Sunday, June 30, 2013

Godzilla Syndrome

“Pacific Rim” will be playing soon in a theater near me, and I’ll be there.  Of course I will, because there are giant monsters in it.  Ever since I first saw “King Kong” and the Raymond Burr “Godzilla” I have been hooked.  I forgive people who think that it’s a bit strange.

I’m pretty sure myself that it’s a bit strange.  After all, I’m in my mid-sixties, I’m fairly well educated and well read, and I also enjoy movies of great cultural and historical value, movies in which the only monster is the human condition itself.  But those monster movies speak to me, even those featuring lesser monsters, like “Relic,” “Lake Placid,” or “Alien.”  Usually I don’t give it much thought.

Well, yesterday the subject came up and I did give it some thought.  It came up as a bemused “why?”  The answer came to me quickly.

As a boy, I was on the fearful side.  Things were tough in those long ago days, we children were subject to corporal punishment on all sides, there was more illness and worse illnesses, we children fought among ourselves frequently, even the New York traffic itself carried us away in large numbers.  One of the things that I was afraid of was adults.  Not only were they comparatively big and strong, they were also unpredictable and full of potential violence. 

At the age of three or four I was introduced to the library, and I took to it immediately.  I was thrilled to discover the books about dinosaurs, I loved those huge, terrible creatures.  Here was an entire class of animal that was much, much bigger and stronger than mere adults, and even more unknowably strange than the adults. 

I began to draw dinosaurs myself, not well but with enthusiasm.  Many of the resulting tableaus included people, stick figures really, running away from dinosaurs in fear.  The dinosaurs were standing in for adults, of course, and the people in the drawings were adults standing in for children.  The dinosaurs were acting in my stead and turning the tables on those real-life frightening creatures. 

All of this came back to me in a rush as I considered the question yesterday.  I think that I was six when I first saw “King Kong” on the Million Dollar Movie, that first week alone I watched it all the way through six or seven times.  I found it to be a well-made Hollywood movie that brought my old drawings to life in many ways.  There were dinosaurs, plus the mighty Kong, chasing down adults with all of the terrible energy that I had imagined, and the adults were even more afraid than I could ever have hoped. 

There were others, “1,000,000 B.C.,” “The Lost World,” “Mighty Joe Young,” but “King Kong” was by far the best, and the most suitable for my psychological purposes.  Until “Godzilla” that is.

“Godzilla” raised the bar considerably on size, strength and terribleness, and in “Godzilla” even larger crowds of adults are even more afraid.  They scrambled around screaming, trying to save themselves.  The version that I saw was good enough for me at the time, although later I realized that there was an original version out there somewhere.  

The original is a stunning artistic success.  The first “Godzilla” was a really good movie, a serious artistic effort with real themes and great human characters.  Not that Raymond Burr crap, amateurishly pasted together to please American audiences, but the original Japanese version.  Get ahold of it if you can. 

Around this time I began to have recurring nightmares about King Kong and Godzilla, in which they took the place of adults, tormenting me and chasing me around.  I was about nine-years-old.  I had these dreams well into adulthood, with the imagery shifting appropriately. 

There’s a story that I like, and that I have told herein before, about Walter Koenig, “Star Trek’s” Chekov.  He was interviewed by TV Guide and it turned out that he is a big time toy collector.  The interviewer asked him if he was trying to recreate his childhood.  “No,” he said, “it’s more that I am trying to recreate my escape from my childhood.”  He’d had a tough time of it too, and his toys were a comfort to him. 

In that same way, Godzilla in particular, and giant monsters in general, are still a comfort to me.  So, one mystery solved!  What’s next on the agenda!

(I don't remember this last part myself, but it's nice to know that it was captured for posterity.) 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Supreme Court Dissents

Two interesting decisions this week, the voting rights case and the Prop. 8 case from California.  As so often happens, the dissent in each case was the good stuff.

The voting rights case (Shelby County v. Holder) went five to four with the “conservative wing” of the court on top.  Chief Justice Roberts spoke for the court, with the usual band of idiots in tow (Alito; Thomas; Scalia) and Justice Kennedy to round out the five.  They seem to believe that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in America, so no one needs to be protected from it anymore.  An amazing level of detachment from reality if you ask me, and four justices agree with me.

Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent, and it contains the best metaphor that I’ve heard in a long time.  Canceling the voting rights law now, she suggested, was like throwing away your umbrella in the middle of a rain storm for the simple reason that it had succeeded in keeping you dry thus far.  That’s a good one.

The other case (U.S. v. Windsor) had to do with the great non-issue of our time, gay marriage.  I say “non-issue” because it really shouldn’t be an issue at all.  What’s the big deal?  They’re born that way, whatever bullshit you’ve heard about “choice.”  I was taught that the law does not favor “status crimes.”  If homosexuals want to buddy up to make life more worth living, why not let them?  Give me one good reason, I dare you.  Lots of people disagree, most notably Justice Scalia.  He wrote the dissent for the four losers who voted no on the issue. 

This case was five to four as well, with the “liberal wing” taking the honors.  The usual band of heroes, Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Breyer  and Kagan, plus Justice Kennedy again (he’s a mixed blessing, that one). 

And boy, was that Scalia guy angry!  He went on a rant about “homosexual sodomy,” evidently he’s really upset about that stuff.  Interesting that he singled out “homosexual” sodomy; does he have a very different opinion about sodomy in general?  Is “heterosexual” sodomy okay?   You really need to be careful what you write for public consumption, you may unintentionally release information that you would rather have kept under wraps. 

I have left out the technical details of these decisions, this is a “big picture” blog after all.  The point is that there’s a problem with both of these decisions.  Any “five to four” decision means that the court is split, and the issues involved may be revisited many times as the composition of the court changes.  People do die after all, and too often the wrong people.  When the decision is graced by a particularly scathing dissent the split is even more pronounced, especially if all of those on the short end sign on. 

The problem is that the moral calculus of the issues in each of these cases was crystal clear.   Of course the voting rights act is still necessary to protect certain people who shall remain nameless, to think otherwise is to mark yourself as a vicious partisan politician, an OG racist, or just plum stupid.  (Excuse me, “low functioning,” the new PC designation.)  Of course homosexuals should be allowed to get married, there is no non-religion-based argument to suggest that they should not be allowed.  There should have been general agreement on both of these cases.  Instead it was World War Fucking Three, with name calling. 

And as usual, as we are being distracted by all of this ephemera, the man behind the curtain is ruining our happiness day by day, manipulating the real issues, sucking up all of the money, getting our children killed, insuring the ascendance of poverty, disease and hunger, and generally making of mockery of so-called “representative democracy.” 

As one of my Facebook friends says after a rant like that:  “And y’all have a nice day!” 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bobby Blue Bland - Little Boy Blue

R.I.P. Bobby "Blue" Bland, aged eighty-two years and beloved by hundreds, if not a thousand, blues fans. 

He said, with intentional scorn for the general lack of respect that this guy got in life.  Largely, perhaps, because he was not a guitar player.  He was one of the greats though, "Two Steps from the Blues" is one of the best albums around, in any genre, a first-class artistic success, in the manner of Picasso, who was never called an asshole. 

Bobby Blue Bland, a full sized man with a plan.  Fare well, brother, and thanks for everything.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The seven best Hulk accounts on Twitter

The seven best Hulk accounts on Twitter


This shit is hysterical.  I may have to reconsider Twitter.

My favorite, from "@EditorHulk," is:

"Hulk read manuscript with ellipses look like this: .........................
wonder if author think Hulk Pac-Man or just fall asleep on keyboard."  

One Of These People Is Still Alive

On the right is my friend Fad, who died earlier this month. 

This picture was taken almost three years ago in Rayong.  We were all staying with cousins of Fad's husband.  The old lady was delighted to tell me that she was "ninety-eight!  Almost 100!"  She laughed like she could hardly believe it herself. 

I found out at Fad's funeral that the old lady is still plugging along, a hundred and counting.  She still gets around a little, still has a sense of humor, and eats and sleeps okay.  She recently started wearing the adult diapers, but she doesn't seem to mind.  I have noticed that that cheerful attitude is common among those who make it to the upper reaches of old age.  I suppose that they're just so happy to have woken up this morning that the diapers don't seem like a big deal.

My own father is ninety-two, and he wears the things overnight and if he's going to be out of the house for a while, like if he drives himself to Walmart.  He just laughs about it.  Diapers-schmeipers, it's a great day.  "I woke up this morning, didn't I?" 

Old people know things.  My father told me something a couple of years ago, and I'm sure he didn't feel the same way about it when we were all young.   He told me about the two most important things in life:

1.  Don't sweat the little stuff; and

2.  It's all little stuff. 

If you woke up this morning, I suppose.

Monday, June 17, 2013

lucio battisti - ma é un canto brasilero

This is what I was looking for, an amazing tour de force.  Give it thirty seconds to get rolling, the fist bit is spoken. 

And watch it soon, dear readers.  In the strange manner of YouTube this song is frequently rendered "no longer available," although there is no general shortage of Battisti on the 'Tube. 

Lucio battisti-motocicletta 10HP.mpg

Just another musical choice that probably makes sense only to me.  Late, lamented Lucio, and great visuals too. 

Irma Thomas - Time Is On My Side

She should be remembered better in her own right, not just as somebody that got covered by the Rolling Stones. 

But life is not fair, or haven't you noticed?  No justice; no peace; no shit, Sherlock.  No way.  You better hurry up and knew that.

Time is on my side - The Rolling Stones

Long time no covers.

Let's not forget that the Rolling Stones started out as a great cover band.  Buddy Holly ("Not Fade Away"), Chuck Berry (too many to mention), and lots of New Orleans regional hits like this one.  They always did a respectful and a respectable job, in my opinion.

Best bar band in history.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

NSA Spying: What's The Harm?

Lots of talk around these Internets about NSA spying.  Opinion polls in America seem to indicate that most people don't think that it's a big deal, varying from "nothing to hide" to "what's the big deal?" to "ho hum," and probably including a lot of "haven't they been doing this for years?"

There is plenty of harm though, and I've seen it alluded to elsewhere.  Take the example of, say, me.  Reading/scanning my e-mails or even my offerings herein will not yield anything of real interest to anyone, perhaps little of interest even to the intended readers.  My telephone conversations are even more guarded and innocuous.  I'm not involved in anything nefarious (take my word for it), and the small-change complaining that I do on this blog is certainly no threat to our government.  But there is a real danger, to me and to you, dear reader.

There is always the chance that something that I say will be taken in the wrong way, either with an abundance of caution or through shear stupidity.   I sometimes attempt to turn an artful phrase, and those efforts lend themselves very well to misinterpretation.  And it has happened too, to real people who are not me, and the incidence will only accelerate.

Some completely innocent people have been identified as potential malefactors, sometimes through print evidence or reported speech and sometimes through those diabolical closed circuit security cameras.  Investigations have been mounted, and they may someday be mounted against you for some completely innocent thing.  One example that I read about featured an innocent man who happened to be wearing a jacket that struck someone as being too heavy for the weather and then allowing a train to stop and the station and then leave again without his getting on.  That was it, drag his ass up to the station before he can accomplish his terrible plan.  Now remember that an investigation, once mounted, wants to find something, like in his apartment or his computer for instance.  And the file, once opened, may remain open forever.

Less than that will get you on a terrorist watch list these days.  For nothing.  There will be unintended consequences.

One thing for sure, in the 1960's you could not have gotten anyone in the country to sign on for constant close examination like this, not anyone from anywhere in the political spectrum.   It would all have sounded so like the Soviets, whom even American communists had given up on.  These things must come about gradually if they are to come at all.  

There's no future in resisting modernity though, so we probably just all should get used to it.  This constant monitoring will be with us until the comet hits, in all likelihood.  I miss the Constitution, and American democracy, as flawed as they were they were a big help to us there for a while.  Gone now, and gone more comprehensively than any of the things listed in that stupid song.

Smile!  You're on Candid Camera!  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Not Quite A Movie Review: Battle Beneath the Earth

Staring Kerwin Mathews, old Sinbad himself, as a leader of troops, wearing, apparently, the uniform of a commander in the U.S. Navy.  Or, World War II era Marine greens in action. 

The unlikely plot is that a rogue Chinese general/warlord has masterminded a scheme to tunnel under the very Pacific Ocean itself to plant atomic bombs under American cities.  For good measure, he was tunneling around China as well, planting bombs there too.  Rogue, like I said.

The duration of a 7,000 mile trip through the tunnels for a rig like this bomb train is not explained.

This is either a British production or a British/American affair, and the "Chinese" bad guys are played by stalwart English character actors in makeup the effectiveness of which you may judge for yourselves.  They travel around between laboratories and command posts and storage rooms in some kind of high-speed capsule system.

In the end the rogues are hoisted on their own petards, our hero rigs one of their bombs to explode in their midst.  It's a not altogether unpleasant movie, they keep up the pace anyway and never dwell on the more ridiculous aspects of the story.  I can't say that I recommend it, but I did enjoy it. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blue 88 Is A Band; Blue 88's Were Downs

I'm having a high-stress moment here, what with the death and the post-death internecine family recriminations, ongoing at present with no resolution in sight.  I am employing a favorite technique of mine to keep calm in the situation: reading about all-out, full-throttle infantry assault warfare.  ("The Guns at Last Light: War in Western Europe," by Rick Atkinson.)  Reading about the soldiers going through a really, really stressful situation centers me somehow, it makes me feel lucky not to be there.  It's a matter of perspective. 

I read that combat fatigue was usually treated with deep, induced sleep.  The common method was to drown the problem with sodium amytol, brand name Nembutal.  The soldiers called them "Blue 88's," after that particularly sleep-inducing German artillery piece.  Well I recall that we were quite fond of Nembutal in the old days, especially the hybrid product called Tuinal, which was half Nembutal and half Seconal.  A buck a piece if you were lucky, throw in a couple of cocktails and you had a deal.

I thought, "The Blue 88's," what a great band name!  Google informed me that it had been taken already, minus the article and the "s," by the guys and girls in this band in the video.  Probably a case of polygenesis,  the band probably had the piano in mind, with its eighty-eight keys.

Still a cool band name, and not a bad version of this song.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Khun Fad Go To Paradise

We took my sick friend to the hospital on Tuesday, and it was the beginning of the end for her.  Khun Fad, "fad," sounds more like "faed" with an almost silent "d," means "twin."  She was twins at birth, the only one that survived.  Boy, the old days were murder, eh?  At the hospital she was in and out of consciousness, usually "non responsive," no pupilary response and no reflexes.  She lasted till Thursday evening and then crossed the river.  So it's a funeral weekend.  We were at the hospital until an hour before she died.  The numbers on the monitor had started to go crazy, heartbeat went from a steady 99 up to 150 with higher spikes;  respiration sometimes showed "zero" even though she was obviously gasping.  Her monitor was flashing a red light and beeping, but her file was marked "end of life care," which is Thai for just make her comfortable.  Later, at a restaurant, the call came in.  Her sister took the call and said to me, "Khun Fad go to paradise." 

There's nothing like a funeral parlor here, the family has to do everything.  Get a bunch of documents from the hospital and get them to the appropriate government offices; buy a coffin and pick the body up from the hospital; get it to a temple for a quick service; the next day is a cremation.

This picture of Fad is from about fifteen months ago.  She was starting to get a little weak, and she wanted to make one more trip to the Crocodile Farm to see the monkeys.  (You read that right; the farm has about a million crocodiles and also a big monkey zoo.)  We had a ball, and I graciously picked up the (very affordable) tab.  She really treasured this picture with the baby chimp.  (You could also get a picture up close and personal with a huge tiger, but we all passed on that one.)  She got all dolled up for the picture, she wore her best wig (chemo, you know).

Goodbye, Khun Fad.  We'll miss you.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Corporate Marijuana, Coming Soon

Rich people and corporations are jockeying for position to become the General Motors/General Electric of weed, or as the title of this Slate article suggests, the Starbucks of weed.  Oy, vey ist mir, this will not end well.

Sorry to just lay the site in there like that, but hey, I do the best that I can.

Back to the newest thing in reefer madness . . . I can see as clear as day where big business will take the humble weed.  Right now there's no market for shitty weed, but that will change.  Drug laws are so harsh now that no one in their right mind would risk the long sentences for shitty weed.  You get the same time for ten kilos of cheap, shitty weed that you get for ten kilos of great weed, and you make lots more money on the great weed.

I'm sure that teams of agronomists are already working on a full range of strengths and flavors.  If corporations run the reefer business, there will be plenty of shitty weed available at "reasonable" prices.  There will be a full cascade of different strengths at gradually escalating prices.  Anything decent will be up there, and the really, really good stuff will be priced out of most people's reach, like most sports and concert tickets these days.

When this happens, illegal "bootleg" weed will still prosper.  

Oh, Mr. Fred, you're so pessimistic!  Not without reason.  This ain't my first rodeo.