Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Fall ****

Tarsem Singh, renowned for his stunning film, The Cell, in 2000 returns triumphantly after an eight-year hiatus during which he shot The Fall in over a dozen locations spread across the earth.  The result is a visual masterpiece that tells the story of a story about a little girl and her friend, the Masked Bandit.

In real life, in a 1915 Hollywood hospital, we are introduced to young Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) whose innocence is as adorable as her accent.  She is in the hospital with a broken arm when she meets Roy (Lee Pace, "Pushing Daises"), a stuntman whose most recent fall has left him paralyzed from the waist down.  The two become quick friends and allow their imaginations to run wild as Roy begins to tell Alexandria an "epic story."

This story, of course, is what makes up the majority of the film.  It is the tale of five men (the Masked Bandit, the Ex-Slave, the Indian, the Explosives Expert, and Charles Darwin) who are all on a singular mission--to kill the evil Governor Odious who has murdered the Masked Bandit's twin brother, the Blue Bandit and ruined each of their own lives in a variety of insidious ways.  It is in this globe-trotting, eye-popping journey that Tarsem's skills truly shine, transporting us into an impossibly rich world where the use of color alone makes the film worth watching.  But that is not all that the film has to offer.

Such was the problem that many critics felt The Cell ran into--all style and no substance.  I don't know that I subscribe to such beliefs, but in The Fall, there is no arguing that there really is a heart and soul to this film that drives it forward.  It does start a bit slow, relying, perhaps a bit too strongly on the eye candy on the screen to keep us interested as we learn what is at stake for our cast of characters--but when Roy starts to lose himself, both in real life and in his story, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur (not unlike Pan's Labyrinth--though Del Torro's film is much more graphic) and suddenly, there are far greater consequences than just finding an end to the story that Alexandria so loves to listen to.

Tarsem Singh is one of the most visually-stunning directors in moviemaking today (and one who eschews CGI no less, preferring to build physical sets and scout the gorgeous locations he shoots rather than create them through computers), but it is wonderful to see him take on a project that exercises not only his keen eye, but also his heart. A masterful achievement in both style and substance.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Leviathan - Paul Auster ****

I can't remember the last time I read a book that was so emotionally draining as Paul Auster's Leviathan. I have been reading it at work for the last week or so, and finally in the home stretch of the last hundred pages today, I started walking around with my head down and my coworkers kept asking if I was okay. That's a feat to behold.

Auster's books are some of the most finely crafted works I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Maybe the stories don't always get wrapped up cleanly, or the characters seem motiveless and unlikeable at times, but each sentence is a well-delivered punch. In Leviathan, Auster's narrator talks about his approach to writing fiction, how he painstakingly hammers out each word, and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he were reflecting on his own style. Or else he's just really lucky and knows how to put ideas perfectly into amazingly worded sentences that form paragraphs of unparalleled power. In that case, screw him for not having to work hard when the rest of us do.

But Leviathan isn't just about writing despite its revolving around two writers. Really, it is about the writers themselves, on a much deeper, human level. It's a story about character and what changes character and how people deal with those changes whether they want to or not. The first two thirds of the book are development of character, and the last third is a revolving door of switch-arounds of those characters that spin them, and their worlds, out of control.

That, of course, is the depressing part--seeing the people you've come to love like family (how couldn't you, as much as Auster tells you about them?) lose themselves completely. In terms of literature, it's extremely satisfying, but it is still painful to watch. As much as I loved the book, I hated it in a way, for getting me so emotionally involved without my even noticing, and then dashing all my hopes and dreams as it came to an (unfortunately expectedly) abrupt close. But then, isn't that the mark of an excellent piece of literature? Probably. But did it really have to break my heart?

An introduction

Welcome to The Hypermagic Headphase, my new and (hopefully) more consistently updated blog.

I can't remember how many blogs I have started. I had a xanga, a myspace, even a blogspot for awhile. Each time I start one, I think how great it's going to be to finally have something to write constantly, so that I never run into the dry spells that I constantly get myself into when I'm working on my short stories. Always producing work, no matter what it is, is supposed to help, so I try, trucking on for days or weeks, until I just don't have the drive to do it anymore.

But here I am again, with one more try. And I think it might work this time, because it's not just me ranting about my day. I work at a radio station here in Pittsburgh (my radio show is also called The Hypermagic Headphase and is broadcast from 11pm-1am every Thursday) and I'm constantly reviewing new albums, so I figured that would provide quality, constant content here, filling up the wholes when I'm not feeling particularly inspired. It's all an exercise in writing anyway, so I think it will help.

So here I am. Again. As if I don’t have enough other stuff to do, right? I’m twenty-two years old and a concierge at the Hilton Pittsburgh despite a degree in writing from the University of Pittsburgh and a pretty decent resume in radio experience. Go figure. But in the free time that I have, I mostly write, so I’m hoping this is something that will help me. Again. Only time, I suppose, will tell. Let’s see if I can get through a week of this.

I hope you’ll enjoy.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Headphases are the meat of my blog, the juicy bloody bits of goodness that get my blood pressure cranking. They're what I live every day, set down into type for you to read. I have them organized in reverse-chronological order, from the most recent to the oldest, and divided into their respective years. I also took the liberty of marking some of my favorite ones. Yes, I suppose that might seem conceited of me, but it's all for you. You know, in case you're in a time crunch and you want to know which ones to read before you... say, get the electric chair?

Divide and conquer
The myth of job creation +
Tax Responsibility
How this tax thing works +
Think globally, protest locally
Occupation dedication
You'll never be rich
Genuinely inauthentic
Get on the bus, Gus
Here's a bat-ter idea

On the road, again
Onward and upward
Gimme yo' shit
The Box +
Burning down the house
Domestic abuse
ChatRoulette: Welcome to the End of the Internet
The truth of the matter
Why do horrible things happen to good people? +
The price of kindness

Some Loose Ends: The Rest of the Music of 2009, Pt. 2
Some Loose Ends: The Rest of the Music of 2009, Pt. 1
The Rules of Cool +
Are you crazy?
Analyze this
Bite the hand that breeds
You are not a vampire +
The beast of apathy
Why I just don't mind seeing newspapers go out of business in
the slightest

Vote Zerbe in 2024! +
First Name: Jeremy
Hypermagicism International
A lil' bit country +
Licensed to ill
Ill communication
My issues with police, Vol. 46,241,346
Pigs of the sea +
Jack in the Sucks
The right to arm beers +
The Mighty Boosh
Kids these days!
What's goin' on! (Right on, baby! Right on!)
Idol chatter +
Swill O'Whiney
Forever and ever
God bless (white, heterosexual, middle-to-upper class,
Christian) America
Aaaaand now for something completely expected!
To serve and protect
Omegle, Part II
Tweet, tweet
My brilliant ideas
City Jogger 2009! +
Shut up and swallow +
On the road +
The News at 3
Alles glänzt, so schön neu

Dreaming of a White Christmas
"Chromeo, Oh Chromeo. Wherefore art thou Opera?"
President Obama +
Radio New Zealand National
Bipartisan Efforts +
A letter to the editor
Getting personal with your personal computer +
Ti-i-i-ime is on my hands
As an added bonus...
A matter of principle
Look Back and Laugh
The smell of freshly cut ass +
Mushroom cheesesteak, hold the hatred


The Hypermagic Headphase used to be the name of my radio show back in college on WPTS-FM. It was a two-hour long show on Thursday night that spanned everything from downtempo electronica and big beat house to spazzcore and noise. The name was taken from two of my favorite albums of all time, and the two opposite ends of the musical spectrum that I featured on the show--Lightning Bolt's Hypermagic Mountain and Boards of Canada's The Campfire Headphase. It was, I felt, an extension of myself as any good radio show (or art in general) should be. And the show wasn't just putting on CDs and going out to smoke a cig, it was as close to an organic artform as I could create. Ask any of the guests I regularly had on the show: I needed two people just to get records on and off the turntables fast enough because I was usually playing three things at once.

So when I started this blog, I kicked around a couple of ideas for awhile as to what I'd want to call it. Something about books, since the focus would be on book reviews when I had no inspiration for other things to write? Or maybe something to do with anger, since I've got so much of that pent up inside me? But I settled on using The Hypermagic Headphase moniker again, because, more than anything else, that phrase has come to represent myself to me. It's the opposite ends of the spectrum of my personality: the loud clanging rage that boils over into rants and raves about nothing in particular, and the calm (supposed) intellectual sitting back and enjoying a good book by the fire. If I had a fire. Which I don't.

If you'd like to contact me, feel free to do so in either the comments sections of my blogs or by email (jeremyzerbe@gmail.com). I love to hear from the people that stumble upon my little corner of the internet. And yes, I'd be glad to write for your website. Or watch your dog. Or to be the heir to your fortune. Step right up.

Jeremy Zerbe is a writer regrettably living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He has been a featured writer for Undress Me Robot, Daily Kos, and Coed Magazine and his fiction has been published in the Three Rivers Review and in an upcoming sex anthology entitled The Living Room Handjob. He is a 2008 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a B.A. in Writing, and would gladly take any job you have to offer him, especially if it helps him move back to Pittsburgh or to somewhere in the U.K. or Germany. Also, Iceland. He really enjoyed that Sigur Rós documentary.


I've started and failed at lots of blogs, from Xanga to MySpace and even another Blogger site, so when I started The Hypermagic Headphase I knew I needed something to keep myself writing even when I didn't feel like it. So in an effort to supplement my uninspired stretches, I started reviewing all of the books that I read.

Now, I'm actually on behind by about a few months because I have so much to be pissed off about. Here is where you can find all of the reviews I've written, of both books and films. The music reviews I did last December I didn't bother listing here because they were really just a Year-End Review kind of thing, and I haven't done any others since. If this bothers you for some reason, you probably should chill out. I'm the one with anger problems, not you.

Book Reviews:
Auster, Paul - Leviathan
Auster, Paul - Mr. Vertigo
Black, Michael Ian - My Custom Van
Boyle, T.C. - Budding Prospects
Chabon, Michael - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Chabon, Michael - The Final Solution
Coupland, Douglas - Girlfriend in a Coma
Coupland, Douglas - Microserfs
Dawkins, Richard - The God Delusion
Ellis, Warren - Black Summer
Ellis, Warren - Crooked Little Vein
Foer, Jonathan Safran - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Haddon, Mark - A Spot of Bother
Hall, Steven - The Raw Shark Texts
Jacobs, A.J. - The Year of Living Biblically
Johnson, Adam - Parasites Like Us
King, Danny - The Pornographer Diaries
Lavender, Will - Obedience
Lethem, Jonathan - Amnesia Moon
Miles, Jonathan - Dear American Airlines
Moore, Alan - Watchmen
Pratchett, Terry & Neil Gaiman - Good Omens
Sienkiewicz, Bill - Stray Toasters
Swann, Leonie - Three Bags Full
Templeton, Charles - Farewell to God
Wallace, Daniel - Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician

Film Reviews:

The Fall
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Where the Wild Things Are

Hypermagicism International

When I get lucky enough, I escape this country of mine to more beautiful and interesting places on the globe. One of the things I like to do is keep photoblogs of my time there, since it's much easier and much more interesting than just yammering on about it. I've come to calling these blogs "Hypermagicism International," mostly because I think it sounds totally badass, and when I have like, twenty of them collected, maybe someone will want to publish them just on the merits of that totally sweet name.

Right now, however, I only have a couple, because I've only been to a couple places. As much as I'd love it to be, this isn't the kind of section that's going to be updated regularly. I am a poor twentysomething paying off college loans after all. But if you would like to go back through my travels and relive the adventures along with me, this is where I'll be storing the memories. Also, if you want to pay me to go to another country and blog about it, find my contact info in the About section. I am totally all about that shit.

The Tangophase (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
The Kiwiphase (New Zealand)


Sometimes I like to fancy myself a photographer. Some of my work has actually been published in Collision Literary Magazine, so I guess technically I might be. What you'll find here are blog posts that feature my photography. Usually they come in photo essay form, but some are just selections of pictures I've taken. If you enjoy them and would like to check out some of my other work, feel free to visit my photo website (just a Flickr account, until I design something better).

I'm baaaaaack... (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
52 Fulton Street (Ephrata, Pennsylvania)
While I was out (New Zealand & Reading, Pennsylvania)
"Hey Blue!" (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)