By Gregg Shapiro
Alex Garland may have gotten his start as a novelist (1996’s best-selling “The Beach”) and later transitioned to writing screenplays (“28 Days Later” and “Never Let Me Go”), but as he demonstrated with his Oscar-winning 2014 directorial debut “Ex Machina” (starring Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac), he has found his place behind the camera. Garland’s latest movie, “Annihilation” (Paramount), which he also adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, confirms that fact.
A first-rate sci-fi horror flick, with astounding special effects and shocks and gore galore, “Annihilation” also features a chill-inducing score co-written by Geoff Barrow (of Portishead). Moving back and forth in time, often blurring the two, the main thing to know that after a mysterious meteor-like object crashed into a lighthouse, the region underwent a visible and potentially dangerous change. Most notably, it is now surrounded by a shimmering, penetrable and ever-expanding barrier, known as, you guessed it, The Shimmer.
First among the four female lead characters is Lena (Natalie Portman), an ex-soldier and biologist, now teaching at Johns Hopkins. She is also the wife of special ops soldier Kane (Oscar Isaac). After going missing for a year, Kane returns in a noticeably different psychic state, beginning with the serious memory loss. Suddenly hemorrhaging internally, Lena rushes him to the hospital, but the ambulance is intercepted by soldiers and government officials.
The next thing Lena knows, she’s in a secret government facility on the outskirts of the approaching Shimmer. Kane is there, too, in isolation and on life support, barely clinging to life.
While there, she meets Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is leading a small contingent into the Shimmer to try and discover its source and how to possibly contain it. The others on Ventress’ team are lesbian Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Josie (Tessa Thompson) and Cassie (Tuva Novotny), all of whom bring special skills to the mission. Ventress and Lena agree that it is best that the others don’t know Lena’s specific connection to the mission.
Predictably, things begin to go awry soon after the five women enter The Shimmer. They lose track of time and their bearings. Communication with the outside world is cut off. Oh, and there are gigantic bloodthirsty beasts, including an alligator with an extra row of teeth like a shark’s and a hideous bear-like creature that steals the screams of its victims and makes it part of its own voice. It doesn’t help matters that a video camera memory card featuring terrifying footage is discovered by the women.
Additionally, “Annihilation” even has a subtle environmental message about the potential for the nature world to reclaim what was taken from it, even if takes alien intervention. By the end, with only one surviving member of the posse (can you guess which one?), there are many questions to be answered. Some are and some aren’t, but that’s part of the fun of the movie.
Like “Black Panther”, “Annihilation” features female characters that are as strong as they are sensitive. Unlike “Black Panther”, “Annihilation isn’t afraid to have visible queer characters, front and center. Rating: B+
By Scott King
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
– The Gospel of John, Chapter 20, Verses 11-16.
A couple thousand years later, I was in a cemetery in Alabama, looking for Hank Williams’s grave. We were fresh out of college and couldn’t find it. Instead, I found my friend Russell, who had passed away a few years before. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He appeared in the light, spectral. He looked at me and said, without opening his mouth, “Don’t do it, Mary.”
I added the Mary part, but all the rest is true. At the time, I was dating someone much, much younger. He was precocious yet endearingly innocent, kind of like I was when I met Russell. Russell had the strength not to do it to me, not to take advantage of my availability and leave me jaded beyond my years. After that edifying visit from Russell in the cemetery, so did I.
Learn from life, but always be open to instruction from the dead. Death has something to teach us, even when our dearly departed don’t have time to come back and give us tutorials while hovering over Alabama dirt roads.
Over the past weeks I have shed many a tear over a friend of mine who just succumbed to cancer. During the dry spells, I have felt a pain in my gut equivalent to being stunned. It is not a dull pain. I hate all dull things.
The memory, the connection, it never really ceases to exist.
“All that lives, lives forever.
Only the shell, the perishable, passes away.
The spirit is without end, eternal, deathless.”
– The Bhagavad Gita
I cry every time I read this, because it is true.
I’m always glad to hear from Russell. My recently departed friend, I still feel his spirit lingering, but I do not have the pretense quite yet to ask for an audience.
It doesn’t matter, though. Love is like the spirit. It is eternal, endless, and deathless. Love creates something that was not there before, and it does not ever go away. It just changes form.
While they gave me the invaluable gifts of love and wisdom, neither Sean nor Russell were perfect. What a useless notion. I’ve always found it absurd that the Jesus of the Bible was “without sin.” Under such a condition, how on earth (pun intended) would he have been able to relate his teachings to humanity, to lead us to transcendence of the quotidian and the material?
I doubt that the angels are perfect. They were only human, after all. And the most famous of them got too big for his britches and became the light-bearer. That’s a lot of responsibility.
My guess is that death and the afterlife, much like life on this plane, is full of flawed characters, clumsily fumbling through the darkness with a head full of light into which they think they have long ago walked.
The Russell that visited me in Alabama wasn’t any wiser or more angelic than the one with whom I used to go for walks in the woods in college. Ask anyone who knew him; he was pretty angelic when he was with us in the flesh.
And, as I think about it, eyes moistening because I’m emo, Sean’s influence was felt, at least by me, in my wonder at how lightly he could tread on the path while still lighting the way.
I don’t need to look for him anymore. He’s already there. The tomb is empty.
Scott King is an Atlanta-based writer, consultant, and political activist. He enjoys tennis, hiking, rock concerts, and having drinks with friends. He is currently working on a novel about a hooker with a heart of Bitcoin.
By Gregg Shapiro
Observed every April since its 1996 launch, National Poetry Month was created by the American Academy of poets as a means of celebrating and calling attention to poetry. Special events scheduled for National Poetry Month in 2018 include the continued airing of the star-studded PBS series Poetry in America, the Dear Poet project in the schools, as well as a multitude of events in public libraries, as well as the famous month-long O, Miami festival. If you prefer your poetry on a solitary, one-on-one basis, consider the recent titles below.
Lesbian poet Julie Marie Wade calls Same-Sexy Marriage (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2018) “a novella in poems” and it’s a fitting description for the 17 linked poems, based on a little white lie told by her mother, that are alternately, heartbreaking, amusing, and always insightful.
With content drawn from six books – The Other Man Was Me, What the Body Told, Landscape With Human Figure, The Enemy and Alternative Medicine – Comfort Measures Only: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2016 (Duke, 2018) expands on Rafael Campo’s respected reputation with 31 new poems.
Recipient of a 1996 Lambda Literary Award for All-American Girl, lesbian poet and educator Robin Becker returns with her eighth full-length poetry collection The Black Bear Inside Me (University of Pittsburg, 2018).
Tommy Pico, a finalist in the Gay Poetry category for the 30th annual Lambda Literary Awards for his book Nature Poem, completes his poetry trilogy with Junk (Tin House Press, 2018), the third installment in the Teebs series, which began with 2016’s IRL.
Together and by Ourselves (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), the second poetry collection by gay poet Alex Dimitrov, in which the poet traverses the coasts, in search of answers to “existential questions” connected to “the reality of our current moment.”
The pocket-sized Take Me With You (Plume, 2018) by Andrea Gibson, is separated into three sections – “On Love”, “On The World” and “On Becoming,” and features illustrations alongside the poems (one-liners, couplets, and longer pieces).
Translated by David Colmer, The Sexy Storm (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2018) by Dutch novelist and children’s book author Edward Van De Vendel is described as a collection of “modern love poems” tracing a relationship from first blush to last kiss.
Edited by Julie R. Enszer, with an introduction by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 1974-1989 (Sinister Wisdom, 2018), collects the correspondence between the late lesbian poets Lorde and Parker, in which they share the intimate details of their lives as writers and queer women, including the times in which each of them lived with cancer.
Not a member of the LGBTQ community, but a marvelous poet nevertheless, James Wright is the subject of the thorough bio James Wright: A Life in Poetry (FSG, 2017) by Jonathan Blunk. If you don’t know Wright’s poem “A Blessing,” you owe it to yourself to read it.
Ryan has lived in Atlanta for nine years, and seven of those as a resident of the East Atlanta Village. He is a nurse at Northside Hospital and spends his free time as an urban farmer tending to his garden and chickens. Ryan also plays and coaches in the gay softball league and is the proud uncle of two nephews and a niece. He loves a new adventure, traveling, the beach, and anything outdoors!
By Jamie Kirk
What came first the chicken or the egg? This is an age-old question. Elementary even. This question can be answered 1,000 different ways, by 1,000 different people, with 1,000 perspectives. The good thing about a perspective is that it is neither right or wrong. I wanted to really look at this question from a philosophical angle. And since it’s around Easter, I figured the egg analogy would be appropriate.
Eggs are the symbol of new life or new beginnings. The egg is about re-birth and a doing a “new” thing. The egg symbolizes starting fresh and anew. It is associated with the beginning of life.
When we look at the previous question – what came first? We tend to think of it in very logical terms, regardless of your stance. The chicken must come from an egg or how else can a chicken exist, if not first an egg. But yet, how can an egg exist if not for the chicken. It’s Crazy Talk. But if we look at the question from how we should problem solve and make decisions in our life, the question can be much easier to solve – or NOT.
Let’s look at two different ways to solve an issue in our life. One way to look at the issue is thinking and speaking it into existence. Meaning that if we think positive thoughts and if we really “pray,” or for non-believers “wish,” REALLY hard, what we want will drop from the sky in our laps. If we shift our thinking, we can chart the course of events that may or may not happen. If we think good, then only good will happen to us and around us. We can even ask others to “pray” or “wish” right along with us in hopes of there being power in numbers! This can symbolize that you are hatching what you want before it pops into your life. Or to keep in line with the theme; the egg comes first.
On to the next perspective. Sometimes we tend to do nothing until we are uncomfortable or forced to change. You need to do something, but you think of every excuse not to cause a change or movement in your life. When you are solving issues like this, you believe that you are in control of your destiny and that you cannot impact the outcome. Whatever is gonna happen, has already happened and you can’t change the course of life’s wrinkles. When you solve issues in your life with this method you are attempting to play the hand you are dealt and not ask for the dealer to re-shuffle. This can symbolize that you are responding and controlling what you want after it pops into your life. Or to keep in line with the theme; the chicken comes first.
As mentioned before neither way is right or wrong. It really depends on your perspective. It depends on how you were raised, and what you saw growing up. Some parents never talked about bills, bankruptcy, medical issues, etc., while some folks grew up in a home where issues were brought up at the dinner table on a Tuesday night. Each one of us has a different stance on how to get through this thing called life, and we have to use our own formula. We have to live our life as best we can, make decisions based on facts, not emotions and just freaking hope for the best. Therefore, when you look at questions like above, try and dig deeper into the meaning and how it can positively impact your life. Look beyond the riddle and look for the lesson.
What came first the chicken or the egg? Yes, it’s a pretty silly question. But the next time you see the question or the question comes up in a dinner party, ask yourself this: Am I waiting for my life to start, or am I ensuring I am living my best life now? Once you answer this for yourself, it will be an aha moment for YOU, which one came first the chicken or the egg.
Jamie Kirk works for a software company and is a certified spinning instructor. He also enjoys yoga, swimming, bicycling and running. He aspires to start a blog about what we put in our bodies not only fuels our body but our mind and spirit as well. Follow Jamie on IG @tysonsdad.
By Mik Hyldebrandt
The thing about Spring is that it only gets better from here on! And with the new springy conditions comes new circumstances for your skin – so with the new season, it’s time to put a new forward too.
Don’t Forget SPF
No matter what skin tone you may have sunscreen is always a good thing. Because even though you may not burn there are still plenty of harmful side effects caused by sun (over)exposure.
Jack Black Double Duty Face Moisturizer SPF20, $28
Use a Lighter Moisturizer
Like you change up your bed covers to a lighter version, the same goes for your skin which doesn’t need the same cuddly wrap-up as in winter.
Ursa Major Fortifying Face Balm, $36
It’s time to rid the skin’s surface of that dull skin and dry patches – and that goes for your entire body! Exfoliate a little more than usual, no more than a couple of times week, and always be gentle!
Jo Malone London Lime Basil & Mandarin Exfoliating Shower Gel, $40
Get a Cut
Cold weather and dry air can leave your tresses dry and dull, so get a fresh cut, and make sure you treat your hair to a conditioning treatment.
Kevin Murphy Staying Alive Leave-In Conditioner, $35
Trim the Wilderness
So, pretty soon you’ll be lounging poolside or by the sea, so make sure your body hair isn’t an untrimmed wilderness. You don’t have to go smooth, but a neat trim will do.
Philips Norelco Bodygroom, $35
… are terrible for your hair! Think about buying a rain-proof hair product that’ll keep your style intact through a drizzle.
Coltrane Triumph & Disaster Clay, $27
Action Cycling Atlanta (ACA) is an Atlanta-based non-profit dedicated solely to stopping HIV/AIDS. Over the course of its 16-year history, ACA has staged multiple sporting events benefiting the community. ACA’s annual AIDS Vaccine 200 bike ride has raised over $2.6 million for local AIDS Support Organizations (ASOs). This year, ACA brings back Field Day, an adult staging of everyone’s favorite childhood day of competition.
What exactly is Field Day?
Field Day is an attempt to redeem ourselves from our awkward Middle School years! Seriously, Field Day is a grown-up version of the most awesome school event from your childhood. Think 3-legged races, hula-hoops, tug-of-war, dizzy lizzy and plenty of other fun games! Field Day was hugely popular several years ago, and we thought it was high time to bring it back. It’s a great way to kick off spring and benefit some amazing community organizations!
Where did the idea come from?
It’s certainly not a new idea. But Field Day has been on hiatus the past three or four years. A bunch of friends were talking about resurrecting the day, and a couple of those people happened to be on the ACA Board of Directors. When we floated the idea of bringing Field Day back, the ACA Board jumped at the idea of supporting it.
What does Action Cycling Atlanta do?
Action Cycling Atlanta’s sole mission is to eliminate HIV/AIDS. We do this by raising money for Vaccine research and disease prevention. Most people know us through our annual AIDS Vaccine 200 mile bike ride.
How did bikes get connected with Tug-of War?
Great question! We have several cyclists in our leadership group who were also involved in staging Field Day. When we started brainstorming additional ways to expand our reach in the region, Field Day was natural. Both are positive, healthy and really fun ways to give back to the community.
Who are this year’s beneficiaries?
Field Day will benefit Hearts Everywhere Reaching Out of Children (H.E.R.O.) and ACA. H.E.R.O. currently serves more than 350 kids with more than 250 volunteers. The organization’s unique mission includes children who are affected by HIV/AIDS. An affected child is one who is HIV+, has an infected parent, sibling, residential relative or has lost a relative to HIV/AIDS. H.E.R.O. serves a majority low-income population and does not charge a fee to parents/guardians for any of its services or programs.
For the AV200, the primary beneficiary is The Emory Vaccine Center. EVC is one of the leading institutions worldwide conducting HIV/AIDS vaccine research. The AV200 funds the stipends of 5 post-doctoral research fellows at Emory. The cure for AIDS may very well come from one of them! The Ride also benefits Jerusalem House and Positive Impact. Jerusalem House provides daily living assistance to those living with HIV/AIDS and Positive Impact provides prevention training, medication assistance and other services for HIV+ people in North Georgia.
Riding a bike 200 miles! Are you crazy?
Ha! Not really. The AV200 is one of the most well-produced cycling events in the country. The ride itself is challenging, no doubt about that! It’s purposefully designed to take the rider out of his or her comfort zone. In doing this, we are reminded of the sacrifices and the struggles against HIV/AIDS that so many were not able to overcome. We conduct organized training rides, both indoor and outdoor, leading up to the ride. Our ride leaders ensure everyone is equipped and ready to roll come Ride Weekend.
When is Field Day? How about AV200?
Field day is Saturday, March 31. The AV200 is Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21.
How do I get more info?
Field Day: www. http://donate.av200.org/
By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Muted hues are a massive fashion statement this spring and summer. Whatever your fashion game, think pastels in all the colors of a pale rainbow.
The Soft-Hued Clothing
When your mind starts obsessing about spring colors, let your mind go to faded hues that are having a moment this season.
Seavees Hawthorne Slip On Mr Turk, $88
Topman Oversized ‘Unknown’ T-shirt, $35
Tommy Jeans End-On-End Shirt, $70
Calvin Klein Slim Fit Graffiti Denim Shorts, $69
Happy Socks Big Dot, $12
Charlie Original Trunk Oatmeal, $38
Banana Republic Aiden Slim Chino, $70
Pastel is In the Details
Not all pastels need to be worn like clothing. For an easy way into the pastel trend, wear your softer color schemes as accessories or fun gadgets.
Dior Homme Cologne, $97
Leica Sofort Compact Instant Camera, $299
The North Face OK Mini Berkley Backpack, $60
Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses, $105
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Portable Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker, $100
By Darren Floro-Bryant
It’s April already?! Are you ready for the warmer weather and patio season? Spring means more outdoor socializing, maybe a few beverages, and time to relax and enjoy the warmth. This also means shorts, t-shirts, bathing suits, and tank tops…pool parties and time at the beach!
Now that the cold, hibernating months have passed, we all want to shed the extra layer of clothing, but we may not feel confident about what the clothing has been covering. Spring is the perfect time to make some changes to your routine that will help you feel more comfortable and confident in your skin while enjoying the warmer weather.
This does not mean we need to go out and start a whole new fitness regimen – or maybe it does? The warmer weather could be the motivation that we have been lacking in the colder months. Also, with this warmer weather, it’s a great way to take your routine outside. Spring is a chance for us to change our outlook or perspective and redirect our focus. Keep in mind, though, we should put just as much emphasis on how we feel as how we look. Updates to your regular routine increase the potential for some great changes to your body and your mind. Looking better is a great byproduct from doing things that improve our overall health and fitness.
So what quick things can we alter in our day to day lives that will start the positive changes? We can break it down into different categories to make it a lot easier to tackle rather than trying to remember so many different things. We also need to consider our current restrictions and hurdles that may make some of these changes a challenge.
The two main categories are diet and exercise. We all pretty well know what we need to do, but sometimes forget or get caught up in our routines or ruts. Some restrictions and hurdles that can hold us back are time, environment, money, motivation, and lack of knowledge.
Let’s start with diet!
Look at ways to change your diet to healthier, more seasonal foods to get your mind and body to feel lighter and more energized. This is easier said than done, and believe me, WE ALL struggle with this. Try to make these changes at home where you have more control over what is available or choose healthier options at restaurants. It is difficult when you are out and everything being served is not part of your “improvement plan.” And when you are out at the party or event, enjoy some of the foods, but watch your portions.
Here are some tips:
Now let’s move on to exercise!
During the winter months, time and convenience can get in the way, and the gym may be the only option for you to get a work out in. Now’s the time to take advantage of this warmer weather and take your workouts outside. Hike, bike, walk, run… a change in environment is a great motivator. Add variety to your workout routine, increasing the potential for positive changes in your body.
Here are some tips:
If you currently don’t have a workout plan, or money is tight and you can’t afford the cost of a gym membership or fitness program, consider increasing your activity level simply by adding walking into your daily routine.
We have all heard these suggestions and tips, but it is up to you to follow any or all of them. Feeling good and looking good go hand in hand so rather than focusing on the added pressures of always looking a certain way, the best approach is to focus on how you feel. Simply mixing things up in your daily activity routine will trigger some great body changes and feelings that will allow you to enjoy the warmer months whether it be at the pool or on the beach.
Whatever you choose to focus on or change, do it now. Don’t wait until next week or next month. Spring has sprung, and each new day is a good day to start.
So, go put on your shorts, t-shirts, or bathing suit, grab a drink, and meet me at the pool!