Posted by The Lam | Aug 21, 2015
Remembering Satan


I've been on a reading kick as of late, all with nonfiction books strangely.  And it continues with Remembering Satan.

Remembering Satan tells the harrowing true story of the Ingram family, from the small town of OIympia, Washington during the mid to late 80s.  Paul Ingram is described as a humble father and family man; a man in love with his wife and children.  His family includes two boys and three girls; of which two of the girls are twins, although one was mentally challenged.  He was a reputed member of the small community, working as a deputy sheriff in Olympia and also in the role as the Republican chairman in Thurston County, Washington.  They were also heavily involved with the church community.  The family at first attended Catholic services (of which was Paul’s background), but later started attending a charismatic Christian church of which the family found more connected to.

During one occasion, his daughter Ericka, who was a young adult at the time, was away on an all-girls church retreat.  The retreat included seminars and workshops, including a charismatic and prophetic guest speaker from the Washington area.  During one of the seminars, the speaker was giving out all these visions, of different fantastical things she saw involving some of the girls at the retreat.  In one particular vision, she saw a girl who was abused by a family member.  Ericka knew it was her, however, she had no memories of the abuse.  After attending counseling sessions with a therapist, memories that she had blocked out were recovered.  As a child, she was raped by her father, Paul Ingram.  And this went on through her adulthood, even as early as a month before the retreat.

When these accusations were revealed, Paul Ingram was quickly detained.  He was interviewed by some of his former peers and although he had no memory of the actual occurrences, he never disputed that it was a possibility.  Through hard questionings and long interviews, Paul also began to recover memories.  They’re few at first, but as they progress through the process, they become longer with more gruesome details.

We learn that not only was the father involved, but it was a incestuous family ordeal; the brothers and mother were also implicated.  The alleged abuse occurred from childhood to adulthood.  Soon, we discover that it was a whole sex ring involving a number of different members and friends of the police department.  Could the detectives on the case even trust their own peers?  Even more earth shattering was that not only were sex crimes being conducted within their own home, but the crimes also involved Satanic ritual abuse with sexual torture, animal sacrifice, baby sacrifice, and who knows what else.  Interviews with other family members followed a similar route, with details appearing hazy at first and more clear later.

However, at a certain point when the stories became so fantastically grotesque, the detectives and psychologists who interviewed the family members started questioning the plausibility.  They started noticing contradictions in the stories.  They found less and less evidence.  The question is raised of if these events actually occurred or were they falsely recollected memories?  And if so, how could this happen with all the members?

Remembering Satan is a fantastically written and unbelievable true story.  I could not stop flipping pages and read it through in just a few days.  The whole story, the implications, the denouement are fascinating.  Throughout the book, the reader is left wondering who they can trust.  Author Lawrence Wright doesn’t just provide us details with the case, but he also provides his research on the psychological topic of recovered memories and of Satanical ritual abuse.

The book was written by Wright back in 1994.  Wright is fast becoming one of my favourite writers (at the very least, my favourite nonfiction writer).  I’ve now read his Looming Tower (2006), Going Clear (2013) and now Remembering Satan.  I’ve also got Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David (2014) lying on my shelf, ready for attention.  The way he dissects a topic with meticulousness and from an unbiased point of view really draws in the reader.  I actually wrote to him this summer wondering whether he was working on a book on ISIS (I mean, if I’m going to read a book on ISIS, I would trust his research!), but he responded with “not yet”, rather, he was working on a book regarding the evolution of terror.


The book is over 20 years old, but the true story it tells is intriguing and timeless.  It’s worth the read!  Later geeks!


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Posted by The Lam | Aug 17, 2015
Show Me a Hero!!!

(Geek's note: this review is in regards to Show Me a Hero, the book. Not the HBO miniseries!)

 "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

But what makes a hero?

Show Me a Hero is a fascinating look at a true story regarding public housing in the city of Yonkers in the late 80s and early 90s.  The city, as we’re told, was of a predominantly middle-class white population; it was far from diverse.  However, Yonkers did contain public housing or “projects”, that were segregated and located primarily on the east side of the city.  It’s noted that tenants within the public housing were primarily black or Hispanic.

After a court order to desegregate the public housing, the city was ordered to construct townhouses (not apartment complexes which cities were generally accustomed to in regards to public housing) that were scattered throughout the west parts of the city i.e. the less diverse areas.  The idea was to integrate the less fortunate folks into communities where they would feel safer, less guarded and with an actual sense of community; to increase their sense of identity by bringing them an affordable house.  This in turn would bring racial diversity to the existing white communities.  If the communities were not diverse, the diversity would literally be artificially injected into them.  As one might imagine, the court order mandate caused uproars amongst the existing white communities; the communities were not as susceptible to change.

In the midst of the proposed changes, a bright young man named Nick Wasicsko was elected as mayor primarily on the platform that he would fight against the court order for public housing.  Although that was his position going in, after threats of bankrupting the city for disobeying orders, he was faced with a tough decision: continue to fight and appeal the order and bankrupt the city hence putting several hundred city employees out of work or to comply with the order and face public upheaval. 

The book doesn’t just follow Nick’s story, but brings about a rounder perspective by showing you the lives of other proponents.  We also follow Mary Dorman, a middle aged Caucasian woman who was in staunch support of the groups who fought to oppose the changes.  Or Billie Rowan, a young black teenager who becomes pregnant and mixed up with a young Hispanic miscreant named John.  Or Alma Febles, a young Dominican woman, who works endlessly to support and provide the best for her growing offspring.

Nick Wasicsko amongst reporters.

The book follows each of these characters (and a handful of others) as we see their lives change as a result of the public housing situation.  Some lives experience positive changes, while others see struggles.  At the end, author Lisa Belkin poses a question to the reader.  Having read about the lives and the journeys from different perspectives, who is a hero?  What makes them a hero?

For a nonfiction story, Belkin approached the book in an unconventional narrative style instead of a more traditional investigative approach one would expect from a nonfiction title.  What this did was instead of presenting facts to you, we’re presented with stories.  We’re brought to the ground level to experience the emotions with people who have been through the struggles.  And it is interesting.  It’s hard to believe that such a thing happened in America less than 30 years ago.  Although, one only needs to turn on CNN for a few minutes to realize, oh yeah, racism is still a thing.

I first heard about Show Me a Hero over a year ago.  David Simon, the mastermind behind probably one of my favourite shows, The Wire, announced his upcoming project – the adaptation of Show Me a Hero (book) into a miniseries on HBO.  The announcement of the project came with limited information regarding the true story; that of the youngest mayor in Yonkers who ended up in the middle of a racial and class battle amongst the town’s citizens.  Without too much other information, but coupled with the fact that Simon was working on it was enough to pique my interest.  I did some research shortly after and was fascinated by the real world story.  Just warning you, if you’re at all interested in the TV show or the book, DO NOT look up the Wikipedia entry for this story!  There are sad things that happen, and it may be better discovered during the show instead of its Wiki entry.

The HBO miniseries debuted last night – August 16, 2015.  I’m quite interested to see what stories they chose to follow and how closely it follows the true stories.  The series is being released at an interesting time in America, where racial tensions are high post-Ferguson.

Whether one can relate to the subject matter or not, I think at the human level we can all relate to that idea of change and resistance.  The important thing to reflect on is how can your character grow?  Until next time later geeks!

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

-Harvey Dent; the Dark Knight (2008)


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Posted by The Lam | Aug 14, 2015
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation!


Y’know, in terms of movies, this summer has been so shit.  Every week, there seems to be a new letdown, a new Hollywood debacle.  Amidst the piles of summer movie dung, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is a glimmer in that mess.  It rises above all the other stenches.

Rogue Nation, the 5th installment in the Mission Impossible franchise, follows our favourite IMF agent, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), as he tracks down a mysterious organization that he believes is tied to many of the recent real-world disasters or wars.  However, while on the trail of this rogue group, or Syndicate, Ethan himself has become a bit of a rogue agent (hence a rogue nation!  Aha, a-ha!  A-hahaha!).  With the IMF becoming defunct, thanks to recent reckless actions, he no longer has ties to a recognized organization.  Not only does Ethan become a chaser, but he’s also the chased, as the CIA are hot on his trails.  Their adventure takes you around the world with thrills and car chases and gun fights.  And you get to watch it!

Rogue Nation is a very solid action movie.  It’s actually quite perfect as a summer fare; the story is not too complex, the explosions are loud, and Tom Cruise is at times without a shirt (for fans of the aging thespian).  It again underscores how we don’t need to be told new stories, but we can accept tried and true stories, just as long as they’re told well.  And here, it does it well.


 What made it great this time around is that it feels less like the Tom Cruise show when compared to the other entries.  It is more about the ensemble.  They give way more for the other characters to do, especially Simon Pegg and Rebeccca Ferguson, the aforementioned mysterious Brisih woman/agent/harpy/what-have-you.  Even Alec Baldwin, with his limited screen time, stole the show anytime he was onscreen (my favourite line spouted by Baldwin: “Ethan Hunt is the manifestation of destiny”.  The ridiculousness of that line caused the theater to break out in laughter!).  However, with Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner, although they’re involved with important plot elements, they’re not given as much as everyone else. 

This time around, the film was helmed by Christopher McQuarrie who directed probably one of my favourite action movies (OF ALL TIME), the underrated and underappreciated, The Way of the Gun, 15 years ago.  He also wrote the Usual Suspects (So there!).  With his previous outing in Jack Reacher and now Rogue Nation, he’s proved that he can handle and direct Tom Cruise in both gritty and loud bombastic styles.

If you’re looking for something fun and filled with action, you can do no wrong with Rogue Nation!

Stray Thoughts: 
  • I know it’s a geek’s wishful thinking, but I was really hoping that this movie was going to crossover with the upcoming James Bond film, Spectre.  Both Rogue Nation and Spectre have similar ideas, that of a rogue organization that’s the anti-thesis of a government spy agency (IMF or MI6).  They even mentioned MI6 in this movie!  I was hoping that the Syndicate turned out really to be Spectre, with a walk-in James Bond cameo that would segway into Spectre this coming winter.  But is it too out of left field?  Having shared universes is all the rage these days thanks to Marvel.  Warner Bros is copying with their DCU.  In fact, Sony, which holds the rights to Spider-Man even struck a deal with Marvel to allow the webslinger to appear in Marvel produced movies.  Could Sony, who also owns the rights to James Bond, not have equally struck a deal with Paramount?
  • I watched the movie with the D-Box seat option (i.e. the rumble seats).  This is the first time I’ve allowed my body to feel such an experience.  I found it more distracting than improving my viewing experience.  I mean, it’s not like during the entire movie there’s consistent motion.  For example, there could be an 8 minute dialogue scene with no action (and hence, no seat motion) when all of a sudden an explosion hits and your seat gets jolted forward.  It feels like some douchebag giving your seat a hard kick behind you.  It’s quite a jarring experience at times.  While I didn’t enjoy the shaking, the rumbling and the general gyrating actions of my chair, I did I appreciate that it was a big, sturdy and firm seat that I was comfortable in when the action was subdued.  However, it is not worth $25!!!  I should note that I didn’t pay $25 though.  If you’re in Canada and you’re a Scene member, you can redeem the D-Box seats for 1,000 points which on face value is a good deal, as all other (and cheaper) tickets are also worth 1,000 points.  However, your points are probably better spent on a select seating show or a 3D show.
  • During the opening credits, one couldn’t help but notice that the movie was co-produced by some relatively unknown companies.  Alongside the more familiar Bad Robot and Skydance Pictures, the movie was produced by Alibaba Pictures and China Movie Channel (CMC).  To a geek whose been watching mainstream corporate schlock for the past 25 years, these 2 companies were unfamiliar and raised a geek’s eyebrow.  Upon some research both Alibaba Pictures and CMC (probably more obviously) are Chinese billion dollar corporations.  In fact, Alibaba Pictures is owned by the Alibaba website… yes, that Chinese website that sells all sorts of cheap shit!  And now they’re funding Mission Impossible.  Crazy huh!?  It just made it more apparent to me how the film industry is changing in terms of financing.  Now that the global market is more considered, even financing is coming from offshores.  And nowadays, given that Hollywood isn’t as adventurous with its spending, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more of this type of arrangement.
That's it for now, later geeks!



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Posted by The Lam | Aug 13, 2015
The Hateful Eight!!! (Teaser...)


The teaser for Quentin Tarantino's next film is finally here!  And it looks glorious!  Shot in the beautiful 70 mm format, this is Tarantino's ninth film.  It's interesting how the teaser notes this as being his eighth.  (Perhaps he doesn't count Jackie Brown, the only title in his repertoire that he didn't script.  Or perhaps Kill Bill vol. 1 and 2 are considered one film).  In any case, this is the 2nd western in a row for the fan favourite film darling.

The production of this movie is interesting because it almost never came to be!  After a script leak in early 2014, the frustrated Tarantino threatened to pull production on the project.  However, after doing a live reading with several of the notable and purported cast members, somehow, he changed his mind.  And now we're all better for it!

I can't wait!  It looks like this year Christmas is going to come with a bullet!  Later geeks!


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Posted by The Lam | Aug 10, 2015
Goodnight Mommy (2014)

Goodnight Mommy is a Swedish horror/thriller that was originally released in 2014.  The movie follows two young twins as they spend their summer in the remote Swedish countryside.  They’re seen early on celebrating a summer full of innocent fun with laughter, sunshine and smiles.  One day, their mother returns home having gone through cosmetic surgery on her face.  Her face is bandaged beyond recognition.  Is she who she really says she is?  After some suspicious activity, the two boys begin to question her identity.  Is she someone that we can trust?  Alternatively, can the perspective from the boys be trusted?

There’s not too much more I can say about the plot, as the story takes you for a few twists and turns as akin to horror movies.   I will say this though, that within 6 minutes of the movie, you could already tell what the major twist of the story will be.  And it’s mostly because it’s nothing that you haven’t already seen before.  However, the twist itself is not the point; even the big reveal at the end is nonchalant and anticlimactic when the curtain is pulled away.  Rather, it’s more about the storytelling, leading you into their lives, getting you to feel for the characters.

And it’s this aspect where the movie achieves its successes.  We, the viewers, are flipflopped the further the story goes.  We’re just not sure who we can trust.  In this way, the movie follows a similar beat to that of Gone Girl, where the viewer bounces between who is the protagonist and antagonist.  Whereas Gone Girl felt like a roller coaster of emotions, Goodnight Mommy feels more like one slow moving descent into an abyss of uncertainty.

For this reason, I think the movie mostly works.  The first two-thirds of the movie hooks you with its atmosphere and its escalating tension and mystery.  The movie is plodding and doesn’t go for the cheap thrills, unlike most modern American horror movies.

However, the movie isn’t without its flaws, and it’s in the third act where it feels like things fall apart.  There’s a scene in the third act where random visitors from the Red Cross appear at the family’s home seeking donations.  You can understand how they used the scene to try and build tension, but their appearance comes so far out of left field that it shifts the tone that they took their time in setting up.  And from there, it sort of falls apart.

The movie ends and doesn’t address every question.  This may seem frustrating to some, but the questions are small, and are minor to the bigger picture.

Recent previews have dubbed it as the “scariest movie ever made”, but I wouldn’t hold those statements to any regard.  It’s probably more creepy than scary, but even if you consider it scary, I’m sure you’ve seen scarier.


As a horror geek, it’s worth checking out, otherwise, it’s nothing that you haven’t already seen.  Later geeks!




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Posted by The Lam | Aug 5, 2015
Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania

Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania is the latest New York Times Bestselling autobiography by none other than internet fan-favourite wrestler, Daniel Bryan (aka. Bryan Danielson).  The book takes us through a journey from his independent wrestling roots to his current run as a WWE superstar.  We follow him on his humble journey as he lives off of peanut butter sandwiches, jet-setting across the world to make a few bucks and finally landing himself in the WWE, the wrestling world’s biggest stage.  He shares some stories about his family and about falling in love (with current Diva, Brie Bella).  Although the broad span of the book covers his early career journey, each chapter opens with a short story on the days leading up to the biggest match of his career: main eventing Wrestlemania (28).

If you’ve followed the WWE the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly seen the popular Bryan, or at least his famed YES chants which has been seen across a wide variety of live sporting events.  The heavily bearded Bryan is the poster boy for the underdog so much that that particular aspect has been woven into many of his storylines.  He’s small, he’s pale, he’s supposedly uncharismatic and yet, people love him.  Perhaps more so than the Rock, Daniel Bryan may be a true people’s champion. 

I’ve only read a few wrestling biographies, that from Bret Hart and two from Chris Jericho.  The journeys between the three wrestlers have a lot of commonalities.  All three were undersized wrestlers (and thus, not seen as true champions), all three were arguably underdogs in the eyes of the fans, and all three are established technical wrestlers.  Perhaps it speaks more to my taste in wrestlers.

I have to say though, between the wrestling biographies that I’ve read, I feel as though Yes! was the least entertaining.  Although I have no way of truly knowing, it feels as though part of the problem may have been being filtered through WWE’s publishing process.  A lot of the emotion that I was hoping to feel felt very muted.  A lot of details and stories I was hoping to hear about were completely left off the book (i.e. the story of AJ Lee, his thoughts and reactions to various wrestling deaths, etc).  I can’t help but feel that if his story was published outside of the WWE confines (like that of Hart and Jericho), that it could have been more honest.  There was so much more emotion in the biographies of Hart and Jericho.  I could really get behind their struggles.  That’s not to say that the book is dishonest!  Bryan gives really candid thoughts on the current wrestling scene, which he calls a parody of wrestling.  And he’s right.  Go to any indie wrestling event to watch wrestling.  Go to any WWE show to see a cartoon.


I would still recommend the book if you are a Daniel Bryan fan, but I do feel the story pales in comparison with Hart and Jericho’s biographies.  But perhaps that’s not saying too much, as those biographies are some of my favourite books in general, outside of just wrestling biographies.  Til next time, later geeks!


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Posted by The Lam | May 29, 2013
Punk Rock Jesus!


Punk Rock JesusThe title alone caught my eyes.  Then I saw the plethora of positive reviews.  And then I read the synopsis.  I knew quickly that I needed to read this book.

Written and drawn by Sean Murphy, Punk Rock Jesus tells a fascinating story about a corporation who is able to clone Jesus and shepherd him (or Him?) to become the world’s biggest reality TV star.  Like all good corporate sequels, the whole event and his show is dubbed as “J2”.  He is birthed by a young virgin teenager named Gwen Fairling, who was chosen from a worldwide full of hopefuls.  She names him “Chris” as it’s pretty close to “Christ”, she explains.  We follow Chris as he grows up before the eyes of the world and see all the trials and tribulations that he goes through, as a corporate “Christ”.  As he becomes a teenager, he begins to reject all things religious, becomes an atheist, and joins a punk rock band to fight the religious, societal and corporate powers alike.

I think this is the first comic book where I can say that I felt uncomfortable reading, but not in a necessarily negative way.  Rather, the book was able to push some of my buttons in a way that comic books haven’t done for me before.  That feeling of discomfort was outweighed by intrigue in seeing where the story was going and how the conflicts would be resolved.  The story is full of twists and turns to keep things lively.  Murphy does an excellent job of crafting believable characters, and although you might not get behind every single one of them, you can clearly see where they are coming from.

As I was reading PRJ, it was evident to me that this was a really personal story for author Sean Murphy.  There’s just so much dialogue that you can tell is bleeding from a real world conversation.  And perhaps that’s why the story seems so intriguing.  The book ends with an afterward by Murphy explaining his personal faith journey, and how he ended up where he is today as an atheist.

As a Christian, although I don’t personally agree with some of the sentiments he expresses, I can respect where he’s coming from and appreciate that he would feel challenged by faith at all.  I’ve always believed that one experiences the most growth when they are challenged or feeling doubt.  Granted he’s become an atheist now, but I would hope that he wouldn’t stop asking questions about faith and even challenging himself.

The whole experience of reading PRJ made me appreciate the comic book/graphic novel medium even more.  Not only can you read fun and pop-titles about superheroes battling super villains, but there’s also engaging stories full of real life stories, conflicts and scenarios.  If you’re the type of person only into superhero books, I can encourage you to explore other realms and avenues within the medium.  There are truly some great stories out there.  Until next time, later geeks!


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