A Picture

By Lili Zamudio 

Flipping through the pictures on her phone, one caught her attention. “What the hell?” She thought to herself as she pressed her thumb to the screen. It was dark, but she could make out a little piece of what looked like fabric in the corner. She swiped left, a picture with her boyfriend. She swiped right, twice, a picture of her dinner with him that night. That was a week ago. She figured it was a picture accidentally taken in her back pocket. She pressed the trashcan. Delete photo. And it was gone.

A few more weeks passed, and the morning after her and her boyfriend went to the movies and spent their first night together, she found another picture that seemed out of place. Still lying in bed with him, with the bright morning filling room, she tapped it. It looked to be the same picture from weeks before, but it was a little clearer, just not enough. She didn’t make the connection, but now she could see the fabric in the corner better. It looked like the pink comforter on her bed. A smile spread across her face. “You weirdo!” She leaned over to snuggle him. He hugged her close, and didn’t say a word. To her, this confirmed her assumption. He had tried to take a picture of her sleeping, but neither the picture, nor the relationship worked out.

“Damn it! This fucking phone is glitchy!” It kept randomly duplicating the picture from that night intermittently for a month, a sick reminder of her failed relationship.  It wasn’t a big deal, except she couldn’t delete it anymore. She’d press the trashcan. She’d press delete photo, but it was still there. By the end of the month she had 17 of the same picture. She’d just shake her head every time she found another duplicate. Except for she realized the picture was getting just a little lighter every time. It was hard to notice from picture to picture, but looking at the original, and the last one, she could definitely see more of her comforter. She could even make out a bulge, her leg maybe, in the latest one.  “Great, now I have a constant reminder of the night I spent with that asshole. How am I dumb enough to sleep with someone after two dates and think it was love? We didn’t even have much in common.”

The first thing she would do every morning now was snatch the phone off the dock on her nightstand and look. Finding those mysterious pictures became an obsession for her.  She wasn’t sure what was happening or why, but she couldn’t wait to upgrade her phone to get rid of this one.  She had stopped taking pictures of her own. They wouldn’t save anymore. All she saw was dark squares getting progressively lighter.  She started to think maybe she should have stayed with him.

As the picture continued getting clearer, she began to see the bulge, definitely her leg under the comforter, swell into a curve, her hip, and her hand resting on it, her signature sleep pose.  She had to admit, this was starting to freak her out, especially when she noticed all the pictures were categorized into different dates.  It was as if each picture had been taken on a different night.

She couldn’t wait for the torture to stop, so she started a countdown to her upgrade day, set an alarm to it and everything, 29 days. Now, she could take solace in checking her countdown everyday, after finding a new, clearer picture of herself everyday.

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By the time the countdown indicated 15 days left, she could see the bulge of her leg, her hip, her hand, and some of her shoulder covered with her long black hair.  By day nine she started losing sleep, getting maybe four hours in small bursts, checking her phone every time she woke up to see if the picture had appeared yet.  She had circles under her eyes, had trouble focusing in class at the university, even her English composition teacher sent her to the counselor, but her story was too surreal, so she didn’t tell it. She used the break up with her boyfriend a month ago as an excuse.  “We were perfect for each other. It’s been hard.” Even she almost believed her lies.

She went in to Best Buy with five days left to go, pleading for the upgrade.  “It’ll be an additional charge of $200 for early upgrade, ma’am,” a boy not much older than her explained, “ there’s nothing I can do about that.” She didn’t mean to cry, but five days seemed like an eternity.

Day three shocked her. She clicked on photos, clicked the latest abomination, and saw her leg, hip, hand, shoulder covered with her long, black hair, and the left side of her face.  Her eyes were open, lifeless, her lips grey.  She threw the phone across the room, sobbing, hoping to hear it shatter.  The cover flew apart in two pieces, and the screen shattered; she felt a sense of relief.  When she finally gathered herself enough to go pick it up, she had to stabilize herself at the sight if the glowing screen.

After she picked up the pieces, she decided that she could live without Facebook, and texting, and her email for two days.  She shut the phone off and put it away. She tried to distract herself with her friends that day, take her mind off that horrible image that had imprinted itself on the inside of her eyelids. Even when she blinked, she could see it.  She didn’t sleep that night.

She breathed a deep sigh, “First thing tomorrow.” She stayed up all night, sitting on her bed, afraid to close her eyes. She just sat there because no matter what she did, watch TV, read, browse the internet, her mind would take her back to that image.

The hours passed and eventually light started streaming in her apartment window. She blinked fast and slowly turned her head to face the early morning sun. She smiled.  For the first time in weeks, she finally smiled. “I made it.”

There was still the issue of getting the phone.  She couldn’t resist. She really shouldn’t have turned it on.  With a trembling finger she waited for the app icons to come up.  When the photos icon appeared, she took a deep breath. She pressed it. There, on the screen appeared the endless tiles, all the same, progressively lighter. The last one was different.  There it was, clear as day, her sitting on her bed, looking towards the light streaming from the window, just like a half hour ago before she got ready, before she got out of bed, but her body was grey and broken, distorted, and her eyes a pale, crystalline shade of blue, her mouth agape, dried brown blood smeared across her neck.

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It took days for the fire department to show up.  They found her in the living room, dressed, purse across her chest, keys in one hand, phone in the other.  “Weird, she was so young.”  The phone flashed an alert.  The paramedic removed the phone from her hand hoping it wasn’t a phone call.  He let out a chuckle and turned to his partner.  “Oh dang, that sucks, she missed her upgrade date.”

Deadpool Review

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Hooo boy! The year has barely started and already we have shots fired. In the battle to earn your comic book movie love (And dollars) Marvel has come charging out of the gate. After a dearth of comic book films last year Deadpool comes out swinging giving us a reason to love the summer again and it ain’t even March. The film begins with an ambitious opening scene, the credits of which, perfectly set the tone of the movie from the get-go: funny, irreverent and self-aware. Marvel appears to have adopted a doctrine of making their films be entertaining (Imagine that!) above any other concerns and Deadpool seems to be a culmination of that philosophy. It is a testament to the skill and commitment of Marvel and the makers that they can get so much mileage out of one second tier character, and half the budget, than other companies can with four first rate ones, fantastic or otherwise. (Way to redeem yourself 20th Century Fox!) Not bad for a character that was a created as a joke. (For the non-initiated, Deadpool started life as a blatant clone of Deathstroke, a character from DC Comics, Marvel’s main competitor.)

In all this the film is aided in great part by a crackling script that never lets up. Whereas too many action movies treat the scenes between set pieces as filler packed with exposition and the occasional comic relief, Deadpool deftly weaves between wise-cracking slapstick, violent acrobatics and scenes of serious peril with effortless ease. The result of all of this is a movie that is engaging throughout whether featuring profane, brilliant banter or graphical, bloody shootouts. For the film wears that R rating proudly with enough sex and violent to make Paul Verhoeven get all misty-eyed.  It is not surprise there is already a sequel in the works.

Another revelation here is Reynolds himself who in Deadpool seems to have found his Iron Man, a character so indelibly linked to the actor that plays him that you cannot imagine anyone else playing him. And his work here acts as vindication of that whole Wolverine debacle which we won’t mention ever again. But the secret ingredient in the Deadpool stew is geek heroine Morena Baccarin, who, besides being cute as a button brings the acting chops honed in fan favorites like Gotham and Firefly or even as the damnest adorable reptilian alien ever in the short-lived “V” reboot. Baccarin has the perfect easy-going confidence to match Reynold’s sardonic bravado and their superb and convincing on-screen chemistry provides the impetus for Deadpool’s heroic arc.

For despite all the foul language, gore and masturbation jokes, this is a story that is surprisingly tender. It turns out it wasn’t just a marketing gimmick and, Deadpool, really is a love story. To be sure, one with more severed body parts than your average love yarn but a love story nonetheless. Starting a new franchise is always risky and studios hate taking risks. Whatever your stance on comic books is, the fact remains this movie should not have been this good. The writers and director have shown what can be achieved with bold writing and an unapologetic attitude, and,  more importantly, that comic book movies need not be made for kids to be enjoyable or, indeed, successful. Here’s to hoping that trend will continue. Hopefully Hollywood will take notice.

 

Parent’s Brief

Rated: R
Running Time: 108 minutes
On Sex and Violence:  Plenty of both. There is graphic violence of the gratuitous kind. People get shot in all kinds of places and I mean their bodies not exotic locations. Limbs get bloodily cut off. A lot of foul language which I don’t mind but I’m not here to judge. Deadpool and his love interest get into some vigorous love making and elsewhere there is some brief frontal nudity. Boobies. Boobies are shown.  So yeah. Don’t take the kids.

The Grandmaster Review

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Ever since the young son of a Chinese opera singer punched and kicked and screamed his way into history we, in the west, have been fascinated by kung fu. Bruce Lee’s combination of exotic moves and unbridled badassery proved irresistible and some of us have never been able to get over our kung fu film addiction. As in any art form, the films come in wildly varying degrees of quality. From the badly dubbed Saturday morning flicks we all watched to art house masterpieces like House of Flying Daggers and Fearless. I’m elated to report that Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster is of the latter variety and is as far removed from those Saturday chop socky movies as Citizen Kane is removed from a Wayans bothers crapfest. This is the kung fu film as a work of art, martial arts by way of Martin Scorsese, who gladly sponsored the film’s American release.

The story follows master Ip Man, played by Tony Leung, the most famous practitioner of the fighting style Wing Chun and, as you’re sure to get tired of hearing, one of Bruce Lee’s most influential teachers. Given the recent trend of Ip Man biopics in the last few years comparisons are inevitable. While those films focused on the character of Ip Man, here the scope is widened to present the relationship and sometimes rivalry between the North and South schools of martial arts. The film opens with a virtuoso fight scene in the rain and as opposed to the fast paced sequences of the earlier movies here the action is slowed down for your viewing pleasure, the equivalent of a slow cooked dinner, the camera delicately focusing on punches, kicks, reactions and footwork. The cinematography is exquisite with director Wong Kar Wai exhibiting grandmaster traits of his own with his camerawork and some of his shots are a delight to watch.

While the redoubtable Leung does an excellent Ip Man I was personally gratified to see the return of Zhang Ziyi, the doyenne of  martial arts flicks (I’m sorry Michelle Yeoh). You remember her from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.  Oh Zhang how I missed thee! I don’t care how many sex scandals you’re involved in, you can use your forbidden moves on me anytime. As the daughter of the grandmaster of the North, Zhang provides the film with its emotional punch and her story encompasses the final 3rd of the movie and, suitingly for a film about a martial art created by a woman, hers is not the only well written female role.

The other presence that contributes to the richness of the film is of that other master: Yuen Woo-Ping. For the faithful he won’t need any introduction. As for the rest of you heathens, if you’ve seen a memorable fight scene within the last 30 years chances are Woo-ping choreographed it. “Fearless”, “Kung Fu Hustle”, “The Matrix”, “Kill Bill”, “Fists of Legend”, “Iron Monkey 2” among many others all owe their superlative fighting sequences to the man who was quoted as saying “Make the audience feel the blow”. In The Grandmaster he brings a lifetime of expertise to fight scenes involving a variety of fighting styles like Tai Chi, Xin Yi, Hung Gar, Bagua and a bunch of others I won’t even pretend to be familiar with. He also makes a brief cameo as Chan Wah-shun, teacher of Ip Man.

Speaking of various martial arts, one of the few quibbles I have with the film is that here Ip Man is given almost mythical status. The Wing Chun master seems to have intricate knowledge of a wide ranging variety of styles. Now, this may well have been the historical case but it seems to ring hollow when presenting a character so accomplished in his own style. Another point of detriment is no fault of the film itself. The movie is presented in Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles. Now if there’s one thing that “Merica hates more than exercising and science is reading. That single aspect alone, I believe, will insure the movie won’t reach the wide audience it deserves. Pity. The film is a masterpiece of movie making and a genuine love letter to the martial arts from a director and cast working at the top of their game.

What a dog biting a bull in the face can teach us about life

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Yes, I know you have seen this video before. A Spanish guy gets attacked by a bull and it looks like he’s about to take that Big Siesta in the sky when suddenly a comically tiny dog runs out of nowhere, bites the bull right in the face allowing the guy to escape. Looked pretty awesome first time you saw it, right? Not so much lately. You have seen a lot of youtube videos since then. A Spaniard getting attacked by a bull is nothing remarkable. That’s pretty much how the Spanish get their exercise.  And dog is man’s best friend after all, right? Well, do me a favor. Watch it again. Only takes 2 or 3 minutes. What you may or not realize is that the Spaniard being hilariously gored to death is not the dog’s owner. That dog had no reason to come to the man’s rescue. He could have sat the whole thing out and no one would have thought any less of him. Hell, I bet you there were several of that poor fool’s friends and relatives in that crowd right there but you don’t see any of them stepping up to help him.  Aaah, but you see? That, my friends, is no ordinary dog. That, gentle reader, is a dog with an agenda. And the only item left to check that day was:

Bite a goddam bull in the face.

All he was waiting for was an excuse and the little Spanish man fighting for his life handily provided one. You can even see him at about the 37 second mark running around, joyously waiting for a chance to bite in the face an animal about 20 times its size, an animal that could kill it just by laying down without looking first. And why, you ask? What reason did it have for attempting something that goes against the very laws of nature? Well… Because fuck that bull that’s why. And that’s the only reason it would ever need. Think about that for a second. That’s like Verne Troyer (Mini Me from “Austin Powers”) hanging around UFC octagons  just for a chance to pick a fight with Brock Lesner… and then proceeding to submit the ever-loving bejesus out of that humongous man beast. Look at him starting at around the 2:20 mark. To say that this dog doesn’t care would be a silly understatement. There are deep sea trenches that could be filled with all the fucks this dog just does not give. It’s like nature, playing a drunken role-playing game with life, decided to see what would happen if you removed the self preservation instinct from an animal and then maxed out its confidence attribute.

But here is the astonishing thing. After everything is done and the huge bull has been shown who’s the main mammal in Málaga, the dog is not even upset in any way. I mean obviously he was not scared but you can see from its expression at the end he was not the least bit fazed. You could almost get the sense that right after the video ended he sauntered over to the bull and told him he’d buy him a beer just to show him there were no hard feelings. No anger. No fear. That is some Zen shit right there my friends. That dog should open its own freaking dojo and teach people how to meditate.

Most folks walk thru life filled with self doubt. Should I quit my job and move to Spain? Should I leave my douche bag boyfriend? Should I go back to school? Should I ask that cute girl in Customer Service out? (No not that one, the one in the back everybody thinks is a little weird). The inability to answer these questions fills people with anxiety. At the same time a lot people, when presented with a situation that they perceive to be outside their control, tend to react with anger. The dog shows us what is like to deal with a difficult situation calmly but decisively; what is like to approach life with a complete absence of self doubt. Think about that for a bit:

What would you do if you knew absolutely that you could not fail?

Now ask yourself, what exactly is stopping you from doing what you want to accomplish? Visualize your obstacles. Imagine all your fears laid out in front you. Picture your doubts and trepidations. Got it? Got that image firmly in your mind? Good.

Now bite it in its goddam face.