Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I spent nearly all of the last day of 2011 with The Doctor: the two final episodes of Christopher Eccleston's ninth doctor, and the first two of David Tennant's tenth.
Yeah, I broke down and bought the lot.
Matt Smith is still my current Doctor of Choice, and Stephen Moffat, the current head writer, is simply the best thing ever to happen to Doctor Who, but I wanted to watch Moffat's earlier episodes on something other than my computer, and I wanted to see how it began, and how it evolved -- And the price was right. I wouldn't have paid fifty to seventy dollars a set for these, believe you me.
I give credit to Russell T Davies where it is due; he's a workmanlike writer and he managed to update the series in a way that really caught on with viewers. But I really dislike all the traveling companions that he created (OK, Rose has some good qualities when you get to know her better, but I hate her frowzy bleach-blonde hair and her Cockney accent and the fact that she's just nineteen. I hate her stupid boyfriend and I hate her Cockney mother.) -- and all of the best episodes during his tenure as head writer were scripted by others.
"Dalek" and the WW2 two-parter by Stephen Moffat are smashing examples. This is where the show really takes off. We get to see what one single Dalek can do against a whole army, and we get the first taste of Gothic Horror that oftentimes flavored the classic series.
Christopher Eccleston seems, on the face of it, to be an odd choice for the Doctor, but he's quite good. I ended up liking him a lot. He evokes Tom Baker's manic Doctor, and the gruffness of William Hartnell and adds a scruffy arrogance of his own.
Davies isn't nearly as refined a writer as Moffat, nor as clever, and he's kind of coarse at times (farting aliens? Please!) -- but this is recognizably Doctor Who, streamlined and given the production values it always lacked, and at its best it's great TV.
But just two episodes into the second season, I can already see it going a bit pear-shaped. I like Tennant as the Doctor, but he's barely in the first episode ("The Christmas Invasion"), which, without the Doctor's presence, plays more like a downmarket version of Independence Day. Torchwood is already being mentioned, and the supporting cast is starting to grow. Based on what I've seen of season four, by the time it gets to that stage there are so many other characters getting so much attention that the Doctor is reduced to being a supporting character in his own show!
It was the best possible thing (and the kindest thing that he could do for incoming producer Moffat) to finally strip away all that dead weight and produce one final "season" of one-off specials that featured the Doctor traveling alone. In effect, he pressed the "reset" button so that Moffat could come in and work his magic.
There's one other thing about the Davies iteration (and one that Moffat has expanded upon) that vaguely bothers me. It's what conservatives would call his "Gay Agenda." But introducing Gay characters is not what I'm having some difficulty facing. It's the introduction -- rather, the acknowledgement -- of sex at all! The classic series never, ever acknowledged that people have a sexual instinct. The closest one got to an acknowledgement of sex on the classic series was probably Leela's leather bikini! I'm not saying that it shouldn't have been done (but thank goodness the Doctor himself is still chaste). It's just that for an old fan it takes a little bit of getting used to! Hank Panky -- in the TARDIS! I'm shocked! Shocked!
I'd never heard of this before, but it's apparantly real: Today is Good Riddance Day! This is something that we need! Although, if I were to set all my anxieties, grievances, fears and regrets on fire, I might inadvertantly end up torching half the neighborhood. If I had to narrow it down to one thing that I could put through the shredder and be done with forever after, it would be this: Grief.
Back in my younger days, my friend BC introduced us to an annual tradition he'd invented, called a "Year Burning." Everyone brought a calendar with them, and we threw it in the fireplace and theraputically watched the dates blacken, curl and disintegrate into ash. In effect, we said "Good Riddance" to that Damn Year, and told ourselves that the next one would be better.
I kept up the tradition for several years until I realized that the new year is NEVER any better and sometimes it's a good deal worse. The ones that you burned start to look good by comparison.
For some time I've considered coloring my hair snow white. I'm going grey anyhow, and I figured what the hell? Might as well go all the way, right? What I had was just mousy and undistinguished. So during the holiday weekend I gathered all the products I'd bought secretly and separately, disappeared into my bathroom and began my bold plan to remake myself for the next era.
I read all the instructions. I did everything right.
You can see it coming, can't you? If I can possibly find a way to humiate myself publically, I do. I came out of the process looking like a tall, plump munchkin. My hair is now orangey yellow, like a member of the Lollypop Guild. Honestly, I look like I drank a bottle of Grecian Formula.
Go ahead and laugh. I can be a sport about it now. Nothing I can do but wait for it to grow out and then never, ever do that again!
I need to get me one of those little angels to sit on my shoulder. Every time I got a Supposedly Great Idea, the angel could whisper into my ear, "Don't DO it, putz! PLEASE don't do it. You KNOW that you ruin everything you touch. There's nothing wrong with mousy."
Typing of re-making myself, Christmas was at least good for one thing this year: It proved to me conclusively that I still don't know who in the hell I am anymore.
Recently, I have made Advances and Retreats in the area of Being Social. I make a bold move; then I run for the hills, duck and cover, hide in cringing embarrassment.
After the four days off surrounding Christmas, I now understand why. Once upon a time, I knew who I was. I wrote two novels and enough short stories to fill a book. I was finally getting back in gear with a third novel, some one my best work to date. I had a website going and for at least two years I made deadline with significant installments of TWO online comic strips. I was a bustle of activity, I was. Life was good-ish. "Ish" because I wasn't a terrible success for all that work.
Then it all fell apart. And I know now that I haven't gained anything back. Over the four days of Christmas Holiday, I literally did not know what to do with myself. I don't know who I am anymore.
I can't inflict myself on a woman in this condition. A man seeking a partner needs to know what he is about, to be a Real Person with hopes, aspirations and goals.
This holiday weekend showed me that I am far away from that point. The job in front of me now is simply: Become a Real Boy.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Gah. Christmas Day was one long, severe bout of anxiety punctuated by tears. My father and his wife called around noon and we made small talk for five minutes or so. When I hung up the phone I unexpectedly burst into tears all over again.
I had spent Christmas Eve with Laurel and Hardy in Pack Up Your Troubles, and that went down well, so on Christmas afternoon I tried fighting fire with even bigger guns and put on the Marx Brothers in Monkey Business. Alas, I seem to have gone off the Marx Brothers completely.
At first it was funny and I laughed out loud in a couple of places. . . I still love Harpo chasing women all over the ship, and it's something that you wouldn't be able to get away with in a movie today. But then it was more of the same and more of the same, and it seemed endless, and I nearly fell asleep on it. Finally I shut it down and went to putter around in the kitchen.
I decided on an early dinner, not so much because I was hungry (although I was), as because I knew that my rationed two drinks that I allow myself with dinner would help with the anxiety that was still digging its claws in my chest.
I cooked up some asparagus and a big batch of chicken wings for me, and a breast for the quats. I ate every damn one of those wings, too. They turned out well this time.
After dinner it was a matter of killing time, resuming my project of duping old VHS onto DVD and playing a round of the Hell's Kitchen computer game until 9:00 PM, when the only Big Event of the day was due to premiere: This year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.
I thought it got off to a bit of a rocky start. But once we got past the ridiculous bit of The Doctor somehow surviving a fall to earth from outer space, it turned lovely quite quickly. When he tries to return a favor to a British war widow in the early days of WWII, it all goes pear-shaped rather quickly and this time it's not the Doctor who saves the day.
It was exciting and interesting and sweet, but in the end its sentiment about the Power of Mums (that's Mothers to us Americans, not flowers!) came in a little below the belt for me and set me off all over again. In this case, this mother actually succeeds in bringing her fighter pilot husband back from the dead, guiding his plane back along the time corridor. Happy Christmas, indeed.
But not for me.
Today has been much better, dramatically better. The anxiety has been little more than a mild background noise, and I haven't teared up at all, except a little bit, just now, writing about the widow's Happy Ending. I won't need to have an early dinner.
My kitties are all settled in front of the fire. It's time for me to whip up a late lunch and join them there.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Last year at this time there was no room for reflection. My days off were filled with the move. This year it's awfully quiet by comparison, and I'm trying not to let that get to me, but I've already been in tears once today and I expect it won't be the last. Sending a holiday greeting out to friends and especially my uncle and aunt was unexpectedly tough. I got through Thanksgiving all right, but Christmas is a different sort of holiday and there's no escaping the fact that my kitties are all I've got.
My lawyer sent me a card wishing me, in part, "All that your heart might desire," and that kind of cuts to the chase. When my friends C_____ and S_______ brought me a cake on my birthday and told me to make a wish, I couldn't think of anything. Not one single thing. I had to pretend. I'm still empty inside.
When I'm done here, I'm going to whip up a snack and settle down to watch Laurel & Hardy in their second feature film, Pack Up Your Troubles. I expect a cat or two to join me. Guess I couldn't wish for more than that on Christmas Eve.
Happy Happy, Merry Merry, and thanks for taking the trouble of reading my blog. No matter what holiday you celebrate at this time of year, make it a memorable one!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
One year ago today, I grabbed up my pussycats one by one and clutched them to my chest, ever so tightly, so that none could get away from me, and slagged through my snow-filled front yard, the yard I knew like it was a part of me for having shared it for more than 35 years, and one by one stuffed them in the car. They screamed and cried. Whitey crawled under the passenger seat and hunched and clutched the carpet with his claws. I had made -- for me -- a Bold Decision to move the family into the New House, before it was ready for Prime Time, but also before the Old House became such a bare and horrible place that living in it was unbearable.
So began four months of busting my butt to make life bearable again, to make a new home.
Acclimating the cats to the new place proved to be even harder than acclimating myself. It was horrible at first.
It's all here on the blog. It was an experience that I would liken -- frivolously, because my life was never at stake -- to being plopped down in the middle of a land war.
Tonight I stood in the bay window at the side of my house and looked out on the neighborhood. A HOME that I am comfortable and happy in stood behind me.
We lost another Family Member along the way. But the survivors are comfy and safe. Even content.
There's still work to do. I am not where I want to be in terms of reclaiming my life as a creative person. But -- in the year just passed? It was unreasonable of me to beat myself up for failing in that regard, when I had so much infrastructure to rebuild.
But now the launch pad is built. To deeply mix my metaphors, I've begun weaving the cocoon. I need to stop whipping myself, and give myself the slack to re-develop. These things don't happen overnight.
Something in looking back at where I was a year ago at this time makes me think that it can possibly, maybe, be done...
PS -- The Green Children. Check 'em out. Good music for a rebirth.
And now, the War in Iraq is officially declared over. It seems quite arbitrary to me. If they were able to end it so suddenly now (and not one nanosecond before President Obama needed it to live up to at least one campaign promise), why couldn't it have happened sooner?
I'm one of those people who believed that we never should have gone there in the first place. Iraq had done nothing to us. W. was so smug and so certain that "Shock and Awe" would have the nation on its knees, begging for mercy, that it would all be over in a few days. When has that ever happened?
The loss of life associated with the Iraq war seems particularly shameful to me. Our soldiers were led to believe that they were fighting in Iraq for "our freedom." They were not. Our freedom was never in jeopardy, except when the Bush administration started doing things like creating the Patriot act and eavesdropping on civilians. Was Saddam Hussein a bad guy? Yes, obviously. But it wasn't any of our business to go in there and kill tens of thousands of people to get rid of him. As other countries in the region have proved during this long summer of protest, when the people get angry enough, they can topple their own kingpins with much greater efficiency.
I join the President in welcoming the soldiers home. They never should have had to go. What did we accomplish in Iraq? What was it all for?
It's common knowledge that in New England, we talk about the weather. A lot. Possibly because it's it's less contentious than talking about politics, except when it comes down to those weirdoes out there who actually like snow. They must be Republicans.
So far, this winter has been a lot more benign than most, and certainly more so than the one we had last year. That changed quite suddenly yesterday as a cold front pushed through and temps dropped from the high forties and low fifties into the high teens. A sudden shift like that is almost harder to take than a long stretch, and it must be particularly hard on the animals living outdoors. The ground tightens up quickly like a clenched fist. As I walked out on my deck this morning, it creaked and moaned underneath me. Recently, I've been able to turn the gas fire off at night without the indoor temperature dropping below 60. Last night it ran all night long, and never got above 64 in the place. I expect that the oil furnace will kick in today, for the first time this winter.
It had to happen, sooner or later. We've been fortunate up to now.
The prospect of Newt Gingrich as Republican front runner has me alternately horrified and pleased. Republicans profess to hate Government, yet they're leaning towards a man who is as deeply intrenched in Government as they come. But he's also an Arrogant Ass, and that's a quality they seem to admire. In Maine, our new Republican governor is as Arrogant an Ass as they come, and he sweetens the pot by also being a delusional, ignorant loudmouth.
I shudder to think of Gingrich in the Oval Office, but then I look at the pack of candidates, and, really, there isn't a single one that doesn't make me shudder! A part of me does want to say to Republicans, go ahead, give Mr. Gingrich the nomination, please! Please give the nomination to someone like him who can't possibly get elected!
But I don't want to jinx the nation. I said the same exact thing about W., and look at what happened. . .
Friday, December 16, 2011
I keep hearing that printed-on-paper books are becoming extinct and will, in very short order, be replaced by e-books. I guess the folks that are saying it are the same ones that predicted that television would kill off movie theaters. Television certainly changed the industry and presented it with some big challenges, but look around you: the movie theaters are still here (and you should go to one to see Hugo!). I didn't originate this observation, but it bears repeating: we tend not to throw away old tech, but to add new technologies on to what we have.
The thing that killed Borders (well, in part) was mismanagement. I happen to know that interest in paper books isn't going away anytime soon, and sales are not in decline. I help run a bookstore, and am the book buyer for the place. Paper books are under attack from so many directions (even by the people who publish them!) that it's kind of remarkable that the market is as strong as it is.
The thing that's happening is that our share of the market (and by "our" I mean all brick-and-mortar stores) is dwindling by the year. It's not going to e-books (I count that, and I bet most businesses do, too, as an additional revenue stream). It's going to Jeff Bezos.
Amazon changed the whole equation for book lovers. When I was growing up and well into my adulthood, you never thought twice about paying retail for a book. It was just one of those things. Sale books have always been strong, but if you wanted something new you just paid retail for it.
Amazon has created a whole new mind-set: now people know that they don't have to pay retail price for books, and they don't want to, and I don't blame them. Amazon caused us all to believe that if you pay retail for a book, that makes you a sucker.
I didn't feel this way until recently, but it does amount to unfair competition. As many others have pointed out, Amazon's not making money on books anymore, it's using them as a loss-leader. Brick-and-mortar stores can't afford to do that.
But the thing that Jeff Bezos did last week really crosses the line. It's so far over the top that I honestly thought it was a hoax at first. Amazon is now using its customers to spy on retail stores, and rewarding them with discounts. Their selling point is that they are doing it to help keep prices low. This, all by itself, is a Big Lie. They're doing it to see how high they can raise their prices while still under-selling brick-and-mortar stores!
Now, I'm somewhat of a hypocrite because I'm an Amazon customer (although I mostly buy DVDs from them, which I can not get locally). People who work in bookstores don't have a lot of disposable cash. But this latest thing is so underhanded that it's driving home the "buy local" message even to me.
In the early days I liked Amazon because it was smart, spunky, convenient, and because it didn't replace bookstores. But through this and other strong-arm tactics that he's taken to using in recent years, it's clear that Jeff Bezos has joined Darth Vader on the dark side of the force and is trying to hammer all small business into the ground. Amazon may have been a genius idea at one time, but now it's being run by an Evil genius. And, y'know -- maybe it was that way all along.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Today I actually climbed the stairs to my "studio" (a guest bedroom where I've set up my drawing table and supplies) and, for the first time, used it for its intended purpose. I have not worked on my scrapbook of the old house in over a year, and have not looked at it much in all that time. Today I sat down and began to finish it.
I only worked about ninety minutes, but that was more than what I expected. I'd expected to just look through the book and re-acquaint myself with it. Instead, right away I saw things that needed doing, and soon I was adding photographs and captions and clips. You know that you're doing something when the wastebasket begins to fill up.
Honey found me and sat on my lap, and unlike when I'm trying to write here at the computer, having her there didn't interfere. I discovered that I did a very good job of setting up the room: everything was close to hand, everything had its place, the work went smoothly.
Last year at this time, the old house was an open wound. Now, the new house is so much my home that looking at pictures of the old place does not hurt nearly as much. It seems like a distant fantasy world. I wonder how we managed to live there.
This was just the beginning. I have a lot of work left to do on this project, but resuming it felt really good. And it's just the first of what I hope will be many projects.
Having spent a little time in my "studio" at long, long last, and discovered that it really is the bright, congenial place to work that I had hoped it would be, I'm optimistic -- at least a little bit -- about getting back to work again, for the first time in longer than I care to think about.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
My first thought was that Bourdain was most similar to a Super-Powered blogger who, unlike bloggers, actually provides information of value -- but, really, am I ever going to make it to Singapore or even South Beach? How can the information possibly be of actual value to someone like me, marooned on my own virtual Desert Island? The most telling moment so far in Bourdain's new series The Layover comes when he's chowing down on Deluxe Dogs and Deluxe Coctails in an exclusive little hole-in-the-wall, and he looks straight into the camera and says, "You're not getting in here. It's pretty much certain that you're not getting in here."
So, by definition, the only real value in Bourdain's shows lies in providing masochists and armchair travelers like me with a bit of vicarious punishment. Granted, I wouldn't eat some of the things that he eats, but then, as a likely case of Asperger's, my palette is almost notoriously bland. I didn't graduate to the milder forms of Mexican food until I was in my forties. It doesn't mean that I can't enjoy learning about Street Foods of The World on an intellectual level.
To be able to go anywhere and eat anything that's put in front of you, to be relaxed enough and comfortable enough in your own skin to speak confidently to absolutely anyone, that must be a Wonderful Thing.
I've traveled enough to know that travel is exhausting, fraught with difficulties, and sometimes dangerous. So if Mr. Bourdain sometimes looks pained or tired, that's to be expected. I don't feel sorry for him. He's like James Bond without the running, punching and shooting. Sounds like a Perfect Life to me.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
I won't belabor the point, but everyone, everyone, should absolutely get out and see Hugo. For reasons I won't get into, it needs to be seen at a Movie Theater, on a Big Screen. Don't wait for the DVD. See it in 3D or see it flat (although I will say that this is what 3D was made for, and Scorcese uses it better than anyone else ever has), but see it.
I watched it through a haze, with tears running down my face. I can't promise that you will have the same reaction, but then I feel intensely connected to the material for a number of reasons.
First, years before Brian Selznick published his wonderful book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, upon which Scorcese based his film, I mined the same material for a short story. You can see it here. The animations and design that really bring it to life are by Farak Ulay. Please take a few minutes and check it out. It's not a long piece. You might want to wait until after you've seen Hugo, though. Spoilers ahead. See it, then come back and follow the link.
Among the very few critics who have actually panned this movie, one of them said something to the effect of "Scorcese shouldn't have waited until he was seventy to make his first Kid's Film."
I want to throttle that person. Hugo is anything but a Kid's Movie. It's for adults who can remember what it is like to be a child, but who have lived long enough to experience loss. And it's for young people, meant to turn a key and open a door in their minds that will allow them to explore avenues that lead, down crooked streets and narrow hallways, to places and people far away from the relentlessly contemporary.
Even though I knew the details of the plot ahead of time, I was entirely drawn in to the deep mystery that this movie creates. Most people who see the film will not recognize the name of the man played by Ben Kingsley, but even if you do, you will not be disappointed in the way the fictional story folds itself in and around reality, like film through sprockets.
I don't want to throw a lot of words at this. Just go. It will make you a better person. It will make you realize that you never know who the people that you meet in life used to be.
Just one more thing: Even here, in Hugo, Martin Scorcese has made a film that forced me to look away from the screen and to literally shake and cringe and squeeze into the bottom of my seat. I am genuinely afraid of heights. When you see it, you'll know the scene I'm talking about. In 3D, it was simply unbearable for me to watch.
This was a good ending to my birthday weekend which began with some friends coming over on Friday night for one of my Movie Nights. As I've written before on this blog, I always do up a Full Program with a cartoon, serial and a comedy short before the feature. I served up some pretty good stuff: Betty Boop in Snow White, Buster Keaton in One Week, and episode one of Republic's 1941 cliffhanger, Spy Smasher. The Keaton was particularly fun. Watching Keaton all alone by yourself in front of the telly is one thing, but watching him where there are other people in the room and they are all laughing out loud in all the right places definitely adds an additional layer of enjoyment.
The feature was another movie about children faced with seemingly insoluble mysteries, Disney's 1963 The Horse Without a Head, featuring Jean-Pierre Aumont, Leo McKern and Herbert Lom. Also one of my first childhood crushes, Pamela Franklin as a spunky little girl who has a way with dogs. This slight little mystery is a charmer that's been a favorite of mine ever since I was five years old. Disney has never formally released it to the retail market, but there are copies of their "film club" DVD out there if you know where to look.
E___, a former boss and longtime friend, who came to my mother's memorial service, got to see my house for the first time, and commented that I've done well at making it home. Thanks. I think so.
So, yes. Much, much better than my last birthday, which you can read about here on the blog. Life in general has improved a whole heckova lot since then, and who knows? Maybe, like the characters in Hugo, I won't be broken forever.
Friday, December 9, 2011
There was a large box on my deck when I got home last night. I thought, "What? I didn't order anything! Did I? Did I order something else while I was drunk and then forget all about it?"
In the dark I couldn't tell where it was from. I had three bags of groceries and my usual shoulder bag, and I tried to manage everything at once whilst simultaneously trying to let myself into the house. Once I got everything into the back hall and hit the lightswitch, I saw that the box was from a Maine wreath company.
I thought, " A wreath? I didn't order a wreath! Who sent me a wreath? What the hell am I going to do with a wreath?"
Truth told, in my new home there's not a single place to hang a wreath. The front porch door is made of glass and metal, no place to drive a nail. On the inner porch door I already have one of my mother's paintings hanging; there would be no point in hanging a wreath there anyway, no one would see it. I finally looped it onto a hook on my deck that I hang plants from in the summer.
It turns out that the wreath was sent to me by the auction house that handled the sale of my mother's estate. When I learned this, and read the insipid note that was enclosed in the package, I just wanted to throw the bloody thing back in their faces. Stupid fake sentiment. They made a lot of money off of my mother, so they send me a damn wreath. A stupid, bloody wreath is not a fair trade for my mother's life. If I had any cojones at all I'd drive over there and toss it onto Mister James Julia's desk, and tell him where he can hang it.
There are many things that went into the sale that are unaccounted for, notable things, prominent things, and the auctioneers are being, at best, coy about the missing items. Among these are a vintage firearm, a very old wood carving of cherubic faces, a soft sculpture of a Phoenix by the Maine artist Dahlov Ipcar, and the eight or ten boxes of vintage comics that actually belonged to me.
My father has been very active in trying to make them accountable for a the first two items. He's had no luck, as I knew would be the case. The auction house holds all the cards. If they say that they never received something, and it doesn't turn up in their records, what are you going to do about it? For my part --
-- I lost so much last year. Just read back in this blog, I won't rehash it. All by themselves, the three days that the auctioneers spent clearing out the house were a brutal gang rape of my life.
I know that my father is frustrated by my attitude about the missing items, but I'm not being blasé. I care about it as much as he does, perhaps more. But I simply need to let go, and declare the past dead. It needs to be over. Engaging in a battle with the auction house is not going to bring me any closer to peace.
But then again, neither is a stupid wreath.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
|I did not "choose" this photo. I clicked on it at random from well over a|
thousand images I have sent to me by the auctioneer. Even now, I don't like to
look at it. I know exactly where these things were in the Old House.
"When Jim Julia & Bill Gage arrived at the (Thornsjo) house for the first viewing they were truly astounded at the quantity upon opening the front door ... the two could honestly say that they never had to side step through room after room, in single file before."
Monday, December 5, 2011
I spotted this magazine cover at the supermarket the other day, and thought, "Oh, really? A headline written by someone who's never suffered from it."
Actually, I had a good streak of Freedom from Anxiety in recent weeks. I suspect it was because I was so sick that I didn't have the energy for panic attacks or anxiety. Now that I'm feeling somewhat better, all that has changed.
The spells are coming at different times of the day, and are lasting longer. I've written about this before, so I won't go over it all again. I do see the footnote reading "As long as you know how to use it," but that makes no sense to me. Anxiety is formless and cannot be channeled, only outlasted, and that only for a short time before it's back on you like a parasite.
My doctor is talking about increasing my dosage of Prozac. I hope that it helps. I did not miss these daily adventures into panic, and would be grateful for anything that would Make it Stop.
Speaking of anxiety, just to prove that I am my own worst enemy, I joined an online dating service. Briefly.
I know! I thought the same thing! I thought, What the hell are you doing? Well, a co-worker had signed up for the same service and he was getting all kinds of hits and I guess it seemed like the Thing to Do. I'm good at playing Follow the Leader. I never imagined that anything would come of it. I figured that a few days would go by, nothing would happen, and then I'd forget the whole thing.
So I was actually mortified when my inbox began to fill up with notices saying that various women wanted to meet me. I thought, Are they stupid? Did they read my profile?
But then I went and actually answered a couple of them!
I know!! I thought that, too! I thought, Are you crazy? What are you thinking? Why are you completely unable to learn from past mistakes?
I live my life knowing that I'm going to make a fool out of myself, but unable to prevent myself from doing it.
Well, not this time. This morning, I deleted the account. Now I am breathing a sigh of relief.
I really shouldn't go anywhere near the computer after about ten o'clock at night. My typing fingers tend to do things of their own volition, without speaking to my head. One of these days, it's going to get me into trouble.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
When I saw The Omega Man for the first time as a young teenager, I thought it was pretty good. To be fair, I saw it on network television, and my sense is that it was quite heavily edited to get it down to the standards that TV censors demanded back in those days -- maybe some of the worst scenes came out along with the violence, swearing, and the topless black chick.
Because, Oh Yes, when I tried to watch it again as the inaugural feature of my annual winter science fiction filmfest, I was greatly brought down to realize that this picture is one heck of a smelly Stink Bomb. It took me three sessions over three days just to get through the damn thing.
Back in 1971, we still had this thing called "Mod." It was dying a slow and painful death, but when The Omega Man was made, there were still some very un-Mod people who thought it was the thing to do to rake in the Youth Audience. And The Omega Man wants so very much to be "Mod" -- it tries so hard to be "Mod" that it only ends up showing you how deeply Un-Mod it is.
Their first mistake was in casting Charlton Heston in the title role. Heston may have been many things (or Not), but "Mod?" Yeesh! Maybe when they were changing the title from The Last Man on Earth, they should have gone with The Least Mod on Earth. Only Nancy Reagan is less "Mod" than Charlton Heston.
Then there's the music -- my GOD, the music! Jumpy, Fake Pop Elevator Music at best, fake Electronic Gothic, and worse. The best example of how deeply wretched this score is comes at the very end, as a kind of bouncy Supermarket tune plays over the fade-out of Heston lying symbolically crucified in a fountain of his own blood.
I'm not making this stuff up!!!
Then we have the villains. In the original story (and the actually very good first film version starring Vincent Price in the Heston role), a virus had turned everyone on the planet into Walking Dead. They didn't talk much. They did spend their nights trying to break their way into Vincent Price's home. This was well before George Romero stole the idea, added piles of gore and gave us the zombie genre that is with us, very much like a disgusting virus, to this day.
But no, The Omega Man has to be really MOD, baby! So in this version, the virus turned everyone on the planet into Albino Cultists who go around in long black robes and chant "The Family is Everything!" Anthony Zerbe plays the Head Cultist and, under his white Fright Wig and white pancake make-up, he works overtime (and I do mean overtime) to prove to us How Very Evil he is. By allowing the Cultists to talk, and to do so at great length, the screenwriters have opened themselves up to vast opportunities for Silly Dialogue which does not go un-mined.
The script, that's another big part of the trouble. By trying to expand upon Richard Matheson's original story, they turn terror into camp, and humanity into pathos. It tries so hard to be profound that it forgets how to be a simple science fiction thriller. Mod, meet Miss Guided!
And don't even get me started about the Jive-Ass Black Chick. I know lots of African Americans and not one of them looks or talks like they just stepped out of a Pam Grier movie. This was written by White People who wanted to prove to someone (maybe themselves) that they were not bigots. They failed.
Along the way, this movie does play with one of my favorite themes: the creation of a Family. In this case, not only doesn't the family "take," but it raises the question of "What if you don't like your new-found relatives?" See, the Jive-Ass Black Chick and Charlton Heston become a deeply unlikely couple when he saves the life of her little brother. And just as soon as he can talk again, little brother proves to be kind of a Pain in the Ass. In-laws!! Go figure!! He gets killed for it, but then so does almost everyone else.
The one thing that this picture gets right is also the one thing it has in common with the Vincent Price version: an interesting, accurate depiction of Men Living Alone. Where Price lives in squalor and depression, dragging himself out every day to dispose of the bodies and shore up his ever-diminishing defenses, Heston lives in city style with every kind of luxury he wants, and ventures out by day as a gun-toting Warrior, tooling around the streets in a new car every day. You can almost hear him saying "Out of my cold dead hands. . ." and that's what happens.
I've not seen the recent remake with Will Smith and probably never will. At the time of its release, I had only my memory of the Heston version to go on, and I scoffed. "Why would they remake The Omega Man?" I said. "It can't possibly be as good as The Omega Man!"
Now, with the bar very much lowered, I have to say, "If it isn't as good as The Omega Man, then it's really in the shit!"