Movie Monday: Missing


By Alexandria Harris

Premise: An American writer goes missing in a Latin American country and those close to him spend the entire movie trying to find out what happened to him.

Best Quotes:

“They can’t hurt us, we’re Ameericans!”-Charlie

“I guess he’s trying to be a writer.” -Mr. Harmon, when asked about his son’s occupation.

“Sometimes I honestly think that that boy is incapable of doing anything, except of course give idealistic speeches or write novels that will never be published.”-Mr. Harmon

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting out of this movie. In the very beginning, they had a voice over stating the movie depicted true events and names had been changed to protect people and the film. It was hard to be funny or lighthearted about the film because it made no attempt at being one. It was chilling and was almost separate from any emotion I tried to muster up to connect with it.

It starts in chaos. We’re in an unnamed Latin American country (supposedly Chile) and fear is in the air. Latin American military troops are everywhere, killing, sacking, and keeping order. For some reason, tons of Americans are in this Latin American country and trying to leave.

In the first scene, Charlie Harmon and his friend Terry are rushing to get back before curfew. They stay in a hotel because they can’t get home. Terry asks Charlie if he thinks it’s a good idea to be taking a lot of notes, to which he makes an entry saying that very thing.

In the morning, they go home to Charlie’s wife Beth. She was very worried about them because gunfire could be heard everywhere. Beth wants to leave with Charlie and Terry and so all three of them go to try and get to the airport.

Beth goes on ahead of them while Charlie and Terry try to leave another way. They are stopped by the military when two men have Terry at gunpoint and walk her over to a secluded area where they search her.

Terry and Charlie get out of that situation safely and take advice from a freelance writer from New York to hole up in a safe place until they can get out of the country and not to go to the consulate because it’s a mile away and the streets were literally murder.

Beth goes to see Frank, who is a friend of hers and Charlie. Frank is an American and explains that the country has turned into a free fire zone.

She leaves, but misses her bus and isn’t able to get another. She tries to get a taxi, but they are either hurrying trying to get back before curfew or they won’t take her where she needs to go.

The curfew announcement sounds and Beth sticks to the shadows, hiding along buildings. She bumps into a store display and the lights come on because the store owner is hiding there. She begs him for help, but he refuses so she hides in the street between buildings.

She arrives home to meet Charlie, but the house is ransacked. A neighbor comes to tell her that the soldiers came in the night. He did not see Charlie, but warns Beth to leave because they might come back.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s dad Mr. Harmon is trying to find him through efforts in Washington but isn’t getting anywhere through various state departments. He decides to go down to the country and meet with the ambassadors to find out what’s going on.

Charlie hasn’t been captured by the military, he isn’t in any hospitals, and all the neighbors have been interviewed. He seems to have literally disappeared.

Mr. Harmon does not trust Beth, because she is married to Charlie and apparently has the same idealistic spirit that he does.

Beth is rude to the ambassador and U.S. government officials when visiting them because they have stonewalled her for the past two weeks. Mr. Harmon thinks she is being unreasonable and is irritated with her.

The two meet with Terry, who describes the last time she saw Charlie and how they ran into a man in the navy who was pretending to be French and apparently spilling military secrets with them. They took notes, and Terry explained that Charlie told her how odd it was that the American navy man would tell them so much.

Terry and Beth tell Mr. Harmon about meeting an American official who told them if they needed anything to call him. They do so after Charlie disappears, but the intoxicated man tries making passes at both of them. They lock the door to their room and hide from him.

With this Mr. Harmon finally believes that things are not what they seem in this unnamed Latin American country.

Suffice it to say, I was bored forty minutes into the movie and I had another hour and forty minutes to go. It is very dark and has the same monotonous tone through the whole thing.

The audience can tell who the villains are, but that there is no hope. The thing that holds the movie together is the relationship between Beth and Mr. Harmon as they try to find out what happened to Charlie.

The movie is very political–and the art of writing is portrayed in a negative light. Mr. Harmon seemed to imply that Charlie had gotten himself into the whole mess because he was a writer  I would also argue that writing is just another metaphor for freedom. In the same way Mr. Harmon disapproves of Charlie’s writing and idealism, the Latin American government disapproves of their people having freedom of expression.

It’s very interesting that the beginning of the movie says these are all true events and the end of the movie has an official statement by the Department of State declaring that these events never happened.

I didn’t enjoy this movie because it was more about the shadow of a writer instead of how writing affects our lives. Mr. Harmon didn’t approve of his son’s writing and it made for a toxic relationship. The movie was also way more political than I thought it would be.

The emotion was there, but because of the corrupt nature of the government, you already knew what was going to happen. You know there’s not a happy ending and the road there is just shy of suspenseful, just slightly off kilter. Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon give great performances, but if I evaluate it from my current system, I’d have to give it 3/10 stars.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Interview with a Vampire

By Alexandria Harris

I promise I will not suck your blood. Even if I knew where you were at this time. Though we’ve already established I’m not a vegetarian, I’m also not a cannibal. Vampirism comes in many forms, and the aspect I’m referring to today is the sleep side of it.

My sleep deprivation issues probably mean I’m waking up on the wrong side of my sleep cycle.

Post-grad life means I have a lot more time than I did in college, but for some reason my sleep has not been balancing out. Waking up to get my Jillian on, eating a nice balanced breakfast, work, and doing some writing all sounds like a nice dream, but for some reason it hasn’t been happening.

I’ve never been a morning person, but it’s a little extreme.

Even when I’ve gone to sleep at a “natural time” which is what my parents urge me to pay attention to when they aren’t calling me Queen of the Night, I feel like I’ve partied too hard in the USA the night before. Or I happen to wake up with a quarter of the day gone.

The sleep cycle is a fascinating way to understand the science of sleep. To my chagrin, one doesn’t just go to sleep, have adventurous dreams, then wake up, go about our business, and do it over again.

Oh, it is much more complicated than that.

Sleep is divided into two stages: Non-REM (NREM) sleep consists of four stages of sleep, each deeper than the last. This usually happens right after falling asleep. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is when you do most active dreaming. Your eyes creepily move back and forth during this stage, hence the name Rapid Eye Movement sleep. It happens in the early morning and a person probably looks possessed during the latter form of sleep.

Deep sleep repairs your body whereas REM sleep repairs your mind and makes one more refreshed for the day. Apparently if either is compromised, your sleep pattern makes up for the one you aren’t giving enough SLC (sleepy loving care) to.

Similar to the way you can be in monetary debt, one can also experience sleep debt. The concept of losing sleep and feeling the punishment later is not new to me, but I wasn’t expecting all those all-nighters to come back and bite me after such a long time.

There are some of us who do not have the time to get the average/recommended 7.5 hours of sleep for adults. Or to take power or cat naps during the day to keep the sleep debt at bay. Power-napping never seems to work for me, but apparently there’s a science to that as well and I haven’t been doing it right. Setting a wake-up time in a multiple of 90 minutes works wonders for the average sleep issue.

Thankfully there is technology to help us out with the gargantuan mission of getting enough sleep. Yes, I know currently people usually solve problems with technology first and look for practical solutions later, but bear with me.

The iPhone and Android have a few numerous Sleep Cycle applications to help borderline insomniacs get right back on track. I’ve decided to try the one for Android called Sleep Cycles and the iPhone app is called Sleep Cycle.

Of course the easiest way to solve this would be to get a time machine, time travel back to when I was five (when you couldn’t pay me to take a nap) and surgically remove that part of my brain. Then I would undergo a brain procedure to insert that part of my brain into my present day body.

Ironically, as I’m wishfully thinking of this, I should probably be going to bed to sleep off some of that debt.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Movie Monday: The Raven


By Alexandria Harris

Premise:  A killer is using Edgar Allan Poe’s tales to bring to life unspeakable horrors.

Best Quotes:
“Is imagination now a felony?”-Poe

“I know there is a darkness to Edgar, but they’re all up here (points to head) every woman he’s ever loved has died in his arms. I believe that God gave him a spark of genius and quenched it in misery…” -Henry Maddox, newspaper owner

“Feels as if I’ve gone from author to character in one of my tales, trapped in the devil as any of the hapless bastards that I’ve created.”-Poe

It was time for us to delve into the mind of a poet. However in “The Raven” Edgar Allen Poe is portrayed as a washed up poet, drunkard, and sometimes contributor of a newspaper where he takes it upon himself to criticize the likes of Longfellow, Emerson, and brilliant contemporaries. Apparently the well of Poe’s genius has run dry.

The audience witnesses the extremely bloody pendulum killing (don’t eat and watch this) and then we go from bloodcurdling to sappy with Emily, who Poe is in love with.

Poe is brought in as a specialist by an inspector because the killer is following Poe’s tales to the minute detail to terrorize the city of Baltimore.

Poe’s new fiancee Emily and he decide that they will make their engagement public at a masked ball her father (who hates Poe) is hosting. It is the social event of the year for Baltimore. However, that is the same night that the killer chooses to strike again using “The Masque of the Red Death.”

They shoot the interloper and catch him, but not before the real culprit has disappeared with Emily. Now that Poe is really personally invested, it is up to him to save Emily and find the killer before time runs out.

I’m sure every writer wants to see their stories come alive in real life, but these are particularly gruesome stories to bring to life. The stories are no longer safe with imagination, they are contaminated by reality, fixating our minds with horror.

Then to relive the monsters of your own making, to craft them into more gruesome detail–it’s no wonder Poe was crazy.

It was fascinating to see Poe driven to produce stellar art, being a master at his craft the way sometimes we all are driven to produce amazing pieces of work. Even though he was driven by life or death, sometimes writing and the art of producing literature is a life-consuming passion.

Poetry is food for the soul, a soul wrenching endeavor and so it makes sense that the movie was a little melodramatic. There were a few quotes and glimpses into the mind of a genius. However, I think the movie would have been better served as a biography of Poe’s life. He certainly had an interesting one.

The costumes were bright at times but mainly dull, mimicking the movie setting. Outlandish chases mixed with interesting points of deduction, it was basically watching a mystery movie a la Sherlock Holmes without the Watson and mixed in with a little Saw. Oh, and at two points I was getting Phantom of the Opera deja vu.

It was adventurous of the script writers to add a fictional twist to Poe’s life, but there needed to be more turmoil, more raw emotion. The movie was definitely suspenseful, but too predictable which is why I felt as though there was something missing. A twist at the end made me give it a higher mark, but for the most part you could guess along with Poe.

I would give this movie a 6/10. You don’t need to rush out and buy the DVD, but it’s good for a one-time watch and literary types will appreciate it for what it is–an interesting and mostly fictional take on Poe’s life.

It was intriguing because Poe is generally a mystery/detective gothic-style  fiction writer. The writers tried to turn the movie into that very thing, but taking the mold from his stories didn’t allow for enough imagination to really keep an audience riveted for the entire movie. The way his life, especially the end of his life, was incorporated and tweaked was thought provoking.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

The Party’s Here, and You’re All Invited

I said that I wasn’t going to write another post again–and for the most part I am keeping true to my promise–but for today I am making an exception.  And the occasion is truly exceptional. Next Saturday, August 25th, the staff of Hennen’s Observer, including myself, publisher Joshua Hennen, contributing writers, and friends of the magazine will gather at the High Point Public Library in High Point, NC at 4 p.m. to celebrate the official start of our writers and artists group in North Carolina. The meeting is partly a getting to know you session, part grand opening of the magazine. High Point library officials, including the library’s director, will be on hand to observe the event, and the public is definitely invited.

Light refreshments will be served.  The actual meeting is expected to last well over an hour, and will cover everything from fiction, creative nonfiction, and hard-news journalism (including our upcoming child abuse and neglect issue, which Alexandria Harris did such a smashing job contributing to). We are proud to be officially recognized by the community, but we are also honored to get to meet at least some of the cheerleaders and fans who’ve kept us going all these years–even when we wanted to throw in the towel. Hennen’s is more than a website or a magazine.  It is a social network, production company, sounding board, and digital watering hole for struggling and established writers both locally and internationally.

Writing is in our blood. Good writing that makes a difference is even more important to us. But more than that, being able to be part of a community that values the work we do is beyond luck. We feel blessed just to be able to pursue our craft, without interference or fear of offending someone.  We cannot express our deepest thanks to all those anonymous bloggers, writers, journalists and wannabes who read our blog and website every single day. It brings tears to our eyes that they choose to spend their precious minutes of downtime reading us instead of something else.

So climb into that car, buy that plane or bus ticket and come on down to High Point next weekend. Don’t worry–the coffee will be  fine.

For more information please consult:

Google Maps

@hennensobserver Twitter page

Hennens Observer Facebook page

…And this excellent post by crime writer Lee Lofland, describing a seminar he, novelist Jeffery Deaver (Roadside Crosses)  and several other well known authors attended in High Point circa 2010.. Lofland does a good job of giving a run down of what a typical writer’s group/meeting is like, plus a little ambience about the library itself.  As you can tell, the sky was overcast and gray, but we’re holding out for more pleasant weather and company! 

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The One That’s Not About Sports

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By John Winn

I have a confession to make: I hate sports. I loathe sports. I never played basketball, baseball, participated in only a few dodgeball matches in grade school, even won a first place ribbon for (I think) the hundred yard dash. In fact, I still have my ribbons all framed in a patriotic tricolor of red-white-blue that suggests the wholesomeness of Middle America.   

I’m actually from the South, but this post isn’t about my supposed redneck upbringing (however genteel it might actually have been). It isn’t about sports at all.  But it is about the news, and literature.

When we started this blog, we intended for it to be a lighthearted companion to our main website. The slogan says it all: light and easy with a side of bacon.  Despite being humorically challenged, we managed to succeed in a way, chronicling the Internet’s obsession with bird-women, making ironic observations about our craft–which Alex has done with gusto–and generally trying to stay on the light side of life. Yet it’s not so easy to be topical and funny at the same time–take it from this hard news guy.

The Olympics seemed like the perfect launching pad. It is and remains one of the premier spectator events–everyone gets to see the triumphs and defeats, the unstuck landings, the runners who don’t quite make it past the finish line. The intimate nature of the games means that everyone can get into it without having to know the stats and the players’ backstories and all the things required of certain sports fans back home (I’m looking at you, NFL).

The Olympics also happens to be the one event that intersects with all others and for a guy like myself, that’s a dream. You can talk about the politics of sports, the human interest angle (Wieber’s fall from grace, Bolt’s dominance on the track, Phelps’ swan song to the sport he loves), even how the games pretty much overshadowed every other story in the news–even arguably, the ones that should have been above the fold instead.

That much we (and I) set out to do. But like a gymnast who can’t quite keep her balance, we made obvious errors in our coverage, and mistakes like those would get major deductions in a real newsroom–and by deductions, I  mean pink slips. Even Jordyn would agree on that one. I guess we had chutzpah, but chutzpah and calculated risks are two completely separate things.

So without further adieu, I step back behind the curtain and let Alex and Brennon share the spotlight once more–for now, at least.

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The One That’s Not About Politics

By Alexandria Harris

As a general rule, I do not discuss politics with people I like. Or I make an attempt to avoid them altogether. Sometimes it’s the easiest way to turn friendships or agreeable acquaintances sour.

And Wisconsin apparently is the drama pri madonna of the political sphere. We just can’t help it apparently.

You would never go to someone’s house and immediately start talking to them about politics, but people who don’t know anything about each other, much less some of the political topics they’re talking about, find it necessary to turn everything into a debate.

One of my quirks is that I love reading articles or watching videos and then scrolling to the comment section. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. Whenever you have a notion that people are generally good at heart, I dare you to scroll to the comment section and in ten comments or less people will start arguing about religion, race, or politics.

It’s hilarious but at the same time horribly pathetic.

This past weekend I was in the mall with my friend and she got wheedled into doing one of those surveys where they trap you in a room for about thirty minutes and then give you three dollars with a smile like they didn’t completely waste your life.

Being the good friend that I was, I went with her. This particular survey involved watching the trailer of an upcoming movie and telling the survey people if we would watch it in theaters and how much we liked it. Unfortunately for me, the most interesting movie they had was a political thriller starring Mark Wahlberg.

Now I adore  Mark Wahlberg, but even he couldn’t tempt me to go to the theater to see this movie on opening weekend or at all.

Why you ask? Two words: political thriller.

I’ve never been that interested in watching movies about politics because real life provides way too much material. I could actually see our government today doing half the things they do in movies based on politics and sometimes the movies are based off of something that actually happened.

Now a political comedy like “The Campaign” I would watch because we have to find some way to (keep from crying) laugh at this.

Real life politics is too much like a soap opera gone wrong.

This is also why I don’t read political blogs, listen to politics on the radio, watch Sunday morning debates, etc. And many of you may say ignorance is ignorance it’s not bliss and you’re right. However, politics is a system based on money and people saying they’re going to do something and then not. Then it all goes down a rabbit hole from there.

Yes I’m jaded, I completely concede this.

By now you may know (and if you didn’t, John spilled it in his last post) that Paul Ryan was chosen as Romney’s pick for Vice President. As of now, people (from the less politically minded side of the pool) are honestly debating whether he is attractive.

Really? Why is that a question we’re concerned with? Maybe ‘would he be a nice addition to help run our country’ should get thrown in there? Everything is biased, everything is skewed and slanted and politics is a picky, hot button topic.

Rarely do we find an unbiased source to educate us on the important matters. The amount of mud slinging is ridiculous. I bet if we took the millions we spent on political ads and put it back into education or job creation, American would be slightly better economically.

I said slightly because let’s face it, we’re in trillions of debt. I’ll get off my tiny soap box and put the megaphone away because I’ve succeeded in attempting to touch the topic of politics with a lukewarm, ten-foot pole.

And let’s be real, some of you were probably thinking it.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

ICYMI: Olympics Edition

 

 

 

 

 

By John Winn

So the flag has been folded, the athletes have gone home, and the lagers have been thoroughy consumed. London 2012 is officially history. Yet while most of the known world was glued to the screen watching Bolt, well, bolt, Wieber tumble on the balance beam, and a certain American swimmer make his mark in the record books, heads of state died, a prominent author bid adieu to Planet Earth, and a Canadian military official became one of the most notorious spies since Robert Hansen. So without further ado, here is a run down of what should have been the top news stories for that fortnight-yet obvious weren’t.

July 27

John Atta Mills dies.

The economy still sucks.

-NIttany Lions players continue to pretend Jerry Sandusky didn’t touch all those boys the way that FBI Director guy said he did.

-Oh, and some Canadian guy stole a bunch of military secrets and gave them to Russia. The estimated haul is believed to be greater than the US Diplomatic cables Bradley Manning handed over to WikiLeaks, which included information on ongoing covert operations by the US, UK, Australia, Canada and a few other nations. If convicted, Jeffery Paul Delisle could end up spending the rest of his life in prison.

July 28

-Mitt Romney arrives in Israel. Hilarity ensues.

-Syrian Army begins their bitch-slapping of Free Syrian Army rebels in the country’s biggest city Aleppo.  If successful, government forces would effectively quell the rebellion, widely considered one of the bloodiest and most tumultuous conflicts in the Middle East since the Arab Spring began.

Sally Ride died. Oddly enough, the biggest news about this isn’t her death from pancreatic cancer, but her lesbian partner of 27 years, who sadly, is ineligible to receive death benefits–because she is lesbian.

August 2-4

Maeve Binchy died.

Gore Vidal died, which is an even worse shame.

August 8-9

-Some Wall Street bank gets in trouble for laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for the Iranian government. Paging Lisbeth Salander.

August 11

Romney finally selects his VP. The wait is over!

-But wait, there’s more!

Gu Kailai “confesses” to murdering Briton Neil Heywood, who was something of a  international man of mystery himself. The Bo family–including Bo Xilai himself–are thought to have been involved in numerous corrupt business dealings with Westerners in Chongquing, of which Heywood played prominent roles in arranging for the Bos, as they could not do so themselves. Heywood reportedly threatened to  expose the family’s ill-gotten gains during a confrontation with Gu, Xilai’s wife, which may have led to his alleged poisoning by Gu and her orderlies.

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.