Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Convesation With Myself

I originally wrote this about a year ago* and at the last minute, instead of posting it here on my blogger where my, ah, headier stuff belongs, I posted it on my blog to try something different there.

I don't really think anyone got it. However, that is a slightly condescending statement and I do not wish to come off as someone who believes his insight into modern life so important that anyone need get it at all. However, there are points here to be made, and as such I re-post this here now, with the intent of adding to it and possibly making some more sense of these strange mutations we are undergoing sociologically as well as, I think, physiologically.


A conversation with myself.

I don’t want to get on a soapbox (yes he does) but there’s something developmentally wrong with the children that are coming up in the high-speed internet, media-saturated landscape of western culture today. Has anyone else noticed how a lot of children do not acknowledge other people around them? Example: Children playing in the street as traffic approaches. Someone yells to them that there is an automobile approaching and they do not move or even acknowledge that they heard the warning, let alone are probably in some kind of immediate danger. Or here's another I've observed – a waiter in a restaurant asks a child what they would like to drink and they have to be prompted by a parent to answer, as if they do not know what a question is unless it appears on a computer screen and contains emoticons or abbreviations? A lot of people are shy as kids, but this is something else. There is a certain… Cronenbergian, perhaps even ghostly blank look on their faces, as if they’re losing or perhaps never learned how to navigate space and interact with actual living, breathing people?

Now, while writing this I’m realizing how much I might sound like some middle-aged housewife who is only recently seeing what the internet/immersive video game/iPod-earbud-hanging-out-of-one-ear-bland-androgynous-hip-pop-channeled-through-the-other-like-some-constant -supermarket-soundtrack youth culture is actually doing to the genome of these, the newest generations of our species, and is sitting down to write a concerned and outraged, albeit completely out-of-date and after-the-fact letter, to the editor of reader’s digest magazine (ah, yeah, you do). But here’s the thing, I’ve known about this for a while. I’ve understood and to some degree even watched this computer mausoleum affect myself. I worked around a lot of teenagers at a bookstore for quite a while. I see the apathy, the removal, the total lack of classic human communication etiquette, grammar, courtesy and honor. The exponential self-interest. It has not been until just lately however that I’d been able to transpose this to how these rising qualities will most likely affect the world I will one day leave behind me. I’m a bit of a classicist and although I’m no card-carrying fan of the human race as a whole, I really must say that it is going to be in a hell of a lot worse shape when the generations that came of age before the internet are gone and can no longer walk the youngins through the simple routine and rituals of daily life.


Okay, here we go. Thanks gramps for waking up and soilin’ yourself with outrage over ‘those damn youngsters…’ When did you become that old guy?

Seriously, you say you’re a classicist but for what? We inhabit the same brain, same body, and it can sometimes be awful hard to follow what and where you think evolution should occur. The thing is this is an awkward stage in human development; the transition from what egotist Tom Brokaw calls the ‘greatest generation’ era of white picket fences, 2.5 kids and a neighborhood where the inhabitants behave more like individual cells in a greater whole than a bunch of individual entities lined up and positioned within their separate environments and something else, something more akin to a global nervous system.

That’s fine, but most of our legally defined social systems are still operating on the old paradigm. Most of us still have to leave the house to make a living, and the more everything shifts to the Internet, the less that’s able to happen for more of us.

Okay, but its probably going to be these younger generations that figure out how to further convert our outdated concepts for business and income. Look at facebook, napster, wiki-this and wiki-that.

Yeah, but those are all things that are further putting the bullet in the interaction between living, breathing people. Why is some kid who has invented the next great profit-bearing internet innovation going to give a shit about helping employ an escalating out-of-work force when he can’t even say hi to someone he passes on the street outside his apartment?

Paaaalleeease! Sure people don’t walk around and say ‘Hi’ anymore; to strangers they pass on the street or to the people that live next to them. This, as well you know asshead, is often a very cunning survival tactic. More than one bad experience has been brought on in our renting career simply by you ‘being polite and trying to get to know the neighbors’. That often leads to 2 AM knocks on the door and awkward, ‘My families all fucked up and I’ve got nowhere else to go’ moments. That might have been fine in the 50’s and 60’s, but now everyone has an agenda and not everyone understands there are basic rules of engagement and expectation when asking strangers or acquaintances for a little friendly neighborhood kindness or assistance.

But that is exactly what I mean! That lack of empathy for other people, the knocker’s ability to understand limits and the knockee’s lack of empathy for another human being who may or may not just need an hour of another person’s time to re-ground themselves, that is all a by-product of the narrowing little lives we lead.

Okay, shut up and let me finish my speel here, okay? Geesh… Anyway, the thing is, as I was saying, we’re at a big ol’ sloppy transition between not only a generational gap but an informational one. People are going to be different now because they have access to waaaaaaay more information. You may think that the old school, 227-ish idea of a neighborhood is a great thing, and maybe it is, but you’re basing what you think you know on the world as you’ve been raised to understand it through the various media outlets that you were exposed to. Let’s face it, our parents and even moreso their parents saw a vast gulf of a difference between our age and theirs because of the constant presence of a television in every house. And to be honest, I know we haven’t watched actual television programming for decades now but we watched A LOT of it as a kid. This and your parents, grandparents, friends’ parents, teachers, school teachers, assemblies, principals, film strips, out-dated Encyclopedia Britanicas all helped give you this idea of what the United States was like in previous generations. But now those influences have shifted and there’s a new paradigm and a new learning curve for these new kids as to what the social world actually is.

Yeah, it’s facebook and youtube and less and less interaction with actual living breathing human beings.

Ahh, hello Mcfly? How many times you use facebook this week?

Hey, that’s different.

Bullshit. It’s affecting all of us and you can’t hold yourself above everyone else. Granted, there is something creeping into the younger generations, that’s one of the tendrils of thinking behind our theory that Autism may actually be part of the next evolutionary jump of humankind. You always walk around referencing how terrible it is that in our culture we lock up schizophrenics and other mentally ill people while in other cultures they cherish them as shaman and priests able to access other, ah, operating systems for lack of a better term.

I guess that’s true. It always seems such a farce to us that anything that goes against social paradigm is treated as a flaw…

Exactly!!! See, the difference here is as the younger generations go through whatever it is they are going through is it is happening on a mass scale. Our last vestiges of the old school, communal world is overlapping with this new, isolated, socially awkward and self-absorbed one and they are by nature of the functionality of each rubbing against one another and causing friction. But when all of us old types die off (or complete a late-arrival change ourselves) things will work differently. There’s a new world transitioning in, and you may not like it, but it is going to be one conducted globally, over the internet, without a lot of the tactile, environmentally-grounded facets of this one.

Like, ah, human cogs in the Matrix perhaps?

Ahh, yeah, I guess so. Or like Wall-e.

Well then, you might be right, but it’s not necessarily a good transition then.

Maybe… maybe not.

Then I guess I’ll just get back on my goddamn soapbox and start over again. “these goddamn kids…”


to be continued...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things I Didn't Say: Wolf Moon

The previous entry is fairly simplified – I desperately long to find a way to eek this Autumn tone out of my soul and onto paper where others can possibly feel it as much as I do. For lack of a word and I suppose feeling melodramatic enough to accentuate said mood I'll say that I commune with this time of year possibly stronger than any other. When I was younger and there were actual seasons in the Midwest other than six months of winter/six months of summer with a few sporadic portals of the transitories thrown in here and there, never fully making a 'Season' per se, I remember what a switch music was in this time. I'd go from my summer, hang-out tunes like John Spencer Blues Xplosion, Beastie Boys and Cibo Matto to NIN, The Cure and Type O Negative like that (*snap*). Over the last several years I spent in Chicago I saw that change as the seasons waned, and here in LALA land, well, it's a fairly even keel all the time. I'm not really complaining – I didn't ever want to have to live through a winter again unless A) we live in the UK (ultimate life goal in the category of positioning for both of us) or, B) have a Thompson-esque compound in Colorado. But while I don't miss the winter I miss the rain, and I miss the Autumns of my younger days.

I remember shortly after my friend Jake died. This was like 1997 and he'd been pretty much the only person that connected to this aspect of my brain. We were both HUGE Type O fans and would often spend entire nights just laying around baked out of our minds listening to their albums (only up to October Rust at that point – Jake, you don't know what you missed in subsequent years man). They were the sonic embodiment of Autumn (still are) and something about the combination of the buzz, the music and that sharp, chill Autumn air that grants such clarity morphed. This is about the time I realized I had what is commonly referred to in the psychological community as 'Synesthesia' and man – pinning my senses together with those disparate elements really took me to another place. A place I can still achieve sometimes if the air is right and the music appropriate.

I went there after Jake died. I drove my old wood-paneled dodge mini-van West into the last, dying strains of sunlight one evening, parked at a random forest preserve and listened to this song. I don't know how long I sat there in the diminishing light, or how many times I listened the song, but finally something snapped and I suddenly found myself walking into the woods, disappearing into the slow, thick fog rolling out from beneath the trees, a inspirational carpet that beckoned me along a path into the thicket, amidst strange, night-time animal noises and the reverberations of Peter Steele's haunting vocals and then all at once, I began to run.
I ran for an undecipherable amount of time and distance; I ran because I couldn't stand still, walk or sit any more. My best friend was dead, my world was shattered after a not-so long ago mending (but that's a story for a different time, like when my first novel eventually gets picked up and published) and my eyes were alive with tears. But there I was, running like a madman, like a wild animal beneath the rising moon, shaking with the raw intoxication that that Autumn air can bestow upon those who can surrender to it. Running with nowhere to go but back to my car (eventually), back to my home, back to my life which, though I didn't believe it then, got better.

Thank You Peter, Kenny, Johnny Josh (and Sal in the early days). Thank you for the a soundtrack to a night I will never forget and that will always grant me strength and passion in a world seemingly derived to extinguish them.

Type O Negative - Burnt Flowers Fallen

It's possibly as close as I'll get to Autumn this year, as our yearly October excursion home to the Midwest isn't happening due to my new gig. It's been overcast, dreary and even a little misty in LALA and I'm running with it as best I can. Type O has been in FULL EFFECT in the CD player as I drift into the darker realms of my subconscious.
Oh, and the 2nd annual Los Angeles edition of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival* this past weekend helped set the mood quite a bit as well.
To the trees...

* My review of said Fest

Sunday, September 18, 2011

LA 2011 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival - AWESOME!!!

This past Friday and Saturday I had the distinct pleasure to attend both days of the 2011 Los Angeles H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, held for the second straight year at San Pedro's beautiful and historic Warner-Grand studio.

Friday's agenda began at 7:00 PM. My wife, some friends and I wandered in a little early, scoped out the vendors – of which there were quite a few, all selling wonderful Lovecraft-related items and I've posted a linked list below* – and then headed into the gorgeous balcony section of the theatre proper for the brief introduction/thank you's/raffle by Festival organizer Aaron Vanek. After this it was right into the first film of the fest, the 1968 BBC Christmas special** Whistle and I'll Come to You, which was easily one of my favorites of the event.

Whistle and I'll Come to You is ~45 minutes long, B&W and a very slow burn. However, despite it not being based on an actual Lovecraft story, Whistle feels very much like one of the Lovecraft's own quiet, dementia-endowed works of madness beset upon an unsuspecting victim. The film is based on a story written by M.R. James and stars the divine Michael Hordern as a man staying in a seaside Inn on holiday who unknowingly summons something otherworldly when he finds a whistle in an ancient graveyard. Again, very slow burn, but much like Lovecraft's stories, it's a disturbed, neurotic burn because you can feel how the film is setting you up for something - and when it arrives, despite the obvious lack of special effects a BBC Christmas special in 1968 would endure, the final moments literally sent chills running through my spine.

Next was The Haunted Palace, a 1963 film-adaptation of the Lovecraft story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward penned by the mighty Richard "I Am Legend" Matheson (with some dialogue help from Francis Ford Coppola no less) and directed by Roger Corman and stars Vincent Price, Lon Cheney and Debra Paget to boot. This was a fine example of what I believe a lot of folks refer to as Hammer-horror – you know, that period in the early 60's where horror movies always had a lot of A) fog, thunder and lightning (not a bad thing at all), B) trap doors and hidden passageways, C) cleavage and D) Satan.

How can you go wrong?

Seriously, aside from suffering from some of the less-than-sophisticated thespian trappings of the day and some special effects in the climax that, while possibly horns-in-the-air startling at the time were snicker-worthy now, Haunted Palace was a great little movie and the first Hollywood film to actually, directly play off of and mention Lovecraft's creations by name. After the film the fest presented a video of Vanek presenting Corman with a Howie (the Lovecraft award) for the film and Corman explained that although the film is based on Lovecraft's story, at the last minute the studio decided Lovecraft was too obscure and changed the title to Edgar Allan Poe's The Haunted Palace. Typical, eh?

Last up on Night #1 was a film from 1933 entitled Berkeley Sqaure and I'll be honest – despite the fact that this was apparently a HUGE influence on Lovecraft and a direct influence on his writing The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, I'd been up for work since 5:30 AM so the slow, antique crawl of this one was not conducive to my staying awake and I went out instead to chat with some of the vendors and find a stiff drink. If anyone out there was at the fest and can summate this, please feel free to post it in the comments here, for clearly I failed in my festival diligence on this one.

Night #2 of the fest actually began during the afternoon with more opening remarks and raffling. We arrived just as these ended and HBO films' 1991 film To Cast A Deadly Spell began. In a two-second pitch I'd say Cast was, to really overly simplify, kind of a cross between Angel Heart and a Raymond Chandler novel, with a little Silk Stalkings and Blue Velvet-esque David Lynch thrown in for good measure.

Regardless of the fact that To Cast A Deadly Spell was perhaps a little stiff at points it was a delightfully fun film to watch. The cast alone was a hoot, with Fred Ward, David Warner, Julianne Moore, muthaf#$kin' Clancy Brown, Charles Hallahan ("Damnit Hunter!") and Ritch "DA Daryl Lodwig" Brinkley and the story, with Ward playing Private Eye Harry Philip Lovecraft in 1948 LA, where to quote the intro, "Everybody used magic" was the textbook definition of entertaining and 'cult'.

After Cast was the flick I had been most anticipating. A little over a year ago my wife sent me the trailer for a film from Spain made by Universal Pictures entitled La Sombra Prohibida (The Forbidden Shadow). If you haven't heard of it watch the trailer below and you will no doubt understand my anticipation (don't worry about the lack of subtitles on the trailer - they're in the film and trust me, by the end of this you'll get it):

So yeah, it's a CG fest, but it's done incredibly well. We've always known someone would have to use CG to bring something like Cthulhu onto the screen (this side of actually summoning him in front of a DVR) so to me it was just a matter of who would do it well. Writer/director Jose Luis Aleman did it well. REALLY, REALLY WELL. Prohibida is a sequel to La Herencia Valdemar and despite a pretty thorough section at the beginning of Prohibida to bring newcomers up to speed, if you can, hunt these down and watch them back to back. That seems as though it would be the optimum way to do it. However, even though I'd not seen the first, I LOVED the second, especially the experience of seeing that enormous Cthulhu on the Warner-Grand's screen.

Next was the short film section, judged by Guillermo Del Toro himself. Despite Del Toro's unable to be at the fest as he'd apparently hoped, and despite the fact that I missed a large portion of these due to some, let's just call 'em scheduling problems on my own end, what I did see was mostly great. I'll link a list below and just say that I really liked the ones I saw, especially The Black Goat, which is apparently an ongoing web-show thingy here (rest of the films by name and links below***).

And last but most certainly not least the festival culminated with the sacrificing of forty virgins and He How Is Not To Be Named appearing and reading some of His odd, florally-arranged beat poetry.

Just kidding.

The final film was by far the cherry on the Yoggoth Sunday - the H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society's A-Mazingly perfect adaptation of Whisperer in the Darkness. I don't even know what to say here, other than if you're a Lovecraft fan, please do yourself the ultimate favor and see this, as it is a spot-on, perfect translation of one of his best short stories onto the big screen in glorious B&W and filled with grand performances. Make no mistake, in a few years time the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society is going to be turning out some even more amazing stuff, with a much bigger budget and fanbase, and this and their silent production of The Call of Cthulhu are only the beginning of the wonder they will bring to us Lovecraft fans!!!

My advice, If you are a Lovecraft fan, watch the Internet for 2012 fest and GO!!!


* I figured it'd be nice to link to the vendors below, as I know there are a lot of people out there who are in the market for cool Lovecraftiana:

Badalijewelry - My favorite of the vendors. Some amazing jewelry pieces, and really cool, nice folk as well (we spent quite a bit of time discussing everything from the disingenuous proliferation of Steampunk to The Walking Dead).

Fez-O-Rama - cool Cthulhu-themed Fezzes.

Famous Monsters of Filmland - great magazine

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society - 'Nuff said!

Sighco - had some of the coolest Lovecraft tees, hoodies and even an Arkham Asylum orderly jacket and patient shirt

Arkham Bazaar - soooo much cool Lovecraft stuff

David Milano - fantastic art, much of it Lovecraft themed.

Joyner Studio - INCREDIBLE Cthulhu bust. Incredible.

Strange Aeons Magazine - looks like a great Lovecraft-related mag, I'm ordering some back issues as I write this

Perilous Press - Serious literary furtherings of Lovecraft's themes

Mike Dubisch - more fantastic art

** The film that kicked off the apparently long-running BBC A Ghost Story For Christmas annual special

*** The Shorts (if anyone else was there and saw any of these please post a review in the comments to this here blog!):

The Call of Nature by Rick Tillman

The Ritual by Will Wright (my wife and our friend Tori's favorite)

Pickman's Model by Michael Shlain

The Black Goat - Joseph Nanni

Static Aeons - Gib Patterson

Idle Worship - Theo P. Stefanski

Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven by Christopher Saphire and Don Thiel - a very cool, slightly modernized rendition of a classic

Shadow of The Unnammable - Sasha Renninger

The Curse of Yig - Paul Von Stoetzel