, then you might as well leave now.”

“I wouldn’t dream of leaving, sir!”

“Production is down for the third straight quarter! That tells me that a house cleaning is in order, but I believe in giving everybody a second chance. You can consider this your warning. If I have to speak to you again, it’ll be to dismiss you.”

“I understand, sir! I believe I’ll be deserving of any punishment you see fit to mete out.”

“I want a written report from you every day outlining what you are working on and how much you have done that day. Do I make myself clear?”

“As a bell, sir! I only have one question.”

“What is it?”

“Will I be the only one submitting a daily report on my activities?”

“None of your business!”

“Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!”

After Mr. Pinkley left, Dakin and Christopher looked at each other and laughed.

“Who does he think he is, speaking that way to me?” Dakin said. “I have a good mind to call up my lawyer and sue the bastard.”

“I’d like to see that,” Christopher said.

“I don’t have to take that kind of crap from him or anybody else.”

“No, indeed, you do not!”

“I’m ten times smarter than he is. I can outclass him any day in the week and twice on Sunday with one hand tied behind my back. He can’t even write a coherent sentence without some help from a secretary.”

“He is an ignorant son of a bitch,” Christopher said. “It goes with the territory.”

“Now I am completely thrown off my game after being spoken to in such a manner.”

“Some people are just too sensitive for the world of business.”

“Yes, thank you! I’m glad that someone in this rotten, stinking world recognizes that fact.”

“What are you going to do now? It sounds like you’re going to have to show Mr. Pinkley some results or he’s going to fire you.”

“What am I going to do? I’m going to take a long, long lunch and then I’m going home and taking an extended bubble bath to get the stench of this place off my body. After that I’m going to put on a dressing gown and telephone my lawyer. He and I are going to have an illuminating little discussion about how I have been harassed and pressured in the workplace to the point of nervous collapse. Then he will advise me about how we might proceed with a lawsuit. I know a very good doctor who will say on my behalf whatever needs to be said.”

“It sounds like you’ve thought it all out carefully.”

“I have.”

“Just do me one favor.”

“Anything.”

“Don’t mention my name.”

“I don’t even know your name. You are one of the millions of anonymous downtrodden office workers who toil and die. The only way you will ever give your life any meaning is to leave this hellish existence and take control of your own destiny.”

“Those are only words. I don’t know how to do it.”

“Believe me, dear friend, I will pave the way for you and countless others just like you.”

“So, I’ll be hearing from you again?”

“Of course you will!”

“What shall I say to people when they ask me where you are?”

“Tell them to hold all calls, for now I belong to history!”

Copyright 2014 by Allen Kopp

The Grand Budapest Hotel ~ A Capsule Movie Review

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp 

The Grand Budapest Hotel was directed by Wes Anderson and is based on the works of author Stefan Zweig (1881-1942). It concerns M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, a luxurious mountain hotel that, even in 1932, was the symbol of a vanishing age. New to the hotel is a “lobby boy” named Zero, a wide-eyed “refugee” whose family was murdered and who is smarter than he appears to be. He becomes M. Gustave’s trusted friend and confident and is always by his side in whatever situation he finds himself.

Among the wealthy patrons of the hotel are one Madame M. (Tilda Swinton), an eighty-four-year-old grande dame who enjoys the attentions and even the sexual favors of M. Gustave. (Bedding rich old patrons is something he doesn’t seem to mind doing.) When Madame M. dies, she bequeaths to M. Gustave a priceless painting called Boy with Apple. Her villainous son (Adrien Brody) and her three strange daughters take exception to this bequest, of course. Her entire will, in fact, is so confusing and has been changed so many times that nobody can figure it out. M. Gustave takes the painting that Madame M. wanted him to have and eventually winds up in jail, where he manages to pull off an ingenious escape through a sewer with several of his fellow inmates.

If you are familiar with any of the directorial efforts of Wes Anderson (The Fabulous Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, among others), you know that he has a distinctive visual style that must be seen to be appreciated. It incorporates elements of the fantastic with whimsy, irony, and subtle humor. The Grand Budapest Hotel is an art film that is not for everybody and will probably not be playing at the multiplex theatre in your neighborhood that shows only mainstream movies. Various adjectives that might be applied to The Grand Budapest Hotel are “quaint,” “eccentric,” “charming,” “unusual,” “quirky.” I know people who would also call it “weird” and “far out” and would be completely flummoxed from first frame to last. If, however, you are one of those who likes things a little off-kilter and oddly tilted and, let us say, “outside the norm,” then you should probably get in line to buy your ticket.

Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp

An Afternoon of Conversation at the Home of Miss Fish

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An Afternoon of Conversation at the Home of Miss Fish ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

“He can sit by himself all day long in a room and look at picture books and not bother a thing,” grandma said.

The ladies looked admiringly at the boy and smiled.

“He’s a mighty cute little thing,” Miss Fish said. Her name didn’t quite fit her; instead of looking like a fish, she looked more like a chicken.

“Yes, of all my grandchildren,” grandma said, “he’s the best behaved.”

“And who is his daddy again?” Miss Doty asked.

“That’s a question that remains unanswered to this day,” grandma said gravely. “I wish I knew.”

They all looked at the boy, as if his parentage might be written somewhere on his body if only they could see it.

“It doesn’t matter at all,” Miss Fish said. “It’s all after the fact.” She was taking up for the boy. She didn’t much like Miss Doty and didn’t think it was right for her to bring up the question of who the boy’s daddy was, since everybody knew he was illegitimate.

“What do you mean, ‘after the fact’?” grandma asked. Miss Fish was one of her best friends and she believed that whatever she said was important.

“Well,” Miss Fish said, “he’s here, ain’t he? It doesn’t matter now who his daddy is. It’s not like anybody can go back and fix it if it ain’t right. Whether his daddy is a bum or president of the bank won’t make any difference in his life.”

“If his daddy was president of the bank, he could put him through college,” Miss Doty said, refusing to let the matter lie.

“Maybe not,” Miss Fish said. “The president of the bank wouldn’t give him jack shit because he wouldn’t want people to know he was his daddy. He would most likely have a wife and children and a position to uphold in the community.”

“I wouldn’t let him get away with that,” Miss Doty said.

“Well, anyway,” grandma said, “he’s like all the other children who are born, whether they have a daddy or not. Precious in the eyes of the Lord.”

“He shouldn’t be held responsible for the transgressions of others,” Miss Fish said.

The boy looked at them, thinking about all the talking they did. Sometimes he followed along with what they were saying—if what they were talking about happened to be of interest—and other times he just let the words wash over him like water over the spillway. For them, talking was like breathing. If they didn’t do it, they would die.

“I think he looks a little like Dr. Kane,” Miss Doty said. “Didn’t Marion have a little fling with him before his divorce went through and he married some other woman?”

“Not that I know of,” grandma said.

“You should ask her some time. I think it’s an interesting avenue to pursue.”

“I thought we decided it didn’t make any difference,” Miss Fish said.

“Well, still,” Miss Doty said. “If the question has an answer, then why not find out what it is?”

“I think people should just leave it alone and accept things for what they are. Acceptance is the greatest thing in the world.”

“To you, maybe,” Miss Doty said.

“Good God!” Miss Fish said. “Do you always have to have the last word about everything?”

“I just meant…”

It being her house, Miss Fish stood up and went into the other room. In a few moments she returned bearing a tray of drinks, cocktails for the ladies and a glass of grape juice for the boy.

“I don’t usually drink hard liquor,” grandma said, but she took it willingly, smacking her lips as she sipped.

“What is hard liquor anyway?” Miss Doty asked, sticking her tongue into the cocktail to see if she was going to like it.

“A step up from beer, I guess,” grandma said.

“You can feel it coursing through your veins,” Miss Fish said. “It relaxes you.”

“As long as you don’t overdo it,” grandma said.

“What happens if you overdo it?” Miss Doty asked.

“You get drunk.”

“You know, I’ve never been drunk in my life,” Miss Doty said. “Have you?”

“Never,” grandma said.

“Once or twice when I was younger,” Miss Fish said. “We used to have these parties at our house.”

“What happens when you get drunk?”

“Well, you feel good for a while and after the good feeling wears off you feel terrible. You have a headache and you’ll very likely be vomiting your guts out.”

“I don’t want to drink it then,” Miss Doty said, setting the glass down on the table.

“Oh, for goodness sake!” Miss Fish said. “One drink ain’t going to hurt you! Don’t be such a pantywaist.”

“What’s a pantywaist, anyway? I’ve heard that expression before and I never knew what it meant.”

“Go look in the mirror,” Miss Fish said and she and grandma laughed.

“Oh, you mean if I see my own reflection, I’m seeing a pantywaist, is that it?”

“Just a little joke,” Miss Fish said. “Don’t get excited.”

“Well, I think you should mind the joke at the expense of someone else’s feelings.”

“Lighten up, old girl!” Miss Fish said.

When grandma and Miss Fish finished their drinks, they had refills but Miss Doty would only limit herself to one. She said she was beginning to feel sick already and she didn’t want to spend the night vomiting her guts out.

The boy finished his grape juice and set the glass down. He was bored and beginning to feel sleepy. He hoped that he and grandma would go home soon. He thought about saying something that would make her realize it was time to go but could think of nothing. Finally, he said simply, “I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Help yourself,” Miss Fish said. “Through the dining room, down the hall to the door on the left.”

He stood up and walked slowly through the quiet house. He always found it very interesting to be in somebody else’s house and to look at their things. It was more than just what he saw but also what he smelled; in this case it was dust, mouse droppings, soap, and a musty smell like rot underneath the house. He lingered in the hallway and then went into the bathroom and shut the door and locked it.

The bathroom was large and cheerful, with white tile everywhere and yellow towels. There was an old-fashioned tub with claw feet and a window with pebbled glass and a frilly yellow curtain. He stood on his tiptoes and opened the door to the medicine cabinet over the sink. Inside were all kinds of bottles and jars, toothpaste, shaving cream, and other stuff that old people use. He flushed the toilet, ran some water in the sink, and went out of the bathroom into the hallway again.

He heard grandma and the ladies talking and laughing in the front room, so he knew that, for the moment at least, they had forgotten about him. He turned to the left and continued down the hallway until he was in a bedroom with an imposing four-poster bed. He walked around the bed to the dresser with its round mirror on which flecks of dust stood out in the bright sunlight. He paused, listening for sounds of approaching footsteps, and opened the top dresser drawer slowly so as to not make a sound.

Inside the drawer was a jumble of scarves, gloves, shawls. Seeing nothing of interest in that drawer, he closed it and opened the middle drawer, re-closing it quickly when he saw it contained stockings and old ladies’ underwear. He bent over and opened the bottom drawer, which had the advantage of being hidden from view to anybody who might come unexpectedly into the room. In this drawer were a photo album, some small boxes, and, partly concealed by a wool blanket, a jewelry case with a brocaded lid. He opened the lid of the case and saw inside a disorderly profusion of costume jewelry and on top of it a small amount of cash in one-dollar bills.

He counted the money and, of the eight dollars there, he folded up four and put them inside his shoe. He was about to close the case again when he saw a necklace that captured his attention. It had a large green stone, an imitation of some kind of precious gem. Being partial to green as he was, he lifted it up to get a better look. It was the most beautiful green color he had ever seen, shot through with light and just a touch of other colors, yellow and even blue if it caught the light just right. He was going to put the necklace back after admiring it but, when he thought sure somebody was coming, he slipped it into his pants pocket, almost before he realized what he was doing. Then, as quickly and as quietly as he could, he rearranged the stuff back in the drawer to make it appear as if it had never been disturbed and closed it.

When he returned to the front room and resumed his chair, nobody paid any attention to him, so he was sure they didn’t suspect that he had done anything other than use the bathroom. Miss Fish was telling a story about a fight between a husband and wife on her street.

“…so drunk he didn’t even know what he was doing. He was swinging an axe over his head and chasing her around the house like they were a couple of cartoon characters and he was going to cook her for dinner. She was so scared of him she wet her pants. I’m not making it up! You could see it, plain as day. It was really a funny thing to see but it didn’t seem so at the time.”

“And was he really going to kill her?” Miss Doty asked.

“He would have if the police hadn’t come when they did. They got him down on the ground—you know the way they do. And the bad thing about it was that he was wearing a bathrobe with nothing on underneath. Everybody saw him on the ground naked after his bathrobe came untied and slipped off, even the little children.”

“Ugh!” Miss Doty winced and covered her face, as if she shared in the embarrassment.

“I don’t like it when people air their private grievances in public,” grandma said.

“Well, who does?” Miss Fish said.

“And they took the son of a bitch off to jail?”

“They locked him up in the state mental hospital where he belongs,” Miss Fish said with satisfaction. “End of story.”

When grandma and the boy were finally walking home, he looked up at her and said, “I know who my real daddy is.”

“I don’t believe you do,” she said.

“Yes, I do, too.”

“Who is it then?”

“It’s a secret.”

“You shouldn’t keep secrets from me.”

“It’s the only one.”

That night, tucked safely away in his room after everybody had gone to bed, he took the green necklace out and put it around his neck and, standing in front of the mirror, pretended he was a simpering old woman drinking a cocktail and gossiping about the neighbors.

He counted out the four dollars again, lining them up on the bed to better see them. When he began to grow sleepy, he stowed the necklace and the four dollars in the deep recesses of his closet where nobody would ever find them. Young as he was, he was already well acquainted with the art of concealment.

Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp

The Lights Flickered and Went Out

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The Lights Flickered and Went Out ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp 

The room was very quiet. Miss Adele’s teeth made little clicking sounds as she chewed. Miss Florence grunted as she tried to cut her meat and couldn’t. The knife slipped out of her hand and clattered to the floor. Mr. Benny looked around to see what the sound was but lost interest before he figured it out. Mr. Wilhelm was hearing nothing; he was asleep, his head hanging over his plate. Like the points on a compass, the four of them sat at a circular table.

“Don’t you think you should wake him up so he can finish his dinner?” Miss Florence said.

“Huh?” Mr. Benny said.

“Why don’t you wake him up before he falls out of his chair?”

“Let him fall,” Mr. Benny said. He was trying to soak up the gravy on his plate with a piece of bread but his hands were shaking so much he couldn’t manage it.

“My, but this is delicious,” Miss Adele said.

“What is?” Miss Florence asked.

“I don’t know what it is. There’s a little bit of tomato in it, I think, but I don’t recognize anything else.”

“You’re better off not knowing,” Mr. Benny said.

“What time is it?” Mr. Wilhelm asked, suddenly coming awake.

“Why should you care?” Mr. Benny said. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“It was six o’clock about an hour ago,” Miss Florence said.

“It’s anybody’s guess,” Miss Adele said.

“A funny thing about time,” Mr. Benny said but he began coughing and didn’t finish the thought.

“What month is it?” Miss Adele asked.

“It’s April,” Mr. Benny said.

“Is it still the same year?”

“Yes, it’s still the same year.”

“This year is going along rather slowly, isn’t it?”

“Like a great big turtle in a race with death. See who comes out ahead.”

“Just ask your body what month it is,” Miss Florence said.

“What do you mean?” Miss Adele asked.

“When your toes are freezing off, it’s probably December or January.”

“When you see Christmas decorations everywhere, you know it’s probably December.”

“Good thinking,” Mr. Benny said. “You ought to go to work for the FBI.”

“Oh, they wouldn’t want me!”

“I don’t seem to be able to stay awake long enough to eat dinner,” Mr. Wilhelm said, picking up his knife and fork and going at his food again.

“Don’t you sleep well at night?” Miss Florence asked.

“I sleep all right, I guess.”

“Sleep comes in large doses or really small ones,” Miss Adele said, but nobody knew what she meant.

“After dinner let’s play some cards the way we used to,” Miss Florence said. “That ought to be fun.”

“What do you mean ‘the way we used to’?” Mr. Benny said. “I’ve never played cards with you in my life!”

“When we were children, we used to play ‘old maid’,” Miss Adele said.

“I’m happy to say I’m not one of those,” Miss Florence said. “I’m a widow.”

“And how many times were you married, dear?” Miss Adele asked.

“It really isn’t any of your business, but if you must know I was married three times.”

“I’ll bet all three of your husbands tried to kill you, didn’t they?” Mr. Benny said.

“Why would they do that?” Miss Adele asked.

“Well, just look at her.”

“They did not try to kill me,” Miss Florence said. “They worshipped me.”

“Well, what happened to them, then?”

“Two died, and the other one, well, it’s best if we don’t speak of him.”

“I never got married,” Mr. Wilhelm said. “I didn’t have time. I ran a company that employed five thousand people. I worked night and day. I was married to the business.”

“Oh, brother!” Mr. Benny said.

“Didn’t you get lonely?” Miss Adele asked.

“I did not!”

“I bet you had plenty of lady friends, though, didn’t you?” Miss Florence said. “A handsome fellow like you.”

“I did not. There was someone once, though. We lived together for about ten years.”

“What was her name?”

“It wasn’t a ‘her’. It was a ‘him’.”

“Oh, dear!” Miss Adele said.

“His name was Zachary. What he and I had together was very rare.”

“I never took you for one of those,” Miss Florence said.

“I knew there was something about him!” Mr. Benny said.

“Have you ever had the good fortune to meet another person in your life with whom you have a spiritual connection? It doesn’t happen more than once. It was that way with Zachary and me.”

“Now I’ve heard everything!” Mr. Benny said. “It’s like finding out that General Eisenhower liked boys.”

“I’m ashamed of nothing,” Mr. Wilhelm said.

“What happened to Zachary?” Miss Florence asked.

“He died.”

“Oh, that’s a crying shame!”

“He’s buried in his home town in Tennessee. When it’s my time to go, I’m going to be placed in the grave next to him.”

Mr. Benny rolled his eyes. “On that note,” he said, “I think I’ll leave you good people and go back to my room, if I can remember how to get there.”

A sudden flash of lightning and rumble of thunder made them all turn toward the window. Miss Adele screamed and turned over her water glass.

“It’s been too warm all day,” Miss Florence said. “I knew a storm was coming.”

“Storms scare me,” Miss Adele said. “I can feel the electricity in the air. It makes my skin prickle.”

“Your skin was already pickled,” Mr. Benny said.

“I’d rather die in a storm than some other ways I can think of,” Miss Florence said.

“Do you notice how we always get around to the subject of death?” Mr. Benny asked.

“Well, what’s wrong with that?” Miss Florence asked. “There’s nothing wrong with death. It’s part of life. I, for one, believe that death is not the end.”

“What is the end?” Mr. Benny asked.

“How should I know?”

“Heaven? Angels and fluffy white clouds?”

“I think that heaven is what you want it to be.”

“So, you’re saying that heaven exists only in the mind.”

“I’m not saying that at all.”

“You don’t know anything.”

“You don’t need to be rude,” Miss Florence said. “I can still get up from this chair and slap you silly if I want to. I’ve smacked old men around before and I don’t mind doing it again.”

With the next flash of lightning, the lights flickered and went out. Miss Adele squealed and put her hands to her throat. “What do we do now?” she said desperately.

“They’ll be back on in just a minute,” Miss Florence said. “No need to panic.”

“Hey, I like it better like this!” Mr. Benny said. “You all look much better in the dark.”

“The only way you would look good to me,” Miss Florence said, “would be if you disappeared.”

“Now who’s being rude?”

Somebody brought in a kerosene lamp, set it in the middle of the table and went away again without a word.

“Oh, how nice!” Miss Adele said. “Just like olden times before there was such a thing as electricity.”

Mr. Benny raised his wine glass. “Here’s to storms,” he said. “May they always be on the outside.”

“I hear music,” Miss Florence said.

“How lovely!” Miss Adele said. “Somebody’s playing the piano.”

Miss Florence in her spectator pumps and Miss Adele in her mules stood up and began shuffling their feet together in an approximation of dancing. Mr. Benny lit his one cigar of the day and blew out a cloud of smoke that looked, in the distorting lamplight, like ectoplasm at a séance. Mr. Wilhelm fanned his hand in front of his face and sighed as Miss Florence and Miss Adele danced away into the darkness on the far side of the room. And outside, the thunder and lightning raged as rain pounded against the glass and the storm gathered nearer.

Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp

300: Rise of an Empire ~ A Capsule Movie Review

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300, Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp 

In 300: Rise of an Empire, the Persian god-king Xerxes, who we first met in the 2006 movie 300, is still intent on taking control of the city states of Greece. In 300, King Leonidas met the Persian army at the famous battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE, with 300 Spartan soldiers. The outnumbered Spartans were badly defeated by the Persians, although they put up a valiant fight. Concurrent with the Battle of Thermopylae was the naval battle at Artemisium, led by the Athenian general Themistocles. 300: Rise of an Empire is the story of the battle at Artemisium, which had a different outcome for the Greeks, who were fighting for their freedom and for democracy (a new concept at the time). The story of the two battles is interwoven in 300: Rise of an Empire, which is more another chapter of the same story than a sequel to the earlier movie. The “third act” of 300: Rise of an Empire is what came about after the two battles.

The main character and the hero of 300: Rise of an Empire is the Athenian general Themistocles (played by Sullivan Stapleton). He has a toned body as did King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) in 300 and looks good in leather underwear. In fact, all the Greek soldiers, whether Athenians or Spartans, appear to be at the peak of physical perfection. There’s not a flabby gut in the bunch. Immodestly attired as they are, they are able to give the Persian army a run for its money. Maybe conquering Greece wasn’t such a good idea after all.

There are two strong female characters in 300: Rise of an Empire. Queen Gorgo, the recently widowed wife of the heroic King Leonidas, takes on the roll of warrior queen after her husband’s death. She engages in battle with the Persians the same as the men do. Artemisia is a Greek-born woman who, because she witnessed her family killed at the hands of a Greek army, has gone over to the Persian side. She is an advisor to King Xerxes, something of a military commander, and wants nothing more than to see Greece defeated at the hands of Persia. She cuts men to pieces as easily as she breathes. During a sexual encounter with Themistocles, she offers him a job with her if he’ll come over to her side. He refuses, of course, since he has devoted his life to Greece and to making the army strong.

300: Rise of an Empire (as 300 was before it) is based on a graphic novel and has a kind of other-worldly beauty (a world that exists only in the imagination). There’s lots of action, stylized violence—severed heads and limbs—and a generous use of slow motion. The battle sequences, especially the naval battle, are impressive and engaging. The pounding music score really stood out for me. If you are a fan of 300, as I am, you won’t be disappointed by 300: Rise of an Empire. 

Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp  

Write to Woof 2014 ~ Anthology of Stories, Poems, Essays

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Write to Woof 2014 cover

(My short story, “Tyrone Power,” is in this collection of stories about dogs.)

Grey Wolfe Publishing is pleased to announce that the generous collaboration of sixty-seven authors from around the globe has produced a spectacular collection of 432 pages containing poetry, prose and personal essay all in tribute to dogs!

100% of the proceeds of the sale of this book are going to support the extraordinary work of Almost Home Rescue League, a no-kill shelter in Southfield, Michigan.

Now Available: $25

May be purchased at this link:

http://greywolfepublishing.wordpress.com/howling-for-authors/the-den-write-to-woof/

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