Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Russian Orthodox Roulette: Lindsay Lohan, THE DEER HUNTER, and TROUBLE FOR TWO

"It's a cursed life where even death has become a luxury." 
- Prince Florizel (Robert Montgomery), Trouble for Two (1936)

ADDENDUM  PREFACE (6/8):
I had been working on the below post for almost six months, until finally publishing it mainly because I had nothing else more 'relevant' to put out... then, the very next day, or the same day, these sad, twisted photos come out of our dear Lindsay. Of course, it's coincidence... or is it? Just look up into her false-colored eyes above; if anyone in the media would join a suicide club like in THE DEER HUNTER or TROUBLE FOR TWO, it's Lindsay.

Let me tell you, to be FORCED to stop drinking and doing drugs when you don't really want to, and to have your every vulnerable misstep chronicled by hyena pack press photographers, well, I can truly understand the pain in her eyes... and I've seen it before, in the pictures of Kurt Cobain, who would be my age were he alive today.


Just hang on, LL --keep your powder dry and your pecker hard... and the earth will turn.
(that's from PLATOON)
-----


Over the years I've seen Michael Cimino's tale of small PA town Russian Orthodox churchgoing / hard drinking steelworkers going to 'Nam, THE DEER HUNTER (1978), in a lot of different situations, but the weirdest was via Betamax in high school Social Science class, where it was supposed educate us on the Vietnam war (and allow the hung-over teacher--and some students--a nice nap in the dark). I can still remember the collective sigh of relief at the sight of some AV geek dragging in the big old TV stand, killing the lights and drawing the blinds against the 11 AM sunshine, knowing this meant there would be no test or class discussion, just VC goons and Pittsburgh drunks.  Each class period was only 45 minutes, so we saw HUNTER in daily installments, rewinding and forwarding trying to find the right spot (since each class the teacher had was watching the same tape) until it stretched on for weeks. And two different teachers showed it in one year, in different classes at different times, until half my junior year of HS was spent watching Asians slap around Bobby De Niro and Chris Walken.

Not a lot of the film made sense, especially back then (1983), a land before internet. The film's central group of buddies for example never need to sleep. They work the late shift at a steel mill, clock out at dawn, drop by the local bar on their way home to breakfast, then get dolled up for a wedding reception that afternoon into the evening. They party all through the early morning hours then drive out to their cabin in the mountains to go deer hunting, drinking all the while. Until finally -- after being awake for 24 hours at least -- they're back in the bar, playing piano and standing around. BAM! Vietnam. Well, no wonder shit was so fucked up over there!

And so it came to pass that everyone in Bridgewater Raritan HS West thought Russian roulette was the cool game to play overseas. Russian roulette was simply what one does in war, the way bridge and shuffleboard are what one does on a cruise ship, or poker and blackjack in Vegas--to think it might be any different required raising your hand and asking the teacher if any of this actually happened or was common, and then he may have remembered he was supposed to give us a quiz last week, and you would have been in trouble with the class thugs, not to mention you hadn't studied. Hearing those squeaky TV stand wheels was like hearing the empty chamber click on that roulette pistol, knowing we were safe for one more day... tonight, god help us, we'd get it together and do the reading.

But of course we never did. "Click." Sometimes, Mike, when I dream, I'm back in class, still unprepared, hoping against hope those AV wheels are going to come squeaking down the hallway.


And of course we were too cool even after it was too late for the test to be administered to ask the teacher why Christopher Walken's character, Nick, becomes addicted to Russian roulette, why he plays it of his own free will, and how he possibly could survive longer than six games; the sheer absurdity of the idea that anyone could work an eight hour steel mill shift followed by 24+ hours of partying, or last more than a week on a suicide circuit, not to mention months, was accepted without comment. It must be because these guys are from Russian immigrant stock (the wedding is at a Russian Orthodox church), I figured. Russian are fearless and disturbed. Violence is in their blood like vodka; that's why it was called Russian roulette instead of, say, Polish roulette, or Central Jersey roulette. (Russians didn't invent it I later heard, it's based on a rumor of one angry moment in the life of one old Cossack general.)


Since those HS screenings I've seen the HUNTER dozens of times, each time thinking it's both better and worse than I remembered. The ambiguity of Walken's motivations on 'the RR circuit' has over the years forced a nation of film lovers to contemplate macho self-annihilation at its most terrifyingly nihilistic, for better or worse, without any rationale or explanation within the narrative. Here's what one helpul scholar notes of the film:
The roulette stands for the horror, the abjection, the reptition-compulsion, the split of subjectivity and the male body, the unwilling fratricide, the collapse of otherness and of the symbolic order. Negating the sexual gaze, the Russian roulette image transforms the Corpse into the subject of the history of defeat (Peter Lang, Defeated Masculinity: Post-Traumatic Cinema in the Aftermath of War, p. 187)

But according to the actual vets and POWs, that whole RR aspect of the story was total bullshit: there never was no such suicide circuit, either in or out of POW camps. While seeing the film in the sacred situation of high school Social Science class may have planted seeds of sexual gaze negation and defeat in our eggshell minds, it did nothing to actually tell us anything about Vietnam, which negated why it was in Social Science class to begin with.

Here's what a Vietnam war correspondent says:
I am now discovering that increasing numbers of Americans believe that the last act of the war took place in a sinister back room somewhere in Saigon, where greedy Chinese gamblers were exhorting a glazed-eyed American GI to blow his head off. Had I as a working reporter missed such a vivid human-interest story on the last day of the war, I might have opted for a similar fate.
I have found that enthusiasts are genuinely hurt when I tell them that while Vietnam had all manners of violence, including self-immolating Buddhist monks, fire-bombings, rape, deception, and massacres like My Lai in its 20 years of war, there was not a single recorded case of Russian roulette, not in the voluminous files of the Associated Press anyway, or in my experience either. The central metaphor of the movie is simply a bloody lie....

But Cimino defends his creative rights. During the filming in Thailand, he told reporters: "War is war. Vietnam is no different from the Crusades. It's a question of survival, friendship and courage, and what happens to these things in people under stress." But they didn't play Russian roulette in the Crusades either. (Peter Arnett - LA Times, via The Veteran)


Creative rights or no, it's hard to believe Nick has been playing the game nonstop through the time it takes Michael to come home from the war, hang around, move in on Nick's girl, visit folks, hunt deer, feel guilty, fly back and search for him while Saigon falls. The odds of surviving that long are probably the same as Nick winning the lottery three times in a row. Further going unmentioned for good reason is that after being released from the hospital in Saigon, Michael first spies Nick at an RR game which Michael himself is attending! Is the yen for competitive suicide so unshakable or is there just nothing else to do in Saigon? Have they tried heroin? It's soo much safer! Instead both Nick and Michael, independent of each other, find the same French promoter in a convertible parked behind the 'Mississippi' club, like he's just waiting for traumatized soldiers too zonked to care about booze, drugs and/or hookers to wander through the rear exit and get in the game, following the irregular sound of gunshots like zombies following the sound of human screams. That Frenchman must go through dozens of these shell-shocked soldiers a day, like Warren Oates with his cocks in Cockfighter.


The idea of competitive suicide is of course fascinating to the minions of places like Central Jersey, and though it wasn't 'real' in any way before The Deer Hunter, it sure is now.


TROUBLE FOR TWO (1936) features a kind of Russian roulette (It's based on Robert Louis Stevenson's story, "The Suicide Club"), wherein a group of people gather around a long table and the emcee deals cards instead of a gun. The one who draws the ace of spades kills the one who draws the jack of diamonds (not at the club, but later). Set in Victorian-era London, the club is more of a response to the stigma of suicide'as well as a condemnation of jaded  thrill-seeking. Rich young scoundrels go because it's the only thing left that's new under the sun and they've already gambled up their inheritance and are left with nothing but shame -- a shame they've no wish to expound with suicide punishable by jail time, hanging or permanent blight on your family's honor. Old people with terminal illnesses are there too, at the table every night for the dealer to pass them a tasty card.

Robert Montgomery stars as a royal prince from the continent visiting London who stumbles on the club and goes just for thrills (as a baby he once played with a lit bomb tossed in his crib by an anarchist and has been unafraid of anything since). Rosalind Russell goes to the club also, because she's spying on him. Love ensues, but the next night she draws the ace of spades and he the jack of diamonds, so they better do some declaring fast.

Of course there turns out to be reasons for all this suicide clubbing: it seems royal persons must prove their worthiness through regular bouts of courage. Luckily a gentlemen can always call on the aid of other gentlemen when it comes to scourging anarchists. And at any rate, duels, wars, anarchists and horse-related hunting accidents were common enough at the time that a young man of honor probably had a one bullet / six chambers chance of surviving into his thirties anyway. Chances for bravery came close to home, with gentlemanly pauses while the other guy picks up his dropped rapier, and a doctor standing by instead of a lot of chain-smoking VC slapping one around.

That's why the only reason the metaphor works and the only reason it doesn't kill the overall greatness of The Deer Hunter--it's not realistic but it fits the overall mode war and courage-proving in general, i.e. every time you climbed into your B-17 to bomb Berlin in 1943, or launched an attack or amphibious assault you probably had a Russian roulette trigger pull chance of surviving. But the thing is, most of thos guys didn't need to hang around the backs of German and Japanese saloons, huffing ack-ack or flame thrower exhaust from a hookah to feel alive. In this, Cimino perhaps makes the mistake of putting the masculine critique before the horse and sacrificing coherence for intensity, of trying to make it all super authentic and true by focusing on something that never actually happened.


There's nothing wrong with adding fantasy / fictional elements into war films, ala, say INGLORIOUS BASTERDS but we know from the beginning that BASTERDS isn't about war, but about war films. We presume from the beginning that THE DEER HUNTER is about war's victims, 'real people' from small American towns who play with fire and get burned, but it turns out it's not about them at all. It's about Cimino's desire to morph blue collar alcoholics into Slavic mountain gods who are then consumed and brought low by gibbering Asian devils and their own thousand yard staring contests. Suicide may be painless, but make a habit of it and you become a pain... in the ass... of valor.

Friday, June 22, 2012

LGBT Special: LOST GIRL


"You back off, or I will drop kick you into a women's studies conference."

Few things are more beautiful to me than someone 'coming out' - especially in our progress- reversing media; there's almost inevitably blowback and angst before the healing and ultimate triumph. But you can't go wrong when you reveal your true soul and that's why this parade coming this weekend is so beautiful, also AA conferences, and Psychic Kids and LOST GIRL, an adult-ish cultish show on Syfy and... wait, don't get your Boa-contagions and Arachnoquakes and Piranhacondas in an uproar, Syfy didn't make it; they imported it from Canada. And it's a reasonable-sized hit thar. As far as lesbain action chic, XENA set the bar, becoming a big lesbian favorite. (Read my analysis of the treasured Gabrielle-Xena bond here) and proving a loyal gay audience is worth risking alienating the rabidly Christian south for. And we all benefit when you take the chance.


We've come a long way since the days when if Xena and Gabrielle wanted to kiss it could only be through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or bringing a mouthful of water to one or the other dying of thirst. For LOST GIRL among other things we have an ancient creature rather like a gay art collector exhuming a gay Asian guy's ballet dancing husband to add to his collection. And Kenzie is the Gabrielle but human and straight and 'belongs' to Bo, the Succubus - as humans can only fraternize with the fae if they belong to one, like a pet. That's another of my first grade S/M fantasies come true. They all congregate at a bar (no drinking age in Canada) and big empty warehouses... "a world hidden from humans" where they play pool and flourish 'outside' the mainstream with no judgments. All you need to do is hear the opening credits voiceover from Bo: "I won't hide anymore. I will live the life I choose," to realize she's out of the closet and proud, and in refusing to pick a side, verifying the right to be bisexual in a world where both the gay and straight world often demand an either/or, but she's also verifying the credo so many of us writers and artists adopt when we realize that we're never meant to embrace either the good or the bad, or hate them, since it means the art suffers. It's a pact we all make in the dead of night when we can't sleep and suddenly find true peace in ourselves through our craft, and everything else becomes just grist for the mill, as Ram Dass would say.


What's refreshing in LOST GIRL is that the romanticizing of marriage and children is altered in a gay mythic arc which is about family-building with fellow oddballs and misfits, such as the lesbian thing where everyone has to stay friends with all their exes, so that it becomes a big chain of longing as past, present, and future girlfriends or in Bo's case girlfriends and boyfriends, such as lycanthrope cop Dyson. The casual sex indulgences of her character are explained as necessary for her to heal herself from wounds (her succubus DNA). In one episode everyone switches bodies so we have a scene of two sensitive girls bonding in the bodies of burly dudes! It don't get no better/gayer. And best of all, no children, and no biological clocks and rants about how 'ready' they are to adopt or conceive.


Overall there's a feeling of TV threadbare minimalism that I like: there's the bar, the apartment and a warehouse interior which seems to host a lot of fae functions. It all looks like those late night Cinemax action erotica movies, with mobsters and bad CGI, but you just need to look closer: listen to the clever writing; tune in to the mellow gold sense of tolerance and belonging you can grasp onto; the way all the actors have mastered their 'out' pronunciation so you can't tell their not con de estados Unidos. Knowing references abound to the sci fi canon, so if you know BLADE RUNNER by heart, you'll know when characters reference Roy Batty's death monologue or when the door to a witch's oven subliminally nods to art nouveau door in SUSPIRIA.


10 PM Saturdays on Syfy. It's not on DVD except from Canada and even then only season one (we're on season two and season three is already locked in). So ignore the dubious phrasing from Syfy that makes it seem like they made this, and ignore the occasional ill-advised forays into Diablo Cody-ish phrasemaking... and I'll see you at the parade, unless it's too hot, or I decide not to go, cuz whatever, I live in Park Slope now and hate the subways on the weekends. And I won't hide anymore.

And I will live the life I choose... I mean, can deal with...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tripumentaries: MAGIC TRIP, DMT: THE SPIRIT MOLECULE, 2012: Mayan Prophecy and Shift of the Ages, and ROBERT THURMAN ON BUDDHISM


As the age of Pisces ends, and June munches through its seed pod servings, and apocalypse-- according to nearly every ancient culture--approaches, now more than ever we must ask: Are we going to go out in style, like Slim Pickens riding his H-Bomb stallion. or like that old married couple who can't stop fighting about which way to turn even as their car goes roaring off a cliff? Pick Pickens, America, and then buckle up for these awesome flashback-inducing documentaries that explore the area where psychedelia, psychopharmacology, quantum entanglement, God and literature all mix.


I've rated them at the end of each description for saliva-thickening aspects, that aftershock, pre-trip flashback tingle when your mouth feels electric and your saliva slows to an aching crawl and your teeth start to clench, your pupils dilate and the hairs on your neck rise. It's natural, and electric, and your mileage may vary and it's sometimes annoying which is why I sometimes avoid these sorts of films, even though they are the very foundation of this blog's raison d'etre! But today, for example, being back at work I feel hungover and sad, just from the flashbacks induced by this first film:

1. Magic Trip
2011 - ***
In 1964, three years before the summer of love, an era when, as Jimi Hendrix lamented, there was only surf music on the radio, Ken Kesey, famous from Cuckoo's Nest, went on a magic bus trip with an orange juice bottle spiked with LSD, a group of friends and lovers, and speed freak Neal Cassady at the wheel. Did beauty and truth ensue? Perhaps later, but in the beginning their magic bus looks more like it's embarking on one of those early 1960s surfer journeys, as in The Endless Summer, except everyone's all buzz-cut and folkie and wearing big unflattering red and blue striped shirts and beat relic Neal Cassady seems to be like just some twisted townie ("he would never shut up") and the bus keeps breaking down, and there's endless goofing instead of fixing, so half the people--smarter girls usually--get out at the first train station and head back to their 9-5 jobs. Smart, I've often wished I could do that when band tours started out badly, but then you're left out of the myth!

But hey --there's that orange juice! The good acid is finally dispensed at an Arizona watering hole, the color 16mm film flows free and some highlights include: epiphanies at Yellowstone because of a sign that says "Beware of the Bear" ("it used to be about being aware of the bear, but now it's just beware," Kesey laments); nervous "We're the only white people here" moments at a colored beach in Louisiana; a cold welcome at the ivy league estate of Tim Leary (Albert-about-to-be-Ram-Dass is nicer though); a world's fair that imagines America as an all-white Jetsons tail-finn miracle that's already outdated by the time the pranksters pull in, the growing disenchantment with speed freak Cassady and his friend the morose drunkard Jack Kerouac (Allen Ginsberg comes off as nicer though), and so forth. Kesey explains that the drugs were "part of our American personality -- you try go down deeper in the ocean and higher in the sky - these drugs were opening us up to new landscapes."


I guess you had to be there, and twisted yourself. But that's the deal --you need to be twisted to appreciate the beauty of the Magic Trip, but you'll never be as twisted, apparently, as they were. Because--as they like to think--they broke the mold. They were doing it to discover America, and then you did it to emulate them and to emulate their speedy Zen kicks because you read Dharma Bums and it moved your assemblage point and opened your third eye. But dig, they took it as far as anyone could, so now you better sober up and just read Tom Wolfe. This because after a trumped-up pot bust got him jailed, Kesey cut a deal to play his pipe and lead the rats out of town. He decreed this all had been a test, and he and his pranksters 'graduated' and the hordes of thrill-seekers and runaway dirtbags that descended on the Haight like a plague of locusts did not pass. They should go home, go back to their parent's Christian uptight basements.

Zane Passes!

But is it really that simple? I'd vote we need to start recognizing the historical importance of today's dirty hedonists as legends in progress! Instead of putting Kesey's magic bus into a museum let's teach the kids to paint their own and go easing down the road. Why should the rantings of Kesey and company be gospel and the rantings of today just ranting. But when Kesey notes "this wasn't literature anymore, this had jumped off the pages... and onto the streets," we can snicker and believe it at the same time. Unless you ever tried it you will never know, and it's those chickens who are scared of the truth who want these drugs criminalized. "Something is happening that is so new," Kesey says, "they're scared beyond any power of reasoning." Asked whether he regretted taking acid for that Stanhope experiment that started it all, Kesey notes, "I think it's a good experience, every time you see more."

Saliva thickening: 6.666

2. DMT: The Spirit Molecule
2012 -****
Go Rick Strassman go-ooo--ohm! In case you were born in some insane dimension where all they keys to enlightenment through brain chemistry have been made into felonies for no real sane logical reason you should know Dr. Rick actually got clearance to do DMT studies by the big Health Overlords. The results? Mind-blowing of course, but inconclusive, equally of course. Is there a difference between hallucination and reality? If what you experience in the DMTverse feels a hundred times more real than our waking, consensual reality, than doesn't that mean, as quantum physics and bioverse theorists suggest, it is? Regardless, enough bad trips happened under Strassman's experiments that he now feels a little guilty. Is he a test study Pandora's box cutter, a modern messiah or an apex predator Albert Hoffman? Other heads talking include Daniel Pinchbeck and the 'other' McKenna...Dennis, and there's lots of groovy Alex Grey art and deep hallucinogen-ready kaleidoscope eyefuls.


Joe Rogan narrates, in black and white to give the illusion you're watching this in fourth grade science class, which you should be. I donated money to help get this film finished!

Saliva thickening content: 10

3. 2012: Mayan Prophecy and the Shift of the Ages
 2009 - ***
Dude! I remember this as being good, but man they do show a lot of the same stock footage of natural disasters over and over again, especially some shots of a fire bravely eating away the side of a building. I dig the use of the Terence McKenna timewave study, though, and the idea that 'inner time travel' will one day be the new back, blackly. Because it's made in 2009, they're a little more confident in their doomsaying than some of the more recent Mayan docs, and it's good that they among few other docs realize that the future lies within, not without. It may take light years to get to the next galaxy but that's only if you need to lug your body. If you can go with just your mind it takes less than no time at all.

Salvia thickening content - 3.9

4. Robert Thurman - Buddhism.
2-Part Series - ***1/2
There's big arguments between trippers and 'hardcore' Buddhists about which path is 'correct' and that drug epiphanies, meditation 'shortcuts' don't 'count.' But to me that's absurd. Even if, as they say, LSD is the helicopter ride to the roof of the mountain, and we get to look but can't stay, so what? In our ADD age, no one wants to waste their time meditating for no purpose, let them go see the mountain and be sure where there going on foot in a journey of a thousand lifetimes actually exists. That's what happened with Ram Dass, after all. And his documentary, Fierce Grace, is also on Netflix, if you want to go in that direction. And there's a Wavy Gravy documentary if you want to go in the other.  I'm still at the crossroads, hanging by my left foot. 


Because ultimately if we dabble in psychedelics we are pilgrims in search of the truth, and if the truth leads us to an ashram and we don't go in because we don't want to join a cult, then were we really pilgrims, or were we just bored? If the latter we shun the ashram with its commitments and robes and many-armed deities. We instead become addicted to the sound of helicopters, always hoping this next ride up to the top of mountain will be the one where we can get out and stay, skipping in the process all the chapters about self-discipline and humility. It's the clinging to the skids of expectation, dragging our Apocalypse Now heads through the palm trees; it's the tired feeling when you see your 300th punter waving a glow stick and saying under his breath "OmanI'mtrippin'sohard" and you feel like you're still wading in the kindergarten crayons.  Better to just jump and hope you fly, like Superman. That's what all the hysteric anti-drug crusaders think LSD makes you do anyway... 

No worries about any of that, though, or enduring any dogma, grandiosity, judgment or incoherence when listening to the great Robert Thurman. You would think an old white guy with a glass eye speaking for an hour and a half via a two camera set-up wouldn't be so riveting, but his tongue speaks much wisdom, and since it's sheathed in scholarly wit and perspective it goes down smooth as the pangs of truths you feel you used to know and just forgot, with scholarly fire replacing the usual humbler-than-thou posturing we sometimes find in non-Asian Buddhist superstars. And if you still don't think Buddhism is trippy, just realize that before she married Thurman, Uma's mom was married to... that's right.... Timothy Leary.


 Through powers of pronoia I've traced the whole Uma lineage back to benevolent Nordic alien ancestors who helped manipulate our DNA so that there could be gorgeous blonde Swedes, who helped the original Buddha clean the land of reptilian demons so humans could get a toehold, who opened up still developing human minds like the most potent of angelic wand taps. I you dare believe, and let the music leaf off the page, and new try the things, and being bewared finally dissolves so you finally become aware... of the bear.


Saliva thickening - 11.2


Monday, June 11, 2012

Love the leopard, said the redwoods


ooops... this post was published instead of 'saved' by accident... and you know how that goes, you can never undo it. You have to roll with it, grab some screenshots and hope for the best. These are lost thoughts from 2002, from before the meds and the madness, never meant for others' eyes. But since it's TWIN PEAKS, it's meta, like Laura's, like deeply personal journals found in old myspace limbo orbit, describing lurid scenarios and desperate emotions, and Alice in the Wonderland tableaux of incestuous desires, the daughter camouflaged as the queen of diamonds, the dad looming with his expensive Freudian cigar. My memories aren't quite that subconscious, but pretty close.


11/2002: If you don't heart it, it kills you.
Love the leopard as he chomps you and the pain turns into roses.
That's the dark secret of masochism, and Stockholm Syndrome, repetition compulsion disorder, survival tricks for the not fittest.



...in  bed with a cold watching Twin Peaks, the complete dvd set. The opening movie/series premiere was missing for a long time except on Japanese bootlegs. Seeing it now, restored, was like a dream come true, literally -- the show is so rife with dream symbolism that if you are in a fevered state and are prone to shamanistic near death trances then you can fall right into it like a rabbit hole. At one point this guy who is shot and dying is watching a TV show where a guy is shot and dying. I wasn't shot but you do the math, just don't do it too close or you'll be the next face looking into the bullet cracked mirror.


Season two starts and you sense a slight slippage of gears. You have to remember that this sleepy little brain twister of a series was suddenly a HUGE hit and everyone was wondering who killed Laura Palmer the way they used to wonder about who killed J.R. Seeing it now you can tell from the start that the killer's identity is not meant to be the crux of the show. Instead its a myth awash in mist and logging dream symbolism. Obviously the answer is you killed Laura Palmer, as you are integrated into the events as a disembodied spectator and all characters you encounter are aspects of a single psyche. Isn't this true of all narratives? Well yes but don't pack up your fractals just yet... because once the John Q. Public takes an interest things have to get nailed down into pointless concrete cross of dogma. Suddenly characters are extra weird because the masses demmand it, weird as an empty signifier rather than as a surreal finger pointing towards archetypal depths. Guest stars show up. There's a shark and a fonz needs to jump it. Only this time it's not a shark, it's a woodcutter, and he's coming out of the Pacific Northwest to sell you coffee.


The girls of Twin Peaks were all so beautiful and vulnerable and rare and sweet and everyone had their favorite. Mine was Madchen Amick and Sherilyn Fenn... there were so many, and through that burnt lipstick, rose-tinted wood paneling, old-growth forest and steaming coffee, sweaters and plaid skirts haze we all had favorites.

Starbucks followed in Twin Peaks' log-strewn wake along with Nirvana and me coming east from Seattle after losing Paula to a man twice her age. I remember watching the show while boomeranging on my parents couch, looking for jobs (shh) by day. In those early empty days of the unformed 90s we all were either coming from or going towards the Pacific Northwest.


Somewhere in this building someone is cooking turkey and biscuits or chicken or mashed potatoes or all that crap. I have nothing against food, but smelling that oven steam-damp, sickeningly wholesome American family smell makes me think I'm back in the suburbs, upstairs in my room, while mom makes dinner. This is the smell I've gone to great lengths to avoid, and yet if follows me like a bad dream. I deliberately steer clear of thanksgivings. It's the smell of white meat, stuffing, and gravy and insipid tabletalk chatter, the tedium of televised sports and talk of jobs, wallpaper, school tomorrow, engine troubles, and church picnics, careers I should look into.

I suppose to be free of this disgust I must embrace it, but all boys need to have fully divested from it first if they are ever to be men. And I wonder.... I search my body for invisible threads of umbilical apron web and wonder...  (11/07)


12/2:
Imagine if you were going to take a trip to ..Europe.. and when you got there you would have total amnesia. You knew this in advance, and it's part of the package - like TOTAL RECALL. What would you do? How would you work it to make you stay rewarding? Would you send a bunch of documents to yourself? what if you were going to be so amnesiac you'd be reborn and speaking another language? You'd never even know where to send the documents! Maybe you'd put them in a safety deposit box and give your daughter the key and tell her, 'these are for your great grandson.'  But by the time you got around to reading them a few centuries later, their whole meaning would be lost. You carve the message into thick rock, on giant pyramids, so it will last the millennia it takes to come back and pick up where you left off.

.. ..So you figure you need to 'show' your future self some shit, so it will be ready to hear what the documents got to say when it's time for the documents to be opened. So you arrange it so that at 13 you get hit on the head with a hammer, at 24 you fall in love but the girl rejects you -- you carve out a space of time in your future life where you will have no friends and no food, all just to be able to get you to take these documents seriously. Maybe after all that, it still wont work. You're a stubborn son of a gun, and you need to respect that. You have to communicate with this stubborn future self via obscure signs, so it takes the future you a couple days to figure out what you meant, because you know you like to solve stuff. This is why you're doing the trip in the first place, to occupy yourself... to complete a circle, like a jigsaw puzzle - once it's put together, what do you do now? You shake it up and start again, and if you could you would erase the memory of having done it the first time - why not, since it makes it more fun?


1/2

A movie that has nothing whatsoever to do with god and eternity will have more eternity in it than a film about this exact subject. Why? Because to truly understand it is to forget it, lest you remember you aren't on a path so much as cleaning a very dirty window, painted over with layers of polarized enamel through the ages, caked with soot, hardened lava, and cobwebs... through which the godhead sun is trying to shine at you As you scrape through the layers of paint and varnish you come across skeletons of issues unresolved: the time your little brother got you grounded cause he made you hit him, for example. You see how this hatred emerged as a negation of any love you might feel for people in your life who resembled or talked like your brother. You see the thousand severed tendrils of possibility that resulted, so much happiness you threw away because you couldn't forgive his smells. No retreating into a false womb of guilt and regret now, that's for suckers. Look the world in the eye and admit defeat. Throw down your tendril-shearing sword of censorship and instead pick up the rosined bow of music and its endless variations. Scrape madly at the hardened tendrils that do blacken up this strange and ancient window. A window that is also a mirror, you see, as you get down to the last few layers of gook.

.. ..When the window is finally clear, what then? There are some who soon grow reddened from being unused to the glare, and so they find a nice thin enamel to spread over the pane. Just enough you understand, to keep out the gamma rays. But what you didn't know was the gamma rays had the vitamin of remembering. You've already forgotten that the layer is even there, or was to be removed when the sun went down, and now everyone thinks it's just part of the window and won't let you remove it even if you want to. They say you'll burn to death from the rays. Finally you agree that the layer isn't there, that this is as clear as it gets and when the holy window cleaning lady comes by to try and scrape the layer off, you get so mad you burn her; you burn her eyes, just to prove that she is wrong about fire.




Sunday, June 10, 2012

Behold with awe, and weep: THE UNDEAD (1957) Fleams Streely!


My favorite Corman movie, I love Charles B. Griffith's and Marc Hana's droll script, and Corman's dream poetry econo-direction, the array of sexy or otherwise awesome performances; I love the feeling of flowing poetic weirdness that it can only come from being shot in sequence over one long night in a single empty supermarket, full of black toxic mist to disguise the barren cheapness (and it was!). You'd think it would satisfy itself with being just one thing, but there's a lot going on here: two witches, demon midgets who turn into leftover bat props from IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, and Satan and his dancing ghoul girls!


Meant to tie in to the then-craze for reincarnation (set in motion by the popularity of the Bridey Murphy story), Pamela Duncan is hypnotized to travel through the sea of time to her past lives, but she ends up derailing the Grand Scheme of Things when she's able to whisper advice to her about-to-be-beheaded for witchcraft Middle Ages incarnation. When her prior self escapes the axe thank to her future self's tip, her loyal suitor and the palace guards give chase and the hypnotist joins her in the past to try and correct the matter. I saw this when very young on TV and the scene were Duncan seeks shelter at the witch's house is to me the eternally definitive Halloween moment, Neumann the definitive witch. She's a good witch, despite her crooked nose (putting to rest the libelous claim of Glenda in OZ that "only bad witches are ugly"), and I love the casual way she asks the stranger at her door "Are you from this era or from a time yet to be?" as if hypnotists from the future were not uncommon. Maybe they're not! Maybe the guardian angels we sometimes think we have are just our distant future selves slipping us hot tips at definitive moments via whatever time travel-hypnosis tools are available in time yet to be. I'd love to travel into the distant past of THE UNDEAD since Alison Hayes is awesome as the va-va-Voom-level hot bad witch with eyes on Pamela's man and I'm sure I could lure her away with my manly knowledge of photoshop.

See it here, free, courtesy AMC!



 http://www.amctv.com/b-movies/videos/the-undead

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Sex, Drugs and Quantum Existentialism: The Acidemic STAR TREK Short Guide

She-Hulk Prototypes, top: Susan Olvier - Unaired pilot / Bottom: Yvonne Craig - season 3
Regardless of the stigma of being a "Trekkie," the first three seasons of the original Star Trek are awesome. Eternally relevant, airing between 1967-9 then being canceled; the effect they had as reruns on a generation of kids in the 70s, myself included, cannot be measured. Together the episodes of the original series stand as a bastion of free love, unabashed intellectual dialogue and giddy overacting laser-welded to Mad Men-style sex, groovy uniforms, 3-D wall sculpture art, wondrous psychedelic drugs, space diseases, mind melds, and the terrifying prospect of having all your earthly desires met, thus killing your ambition and forcing Kirk to make speeches about how we... need.... challenges.... to evolve. Is that the real reason drugs are illegal, Kirk? He has a point and yet there are a lot of things worse than spending whole weekends coming down off shrooms, smoking weed and watching marathons of this show, especially as the first seasons are all Netflix streaming in what appears to be remastered, enhanced high-definition. It would reflect a substandard intelligence not to grab a summer internship on the Starship Enterprise and if you don't have it, get Netflix streaming... the future is written, as it must be, by a show from the past remastered with 21st century technology and flowing to your screen in astounding bitrates.


Sure there are issues to take umbrage with: everyone in the galaxy speaks English and all planets have breathable atmosphere, or domes, the citizens open to philosophical debates, class warfare, chess, and often the proud owners of pointy beards; each planet can be traversed within a few matte paintings and some purple-lighted rock walls. But why is this bad? Space helmets are hard to mike, endless translations, subtitles, and interpreters between alien races would get tedious, and I'll take the deep red skies and purple-lit rock formations of studio-bound sets for my alien planet landscapes over elaborate CGI spectacularism or mundane Bronson Canyon backdrops any day.

If you're ready to come along with me on this journey here's a few highly Acidemic episodes I'd recommend:

"Miri" displays an alternate earth that froze way back in the 1960's, leaving the planet a ghost town (the architecture is referred to as 'ghastly' by the ever-cranky Bones), populated only by a handful of dirt-faced scamps chanting "Bop Bop!" as they pound the table, referencing the Freaks chant "one of us, one of us!" The lead kid (far left) skeeved me out so much that I hated the Bowery Boys forever.

"Miri" was and is the benchmark for all American Lord Fly Amok movies, such as Children of the Corn. If you were a kid in the 70's you know this kid and he still scares you. Bop! Bop! (Postscript: for more amok tribes of kids see CinemArchetype 23)


"The Cage," was the original pilot, with Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Pike, running the Enterprise with a whole different crew / cast (Leonard Nimoy's Spock aside) and costume color scheme. Their velour chalk blue uniforms with khaki green collars (above) are a perfect antidote to anyone who winces at the sight of the primary color-coordinated outfits to come and there's a sexy plot wherein Pike is abducted by crazy baldheads and urged to mate with a hottie (Susan Oliver) who appears in many seductive scenarios (including the green sexpot atop). Shades of Kilgore Trout!

 Of course the era's sexism is a recurring problem: the retro future seems to have ignored what was soon to be known as 'women's lib.' The ladies wear mini-dresses and are all either young and gorgeous or appearing young and gorgeous through space age trickery. That said, the casual sexuality that floods the show carries none of the draconian nu-PC moral crusader thug age stigma it does today, and many a growing lad such as myself had his first dose of hormones carbonized by Susan Oliver and/or Yvonne Craig as green dancing girls, or Mariette Hartley (left) as a woman stranded out of time and compelled to dress in very revealing furs, in season 3's "All our Yesterdays," which also features a library consisting solely of metal discs that are wayyy too much like our modern DVDs too not be eerily prophetic.

And in addition to being hip about sexy, the show is hip about drugs: "The Naked Time" finds the gang wrestling with an inhibition-lowering, mania-inducing disease that acts like meth or coke: Spock gets it on with the nurse and Sulu and shows off his Bruce Lee chest and fencing moves. Soon the whole ship is going to the blazes!

 

"This Side of Paradise" finds Kirk the only member of the crew not bewitched by space poppies. Everyone who beams down on this certain Edenic planet becomes too happy and content to do anything but loll around in the sun and love one another. Kirk tries to convince them they need goals and challenges to evolve as people, but they're too busy digging the flowers; it's not until he stirs their more violent emotions that they snap out of it. And though you can argue both sides, which is to the script's credit, it's one of the earliest examples of Kirk seeming a killjoy, especially when Spock gets the closing line: "For the first time in my life, I was happy."


Incidentally, the idea of interstellar space plant that makes you trip out and tap into the joy of the universe is very reminiscent of Terence McKenna's theories on the psilocibe cubensis mushroom spores: 
What the mushroom says about itself is this: that it is an extraterrestrial organism, that spores can survive the conditions of interstellar space. They are deep, deep purple – the color that they would have to be to absorb the deep ultraviolet end of the spectrum. The casing of a spore is one of the hardest organic substances known. The electron density approaches that of a metal. Is it possible that these mushrooms never evolved on earth? That is what the Stropharia cubensis itself suggests...

 I couldn’t figure out whether the mushroom is the alien or the mushroom is some kind of technological artifact allowing me to hear the alien when the alien is actually light-years aways, using some kind of Bell nonlocality principle to communicate. The mushroom states its own position very clearly. It says, “I require the nervous system of a mammal. Do you have one handy?”(More)
Dude, here's a genius physicist talking trans-galaxial travel with a sentient mushroom! That is so Trek, and if you've shroomed maybe you've heard the Bell nonlocality alien sentience, but alas, Kirk, ever paranoid, responds to the ''threat' by getting rid of the pods instead of bringing them to hospitals where they can surely cure any type of life threatening disease and prepare the terminally ill to face death with dilated eyes wide to the mystery. Drug War! All you have to do is imagine the countless chemo-therapy sufferers slowly dying miserable nausea-related deaths because their home state wont let them have medical marijuana, and there you go... when will the old power lizards let us evolve into spore-lifted butterflies already?


If you dig the show Ancient Aliens, Gnosticism, or the mad writings of Phillip K. Dick or David Icke you'll want to be sure and study episode 62, "Way of the Dove," an examination of an Archon-like malignant alien force feeding off the hate and violence it provokes in others. More ancient astronaut theory is indirectly explored in #31:" Who Mourns for Adonais?" wherein Apollo, an advanced laurel leaf-sporting alien from Earth's distant past, abducts the Enterprise crew so they can worship him. The complex idea of 'fourth dimensional' existence as occurring at a higher frequency, or speed, than our eyes can see is masterfully concretized in "Wink of an Eye," (#66, co-starring Herb "Brain that Wouldn't Die" Ankers, dressed like a masochist houseboy) and of course there's the eerie similarity the Gorn ("Arena" - left) has with the daemonic reptilians of my best and truest hallucinations.

Herb Evers, Kathie Browne - "Wink of an Eye"
An episode that would be great to watch as a come-down after a double feature of Woodstock and Gimme Shelter would be #75, "The Way to Eden," wherein a group of space hippies work various angles to convince the Enterprise crew to take them through forbidden space to an allegedly pristine planet named Eden. The hippies include Charles Napier on space guitar inviting Spock to sit in and jam with the flower people!
As Wiki notes: The group is impressed by First Officer Spock, who understands their philosophy. Spock makes an oval "symbol of peace" hand gesture and simply says: "One." The group responds with the same gesture: "We are one." They ask Spock: "Are you One, Herbert?" Spock replies that he is not Herbert, and Adam declares: "He's not Herbert. We reach!"
We reach, man! We reach man! Dig, take the comma away and man is reached, and then man reaches woman. It's all about connection, and that's something Star Trek is keenly aware of, which is why perhaps it's so cult-ready. We science fiction fans tend to relate to feeling isolated, and it's lonesome out in space or home alone on a Saturday night with our TV on (and all the house lights left up bright). In the first season especially, loneliness seems to be the over-arching symptom of the galaxy, but its never sad or lonesome on the Enterprise. When the Enterprise drops in on old friends it's like coming back to a ghost town, the one or two beings they encounter invariably want to force the Enterprise to stay. Anyone who's ever had a real bad trip can relate to dying of loneliness in a matter of minutes, "with not even a tormentor for company." Weird aliens, lonesome in their blues, try to abduct the Enterprise, possess its crew, or challenge them to duels, and it's all very much like a cult. Cults were a big part of the 60s-70s, Trekkism is a cult, and it's also a good metaphor for the healing hand of television reaching into our suburban isolation but--especially in the days before VHS--impossible to capture. We could only watch shows when they were on the air. The Enterprise never overstayed its slender time slot. If we missed it, we missed it, until its rerun orbit completed one full revolution.  There was no way to recapture the magic, let alone all three seasons in one click on an 'add to instant cue' button... truly the future is better than Rodenberry could have imagined.


Alas, as the series progressed things got a little more intentionally campy and laden with Wild Wild West-style anachronism: cowboys, Indians, centurions, Chicago mobsters, Nazis, enslaved working class miners, dandy fops, Abe Lincoln, comic relief tribbles, and that space scoundrel Harold Mudd. All had their day and prop room dusting.  As a kid I appreciated those nods to my generation, for Star Trek never coddles or talks down (is there any show that even comes close today, as far as allowing its characters to be uniformly brilliant and analytical?) and in its even-sided examinations of the problems humanity struggles with it's still as timely as retro-futurism can ever been (or has is?). Some episodes are fairly comical, but none are terrible. None are dumb,


The Trek has the future on its side, a new kind of future, explored not in outer space but in the simulacrum of our collective screen. Only here, where the trappings of escapism help us examine truths otherwise unbearable, can we truly escape our prison orbit.

One day digital media will progress past the point of screens altogether and we'll all be able to go go back to "The Menagerie" just like the burned-out Jeffrey Hunter, first by watching that unaired pilot from the safety of our paralysis (left) and then 'for real' in that special way only big-headed aliens can provide, I hope, because green women are damn hard to find, even in NYC.