Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Echo Homo (Superior)

"...[W]e know, you must remember, that homo sapiens has little more to contribute to the music of this planet, nothing in fact but vain repetition. It is time for finer instruments to take up the theme."
-John Wainwright, Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest by Olaf Stapledon (1935)

"The Earth is a bitch; we've finished our news. Homo sapiens have outgrown their use. All the strangers came today; and it looks as though they're here to stay."
-David Bowie, "Oh! You Pretty Things", Hunky Dory (1971)

"We are the future, Charles, not them. They no longer matter."
-Erik Lehnsherr, a.k.a. Magneto, X-Men, directed by Bryan Singer (2000)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pics o'the Day (Kirby-style)

To celebrate the 94th birthday of the late, great Jack Kirby, here's some artwork featuring the first appearances of some of his most famous creations:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tooting My Own Horn

My first book review for the awesome website She Never Slept is up, the subject being David Michael's groovy post-apocalyptic horror novel The Summoning Fire. Thanks to SNS' head, the incomparable Sarah L. Covert, for being kind enough to host (and provide C&C!) on my writing! Enjoy, folks!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Twin Peeks: Another Short Piece of Creative Mythography

In recent years, the activities of the Lightman Institute headed by Dr. Cal Lightman have come to light. Dr. Lightman and his team are assigned by third parties to aid in investigations using applied psychology, most often discovering the truth through body language and other factors. While Lightman and his team are not the subject of this piece, one of the federal agents they worked with is.

Bill Steele was an FBI ASAC (Assistant Special Agent in Charge) who worked with the team when an allegedly bomb-bearing tractor driven by a down-on-his-luck farmer named Harold Clark was parked outside the Institute. In reality, this was a ruse designed to distract law enforcement from another bomb planted by domestic terrorist Ron Jackson. During the mission, Steele and Lightman butted heads over procedure.

We are given no biographical information about Steele in the televised account based on these events. However, my research has uncovered evidence that Steele was born in a small town in California around 1957. His mother was a local woman whose friend was murdered by a man who was wanted in several states (unfortunately, my records are vague as to who this may have been. Patient research continues). An FBI agent came to town, and during the investigation, an attraction sprang up between Ms. Steele and this agent, despite the latter having been married for a year and having a baby son back in Philadelphia. They had a brief torrid affair, and Bill was born nine months later. Never knowing his father personally, he at least came to know his name and occupation, and followed in his footsteps by joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Once the case closed, the agent returned to Philly and his wife and son. His wife never knew of the agent's affair, but the son learned of it after, like his half-brother, honoring his father by joining the Bureau, showing special expertise in forensics. Anger at his father's infidelity engendered in Albert Rosenfield a deep dislike of small towns and the people inhabiting them.

This aversion boiled over when Albert was sent to Twin Peaks, WA to assist his good friend and fellow Special Agent Dale Cooper by conducting tests on the body of 17-year-old Laura Palmer. Albert repeatedly treated the authorities and inhabitants of Twin Peaks with contempt, ultimately leading to Sheriff Harry S. Truman punching him in the face. Despite this, Albert revealed on a subsequent visit that despite his gruff, hostile tone he was at heart a pacifist, and during further trips to Twin Peaks he made his peace with Truman, if not the other natives. It is unknown whether Albert Rosenfield and Bill Steele ever met, but if so, I seriously doubt the meeting was cordial on Albert's part.

Lie to Me - television series, particularly the episode "Tractor Man"
Twin Peaks - television series
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me - film
Twin Peaks Star Pics Cards - Trading cards, particularly #63, "Agent Rosenfield"

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Two Gordon Coles: A Short Piece of Woldnewtonry

In 1949, Gordon Cole was working in the props department at Paramount Studios when he saw Max von Mayerling drive his employer (and ex-wife) Norma Desmond's antique Isotta-Franchini car. Interested, Cole called her Sunset Boulevard mansion in the hopes of using it for the Bing Crosby film they were shooting. Max, knowing that Norma was vainly hoping to return to film after her career ended with the advent of talkies, told her instead that she herself was wanted for a Cecil B. DeMille film. Neither Max, DeMille, nor Norma's ghost-writer/boytoy Joe Gillis had the heart to tell her the truth, and DeMille insisted that Cole use a different car. (Joe later changed his mind, but his attempts to show her the truth and leave Norma once and for all cost him his life).

That's pretty much all we know about Gordon Cole from Sunset Boulevard, the film Billy Wilder based on these events. However, his life did not begin nor end with his dramatization by Bert Moorhouse. Cole was in his early '50s by this point, but had only a few years before taken a much younger wife, and had a son by her, also named Gordon. Unfortunately, Gordon Cole Jr. would have severe hearing trouble, requiring hearing aids and causing him to shout every sentence without realizing the fact and often inadvertently repeat what people had just said or asked him. Nevertheless, he eventually joined the F.B.I., and rose rapidly through the ranks, so that by 1988 he was a regional chief.

At that time, a young woman named Teresa Banks was murdered by Leland Palmer, a lawyer from Twin Peaks, Washington, who had been possessed since childhood by a demonic being named Bob. Recognizing this as what he called a "blue rose" case, Gordon sent agents Chester Desmond and Sam Stanley to investigate. Unfortunately, Desmond (who may have been a relative of Norma's) disappeared. When Leland's daughter Laura was murdered a year later, and the evidence pointed to the same killer, Gordon sent another agent, Dale Cooper (whom my fellow creative mythographer Henry Zeo Covert has identified as a descendant of the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes) to Twin Peaks. An increasingly bizarre series of events followed, which were dramatized by David Lynch (who would himself portray Gordon Cole Jr. all too accurately) and Mark Frost in their prime time television drama named for the Palmers' hometown.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Director: Jim Sharman
Screenwriters: Jim Sharman and Richard O'Brien (based on the musical play The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O'Brien)
Main Cast: Tim Curry (Dr. Frank-N-Furter - A Scientist); Susan Sarandon (Janet Weiss - A Heroine); Barry Bostwick (Brad Majors - A Hero); Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff - A Handyman); Patricia Quinn (Magenta - A Domestic); Little Nell (Columbia - A Groupie); Jonathan Adams (Dr. Everett V. Scott - A Rival Scientist); Peter Hinwood (Rocky Horror - A Creation); Meat Loaf (Eddie - An Ex-Delivery Boy); Charles Gray (The Criminologist - An Expert)

Synopsis: Brad Majors and his fiancee, Janet Weiss, two young ordinary, healthy kids from the small town of Denton, receive a flat tire while going to visit their former teacher, Dr. Everett Scott. Going to a castle they passed, they're greeted by hunchbacked butler Riff-Raff and his sister Magenta, who inform them that their master is hosting an affair. Soon, he arrives: Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a self-professed "Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania". Quickly, they're ushered to another floor, where Frank bring to life a perfectly-formed (albeit mute) man named Rocky Horror for his own pleasure. Frank's gloating is interrupted by the motorcycle-riding Eddie bursting out of a freezer, who catches Rocky's eye. Jealous, Frank kills Eddie with a pick-axe, to the horror of Columbia. Frank escorts Rocky to their "bridal suite", while Riff Raff and Magenta escort Brad and Janet to separate rooms. Frank disguises himself as Brad and seduces Janet, who is shocked when she discovers the truth but ultimately acquiescent. Riff Raff, wanting a little alone time with his sister/lover Magenta, terrorizes Rocky into trying to escape. Frank repeats his deception on Brad, with much the same result, until Riff Raff alerts him to Rocky's escape. I will not reveal subsequent events, but they reveal further why this would be, as the criminologist narrator says, a night out that Brad and Janet would remember for a very long time.

My two cents: Like many other things, I discovered this film via a lifelong love for comic books. Around 2001, when I was but a lad of 14 or so, I was attending the Wizard World Convention here in the Windy City (back when I could afford to go yearly). As per custom, I made sure to visit the booth for my comic shop of choice, the tersely named Chicago Comics. There were several polybagged sets of complete series and miniseries, and I came across a three-issue comic adaptation published by Caliber Press in 1990. I had heard of the movie before, but knew little about it. I did find it to be highly entertaining, especially the guide to audience participation dialogue in the back, and sought out the movie as a result. I was not then the cineaste I am now, but this was one of the first films with which I developed a lasting obsession. Whether seen on VHS (initially), DVD (in the past four years), or the Music Box Theater in Halloween 2008, it remains a beloved film for me. Quite frankly, this film is an ode to two of my (and Richard O'Brien's) favorite things: rock and roll and science fiction movies. It is unpretentious, unabashedly pansexual (which even a straight guy like me can find cool, I like to think), has a great cast of stars both current and future, references a wide array of genre films (both King Kong and Tarantula are name-dropped in "Science Fiction/Double Feature") and benefits tremendously from O'Brien's songwriting abilities. From the immortal "Time Warp" to Susan Sarandon's show-stopping "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me", the music here is all wonderful and memorable, and seldom a month goes by when I don't sing the lyrics to one of the pieces under my breath. And the performances are uniformly excellent: Barry Bostwick as Brad perfectly plays the all-American boy who can't handle a dire situation that calls his own self-image into question. Sarandon convincingly portrays Janet as a virginal girl whose true personality is brought to the forefront by entrance into the world of carnal desire. Little Nell carries off Columbia's bitterness and dancing ability expertly. O'Brien and Patricia Quinn as Riff Raff and Magenta are delightfully sinister, even during the surprising character development they make at the end. Peter Hinwood has only sung dialogue as Rocky, but his expressions and reactions make his performance somewhat more meaningful than one would think. Rock star Meat Loaf's dialogue as Eddie is also sung, but his number "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul" is a topnotch blend of mean sax playing and typical '50s rock lyrics. Jonathan Adams is entertaining as the stereotypical scientist Dr. Scott...or should I say Dr. VON Scott?...and despite being wheelchair bound, the good doctor even gets to take part in a cancan at the end, which remains one of the movie's funniest images. Charles Gray delivers a suitably staid and bland performance as the Criminologist recounting "the Denton affair", even when he himself does the Time Warp again. And then of course, there's Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a truly unforgettable character. Dressing in sexy women's undies throughout the film, Frank is a not-particularly-discriminate lover who relishes his work and hates insubordination. He loves every minute of his hedonistic behavior and doesn't care if others suffer as a result. Frank is, quite simply, a villain you can't help but love. He also gets some of the film's best numbers, including the funky tune "Sweet Transvestite", the Charles Atlas-inspired "I Can Make You a Man", "Fanfare/Don't Dream It Be It" (my favorite song in the whole movie, it encapsulates RHPS' philosophy perfectly), and the swan song "I'm Going Home". I would definitely recommend this film to anyone with a love for musicals, sci-fi and horror, or exploring sexuality that's outside the box should give this a look. And while it's perfectly entertaining when watched solo on the Fox DVD, joining a midnight audience in commenting on the film in a theater and using props is truly an experience not to be missed, and one I hope I'll one day get a chance to repeat. See this movie and give yourself over to absolute pleasure.