Friday, October 31, 2008

Destroy All Monsters!

Was there ever really any doubt?

I love this movie. It was the first movie I ever posted a clip of on the Cloud. It's got all the greats: Godzilla, his son (daughter?) Godzookie, who blows smoke rings, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidrah. Eleven monsters in all! Gamera, sadly, is not in it, as the Godzilla and Gamera universes do not intersect.

The plot: all the word's monsters are rounded up and sent to Monster Island. Those zany Japanese Space Babes let them loose to destroy Earth, and control them from the moon. After their moonbase is destroyed, the Babes unleash King Ghidrah, but the Earth monsters unite to conquer Ghidrah and save the day! Yay!

The movie uses a lot of stock footage from other movies, but my guess is if you're a fan of Japanese monster movies, you're probably not a big stickler for continuity.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Fearless Vampire Killers

The Halloween countdown continues.

This one’s kinda bittersweet.

It’s Roman Polanski and the stunningly beautiful Sharon Tate trading rather tame sexual innuendo in The Fearless Vampire Killers, which Polanski directed before he got famous directing Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby.

It’s bittersweet because Sharon Tate died a few years later (while pregnant with Polanski’s baby) in the gruesome Manson family murders. I won’t go into all the details, or any details, actually – you can look em up on Wikipedia - but it was a pretty horrific scene. Surreal. What a strange time.

I haven’t seen this movie for decades, but I remember thinking it was very funny and very good when I was a kid. It used to get shown once or twice a year on TV, usually late at night. Its tragic history, along with Sharon Tate’s abundant cleavage, made me run to the TV set every time. Moth to a flame. Perfect fodder for a pre-adolescent boy.

I don’t know why they don’t show it anymore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gamera vs. Guiron

Okay, now we're getting to the good stuff.

I gave this movie to my younger daughter for Christmas last year. It's easily the stupidest Gamera movie ever made, and that's saying something. For the culturally challenged, Gamera is the jet-propelled flying turtle hero, Guiron is the little knifey guy he's fighting. Guiron is controlled by two brain-eating Japanese Space Babes bent on destroying the Earth. Needless to say, Gamera and his little friends save the day.

We own two versions of this: the regular one (US title Destroy All Planets) and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, which is very funny. This is the MST3K version. (note: they pulled my original clip from Youtube, so I substituted another)

And because I can't resist (and because there's like ten thousand hours of MST3K on Youtube), here's Joel and the Bots performing the Gamera theme song. It's a classic.

And what the hell, this is Mike Nelson channelling Michael Feinstein singing the Gamera song. This makes me laugh every time I see it. Just insanely funny.

By the way, you can get Mystery Science Theatre DVDs at for 6 bucks each. 5 bucks if you get ten of them. Which I did. It's linked over on the sidebar as well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Death By Unicorn

A fast, funny clip from The Abominable Dr. Phibes, a weird and very campy Vincent Price movie from those crazy 70s. I saw this at the drive-in (it's shocking how many of these movies I first saw at a drive-in) with my sister and her boyfriend. They were not amused that they had to drag me along. I, on the other hand, was delighted. They kept disappearing for long stretches to "go to the snack bar," but inevitably returned empty-handed. Just shocking.

There is an equally good sequel: Dr. Phibes Rises Again. If you have Netflix, you can get them both on the same disc. A Halloween double-feature!

The Abonimable Dr. Phibes - The best bloopers are here

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Haunting

Happy Halloween! Assuming I can find the time, I'll try to post bits of my favorite Halloween movies all this week.

There's a truly dreadful remake of this movie that came out a few years back, but ignore it. The original 1963 version is wonderful. Lotsa lesbian subtext in both versions (and in the novel). If you're into that kinda thing.

The source material is Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, a really good, really scary read. Here's the first paragraph:

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

I love that "not sane," hiding in the second sentence. So understated, and thus so effective.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Small World

Mona sez we should write about the world beyond our senses. Okay. I wrote this in my head, lying in bed with a cold. It's pretty much straight reportage, though I did have kind of a NyQuil buzz going at the time.

I am sick in bed with a cold today. My world has shrunk to the four walls around me, the bed, the blanket.

In the paper a woman who wishes to be Vice President says the election is in God's hands. On the radio, an arrogant English accent is telling an interviewer that God is a delusion to comfort the simple-minded.

I turn the radio off. The paper has long since been tossed.

What can be gained by trivializing the world around us, shrinking it to small, bite-sized portions? In whose interest is it that I wear blinders, that I keep the true nature of things at bay?

In a few hours I will get out of bed, pick up my daughters, walk home in a NyQuil haze. They will kick at the bright leaves that fell last night in response to the first frost of the year. It is cold; we will stay inside. As evening falls Venus and Jupiter will appear in the twilight, well before the other stars. Then Vega. Then Deneb and Altair.

Mysteries huddle at our feet, curled like sleeping cats.

We will eat. We will read the girls a story, sing them a song. I will slip into bed next to my wife. We will sleep. The wide world will turn.

Tomorrow it will all begin again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What is it about men that makes women so lonely?

Great line, isn't it?

It's from Seven Types of Ambiguity, by Elliot Perlman. I haven't read a really great book since Richard Price's Lush Life (I keep a list of everything I've read on the sidebar over there on the right, if you care). And this one may ultimately disappoint, as I haven't finished it yet. But I'm halfway through, and still riveted. The book shows the same event through the eyes of seven first person narrators. It's like strolling down a long hall of mirrors. And the various first person voices keep it focused on plot and character.

I get a curious sensation of falling when I start a new book. I start out knowing nothing. I begin to see the barest outlines of rooms, just walls at first, and they gradually acquire detail: the furniture, the wallpaper, the floor. Characters start out as mere words, form faces, then bodies. You discover how they dress, how they walk. They turn into living, breathing people if the writing is good enough. Right in front of your eyes. You can hear their voices when they talk.

That feeling of going down the rabbit hole as I read has been amplified lately because of where I've been reading. The girls have been...well, let's be polite and simply say bedtime lately. So El Huquito and I take turns staying in their room as they fall asleep, to prevent talking and playing and cavorting with the kitties. We have a little reading light that clips onto the brim of a hat, and we hand off the hat to each other, night after night.

So if it's my turn, after the lights go out, I sit in a dark, warm room, surrounded by the sound of my daughters' breathing and the purring of kitties, my book illuminated in a thin cone of light. It's so relaxing. I've sometimes stayed in there for a half an hour or so after they've gone to sleep, simply because it's such a nice place to read.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hammer Horror

Mona's word of the week is "taste."

I got nothin.

Luckily, Hammer films leap into the void. They made a million gloriously weird horror movies in the 60s and 70s. I saw most of them on Friday night Creature Feature. Usually I was fast asleep by the end, as the bat wings flapped into the sunset and the credits rolled.

Feel the cold grip of his presence. Sense the clammy excitement of his evil. Taste the blood...of Dracula!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goon Squad

I don't often delve into politics, so I'm only gonna say this once: look closely into the eyes of Sarah Palin and you will see the pleasant, smiling, charismatic face of fascism.

It's not gonna be some guy wearing jackboots and a sneer, waving a machine gun. It's gonna be someone who is attractive and confident, selling you sweet, seductive lies, winking at you in complicity.

McCain had a genuinely classy moment when he shook his head and took the microphone away from a woman calling Obama an "Arab." That was the John McCain I respected and admired, several years ago. The one who spoke out against torture. The one who championed campaign finance reform. But he's clearly lost control of his campaign, as the Republican Hate Machine continues to spew character attacks rather than discuss actual issues.

I've got my problems with Obama too. His vote on the telecom bill. His elitist comments on people reaching for guns and religion due to ignorance and fear. His lack of specifics. But we heard him speak last month and, unlike the McCain-Palin ticket, he didn't draw an angry mob. He drew a group of people who seemed to genuinely want to believe in their country again.

Just like me.

I took the title of this post from Elvis Costello's song of the same name. They've come to look you over and they're giving you the eye.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Spy With My Little Eye

That this looks like a giant eye in space is only the mildly cool bit.

The wildly cool bit is what causes the image to form. It's a gravitational lens, otherwise known as an Einstein ring.

The "pupil" of the eye, at center, is a galaxy 2 billion light years away. Directly behind that galaxy is another one, 11 billion miles away.

Follow me here: the extreme gravitational forces from the close galaxy bend the time and space around it, forming a sort of lens. Not figuratively. Literally. It's a giant lens made not of glass, but of space itself. Let me repeat that: it's a lens made of bent space. The lens distorts and magnifies the light from the faraway galaxy, bending it so it looks like a bright ring around the close one. Normally, the faraway galaxy would be too faint to see. The lens magnifies the light so that we can.

I don't know why it's blue. Perhaps it's a false color image. Or a Doppler shift of some kind.

Einstein predicted this kinda stuff would happen if we looked deep enough into space (something we couldn't do at the time he predicted it). That's why it's sometimes called an Einstein ring.

Is that cool, or what?

I grabbed the image, and the details, from the always interesting Bad Astronomy blog. I asked him why it was blue, but he's too famous to answer. He even gets interviewed on Art Bell!


While I'm at it, another space eye.

This is the Helix Nebula, sometimes called the Eye of God Nebula. It is much closer - a mere 700 light years away - and was created by the death of a star in our own galaxy. The resultant explosion created a tube of glowing gas along the poles of the star, and we're looking down that tube. Look closely and you can see original star, at the center of the picture.

First photo is from the Keck observatory. Second one is from the Hubble. Both are from NASA.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Scents and Sensibility

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Mona's word of last week, smell, has lingered in my brain like the scent of burnt microwave popcorn.

So, an olfactory anecdote: while I was working at the worst job I ever had (a "crepe assembler" at the Magic Pan in Minneapolis), my mean-spirited boss fell down half a flight of stairs at a party. He went to the ER, and when he came back to work a couple days later informed us he was fine, but - and I am not making this up - he had lost his sense of smell in the fall.

My theory at the time was that since smell is located in the limbic system, an ancient part of the brain (in evolutionary terms) commonly called the lizard brain because lizards have this structure in their brains as well, he would lose the more reptilian aspects of his personality, and emerge from the fall as a nicer, more pleasant individual.

I was wrong. He was still a dick.

Just a dick with no sense of smell.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Also: Willie Ziebell sez that there is a word for the smell of rain in the air: petrichor. Pronounced pe-trĂȘ-kor. Cool word. Thanks, Willie.

A non-smell related item: you may recall I predicted the Cubs were gonna go all the way this year. I was wrong. Very wrong. They didn't win a single game, and were effortlessly swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers. More strangeness: on TV I witnessed Cubs fans booing their own team! At Wrigley Field! I don't think I've ever heard that before. Mets fans, sure. Yankees fans, absolutely. But not Cubs fans. They're supposed to be above that sort of behavior.

No Mets. No Cubs. No Rockies. No Twins. Gonna be a boring post-season, I predict.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I've blatantly ripped off Mona's format for the Friday Word ("smell"). She listed a deeply evocative list of smells she loves, and I'm merely following in her footsteps. Good word!

* The smell of tomato plants being watered (I've heard - perhaps from Dancehall? - that it's the vines that make the smell, and not the tomatoes themselves)
* Cigarettes. I'm an ex-smoker, and will always love the smell, and always miss smoking. It's like phantom limb syndrome. What a glorious habit. I've sat next to people who were smoking just to get a whiff of that second-hand smoke.
* Bourbon. Good bourbon. Enough said.
* Mimeographs. This'll be lost on everyone under the age of 30 or so, but in the olden days, schools printed copies using a mimeograph machine, which produced an odd blue text and the most wonderful artificial chemical smell. I have such distinct memories of the teacher passing out copies, and every kid in the class taking a deep whiff of the paper the second it landed on their desk, because it smelled so good. Cheap thrills.
* Coffee. Maxwell House or fancy-pants Starbucks, it's all the same to me.
* Bacon. Mmmmmmmmm, bacon....
* Campfires. And the way the smoky smell stays in your clothes and your hair and your skin for days afterward. You smell it and remember sitting at the fire as the stars come out and the bats begin to swoop and the coyotes begin to howl.
* Cordite. It's what makes that smell in the air after a fireworks display, when everyone is walking home, dazzled and sleepy.
* The smell in the air just before a rain.
* Sage. Particularly after a rain. La petite Huque has planted lots of sage around the house, and the smell surrounds us like a comforting blanket every time it rains.