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Magic Lantern Review Issue 2

Winter 2012


Daniel Romo Gravity at 8 a.m. Let‟s say we‟re cartoon characters. Our lives are animated parodies and Saturday morning casualties. Children sip chocolate milk from crazy straws and laugh at the trauma we inflict upon ourselves. In this episode, the anvil falls from the cliff. Cacti and rope aren‟t adequate babysitters for metal. We have been bamboozled once again by a dishonest rabbit. The red X we stood on didn‟t indicate treasure. Rather a taboo letter denoting a hundred pounds of hurt set to flatten us into the earth. Our scalps develop fleshy lumps that mimic exaggerated speed bumps. We‟ve seen this thousands of times. Putting our trust in animals. Believing in unknown variables. We slap a slab of beef over our heads. Frozen steaks only reduce swelling so much. Stars swirl in front of our faces like hemorrhaging moonlight.

Changming Yuan Winter Willow What a strangely familiar blizzard That has blown your bare body To the far end of the prairie Standing stiff at the still cliff You listen to the muted monologue of the valley With all your hardened heart Then and there, in the shape of the wind You start to shake off your silver branches Like a huge skeletal seagull beating its wings wildly Eager to flap into the northern lights

Changming Yuan Epilogues: A Parallel Poem Just as both God and Devil are man’s incarnation, so are Heaven and Hell both man’s construction. I From the front yard of a melodious morning From the busy road of a sweet Saturday From the moist corner of a heavy march From the back lane of pale winter We have come, here and now, all gathering In big crowds gathering in big crowds Gathering in ever-bigger crowds gathering For the boat to cross the wide wild waters Before the fairy ferry is fated to fall Under our feet too heavy with earthy mud II You may well hate Charon But you cannot help feeling envious: That business of carrying the diseased Across the River Styx is ever so prosperous The only monopoly in the entire universe That has a market share Larger than the market itself Daydreaming, on this side Of the river, how you might wish To be an entrepreneur like him A success American dreamer III Flying between sea and sky Between day and night Amid heavenly or oceanic blue I lost all my references To any timed space Or a localized time Except the non-stop snorting Of a stranger neighbor Then, beyond the snorts rising here And more looming there I see tigers, lions, leopards And other kinds of hunger-throated predators Darting out of every passenger‟s heart Running amuck around us As if released from a huge cage As if in a dreamland

Annie Shellito Temple of the Sun God "When thou shinest as the Aten by day, Thou drivest away the darkness and givest thy rays.� --The Great Hymn to the Aten He opens his mouth to taste the evening. The setting sun deepens every dip or depression in the desert into a vast valley dark as an eye socket. The sun is a lidless eye always watching until it descends into one of the sockets. He only feels content in the cool after sunset when the last light has drooled away on the wind, or scattered to the hills. At night he cannot see or feel its stare. In darkness he can breathe because he does not burn under its gaze. The sun submerges into the horizon as into quicksand. The evening ceremony to Aten awaits. He raises his arm to scratch his elongated skull, then descends to his family and chariots. Nefertiti takes his hand, smiles at him. The chariot wheels spew plumes of sand on either side. They ride to the temple. He alights first, and, reaching the relief of the porch, rests there. The pause permits his pupils to adjust before he proceeds. The marble floors cool his feet after the hot sand. The soles of his feet feel every bump and chip in the floor. They are sensitive as eyeballs.

Kyle Hemmings The Brando Method Thing #2: When Theresa Wright First Laid Eyes on Him on the Set of The Men He was a Greek god swallowing words. Later, he convinced me that he couldn't walk. The moon was a speechless hero. In his dressing room, scattered with artificial limbs, he held me tight, but I told him I was a good girl from the side of the tracks where most girls got tied down. I told him of the strange critters that I kept as pets in my single room childhood. I whispered that I understood The Method. His body reminded me of a truck forever stalled on hot dusty roads. Back where I come from, he said, with that bitch-boy look in his eye, there ain't no windshield wipers just predictable girls on soda pop cars with worn fan belts busted radiators Texas gave me such a headache. He grabbed my sparrow-thin wrist as if to prove no good girl could fly south. Then he asked me to leave.

KC Wilder #52: crazy agent k at large in west l.a. incandescent in the way she launches off putrescent loogies as her bracelets jingle-jangle her substantial butt folds boogie! picking through plastic bags below a smog-encrusted awning, scurvy-looking minnie mouse wags an acrid tongue … „k you moneygrubbing drip!‟ typical l.a. gonzo acting characters flaying agent k. wile e. coyotes by the reagan freeway not unlike a chimpanzee cozies to a smart phone … „agent k you dimwit, i dont like you! by the way … whats this joke i hear you wrote some mickey mouse screenplay?‟ troubles lugged throughout his life cavort around his head. zig-zagging frantically strapped down in a power sled, k-boy past the garbage stink across las palmas peels away … now in some piddling moonlight dreamy doo-wop boppers stop and say … „lookie lucy aint that kooky crazy agent k?‟

Film Analysis

Evan Stewart Shaolin Soccer and the Gay Agenda The most absurd conspiracy theory proliferated about gay people is our supposed agenda to convert new members to the lifestyle through manipulation, indoctrination, and even molestation. Why anyone conflates a campaign for freedom from political oppression with a desire to make abstract people feel sexual attraction to other abstract people of the same sex is beyond me. Regardless, the idea has gained traction among many social conservatives, among them the Alliance Defense Fund, and the obnoxious contemporary activist group One Million Moms. Despite all their efforts to warn America of the gay agenda, however, no socially conservative activist group has succeeded in dramatizing their conspiracy theory on the big screen—but flamboyant Hong Konger Stephen Chow has, whether he intended to or not. In 2001, Chow wrote, starred in and directed Shaolin Soccer, a surrealistic sports comedy about a team of soccer players who embrace a form of mystical kung fu that allows them to perform inhuman feats on the field. Although the film satirizes the idea behind the gay agenda, it never asks the viewer to take the film itself seriously. Like a protracted episode of Dragonball Z, characters in the movie fly, shoot fireballs, wield mystical energy and communicate with each other through exaggerated facial expressions. And yet, despite its overt silliness, a subliminal message bubbles to the surface by the end: the gays are here, they‟re gaining popularity, and soon, their influence will extend across the globe. Although the film could be read as a metaphor for converting people to any religion, lifestyle, or school of thought, its flamboyant protagonist and homoerotic imagery suggest his agenda is, in fact, the gay one. To begin with, the film is peppered with homoerotic imagery. For instance, upon meeting “Mighty Steel Leg” Sing for the first time, downtrodden soccer veteran “Golden Leg” Fung (bear with me on the names) hoists Sing‟s leg into the air, rolls up his pant sleeve to reveal the hairless extremity, spits on it for lubrication, then reverently rubs it. In another scene, the character “Iron Shirt” catches a raw egg in his mouth that belongs to the comedically obese Light Weight. Horrified at the prospect that someone else might ingest his food, Light Weight charges at Iron Shirt, knocks him to the ground, and proceeds to suck the egg yolk out of his mouth. Iron Shirt writhes uncomfortably on the grass during this mouth to mouth contact. He clenches tufts of grass in his fists and extends his toes, contortions common to those experienced during orgasm. Not exactly subtle. The film‟s homoerotic images are by no means limited to the examples listed here.

Now, many modern comedies exploit homoerotic situations for laughs without necessarily advocating a gay agenda -- quite the opposite, in fact. What differentiates Shaolin Soccer from the rest is that these instances raise questions about what philosophy Sing, the superficially asexual protagonist, is actually preaching. Played by director Stephen Chow, Sing, a nomadic kung fu master who lives in Hong Kong, makes a meager living selling scraps to junkyard dealers. His ultimate goal, however, is to promote “kung fu” to the masses by convincing them of its benefits. Anyone with a halfway functioning gaydar can identify Sing‟s orientation immediately. When he first appears, he is wearing a tight-fitting pink tank-top. He is introduced against a backdrop of a wall of flames, a visual that evolves into a conversion motif over the course of the film. Prone to outbursts of song, Sing celebrates the delicious flavor of two sweet rolls with an impromptu dance to Kool & the Gang‟s disco favorite “Celebration”. His dance moves blend the choreography from “Thriller” with traditional kung fu moves. Several bystanders join Sing in this flashmob, all of whom feel some deepseated urges stirring, as shown by the balls of fire in their irises (again, a conversion motif). Unfortunately for the dancers, a curmudgeonly shopowner threatens them with violence, putting an end to their shenanigans shortly after they begin. Chow‟s crop of potential converts dissolves around him as the dancers revert to their ordinary lives, leaving Sing the solitary member of his little club. The undertone is clear: the world just isn‟t ready to accept his radical new lifestyle. Undeterred, Sing partners with a downtrodden former soccer star to form a soccer team that harnesses the power of kung fu. Sing decides to find all of his former kung fu brothers, who have since left the kung fu community and integrated back into society. Although he convinces them to join his team, he is initially unable to reignite the old fire within them. Sing and Fung decide to pit their scrappy team against one composed of vile roughnecks in an attempt to reignite their forgotten skills. Their team, known as “Shaolin Soccer”, takes a beating—literally: their opponents bring weapons to the match and physically assault them on the field. After pounding the character “Iron Head” with a wrench, one of thugs forces him to kneel while he removes his own pants and underwear. With his genitals dangling just inches from Iron Head‟s face, the thug sets his soiled undies on Iron Head‟s scalp and tells him to pull it over his face, while the opposing team laughs raucously at this humiliating act of sexual harassment. What happens next addresses the assertion that homosexuality is often the result of sexual abuse: Iron Hand turns. The humiliating gesture he‟s forced to perform in front of his assailant‟s genitals reignites not just his forgotten power—again represented visually by a wall of flames -- but those within all five of the Shaolin Brothers. Their forgotten skills return, and they wipe the floor with their opponents. The

bullies, meanwhile, accept defeat and convert to the way of kung fu. With this, Sing adds at least five new men to his ranks, bringing his conversion count from five to over ten. When not preaching the glories of kung fu to anyone who will listen, Sing makes time to form a friendship with Mui, the homely baker girl whose rolls he stole. A typical “fag-hag,” Mui completely lacks confidence in herself, due to the cartoonish acne marring her face. Sing, fulfilling his end of the unspoken fag-hag bargain, repeatedly comforts Mui with unsolicited platitudes about her beauty. A typical conversation between the two of them goes as follows: Sing says something to Mui, Mui mutters while hiding her pockmarked face, and Sing tangentially insists that she‟s beautiful, even though her appearance in no way relates to the topic they are discussing. Outside of the fag-hag relationship, this transparent form of lying is practiced only by children unfamiliar with the art of deception, who feel the need to assure their unsuspecting mothers that they did not in fact steal any money out of their purses. Regardless, Sing is grateful for Mui‟s friendship and support. Naturally, Mui, who lives a lonely life devoid of male attention, develops feelings for Sing, and assumes the feelings are mutual. One night, when feeling particularly adventurous, she visits a cross-dressing stylist and and gets a makeover. She emerges from the makeover looking overtly feminine. While having a romantic dinner with Sing, she summons the courage to tell him she has romantic feelings for him. His response: “You... you‟re joking, right?” This reaction to a surprise sexual advance is typical in instances in which one party is mistaken about the sexual orientation of the other, who believed his or her orientation was quite clear all along. This response conveys confusion as to how the unrequited lover managed to miss all the seemingly obvious cues. After her rejection, Mui leaves in tears, while Sing resumes his quest to spread the kung fu. Meanwhile, Shaolin Soccer, now boasting well over ten members, amasses victory after victory. They grow in national popularity, obtain corporate sponsors, and earn the chance to compete in the Hong Kong Cup against the notorious Team Evil. Although several of their players receive injuries that prevent them from finishing the match, Shaolin Soccer is saved from forfeiture when an unrecognizable Mui reappears and offers to play goalie. Sing is surprised to see the spurned Mui, not only because they had not spoken since her rejection, but because Mui has completely changed her look: where she once hid her acne-ridden face behind greasy bangs, Mui now has no hair at all, and actually resembles a young, adolescent boy. With Mui‟s help, they win.

In a strange twist, Sing discovers that he does in fact possess romantic feelings for Mui, who, incidentally, now looks like a male instead of a female. Again: Sing rejects Mui when she looks like a woman, but suddenly decides to marry her when she starts dressing like The Last Airbender. His attraction to her newfound boyishness parodies the misconception that all gay men are pedophiles. Sing and Mui get married and make it to the cover of TIME magazine, while the people of the country begin to embrace kung fu and find that their lives are much better after all. Shaolin Soccer succeeds in satirizing the paranoia surrounding the gay agenda without sacrificing its fun, bubbly tone. It even follows the outline presented in the gay agenda handbook. Recall the Alliance Defense Fund mentioned earlier. In 2003, two years after the Hong Kong release of Shaolin Soccer, this socially conservative advocacy organization “uncovered” a list of the six phases of the so-called gay agenda. The six steps they listed are as follows: publicizing homosexuality, portraying gays as victims, providing a just cause for pro-gay activists, improving the image of gays, demonizing anti-gay activists, and securing corporate backing. Chow weaves the narrative of Shaolin Soccer through all six of these steps. In step one, Sing talks openly about kung fu. In step two, the members of Shaolin Soccer are all depicted as sad and depressed when not practicing, and are humiliated and brutalized when they resume their practice. In step three, Sing extols the virtues of kung fu to anyone who will listen. In step four, after a winning streak, the public image of kung fu improves. In step five, the film demonizes Shaolin Soccer‟s rivals, as shown in their final confrontation with Team Evil. Finally, in step six, Shaolin Soccer receives endorsements from athletic companies, thus providing them with the means to spread their message to impressionable young fans. While most viewers will giggle their way through this underdog team‟s triumphant voyage, those who feel the need to control how other people live their lives are likely to recoil in horror at the sight of a renegade sub-culture spreading through society like a virus—and that reaction is what makes the movie so much damn fun.

Contributors Daniel Romo recently received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, but represents the LBC. His poetry can be found or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, The Los Angeles Review, MiPOesias, > kill author, and elsewhere. His first book of poetry, Romancing Gravity, is forthcoming from Pecan Grove Press. More of his writing can be found at

Changming Yuan, (co-)author of Chansons of a Chinaman (2009) and Three Poets (2011) as well as a four-time Pushcart nominee, grew up in a remote Chinese village and published several monographs before moving to North America. With a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan teaches independently in Vancouver and has poetry appearing in Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Cortland Review, Exquisite Corpse, RHINO and over 400 other journals/anthologies in 18 countries.

Annie Shellito grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. Johnâ€&#x;s College in Annapolis, Maryland. She received her M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins in Washington, D.C. She was an AmeriCorps volunteer for two years, and now she currently works preparing learners for the GED test.

Kyle Hemmings is the author of three chapbooks of poems: Avenue C (Scars Publications), Fuzzy Logic (Punkin Press), and Amsterdam & Other Broken Love Songs (Flutter Press). He has been pubbed at Gold Wake Press, Thunderclap Press, Blue Fifth Review, Step Away, and The Other Room. He blogs at

KC Wilder In Joan Miro-like fashion, KC Wilder sculpts a stylized, dreamy pop vernacular. The end result? At once painterly and musical, layering pop with a tongue-in-cheek, brightly colored surreal casing. This distinctive style Wilder calls "fauxbrow".

Wilder's poem comes from his 120-page manuscript known as sketched out one never-ending autumn afternoon. In 2009, historian, cultural activist and scholar Howard Zinn read an early version of this manuscript and called it "outrageously delightful." Recent publishing credits include The Seattle Review, Poetry New Zealand, Pacific Review, Chronogram, Barnwood. Since the 1980s his work has appeared in hundreds of literary journals. In the 1990s KC Wilder partnered with Allen Ginsberg on a battle over rights of artists to create posters. This led to a landmark legal victory for free speech which de-fanged some draconian censorship laws. Wilder's free speech activism has helped keep some notable artists and writers out of jail. He currently pursues a west coast muse. The Humorous Poetry of KC Wilder:

Evan Stewart has been complaining about movies since the age of 14. His cinematic specialty is the genre of horror, both good and bad, although he insists that horror, like pizza, is *always* good relative to the rest of what the universe has to offer. A native Oregonian, Evan is a recurring host on the Portland-based film podcast Moviefraud, a writer for Broadsheet360, and a regular contributor to, the internetâ€&#x;s most comprehensive resource about Marvelâ€&#x;s merry mutants.

Magic Lantern Review, Issue 2  

Issue 2 of Magic Lantern Review, a journal of poetry and film.