Monday, April 30, 2007

Sawyer walks a very different kind of Green Mile.

Rental Review: The Green Mile

By Ryn Gargulinski
As with any Stephen King story, we get twists, turns, intrigue, blood and plenty of horror. An added bonus is it’s all done on death row.

This flick features a killer who is not a killer and is really a healer who is sent to die on the electric chair. But first he has to contend with having bumblebees fly out of his mouth, an obnoxious fellow death row inmate (who’da thunk?) and a jerkhead prison guard, who happens to be the nephew of the governor and gets away with a lot, including totally botching an electric chair execution that makes the prison reek of singed flesh for five years.

This movie is just plain fun.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg for this highly-involved, emotionally-spent and entirely captivating film.

Highlight: The mouse in the house.
Lowlight: The jerkhead nephew who you just know is going to smush the mouse in the house.
Rating (1-10): 96

This movie was recommended with love by Mom and Dad.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

May I help you?

Rental Review: May

By Ryn Gargulinski
We hate May. She’s nervous, flimsy, wishy washy and downright annoying.

OK, we have to give her some leeway since she was brought up wearing a “pirate patch” on her eye and had no friends but some creepy doll in a glass box.

Besides, the movie opens with May screaming bloody murder and ripping her eyeball out. So we sit around waiting for her to do something more than yell at her glass-encased doll.

And then she does.

The grotesque, gory and fully stomach-turning finale is not enough to make you turn away from the screen but is more than enough to make up for the boring beginning of the movie.

Highlight: The scene where May brings the doll to a day care full of blind kids and they break open the glass box, crawl around glass shards and dismember the creepy doll.
Lowlight: The long boring stretch of May’s attempted love life.
Rating (1-10): 17.66

This movie was recommended by Richard and Bonnie.

Places to bite the bullet.

Rental Review: Bullet

By Ryn Gargulinski
Excellent depiction of Coney Island, bloody eyeballs, a NYC graffiti artist and the stereotypical Jewish family with a couple of sons gone bad but the characters are annoying as hell.

We get Mickey Rourke with a stupid skull cap who just got out of prison with a massive heroin habit, his older brother who went schizo and thinks every day is Vietnam, a spineless yet talented younger sibling who you feel like slapping silly, an Italian stallion type who denies he is bordering on homosexuality and finds no qualms about driving around in a pink car and a one-eyed drug king who cruises town in his limo and wants to blow everyone away.

Yes, it’s a very fine and dandy mix of folks with a lot of potential but there’s one problem. We don’t like any of them.

Highlight: The bowels of New York backdrop.
Lowlight: The bowels of humanity characters.
Rating (1-10): 3.57

This movie was recommended by Nathan.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What it says.

A to Z Guide to New York City

By Ryn Gargulinski
Specially prepared for Tucsonan Mark Evans who is going to risk his family’s life in the Big Apple

ALPHABET CITY: Visit the once cool, kitschy place as a prime example of what gentrification can do. While some of its charm still exists, the place has been cleaned up so much that you’ll not see the abandoned buildings overrun with tenants (a.k.a. squats), the “tent city” in the park or the drug-induced zombies crawling over empty lot debris. Well, you may on Avenue D, so be wary going that far down. You’ll still get some OK cafes, fruit marts and a fine walk not far from the East River. Since it’s the first place I landed, it’s still dear to my heart, as is TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK, which was the scene of the summer riots of 1988 (of which I got to be a part!).

BROOKLYN BRIDGE: Nothing screams New York power more than taking a trek across the East River on one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Opened in 1883 with construction claiming 20 lives, you can ask yourself if it was worth it as you gaze from its majesty. Your trek across affords a gorgeous view of the swirling waters below where mobsters dump their dead and children risk their lives for a swim. If you start on the Brooklyn side, you’ll get that glorious view of the NYC skyline approaching like a promise in the distance. If you start on the Manhattan side, you’ll get to look at Brooklyn. Heck, walk it both ways.

CITY HALL: Here you get to gawk at the mayor’s place. Interesting things to note include how early settlers never thought the city would grow beyond lower Manhattan so the back fa├žade of City Hall has no adornment and the giant rats that scurry about City Hall Park after 9 p.m. Please take care as they are very bold and will jump you if you smell like spaghetti sauce.

CONEY ISLAND: I know, you want to ignore those “other boroughs” because the world revolves around Manhattan. However, you will not regret a trek to the former resort of the rich and famous along with a ride on the historic Cyclone which recently celebrated more than 75 years or rickety life. The big thrill of this rollercoaster is the actual threat of plummeting to your death through the timeworn, wooden tracks. Take whatever train goes to Sillwell Avenue these days.

DINERS, RESTAURANTS AND YUMMY EATS: While I may know about Jewish delis, hotdogs and farmers markets, I’m really not the one to ask about food stuff since I am also the one who took my visiting parents to the Chinese restaurant that had hair in the tea.

EMPIRE STATE BUILDING: Go just because people will ask if you went. My dentist was in there and I must admit it was a gorgeous view while I was getting my teeth drilled. Be ready to empty your pockets and sign in blood, however, before entering any kind of landmark thing.

F TRAIN: This line is where I once saw a throng of escaped mental patients and it wasn’t even Halloween. Be sure to spend plenty of time exploring the subways, which offer a haven for homeless, musicians, poets, boring old commuters, tourists like yourselves, more giant rats and many things adamantly amazing. I’ve never seen severed body parts on any of the tracks but I wrote my master’s thesis about them. Some of the most infamous trains include the 1, 2 and 3 lines because of that Pelham movie, the 7 train because it goes to Shea Stadium (even though I prefer the Yankees) and the “A” train because of that jazz song.

GOWANUS CANAL: What was once a cesspool of sludge, crud and dead floating rats has lately gotten a lot of attention. Now it’s a cesspool of sludge, crud and dead rats with clean up efforts. Really, though, this thing has come a long way, baby, and, although it still features floating rats after a rainstorm, it’s also being pocked with more live things than dead. My friend Bill offers canoe rides down the canal and although I’ve yet to go on one, I would highly recommend it.

HOT DOGS: Steer clear of free standing hot dog vendors as a friend of mine once said he saw one of the vendors urinate in the gutter then turn around and serve up a frank. But no matter how run-down, disgusting or seedy those GRAY’S PAPAYA joints appear, you must experience it to get the full flavor of New York. I never did, but I watched that same friend who wouldn’t eat from hot dog vendors eat there. You’ll find GRAY’S speckled on several corners throughout Manhattan with loads of people waiting in line and standing and chowing down. It may even remind of you the Tucson In-N-Out brouhaha but this one happens daily. Yes, they also serve papaya juice. NATHAN’S FAMOUS is another must, not some cheap franchise but the original in Coney Island. If you happen to visit on the Fourth of July, you can even catch their annual hotdog eating contest at noon. Since I used to cover it for a Brooklyn paper, I once had the joy of watching someone puke. He wasn’t disqualified because, judges said, the guy was able to suck the vomit up before it hit the table. Enjoy!

INTERNATIONAL POCKETS: This refers to the various ethnic neighborhoods you should never leave New York City without first getting a taste of. Must sees include Manhattan’s CHINATOWN and LITTLE ITALY; Brooklyn’s Orthodox BOROUGH PARK and Italian-flavored BENSONHURST; SPANISH HARLEM and stereotypical AMERICAN HOUSEWIVES with nothing to do in Long Island.

JEWISH DELIS: Pastrami piled high to the ceiling, corned beef so warm it makes the rye bread melt, pickles to die for. Some of the finest include the infamous CARNEGIE DELI, Seventh Avenue b/w 54th and 55th streets; KATZ at Houston and Ludlow streets and the SECOND AVENUE DELI, Second Avenue and 10th Street, where I once early on unknowingly ordered a ham and cheese omelet then heard forks drop in total shock.

KARIOKE BARS: Have no idea where they are or if they even exist and, frankly, I don’t care. But I needed something with the letter “K.”

LINES: Be ready to wait, shove, push, get shoved and watch people cut in front of you. No matter what you’re waiting for. On the upswing, most cashiers don’t waste time chatting with customers and holding up service as happens in smaller towns, like Tucumcari, N.M.

MUSEUMS: Your trip would be wholly remiss if you didn’t check out at least three of the great horde of museums dotting the city. My top three are the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MOMA), complete with a huge, lilied Monet; the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART (MET), with everything from Medieval armor to those paintings of fat women when they weren’t considered fat and the MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY with its larger than life dinosaur exhibit. But then, everything about dinosaurs is larger than life. Some museums are situated near CENTRAL PARK so you can go to that thing you’ve heard so much about as well. Just don’t jog in it. And don’t go at night.

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARAY: Do hit the main branch at 42nd Street and spend hours of fun trying to guess the names of the impressive lions that flank either side of the entrance. Don’t, however, ask to check out a book because they’ll get really nasty and tell you this is a research library only not some cheap take-out joint for goodness sake. Other landmarky things you’ll want to at least walk past and snap a photo include GRAND CENTRAL STATION, PORT AUTHORITY, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, WALL STREET with its giant bull, the CHRYSLER BUILDLING with its giant spire and the coolest, I think, the SWISS CHEESE BUILDING, which is more commonly known as the FLATIRON BUILDING. Visit for more info or directions.

ORCHARD STREET: For bargains and haggling galore, take a trek to the Lower East Side’s unique shopping district. Do not try to shop on Friday night or Saturday, however, as 90 percent of the merchants are Jewish and will be observing the Sabbath. One of the stores used to keep a quarter glued to their front steps to see how many people tried to stoop down and pry it off. Make it your mission to obtain that quarter. While there, visit the TENAMENT MUSEUM, to fall in love with your own home all over again.

PHOTOGRAPHY MUSEUM: The MUSEUM paragraph was getting too long to mention it above, but all journalists especially adore the INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR PHOTOGRAPHY. It features thousands of documentary photos, amazing glimpses of America’s current affairs and, my fave, the Weegee archives.

PEOPLE WATCHING: Do it anywhere, do it often and do it well. Just don’t say anything too loud as people WILL fight back. And don’t forget you, too, are being just as scrutinized. Some tips for not looking like a tourist include: don’t unfold your map and stand open mouthed in the middle of the sidewalk, don’t make it obvious you are looking at the subway map, don’t wear University of Arizona caps or T-shirts that say “I Love NY,” heed the directionals mentioned below.

QUEENS: Avoid it at all costs, except if you must take the 7 train.

RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL: You might as well, since you’re there. Try to see those dancing girls if you can (there was a big brouhaha when a black one wanted to join because they said it wouldn’t mix in with all the white legs). I never did get to the dancing girl show but it seems hilarious. I did, however, see a screening of the movie Jaws in the hall, complete with a pre-movie lecture from the creator himself (and one of my heroes) Peter Benchley.

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT: What a fine place to spend a deli lunch, gazing at the boats, the docks, the excellent view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Just avoid it at night unless you found those huge rats so enthralling at City Hall Park.

ST. MARKS PLACE: The equivalent of Eighth Street below Third Avenue, this is another fun shopping excursion as well as a chance to see a wild array of folks who tromp around with nothing better to do than tromp around St. Marks.

STRAND BOOKSTORE: If you’re a fan of Tucson’s infamous Bookman’s, you’re going to go crazy at Strand. Hit the main location on Broadway and you will be enveloped in that dusty, musty smell of used books that promises intrigue and mystery. Their service is also superb. They were the only place, including online dealers, who could find me the classic historical tome Dracula Was a Woman.

TAXI CABS: Take a ride in one just because they cost too much, swerve dangerously through traffic, may hit something or someone and could make for good visuals and usually go slower than you could have walked in the first place.


UNION SQUARE FARMERS MARKET: Last I knew, this was open W, F, Sat. and featured the apples the size of bowling balls. Get your Mitsu, white beets, 500-grain breads and all kinds of other fresh and tasty stuff you may not have ever sampled or even heard of.

VERAZZANO BRIDGE: You’ll probably miss this as it connects Brooklyn to Staten Island, but you can get a glimpse of it if you make a simple detour out of Coney Island to Bay Ridge. This mighty, gorgeous structure was once the longest suspension bridge in the world until someone built a longer one in Japan. It’s longer than the Golden Gate, was prominently featured in the movie Saturday Night Fever when one of the character plunge off it to his death. The bridge is painted in Battleship Grey.

WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK: A fine place for annual poetry readings or just to hang out. Like the rest of New York this was cleaned up a bunch so the drug dealers only come out at night. So they say. Enjoy people watching all the NYU student from places like Idaho who think they’re really better than everyone else since they now attend NYU.

X-RATED STUFF: No, you won’t find it anymore in Times Square after the massive clean up that left a thriving hub of the city looking more like Disneyland. But go to Times Square anyway, just because you always see it on TV every New Year’s. You can also visit the highly-acclaimed MUSEUM OF SEX on 5th Avenue that’s always, for some reason, stirring up some controversy.

YELLOW SNOW: If you visit in the winter, definitely avoid this. If you visit in the summer, do yourself an equal favor by steering clear of all corners, crevices, Dumpsters, dank alleys and the very end of subway platforms which will also have the obvious mark of urine with its bleeding stench.

ZOOS: While you’re in Central Park after visiting some museums, for the heck of it take a peek in the CENTRAL PARK ZOO. You’ll get a laugh because, if I remember correctly, the largest specimen there is a squirrel. They used to house some polar bears but they went insane and swam round and round in their pool scaring the patrons, who realized they were doing the same thing with their lives, swimming aimlessly nowhere, so they zoo people got rid of them. For a real animals, trek to the BRONX ZOO.


The meat packing district
Falling in the East River
Getting lost in Brooklyn
Pronouncing “Houston Street” like that city in Texas
Statue of Liberty
The hole where the World Trade Center used to be, a.k.a Ground Zero.


New York City directionals: People NEVER say east/west or north/south. East is referred to as “down,” as in going down to the East River and also down in avenue numbers; west is “up,” because you are going up towards the Hudson River and also up in avenue numbers; north, of course, is uptown and south, you got it!, downtown.

Bathroom etiquette: While you walk around the city at one point or another you’ll realize you’ll have to pee. That’s when you’ll realize there’s not a lot in the way of public restrooms. As you’ll be able to tell from the stench of urine that emanates from dank corners, many just do it outside, or it a soda bottle they then throw on the subway tracks. Public pay toilets may still be kicking around in MADISON SQUARE PARK if you are in the midtown area. These things self-disinfect the minute you close the door so they are actually quite tolerable. Other options include going into cafes and ordering coffee or plopping a $5 on the counter of the nearest bar and saying it’s to use the restroom.

Buy a MetroCard.

I’ll add other helpful hints as I think of them or upon request.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Zodiac tattoo I designed for a Circle K clerk in Tucumcari, N.M., who wanted her own sign surrounded by those of her kids.

Rental Review: Zodiac

By Ryn Gargulinski
This was one of the slowest-moving, boring flicks until I popped it out of the DVD player and attempted to watch the other two movies I had on hand. Then Zodiac became a masterpiece.

For the record, the other two DVDs were Jane Doe and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The first features Calista Flockhart as a prostitute with a black eye that magically disappears the next morning, not unlike the fatal wounds that are healed in the next frame in all Wyle E. Coyote cartoons. The second was a rambling, drug-induced, self-important narration of Hunter Thompson, which is to be expected since it was based on his rambling, drug-induced self-important narration in the book that I did not like either.

So Zodiac ruled. At least comparatively. Yes, it was slow. Yes, we got the idea that everyone was scared, although that was driven home some 5,678 times with some 9,632 scenarios. No, we didn’t get that “ooh, ahh” feeling of a monster out there, although we should have based on the killer’s story. The movie just didn’t do it justice. Besides, it only depicted four murders and two attempted, rather than a dent into the 37 this guy said he committed.

Highlight: Being reminded Zodiac was never caught and wondering if he’s watching the movie himself and then wondering if he’ll read this review in which case I’d have to say he’s such a clever and awe-inspiring presence wherever he is.
Lowlight: The detective assigned to crack the case who is a real jerk.
Rating (1-10): 1

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tomatoes before they are green and fried. Clovis, N.M.

Rental Review: Fried Green Tomatoes

By Ryn Gargulinski
Even though the title made me think it would be similar to that nonsensical movie with killer houseplants, I was not only surprised, but captivated.

This wholly entertaining and amusing flick outlines the life and death of folks in smalltown Alabama. Some issues include wife beating, racism, the loss of loved ones and a freight train that kills, maims and rips someone’s arm off.

Another plotline running on a parallel track, pun intended, features the loveless marriage of a woman played by Kathy Bates. Thus if the movie ever does get boring, which it doesn’t, one can always think of Bates in the movie Misery where she cripples a man with a sledgehammer.

Highlight: Even though I hate to say it, the happy sappy ending amidst all that grief.
Lowlight: That the movie had to end. It was one of those where you could go another two hours and remain intrigued.
Rating (1-10): 782,000

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dolls that appear to have been through the death chamber. Pacific Shores subdivision, Del Norte County, Calif.

Rental Review: Monster’s Ball

By Ryn Gargulinski
While my mentor English professor once said a story can’t go wrong if you start with a dead body, this one did. Actually, we had three dead bodies going on - a death row electrocution, a suicide and a bloody boy hit by a car. And the movie still sucked.

The plot had so much promise, a corrections officer falling in love with the wife an executed criminal, an unloved son who makes his own fate, a much loved son who finds solace in candybars. Even the title is cool.

The description on the DVD box also screamed things about Academy Award winners! and even that dead guy who used to review movies gave it two thumbs up. Alas, it was still so slow and agonizing to watch, like a botched execution perhaps, in which you just wish for the end yet are made to linger.

Highlight: When one of the officers puked when they were walking the convict to the death chamber.
Lowlight:The false hope the flick would get better as it slogged along.
Rating (1-10): NEGATIVE 5,678,941

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A NYC police officer outlines the plot of Shawshank Redemption to these lads to illustrate the importance of following the law. Borough Park, Brooklyn.

Rental Review: Shawshank Redemption

By Ryn Gargulinski
Now I know what all the fuss is about. This movie successfully depicts the harrowing fate of a clean cut dude, who may even be innocent, stuck in the horrific hole of a 1940s prison.

We get his daily abuse, his constant run ins with the “pretty” boys and his firm insistence that he’s innocent. Heck, we even start to believe him, but that would make his fate waaaay too horrific.

We also see what happens to men who cry about their fate. Let’s just say they don’t cry again. Ever.

But this movie is more than just inner prison violence, it’s a full-fledged plot, something many flicks of the day are often lacking.

Highlight: The friendship forged between two convicts.
Lowlight: Damn "pretty boys."
Rating (1-10): 923

This movie was recommended by Nathan.

Rental Review: Descent

By Ryn Gargulinski
While I thought this would turn into a stupid chick flick, it ended up being a very cool chick flick. And not the chick flick in the sense of designer duds and boo hoo boyfriend stories, but the tale of a handful of strong, able women trapped in an underground cavern. With a monster.

Actually, it was a colony of monsters and the women, strong as they were, had no chance. This movie effectively takes you to the depth of their horror, which includes loss of hope, insanity and their ultimate death and dismemberment, not necessarily in that order. Beautiful!

Highlight: No sappy happy ending here.
Lowlight: The dream sequence where the one woman murders the other woman who already murdered another one on accident is only a dream sequence.
Rating: (1-10): 18

This movie was recommended by JCE.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The many faces of beet soup.

Rental Review: Feast

By Ryn Gargulinski
Feast definitely takes the cake as the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen. With the promise of watching barflies band together and save their lives against horrific monsters, we are offered instead boring infighting, a lazy plot, or lack thereof, and a guy who gets monster puked so maggots grow in his eye socket.
Even the monsters are stupid. And we are forced to watch them copulate.

Highlight: Absolutely nothing.
Lowlight: That I didn’t shut it off once the monsters started eating people.
Rating (1-10): NEGATIVE 1,000,000

Wish for the moon.


my dog wants
whatever he
cannot have he stays in he
wants out he goes out he
wants in give him liver he
wants beef he gets chicken he
wants cheese he whines and
paws and pines for the
unattainable – a trait that makes him
bothersome – and human.

-Ryn Gargulinski, 04/2007

Tucson's dog parks: It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

Tucson is for the dogs

By Ryn Gargulinski
A true Tucson highlight is its special parks where you can watch playmates frolic, yelp, body slam, race and bite at each other’s ears.

No, it’s not a playground for the criminally insane – it’s the dog park.

These city necessities give ground for graceful canine exercise and allow them
to vent enough energy in public so they don’t come home and chew up your couch.

Think of it as Romper Room, but with teeth.

On any given day, from one to 15 folks, which can easily equal four to 54 dogs, use the seven or so dog parks around town. The Reid Park location is even being moved, expanded and renamed after a crime fighting canine.

While some rules are posted, like not showing up with a dog that is sickly, rabid or dying and city code 4-102 that demands you promptly dispose of dog waste, some dog park etiquette doesn’t blaze from a sign but comes in the form of common sense.

One of the primary rules is to ask all you want about the dog – the name, age, diet, number of operations, favorite chew toy, why he only has three legs – but don’t pry into the life of the owner. Thus we can discuss how well Ticonnie is doing in obedience class, Sawyer’s surgery after eating rocks and how Zane the Great Dane really hates the heat – but asking personal people stuff is often looked down upon.

So is not keeping an eye on your dog. There are plenty of horror stories from a friend of a friend of a sister-in-law of a hairdresser whose dog’s neck was ripped open by a ferocious, unwatched beast. One woman, who owns Abby, the cutest little pooch about the size of a shoe, said she heard owners take their pit bulls to the Sixth Avenue location to teach them how to fight.

As my own dog makes us visit that park daily, I’ve yet to see the pit bull mosh pit. I have, however, witnessed a couple of fights break out, as they are wont to do, which are quickly dispelled by watchful owners.

I was once bitten breaking up one of those fights. I would have sued but, alas, it was my own frightened dog that bit me.

Facing forward is another good rule. The owner of Buddy, a dog who barks at women with short, red hair and glasses, said he saw a 30-something woman turn her back on a gaggle of racing canines only to be broadsided from behind.

“She flew at least six feet in the air,” he said, “and landed right there.” He pointed to the cement under the pavilion. I looked for signs of trauma but only saw water sloshed out of a bucket by Sawyer, who dunks his paws forcefully and methodically in anything filled with liquid.

Another woman, who owns a black and white dog name Jane, booked to the picnic table when a horde of dogs came zooming in her direction.

“I watched one woman get her knee blown out,” she explained, promptly plopping down with her knuckles clenched to the bench.

“It’s the dog park,” the owner reminded, as Buddy barked in my direction.

Another bad move was the family of eight who showed up at the Reid Park location with a feast from the nearby McDonald’s. Not only did their French fries go galloping away, but they actually acted surprised and angry when they were circled by a horde of hungry hounds.

Buddy’s guy said he saw a family come to picnic at the dog park – and they didn’t even bring a dog. “I don’t know if they were from out of town or what,” he said.

Other minor mishaps have included people who bring toys that are easily destroyed and become shocked when they are easily destroyed, those upset over paw prints on their crisp white pants or getting beaned in the head with a tennis ball.

“They didn’t mean it,” I thought I heard one man who owns a Doberman say as my ears rang and the kids who had apparently thrown the ball tried to hide behind a tree.

“You gotta expect things like this,” he added. “It’s the dog park.”