The Zombies Coming Back

Fear the Walking Dead provided a surprisingly well-done first episode. It created a sense of tension, as well as a failing sense of community with the coming apocalypse.

Contrary to the original show, The Walking Dead, FTWD takes place in Los Angeles just before the Zombie infection begins. We are introduced with an ominous setting in a drug addict’s haven, and events begin to occur that help lead up to the zombie apocalypse that we have already known thanks to the original series. Yet instead of being immersed in the outbreak already underway, we are greeted with a still functioning civilization that is completely unaware that their lives are going to crumble, forcing them to survive off instinct.

The first episode gives the viewer a perfect sense of dramatic irony, as we constantly expect the next character we meet to be zombified and blood thirsty since we have been following TWD from the beginning. These characters, though, believe that the “disease”, as they call it, is merely just the flu going around. So you can feel the sense of “I know it’s coming,” you just aren’t exactly sure when the zombies will show, and they usually don’t.

While the characters are well done, I didn’t get a sense of complete depth with them. Our main focus is on a dysfunctional family. The newly wed husband and wife are teacher and counselor for a highschool. They have a daughter who is a Grade A student and a son who is a drug addict. We get a look into their life, which seems to be holding on by a thin string even before the outbreak. Yet I found myself lacking sympathy towards them. I could only really feel for the father who was juggling between an ex wife and son and his new family who seem to look at him as an outcast. The other characters lacked enough backstory to who they exactly were. That being said, I thought the casting and acting was well done.

There are quite a few cliché moments that I wished they had avoided. For instance, ignoring the characters who blatantly tell you about the zombies. Everyone is forgiven for ignoring the drug addicted son, but when you have another character saying the same thing, then it just becomes annoying to see the characters brush if off. Also a major cliché that is seen in many zombie related films is the characters staring in awe at the zombie. Even when it tried to attack them, they still kept trying to get close to it instead of running. Just do something already!

Overall, the Fear the Walking Dead pilot can be seen as a success for being a spin off series. Despite the clichés and lack of exposition for some characters, the first episode was very well done and well cast. The storywriters did an amazing job of capturing the suspense for the viewers. This episode is a must watch for any Walking Dead or zombie fan, and hopefully the rest of the series will prove to be equally exciting and thrilling as it goes on.

-John Nichols

Welcome

Dear Reader,

Welcome to a new year of the Sequoya Review. As the Online Editor for the year, I wanted to be the first to welcome you, our reader to the new year. For those of you who are new here, I wanted to also explain a little about the Sequoya Review. The Sequoya Review has been around since the late sixties and it is the literature journal posted by UTC. Since it is a literary journal, this means that all the pieces that have been given to us are from current students at UTC who are from incredibly diverse backgrounds with far different stories to tell about life and the Sequoya Review is a celebration of this diversity. I am grateful for your readership as we invoke a new year and ask that you return to support this journal, for without your reading, we would have no need to produce.

Stephen

A review of Fiona Apple’s album “The Idler Wheel…”

Fiona Apple might habitually wait anywhere from five to seven years between albums and tours, but she always makes it up to fans in the end. Take for example her most recent album. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, released this past summer, is Fiona’s fourth studio album. Her last album before this one was Extraordinary Machine, released in 2005.

The Idler Wheel, as it is typically called by fans, has all the best unique characteristics from her previous albums, while still managing to have a fresh sound. It’s bitter and melancholic like Tidal, angry like When The Pawn Hits… (another shortened album title. This album’s title is long enough to take up its own paragraph), and snarky like Extraordinary Machine. The single from this album, “Every Single Night,” comes with a video showing Fiona at her finest: either with an octopus on her head, or playing with snails. It’s reassuring that, though the world has changed significantly since her last album release, Fiona is still Fiona.

The majority of tracks on this album feature Fiona’s unique and characteristic piano playing. Something new on this album, however, are the choppy, syncopated beats of Fiona’s new drummer Amy Wood. Wood matches Fiona’s frantic piano pounding tit for emotional tat. The deluxe version of the album includes a bonus track called “Hot Knife,” in which Fiona even delves into the world of vocal harmony.

The Idler Wheel… is brutally honest, but what makes it so interesting and powerful is that Fiona is being brutally honest about herself, and not those who have perhaps wronged her in the past. This album gives the listener the feeling that the song lyrics could have been lifted directly from Fiona’s personal journal and not edited at all, such as in the song “Left Alone”:

Oh, when I try to love
I can love the same man in the same bed in the same city
But not in the same room, it’s a pity, but
Oh, it never bothered me before.

Everything about The Idler Wheel… justifies the seven year wait, from the album artwork to the lyrics to the music itself. Fiona Apple has poked her head out into the music scene to let everyone know that she’s back, for now. 

Crafting the Personal Essay: A Review

“It is not what happens to us in our lives that makes us into writers; it is what we make out of what happens to us.” Dinty W. Moore penned this statement in his book, Crafting the Personal Essay. Moore has written several creative nonfiction books and published many personal essays. Moore is now the director of Ohio University’s undergraduate and graduate Creative Writing program, and his experience with teaching greatly affects his writing.

I was assigned Crafting the Personal Essay in one of my UTC creative writing classes, and honestly, I simply expected just another text book—dry reading that I would have to sift through simply for a grade. However, the wisdom behind Moore’s words astonished me, and inspiration quickly ensued.

One of the most impressive elements of Moore’s work is the context he gives for the Personal Essay as a genre. He lays out the conversation people are having today regarding the personal essay in an accurate and understandable way. Moore explains that some believe the genre is “naval gazing” and self-centered. However, he persuasively argues that this genre is concerned with developing the writer as a human being, and that this development is extremely important. He also puts the personal essay in a historical context by referring to ancient and brilliant essayist such as St. Augustine and Thoreau. This genre has existed for centuries, which means that it should have some position in culture.

In addition to this impressive argument that Moore puts forth, he provides encouragement for the beginning writer, writing exercises and prompts, and tips on how to fight writer’s block. Crafting the Personal Essay is a brilliant guide toward success. I walked away from reading it with a new desire to write and fresh ideas about topics. Moore’s words have given me freedom to produce terrible first drafts, and receive hundreds of rejection letters. He has provided information on how I can grow as a writer, and how I can make my own life seem somewhat interesting. I would recommend this book to any aspiring writer because the tools Moore provides are priceless and useful when attempting to write creative nonfiction.

Winter Is Coming: A Review of A Game Of Thrones

In the epic series A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin creates a world of noteworthy political intrigue and drama with complex plot lines and dozens of characters and even more supporting characters to keep the reader thoroughly interested from start to finish. The first book in the series, A Game Of Thrones, introduces the reader to a time when kings rule the land and dragons and direwolves, enormous canines, are as common as deer. In this beautifully crafted fantasy, summers span years, winters last for decades, and winter is coming (figuratively and literally) as two pivotal families pit against each other for the race to rule the kingdom. As the tension rises, sacrifices are made on both sides. These incidences lead to a rising war for the throne. The knights and strongholds of the seven kingdoms are forced to choose sides and everyone is out for blood. After all, “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

When George R. R. Martin first came up with the idea of A Song Of Ice And Fire in 1991, he had envisioned the story being a detailed trilogy, but nothing more. After the first installment, A Game Of Thrones, which was released in 1996, he says that he had to rethink his strategy as more characters began to develop and plot lines grew thicker. Many critics of Martin suggested that he had gotten in over his head with the immense detail and the overwhelming number of characters that the reader is introduced to in the first book. Martin insists, however, that while he may have made it “too big,” he is still determined to see the story through and he promises to not disappoint his readers.

With all of the characters being so spread apart at the end of A Game Of Thrones, now also an award-winning television show on HBO, the reader is left to wonder how they will ever find their way back to each other and where the story will continue from here. Fortunately, Martin states that it has “always been [his] intent, as with The Lord Of The Rings, that eventually it would curve around and they would start moving back together.” Although the project has certainly expanded beyond the original trilogy limitation—the series currently consists of five books but is predicted to have as many as eight—Martin assures readers that “if [he] can pull it all off the way [he] want[s] hopefully it will be great.” The first book in the series is proof enough that George R. R. Martin is a skilled fantasy writer and definitely possesses the talent to be able to wrap up the story the way he wants to do so. In the end, I am quite confident that he will have “something huge and epic, with a cast of thousands and many different settings” as he set out to have when he originally began The Song Of Ice And Fire series over a decade ago.

“Lonerism” by Tame Impala: a review

Tame Impala, an Australian psychedelic rock band, recently recorded and released their second full length album, Lonerism, in follow up to the 2010 release of Innerspeaker. Kevin Parker, front man of Tame Impala, stated that “Lonerism represents a departure from his previous work by incoporating an expanded sonic palette, more emotional song writing, and a more pronounced narrative perspective.” Their latest album does exhibit a slight variation to their previous work, experimenting more so with the lyrical content and creativity in time signatures and experimental rhythms, yet still heavily revolve around the psychedelic sounds and a similar Beatles-like sound they have been compared to. For Lonerism, this sound works well, maintaining an already loved and praised sound for their band, while making some attempts at experimentation within their sound. Lonerism is a successful follow up album in that it will please existing fans and potentially attract a wider audience with their already attractive music.

Literary Haunts of Chattanooga.

Most, if not all, great literature is specifically grounded in a certain place or geography. Think about it: Twain’s Mississippi River, Faulkner’s Jefferson, Cormac McCarthy’s American West, Joyce’s Dublin, Hemingway’s Paris, and more recently Annie Proulx’s Wyoming. Some places leave such an impression that artists cannot help but memorialize them in their work. With a flock of young writers and artists emerging in Chattanooga, one cannot help but think of what places in the city are distinct enough to be preserved in literature. Notice I’m not saying what places are “nice” or “pristine” enough for literature, as it’s not about how beautiful a place might be, but rather the individuality of the location. In a world of Chili’s, Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings (here’s looking at you Chattanooga city leaders for letting those downtown), it’s nice to think that our little scenic city is still memorable for more than just its mountains and rock gardens. What follows is a list of places that are specific enough to Chattanooga to fit well within the pages of great literature.

1. The Mountain Opry

The Mountain Opry is unforgettable. Tucked away on Signal Mountain, each Friday night the Opry hosts live bluegrass music in what seems to be an old church or schoolhouse. Having been around as long as most Chattanoogans can remember, the Opry isn’t one of those revitalization projects put on by some community development none-profit group, but simply a bunch of old timers who really like picking out old tunes and don’t mind if people stop by and listen. The smell of popcorn wafts through the air, white haired seniors nod along to the music, children sip cokes, and teenagers lean into each other in the pews. The whole scene could fit well within the pages of Wendell Berry or William Gay novel. The best part of all, the Opry is always free.

2. Lamar’s Restaurant and Chrystal Lounge

While The Mountain Opry might be family friendly, Lamar’s has become known across Chattanooga for serving the strongest drinks in town. Located on the corner of MLK and Central, Lamar’s Chrystal Lounge boasts satin wallpaper, candles on each table, a killer jukebox, and a bartender that still wears a bowtie and pressed white shirt. While most bars downtown are slammed on the weekends, Lamar’s never feels too packed or too empty, filled with a wide array of people that keep the bar from being stale and predictable. It’s easy to imagine James Agee hunched over one of the back tables nursing bourbon if he were still around.

3. Wally’s

While few would claim Wally’s has the best food in town, it wouldn’t be a surprise for many to admit the diner is still their favorite place to eat in town; and for good reason. The food is fairly priced—less than five dollars for a full breakfast or dinner—, the service is sharp, everything’s clean, the coffee is strong, and the whole restaurant has that timeless aura that only a place that’s been around longer than your grandparents can muster. Wally’s could easily be the small town diner that Truman Capote details in In Cold Blood or one of the haunts in Sherwood Anderson’s classic Winesberg, Ohio.

4. T-Bones

The appeal of T-Bones is not what it is, but what it’s not. It’s a no frills, honest bar where normal people come to drink beer, listen to music, and maybe discuss football, fishing, politics, or The Rolling Stones. It’s not slummy enough to attract a swarm of art school students or polished enough for the entirety of UTC’s Greek life, as T-Bones instead welcomes whoever needs to get away for awhile while and just be around friends. Cormac McCarthy’s Bud Suttree and his gang of misfits would be right at home in a booth choking down BBQ tacos and bottles of High Life at T-Bones, and that’s a good thing.

Review of Amanda Palmer’s “Theater is Evil”

When the Dresden Dolls hit the shelves with their first album when I was thirteen, they were, for me personally, as they undoubtedly were and still are for countless others, a delightfully refreshing musical group that stood in stark relief against a pop culture background featuring increasingly homogenized electronic music.  Their cabaret style that blended so well with a modern rock twist brought back a classic sound, splendidly repackaged in a new, performative manner. Amanda Palmer, the pianist and lead singer of the duo, really knew how to reach for the emotionally aggressive child in you without sounding immaturely angsty and trite.  Surely there were many years to come from the band, featuring not only Palmer but her right hand man and drummer, Brian Viglione. At least that was what I thought. But then the dazzling pair seemed to have completely vanished from the music scene, at least in the form of their mime bedecked act for Dresden Dolls. The albums from their studio stopped pouring out in about 2008 and it seemed, for then at least, that they were both absorbed into side projects that signaled, in my mind, that my beloved punk cabaret duet was over. I would from then on be forced to just repeat the past by resorting to their only three albums when I wanted that brutal honesty Palmer’s lyrics brought out about the world.

Was this the death of that evocative, radical sound that had so defined the beloved duo? It was anyone’s guess at the time.

Needless to say, I lost hope, until I finally had a chance to hear Palmer’s solo work. Without Brian, I thought the feel of the music would have slipped away. The pair had, in my own mind,  been a necessary ingredient in the production of the sound that shook up my younger years so much. But thank god, my fears did not come true and the music was not at all at an end. Palmer’s solo work proved to be something quite different at first with her debut album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? But it still was gritty and suggestive as ever, with titles such as Leeds United and Astronaut proving that the gal still possessed, and always had, the chops  to make the listener uncomfortable as ever while still sounding like something coming out of a twenties night club.

Palmer’s newest released, Theater is Evil, which first appeared in the beginning of September of this year, gives new insight to the songwriter’s abilities, as she heads forth into even more of an alternative rock sound than her previous work had delved into. The work at the same time still retains that visceral feeling of its proceeding albums, like you just looked too deeply into someone’s thoughts, and can’t ever really eradicate the impression that those thoughts in some way mirror sentiments of your own. Even at her most specific lyrical moments she still has this magical method of wrapping it in a universality of meaning that points out the strengths of her writing ability.

I’m not the killing type
But I would kill to make you feel
I don’t mean kill someone for real
I couldn’t do that, it is wrong
But I can say it in a song

– “The Killing Type”

Theater is Evil was funded by Kickstarter, a website that allows interested parties to help aid a project that needs a financial boost. Palmer’s fan base said yes to more, and the product that came out of their support and Palmer’s genius is worth every bit of the six dollars the album is selling for on Amazon.

Battle Royale versus The Hunger Games

For those of you who may be aware that a film called Battle Royale was released in Japan several years back,  its hard to miss the accusations that followed Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, when her book was made into an instant blockbuster hit. The “charges”  several fans of Battle Royale made against Collins was that she copycated the storyline from the controversial earlier film.  Although the two seem disturbingly similar at first glance, it is when a further look is granted to the material of the two films that  a very different set of aesthetic objectives for them comes to light. A deeper survey of a film released  even earlier than both of these movies also suggests that there is nothing new under the sun in terms of the idea that is put forth in the them.

In Battle Royale, the premise, shared by The Hunger Games, is laid down:  Kids of an certain eligible age are selected to fight for the death. But where as The Hunger Games focuses on the dramatic story of a girl fighting for her life in the midst of an unjust system of social values (such as the demeaning of life to the point where such competitions are deemed as acceptable), Battle Royale occupies a position of a story where the plot about the fight for survival is really just a background for satire about teenage angst.  There is no overarching progression of events that necessarily ties all of the characters  together under the banner of one particular hero, such as the role that Katniss plays in The Hunger Games. Although two characters, one male and female, are focused on more than the others, each death in Battle Royale is given some sort of cinematic significance, with their death accompanied by a quote from the deceased character that frames them as a certain archetype of adolescence. Such an emphasis is lacking in The Hunger Games, which is a story with a more typical plot line fitting in with the conventions of the development of the hero as embodied by Katniss. In conclusion, even a brief discussion of the two films makes it very obvious—they share the same foundation, but in no way the same story.

The premise of these two films has been portrayed before, in films such as The Running Man, which displays a society that has deemed it socially acceptable to kill felons in a sort of game show where they are hunted down. One can go back even further to the story of The Most Dangerous Game, and find roots in Richard Connell’s tale that hails as a definite forerunner of the dystopic novels and films of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.

Review of “Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuck, an American novelist and freelance journalist known most for his novel “Fight Club”, which was later made into a feature film directed by David Fincher, is a transgressional fiction writer who has written other successful novels, such as “Invisible Monsters” and “Choke”. His novels, mostly fiction but heavily influenced by Palahniuck’s personal life, are notorious for their “illicit” and somewhat “disturbing” content, of which was the cause for the initial rejection of his first publication attempts. Although his novels received little recognition when first published, his works grew in popularity due to a cult following years after the publication and movie production of “Fight Club”. Chuck Palahniuk’s most recent novel, “Damned”, is a story about a 13-year-old, Madison, daughter of two very famous hollywood actors, who awakes finding herself in Hell. The novel unfolds as Madison explores Hell, which is similar to that described by Dante’s “Inferno”, as she attempts to find out why she went to hell when she died, and exactly how she died. This novel cleverly portrays the thoughts, actions, and internal controversy of the protagonist as she gradually recounts the memories of her life leading to her death while associating with those also in Hell. The story emphasizes the theme of finding one’s personal identity, alluded to in the passage “It’s stunning how having nothing to lose will build your self-confidence”. Palahniuck also writes, “In Hell, it’s our attachments to a fixed identity that tortures us”. Although this book provides an entertaining read, it’s obvious Palahniuck made a careful attempt to write something fresh and creative, yet failed to gradually build the enthusiasm of the plot, making it tempting to put down at times. Although the climax and twist at the end of the novel are quite creative, its significance will alienate readers who are not familiar other famous literature, mainly British. I would mainly recommend this book to famous literature readers, but not particularly to casual readers who would probably prefer his earlier works more so than “Damned.”