Not so Stranger Things

I binge-watched season two of Stranger Things the day it came out.

NO RAGRETS!

The beauty of Stranger Things isn’t in the nitty-gritty of the story.  The greatness is the characters and the mood.  It is well-acted and it looks good.

Stranger Things is a feeling and a sound.  It feels like home.  The retrospectively goofy looking, but punkishly awesome sounding, days when the fifty cent price of admission for the cartoon masquerading as a video game known as Dragon’s Lair was an outrageous burden.  When our childhood selves left the house after breakfast and came home well after dark.  What went on during that time was important business and it was ours.

Halloween still feels like that.  Candy is still candy.  Pumpkins still get carved.  Kids (or imps and other darklings masquerading as kids) are vampires, princesses, Ghostbusters and weird cartoon characters I can’t identify.

The night is dark and chilly, but it sparks with undeniable energy.  An adventure is playing out under the dingy neighborhood lights.  Not everyone is in on it, but everyone senses it’s happening.

That is Stranger Things.

Experience it, don’t just watch it.  Binging helps, just like when you’re ankle deep in a pile of Kit Kat wrappers.

Halloween was a nice exclamation point to my Stanger Things binge.  I carved, I drank, I watched It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Just like I always do.

I shut the lights out, lit the candles, and fired up the Stranger Things soundtrack.

The neighborhood goblins took me for all the candy in the land.  It kept me from getting tricked for one more year.

 

All the required tools for the job.

 

 

 

The dog taught that pumpkin who’s in charge because that’s what dogs do.

 

 

 

Fire in the hole.

 

 

 

Bring on the bell-ringing weirdos.

 

 

 

The candy tax gets steeper every year.

 

 

 

After the storm.

 

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Friday the 13th: The Orphan

The second Friday the 13th of this year makes a nice October pitstop on our way to Halloween.

I decided to mark this occasion by watching a movie that wasn’t part of the Friday the 13th horror franchise.  If I’m honest, though, I have the sixth film, Jason Lives, playing in the background right now.  It’s not like it will distract me.

After all, there’s plenty of horror to chose from and, while I’ve seen most of them, I haven’t seen every horror movie ever made.  I was thinking about slasher movies.  The forerunners of Friday the 13th going all the way back to silent films like The Bat (which also has a keen 1959 remake with Vincent Price); mid-century efforts like Homicidal, The Scarlett Claw, The Spiral Staircase, and House of Wax; or even something like The House That Screamed.  All (and plenty more) influenced the genre in some way, including masks, point-of-view shots, jump scares and heroines (helpless and not).

While I was dithering about on IMDb; however, I got caught looking for every horror movie with the number 13 in the title.  Why wouldn’t that happen?  It’s like having to count mustard seeds.

That’s a hefty bunch of films.  Some good films (I watched Dementia 13 last year).  There’s some real manure as well.  I’m talking to you 13th Child.  Surely the Jersey Devil can do better than that.  This is why it’s so pissed off all the time.  No respect, I tell ya.

Wonder of wonders, there is a 1979 movie entitled Friday the 13th: The Orphan.  Or just The Orphan.  They splashed a calendar page on the poster that has nothing to do with the movie, but I’ll take it.

I watched it last night.  I took copious notes.  Being Friday the 13th and all, WordPress didn’t save anything.  Not even a midpoint draft.  For a minute, I thought I dreamed the whole thing, but I can’t forget typing out “shitty music, again” repeatedly and my dreams are usually way more interesting than note taking while drinking a Caipirinha.

No matter, I can sum that shit up in long story (not so) short form.  I probably wasn’t going to read any of those notes anyway.

It’s the 1920s or thereabouts.  A creepy kid’s parents die.  The movie opens with the kid narrating a funeral in such a way as to sound insane.  No, you didn’t miss anything, that’s just the cold intro into the mind of David, a deranged little orphan.

His aunt comes to take care of him and she won’t let him have any toast because he might cough.  Yes, really.  Aunt Martha’s got issues.

The maid; the live-in African gentleman (seriously, he’s just the dead father’s buddy/business partner from Africa who has extended-stay guest privileges, gives the boy an elephant gun pistol (I take this from the movie, don’t get picky) and smokes him up hooka style); and the neighborly, letch, ginger Uncle Pennybags-looking Billy variously pledge to help the boy.  They’re all selfish and full of shit.

Naturally, the boy takes to praying to a stuffed chimp on an altar, wearing no shirt and generally goes Tarzan Backyard Edition.  Lots of flashbacks go into just how shitty the parents actually were.  Akin, the African man, kills the boy’s chicken, Apple Betty, at the behest of Aunt Martha and rolls out smoking a cigar in his new car, courtesy of a juicy Aunt Martha payoff check.  See ya, Akin.  Enjoy your vacation.

The boy hears some voices, gets agitated, and Aunt Martha kills his dog by slamming it in a door accidentally.  The boy has had enough of reality and lying liars and then people die.  The boy finally has some toast, with raspberry jam, cooked on the end of a fireplace poker in the family fireplace.  All’s well that ends well!

I have to tell you, I thought this movie was shit.  Then a funny thing happened.  It got weird.  Really weird.  Weird is right in my wheelhouse.  The shitty music became perfect.  The annoying flashbacks became artistically surreal.  There was a stuffed chimp and a pet chicken.  The annoying child became my hero.  They all got what was coming to them.

Despite what you see in the trailer, Charlie the Chimp is never alive and the Friday the 13th date is never mentioned (to my knowledge).

 

There are three songs listed in the credits.  “I Need to Live Alone Again” by Janis Ian, “Don’t Make Me Laugh” and “Did You Ever Dream” written by Teo Macero and Carl Sigman – performed by Judy Roberts.

Janis seems like a fine artist, but when you put that song with this movie, what you get is saccharine insanity.  Saccharinsanity.

It’s the perfect song to play alongside Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

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H. is for headspace. It’s also a movie.

Asteroid 3122 Florence (aka Asteroid 1981ET3) whooshed past Earth. 3122 Flo is yuge – 2.7 miles in diameter.

We got lucky.  This time.  However, that doesn’t stop us from obsessing about large space objects colliding with Earth and causing havoc, with a capital H.

3122 Flo is named after Florence Nightingale.  Probably because they both did pioneering work in statistical graphics.  Coxcombs aren’t just for dirty fantasies anymore, amiright?  Maybe I’m not.  Who could possibly know?  Facts are for losers.

There are so many movies about asteroid and meteor devastation.  There was a real heyday in the late 1990s with Armageddon, Deep Impact, and Ice.

Other notables: The Blob, Meteor (1979), Meteorites, The Day the Sky Exploded, The Monolith Monsters, 400 Days, Asteroid, The Day of the Triffids, These Final Hours, Post Impact, Anna’s Storm, Disaster L.A., Tycus, Threshold.

Some of them are good.  Most of them are not.  Shit falling from the sky is worrisome, even if it’s not originating in North Korea.  This makes the subject a prime force in disaster flicks.

Some films try to take a different approach, to varying degrees of success.  Night of the Wild – where the animals go bonkers, as they do.  Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – a funky little film with comic personality; mostly about people, who just happen to be waiting for an asteroid to hit and end us all. Lifeforce (pour one out for Tobe Hooper) – a movie about space vampires arriving in the bosom of Halley’s Comet who want to steal your life force. Maximum Overdrive – where the machines go wild to an AC/DC soundtrack, as they do.  Night of the Comet – where the dead go wild, as they do.  Tank Girl – a love story about a weird chick and her kangaroo-man boyfriend surviving with apocalyptic style and punk attitude in a post-impact world.  The Meteor Man – just another superhero origin story about your average mild-mannered family man becoming super-duper after getting bonked by a green ball of space junk.  Without Warning – a shitty mockumentary TV-movie broadcast on Halloween in 1994 that I shouldn’t even have bothered mentioning.

Now, back to the capital H.  The movie, that is.  Maybe it’s about a meteor strike and maybe it’s not.  Something happened.  Something exploded.  We can be sure of that.  That’s about all we can be sure of.

The two main characters are both named Helen.  They live in Troy.  The one in New York.  The elder Helen takes care of a realistic baby doll and uploads videos of her daily care of said doll.  The younger Helen is pregnant.  Both Helens have less than great male partners.  A horse shows up repeatedly, roaming the streets.  The laws of physics fail.  A giant stone statue head floats down the river.

The elder Helen takes care of a realistic baby doll and uploads videos of her daily care of said doll.  The younger Helen is pregnant.  Both Helens have less than great male partners.  A horse shows up repeatedly, roaming the streets.  The laws of physics fail.  A giant stone statue head floats down a river.

You know, just your typical post-something-fucked-happened shenanigans.

There’s obvious images and themes to work with, if you’re intent on finding deep meaning.  I suggest you not bother.  You won’t be satisfied.

The strength of the movie is in the cinematography and the performance of the two actresses, not in its message.

You can just revel in beautiful imagery and weirdness.  Just let it wash over you and forget you have any prior knowledge about Troy and Helens and horses and the state of humanity.  Let the creepy sounds and music of the movie tickle your brain.

Let the creepy sounds and music of the movie tickle your brain.

The film, after all, starts with a quote from Homer’s “The Iliad” – “Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed.”

That’s all you need to know.  The anatomically correct creepy fake baby is beautiful.  The horse-man in the woods that looks like he’s ready to win first prize at a furry sex horror convention is beautiful (think the internet-infamous unicorn man, but a dark NightMare version).  The comatose people laying in the snow, all in the same pose, are beautiful.  The floating cement statue head is beautiful.  A dream of baby-sized eggs with fetuses in them laying in the wintry forest?  You got it.  Beautiful.

The guy laughing maniacally at the end?  That’s all of us.  Just go with it.

Maybe the point was that we’ll all be praying for an impact event by the end of the film.  Or maybe the point was to make us think about stuff.  Like what’s for dinner and do you have any percocets?

 

 

 

 

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Haruo Nakajima – The man inside the monster

The man in the original Godzilla costume walked off into the sea.  Haruo Nakajima died of pneumonia on August 7th.  He was 88-years-old and had been in the Godzilla suit 12 times from 1954 to 1972, first donning the famous Godzilla suit for the 1954 movie “Godzilla“.

Godzilla has always been a favorite of mine.  He always stomped a city like the true king he is and Haruo Nakajima was behind that majestic stomp.

Nakajima last played Godzilla in 1972 for the film “Godzilla vs Gigan“; however, he played a number of other monsters (as well as other roles, including a bandit in “Seven Samurai“) during his career, including King Kong in “King Kong Escapes“.  An Andy Serkis for the giant monster set.

He has played Rodan – a giant Pteranodon (a monster he almost drown portraying), Moguera – a giant fighting mecha beast, Varan – a gliding lizard Godzilla wanna be, Baragon , a liquid person H-Man, Magma – a giant walrus, a mutated mushroom Matango, a flying lion, a giant rat, and Gezora – a giant cuttlefish.

That’s a lot of monstering for one guy.

In honor of the man who first brought Godzilla, that lovable metaphor, symbol and pop icon to life on-screen (go ahead and take a moment to remember Nagasaki today – 72 years later), I decided to watch one of Nakajima’s non-Godzilla films, “The War of the Gargantuas“.

“The War of the Gargantuas” is a semi-sequel to “Frankenstein Conquers the World” with Nakajima as one of two Frankensteins (Gargantuan in the US version) born from the cells of the titular monster in the first film.

The two giant brothers battle it out.  Nakajima is the violent, green, sea gargantua, Gaira.  The gentle, brown, mountain brother Sanda is the defender of Tokyo.

I just got back from a family gathering this past weekend.  When I heard that Nakajima had passed, naturally I thought of brothers fighting and so to “The War of the Gargantuas”.  I’m still not sure which brother I am.  I guess we’ll just have to duke it out.  Winner gets to be the hero.

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Sanda (Yû Sekita) on the left and Gaira (Haruo Nakajima) on the right.

Is it any wonder that the brother grew up mean when little Sanda was getting the full spoiled little monster treatment?  Gaira really excels in throwing angry tantrums, but Sanda still loved the big, green galoot.  At least until he found Gaira eating some boaters.  I guess Sanda doesn’t like between meal snacking.

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Can you believe that little nugget is going to grow up to be a gargantua?

This movie gets overlooked in the pantheon of Japanese monster flicks, but it’s one of the better ones.  Any movie that starts with a kraken attack is solid in my book.

You might recognize Russ Tamblyn (you might not, I certainly never did), the actor playing gargantua expert Dr. Paul Stewart, as Riff, the leader of the Jets in West Side Story.  See how far you can go if you leave the streets behind?

Dr. Paul’s assistant Akemi Togawa is played by Kumi Mizuno, a legend in Godzilla films who may or may not have been romanced by Godzilla in Godzilla vs the Sea Monster – a movie that was originally meant to have Kong, who we know is quite the player.  Nakajima wore a wetsuit under the Godzilla outfit for all the scenes Godzilla was in the water ripping the claws off the giant lobster.  Nakajima was a pro.  I’m sure there was a vat of clarified butter already warming over a fire pit.

Two brothers fighting, a city under attack, a Pan Am flight, probing into secrets, Science!, and the great maser ray gun.  As the trailer says, “filmed in absolute realism”.  You just can’t beat that.

It all ends in smoke and fire, but what doesn’t?

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Solstice, not just a bad movie

It’s also one long ass day.

The summer solstice.  Good times.  11:24 pm CDT.

I was looking for a good solstice related movie.  There’s a few to choose from.  I read an article in which the author questioned why anyone would make a movie featuring the summer solstice, called all the movies listed in the article boring, then mentioned not having watched any of them.

This is why we let our soul-stice fly, people.  Don’t let the wankers bring you down.

I ended up watching Solstice.  I didn’t give the choice much thought.  I liked the look of the cast (good-looking folks, plus R. Lee Ermey) and it’s called Solstice, so it was one of the first search results.

It was either watch a movie or erect a bunch of huge stones in the back yard.  It’s hovered around 70ºF with a light breeze all day.  Pretty good weather for erecting huge slabs of stone.

Nevertheless, I’m betting Chicago requires a raft of permits for large stone erection and I didn’t want to get into it with them right now.  I’m trying to get my property taxes reduced.  Besides, I didn’t have enough beer to get through a project of that immensity.

Just some grilled corn and sweet potato, a few of those beers, and this freaking movie.

There was a Swedish version first, Midsommer.  I probably should have watched that one instead.  It didn’t have twins.

They movie teens are calling it St. John’s Eve because this movie transpires in N’awlins.  Also because the sister died six months prior.  There’s a John and Jesus thing going on there.  They were a thing way back when.  This will not come up again.  I can hear your sigh of relief from here.

Fortean Times makes an appearance.  That’s not your everyday movie prop.  There’s an article about the dead speaking.  This was not necessary in any way.  It could have been cut out.  It wasn’t.  That’s summer solstice for you.  Everyone thinks we’ve got plenty of time for useless shenanigans.

The dead twin has auburn hair (vs the main character’s blonde).  This is a blessing.  I don’t have to remember their names.

Right from the start, the movie is your standard ghost story.  Teens, lake house, swimming, sad girl, creepy local, hot local hick teen working at the classic two-pump old-timey gas station, funky mirror action, car trouble, goop coming out of the faucet, shadow under the door, moved objects, drinking games, vision complete with physical injury manifestation, nightmare, the significant object has been identified (it’s a keychain!) – and I’m barely 20 minutes into this Cajun ghost story thrill ride.

Just kidding, there aren’t any actual thrills.

I shouldn’t complain.  The sooner they got down to it, the better.  I only had the longest day of the year to watch this 91-minute-long movie.  A 90-minute movie earlier this week took me two days to finish.  Nothing is a given.  Time and space are warped, just like my mind.

Anyway, the movie…it moves quickly toward resolution, thank goodness.

 

There’s a missing girl poster at the gas station.  It could have been subtle, but it wasn’t.  More subtle than usual for these movies – nobody specifically asked about it, but the multiple shots framing the poster prominently in the background was a hard clue to miss.

A circle of young’uns in the water with a non-officiant chanting some voodoo mumbo to Papa Legba and pouring out a little red wine?  What could go wrong.

Don’t break the circle, kids.  How many times have you heard that, am I right?  Right up there with “mom always said, don’t play ball in the house” and “stop drowning the other children!”

They’re not even naked.  What kind of horror movie is this?

It’s not half as bad as it should have been and not half as good as I wanted it to be.  The story was ramshackle; however, the actors did a bang up job, or at least as well as could be expected given the circumstances.  The end wasn’t horrible, which was a shame because you kind of want horrible in a horror movie.

It certainly didn’t “hark back to elemental horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining” as writer/director Daniel Myrick hoped.  That’s the kind of thing you should keep to yourself.

I’ve seen worse.  Earlier this week as a matter of fact.  We’ll talk about that next time.

I finished watching just as the sun set.  That’s perfect.  The dark is my time.

Besides, it’s time to feed the lizard.  That’s not a euphemism.

Since I didn’t watch the Swedish film that inspired this one, I can at least leave you with some Swedish metal.  Let’s get out there and do some fire magick.

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That’s no space station…It’s a tiny moon

Today brings us the smallest full moon of the year.  The full moon crested at 9:10am Eastern Time, but it’s still out there being full right now.

The Flower Moon – or Strawberry Moon or Rose Moon.  If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, the Oak Moon, Cold Moon or Long Night’s Moon.  That’s a lot of names for one moon.  Never trust a moon with many aliases.  Though I can respect a reminder about strawberry picking season, as coined by some Algonquin tribes.  Strawberries are my jam!  (Not really, I go for peach or cherry in my PBJ, but that’s not the point)

Either way, you can rest easy thinking all the wackadoos will be slightly less crazy for this full moon.  The were-creatures will be a little less bloodthirsty.  That irritating space Nazi moon base will be just a smidgen farther away today.  I’m pretty certain that’s how this works.

I got a lot of my moon knowledge from “Track of the Moon Beast,” which I’ve been told is quite reliable.  It has a meteor shower, a lizard man and Native American legends.  We really loved those creepy Native legends back in the 70s.  Thank god Johnny Longbow is there to save the day…with his bow and arrow.  No, I didn’t make that up, but some dumbass movie feller did.

This movie is in the running for worst asteroid on film ever and it happens within the first thirty seconds (before the opening credits!), immediately followed by Natives chanting with a rattle and drum.  The asteroid is on a collision course with the moon, but the news is pretty cavalier about it.  Perhaps they expected the Cold Moon to snuff out that lazily flaming fireball on a string.

It didn’t, and the resulting meteor shower rained down on Earth.  One meteorite shard even hit poor Paul. He didn’t even notice.  That’s definitely not groovy, but I’m positive he was just distracted by Leigh Drake’s legs.  You’ll see no shorter short shorts on any of the yutes today.

The stereotypical early TV “indian” music we get when Johnny Longbow is practicing with his bow is cringe-worthy, but Frank Larrabee singing “California Lady” might have been the best part of the film.  That is, if Paul hadn’t blown up at the end.

I love it when a man-lizard is consumed by mystickal fire after getting shot with a meteorite-arrowhead-tipped-arrow by a Native American university professor of anthropology under the dark of a full moon.  Damn, that’s a mouthful.

That and daytime moon shots.  I love moon shots.  And ice cream.  I really love ice cream.

And horrifically bad dialogue.

Police Captain “Mac” McCabe: “But he did manage to say something about a lizard…a big lizard…a big lizard that walked like a man.”

Johnny Longbow: “Seems to me I’ve heard that expression before.”

Police Captain “Mac” McCabe: *sensible chuckle*…”Maybe.”

Now all I need is some freakin’ ice cream.

 

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“Spring” has sprung, mud was flung, tentacle tongues

That vernal equinox thing happened.  Now it’s spring.  March tried to pretend this was a big shift by tossing down six inches of snow last week.

I made the most of it.

All that snow is gone now and spring is in full bloom.  That is, if full bloom means wetness and mud everywhere just like it’s been all winter.  To be fair, that’s exactly what spring in full bloom means here in Chicago.

What a time to be alive.

I used that time to watch the horror film Spring.

This movie has been on my list for a while, but I’ve ducked it until now.  I didn’t have high hopes for it despite generally good reviews.

The beginning didn’t change my mind.  I sighed and settled in for a movie I was going to tune out and wish would come to a conclusion sooner rather than later.

A funny thing happened on the way to The Forum.

The little Italian town was picturesque and felt like a place I would like to hang out in.  Nadia Hilker is the kind of monster I would have a drink with at some quaint, dusty cafe near a canal.  In case she needs to wet her siphon.

She plays the character well and the monster effects are solid.  Nadia, aka Louise, is not a monstrous monster, she’s just a living being trying to get by without getting run down by an angry mob with pitchforks, torches and no-knock warrants.

She’s got a back story and a way out of her immortality, if only she could fall in love.

This could be a classically shitty horror movie turn of events, but it really doesn’t matter.  This is the story of beings connecting.  Maybe she falls in love and doesn’t eat the guy in the end.  Nobody cares.  It’s all about the journey.

OK, I prefer the tentacled beast to eat its only chance at love under a beautiful Italian sunrise.  We don’t always get what we want.

But if you try sometimes, well you might find, you do get to feed.

 

 

 

 

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Is winter the end or the beginning?

It’s Groundhog Day and our furry buddy Phil grumpily announced that there would be a six-week extension to this winter season.

Though it was damn cold this morning, it hasn’t been cold in Chicago this winter other than a week in December and a week in January.  There has been almost no snow, but plenty of rain.

It hasn’t felt like winter at all.  Just an extended November of cold, but above freezing temps, rain and mud.  Dark and dreary.  Most certainly weary.

Perhaps Phil saw his shadow.  Perhaps Phil has been watching the news, heard everyone speaking in Pennsylvania German outside his hole and decided he would hunker down in preparation for a nuclear winter.  It’s been said that Phil was seen in late 2016 purchasing dry kibble in bulk and loading up on ammo.  Perhaps I made all that up, in which case it can still be cited as True Facts.

We can’t even agree if Phil is a poor prognosticator (as the NOAA states) or has an 80% accuracy rate (according to AccuWeather), so take his antics with a grain of secondary sources.

Might as well stay in and watch a movie, just in case.  Netflix and chill for real.

You’ve probably already seen the film Groundhog Day a thousand times so it would be appropriate to watch it yet again.

On the other hand, there are tons of time loop movies available.

Run, Lola, Run has a great musical score to accompany a nice lady who runs herself ragged in an attempt to pay back some money.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Repeaters doesn’t just hint at a lack of morality when faced with no consequences.  Those who don’t learn from the past and all that.  Plus a dash of harsh humanity.

Source Code – Just how far will the government go to stop a terror attack?  It’s all for the good of the many, I’m sure.  Pay no attention to the man behind the lab curtain.

Edge of Tomorrow is a soldier’s endless battle time loop.  Fight, die, do over.  Like a Battlefield 1 skirmish.  You can do it, Tommy!  Save the warrior cheerleader, save the world-ish.  Illegal aliens are taking over and something drastic has to be done.

I would go with Repeat Performance.  Who doesn’t want to relive 1946 over again?

Phil has the right idea.  American spring is on hold.  We’ll have to hunker down and ride out a little more winter.  Even if it doesn’t look exactly like the winter we’re used to seeing.

 

 

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It’s Friday, again, and it’s the 13th

This happens all the time.  We’re lucky it does.  It gives everyone a reason to think about all the silly things people think about when a Friday occurs on the thirteenth day of a month.

It’s special, but not that special.  It’ll happen again in October of this year.  A brand new Friday the 13th movie is supposed to be out then, which isn’t that special either.  We’ll be lucky if it’s good, but I’ll watch it either way.

If you look around today, you’ll see tons of articles posing the question “Is Friday the 13th really unlucky?” as if luck in itself, or lack thereof, is a legitimate concept to begin with.

There isn’t even consensus about why the day itself should be considered unlucky.

Maybe it was because that woman, Eve, who was crafted from a rib bone, tried to get smart on a Friday the 13th.  Obviously, knowledge is unlucky.  Women with knowledge is apparently unlucky enough to spawn all sorts of bad juju.

Maybe the Big Flood began on a Friday the 13th.  Maybe the Tower of Babel broke ground on a Friday the 13th.  There were 13 folks at Jesus’ first last earthly supper.  Judas’ seating place card had “Judas, 13th Guest” inscribed on it in fancy lettering.

It also could have been the Templars.  We saw all the unlucky shit that befell Tom Hanks.  The Templars have a toe in all waters.  Everyone says so.

Or it’s because numbers have power and thirteen wields its power most unpleasantly.  Twelve is complete – 12 hours on the clock, 12 months of the year, 12 gods of Olympus.  Thirteen is thus guilty of being uppity.  Or more than complete, which is impossible and so the world descends into chaos.  Of course, who of us turns down a baker’s dozen of bear claws or croissants?  More is better, unless it isn’t.

Chaucer called Friday unlucky, but maybe he just meant not getting lucky…wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  “And on a Friday fell all this mischance,” just doesn’t sound that damning. Adding in the later passage doesn’t make it any more spooky.  The death of a royal is no reason to damn anything,

“Who, when your great King Richard was slain

By a bolt, lamented his death so sore,

Why have I not your wisdom and your lore,

To chide the day, a Friday, as did you?

– For he was slain upon a Friday too.”

Thomas W Lawson wrote about a character choosing a Friday the 13th to crash the stock market.  Later, a schooner named after him wrecked in 1907, on a Saturday the 14th around 2:30 am.  Of course, it was still Friday for Lawson back in Boston, so I guess we count that even though nothing unlucky actually happened to Lawson.  Maybe he couldn’t sleep.  Insomnia sucks.

Given all the tasks that are best avoided on a Friday the 13th (needlework, harvesting, launching a ship, beginning a journey, giving birth, getting married, recovering from illness, moving, starting a new job, and receiving news), I’m starting to think Friday the 13th drama was just an excuse to be idle.  Three-day weekends are the people’s balm, but we all know about idle hands.  No wonder it’s such a bad day.

Of course, the real proof of thirteen’s unlucky nature is that someone decided to have Glenn Danzig write a song for Johnny Cash.  Satan’s Child meets the Man in Black.

Salt your backs and lovingly stroke your rabbits’ feet, kids.  I’m going to watch the new Phantasm movie finally.  Maybe.

Who wore it better?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Universal Absurdity | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Last Winter before the longest night

I got up at quarter to four in the morning. This year’s Winter Solstice came due at 4:44 am, so I was outside to take it all in.

I didn’t specifically get up because of the solstice.  It’s just that I am one with nature.  Nature being the dog and the dog had to go out.  So we went and we ran and we were part of that weird pre-morning cityscape.  Between the worlds of a city night and day.

Outside, bathed in the ever-present glow of city light, it didn’t feel like the longest night of the year.  The solstice, that moment when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted the most from the sun (not distance from the sun), passed without any real break in the rhythm of the city.

The construction crew for the new storm drainage tunnel was already in action.  The physical therapy place at the hospital was open.  Traffic was yawning and rolling out of bed sluggishly, but with purpose.

The temperature was slightly above 30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind, but little to no wind chill factor.  It felt pretty good.  Less than a week ago it was below zero with negative 20 wind chills.  That is crisp air.  Your breath is stolen in gasps and you can see the cloaked ghost clouds swarming over the river.

Which brings me to the movie I watched last night, The Last Winter (2006).  I wanted to watch something wintry and bleak in honor of the solstice.

The movie was bleak, but mainly for its lack of substance.  A decent cast (Ron Perlman, James Le Gros, Connie Britton, Zach Gilford) and a not terrible story, if overly familiar, did nothing to save a horrible, lazy ending.

Watching the trailer is a more satisfying version of the story than the full movie.

Sure, the movie was clichéd, but I can excuse that.  Movies set in the arctic tend to behave the same way.  We meet the team, see who is going to clash in the close living quarters (family tension, romantic tension, corporate vs environment tension), notice a Native in the background who will serve next to no purpose other than to interject a bit of ancient wisdom in one scene, then team building.  After that we’re off to find danger, not subtly hinted at during the intro about the drilling of a test well that was capped without further explanation and never reopened…until now.  DUN DUN DUN

I don’t need the usual dangers spelled out.  I make a habit out of reading accounts of arctic exploration.  The one thing the movie did decently was visually exhibit the whiteness.  How the horizon is wiped away and the white snow is indistinguishable from the sky.  I’m sure it was also a cheap film technique, but I liked it.  This was the bleak and lonely factor I wanted.  It was only in evidence fleetingly.

The movie quickly (for my sake) barreled through the warming issues, the corporate greed element and hints of mental issues cropping up through the typical heavily scribbled out notebook and fractured dream sequences.  We get the idea of an isolation that will compound every problem, and every problem did occur.  The story was thorough in that at least.

A brief look at a phantom herd and we know things are going wrong.  As if we didn’t pick it up before from the crazy journal rantings and the appearance of ravens.  Because we all know there is some mystical shit behind ravens, not that the movie bothered to pick any particular mystical shit.  But ravens eating eyeballs, man.  Something is up!  Or they’re just hungry.

The movie doesn’t bother with explanations, overt or subtle.  We know the weather is wrong and the prolonged high temperatures are bad for the stability of the arctic environment the crew inhabits.  What we don’t know is how that translates into a herd of mammoth-sized ghosts with elk-like skull heads and grasping claws instead of hooves.

The movie couldn’t decide if environmental disasters were enough of a scare, but didn’t bother to introduce the ghost herd other than visually.  Nobody watching will care to ponder too deeply about the phantoms because it’s just not worth the effort.

I guess the oil was angry.  You know how oil gets.

Anyway, nearly everyone dies.  Everyone but the Lone Survivor, who wakes up alone in a hospital a la Walking Dead or 28 Days Later to discover that Alaska is 71 degrees Fahrenheit.  The horror of it all made a doctor hang himself.

I was just glad the movie was finally over.

The sounds the Lone Survivor heard were no different from my solstice morning.  Wind sounding like Nazgûl screams, buffeting trees and street signs.  The never-ending sound of sirens and far-off, indistinct yelling (in my case, waterfowl).

I saw the tracks of animals among the trees.  A cat drunkenly trotting down a slushy alley. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see spectral, antlered beasts pawing through the overflowing garbage bins.

Four AM wakeups make for a long day even if the sunlight is in short supply.  The night only gets shorter from here until the next solstice.  I don’t mind, but I’m not cheering for it.  I kind of like the darkness.

Posted in Film, Literature and Entertainment, Science | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments