I’m pleased to add another website to growing design portfolio. Spiritbookword is the official website of J.S. Porter, a writer, a poet, a critic, and a deep thinker. I met him through Erin, after the two met during a writing and spirituality conference at St. Jerome’s University.

After that, he approached me back in February to create a web page featuring a selection of his writing. He handed me loads of text files and Microsoft Word documents featuring articles from The Literary Review of Canada, The Globe and Mail, The Hamilton Spectator and more. The rest, as they say, is history.

You should check out Spiritbookword if you want to exercise your brain. There’s a lot of deep material here, from literary reviews to thoughts on the spirituality of Thomas Merton. Mr. Porter also updates his site monthly with a column entitled Pound of Flesh.

If anybody else would like websites designed and hosted by myself, these are my rates.

Underneath / Origin / Time Bomb


Please note that spoilers follow.

Over the past three weeks, :Angel: has been illustrating just why it’s one of the best shows currently in production, and why it’s a good thing that it’s coming to a close this year. Stylistically, the three episodes are as good as :Angel: ever was, but the writing has been inconsistent, and there is a sense that the staff are scrambling a little to write themselves out of the corner they’ve writing themselves into.

Underneath, Origin and Time Bomb move the final story arc of :Angel: forward to the finish and provide a trilogy of guilt and loss. Arriving to an empty Wolfram & Hart and a sense that something is not right, Angel and Spike decide that it’s time to consult Eve. However, she is being stalked by an unstoppable man who is the new representative of the Senior Partners (sent in reaction to Illyria’s arrival, perhaps?). She tells Angel that they have to get Lindsay.

Angel, Spike and Gunn go into a hell dimension (subversively disguised as white-bread suburbia) where Lindsay lives a fabricated family life, unaware of who he is thanks to a mystic pendant around his neck, and periodically tortured by a demon in his basement. Getting Lindsay out of this hell dimension is much harder than it looks and then Gunn reveals that the only way to get out is to pass the pendant onto somebody else, subjecting them to the same torture that Lindsay has been suffering for months. Gunn volunteers, and Angel has no choice but to (temporarily) leave him behind.

Meanwhile, Wesley is torturing himself by staying with Illyria and instructing her on what it means to be human. Illyria is wallowing in the loss of her minions and the sense that the universe has passed her by. As Lindsay warns Angel that the apocalypse is already in progress and that Wolfram & Hart has co-opted him in order to distract him, Angel realizes that he’s already “two soldiers down”. Then, in Time Bomb Wesley stops Illyria from going completely unstable and rewriting the map of America, and Angel starts to realize that maybe he isn’t “two soldiers down”, and he starts his plan to quietly subvert Wolfram & Hart’s apocalypse. A lot more happens, here, but this is the crux of this trilogy.

I’ve already discussed the philosophical problems I have with Illyria and the writing staff’s apparent eagerness to try and redeem her after less than an hour of on-screen time. The three episodes, Underneath, Origin and Time Bomb continued along this path, with some good development, but not enough. Illyria came into this world expecting to conquer it, but she vastly underestimated the ravages that time could do. Now she’s lost. Too bad for her. She might help Angel and company, but only for lack of something else to do. Her character is not heroic, she is amoral by design. And while it might be interesting seeing how an amoral character could come to help the heroes, the writing staff seem to be having difficulty separating the amoral Illyria from the remnants of heroic Fred (without suggesting that perhaps the remnants of Fred are affecting Illyria). The result is that I still can’t accept Illyria into the series without thinking that the Angel crew should be spending every waking hour beating her with clubs.

I do like the way they compared and contrast Spike and Wesley’s reaction to Illyria, however. Spike’s willingness to accept Illyria, despite the fact that he has a soul, rings true. He’s undead and he’s seen undead things live productive lives; Illyria probably falls into that category for him, so he’s cool with that (and perversely enjoying “testing” her by getting the crud kicked out of him). Wesley, on the other hand, appears to be going insane. Alexis Denisof handles this especially well, particularly in Time Bomb. In the previous two episodes, Wesley’s scenes with Illyria seemed tacked on and superfluous, but now we see that they gave Wesley time to deteriorate. His odd behaviour is much more a part of the story in Time Bomb, and the episode as a whole is the better for it.

And speaking of Wesley and Illyria not fitting in, Spike himself has found himself with very little to do but be Angel’s double act (nice!) and Illyria’s punching bag (funny, but kind of pointless). In a trilogy that focuses a lot about guilt and loss (especially Gunn’s guilt and Wesley’s loss), Spike’s more casual attitude, albeit masterfully played by James Marsters, sounds like a note off key.

And about Gunn’s sacrifice: it was in character and it was disturbing but, unfortunately, it was casually nullified. After Angel leaves Gunn in hell for two weeks, making vague promises of getting him out, Wesley has the bright idea of getting Illyria to do it. She waltzes in, grabs the imprisoning pendant off of Gunn’s neck and then comes up with the brilliant plan to put it around the neck of the demon who has been torturing Gunn these past two weeks. Gee, why didn’t Angel think of that? It either makes Angel look stupid, or it makes it seem that Angel decided that Gunn deserved to stay in Hell for an indeterminant length of time. The latter might have been an interesting (if distasteful) character development, but it wasn’t followed up upon, thus making Angel look stupid.

This sums up the problem with Underneath and Time Bomb, two episodes which, while visually brilliant, show the flaws of a series scrambling to keep up with its own storyline. The script is having trouble keeping the characters in character and keeping the tone in tone. The comic touches are well done, and the banter is smooth, but the result has too many off-key notes to be considered brilliant. On the other hand, Underneath and Time Bomb bookend Origin which illustrates perfectly the brilliance that :Angel: is still capable of.

Origin sees the return of Connor, and the show uses his brief reappearance to the greatest effect possible. Straight from the trailer, when our stomachs drop to the floor along with Angel’s the moment off-camera Connor says “hey, Dad!”, we are treated to some heart-wrenching stuff. We thought Angel was out of his depth before, but wait until you see him with his son involved. David Boreanaz’s acting skill comes to the fore, here, as we see his conflicting longing for his son and his desperation to keep him well away from the evils of Wolfram & Hart. All the actors, and the script tighten up on the characterizations and everything follows without a sour note.

Vincent Kartherster shines as a perfectly normal boy suddenly (re)discovering his superhuman powers, but Origin is Wesley’s story most of all. As he pieces together the near season-long lie that Angel hasimposed on the world, Angel struggles to save him as much as he does his son. The look that Wesley and Angel share when Wesley breaks the magical device that restores his (and Connor’s) true memories is a shining moment in the series — Wesley’s horrified realization that he is a large reason as to why they got where they are, and Angel’s sad, silent apology really drove home the tragedy of this story, emphasizing the trilogy’s theme of guilt and loss.

…and yet, Origin wasn’t a tragedy. Although Wesley was left with two sets of memories and is struggling to hold to the false ones (in order to “endure the truth”), Connor also has two sets of memories. He knows who he is, but he also knows how to be a happy, well-adjusted young man. He can deal with his feelings for his father; he can deal with the human world, and all of a sudden, Angel is no longer “two soldiers down”.

The Glorious Paradox that is America

Why is it in America, a television news show (20/20) can raise a kerfuffle over a (admittedly very tasteless) news program where five families “compete” to adopt the newborn son of a sixteen-year-old, but the story that gets pulled off the air in certain markets is competing network’s Nightline and its program of showing photographs and reading off the names of those American soldiers who have died fighting in Iraq?

The Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been doing the same thing for months now, listing in silence the names and photographs of soldiers lost in combat as the photos have come available. One week, they showed 28 photographs in silence, for five whole minutes of silence. I don’t claim that it wasn’t a powerful and thought-provoking image inclined to raise questions about the effectiveness and legitimacy of war, but surely the listing of names and the showing of respectful photographs in memory of the fallen soldiers is a fair, respectful and newsworthy thing to report. What, really, are those critics afraid of?

And if the Sinclair group or, for that matter, presidential administrations (which have banned the release of photographs of American coffins being brought home), are afraid of how the public might react to putting faces and names to facts which are already in existence, shouldn’t the focus of those critics be to work harder to ensure that U.S. foreign policy is sound and defensible rather than making it look like they have something to hide?

The Boy in the Library

Check out this story in the Washington Square News about a young man who was putting himself through University and saving money by sleeping in the library and showering at the gym. The story makes for compelling reading.

Here at the University of Waterloo, our education is much cheaper, and although housing is tight, I think most everyone is housed. On the other hand, I often see people asleep in the plush chairs of the Student Life Centre and I have to wonder…

Thanks to Utterly Boring (which isn’t) for the link.

Phun With Photoshop

Earlier, I showed you the Eyesore of the Month. The pictures here on Worth1000.com are far from eyesores, but I think we’d be pretty alarmed if any of these started being built in our neighbourhoods. Bizarrchitecture is worth your look for its Photoshop fun.

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