Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Art Carney from the Twilight Zone episode "Night of the Meek" (click to enlarge)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Winter Wonderland

From John Boorman's Where The Heart Is (1990)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Photo by Sheila O'Malley, taken from one my favorite entries on her invaluable site.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Jenny kiss'd Me" by Leigh Hunt

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday's Verse, "Self Pity" by D.H. Lawrence

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Or Fake It Till You Make It Holiday Cheer

I love Christmas and I don't believe in god, and I've come to believe that those two things don't have to be in conflict at all. Winter is hard for me, I hate it, I hate the cold, I hate the endless gray days. I hate watching my mood disintegrate and my empathy reserves for dealing with other people dwindle into dust. So I'm thankful for having things to decorate or make, for eggnog being back in stores, and for Annie Lenox's cover of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

I'm absolutely the worst at sticking to any kind of goal or plan for self improvement, so I'm just going to post everyday. Even if it's just a link. Perfect is the enemy of good, and I tinker and tinker with a idea in my head until it's demolished and months have gone by on the blog with no new content. The spirit of Christmas to me is to remind ourselves that all winters end, that we can and have been good, and to light candles rather than bitch out the night for coming so early. So however you celebrate I hope it's a happy one, and here's to a smashing new year.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday's Verse, "Wild Leaves" by Patti Smith

Wild leaves are falling
Falling to the ground
Every leaf a moment
A light upon the crown
That we'll all be wearing
In a time unbound
And wild leaves are falling
Falling to the ground

Every word that's spoken
Every word decreed
Every spell that's broken
Every golden deed
All the parts we're playing
Binding as the reed
And wild leaves are falling
Wild wild leaves

The spirits that are mentioned
The myths that have been shorn
Everything we've been through
And the colors worn
Every chasm entered
Every story wound
And wild leaves are falling
Falling to the ground

As the campfire's burning
As the fire ignites
All the moments turning
In the stormy bright
Well enough the churning
Well enough believe
The coming and the going
Wild wild leaves

Thursday, October 13, 2011

31 Weird Tales: Tormented

Director Burt I. Gordon is better known for his fits of giant mayhem a la Amazing Colossal Man, but this is a very interesting if flawed one off. A musician who is about to marry into wealth has an unwelcome visit from a former flame end with her taking an unintended but very beneficial spill off a lighthouse onto the rocks below. Thinking the problem solved he tries to turn his attention to his new life only to start noticing ghostly footprints in the sand and other signs the dead aren't so at rest. The lead gives an unusually shaded performance for a Gordon flick, but the primitive effects do keep this from being a minor gem in the Lewton tradition as there is no doubt that this is a supernatural event and not the antihero's guilty conscience coming home to roost. Still, for something off the path in fifties black and white monster movie tradition it's worth a look.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Weird Tales: The Apple

Xanadu may be the better known disastrous disco musical of 1980 but this is much more fun, and much more insane. From the producers that would give us about 141 different Death Wish and Missing in Action sequels comes a biblical allegorical glam rock disco musical, complete with production number set in Hell. Jaw-dropping, and a great party disc, take a bite.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

31 Weird Tales: The Corpse Vanishes

One of Lugosi's more entertaining goofball poverty row entries. He plays a scientist of the Mad variety killing brides on their wedding days to harvest their glands to restore his wife's looks. And that's not the weirdest part of the flick even.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

31 Weird Tales: Tenebre

Sold giallo entry from Dario Argento that's as cold, cruel, and stylish as a switchblade. An American mystery writer in Rome finds himself a most unwelcome fan who appears to be making the plots of his books come to horrible life. Great score by Goblin too.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

31 Weird Tales: Scream of Fear

Hammer adapted to the post Psycho shift in horror most adroitly with a series of "Mini Hitchcocks", films that were a sampler box of the former director's greatest hits. Beautifully shot and well cast this is a perfect programmer for a rainy afternoon.

Friday, October 07, 2011

31 Weird Tales: Secret Ceremony

Director Joseph Losey should be better known today than he is, but he was entering a period of critical and audience rediscovery when he helmed two notorious Elizabeth Taylor vehicles. One, Boom!, is virtually unwatchable, the other is a delightfully baroque psychodrama just waiting for cult rediscovery. Taylor and Mia Farrow play two damaged people who unwisely enter a relationship of mutual desperation and delusion and it quickly spirals out of control. Hypnotically strange and unfortunately hard to find, look for it to sometimes turn up on TCM.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

31 Weird Tales: The Car

Sometimes films are much better than they have any right to be, and this, a Jaws cash-in (from Universal no less) about a Satanic Lincoln terrorizing a small southwestern town is one of them. A nifty, effective b picture that Hollywood used to be able to turn out with regularity. It makes effective use of the harsh beauty and isolation of it's locations, the diabolical vehicle in question is a great George Barris custom job, and it's smartly paced and well acted too, check it out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

31 Weird Tales: Sunset Boulevard

Maybe not first to come to mind at the phrase "horror film", but Billy Wilder's magnificent, black hearted gem only grows in my affection with each passing year. Bleak, funny, and mad it's still the best movie Hollywood ever made about itself.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

31 Weird Tales: Eye of the Devil

A beguiling, unjustly forgotten gem with Deborah Kerr and David Niven. Kerr unwisely follows her husband, Niven, back to the ancestral home only to find a chilly welcome from the locals and secrets best left uncovered. Sharon Tate has an eye catching role as a local waif, watching everything unfold with a dry smile. Shot in beautiful black and white it plays like a marvelously sinister fairy tale.

Monday, October 03, 2011

31 Weird Tales: The Abominable Dr. Phibes

A marvelous dark confection with Vincent Price as a mad genius seeking revenge on the doctors he holds responsible for his wife death and using the 10 Biblical Plagues of Egypt as his template. That only begins to scratch the surface of this mescaline soaked Art Deco gem. Perfectly arch in tone and performances and unusually lush looking for AIP. Most recommended.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

31 Weird Tales: Black Sabbath

Mario Bava directs a trio of tales of terror. A sumptuous visual stylist, Bava often reveals more plot and character in the colors and lighting he uses, meaning his films are treats for the eyes but can be hard to follow as straight narrative. No matter, the anthology format serves him well as he skillfully tightens the noose around three hapless protagonists.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

"The Stolen Child" by W.B. Yeats

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than he can understand.

31 Weird Tales: Count Yorga, Vampire

31 Weird Tales fights back from the grave with a groovy vampire tale. With their characteristic pragmatic effectiveness AIP reacted to the collapse of interest in Gothic horror with a vampire story set in then present day Los Angeles. Smartly, they did not update the vampire into a tragic antihero but kept him a ruthless monster operating under the facade of a smooth, predatory visiting Count. Robert Quarry ably carries the title role, and the hurriedness of the production gives it a grim, gross feeling perfect for a vampire story. As vampires are not sparkly boyfriends in waiting but desperate, parasitic creatures leeching out the life-force of every one around them. (Inert joke about ex-boyfriends here.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Last Men, 10 Plagues, and Man Eating Plants in Pennsylvania

Having bats swoop above your head and dance around the tree tops is a pretty damn great way to start a viewing of monster movies, and so it was at the Riverside Drive-In this past weekend. Located in the lovely, lonely woods just outside of Pittsburgh it's two nights of monster and b flicks on the big screen. The event also allowed me to correct the shameful oversight of having never been to a Drive-In as well. The prints shown came from a generous collector and were gorgeous. In between films they played vintage trailers and marvelous conncession stand ads attempting to sell popcorn and soda as epic events in themselves.

The bill this year was represented by 8 films in total.

Black Sabbath, Italian horror maestro Mario Bava's anthology film. AIP's version of the film shuffles segments beginning and ending with two strong stories wrapped around a sumptuous looking but tepid middle. The first concerns a woman who learns the folly of robbing the dead, and the last is a marvelous variation on a vampire tale with a great performance by Boris Karloff, who also serves as the host of the bumpers between the stories. Here is where having a great print is felt most as Bava was a visual stylist first and the look of the film tells as much, or often more than the acting or oblique story line. Seen in this quality the film was a ravishing feast for the eyes in red, midnight blues, and that strange emerald green that's a Bava staple.

The Last Man on Earth, A loose adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend that has a great central performance by Vincent Price but basically feels like a dress rehearsal for the much superior Night of the Living Dead. Price carries the film and it has it's moments of genuine dread, but the rest of the cast is average, and there needed to be another actor as good for the ending to pack the punch it's trying for. Again the scenes of of the vampirized plague victims mindlessly shuffling and trying to break in to Price's house were an obvious influence on Romero, only he would take these images someplace truly apocalyptic.

Castle of Blood, Some pacing problems keep this from being a first rate gothic shocker. A gentlemen accepts a bet from Edgar Allen Poe himself to spend the night in a reportedly haunted mansion. He scoffs at such superstition but soon after arriving at the abandoned place is confronted by a lovely Barbara Steele begging him to take her away from this terrible place. It builds up some nice atmosphere and once it's revealed what's actually going on at the house it gets some full blooded scenes. But unfortunately it plays at time like the reels are out of order, and that it ran short so the producers had to pad it out to distribution length with a scene of a character picking up a candelabra and slowly walking to the other side of the house, looking around, and then slowly walking back and putting the candelabra down.

Island of the Doomed, Interesting as it's clearly resting on the fault line between old and new cinema horror. 10 years earlier and it's easy to see this as a tame, bloodless, black and white thriller about a group of trapped vacationers on a isle with some lethal plant life. But it's not just being in color that makes the difference, it's the amount of blood, the brazen misbehavior of the characters, and the sheer nastiness of the whole endeavor that announce a new phase is coming. I liked it because of its garishness frankly, even though it featured the most odious of the comic reliefs of the entire two nights.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes, My hands down favorite of the whole thing. Vincent Price plays a hideously scarred mad genius who uses the 10 biblical plagues as a template for seeking revenge on those he believes responsible for his wife's death. But no description can do justice to actually seeing the thing. From the licorice black tone of the whole thing as a very baffled Scotland Yard detective tries to figure out why some of London's finest physicians are ending up in predicaments like being impaled on gold unicorn statues to the otherworldly lovely Virginia North as Phibes' assistant. Who looks right smart in Art Deco by way of LSD get ups and steals scenes without saying a word. Highly recommended.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The rather thankless sequel to the utterly bonkers first suffers by comparison. Virginia North has taken a hike and her replacement fits the dark haired mysterious beauty part of bill but nothing else. Phibes really has no business in the story, and indeed pushes aside the much more interesting tale of Robert Quarry's doomed immortal looking desperately for the fabled River of Life. Still, it's impossible to work up too much antipathy to anything that ends with Vincent Price crooning "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" over the end credits.

Count Yorga, Vampire, AIP figured out how to do a vampire in a then contemporary setting right. Robert Quarry is terrific as the titular count, not a tiresome tragic anti hero but a smooth operating predator who you can believe has survived centuries by virtue of always having the upper hand. The scene where he amusingly examines a stake a would be Van Helsing has brought to fell him with is a particular highlight.

I, Monster, Amicus trots out a Jekyll and Hyde adaptation but curiously plays coy with the names, calling Sir Christopher Lee's Jekyll "Dr. Marlowe" in the film. A nice closer, a good solid adaptation, nothing too memorable, but then once you've seen Vincent Price furiously playing a neon pink and orange organ it's going to take a lot to leave an impression. Can't wait for next year.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Bite Me

It's the Apple Festival this weekend in my Hometown. I keep pushing for something like this instead of clog dancing.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

"A Walk" By Rainer Maria Rilke

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Playlist for Pride

Happy Pride to all my LGTBQ buds. And for the wonderful news in NY.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Sunday's Verse, "Sonnet XXVII" by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were a salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love as the plant that never blooms
but carries within itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
arisen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love straightforwardly, without complexities or prode;
I love you so because I know no other way.

than this: where there is no 'I' nor 'you,'
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Flash Fiction: The Crystal Newt

"Another crystal lizard, another crime about to happen."
"That's a newt."
"That's not a lizard, it's a newt."
"How do you know?"
"Look at the size, the shape of the head, and the tail." Hudson looked at her incredulously for a moment. "What? My kid had to do a science report on the damn things so I know more than I ever wanted to about our amphibian friends."

Hudson smiled, Vasquez never talked about her personal life much and it pleased him somehow to have her mention her son to him. His thoughts quickly drifting away from the case he focused back on the little crystal animal in front of him. It rested on a pink silk pillow, next to it was the cardboard box and wrapping it'd come in.

Hudson picked up the newt with a gloved hand, turning it toward the light. It was a fine piece of workmanship and glittered prisms over his hand and on to the desk. The recipient of it stood nearby anxiously watching him. Hudson knew what he would say, that they would send it to the lab for tests, that they would place an unmarked police detail on watch, and that if he had any idea what might be taken or why that would be quite helpful. And it he knew it wouldn't matter a damn bit. The lab had found no prints or anything unusual on the newts or the boxes, the thief would strike without the cops realizing anything amiss. And if, like the others, he knew anything, which Hudson was starting to suspect he did, he sure as Hell wasn't talking.

The last part interested Hudson the most, he seen big ticket thieves before, even serial ones, but whoever was doing this had really gotten under the skin of the city's well to do. The items taken weren't anything unusual for such jobs, fine paintings, rare books, silver and jewelry. And yet Hudson saw a tighter circling of the wagons among the wealthy after each crime. They had none of the imperious attitude he was used to in dealing with them. They were scared, and he wanted to know why. Why they seemed to flinch away from the newt, the man in the room with him, the owner of the house, was keeping a safe distance from it.

Vasquez carefully bagged the newt and box and gave Hudson a meaningful look, she was on to something. Hudson knew the owner would be of no further help and left the man his card, saying they'd be in touch. As they walked out the door of the mansion he asked her if she'd found anything.

Vasquez smiled, "I think we might be needing to find an expert in Ancient Egyptian death rites."
"Oh Christ."
"O Osiris more like it."
"What the Hell do we need that for?"
"The thief is sending more than a crystal newt."
"How do you know?"
"The pillow it comes on, we've just been looking at the newt, trying to find a jeweler or someone capable of making something like that, well I asked the lab to run tests on the pillow, not just dust for prints and they came back with something rather interesting."
"Which is?"
"It's not pink silk, it's linen, Egyptian linen, hand woven, the kind used for burial shrouds."
"You're kidding."
"Which means our thief might not be stopping at just taking inanimate objects."
"Well you call the expert, I'll get the coffee, Christ, and I thought summer was going to be boring since we wrapped up the DeMarco case."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"On Looking up by Chance at the Constellations" by Robert Frost

You'll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn't reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Greetings

"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." -Julian of Norwich

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vamps, Yetis, and Haunted Woods.

Castle of the Walking Dead, Germany decides it wants to jump on the sixties Gothic revival bandwagon, but does so by way of trying to imitate Mario Bava trying to make a Hammer film. It works quite well though, setting the film in that odd neverland where it's both the 17th and the late 19th century, the women pair very sixties beehives with their Regency gowns, and there isn't a forest or empty street not festooned with glowing, diffused colored lights from places where no light source could naturally be. Sir Christopher Lee is on hand to be genuinely good as a villain and collect a paycheck, and everyone else acquits themselves amiably in this chiller.

Female Vampire, Jess Franco's movies seem to exist outside Outsider Art. While things like The Room or Manos: The Hands of Fate exhibit a sense that someone involved had a basic idea of what narrative film making should look like, even if none of that ended up on screen. But Franco operates out of his own universe. The comely and willing to do apparently anything Lina Romay plays a mute vampire Countess who drains the "life force" from her victims. She wanders around doing this while a heavily eye lined gentlemen stares pensively into the horizon. Eventually the two meet, he dies, and she thrashes around in a bathtub full of Hawaiian Punch and dies of grief. That this does not make me not want to watch a Franco film ever again speaks to his odd appeal. It's pretty much like some exotic candy from an ethnic grocery store that tastes horrid and yet you buy it every time you go.

Holocaust 2000, The Italian Rip Off Machine sets its eyes on The Omen. Loads of fun for all the wrong reasons. From seeing Kirk Douglas' frank disbelief he's in this film to some truly mad reinterpretations of The Omen's key beats. Douglas plays an industrialist trying to build a new super Nuclear Fusion plant somewhere in the Middle East when dark portents and mysterious accidents began to befall the project and anyone who tries to stop it. His fears are compounded when he begins to believe his new, much younger wife may be carrying the Antichrist. Completely oblivious to his grown, creepy, waxy skinned son Angel who does everything but pedal a tricycle furiously around the house. A text book example of Italian Exploitation's charms, primarily in the tradition of having quite a few interesting ideas and ambitions and not quite pulling them off in ways that don't end in hysterical laughter on the audience's part.

Not Quite Hollywood, an invaluable documentary on the colorful and cheerfully vulgar history of Australian exploitation cinema. The interview subjects are candid, the films clips shown are amazing in every sense of the word, and nearly everyone onscreen takes a moment to say something snotty about Picnic at Hanging Rock , a film I like very much, but do enjoy now picturing as the snobby rich kid with good grades the rest of the class can't stand.

Salon Kitty, Tinto Brass' revel in art smut has enough eye poppingly beautiful women doing jaw dropping things to make it a fun revel in bad taste for about the first 90 minutes. However, as it has nothing more to say than Nazism Is Bad and People In Power Are Often Hypocrites it really doesn't justify running over two hours. Still, as a movie of a kind that will never be made again it's a good choice for the more adventurous viewer.

Shriek of the Mutilated, I'm still not certain this wasn't an elaborate practical joke pulled on me. Nominally about a group of college students who go to an isolated lodge somewhere in upstate New York in search of a legendary Yeti that decimated an ill fated search party seven years before. In tone and execution it is nothing so much as what would have happened if John Waters had directed the Scooby Doo movie. At that phrase half of you recoiled in horror, and the other half went immediately in search of this. Both are the correct responses.

The Warrior and The Sorceress, There's no need to make a parody of the Sword and Sorcery genre when it was perfectly capable of sending itself up with good natured brio. This is gloriously fun, with David Carradine playing the title role in yet another riff on Yojimbo set on a totally not Tatooine planet in some grim post apocalyptic future. Our hero wanders into a village that is in such dire straights its women have no clothes. Two rival warlords are constantly squabbling over the one village well and Carradine sets to playing them against each other. Well worth tracking down, and some of the best acting comes from one warlord's nearly immobile, ruff wearing lizard puppet sidekick.

Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century, Oh Italy I miss your great rip off factories that once ran noon to midnight pumping out helplessly cheap, often insane copies of whatever was making the most money in the states. This carbon monoxide copy of the '76 King Kong is an oddly cheery affair with a Yeti with huge Keane painting eyes befriending a blond and her mute little brother. Amazingly it does not end with the Yeti taking a tumble of an Italian standing in for Toronto (!) landmark but rather suggests they were hoping for a sequel. My viewing companion perfectly nailed this as "The Wonderful World of Disney's Mighty Peking Man."

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sunday's Verse, "Your Laughter" by Pablo Neruda

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Too many, "Why didn't you pick _" nibbling at my brain to not do another round of Sondheim. So to continue...

"Careful before you say listen to me..."

It's the birthday of one of my absolute favorites, Stephen Sondheim. I'm working on a big post on what one of of his best, Into the Woods, means to me, but for now some gems from his astonishing career.

Friday, February 04, 2011

"Winter Solstice" by Jody Aliesan

when you startle awake in the dark morning
heart pounding breathing fast
sitting bolt upright staring into
dark whirlpool black hole
feeling its suction

get out of bed
knock at the door of your nearest friend
ask to lie down ask to be held

listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
winter moon rising over white fields
nearby wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing

let your soul laugh
let your heart sigh out
that long held breath so hollow in your stomach
so swollen in your throat

already light is returning pairs of wings
lift softly off your eyelids one by one
each feathered edge clearer between you
and the pearl veil of day

you have nothing to do but live.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Whales, Giant Monkeys, and Pumamen: B-fest 2011

I've come around to thinking the A&O folks pick the perfect weekend for b-fest. After all if you're nuts enough to want to see a blaxsplotation version of Frankenstein why shouldn't you also be nuts enough to want to travel to Chicago in the dead of winter? I sat out last year and was rewarded with a nicely low key event this year, reconnecting with old friends, making some new ones, and seeing some more Things That Cannot Be Unseen thanks to the lineup.

Arrived on Thursday to have dinner with the mysterious El Santo (a.k.a. Scott) a learned gentleman of the tide lands who is said to have done something at a remote Antarctic research station that is only spoken of in awed whispers as "The Prometheus Incident." Joining us was Edward (a.k.a. erm, Edward) a warrior poet of his Queen's army and renowned for having been captured by a fearsome Raj and earning his freedom by bench pressing a tiger to impress the ruler.

Both made for great company at The Himalayan, a terrific Indian/Nepalese place where the sauces where so good you felt the only way you could express your full gratitude was to rub them into your face arms and hair. We resisted and retired to Hala Kahiki, a charming kitsch oasis where the drinks seemed designed to remove you from your dignity as quick as possible. The night closed in Bro Rag and Mal's room over an expensive bottle of Vodka and a Yokai film that deserves much closer examination at a later date.

The next day was the official start of the show but the day left plenty of time for sight seeing. I finally got to visit the Shedd Aquarium. There must be something in our evolutionary memory of the sea that can account for the pupil dilating, blood pressure lowering effect of just watching whales swim. It was a lovely afternoon watching a Beluga with her calf, a pod of Pacific Dolphins arc through the air, Sea Otters dance around each other, and strange creatures out of Weird Tales that make their homes in the dark crevices of the oceans. All too soon it was time to go but I settled into Norris Auditorium in anticipation of the other kinds of strange wonders that where about to be unleashed onscreen...

The Pumaman
This is one of my favorite MST3K episodes so I was curious if it'd feel flat without those cow town puppets in the corner. Happily it took flight with the audience with much greater ease than its hapless hero. Whisper thin paleontologist Tony Farms discovers he's the heir to the powers of Italians trying to cash in on Superman with just 10 dollars.

When he puts on a tacky belt he becomes The Pumaman! , clad in Dockers and a long sleeve crew neck t-shirt and endowed with the power of awkwardly flailing in front of aerial footage of London and the power of constantly getting his Puma-Ass handed to him. The belt is given to him by Andean Shaman Vadinho. There's a long, ignoble tradition of movie sidekicks doing all the actual heavy lifting but it reaches new ridiculous extremes here. Vadinho throws all the effective punches and takes down head villain Donald Pleasence when Pumaman finally gets painted into a Puma-Corner.

Sometimes these spaghetti exploiters are graced by a much better than they deserve score from folks like Ennio Morricone or Goblin. Not so here and it's prefect really, if your hero is wearing a poncho from the Juniors department it only behooves him that his soundtrack should sound like someone holding a tape recorder over the sample button on a Casio.

Top Dog
The real surprise entertainer of the night. What looked to be a tepid way too late riff on Turner And Hooch instead held interest by having some of the most schizophrenic tonal shifts ever. Scenes of cops getting shot point blank in the head are next to scenes of the dog waggishly stealing some food off of lead Chuck Norris's table. It's as if Cannon got the rights to the Benji property but decided to fashion it as yet another Death Wish sequel. It might not scale the heights of divine madness like Lone Wolf McQuade but it was quite fun to watch the dynamic non-acting of its cast or how the filmmakers took great pains to not take advantage of any of San Diego's many attractive shooting locations.

Mama Dracula
While the first two features tried to shamelessly ape previous successes to make a quick buck this bizarre wonder obviously had capital A Art on it's Laudanum soaked mind. An engagingly strange, at least until the 90 minute mark, romp that retells the Elizabeth Bathory legend by way of a lost Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey Dracula feature.

Louise Fletcher is in full Frau Blucher accent tending two Tiny Tim vampire sons in a sumptuous country estate and feeding her habit through luring young victims into the clothing boutique she runs on the side. And while all this going on she has a Harold Lloyd reborn as a new wave singer mad scientist on staff trying to invent a perfect synthetic blood so she can quit risking discovery to maintain her eternal youth and beauty.

This would have worked best as a hypnotically weird 20 minute short. As it is it doesn't have the loopy energy to sustain a 2 hour running time and devolves into a showcase of some admittedly splendid Art Nouveau furnishings. Still, I'm glad b-fest unearths films like this and I'd love a director's commentary.

Plan 9 From Outer Space
Ed Wood's masterpiece and one that's become as familiar as an old friend. I'm more interested in seeing what folks have scribbled down on the paper plates that are thrown during the flying saucer footage. You find some real gems, and some real care. One person does nifty ink drawings of beloved cult actors who've left us in the previous year.

Alas I had wanted to stay up for this but I could feel the dread hand of exhaustion clutch itself around my heart and so slept through it only to awaken to the eldritch horrors of...

Manos: The Hands of Fate
The Spiritual Ancestor of The Room in that it falls so outside the conventions of basic narrative storytelling let alone every kind of cinematic convention it almost becomes a brilliant piece of Outsider Art. Another MST3K classic this was a bit harder to endure without the wisecracks as the grainy landscape footage and queasy hopeless pall hanging over the film makes it feel like watching atrocity footage with the actual atrocity bits snipped out. But again, I'd love a director's commentary for this too.

The Manitou
This, THIS, is one of the great ones. An only in the seventies premise with an an only in the seventies cast. Tony Curtis plays a conman psychic running a racket on the rich little old ladies in his San Francisco neighborhood whilst wearing a Doctor Strange robe. His sweet deal is shaken up one day when he receives a call from a former girlfriend. She's asking for a ride to the hospital because it seems there's a fetus growing at an alarming right at the base of her neck. And nobody blinks. The next day the attempted removal goes disastrously wrong and it becomes clear the more Curtis investigates that the fetus is actually a reincarnated Medicine Man from a long extinct tribe desperate to be reborn and reclaim his powers. And nobody blinks.

Can Tony Curtis and Not Really Native American Shaman Michael Ansara stop Misquamacus from ushering in an era of darkness? Will a hidebound by tradition doctor finally accept the unbelievable when a floor of his new hospital is turned into a paper mache ice cave? And and is a topless Susan Strasberg shooting lasers at a space lizard enough to right the cosmic balance? Tune in, turn on, and completely loose your mind and find out. Highly, highly recommended.

Cynthia Rothrock attempting to act put me back to sleep so thankfully I apparently missed the cornucopia of audience rape jokes (stay classy guys!). And I kept napping through I Accuse My Parents to find I'd taken one hell of a wrong left turn at Albuquerque...

Night of the Lepus
Another of the great ones. With another unbelievable cast, this time serving a tale of giant killer bunny rabbits running loose in the Southwest. Yes Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits. And again, nobody blinks. I can tell you about this film, you can even look up clips on YouTube but nothing compares to sitting in a theater and seeing a herd of bunnies charging through a darkened miniature set, and the war drums are pounding on the soundtrack and you know characters are about to get killed and yet you can't stop noticing their wiggly little noses, or their pert little cotton tails, or their long, adorable ears. The producers tried, oh how they tried, but there is no way to make a horrifying Earth's Vengeance Reaper out of something you want to rub on the belly.

American Ninja
American Ninja 2 was one of my personal favorites of 2009's schedule so it was with much enjoyment I watched how the rich legacy began. Not as full on delightfully gonzo as the sequel the first concerns pouty Michael Dudikoff arousing the ire of his bunk mates at basic training by not remembering his past and being better at everything than them. Steve James is not at full Steve Jameson awesomeness yet but he gets his moments, particularly when he and Dudikoff team up to take down the bad guys and their Skittles ninja army.

And while it's not as mad as the second it's still a Cannon film and so takes place in the Cannon universe. A universe where there are more Uzis than cops, and the most surprising people have Uzis, and so long as your shirt is sufficiently ripped and your headband tight you can skirt due process.

This was an unpleasant surprise. I have a copy of this but I'd seen it in pieces. Watched in one sitting it unfolds into a paisley kidney punch of that hideously perfect Anti-Entertainment, The Unfunny Comedy. What felt like a wacky misfire is revealed to be a joyless slog watching Old Hollywood trying to deal with a counterculture that they are baffled by at best or have outright contempt for at worst.

The latter feeling is easy to understand as the hippie characters are as likable as the ones in a Dirty Harry film. But the squares, played by a once in a lifetime lineup of Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, and Burgess Meredith among others, are as embarrassing as your parents trying to ask about that "Tronic" movie and if your FacePlace friends like that Lady Gogo singer.

Still if you ever wanted to see all the villains from the Batman TV series together and tripping balls it's the only game in town. Notable for only achieving a measure of genuine wit at the very end as Harry Nilsson, who composed the film's score, sings the end credits. It's not just relief that the movie is at long last over but the bit actually achieves the breezy, let it all hang out tone that the film has been failing at for the last ninety wretched minutes.

Cool As Ice
I thought about sitting this one out as it played at my first b-fest back in 2003, and I was more than content to go another 8 years without seeing it again. I absolutely hated it this time too but it turned out to be fun to revisit my hatred, nostalgia hatred if you will.

Vanilla Ice does a remarkably good job playing a hateful tool bag whose motorcycle gang gets stranded in a small town leaving plenty of time for Ice to charm the locals and nearly decapitate his love interest with his bike by way of tying to impress her. Michael Gross is on hand to give the required "I've got electric bills like everyone else okay?" performance.

Perversely the film looks great, it has some neat production design and it's beautifully shot by Spielberg's frequent, Academy Award winning collaborator Janusz Kaminski. But the seeping charisma vacuum that is Vanilla spoils any chance of this elbowing its way onto the shelf of terrible musicals I have far too much patience for. A Jager shot of a movie, in that every so often I have one to remind myself I really, really don't like Jager shots.

Mighty Peking Man
I love giant monkey movies. I even love terrible giant monkey movies. Which is fortunate because because outside a few notable examples most are complete rubbish. Expecting the 1976 King Kong to be a hit pretty much every other country with a functioning film industry rushed out a copy. Most were as regrettable as their model but managed to suck in a far more entertaining manner and for far much less money too.

Our mopey hero leads an expedition into the jungle where he discovers that once again Eastern ape suit technology lags far behind the West. He also makes the acquaintance of a manque Sheena who was able to forage a Lancome counter in the unforgiving heart of the jungle. He makes the rather easy to foresee as unfortunate descision to bring both back to civilization. It ends badly for just about everyone save him.

Another example of the evening's odd mini theme of so called heroes causing more trouble than they solve and suffering no consequences for it what so ever. It was a great capstone to the lineup and as the lights came up I felt that traditional pang of sadness that another year had come to an end and I relief that I would soon be able to grab a hot shower to slough the filth of too many caffeine drinks and Vanilla Ice's complicated haircut off me.

Thanks again to the A&O folks, and to everybody who made it. And to those who couldn't here's to 2012 and you were there in spirit. Even when Carol Channing did a striptease for Frankie Avalon. In fact especially then.

(photo taken from jima's flickr stream)

"Restlessness" by D.H. Lawrence

At the open door of the room I stand and look at the night,
Hold my hand to catch the raindrops, that slant into sight,
Arriving grey from the darkness above suddenly into the light of the room.
I will escape from the hollow room, the box of light,
And be out in the bewildering darkness, which is always fecund, which might
Mate my hungry soul with a germ of its womb.

I will go out to the night, as a man goes down to the shore
To draw his net through the surf's thin line, at the dawn before
The sun warms the sea, little, lonely and sad, sifting the sobbing tide.
I will sift the surf that edges the night, with my net,
the four Strands of my eyes and my lips and my hands and my feet, sifting the store
Of flotsam until my soul is tired or satisfied.

I will catch in my eyes' quick net
The faces of all the women as they go past,
Bend over them with my soul, to cherish the wet
Cheeks and wet hair a moment, saying: "Is it you?"
Looking earnestly under the dark umbrellas, held fast
Against the wind; and if, where the lamplight blew
Its rainy swill about us, she answered me
With a laugh and a merry wildness that it was she
Who was seeking me, and had found me at last to free
Me now from the stunting bonds of my chastity,
How glad I should be!

Moving along in the mysterious ebb of the night
Pass the men whose eyes are shut like anemones in a dark pool;
Why don't they open with vision and speak to me, what have they in sight?
Why do I wander aimless among them, desirous fool?
I can always linger over the huddled books on the stalls,
Always gladden my amorous fingers with the touch of their leaves,
Always kneel in courtship to the shelves in the doorways, where falls
The shadow, always offer myself to one mistress, who always receives.

But oh, it is not enough, it is all no good.
There is something I want to feel in my running blood,
Something I want to touch; I must hold my face to the rain,
I must hold my face to the wind, and let it explain
Me its life as it hurries in secret.
I will trail my hands again through the drenched, cold leaves
Till my hands are full of the chillness and touch of leaves,
Till at length they induce me to sleep, and to forget.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Lighting A Candle And Trying Not To Curse The Darkness

Sarah Palin is a spiritual crack cocaine dealer. She trades in lumps of self-righteous outrage, bags of coded language and dog whistles, and promises the high of pretending to be a persecuted minority while still holding on to the privileges of the majority. She is not the only dealer of this type of course, there were many before her and there will be many after her too. But she's made herself a figurehead of this movement, contributing with a wink and a smile to a toxic environment that's been bubbling and reeking and reached its hideous ends in Tuscon this Saturday.

It's enough to make you feel small, helpless, and scared. It's how I feel right now. But I don't believe it has to be this way. And I don't believe or think it's the natural order of how things are supposed to be either. Hate is not natural. There are many who profit from it and encourage it to cement their power but it's not who we are. I don't know if our default state is to love but I do know it's to do no harm. To look out for one another. You can believe this is divinely inspired. I don't, but whatever it is I've seen too much of the good in people to be able to just sit back and say nothing. I won't let the Spiritual Crack Dealers control and win the argument by default.

And so let's look at anger again. Uncontrolled anger is a poison, but anger can also be a catalyst to action. I like the quote from St. Augustine “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.” And in a world where people will do this and where people will do that I think all of us have in a little something that can make the world a little better. So what do we do with our anger? We use it to resolve to be better, to try a little harder. We don't roar across the countryside like The Furies, but we tell each other the story of The Furies and transform them into something good. And so...

Alecto, The Unceasing, she gnaws like a constant hunger. Quell her with Heifer International, a remarkable group that sends livestock to developing countries to end hunger and build financial independence for its recipients. Buy a share in a sheep, send a swarm of bees, get together with your gaming buddies and see if you can sponsor a water buffalo.

Meagaera, She is the most dangerous for she dwells in petty jealousies and envies. Level the playing field by visiting DonorsChoose and helping out the next generation of leaders, explorers, and teachers. In Arizona alone, help kids paint their stories, make Bill Nye proud by confirming that science rules, and help out a fellow future film geek.

Tisiphone, the Avenger. Strike a blow against mental illness by helping out Pets For Vets. They place rescue dogs with Veterans who are suffering from emotional or physical injuries due to combat. Their success in this is remarkable.

To quote from Angels in America you are all fabulous creatures, so come on, let's make the great work begin.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sunday's Verse, "A Ritual To Read To Each Other" by William Stafford

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Sunday's Verse, "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Saturday, January 01, 2011