Thursday, June 22, 2017

THE LOVE OF MY LIFE





We've been together for twenty-five years in various ways. We met in college, and lived in sin for ten years more married than any married people I've ever seen. Plus we were married for ten years. Tack onto that another five years of being divorced together.


We met in an American Lit class. I was sitting in a chair with one leg bouncing, ready to roam and going like a piston in a manner that unintentionally shook the floor, so the young lady sitting next to me took it upon herself to--and this was deal familiar--place her hand upon my knee--uninvited physical contact, mind--and then had the gall to inform me I was shaking the floor. Mercy me! So I stopped. Then, after class, I asked her out.


A momentous occasion.


The above picture is from our first visit to Disneyland. At that time it was still the Swiss Family Tree House where we stood outside. Back when people knew their Johann Wyss.








Above: Aglow--O, positively aglow--at a place at the ocean called Trinidad Head. A few miles north, at another spot called Wedding Rock, we had our first date--and ten years later got married there. Waahh waahhhh.






I snapped shots with my camera of some framed pictures. Hence the distortion and additional effects. (Couple pics above most notably. I included my reflection specifically, and I think it makes an interesting shot.) The above is in Rockland, Maine. Really cool place.






In London at the old Ten Bells tavern on the Jack the Ripper tour. You can see it in the Johnny Depp flick From Hell. Romantic times, indeed.


Today, by the way, happens to be our fifteenth anniversary.


Happy Anniversary, babe!









Monday, June 19, 2017

"APOCALYPSE" WOW



          It's one of the best movies ever made.
          During the Vietnam War, an Army captain is sent on a secret mission into Cambodia to assassinate a Green Beret colonel acting on his own authority and living like a god among local tribes people.
          Martin Sheen plays the captain, Willard, and Marlon Brando is the colonel, Kurtz. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now is the movie that splits the whole cinematic program and takes its orders from the jungle.
          Like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey ten years earlier, the 1979 instant classic is a high-water mark in film to which other movies regularly refer.
          At times almost Expressionist in its striking use of shadow, the surreal, and twisted storylines, this loose adaptation of Joseph Conrad's short novel Heart of Darkness features unforgettable images and performances.
          The horror of war and the madness of war are the film's central themes, and in scene after scene these themes are thoroughly explored.
          For example, early in his journey upriver to find Kurtz, Willard meets Colonel Kilgore (Duvall). Like General Jack D. Ripper in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, Kilgore is a certifiable guy in a position of military authority. All Kilgore really wants to do is surf. Even under heavy fire. He gets a little misty-eyed when he thinks about the war one day ending. If his boys won't surf with him, he might just shoot them. And if the waves aren't good enough, he apologizes with deep contrition.
          Insanity, Willard realizes, isn't the real complaint against Kurtz. The problem is independent action--especially when it achieves results.
          Tales around the making of Apocalypse Now are as interesting as the film itself. Evidently Coppola had a hard time getting some of the actors to learn their lines--Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper--and yet the performances are legendary. As Coppola battled to make the movie, his wife Eleanor filmed him with her own camera. The result is an incredible 1991 documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.
          In 2001 Coppola released a re-edited version of his film, Apocalypse Now Redux. Containing an additional 49 minutes of footage not included in the original, Redux is worth seeing even though the additional material ultimately does not improve the film, but rather slows it down. In particular, a long scene on a French plantation was correctly cut from the 1979 release.
          "Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, and pure" are the words which Kurtz uses to describe his realization regarding the enemy's strength. But he might just as well have been talking about the movie. And the real horror would be not to see it.




APOCALYPSE NOW
Starring Marlon Brando,
Martin Sheen,
Robert Duvall,
Frederic Forrest,
Sam Bottoms,
Laurence Fishburne,
Harrison Ford,
Dennis Hopper
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Written by Francis Ford Coppola, John Milius
Runtime 153 minutes
Rated R





Sunday, June 11, 2017

"MUMMY" FALLS APART



          Should have kept it under wraps.
          The strength of a slick trailer and Tom Cruise's name can't overcome the many flaws of The Mummy.
          When a forgotten Egyptian princess named Ahmanet (Boutella), in league with powers of darkness and herself basically a deity, is discovered and returns to life, disaster befalls all those in her path as she seeks the implements which will secure her power.
          The twist is that she isn't discovered in Egypt, but rather a thousand miles away in Iraq. And the one responsible for releasing her from centuries of imprisonment, a mercenary named Nick Morten (Cruise) who sells stolen museum antiquities on the black market, becomes in the eyes of the Mummy her partner bound with her in the afterlife.
          Those eyes, by the way, split into double-pupils. Pointlessly. And she's a mummy with barely any bandages who controls things that have nothing to do with mummies but which allow for big special effects, surprise surprise, like a sandstorm with a giant face inside.
          After Howard Carter discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922, it was a natural fit for Universal to capitalize on the interest in ancient Egypt in 1932 by essentially re-making the first one of their two successful new horror pictures from the prior year, Dracula, and by using the star of the other, Frankenstein. Boris Karloff's makeup as the Mummy was every bit as effective as that used in his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster--but for most of the movie he never wears it.
          In 1959 Christopher Lee played a vigorous version of the title role in the excellent Hammer films version, made with all the old Universal monster classics in color for modern audiences. And then in 1999 Brendan Fraser starred in the first of several outings in a mummy franchise content to make essentially light romantic-comedy adventures.
          Unfortunately this one leans that way, too.
          One has to wonder: why, if she is to be imprisoned forever, does the mummy's sarcophagus have an elaborate system of chains on it, ready to easily haul it up at any moment? Why not just bury it? At which point one realizes the filmmakers don't care about little details like that in their rush to cash in on a new franchise re-imagining all the old Universal characters in new ways. Beginning with a lame start.
          The film doesn't know what it wants to be. Ahmanet never looks like a mummy. Several of the characters are annoying. When Morten's dead partner Chris (Johnson) returns from the dead as a ghost whom only he can see, chiding Morten familiarly, we get the feeling that the filmmakers saw An American Werewolf in London (1981) and start thinking how nice it would be to watch that one instead.




THE MUMMY
Starring Tom Cruise,
Sofia Boutella,
Annabelle Wallis,
Russell Crowe,
Jake Johnson,
Courtney B. Vance
Directed by Alex Kurtzman
Written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman
Runtime 110 minutes
Rated PG-13





GRAYSLAND



THE LUNAR LANDER touches dust, and boots inside itch for ground, but protocols must be observed. This means the "Also Sprach Zarathustra" opening played by a band consisting of artificial life designed to closely resemble, for our benefit, beloved figures from 20th-century American culture. Naturally the lander's passengers cannot hear the reception committee performing on the surface of the moon just outside the window, but a recording played in the lander nearly in synchronization with the band provides an approximation in keeping with the moment, a moment which the reporter in her storied career never dreamed possible.


On the dark side of the moon, no light pollution dims the stars, a permanent night sky so prolifically abundant and pristine, the journey might well have been accomplished for this result alone, if the greatest star in the galaxy did not happen to reside in a mansion on the moon...
















MORE
SOON

Saturday, June 10, 2017

JUNGLE SUPPLIES

In my early teens reading Tarzan books I kept a wooden box packed with supplies to survive in case I was ever in an airplane that went down over Africa. Bandages, needle and thread, a compass, writing implements, vitamins, aspirin, knives (Swiss Army a must), and even a bottle of booze, which my best friend in grade school, a tomboy whom I years later took to the high school prom, had secreted away unto me in 7th grade after school in a heart-pounding scene at the edge of the soccer field overlooking the high school football field.


I used to listen to Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland" and see such visions. The Ballantine paperbacks cannot be overstated. The covers by Boris Vallejo in particular helped me see the world of Tarzan. In my story I imagined a figure, ostensibly me, in the future surviving a crash, but taking a blow to the head which leaves him believing he really is the lord of the jungle. And then he doesn't merely survive, yet thrives sufficiently to live among and interact with local populations of people and other primates and big animals like elephants and much more.


Additional conflict arises. Adventures ensue.


Eventually, years later, rescuers arrive by small plane. Bringing romance possibilities, undoubtedly. The hero's Quixotic aspects, once amazing achieved and displayed, subsequently depart. Senses returned, however, cannot sway the hero into leaving. For now the forest...is truly his home.


And then as the plane flies off, he races to the swaying tip of the furthest branch of the tallest tree and vents a soul-searing uncanny yell--just in time with Bruce Springsteen at the end of the song.


When my kid heard me tell her about all this she said, "Oh, awesome!"


So yeah, I don't know. Hm. Maybe there's something there after all. That would be a cool thing to bring to life after all these years.





DREAM PROJECT

Whether he's called Natty Bumppo, the Deerslayer, the Pathfinder, Leather-Stocking, La Longue Carabine or Hawk-eye, he's America's first literary hero, inspired in large measure by Daniel Boone, a distant relative of mine. When I learned in my youth of his being my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, I became emotionally invested in investigating his life. This path eventually led me to find the five novels in James Fenimore Cooper's cycle of stories.


In The Deerslayer, Hawk-eye is about 23; in The Last of the Mohicans he's about 36; in The Pathfinder he's about 38; but then in The Pioneers he's 71 or 72, and in The Prairie about 81 or 82. Strangely, what we have is a gap of thirty-plus years in Hawk-eye's life during his prime.


So, this feeling keeps growing in mind that these stories exist and want to be found.




I see Leather-Stocking, Tomahawk, and Nathaniel as working titles for three works focusing on events in the hero's life during his 40s, 50s, and 60s.


In order to take on the challenging task of writing this sort of fan fiction, I would want to create as much of the proper tone and feeling as possible for verisimilitude, but would not attempt to write stories intended to fool anyone into thinking that these were "lost works" of JFC. They'd be novellas, heavily influenced by Daniel Boone's experiences, not focusing on huge battles, but rather his time perhaps held hostage by a tribe.


I mention this here just because I know if I don't then there's no chance of anything.







MYSTERIOUS HONOR



A few days ago I went out to my pickup heading to work and saw someone had left a flag carefully wrapped around a five-foot staff. Wondering what in bloody blue blazes this damn thing was, I unfurled it, and lo, turns out it's a Marines flag.


I think it's a sign of respect. I think somebody sees me around here as the guy for this thing.


Hell yeah, that's an honor. And plus a real conundrum.


Had to make sure and spell that last word just right so as to avoid confusion.


Much obliged!