Tag Archives: film

Circa 1948

1948

We break the taboo tonight and de-segregate the post-war Blues era, co-mingling  syncopations signaling a broader tolerance, “a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and nation.”

But I do fear a social conformity will take hold with all this fear-mongering and witch-hunting!

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Will Bradley-Ray McKinley Band
As Time Goes By – Arthur “Dooley” Wilson
One O’Clock Jump – Count Basie & His Orchestra
Butterfly Strut – Ziggy Elman And His Orchestra
Artistry in Rhythm – Stan Kenton & His Orchestra
Jersey Bounce – Benny Goodman & His Orchestra
Boogie Woogie – Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra
Flying Home – Hamton, Lionel & His Orchestra
Drumming Man – Gene Krupa
Tschaikowsky (And Other Russians) – Danny Kaye
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition – Kay Kyser & His Orchestra
I’m My Own Grandpaw – Guy Lombardo
You Keep Coming Back Like a Song – Dinah Shore
Don’t Get Around Much Any More – The Ink Spots
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah – Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers
Besame Mucho (Kiss Me Much) – Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra
Brazil – Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra
Heartaches – Ted Weems & His Orchestra
Ciribiribin – Harry James & His Orchestra
C Jam Blues – Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
Canned Heat – Chet Atkins
That Lucky Old Sun – Frankie Laine
Deep In The Heart Of Texas – Horace Heidt And His Musical Knights
Riders In The Sky – Vaughn Monroe
Pistol Packin’ Mama – Al Dexter and His Troopers
Detour – Spade Cooley
Move It on Over – Hank Williams
Cool Blues – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Sophisticated Lady – Duke Ellington
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – Les Brown
Bebop – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Elmer’s Tune – Dick Jurgens And His Orchestra
Snowfall – Claude Thornhill And His Orchestra
Stardust – Artie Shaw & His Orchestra
Do You Dig My Jive – Sam Price and his Texas Bluesicians
Mean Old ‘Frisco Blues – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
Knockin’ Myself Out – Lil Green with Big Bill Broonzy
Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Open the Door, Richard – Count Basie Orchestra
I Wonder – Cecil Gant
Laura – David Raksin
Nature Boy – Nat King Cole

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-09: Circa 1948 by The Stranger on Mixcloud

The convention of Americans for Democratic Action was winding up today in a lather of resolutions giving scant sign of enthusiastic support in November for President Truman. The ADA, heavily representative of the old Roosevelt New Deal group, gives the back of its left hand to the Wallace third-party people the back of its right hand to the Taft Republicans. Yet in three days of debates seemed to bury Mr. Truman in censure rather than praise him. A phrase borrowed from Europe may have political significance here, “the third force” which is used to describe the non-communist left, intellectuals opposing “both the tyranny of reaction and tyranny of Communist totalitarianism.”

While Senator McGrath of Rhode Island sounded off against Henry Wallace’s third party, saying “a third party has as much place in American politics as does a third party on a honeymoon” adding the Wallace campaign and supporters “will either waste their votes or give aid and comfort to reactionary candidates.”

Speaking of those Reds, the Communist Police State Action in Czechoslovakia was legalized as the Czech President accepted the Red Cabinet and their brutal plot, who will not be working with any opposition parties, whose ministers turned in their resignations last week. New Cabinet members told foreign reporters that the events of last month giving Communists controls were the ‘will of the people.’ There are no numbers on how many persons in the former government got the bum rush from their positions/arrested as “reactionaries”. Legal elections have been promised the Czechs by Communists, but many other grand promises to workers and farmers have also been made by the Soviets.

Finland, conversely, has turned down Stalin’s request to join a Russian Defense Pact Ring, fearing a loss in their liberty.

The pressure, many Washington correspondents in-the-know fear, may quicken the pace towards a shooting war, and a military pact aimed at Russia.

So while the US has written off Czechoslovakia, here at home Gov. Arthur Coolidge of Massachusetts charged that Russian agents are busy in Hawaii. He claimed to have evidence, but hasn’t spilled it to the public as of yet.

(We remember well how) Soviet diplomats obstructed the UN founding meeting in San Francisco, dormy spy rings uncovered…

Meanwhile, the United States called for nation-wide elections in Korea in defiance of a Russian boycott. China immediately joined with the United States in the proposal laid before the United Nations little assembly. Both powers agreed that steps toward establishment of a free and independent Korea were of utmost importance to world peace, and that Soviet non-cooperation should not be allowed to stand in the way.

(As for Russia, I do highly recommend reading ‘A Russian Journal’ by John Steinbeck with photographs by Robert Capa of that country’s reconstruction, a special correspondence with the New York Herald Tribune).

The U.S. may also remain isolationist regarding the Palestine issue, declaring it firmly stands for diplomatic peace; this despite a recent bomb plot in the Holy Land admitted by Arab hatchetmen. The United Nations is holding special sessions to consider and cope with the crisis. The surprise resolution moves that a council be formed to set up a committee to study the advisability of such a special assembly. The Jewish Agency for Palestine had no comment pending a full study of the speech, but there are those contending that a Palestine partition and peace are inseparable. The British, for their part, have declared that they will fire upon both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land.

So support the United Nations as they punish future aggressors before they launch WWIII. See “a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and nation.” (Wendell Willkie’s One World)

All while Truman chops are busted by segregationist southern governors who came to Washington to protest civil rights legislation. Here is the exchange from the stenographic record, Gov Strom Thurmond: “Will you now, at a time when national unity is so vital to the solution of the problem of peace in the world, use your influence, as chairman of the DNC, to have the highly controversial civil rights legislation, which tends to divide our people, withdrawn from consideration by the congress?” Senator McGrath: “No.”

Just who is dividing the people, and on whose terms is this so-called unity, and whose problem with peace? Our strength is in democracy, a spiritual strength that derives from our freedom, fair-play, tolerance, and the guarantee of civil rights in our Constitution. Though we have not achieved these things completely, that is the ideal we raise before the world. What would the world say if we went backward as that chiseler Governor Thurmond suggests? We can only move forward, even if slowly. Who is dividing the people; those who want to realize our ideals, or a few noisy Southern politicians and a minority of southern people.

The Dixie Democrats are hopping mad over at least four of the 10 points in Truman’s proposal, and began serious talk of convening a split from the Democrats on the civil rights issue. (1. federal anti-lynching law, 2. permanent fair employment practice commision, 3. and end to Jim Crow laws and 4. outlawing state poll taxes). The remainder of the points were a permanent commission on civil rights, a joint congressional committee on civil rights, a civil rights division of the justice department, toughening of existing civil rights statutes, home rule for the District of Columbia, statehood for Alaska and Hawaii, equalization of naturalization opportunity, settlement of evacuation claims of Japanese-Americans (who got a bum rap). The program is in particularly hot debate due to the election year.

But I worry that the conservative con to brand New Dealers out of touch, arrogant bureaucrats is a short hoof from labeling them Communists! How soon they forget! Look! Truman didn’t keep government-built or backed plants at the war’s end! They went right back to private owners.

You’ll remember how Daddy Warbucks was revived, gloating at the corpse of FDR!

And the fix is in, government contracts were rescinded, plants closed up, flat soldiers come home expecting jobs instead to join picket lines against fat head moneymen. Gallup polls show 62% of the public fears another Depression in the next ten years.

“Yet once the war is over its backwash smears over us, and the nation succumbs to greed, fear, ineptitude, fumbling of the morning hopes, shoddy dispersal of the evening dreams. That in late 1946, the two most painful and pressing shortages in the land should be the most primitive necessities of life; food and housing, is evidence enough of the disintegration, no matter how temporary these shortages may turn out to be… Does show that to become efficient this country needs the stimulus of war? Does it mean that 295,000 Americans have to be killed in order to give us true effectiveness as a nation?” -journalist John Gunther, 1946

So Truman places a $15 billion ceiling on defense spending, bolsters social welfare. Truman; small-business populist, anti-monopoly, distrusting of Big Trust, Big Labor and Big Business.

Indeed, 1947 had seen a boom set off by the savings of both war worker and war profiteer, pent-up demand and rising wages! And demand means more jobs! Hundreds of houses built in a day! But it’s not all silk!

Truman lifted price controls on meat when conservative businessmen raised prices and fears and turned up the heat. He blamed “reckless group of selfish men”, the same group that “has opposed every effort of this administration to raise the standard of living and increase opportunity for the common man.” By appeasing them, Truman tipped his mitt again, his policies gummed up by cheap flimflam! Inflation accelerated, cost of living up, special interests feeding frenzy, prices raised by the greedy.

Federal subsidies work when directed and divested correctly; housing, swimming pools, playgrounds, baseball fields, suburbs accessible by highways… Mortgages guaranteed by the GI Bill.

Hayek (free market anti-socialism enthusiast) and Keynes (that economic interventionist) both agree that antitrust laws and minimum wages are necessary!

Blind ‘stereotypes’, referred to by head shrinks, are fixed attitudes towards an idea, event, or person. A blind spot in the mind, the cause of which is emotional and irrational, disallowing the person’s attitude to change with changes in factual evidence pertaining to the object of prejudice. Pertinent illustrations such as race prejudice, an extreme sort where individuals are vilified in generalities incorporating all the evil traits which may have ever been found or imagined in any one past member of the race. Attitudes expressed about the late President Roosevelt and his ideas often fall into this same category. His name has been slandered with such intensity and emotion that one could almost feel the murderous hatred in their hearts; there is nothing analytical or thoughtful in what they say.

It’s an excuse to ally political highbinders with big business high pillows and their dough, fear-mongering the pliant into cheesy loyalty, making chop suey of the rest. Right-wing groups are firing off their ‘confidential’ (re: unsubstantiated) dope to HUAC and the FBI, fueling Hoover’s inquisition. Now we’re grilling not only union leaders but teachers, book reviewers, social workers, and librarians. the Chamber of Commerce is demanding that authorities ban whomever they deem too pro-Communist off of radio airwaves. Even social gospel ministers ousted from their pulpits! No totalitarianism or infringement on freedom of speech here, my friends.

I do fear a social conformity will take hold.

The jingle-brained conservatives are enjoying a counterrevolution with William Jenner, John Bricker, William Knowland, Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon… even the once pro-New Deal Hollywood liberal Ronald Reagan is espousing more conservative malarkey, see what they know!

Texas Tom Clark (Attorney General) architect of the list of subversive organizations, making guilt by association a national security policy.

And Adolph Menjou (Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals) spilled to HUAC last year, “I am a witch hunter if the witches are Communists”.

They dress it up as a Christian crusade to despoil your children. But they’re putting the screws on the working man, gunning for all of us, with the convenient moniker that they’re protecting us from the reds, when they’re really putting us behind the eight ball. One of HUAC’s loudest mouths, John E. Rankin, is a notorious racist and anti-Semite, as are several other committee members. That’s why they’re spending so much energy giving the up-and-down to Jews who escaped Germany. It’s all pretty hinky, I tell you.

After all, unemployment for blacks is three times that among whites; their pay only 30-70% what whites make.

So the fat cats have ginned up big support for their Crusade, even though a few short years ago in 1945, Americans sick of war, some 70%, opposed a “get-gashouse” approach with the Soviets, lousy with post-war blues: triumphalist despair. But ever since Dean Acheson said we have to be on ‘permanent alert’ against some unknown phantom forces, resources and scratch are diverted to purely military industry. They see their support now against the Communists as an egotistical Holy War to save Christianity and Civilization. There are those who don’t believe the War ever ended. We’re being given a Hobson’s choice between appeasement and containment, disarmament and military strength- ignoring all diplomatic alternatives. They’ll use the crack-up in Czechoslovakia as a crummy excuse to drop atom bombs on more babies.

And that means there’s little bumping gums for progressive programs without a crisis. Truman’s campaigning on the messages of national health insurance, federal aid to education, and civil rights. He may be in the right, but he’s in real Dutch if the guys in graft tell him to take it on the heel.

It doesn’t seem like much of the Fair Deal or New Dealer policies have much tooth any more, the final being the GI Bill. We still do not have an Economic Bill of Rights.

Gin up Solidarity among veterans, workers, the common man. The saps.

1947 Gallup poll shows one-third of veterans feel estranged from civilian life, either in a jam or off their noodle, and 20% feel ‘hostile’ to civilians. War Department survey replicates this; one in five is “completely hostile” to civilians. Survey finds there are 15.8 million vets, average age 29, 80% of them under the age of thirty, 33% went directly into service from school, only 25% finished high school. Veterans and their families make up one-fourth of the population.

The divorce rate today is more than twice that of 1939. But the marriage rate and birth rate are also spiking. So is the homicide rate, as any of these Joe Palookas could go off the track in a moment!

HUAC and the blacklists has made it impossible for any picture to get made taking the side of the workers, who for their part have seen hourly drops in pay since VJ Day.

And Truman himself overestimates the power of the unions to make his points. He wants to draft men who strike during peacetime, as in Germany or Russia! That’s the crop of it! He seized the mines after criticism that he was too pro-labor. Most unions are on the square, hostile to Communists, fearing it damages their cause.

A late challenge to the Taft-Hartley law is entering our courts. The act restricts the activities and power of labor unions. Named after sponsors Senator Robert Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr., overcame Truman‘s veto last year; labor leaders called it the “slave-labor bill” while President Truman argued that it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech”, and that it would “conflict with important principles of our democratic society”. The latest orderly and properly challenge is by CIO News and its president Philip Murray, trying it in the courts in a democratic manner. Mr. Murray said he and the CIO were acting in complete respect for the “law of the land” and not in a spirit of “defiance or bitterness.” This refreshingly constructive and calm way of tackling the issue hits on all eight, and may end up in the Supreme Court, a matter on which Congress will be called upon to expand, condense or clarify.

In Chicago, the National Lawyer’s Guild charged in a policy statement that there is a ‘co-ordinated and unrelenting’ attack being made against civil liberties in the U.S. Over 200 delegates to an annual meeting voted their approval yesterday calling upon Congress to repeal the Taft-Hartley law and abolish the House Committee on Un-American Activities, for violating four amendments to the Constitution. Benedict Wolf, New York lawyer, read that recommendation to Congress to investigate the Federal Bureau of Investigation itself.

This is the Age of Distrust – engineer enemies for the upcoming election; if the Nazis and Japanese won’t do, use Communism. Without recommending an advocation of the tenets of Communism, one does not need then to fly into the arms of right-wing fascism or “narrow nationalism” (Wendell Willkie’s One World). Upton Sinclair warned us that it can happen here. Fears of totalitarianism abound when there are disingenuous geezers in charge! Hard facts have a way of melting into the shadows of ambiguity.

Ah, TINSEL TOWN!



Stay tuned for all that plus hokum, bunkery, science and more! On this time-displaced episode of a Stranger in a Strange Land!

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-09: Circa 1948 by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Gifts of Lovecraft

If you’re anything as lucky as me, then you’ve found a significant other/trans-dimensional monster hunter/mental patient to share your life with, however short that may be. And if your beloved and accursed life partner is an enthusiast, nay, a votary, of all things weird and macabre, then you might need a little help finding the inspired gifts to show them the horrific holiday, blighted birthday or abhorrent anniversary you both deserve! These Lovecraftian artifacts will spell out your love beyond the ageless æons and non-Euclidean space, as the dread Cthulhu has already permeated our modern popular culture with its putrid tentacles… of doom.

BOOKS & ART

Whether a long-time devotee or curious neophyte, anyone interested in ‘the Mythos‘ could find no better place to delve than these gorgeous collections, The Eldritch Tales and the Necronomicon. The faux-leather covers and gold-embossed Les Edwards illustrations (not to mention the inside Virgil Finlay sketch of Howard Phillips Lovecraft) make these commemorative editions a must-have. Notably,  Robert E. Howard‘s Conan the Barbarian is also collected in a similar series, as the two share a contextual history. Then again, a lot of fictional universes dip into the Cthulhu Mythos, from some of Stephen King‘s short stories to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea‘s Illuminatus! Trilogy, and even more recently, episodes of South Park.

Originally written for the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s, H. P. Lovecraft’s astonishing tales blend elements of horror, science fiction, and cosmic terror that are as powerful today as they were when they were first published.

One might also gaze upon the maelstrom of aesthetes and devotees of the black arts, who have lent their skills to paintings, illustrations, sketches and essays of these mighty Elder Gods. The Lovecraft Retrospective is chock full of artists inspired by the Master of Horror Fiction, including H. R. Giger and Mike Mignola, among at least forty others (with an introduction by Harlan Ellison). Although Giger released his own Necronomicon work with an introduction by Clive Barker, and Mike Mignola, (in addition to doing a brilliant cover for a collection) also paid tribute to the man himself in the Codex Arcana. Not to mention the very looming presence of Ancient Ones in the Hellboy universe.

Or peruse the works of the late Jean Giraud, whether they be in full comic book form, or covers such as Lovecraft: Letters D’Arkham, Marginalia, 1975.

Speaking of art, it’s a damned shame (and I do mean damned) that, for copyright reasons, these hilarious crossovers, mash-ups or remixes are not available for purchase. Such as Murray Groat (A.K.A. Muzski)’s versions of Tintin within the Mythos, as Hergé/Moulinsart S.A.’s rights apply:

“I am getting alot of print requests by email, which is nice, but I have to sadly tell each and everyone of them that I cannot.”

cc5203223fe766c426332abee9c40d02.jpg

Or the multi-chaptered project to chronicle Bil Keane‘s The Family Circus as they fall into the inky æther of ‘unspeakable horrors.’

Or Dr. Faustus‘ Seussian retellings:

This is not to say, of course, that one cannot make a fine print of these deviations for personal, non-commercial use.

DRINK

One method of inducing a thrilling madness is to first enter a drunken stupor. Though many soporific aperitifs of the Eldritch abomination exist, only a few are readily extant and/or non-fictitious.

Demon’s Hop Yard IPA is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, Inc., and can be found in several states (Lovecraft’s ‘Devil’s Hopyard’ was in his fictional town of Dunwich).

Clear, bright golden, with copper hues topped with a thick, clinging hop-induced lace that trails the beer as it’s consumed. Aroma is dank, resiny and saturated with a pronounced herbal character.

Miskatonic Dark Rye is a vegan and organic ale from (where else?) Portland, Oregon brewing company Captured by Porches. I’m sure it’s what the students at Miskatonic U get soused on as they pore over dusty tomes in ancient libraries.

Smooth. Rye spiced with chocolate and wine tones. Light to medium bodied. Made with organic two row and malted wheat, rye, and oats. Malted with crystal and chocolate. Hopped with domestic tettnanger.

Others are more secret, nigh-mythical brews, such as the Limited Edition New Year’s Black IPA by Us Vs Them, inspired by the dark lord Cthulhu himself, which is either no longer available or lying asleep for centuries.

Premium 2 row barley, coloring and caramel flavor from 2 speciality malts…the blackness comes from a special de-husked roasted malt called Carafa Special 3… it does not impart that very roasty, astringent or bitter coffee flavor you’d find in a stout, however it does leave a deep, dark tone to the appearance. It was bittered with Chinook and flavored with Amarillo Centenial and Simcoe and fermented with a California Ale Yeast to accentuate the clean bitterness and hop flavors.

Cthulhu Custom Etched Shot Glass

Of course, one needs the proper receptacle to contain the evil spirits with designs on your mind and soul. Might I recommend either the tentacled pint glass, or the Cthulhu custom-etched shot glass, (and filled appropriately with Kraken rum)

A fine gift could be made of Jonathan Chaffin’s Horror in Clay tiki mug, and now that his Kickstarter goal has been made, perhaps in futures told they shall be hewn from matter most foul, but do not seem for sale to the public just yet.

And apparently, HPL was a fervent coffeeholic, with these subversive subcultures crossing in several ways, including the now extinct Cthulhu Coffee.

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgahnagl fhtag”  ~ Me, after tasting the foul bitters aforementioned

TOYS

All manner of adorable plushies of the Dread Lord can be found, but some creative artisans have crafted their own worldly totems, as prescribed by the visions in their feverish dreams.

John Kovalic’s My Little Cthulhu:

The various knitted Cthulhu patterns:

Or the abominable HP Lovercraft figure by Alex CF:

My first DIY action figure project is a hand molded, cast and painted effigy of Lovecraft, along with a copy of the fabled and despised Necronomicon! Each figure will come as part of a larger box set – including a copy of a comic I have written and drawn, a screen printed t shirt, a screen printed poster, badge and sketch, all in a wax sealed box! These will be available very soon! email merrylinhouse@gmail.com for inquiries!

ENTERTAINMENT

Though many directors have been influenced by HPL’s works, not many have successfully conjured a faithful translation of those strange stories (see: Re-Animator). In 2005, however, director Andrew Leman brought one of the finest independent horror films into our world and onto the silent screen:

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society presents its all new silent film of The Call of Cthulhu. The famed story is brought richly to life in the style of a classic 1920s silent movie, with a haunting original symphonic score. Using the “Mythoscope” process — a mix of modern and vintage techniques, the HPLHS has worked to create the most authentic and faithful screen adaptation of a Lovecraft story yet attempted.


More importantly, for the purposes of gift-giving and love-making, a classic black & white flick is the perfect thing to curl up with your loved one on the couch, as a slowly creeping dread encompasses the both of you. (The prolific H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society also villainously vends the album A Shoggoth on the Roof, a CD of Lovecraftian carolsArkham Asylum Certificates of Insanity, and other cult relics.)

The Evil Dead 2 (Book Of The Dead 2 Limited Edition)But if you really want a really great date night, allow the self-parodying  Sam Raimi and manly-chinned Bruce Campbell to open a deathly portal of Dead-ites, with your very own Necronomicon bound in a horrid human face! This Limited Edition ‘Book of the Dead’ isn’t necessarily easy to find, but is full of artwork and special features, and will scream when pressed if in mint condition!

H. P. Lovecraft IH. P. Lovecraft II

H.P. Lovecraft, not so coincidentally, was also a psychedelic acid rock band in the late 1960’s. They only released two albums in 1967 and 1968 before breaking up, renaming and reforming, but their best work were these early nuggets. They’re not exactly horrific or amorous, but their imagery is evocative and dreamlike nonetheless.

TRAVEL

If you desire to steal your beloved away for the week-end, perhaps a themed holiday is in order. If out West, wander to The Lovecraft Bar in Portland, covered in demonic symbols and cosmic tentacles, and visit the annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhu Con. Or make your way to L.A. for their version of the Eldritch Events. Florida each year holds the NecronomiCon, a science fiction, fantasy and horror convention now in its 31st year.

But for real historical ambiance, what could be more romantic than a getaway to New England, to the hexed locality that spawned so many legends of spirits and devils and witchcraft, and a never-ending litany of literary progeny, from Hawthorne and Poe to Lovecraft and King. Begin in Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island (though the Angell St. family mansion was torn down in 1961). Take the walking tour of College Hill, his old stomping grounds. From there, expedition to Essex County, Massachusetts (Lovecraft commented often in his letters that Marblehead was one of his favorite towns, saying that he’d live there if he didn’t already live in Providence). The basis for many of the ports and towns in what came to be called Miskatonic County (with an eponymous river and University), or ‘Lovecraft Country,’ containing Dunwich, Innsmouth, Arkham, Kingsport and Billington’s Wood.File:Lovecraft Country.svg

Interestingly, the fictional county is close to Salem, already known for its occult history, and North of the Bridgewater Triangle, a modern hotbed of supposed paranormal activity.

MISCELLANY

If your fated partner cares not for those sweet nothings and sweeping gestures, perhaps the wretched aromatics of the Elder Gods will help spice things up, and the Picnic in Arkham: The Lovecraft Collection of perfumes by Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs:

Azathoth is the blind, idiot god who sits on a black throne at the center of Chaos. His scent is high-pitched and screeching, both impenetrably dark and searingly bright with the clarity of madness: tangerine, saffron, vetiver, black amber and cedarwood.

Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, the All-Mother and wife of the Not-to-Be-Named-One. The lust incense of a corrupted Astarte. A blend of ritual herbs and dark resins, shot through with three gingers and aphrodisiacal spices.

The internet is resplendent with other mementos that profess your dark feelings, so be creative and think outside the box!

Diplomas:

Miskatonic Diploma (Herbert West) Poster

Purses:

And Elder thongs:

The Lie of the Conservative Batman

I’ve waited a week to post this until enough people have had a chance to see the latest Dark Knight movie, but it bears mentioning: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Batman mythos runs so deep in our culture, that parallels are easy. Claims now run rampant that the latest brilliant installment of Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy is anti-Occupy, or pro-capitalist in sentiment. That it purports ‘only a billionaire’ can save us. Chris Nolan has dispelled as much, though it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the phenomenally successful series may be inexorably linked to current events, as no writer or director creates in a vacuum, and both life imitates art and art imitates life. All films reflect their times, and the Batman is no exception. The imagery itself has seeped into everyday usage, (much like the protagonist masks in V for Vendetta), the war-painted Joker has been used by protest movements to vilify seemingly every elite from Bernie Madoff to president Barack Obama. Even without the gadgetry, moral code, genius-level detective skills, martial arts, cape or cowl, many billionaires see themselves as crucial heroes, their “sacrifices” necessary for the good of the system. And yes, the probably psychopathic James Holmes seems unable or unwilling to separate reality from fiction, modeling himself after The Dark Knight‘s villainous Joker (portrayed inimitably by Heath Ledger).

But Christopher Nolan’s version of the Batman (dubbed the Nolanverse), had already established an old Gotham rife with political corruption, a recession predating our own by a few years (Batman Begins began in 2005), the excesses of the rich and inequity of their system, and the thievery of Wall Street.

The script for The Dark Knight Rises was written during 2010, with location scouting happening in December of that year. Filming ran from May to November 2011, overlapping the rise of the Occupy movement by mere months. Any similarity is purely coincidental, and furthermore seen through the lens of Fox news analysis and FBI entrapment, where Occupiers have already been condemned as criminals and terrorists. The predominant Beltway philosophy already has established the ‘infallible rich’ as a cornerstone of its power structure.

And the story of haves and have-nots is as old as time anyway, as the Dark Knight Rises draws heavily from A Tale of Two Cities and its historical Red Terror. It’s a false dichotomy (which many pundits love) that one cannot have both a healthy opposition to violent revolution and sympathetic support for a protest movement. It really reveals more about the claimants’ ideology than anything else. Charles Dickens, for one, cared deeply for the plight of the poor, but not for the brutal atrocities of the French Revolution.

We humans will ascribe our own meaning and see what we want in film and comic book escapism, no matter how earnest the telling. This trilogy simply rings true because it dissects the hard ideological differences regarding justice, evil, truth, responsibility, and just exactly who is the real psychopath, anyway. We can all too easily see the divides and overlapping philosophies of the Occupy movement, the police force, the rich elites, and the League of Shadows. And yes, both lone vigilantes and lone nuts.

But even if the movie were a direct allegory to our failed structure, it could hardly be seen as a conservative endorsement, as bloggers on both sides have contended. More likely, the chilling dystopian vision of a city torn into a No Man’s Land reads as a warning against radical demagoguery and institutional deception. And though some may not agree with the aims of the Occupy movement, it takes a willfully ignorant or forcefully disingenuous mindset to equate them with the insane philosophy of either a chaotically sadistic Joker or a frighteningly focused and cold-blooded Bane (portrayed by Tom Hardy).

Indeed, Occupy remains a leaderless movement, constantly worrying about being co-opted by self-interested parties. Bane adopts a populist message in order to peddle false hopes to the citizenry he hopes to torture, populating his army with liberated thieves and killers. Yes, and there are those whom society has forsaken. Bane’s armed revolt plays to the same paranoid fears of Fox News and the State Department, and the same rhetoric of a much less radical Anonymous; it is made up of janitors, shoe-shiners, orphans, ex-cons, sanitation and construction workers. The under-served.

Bruce Wayne’s (reprised by Christian Bale) sins are spelled out for us at the beginning of the Dark Knight Rises. Not only has he taken the fall for the crimes of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and conspired to propagate a political lie, he has turned his back on society and the world. The streets have become relatively clean without him in the eight years since he donned the cowl, but the less obvious ills of a broken system still endure as Bruce neglects the city he loves, and literally atrophies in his elegantly rebuilt mansion.

Gotham’s sins are also many, where betrayal and lies are common political practice, where war heros are expendable during peacetime, where critical-thinking police are discounted as ‘hotheads’, and where even good men like Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) get their hands filthy. The Batman himself, as the Force-ghost of Ra’s Al-Ghul (Liam Neeson) reminds us, “for years fought the decadence of Gotham with his moral authority… and the most he could achieve was a lie.” The overreaching Dent Act, based on Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne’s falsehood, has robbed the imprisoned of any chance of parole. And though it was (hurriedly) agreed that if they world knew of Harvey Dent’s crimes, the guilty would be opened up to appeal, it is this very act of conspiracy that threatens to help blow apart the system, once finally discovered. The career politicians, police bosses, day traders and rich elite are anything but sympathetic figures.

Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) is the only decent representative of the 99%. She (as well as her politics and moral code) is adaptable, values anonymity, and doesn’t seem to care much for gun control. She embodies the ‘honor among thieves’ adage, she is generous, and sees herself as somewhat of a Robin Hood, at least more than the society types she robs from, who ‘take so much and leave so little for the rest.’ However, she is equally horrified, frightened and disgusted by the madness that ensues during Bane’s “revolution.”

John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), on the other hand, is your stereotypical corporate vulture, a literal blood diamond opportunist looking for his next hostile takeover, who doesn’t have time for “save-the-world vanity projects.” In fact, Daggett doesn’t care if the world is destroyed with his help, so long as he acquires more money, and the “power it buys.” It is the likes of Daggett and the other one-dimensional capitalists who worship the status quo when it suits them, and then collude with criminals on the side. Daggett only sees Bane as ‘pure evil’ once he realizes the imminent threat to himself and his riches. Once it’s no longer himself who’s in charge. It should be noted, for the record, that there are no real-life Occupy figures who could cow a crooked billionaire by placing a hand on their shoulder like an alpha dominant.

But of course these unsympathetic crooks are surely served up as contrast to our hero: the billionaire who would save us.

And though the Batman/Bruce Wayne may be heralded as the authoritarian’s dream; willing to employ mass surveillance, extreme rendition, and solely deciding what technology the people deserve and can be trusted with, he is no societal Superman. He is not a billionaire’s billionaire, for though he has more cars than cares to count, has never answered his own door, and “doesn’t even go broke like the rest of us,” he is also easily displaced within his own boardroom, decries the egotistical hypocrisy of charity balls, and has not been watching his own money carefully. Notably, he wants to fail. He relishes the opportunity to be destroyed as the Batman, if it means saving the lives of everyone; the rich, the workers and the poor alike.

Neither, however, has he been serving his own people and city of late, trading in his once rich playboy identity for a Howard Hughes shtick. Not only is his corporation floundering, his beloved charitable foundation is practically defunct. Orphaned boys age out of Gotham’s social programs, neglected by a city with no homes of jobs available. Here they become easy prey for vaguely Middle Eastern terrorists and organized criminals, where they die in the sewers and wash away once they are used up.

The progressive responsibility of socially conscious and civic-minded billionaires, (an extremely endangered breed both in Gotham and out real world) had to be summed up by an ecoterrorist acting the part of a lovely socialite (Marion Cotillard); “You have to invest to restore balance to the world.” Bruce has been lacking in his duties, and that evil that he and Commissioner Gordon buried isn’t dead, but rising up once again.

Bane’s movement is a false one, as he tells the people of Gotham that he is not a Conquerer but a Liberator, but in actuality he is neither. Bane is the Destroyer. Spinning a hopeful message in the wake of his havoc, telling the people to “take control” of Gotham, Bane uses his “truth” to get the citizenry to “tear down a corrupt city” and reclaim what is theirs from the rich oppressors who had peddled their myth of opportunism.

And it is not just any “ordinary citizen” who holds the detonator to their destruction, but equal parts rich girl and terrorist-anarchist. These masterminds did not just create a populist movement to fulfill their diabolical plot, but infiltrated powerful corporations with their subterfuge as well. For comparison, real-world anarchists, despite practicing just another political philosophy, are readily depicted by the media as murderous terrorists. Protestors, despite exercising their constitutional right to assemble, are either beaten or made into bridge bombers by the FBI. Even those who have read the anarchist or socialist literature pale in comparison to the bloodthirsty Bane army. But the fear has been writ large in the news: if a lone nut like the joker can inspire a depraved massacre in a theatre, what would an evil warlord and his army of mercenaries inspire?

Like the Batman, authoritarians do seem to create their own enemies.

What follows once the structures fail lacks even more subtlety; in the face of such wanton violence, the government will abandon you. The good cops will attempt to salvage the status quo, and the bad cops will either desert or work against the people. Idiotically and blindly following orders, in fact, could get orphans and priests killed. Only the Batman can save us.

As even Selena realizes too late, this is not what the 99% ever wanted. Their system has swung wildly from an authoritarian, decadent state to the bloody turf of a mad warlord. It is the Dark Knight who is the hero we need, but unlike any known billionaire, he is now humiliated and humbled, fearful, responsible, accountable, and thus strengthened, empowered, respectful and focused. “Hardened by pain… not from privilege.”

It really should go without saying, by the way, that is not until Bruce Wayne loses all of his money, loses nearly everything, in fact, and is dropped into a pit to rebuild himself, that he is worthy of becoming a savior. And even those he still uses all those wonderful toys that only his privileged life could have afforded him, there can be no analogue for his virtuosity. Nobody has done as much as the fictitious Wayne family. And no playboy industrialists don a mask and fight crime.

As super-fan of the Batman, Kevin Smith, points out:

“In our world it’s not the case. The richer one gets, the less moral one seems to become. Not in all cases, but you hear about everything that just happened to our economy in the last few years… at the end of the day, Bruce Wayne/Batman [is] a moral example of a billionaire… Right then and there you should be able to divorce yourself from reality because no billionaire would waste their time helping others.”

This establishes the film’s central conceit as high fantasy. The Batman doesn’t have what we’d normally call superpowers, and we’ve seen it’s not simply the gadgets or money that keeps him going, but his rigid moral compass and drive to do good that makes him superhuman.

It isn’t just allegorical. It’s not just a cautionary tale. It’s a mad thought experiment. Fiction. Fantasy. Though some of us do have trouble separating that.

For there is no Ayn Randian perfect citizen or engine of the economy that somehow magically makes everything better. There is no Nietzschean Übermench. In the face of the very real threats of depraved elites, deadly terrorist groups and savage gunmen, there are no real superheroes.

Batman will not save us.

The Big Lebowski Game

YOU WILL NEED
vodka (or rum)
cream, milk, or half & half
Kahlua or Tia Maria
ice
‘Old-Fashioned’ glasses
that good Sasparilla root beer
PBR and Miller High Life beer
weed rolled into joints
In-n-Out Burgers

must drink a Caucasian whenever the Dude does
must ‘do a j’ when the Dude does
must sip either beer or that good Sasparilla when ‘the Dude’ is said
when ‘fuck it man, let’s go bowling’ is said
when ‘shut the fuck up, Donnie’ is said
whenever someone says ‘Johnson’ or ‘Marmot’
whenever someone gets a strike
must make ‘one hell of a Caucasian’ when Jackie Treehorn does
must eat In-n-Out burgers when they appear on screen

If adventure has a name, surely, it must be… well, adventure. Because it does have a name.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullTM offers us references to the previous movies, a Harrison Ford back in shape for the role, fan service, few modern and flashy digital effects, follows a structure reminiscent of the prior trilogy, and thus begs the question: Was this really necessary?
George Lucas promises that this installment of his beloved movie franchise won’t disappoint, and he’s certainly an expert in not disappointing when it comes to expanding a beloved movie franchise.*
Steven Spielburg promises it will be better than his magnum opus, ‘Munich!’TM
With tie-ins from DKTM, Burger KingTM, LegoTM, Del ReyTM, XBoxTM, Random HouseTM, DisneyTM, Dark HorseTM comics, Hallmark CardsTM (a subsidiary of Doom, Inc.) and Hasbro®, this classic blockbuster of film history is sure to maintain the integrity we remember from our wonder years… get by with a little help from my friends. And Transformers’TM Shia Lepoof is in it! TransformersTM was nothing but one big commercial, so it was true to its source material!
I don’t know what I’m really more upset about, the bastardization of my childhood iconic hero Indy, or of the crystal skulls. The repercussions are much worse in terms of the ancient powers, who have better litigation attorneys and death-beam eyes. I really don’t want everyone who attends or even downloads the movie to be cursed for all eternity, the Earth engulfed in otherworldly flame, that burns not the skin, but the very soul.
An extra in the film, Tyler Nelson, violated his nondisclosure agreement with ParamountTM when he tried to leak key plot points. SPOILERS NOT AHEAD, however, as the bulk of his smuggled information is limited to “I’m totally in the new Indiana Jones movie! You can find me in there somewhere. Me, Tyler Nelson!”
And this, from the newswire agency wikipedia:
A number of photos and sensitive documents pertaining to the film’s budget were stolen from the director’s production offices. An official reported the missing items to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on September 24, 2007. Spokesman Marvin Levy said the director was concerned that the thieves would try to sell the materials and on October 2, the people believed to be involved in the burglary sent out e-mails to several entertainment gossip websites offering to sell the images. According to IESB, TMZ.com obtained some of the stolen property and was on the verge of running the story on its TV division until ParamountTM lawyers stepped in. After ParamountTM was notified about the emails, they contacted sheriff’s investigators. A member of the online press helped the detectives by posing as a potential buyer and setting up a meeting in West Hollywood. When the seller arrived, he was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property On October 4, Roderick Eric Davis, age 37, was charged with one felony count of receiving stolen property. He later pleaded guilty to two felony counts and will serve two years and four months in jail
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (whuUAAH?) can catch these guys in the two days that they were attempting to sell the stolen items, but child rapist-murderers roam free in the streets! Why? Just because they are children? Maybe the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department needs to spend less time on the treasure-hunting adventurers stealing from films about a treasure-hunting adventurer, and more time stopping children from committing horrendous acts of rape and murder! You gotta manage your time, better, mans! Don’t micro-manage! Strengthen and diversify your actualized proselytizing synergy statement!
Do you see what I did there? I retroactively scapegoated Steven Speilburg for some terrible crimes he had as little control over as you or I. This type of blind insinuation is a great debate tactic, right above calling someone a “doo-doo ca-ca-head,” but well below “what? I’m sorry, we can’t understand stupid.”
For example: if you wanted to imply that your opponent (or in this case an innocent Hollywood director) was in league with National ZocialistsTM without citing nonexistent hard facts, or outright invoking Godwin’s LawTM, then you could say something to the effect of, “Sure, Mr. Spielberg can craft an excellent biopic chronicling the persecution of the Jewish peoples by the nazis, but where was he when they really needed his help? Nowhere. The nazis had to do it on their own.”
For the record, I don’t actually believe that Steven Speilberg and (to a lesser extent) George Lucas are in any way associated with any neo-nazi groups. In their defense, their entire movie careers have been dedicated to the building of episodic tomes in defense of oppressed peoples. Oskar Schindler, before he harbored huddled masses of Jews yearning to be free, protected an entire planet from the threat of an evil Trade OrganizationTM. Of course, this did get us entrenched in a seemingly endless galactic war, culminating in the totalitarian takeover of an evil despot. Indy, meanwhile, fights against the nazis, though it is ambiguous as to whether he does this for personal gain, or the same chivalry that allowed him to free starving children from a bloodthirsty cult.
I do not mean this to be taken as a metaphorical indictment of the Bush administration, HalliburtonTM and its subsidiary, BlackwaterTM. Though by mentioning it where it might not have been apparent, I have purposefully drawn the interesting comparison in your mind’s eye. Another excellent debate technique.
And for the record, I do not believe that ‘innocent’ and ‘Hollywood’ can be placed next to each other in the same sentence this way. Just ask Jayne Mansfield.
And… hmmm.. yes… yes, I managed to misspell Stephen’s name every whichway but tango, that oughta cover all the bases.
*Mesa think, anyway.
Video

Ashville, Ohio Documentary

A short documentary of the charming village of Ashville, Ohio, for a final project. Discusses some of the history and culture of this small American town, and though not initially intended, the reactions to the changes and growth affecting them today. Co-produced with Dan Colley and Publichouse Productions.

Video

Noir

 

A quick experiment for a longer script exploring the idea that the main character of a Noir story is aware of his fictional existence and the tropes all around him, and the dangers and opportunities this presents. Co-produced with Joe Kennedy.

Script:

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