Thursday, October 19, 2017


He has reflected his inner child on screen for decades. With his head held proudly in dark clouds, Tim Burton has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Disneyland. His Jack Skellington character possesses the park's Haunted Mansion, and the director of Alice in Wonderland is currently working on the live-action version of Dumbo to be released in 2019.
          Among his 38 directorial credits, eight include Johnny Depp in the lead, and sixteen with music by Danny Elfman. Elfman, whom Burton had appreciated as the brains behind the pop band Oingo Boingo, has said that after he wrote the music for Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985) his career went "from zero to ninety."
          That film was Burton's big breakthrough, and features moments of stop-motion animation, which was associated at that time with holiday TV specials. 
          Burton's primary work melds classic characters and set designs (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,    Metropolis) with stories related to younger-skewing pop culture favorites from the 1960s and '70s (Batman, Planet of the Apes , Dark Shadows). Generally composed of equal parts Gothic atmosphere, romance, and laughs, Tim Burton's films have the controlled look of a German set. Indeed, just as Fritz Lang built a fake forest for Siegfried, Burton built one for Sleepy Hollow (1999).
          As Burton's version of Ichabod Crane, Johnny Depp takes on the sensitive, sallow-faced archetype which predominates the director's work. As Edward Scissorhands in 1990, Depp set the high-bar with a tousle-haired Goth look evoking Conrad Veidt's Somnambulist and somehow always reflecting Burton. 
          It is his undying obsession with all things Halloween that undoubtedly defines Burton in the public mind. Depp stars in most of the best: Sweeney Todd, Dark Shadows, and primarily Sleepy Hollow--which, while dark enough for events to revolve around a series of decapitations, still manages to refer to the Disney cartoon version of Washington Irving's tale.
          Burton's other masterpiece, 1988's Beetlejuice, boasts Michael Keaton as "the ghost with the most." (Both films feature a sudden stop-motion animation creepy moment as first seen in Pee-Wee.) Fans of the quirky cult classic will be knocked dead to hear that Burton's Beetlejuice sequel, again starring Keaton, is in the works.

Stewart Kirby writes for

Thursday, October 12, 2017


I cast unaccountable shadows. Not all the time so noticeably. But sometimes, si, muy noticeable. I'll be sitting in a chair in a room and see my silhouette with what looks unmistakably like the lance mysteriously given to me. Many times I spin around seeking the source of the effect. Always nothing there. The actual lance is on my bedroom floor until I get around to setting up a couple of mounts on the wall...



Sunday, October 8, 2017


          An excellent replication.
          It's not better than the original, but it's a close second.
          Ryan Gosling stars as K, a so-called "Blade Runner" agent on a mission to assassinate which leads him to the star of the 35 year-old film, Harrison Ford.
          Since its release, the movie based on a story by sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", has virtually defined the look of the dystopian future. Director Ridley Scott's vision of a dark, bleak, soulless corporate world run into the ground and populated by artificial life on the run magnificently reflected PKD's writing with one notable exception: PKD's heroes never look like Hollywood leading-man material. He died shortly after the film's release, so he never saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall or Tom Cruise in Minority Report, to exemplify the repeated discrepancy.
          True enough, technology has advanced so that most of the effects in the new addition to the franchise look  even better, under a microscope. But it cannot hope to outstrip the reason for its being; the film always refers in some way to the 1982 landmark film, yet without the benefit of being written by the legendary master.
          It's a long movie, generally slow, and always interesting to watch.
          As always skirting around the edge of the story in order to preserve the experience for the reader, suffice to say 2049 concerns themes of self-discovery and the nature of what it means to be alive in an increasingly automated world.
          Film fans will find similarities with indirect source material including Metropolis and Bride of Frankenstein.
          The 1982 original boasted not only a visionary aesthetic, but also one of the greatest soundtracks ever, plus an unforgettable bad guy as played by Rutger Hauer. This movie captures the look and sound of the original almost perfectly, and features a terrific performance by Gosling in particular.
          And of course Harrison Ford.
          Well worth a trip to the theater.

Starring Ryan Gosling,
Harrison Ford,
Robin Wright,
Ana De Armas,
Jared Leto,
Sylvia Hoeks,
Dave Bautista,
Mackenzie Davis,
Edward James Olmos
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Based on characters created by Philip K. Dick
Runtime 163 minutes
Rated R

Stewart Kirby writes for

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Where ancient aliens, a Hippie Grail Myth, and animatronic Bigfeet collide.

One book with 3 stories:

DRIFTING ROOM After an alien abduction accidentally lands Sam Hain in a parallel universe version of his redwood county home, his only hope of getting back is finding the pale little almond-eyed being with the bulbous head who accidentally landed with him and fled into the forest, while, unknown to Sam, it’s his own blood coming into contact with the biosphere that’s causing the bugs to grow so big. CODY AND HEIDI When aging genius Wolfgang Fischer wounds his foot, the entire redwood land suffers blight. Crops don’t grow right, people act dehumanized, and corporatization ensues as Southern Humbaba County comes under attack by the National Armed Resistance to Growers in this Hippie Grail myth. REDWOODLAND Joe Longhair’s stories give the inspiration for Redwoodland, the world’s largest amusement park and forest preserve of the future. When he finally takes two tickets, Joe finds juicy romance where visitors pass by train through real redwoods, and danger beyond his wildest dreams among the talking burls, automated Bigfeet, and animatronic Hippies.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017


ALL THE WAY DOWN the mountain the smile on his face never once faded until he saw the Bear, one of those Big Bears they had with the eyes that blazed red and could run faster than the real thing, able even to split open and release the driver.

He hated to have to take the truck out of low gear right here, right in front of them, tired as he was after a long day of thinning trees, plus putting up metal siding on the cabin, but there was nothing he could do about it. All he could do was slow down and pull over for a few moments to change out.

Sure enough, that Big Bear's eyes went from low-grade dim to bright blazing red as it waddled on over, just the biggest, fattest, ugliest-looking bear you could ever imagine coming right over to the window and demanding identification.

The sun, beginning to set, cast a spectacular orange glow through the ragged black tree-line.

"How's it going, officer?" he asked, trying his best to respect the badge while he retrieved his paperwork from the glove compartment.

"Sir, turn off your engine," came the voice from within the huge lifelike bear head sniffing at the window.

"Yes, sir," he replied. Oh, he knew they'd hassle him on sight, he just knew it. Finally getting free of this very sort of thing was exactly why he'd been so happy all day till now. Murphy's Law. He turned off the engine.

"Sir, are you presently carrying any firearms or other weapons?"

Holy Moly. Ever since those rotten traitors pulled up stakes and headed out for anti-gravity cities and luxury accommodations on the moon and Mars, the Indians, descendants of the natives, they just couldn't let bygones be bygones.

The mechanical Bear emitted both heat and scent. The deep dank scent of Indian casino basement. Those fearsome facilities constructed underground housed many of the local super-rich who left the whole show and copped out.

"Okay, all right, I do have a .44 on the back seat."

Big Bear's hard snarl shifted the hat on his head like the sail of a skiff in a storm. Suddenly the Bear put both of its gigantic front paws on the top of the truck and started rocking the vehicle from side-to-side, roaring horrifically the while. Inside, the man hung on to the wheel, maintaining an upright position with all his might until the Bear stopped and reared up to its full height, red eyes blazing in the dusk light.

Whereupon the Big Bear opened, and from the perfect hidden seam stepped forth the law enforcement officer, a bona fide agent of Cahokia restored, glorious in full metal feather, great big laser bow drawn...




Meet yNsaynZy.

He's a superhero.

His power: Insanity.

Once a prominent scientist, Dashiell Kesey helped Big Pharmaceutical--until he saw the terrible potential of a harmful new drug. He tried to stop the insidious plan to control and enslave the vast majority of humanity, but was caught in a blast at the lab that changed him...did not kill him, but made him stronger. Made him...yNsaynZy.

Behold his kingly raiment!

Some say he is the god Dionysus in human form. Others say he is a man who became a god.

Both true? Probably.

But one thing is certain:

He is the greatest military leader to walk the face of the earth.

He's yNsaynZy!

They called Galileo crazy, too.

The artist is always crazy, the visionary always crazy, the prophet always mad. In a world where people are pumped day in and day out with pills, pills, pills, pumped with deadly drugs pushed by TV, the crazy man has no TV and pops no pills at all. His is the strength of the madman, and he quotes from Hamlet and Nietzsche, Captain Ahab and James Joyce,  Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar A. Poe, before delivering justice unto wrongdoers.

I think I'm really onto something here.


By golly, somebody keeps leaving me things in my truck. I swear to god, it's bizarre. This morning's Mystery Gift:

A sword.

First a flag. Why? Then a lance. Why? Now a sword. So why not keep them? All carefully placed. Well, not the flag so much. That seems separate. The lance and the sword were placed very specifically in a particular way though, and unlike the flag they both look and feel old. Authentic.

It's a cool old sword. Leather scabbard with either an N on it or a Z, depending how you look, or maybe both. Horse head hilt. Blade even looks like it has ancient blood rusted on it. I love working on my new story while I wear my sword hanging from my belt. Which is a perfectly legal thing for me to do here in Oregon should I so choose to travel out and about with my sword...


Sunday, October 1, 2017


          A non-comprehensive list of worthy suggestions for your perusal. Mythic marriages of life and death, go-to Gothic flicks to aid the cinematic senses in this autumnal season. In random order:

          1. Bride of Frankenstein (1934) - James Whale's classic version of Mary Shelley's novel, starring Boris Karloff as the iconic Creature. Differs significantly, but always delivers classic Halloween atmosphere.
          2. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) - Eye-candy in a big way. Francis Ford Coppola's version of Bram Stoker's novel (the ultimate Gothic novel) does differ--they almost always do, and understandably so--but still demands its annual due.
          3. Nosferatu (1979) - A version yet further in keeping with the Dubliner's novel, directed by the greatest living filmmaker, Werner Herzog, and starring the inimitable Klaus Kinski as the repulsive Lord of Vampires.
          4. Halloween (1979) - From the same notable year, John Carpenter's immortal indie classic about an extremely resilient guy who escapes an insane asylum one Halloween, wearing a messed-up William Shatner mask, silently intent on killing his sister.
          5. Creepshow (1982) - One could just as easily substitute Hitchcock's Psycho, or The Silence of the Lambs, or The Omen, or Young Frankenstein, but this list honors Stephen King and George Romero's classic pulpy homage to EC Comics of the 1950s.
          6. The Shining (1980) - Stephen King doesn't like the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece reputedly because of Jack Nicholson's performance, but what does he know? It's the fantastic film of a dad possessed by evil hotel spirits over an ancient Indian burial site trying to kill his son.
          7. The Haunting (1963) - Robert Wise's version of the Shirley Jackson novel about another haunted house, this time beautifully suggested, very tastefully done and featuring Julie Harris.
          8. Rosemary's Baby (1968) - Mia Farrow stars in Roman Polanski's remarkably faithful adaptation of the novel by Ira Levin about the birth of the Devil's child.
          9. The Ninth Gate (1999) - Speak of the Devil, this amazing slice of Gothicism, also directed by Polanski, features Johnny Depp as a book detective looking for a book written by Lucifer.
         10. Sleepy Hollow (1999) - Capping off the century, Tim Burton's own eye-candy, starring Depp as the eccentric Ichabod Crane, a constable sent to investigate murders in a backwoods community. Differs markedly from Washington Irving's classic story, yet still merit attention.
         11. The Wolf Man (2010) - Featuring Benecio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins in this terrific update of the 1940s version starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
         12. The Fly (1986) - Another great Gothic re-make, this time of a 1950s B-movie about a fly and a guy who get together. Stars Jeff Goldblum as the underrated classic Brundlefly.
         13. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) - Long before the Fly, there was Hyde. Ultimate split-personality story about a good doctor (excellently played by Fredric March) who scientifically extracts his own repressed dark side in Victorian England with horrific results.

Stewart Kirby writes for

Thursday, September 28, 2017


DO REMEMBER OF COURSE I am not responsible for these words. I didn't write them. A wolf did. The one that was at my door for so long.

She yells my name.

"What are you doing? What are you DOING? GET OUT OF THERE!"

I am kneeling over the body of my little boy. He died after she brought him back from the vet. My daughter kneels next to me, and together we feel the loss. Having heard her enter the house upstairs, I called her down to the basement to share the bad news. Now that she stands in the doorway, she cannot help but see. Nothing can be more obvious. Anyone in the world can see my daughter and I feel pain. He is in one of those plastic cat carriers with little metal bars for a door and a handle on the top. I have removed the screws that hold the top half of the carrier to the base, so that his furry black body, still and lifeless, lies exposed. I pet him with one hand sadly while she stands in the doorway screaming at me. "He's dead," I say, not looking up. Imperiously, she orders me to move. For the sake of my daughter and my little boy, I comply. We switch places. She kneels by the body, and does what I had been doing. Standing in the doorway now, I watch while she pets his lifeless form. It is the same cat carrier he was in when I brought him back from the animal shelter six years prior. The words she senselessly screamed Still hand in the air.

What are you doing?

Get out of there!

Shifting to an oddly incongruous considerate tone, she asks my daughter if she would like to pet him. Quietly crying, my daughter says no. When she looks up and puts the question to me, I say, "That's what I was doing when you screamed at me to leave."

I wonder what she would think if she saw that scene in a movie, perhaps with the genders reversed. I wonder what she would think of herself if anyone else was her. And in the meantime I have no sofa, no lamp, or money for re-sealable baggies. If I can afford an onion, one half gets wrapped in the plastic bag from the store, and at the second-hand shop I see a lot of things I used to own. The lid to my old CD player won't stay down, so I have to keep something on top at all times, and much of what little I own is torn and frayed. All this the result of my writing books. She couldn't handle the thunder coming my way. She abandoned me one summer on family vacation, carting away my kid, whom I'd raised and taught to read by age three, all because of books. I got nothing out of the divorce.

Workwise, my attempt to syndicate my movie reviews into multiple newspapers naturally leading to a conversation with the editor of the one now nearest me resulted in some dour galley slave's release with the assurance unto me subsequent to official interview that there was more in my future at the paper than merely movie reviews. And a couple days later I found out by email he quit. Accompanied with the news was a job offer...