Friday, November 11, 2011

Film Review - We Were Soldiers (2002)

Written and directed by Randall Wallace, starring Mel Gibson, featuring Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliot, Madeline Stowe and Barry Pepper.

Based on the book We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young by Lieutenant General (Ret.) Hal Moore and reporter Joseph L. Galloway, both of whom were at the battle.

Mel Gibson has become a punchline due to his out of control ravings while drunk. So be it, selah. That outrageous activity bears no reflection on this, possibly his single greatest effort as an actor. In fact, this film is a "plane gone down" effort: had the entire cast and crew died after its release, every man and woman involved should have its title engraved on their headstones.

As per the DVD extra Getting It Right: behind the scenes of the making of We Were Soldiers, the director stated that while reading the original source work, the line "... Hollywood has never gotten it right..." was the impetus for the creation of the film. Moore and Galloway were present during the filming and Wallace referred to them again and again to be certain of the highest degree of accuracy. The result: a gut wrenching work that induces uncontrollable sobbing, bursts of roaring laughter and flat out heart stopping moments of the purest form of drama.

The war in Vietnam has never been shown so perfectly in all of its horrific, nightmarish glory, if glory can be used to describe any arena in which two competing groups of human beings gather for no other purpose than the wholesale slaughter of one another. This is not only the best depiction of that "rancid picnic" (as Stephen King called it) but possibly the single best film about war ever made.

The training is there. The real people are shown. The combat is there, not as a flag waving idiot my country right or wrong but in its visceral ugliness. The families and the shock waves of Hell (literally) brought to their door is there. Tactics and logistics are there.

There are some films that do a little of some, to great effect. The human cost is a matter of record in so many other films that one more would seem to be pointless, but here the cost is shown on the men in the field as well as the impact on wives and families left behind. Often, though, a film that turns its eye to this and this alone tends to forget the rest. Those that look at tactics and logistics forget the family at home.

It is all here. All of it, in its horror, its honor and its agony.

The soundtrack is flawless, a few moments of pop culture infused prior to the men being shipped out, but mostly a brilliant score. The fine art of the film score is all but ignored, but this film is a great return to classic form, as well as pushing the envelope as to what is played, and when. Often, there is nothing, just the sounds of hellfire combat and broken hearts. When the music is used, it is to underscore a moment, not to overwhelm or coerce the audience into a mindset. The music meets the sadness.

Each performance is carved in bittersweet moments, and the simple life pleasures are given as they are lived, no treacle or maudlin sniffle-sniffle-oh-how-sad, just... it is what it is. That direct approach is common of every moment in the film overall.

A film with no humor, regardless of how bleak the moment, is unworthy of consideration, and during a massive firefight the commanding officer demands to know why the mortars have stopped. One of the enlisted men explains that the tubes are so hot the men cannot use them again for fear of the shells exploding in the tube from the heat. Brief pause: commander walks over to one, and as we look between his legs, we see a stream of urine from him, cooling the tube, then, after a brief pause: "Well?!?" The men then stand in a circle around each mortar tube and follow their leaders example.

A superior effort for all involved and a grand way to remember them as have served, regardless of politics, for the reminder of Armistice Day.

Monday, October 31, 2011

1 Mystery, 2 Houses and lots o' Wax

So, I blew the dust off of the covers of a couple of flicks and decided on a pre-Halloween mini-marthon.

When the remake House Of Wax was released to disc, I was a little in doubt as I normally am with anything that has "Paris Hilton" on it anywhere, porn included. However, on the massive plus side was a re-release of the Price version, and much to my shock and joy was finding it was a dual sided disc, with, almost a footnote, the flip side being the Lionel Atwell/Fay Wray Mystery Of The Wax Museum.

What the hell, right? So, off I went, starting with the middle piece, a dreamscape with which I am most familiar.

Watching it now, it is a little worse for the wear, Carolyn Jones' character giving a giggle that sounds as if it were stolen from The Music Man (missing only "Ye gods!"), and she along with Price are really the only two worthy of being on screen as often as they are. Not to slight the rest, but for the most part the remainder of the cast is phoning in a quick check, very common for the B list.

Two things immediately leap off the screen, however. The first is that the film was attempting to cash in on the Can't See This On Your TV empty headed crap Hollywood was grinding out in the then latest innovation Jump Off The Screen O Rama! aka 3-D. Like the current embarrassments, there is one scene in particular that makes the eyes roll and the hand to lurch towards the eject button. A hawker is sent out to drum up business, and in doing so is using a paddle and ball bouncing the ball into the camera, going so far as to cry out "oh, there is a man with some popcorn! Don't move, sir!"


However, on the much more interesting side is that being shot in 3-D lead to a more close inspection of creating the illusion of depth via camera angle and focus, which when viewed in 2-D gives the film a certain beauty. Deep focus, when used correctly, does not need 3-D, film itself is an illusion and this is rather magical... or magickal, if you prefer.

The real reason to sit through this again is, of course, Price. His performance here may well be the one capping moment of his career, other and greater to come, some outstanding prior, but it is here that one sees the Iconic Price take center stage. His man is bitter to literal insanity, but there is a wild black humor dished with every syllable and facial motion. He is hysterically funny, the Clown Prince Of Horror that his fans know and adore, but here it is "funny." The lines are comedic and played to full comic effect, but his delivery makes for a nervous laughter: this character is fully insane, tormented at his deepest portion of his id.

More important, if that can be possible, is that Price often thought of himself as something other than an Actor, thinking himself more workmanlike. This was neither false nor mere humility, and the man turned down many "legit" stage options, not thinking himself capable, which fortunately lead to his accepting Dr. Phibes Part 3 (or as it is known, Theater Of Blood) and the entire supporting cast rushing over from The Royal Shakespeare Company just to have the chance to perform The Bard with Price... if you have never seen it, love Price or really enjoy well done Shakespeare, you owe it to yourself.

Price here is shown as a remarkably physical actor. Here, he uses his body in a manner that is more in keeping with Brando, Dean or Clift. Not a series of twitchy movements or mumbling, though: body motions of surgical precision. Watching him without his mask, he is contorted, one foot twisted, and I did go back and check. He never missed a cue. Total character immersion. Flawless.

The issue was the dialog. This is where the film nearly jumps the shark. My eldest son, 28, was watching it with me, and the groans lead to his excusing himself. A workmanlike performance is no loss, but the actors have to have something to use, and Price alone makes every syllable count.

Flipping it over, and watching Mystery Of The Wax Museum lead to a series of shocks.

Filmed 20 years prior to the first House, color was a new thing, and sound was still in and of itself rather new to the scene. Needing the Criterion Clean Up (as we call it here at our house), the weird washed out color actually adds to the overall effect of the film. It looks like a bad, bad dream.

The story is the same, but it is presented in such a manner as to be far different, and it is here that my personal film theory is underscored... that the times and era are captured, warped and reflected back onto the audience, zeitgeist as auteur.

This film, released in 1933, would have come out during the Depression, and after WWI. The sense that the world was a violent, disturbing place and one of debatable future was a precursor to the aftermath of WWII and the existentialist movement. Atwill's performance is based almost word-for-word the same as Price's, but the differences are shocking when seen back-to-back.

Atwill is also a bitter man driven to madness from his loss and disfigurement, but his rage is not hidden beneath a thin veneer of black humor, but instead is barely controlled rage, lashing out at everyone and everything that does not attach itself to the obsessive pursuit of his art.

Price is more of a serial killer, or signature killer may be more appropriate, putting his "art" on display, and in doing so mocks the world around him. In comparison, then, the "lesser" performances suddenly take on a different weight. Price's film, released in 1953, seems more a slam on the times, Price as hep cat beat artist, similar to Dick Miller in A Bucket Of Blood than anything else, and really, in essence, that is both the Phibes/Lionheart characters in a nutshell (forgive the wanton pun...).

Atwill is mad in a 1933 sense, mad meaning both insane and enraged.

In Mystery, too, the remaining performances take on a wholly different meaning and depth. The dialog is machine gun fast, crackling like a screwball comedy, razor sharp delivery. That heightened sense of verbal daring is the source of comedy then, and it is important because the humor and its source shifts from the Greek Chorus of the supporting players and onto the star. Thirty years made the difference.

The Zeitgeist as auteur has been in the back of my mind for a couple of decades, but watching these three films so close to one another really carved it in stone. Films are produced as art, of course, but in some cases art comes from merely the correct grasp of the mindset of the audience. The film is made in the hope of gathering enough of an audience to recover the cost of its production, and those films that act as our collective id, horror, reflect back to us more of where we were and are than other genres. It is there in our darkest recesses that we see the most clearly defined shadows.

Mystery was released 1933. Price's House was released in 1953. Consider the social changes, the era, and how much things had changed in that 20 year period. The essence of the actual story remains for the most part unchanged: the focal villain is a genius sculptor, albeit odd, who has chosen wax rather than stone as it is more real, more fleshlike. Both have focused on creating Art, capital A included via intonation, and both are poor. At open, both have been approached by a Dickensian Rich Man who will make all financial worries end. Both have a commercial partner, but the partner has been pushing the Artist to give the audience what they want: Blood, death and torment.

Because in Horror there is cash.

The Artist refuses, tells of the Rich Man bail out approaching, but it is too little, too late for the partner, and in both films the fire insurance scam is enacted. This leads to violence and mayhem, the fire begun, and both capture what must be said are still, even now, rather disturbing images of melting human faces. From this moment, both occurring in the first 10 minutes of screen time, all else follows. Disfigurement and loss of fine motor skills to the Artist feeds bitterness at the injustice, which feeds an internal "fire" of rage, and that way leads to madness.

Flash forward, then, to 2005, and the film that has been so wrongly discussed as the "Paris Hilton" House Of Wax.

The title is the same as the Price film. There is murder, and public placement of victims as a form of art.

The times, though, have changed, and changed so drastically as to render the earlier films to nothing more than a mere nod.

This is the post Viet Nam audience, butt more than that, an audience that has little frame of reference to that conflict other than the notion of madmen walk among us. This is the post 9/11 era, and from that comes the notion of a world that resembles nothing so much as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a world that allows for no rhythm to destruction, no sense of Art that would allow for a pattern, any one can die at any moment with no warning whatsoever.

It is also an era that has grown weary of irony, tired of clever for the sake of clever that even the most inspired of clowns would face groans. It is impossible to see Price in this world; he would be groaned off the screen. Instead, we have the visual pun, the crude innuendo and, of course gore. Lots of gore. Implied sex combines with violent, painful death.

The film takes more than one viewing to see its value, and in watching it in context with its two older, somewhat peculiar siblings, the film takes a rather remarkable twist. Rather than one central villain, it has two, formerly conjoined brothers. Is this a comment on the two, earlier films? If yes, I doubt if it was intended to be so, but it does serve the third film well.... think of the bottled hatred and rage that drips off of Atwill, and that defines one of the brothers perfectly. His rage and madness is all-encompassing. He commits acts of brutal ferocity to release that rage.

The other brother is shown as the Artist. His genius is unmistakable, and it is his face that is mangled, but not due to a fire set for insurance fraud, but in the surgical disconnect to the Mad brother, and this sets an entirely different mindset.

It is the Mad brother that controls the entire community, creating it in his twisted image, an entire town that could have come from the mind of Ed Gein, taxidermy and wax statues combine to fill a small town. The Artist brother is, interesting, without speech. His work speaks for him, a fetishistic approach that perfectly combines with the Atwill/Price characters. Atwill/Price were both mad, but they also had a passion for the figures they created, openly speaking with the inanimate objects as if they lived, and did so openly, repeatedly. Here, the Artist appears mentally challenged, and just as importantly, the "weaker" of the two brothers, more inclined to follow the Mad instructions and simply pleased to continue the Work.

What does this say of our era? What can we discern from this?

More important than that, however, is the notion of taking the title and turning it into a reality: instead of a Wax Museum that is called a House of Wax, the entire building is made of wax.

What madness is this? Surely not: a home built entirely of wax would collapse... but then... this is the post 9/11 world, the world of a morality that shifts from one discussion to another. By 2005, the world around the audience is so completely alien to both worlds of 1933 and 1953 as to have almost no basis of comparison at all.

It is also a world in which a person famous for naught but fame can affect our perception of a work in and of itself: the "Paris Hilton" effect, if you will.

So much discussion of the 2005 House is based on her appearance in the film that the film itself becomes a punch line, a joke: Fame is now a virus, a destructive disease that corrupts the perceptive capacity.

Thus, we now turn back to the 1933 and 1953 versions, and compare them to the 2005 version, considering the passage of time and perception of our own era and place.

Carol Clover must now enter into the discussion. Frankly, there is no true critical discussion of the genre without her. It would be less than rude, but disingenuous. Ms. Clover is the one that brought out the understanding of gender in horror film, and identification, and in so doing, coined the most important critical analysis term in regards to the genre: The Last Girl.

Watching the earlier versions, prior to Ms. Clover's Last Girl, the creakiest part of both films becomes apparent primarily because there IS NO Last Girl. There is no central character to identify with other than the villain, and to the 21st century mind that is incompatible with the way we view the genre as a whole.

In the 2005 House, however, as the film struggles to make its point (one... more... rewrite... just one, that was all that was needed), which is that at the core is: The Last Girl and The Bad Boy.

The mirroring used here is the two brothers, the Mad Killer and The Weak Artist on the one side and The Last Girl with The Bad Boy on the other.

Normally, any current horror film that would have at its core a both female and male characters would have to generate some kind of romantic/sexual tension, but here, siblings, also twins. The Bad Boy has a hidden heart of gold (should have shown some of that earlier in the film, would have made him stronger), but his devotion to his sibling is based on a caste and pure love.... just tempered by the fin de siecle pomo dysfunctional family. Comedy replaced by pathos.

It is significant, then, in looking at this film and pay attention to the idea that the dysfunction but murderous brothers reside in a house built of wax, a house that is not a home, and is not purified by fire, but instead is distorted into a melting stream.

The major weakness come at the end of the film, and that too is indicative of the 21st Century horror genre. With a wave of a hand, the ending becomes nothing more than a grab for "Hey, if this makes enough money, we can grind out a sequel!"

Sadly, although so much of the culture of the 70's is rejected, and rightly so, it was in the media of film that such great strides were made, endings in films did not have to be a closing of a book but allowed for the notion of "there are no third acts in America," a feeling that there is something more, however elusive.

That allowed the film makers to create a work that stood alone, said its piece but opened the door for discussion, for contemplation of the work just presented.

It was the horror genre, more than any other, that crushed that invitation to the audience to do more than passively be entertained, but to actually participate in the critical discussion. It is here that again we must acknowledge Ms. Clover, and we as fans must restart that fire, that driving need to look deeper into a film and no longer be content with merely sitting in the dark watching others die.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Final Statement Of A Dead Man

The Black Iron Prison never ended...

After the Collapse and the after the Riots, the Plague and the creation of the Control Government, there was the moment called the Naked Lunch, in which a social order that was broken into levels, each level consuming those beneath and being consumed by those above, and that which was thought was the bottom was in reality feeding on the top... and everyone, everywhere simply stopped. The Naked Lunch was the awful, frozen moment when everyone saw what was really at the end of every fork.

The Control Government as was run in Mishawaka, Indiana had taken over certain existing buildings and structures to be used in a manner not originally intended.

The old Methodist Church which had been specifically designed to replicate the cathedral of Notre Dame du Paris had become the Hall Of Justice. A building that was nearly completed before the Collapse and had stood empty was made into the Clear Central, publicly a mental institution but actually a place of torment and pain.

A gazebo built upon a hill was transformed into a gun turret. An empty high price condominium was a prison, the House Of Correction.

Those found to be Enemies Of The State were brought to the Hall Of Justice. Under the Control Government law, any lawyer who allowed the accused to plead innocent and later found to be guilty would suffer the same fate as their client. The plea of innocent never ceased to exist but it did cease to be heard.

The accused could do so, but in doing so, the lawyer would ask to be recused, often revealing into the public record information that was still thought to be covered under the Client/Attorney privilege but under Control Government law that was considered an act of patriotic virtue and was protected. The accused would then stand trial as guilty with innocence needing to be proved, and without representation.

Thus, the only two pleas heard in court were the rare guilty, but the most common, insane.

Insanity as a defense was accepted, as any questionable behavior would then be considered through the lens of sanity, sanity defined as the rule of law, and the law was of the Control Government.

If found insane, the accused was then remanded to the custody of the Clear Central for treatment. Here the accused was tormented flesh and spirit until the replies given to questions were completely in order with the world view of the Control Government. It was also here that the place of pain, Room 101, was used to take that one terror, that deepest id secret would be brought forth, the greatest fear held by the accused would be turned against them, making all prior agonies become happy memories.

Once the accused was cured, it was the province of the Control Government to determine if the accused was at core a threat to the state. Should one be found to be such a threat, the torments of the damned were visited upon them, day into night, night into day, world without end. Once the clarity was finally achieved, the accused became the guilty, and from there they would be sent to the House Of Correction, to await the time that would come, the call to the Great Owl Bridge.

Upon their final hours, the guilty would be lead into the open air, would be allowed a last statement, and then be summarily hanged. Not in the traditional means of hanging, it must be said, but via the placing of the noose about the neck and then raising the accused into the air. Death was always slow, and the soon to be corpses would kick and thrash, much to the delight of the gathered crowd.

There was always a gathered crowd. This was law. All executions were mandatory in attendance. Gathered also would be the wide variety of media. On that day, the usually weeping prisoner would beg forgiveness, and bless the state for their coming demise.

As was the tradition of the Control Government, those awaiting execution would be also required to watch the executions from their House Of Correction. Tradition also held that within the last week prior to their own death, the prisoner would be allowed to walk outside again, to record their last thoughts in the event of a lack of coherent thought or speech at the penultimate moment.

They would be heavily sedated prior. Their freedom was an illusion, a thought that was planted and replanted again and again under chemical hypnotherapy.

These final videos were more often than not discarded, as the spectacle of the crowd and media often inspired the most entertaining speeches, and always drew the highest ratings.

The video that became known as The Final Statement Of A Dead Man was kept after the speech given by that Hero of freedom that day, to be examined fully for hints and clues as to how the method had failed. The ending of his speech is still not on the tape, which he recorded as a rehearsal of sorts (although this has never been confirmed). That day, as is known, he began to speak, and sounded at first precisely as the Central Government had hoped.

As is well known, all recording by the media had been cut off at what had later become the rallying cry of the Truth Movement, all cell phone coverage was severed. What came out later, and the moment of the Naked Lunch, was when the aftermath had been discovered. The entire community was executed shortly afterwards, the turret in the gazebo became the burning lead rain of the wrath of the Control Government. The entire city was burned to the ground, bulldozed over, and offically was removed from all maps of that time.

The shrine of The Dead Man stands there now, a gigantic statue of his face in the final visual image seen by all the world, and beneath his legacy, carved in marble six feet in height:

You have been lied to.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Final Destination series

Currently the series appears to be over and this is in the face of the 4th film in the series, which was wrongly titled The Final Destination, suggesting it was going to be the series finale. The main problem I have is that, with the release of Final Destination 5, that was a fools' errand at best.

This series has been maligned and misunderstood by just about everyone, and while not maligned usually misunderstood by its fans, of which I am one.

Each film runs the exact same pattern: a collection of characters are shown, mostly young, gathering together such that all parties involved will be in one place at one time. Something goes disastrously wrong, everyone dies a horrific death and then Zip! Into the eyeball of the character whose path we will then follow to the end we fall, and that person comes to the sharp, sudden understanding that they have just had a premonition, panics, and in their panic saves the lives of the rest of the cast members. Throughout the film to the end, each of these characters will die in a manner that has not been seen outside of a Rube Goldberg cartoon: extravagant circumstances lead to a sudden (and often literally) splashy demise. At the end, we are given usually one last Big Splashy Death, and the credits roll.

Those who do not comprehend the genre of horror at all, or possess the slightest understanding with no respect for the genre, are befuddled about this series. It has been called The Dead Teenager Movie, a bit of flick that exists for nothing other than the depiction of gruesome human demolition.

One non-word explains it all: Duh. If I must elaborate, then: Ya think?


All horror films do this. All. Barring none. Some are captives to the era in which they were created, those times in which the open depiction of body parts and blood had to be kept to a minimum, or in the dark, all agonies in shadow.

Consider then the film Theater Of Blood, starring Vincent Price and featuring a goodly portion of the Royal Shakespeare company. The entire film is based on the works of Shakespeare and death upon gruesome death stacks up along with a rather impressive body count. Both Price films in which he played Dr. Phibes do the same.

What makes the Final Destination films worthy of attention is this: the essence of tragedy is placed throughout each of the (currently) five films. By using the term "tragedy" I think the actual nature of the original term as used by the ancient Greeks must needs be re-examined and removed from its current incorrect usage and for that we need return to Aristotle, The Poetics and the myth of Oedipus.

When Aristotle wrote that the play Oedipus Rex was the greatest tragic play written, what was used as a yardstick for that assessment were the six basic elements in all true tragedy. The first element, and it is first because it is the most important, is plot. This term, "plot," is the basic format, the tale told, the story. In the L. J. Potts translation, published by Cambridge University Press, the term "plot" is replaced with "fable."

Now plot and fable mean two separate things, and in reading Potts' footnote, the original Greek term was mythos. This is of interest here, as the term "mythos" (from which the term myth is derived) has begun to mean That Which Is Not True, a silly little thing with which to entertain children. This level of disrespect is the actual cause of this article.

The myth of Oedipus is currently misunderstood, and once that is clarified, the Final Destination series becomes much, much more interesting.

Oedipus has been reduced, by Freud, as the story of the man who loved his mother and killed his father. While that is indeed the truth, and is the focus of Oedipus Rex, there are layers of importance that the ancient Greek society would have understood that lends a deeper and more powerful impact to the play.

Oedipus was born to the king of Thebes, and as tradition held at the time, the newborn was taken to the Oracle to have the future of the child be foretold. There, the Oracle advised that the Fates had decreed the following: that the boy would grow to kill his father and marry his own mother.

The issue is not the action, but the source: the Fates. In Greek mythology, the Gods themselves bowed to the Fates. Once the Fates had unveiled (however cryptic it may be) what destiny awaited, it was so. There was no argument, no debate.

What makes Oedipus Rex a tragedy of the highest value is that from prior to the opening curtain of the play, the audience knew the story. Aristophanes just did a "cut to the chase," opening the story as close to the action as possible.

The parts of the myth NOT in the play though, continue after the king hears of the destiny of his child, and performs an action that pushes the rest of the play deeper into tragedy with every line and event. The king decides to defy Fate: he has both of the child's Achilles tendons cut, writes out the warning of the Oracle, puts the scroll and the child into a box and throws the babe into the ocean. From there, the box washes ashore, and a childless couple finds the baby, reads the scroll and decides to raise the child as their own. When the boy becomes a man, the adoptive parents decide he needs to know his Fate, and tell him that he can stay with them. Before they can do so, Oedipus finds the scroll, reads it, and decides to flee, so that he can avoid his Fate, not knowing that the man he thought of as his father was not. In his travels, he comes to a crossroad, there meeting a wealthy man who decides to demand the right of way, there is a struggle, and Oedipus kills the wealthy man. Going onwards towards Thebes, Oedipus finds the Sphinx has taken control of Thebes due to the death of their king and presents a riddle, which Oedipus solves. He is shortly thereafter made king of Thebes and marries the widow of the king, the beautiful Jocasta.

It is here that the play begins. A plague has spread throughout Thebes, a curse brought from the gods as a man has slain his father and married/lay with his own mother.

Everything that happened prior to the beginning of the play would have been as familiar to the ancient Greeks as the story of Christ prior to His crucifixion to current Christians.

The tragedy is not the murder of the father and marrying the mother: the tragedy comes from the hubris of man in attempting to thwart the decree of the Fates.

And that takes us back to Final Destination.

Fate decrees that a plane will explode, that there will be an horrific multi-vehicle accident, that a roller coaster will come off its tracks, that a series of collisions at a raceway will enter the stands and that a bridge will collapse. People will die: so the Fates have decreed. One person will have a premonition of each event and will attempt to thwart Fate. They will fail, over and again.

Each of the five films in the series does this, and does it fairly well with a certain consistency. The sneering comment that these films are "Dead Teenager Films" is not only wrong, but dismissive. Granted, they are not high Art, but the films approach an understanding of Fate that has been long absent from film.

The major failing in the series is not the gore but rather the notion of using the tragic element of Fate for nothing more than mere suspense.

The major success in the series is that the suspense works.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deconstructing the Conspiracy Theory

William S. Burroughs once wrote that language is a virus and we use it to infect others. I have said that paranoia is the only known communicable mental illness. These two things are closely related.

One of my earliest memories was wanting to watch a program on TV, which may well have been the Mickey Mouse Club. It was not on that day, but instead, all stations had the exact same program. An ominous drumbeat was the soundtrack, and a slow, steady parade passed by the cameras. In the front was a man leading a horse in sidestep, and in one stirrup was a boot, placed backwards, so the the heel faced the front of the horse and the toe faced the rear. This was the funeral march of John F. Kennedy, our murdered president.

My mother purchased every copy of Look and Life magazine that came out, focusing on the now-infamous Zapruder film. I remember distinctly looking at the images, frame by frame, laid out in 3x5 images. They chose not to publish the final head shot, showing the President's head exploding. Mom also purchased, and read cover to cover, the paperback release of The Warren Commission Report, and later, Mark Lane's book Rush To Judgement.

I was born in 1959. JFK was murdered in 1963. Do the math: I was about 4 years of age.

The Conspiracy Theory was thus introduced to me at an early age. As I grew older if not wiser, the notion that there is a Secret Plan in place was part of the background. When I began to read the countless volumes of books, stacks of magazines and articles, then web sites, dedicated to that one crime, I began to gather a rather jaundiced eye: people, it seemed, would believe anything. Fools, all.

I widened my search and examined all other forms of Conspiracy Theory. All manner of madness came across my view: FDR stood by and allowed the attack on Pearl Harbor; International Bankers financed Hitler; behind every curtain was a man we were supposed to ignore, we were all blind and ignorant.

For me, though, everything was turned on its head by my finding the MKULTRA plot. In a nutshell, it reads as follows: the CIA was attempting to manufacture a Manchurian Candidate, a means of deep hypnosis that would allow an agent to be programmed to commit murder, but to never be aware of doing so. Further, the CIA had purchased the entire supply of the then-legal drug LSD in an attempt to further this attempt, then used questionable means to have the drug declared illegal first in the United States and then the world. Pursuing it further, the CIA then went on to purchase the then existing world supply of LSD, and began using it in in-house testing, often without the subject's knowledge, to see if it could also be used as a truth serum. Once that was in place, it was a short step to begin "dosing" unsuspecting US citizens, most if not all males, who were in the process of procuring a prostitute, the citizen being dosed in hotel rooms where behind a two way mirror, their behaviors would be studied.

The level of raucous laughter that I emitted bordered on hysteria: as my friend Scot says, "you just can't write that shit."

My pattern at the time was to read as much as I could find about such matters, then spend most of my entertainment time of examining the source material. For many, it boiled down to "researchers," individuals with a questionable amount of time on their hands, who had always managed somehow to dredge up the most peculiar of sources. He said, she said, they said: actual evidence, any trail that would lead to a smoking gun, never in sight.

The shock came when I found the source of the MKULTRA conspiracy: a US Senate sub-committee... public acknowledgement from the CIA itself. They admitted it openly, publicly and as a matter of public record. The reason: one of their own agents was dosed and he committed suicide, and his wife filed a lawsuit... one thing lead to another.

That which most resembled a fool's parade suddenly came into sharp focus... and if this one is true... then what of the others?

The point here is not to inflict this mental "instability" onto you, dear reader, but instead to go deeper, into, as the subject lines states, deconstruction.

You see, the point is simple. Anyone who professes to believe in a conspiracy theory is often derided and mocked, a simpleton that has allowed themselves to be deceived.

Ayn Rand, the objectivist, said that mythology was the first attempt at philosophy. It was an attempt to make sense of the world as perceived.

The Conspiracy Theory, then, regardless of its content, is in my less than humble opinion, an attempt to grasp events that are seemingly random and place them into a comprehensible package... like religion.

And science...

When I began writing my novel The Third Event, I was in the mindset that suggested, as Bruce Springsteen said about his first album Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, that I may never do it again, so throw everything into the pot and see what happens. On the back of my novel, instead of a simple blurb, I put in three separate sentences in Latin.

Peto primoris verum.
Panton alius mos insistuo.
Fabula est in nomen.

Seek first the truth.
Everything else must follow.
The story is in the names.

Truth, it would seem, is a rather interesting concept. As written in the Bible, and Jesus Christ, Superstar, Pontius Pilate asks our Lord and Savior: What is truth? Are mine the same as yours?

There are two main characters in my novel, the first has the surname De La Tour, and the other Towers. The first is French: of the tower. Thus, the novel, at its heart and core, are The Two Towers.

I recall distinctly where I was and what I was doing on 9/11/2001. I had traveled to Las Vegas to take a weeks vacation visiting a brother by another mother (a friend so close as to be as near blood bond as possible). My flight came in at about 1 AM, and he was on a night shift schedule. For a day, we both attempted to mold our times into one another, and early on that day, we were both all but unconscious. The phone rang, and a friend in Mishawaka, IN had called, telling us to turn on the news because a plane had struck one of the Two Towers.

So, there we were, for all the world looking like two boys, in our tighty-whiteys, blearily watching the video of the burning building. While we watched, the second plane came in. We both snapped fully awake.

"One," said my brother by another mother, "is an accident."
"Two," said I, "is a conspiracy."

While the world kept turning on its axis, day into night and night into day, the reality of that day stood stark and clear. We were under attack. Then came the Pentagon, and the fate of United 93.

As I write these words, it is 9:11 AM. Jung called it Synchronicity. Indeed.

Everyone saw it. We all saw the same thing, and for the most part, in unison. All over the world: a communal experience.

Sort of...

See, this is where everything starts to turn sideways.

After the collapse of the Two Towers, there was the collapse of Building 7.

Here, then, is the interesting part: after the fact, there are those who have come forward to define, using their collective specialties, what actually happened, the physics involved, the chemistry, etc.

Some said: you saw what happened, and here is the hard science from professionals, that state unequivocally that what you saw is exactly what happened.

Some said: you saw what happened, and here is the hard science from professionals, that state unequivocally that what you saw is NOT exactly what happened.

There was evidence provided by both groups, the chemistry of the fuel, the architecture involved in the building of superstructures like the Two Towers, testimony by demolition experts, etc.

Yet, somehow, there were two differing viewpoints on the reality of what happened. How can that be?

Those who accepted what is the majority opinion scoffed at those who believed otherwise, because the Truth Movement, as they called themselves, were nothing more and sometimes less than mere (drum roll, please): Conspiracy Theorists.

In my novel, I then was writing about the two Towers (De La Tour and Towers) in conflicting realities. I also mentioned the notion of the Uncertainty Principle and Schrodinger's Cat or the idea involving multiple realities... and the 2 Towers in my novel were separate sides of one coin.

I also quoted, at length, from the film The Happening, often disregarded as a commercial and artistic failure. To condense: Science will look at an event and develop the best possible theory to explain it, but at the core, it is always going to be a mystery.

Think otherwise? Then ask someone that is fully into the materialistic, non-spiritual belief system to explain, in as precise a means as possible, how gravity functions... and how it fits into the notion of Physics...

It just does...

I do not mock those of that mindset. Not now, not ever: rather, as Robert Anton Wilson wrote in The New Inquisition, I mock the closed mind. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, there are more things under Heaven and Earth than fit into philosophy.

The Conspiracy Theory, then, not to mock but to clarify, is an attempt to comprehend the world, history and events as they unfold... much in the way mythology does in the mind of Rand.

The Conspiracy Theory attempts to eliminate the very concept behind the phrase: Things Just Happened...

Was JFK murdered? Yes. By whom? Someone with a gun... do you really need anything else? What about Bobby Kennedy? El-Malik El-Shabazz (formerly Malcolm X, Detroit Red, Malcolm Little)? Watergate?

To openly deride all conspiracy theory as mere bunkum is to suggest that Things Just Happened Like That, that No Man Is Responsible... other than The Enemy.

Who is the real enemy of rational thought? The conspiracy theorist or the one that mocks them? The one that accepts the Official Version or those that mock them?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Modest Proposal

Once again, we begin to wind up into the national frenzy of politics, the cheapest and most demeaning form of entertainment available. Personally, while I go headlong Hunter S. into it all with the savage frenzy of the gambling addict, I see that the time has come to actually face the facts and the true situation. I make no suggestion to the Federal Government, nor to any of the potential candidates for President or any other office up for sale, but choose here to focus on the state in which I reside: Indiana.

If need be, the following would be my platform, should I be drafted to run, or drafted into the office of Governor via write-in vote.

1) Make the Indiana State Police the single most well-equipped, well-staffed and highest paid police force in the history of Earth, third planet from the sun. The reason? The police force of this state is sadly none of the above. No officer of the law should ever, for any reason, be paid so poorly as to cause them to rely on outside aid for their family. Being in a position of constant stress, any officer that has to be concerned with the next meal their family may or may not be able to have tends to make them (or any human) rather grumpy, and seriously, do we need armed, uniformed peace officers to be grumpy? No. We give them a badge, and a gun, so why not put them in a more calm state of mind.

2) Any illegal immigrant found within the borders of this state will be given the following options: become legal or leave. If they choose to stay, they must become citizens by following all of the normal means. Any assistance needed for this, i.e., education, will be paid for by the state of Indiana (50%) and their current employer (the remaining 50%). Once a month, they will be shown on television, being sworn in as legal citizens of this state, and of the United States Of America. Those who chose to not become legal citizens will be shot. Along with their employers. Just to make a point.

3) Eliminate the welfare system as currently known by increasing employment by 100% within the borders of the state. The means by this is to work with the Habitat For Humanity group, all of the service groups currently in place for the homeless and indigent. If someone is on welfare and is capable of service or work in some manner, their pay, complete with benefits, will be based on the work done. Those who simply refuse to participate and are capable of work will be shot. Along with their families. Just to make a point.

4) The sanctity of marriage must be defended at all costs. Marriage is the common bond that holds all of society together, and the single greatest threat posed to the institution of marriage is divorce. Thus, ending divorce as it is now is the single greatest means of protecting the institution. While eliminating divorce in its entirety would be best, it must be understood that under the saddest and most extreme cases the health of the populace if not their lives are in jeopardy. So, to defend it further, then, those trapped in a marriage of violence and abuse will be given the authority to report such matters to the police, and the offending party or parties will then be shot. Any person accusing someone of violence and/or abuse that drops the charges more than three times will be shot. Any person shown to use an accusation that is unfounded will be shot.

5) To further protect the sanctity of marriage, effective immediately, all married persons in the state of Indiana will pay no taxes whatsoever on the first $150,000 made per year. That being said then the most obvious next step would allow anyone who wishes to become married, regardless of the gender of those wishing to become married, can do so within the state of Indiana. All parties must agree to live within the state for no less than five years to use the tax break. Those who become married within the state of Indiana and do not remain within the state for that length of time will be shot, regardless of the gender of the parties involved.

6) Any corporate entity currently existing within the borders of the state of Indiana, or wishing to do so, must agree to stay in the borders for no less a time period of ten years. During that time, there will be no taxes whatsoever levied against any corporate entity. If the corporate entity wants to leave prior to that ten years, or leaves without assuring that their existing staff has some form of gainful employ will be charged a back tax of 100% of the corporate gross effective immediately, will lose the land ownership rights of the properties involved and all means of production left within the state borders. All parties within management of these corporate entities, regardless of their location anywhere on Earth, third planet from the sun, will be brought before a televised panel to explain why the actions were taken, giving them a chance to explain the causes and reasons. They will then be shot. Along with their families. Just to make a point.

7) Reducing a state deficit being mandatory, as well as living within the budget, each member of Congress, both representatives and senators, will be held accountable for their performance. The entire state must be considered, not merely a portion of it. To ensure the clarity of mind of each elected official, the following changes must be made effective immediately:

A) Representatives will be paid the average wage of the district from which they came.
B) Senators will be paid the median wage of the district from which they came.
C) The Governor will be paid the average wage of the entire state.
D) The Supreme Court will be paid the mean wage of the entire state.
E) No elected official may remain in office more than three terms.
F) All members of Congress will be required to use the largest medical care provider from the district from which they came, the Governor and Supreme Court will be required to use the largest medical care provider from the state. All will be required to pay for their own medical care coverage out of pocket.
G) Any elected official that does not live by the above standard will be shot. As well as their families. Just to prove a point.

8) Raising income and reducing costs at the same time would be the best of all possible worlds, so effective immediately, marijuana will be legal in the state of Indiana. Not for medical purposes, not decriminalized but legal, produced and marketed solely by the state of Indiana. The product will then be controlled tightly. All revenues from the sales of the product are to be used to fund the Indiana State Police, the schools of the state, the state highways and the improvement of border control. The use of any motorized vehicle while under the influence of marijuana will be treated as if the offender was under the influence of alcohol, which traditionally in the state of Indiana is called a felony but is treated more like a misdemeanor. To increase public awareness of the seriousness of this matter, anyone found operating any form of motorized vehicle while under the influence of marijuana or alcohol in the state of Indiana will be given the option of assistance in returning to their home. If refused, or if damage of any manner to property or injury to anyone, the offender will be shot.

Thank you for your attention, and remember: vote early, and vote often.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Emotional meltdowns and malfunctioning relationships

Oh, what a wonderful world it is. To be free and alive and happy, friends and family; to love and be loved in return; to look at another human being and rejoice in their uniqueness and be as accepted for who and what I am, warts and all...

I wonder what that is like. Recent events have suggested that I am indeed about one bad hamburger away from going full on Joker.

I often wonder why we cannot hear the delicate fragile tethers that connect us together as a social animal begin to tear and rend.

To be true, I am not as social as I had fantasized. Truth be told, I have a deep ingrained hatred of myself, and a near complete lack of self-respect that is reflected onto everyone else. I know myself and my weaknesses, I see my dark side and am aware of what goodness exists within, and when confronted with a slight I have given, I become heartbroken: when will I cross that line that allows me to Love Others fully, which then would allow a form of Loving Myself.

Well, again, to be true: some go out of their way to just frankly piss me off. I try to go along to get along, and then someone says or does something rude or condescending. Having a limited amount of self-respect, I can take a joke. God help you if you cannot, because once I have had enough, I am done, caution to the wind, raise the red flag of rage and gird your loins. Once started I must finish else the residue builds into the assault level of anger and blind unreason that will eventually collapse into suicidal depression.

Worst thing I know about my life is this: Sadly, my "friends and family" just cannot wrap their sad, meager (lack of) intellect around one single fact of reality....

Occasionally, like it or not, I am right and worse, I know what I am talking about.

That should be acceptable, but no. I find that it is not so.

A sense of self-deprecating humor is mistaken for error in every judgement.

I have lost friends in the past, and may be doing so again. So be it, selah. There isn't enough of "me" left to focus on anything other than mere survival. The ground beneath me is unstable, the simplest of pleasures are denied for the best of reasons, but they are the things that make life worth living, and make fighting the good fight acceptable... with the little happy things gone, all that is left is toil...

Fuck Sisyphus: the myth that explains my lot, and I think that of so many others, is Tantalus, placed in the Greek Hades with all pleasures forever just out of reach. This is the now: this is the commonplace. Our reach can no longer match that which we would grasp.

Snarling and growling, demanding not the bread and circus but pizza, beer and American Idol.

Demanding respect without ever matching it in delivery.

Demanding acceptance without accepting others...

I feel that kinship, that understanding: no more into the realm of what I could be but instead that lowest level of anarchy, that sense that the watching the world burn makes much more sense than bothering to help, or love...

Some men just want to watch the world burn. Some men just want to make a meal of the rest of us.

So be it. Selah.

Seeking redemption is pointless when it is not available. I will never apologize for those actions and words (are they not the same?) that are unforgivable.

Angels are flawless, and being flawless have no need of shame. If I have no shame, do I then become angelic?

My father and my mother never followed me to Dream Time... and I will not come back from that Dark Carnival of Unmentionable Delights.

Have a nice motherfucking and fatherfucking day!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Keeping a cheery positive attitude

Having a positive attitude, so I am told, is of vital importance. One should smile, and face life with a brave countenance. On those unfortunate moments that are not the norm, as Life Is Beautiful, we are to make lemonade from lemons and remember that God does not give us more than we can handle.

Should you be one of these empty-headed morons that believe that worthless bullshit, here is a charming note for you: I am coming over to your home. I will bring a posse of the most unpleasant "human beings" I can find: unclean, diseased and quite mad.

We will then collectively gang rape you. Any opening on your body, we will stick something in it. Once done, we will then remove your eyes, and thus having created a new opening, we will gang rape you again. We will do this to you only after you have been forced to watch as we gang rape your family.

Parents, children, grandchildren, cousins... why, we will even torment the flesh of your best and closest friends.

Yes, this would include pets.

Now. Make lemonade out of them lemons. Remember: God thinks you can get through this with no problem, so long as you go through it with Him (or Her, or It, whatever).

I like to entertain myself with these vile, loathsome fantasies every time I hear some self-righteous pigheaded Praise Jesus Glory type go on and on and on about how Everything Happens For A Reason. Equally entertaining to me are the times that some arrogant pissant Positive Thoughts Change Everything goes on about how people with negative mindsets Bring Shit On Themselves... well, what until I show up with my full on Joker, knives and pliers, hammers and blowtorches. Get Positive on that, dipshit.

The best part about this blog: few read it. When the time comes and I ultimately go totally batshit insane, this I am sure will be entertaining.

Nothing like using a public forum... ah, and the blessed peace of ignorance...

Ignorance is not stupidity. Ignoring a thing makes all those words above so much more pleasant. Denial. It is standing on the deck of the Titanic and saying, What a lovely night! We should go for a swim.... nothing wrong here, right?

Spinning more and more wildly out of control, life is an amusement park, a Carnivale of dark pleasures and questionable practices. BUT if I only keep a happy face, all will be well...

Right? Right?

Ever see the photo from Viet Nam with the young naked girl running screaming towards the camera? She was in a village that had been napalmed out of existence and had torn her burning clothes off. Napalm, which sticks, continues to burn. So tell me: How much lemonade should she have made, then? Hmmm???

No. Fuck you. I am dead fucking serious. How much would her life have changed with an upbeat attitude?

Watching others in the course of my existence, I can see where some did indeed drive the car off the cliff, lifestyle choices made that ended all Thelma And Louise. These souls, like me, apparently are here for everyone else, for the collective amusement of the self-righteous. See, children? Don't act like Jim or you will get hurt! He didn't keep a Positive Attitude...

These are the people that I love to be near when everything falls apart. When cancer strikes, when the job is lost, when someone dies: Here, fuckhead, have some lemonade. I put cyanide in it.... Let's all head to Jonestown, shall we?

For the record: No. I am dead fucking serious. It is what I mean, what I think. People that honestly believe that just keeping a Happy Place is enough to get through the most difficult parts of their lives deserve the razor blades and gasoline that life has to offer them.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Control Process

Nothing which follows is original in form or content, but a mere reminder of that which has gone before.

Part 1: The greatest trick the Devil ever performed was convincing the world that he didn't exist.

All fiction, by its very nature, is a lie. Were it truth, it would be called non-fiction. Q.E.D. The problem, of course, is in the nature of truth itself. To use hyperbole to make an exaggerated point, then, imagine two separate volumes by two separate authors. The topic is the same: the history and impact of the musical genre referred to as rap and/or hip-hop.

Volume one is written in the form of a memoir, a life spent creating the music. Volume two is written by a white supremacist.

Both purport to be Truth, or at least non-fiction. Having suggested nothing more than describing the authors in the two volumes, one can see not only how the author would be using language in a manner that most powerfully supports their own pre-existing notions but, and here is the rub, also the notions of you, the reader.

Truth, when presented by a polemicist, is at best doubtful. Sadly, this but the tip of the iceberg that threatens us all.

From a course in basic sociology: The definition of a situation is that which is determined to be real with determine actions regardless of the veracity of the reality.

That concept (pretty much the basis of my first and as yet only novel) is the point, the actual crux of the matter. With the instant access to any and all data, those who wish to sell a reality and create a collective consensus need do no more than go trolling for those who seek a mental form of real estate that is already plotted out.

Bottom line, then, to refer back to #1: That which can be called a "conspiracy theory" becomes nothing more than a means of diverting the attention away from the Real Satan (if you will): there is no real political separation. The facts that do not conform to the theories are ignored.

Selling it is easy, and time tested, which leads us to...

Part 2: Shout It! Shout It! Shout It Out Loud! Over and over and over again!

The current viewpoint expressed here, so far, has used in the only example as hyperbole. Hyperbole has become so ingrained into our collective political discussions to do nothing more than make a point has become the standard means of debate.

You are wrong if you think the political right are fascists.
You are wrong if you think the political left are communists.

The two statements above will infuriate some to the point of blind unreason. However, the fact is that if you, the reader, chooses one label or the other for yourself, and you have been called one or the other long enough, you might be feeling that twinge of response: Oh, yeah???

The desire to communicate a difference of opinion is gone. It is no longer an acceptable means of communication, one must destroy them as do not agree, heaping abuse on abuse while wondering why that brings about a reaction equal to or greater than one's own.

Is it the labels? Or the fact that both statements begin with "You are wrong if you think..."

By doing that, I have created an intellectual environment in which the acceptance of either viewpoint, by my own definition, is wrong. It only appears rational, but in a sense, I am shouting at you. I have in those two sentences eliminated any form of debate by suggesting that any and all who would dare question me are... wrong.

If we are shouting at each other, then we are not listening. Shouting drowns out the words spoken.

The Control Process then has been to bury rational discussion and to live by labels. While it is self-inflicted, I have seen this in places one would not anticipate, like the community that calls itself Punk. The issue at hand is: what is Punk? Are you as Punk as I?

While that is a form of hyperbole, extend it out, and then the divisions suggested above become even more interesting. You are not as right wing (or left wing) as I... can you be trusted?

The Control Process to this point is at its most obvious and it can, and does, escalate to violence, both physical and emotional, words become weapons. The pen is mightier than the sword and can inflict the same damage.

That should not make one less mindful of the sword, as the damage done by words is often invisible, but the damage of the sword can be literally permanent.

Forcing and/or badgering others into accepting one's worldview is bad enough: concentration camps were used for more than mere murder (as if that weren't evil enough), they were also used as re-education camps. It was an actualization of the old joke: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Using rage and violence is bad enough, but it is visible. One has but to stop, listen and watch. The issues are before us. The real horror and the greatest threat is Soft Control...

3: It's just Kool-Aid.

Soft control is insidious. It is the quiet, and genteel form of inflicting addictions, addiction to sugars and fats in the diet, addictions to body modifications, addictions to addiction.

It takes the handcuffs and puts them on the table. The lie is bold: it is not a pair of handcuffs, it is a fashion statement. We succumb to the Soft Control when we allow ourselves to pick them up and put them on.

Soft Control suggests, whispers. It is usually rather blatant, holding before us a heap of steaming feces, which we know is feces, but the Soft Control says, no, it is breakfast. We buy into it, and eat.

Disgusting image? Yep.

Consider something so obvious but so bold that it is impossible for me, personally, to not think of it as a deliberate attempt to undermine the populace of the United States.

Two televisions shows (television being indeed the Drug Of The Nation) offered two comedic views of life, on two separate networks. Consider them, and consider them well. The Cosby Show and Rosanne.

Which of these two families would you, the reader, consider to be middle class?

If you immediately thought The Cosby Show, then let us look at it. Cliff and Clair Huxtable live in New York with a small army of children. Cliff is an OB/Gyn, while Clair is an attorney. They have a two story home in the city, plus vehicles to take their small army of children to whatever event they wish. There is never a discussion of finances. While cutting in their humorous comments to one another, they are witty and urbane.

Rosanne, featuring the Connor family, has Rosanne and Dan Connor and their three children. This largely dysfunctional group of people is harsh to the point of brutality to one another and pretty much the world at large. Rosanne is a factory worker, loses that job, tries to start her own business, then becomes a waitress. Dan's employment history is shaky, and the two can barley keep the roof over their heads.

Which family is middle class?

A pair of college educated professionals? Really?

This is the evil of the Soft Control. The constant insinuation that There Is Something Wrong With You If You Don't Want To Be The Huxtables.

I have nothing against them, or those that want that level of comfort. Calling them middle class is wrong, just plain wrong. They are not. It is a matter of color, but it is the color of the money, not the skin. Do that many black Americans have access to those levels of affluence and education?

The new car we HAVE to have year after year, the gadget from iMoney, the latest trends and fashions...

How about a world where the emotional collapse of a Famous Person is presented as if it mattered to anyone other than that persons' immediate family? Is that not a form of control in itself?

What controls you?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Film Review - United 93 (2006)

Written and directed by Paul Greengrass.

Like many others, when this film was first released, I stayed away. Too soon, too soon.

Now, having taken the time to sit through the film, it may still be too soon.

Watching this movie, based loosely on the events within the fourth flight on 9/11 where the passengers attempted to stop the terrorists, all I could do was choke back the uncontrolled rage and horror. That day, for me as so many others, is a permanent imprint on my spirit and soul. Yes, like so many other events, we remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard about it.

What I wasn't prepared for was that the film made me feel exactly as I did that day: confused, angry, frightened, sad...

And that, in and of itself, makes the film worth watching. So rare is it to be moved emotionally by a film, so remarkable, that I feel that on this 10th anniversary of those events, that the film should be re-examined.

There is no "plot" or "story," just a restaging of the events. The people on board United 93 are merely moving from one place to the next, and they start to slowly become aware of the two planes that struck the two towers, and the one that hit the Pentagon. As their understanding grows, they begin to react, not only to one another but to the situation and the terrorists that are bringing on their collective destruction.

The terrorists are not shown as hideous monsters or as stereotypes, more like (dare I say it? I dare) human beings wrapped up tightly in their own furor, and the phrase "We're on a mission from God" has never seemed so sad or so sickening. (Fortunately, no one actually speaks that particular line, but it did start to echo inside my head while watching the film.)

There is no spoiler here: the plane went down, ending the lives of everyone aboard it. Everyone dies, it is that simple. What is so disturbing about a film like this is that it is not Titanic, there is no love story, there is no sense of sweeping grandeur, just common folk caught up in a situation that no one could truly imagine themselves being thrust.

While the film is gripping, and tense, it is the last five or ten minutes that cap this dark ride into our recent past. Watching as human beings become more and more desperate, more and more angry and finally throwing themselves into harm's way is a deeply moving and disturbing experience.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Open Letter To Mr. Brian Wilson & Mr. Todd Rundgren


I hope you are well.

Something has occurred to me that I feel is a matter of the most grave and urgent of circumstance.

The world about us, as I am sure you are both aware, is being red-label express sent to Hell. All manner of madness abounds and dialog between differing opinions has become nothing more than one diatribe against another: no one is listening.

Having said that, contrary to Mr. Rundgren's comments in An Elpee's Worth Of Toons, I feel that a serious and beautiful work of art may be just the ticket towards, if not lasting peace then hopefully, a peace of mind to all that encounter it.

I am writing this in the vain and/or mad hope that somehow, someway it gets to one or both of you and you contact one another, and to give serious consideration of this notion. My price? I want nothing more than to be there when it happens, at my own expense if need be, and, of course, a signed copy for myself.

Mr. Rundgren has made a permanent mark upon my attitudes in re: music and how songs are produced with the release of A Capella. Mr. Wilson, whose indelible impact cannot be ignored, did the same with the single Heroes And Villains. To my last count, I have heard at least four differing versions of Heroes And Villains, depending on which album or 45 I have heard.

This song, gentlemen, is IMHO as yet unfinished, and correcting it One More Time should put it to rest, and with the two of you in control of it, the sound of the two of you may just set some of this world's pain to the side.

I had but one complaint about the Beach Boys, and that is mostly due to the fact that I am a baritone. This lacking on my part was set aside when first I heard Heroes And Villains, and I would often (as I do now) gleefully molest the song with my added doo-do-dee-doo's.

This morning, 5/7/11, I was listening to the three separate versions of the song that I have, one of which I no longer recall how it came to my possession. Two are with the Beach Boys, clocking in at 2:55 and 3:41, and, of course, Mr. Wilson's version from Smile, which runs 4:53.

I was at the same time reading about the woes and foibles that destroyed the first Smile, and something began to trouble me. Here, then, gentlemen, is my point.

The song is too short.

Heroes And Villains, in and of itself, should be no less than 10 minutes in length. As I am sure you both recall, there was a time when a self-indulgent rock star would come out with some form of aural masturbation that ran that long, or longer. Whatever: sometimes, as you both know well, it can be done with great style and beauty.

My request, then, is as follows: Arrange the song, one more time, as a barbershop quartet piece. Once completed, and sung A Capella, arrange it as a fugue, building and building, piece upon piece, until it becomes a rapturous joyous cry.... and instead of simply using the studio for frippery, conduct it using one of the many barbershop quartet gatherings... using all available voices.... and maybe use some sweet Adeline girl sound as well.

Bring us the sound of many voices, building and building for nothing more than the sheer joy of song. Bring us the sound of unrelenting beauty, and unleash it onto a world so weary of itself that it seems to be shaking itself apart. Bring us hope. Bring us joy.

What the hell.... why not? What's the worst that could happen? People Smile again?

Thank you for your attention.


James R. Allard, Jr (aka Mr. Mirage)

PS: I have had the great joy of seeing both of you perform live. Hope to do so again. Soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ten Years On

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Nothing has changed.

The alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks is gone, and yet, the war shall continue. I do not condemn here the ones that followed their duty, and exacted a rough justice: I also do not rejoice in the death of this man.

As Ronald Reagan once remarked, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

Be that as it may: Osama Bin Laden is dead. Nothing has changed.

Had he been captured by his own people and drug through the streets like Mussolini, his dead body struck and kicked and spat upon, nothing would have changed.

Had he been a monster, found eating the raw flesh of children and gunned down in that act, nothing would have changed.

He was not the boogeyman, he was not Satan. He was a man, to our American thinking delusional but to far too many he was a martyr in the waiting, a hero, and that is the reason that nothing has, or will, change.

As a nation, we were drug into the ugly reality of the last half of the 20th century at the beginning of the 21st: every nation on earth has had to deal with terrorist attacks on their own soil as perpetrated by human beings that were not citizens of their attacked state.

With Timothy McVeigh, we here in the US of A had a home grown terrorist. Those we were used to, and have had many throughout our history... terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on one's viewpoint. The raid on Harper's Ferry by John Brown can be considered a terrorist attack: there was nothing new with McVeigh.

After 9/11, this nation had to come to grips with the fact that the policies enacted on foreign soil, with or without the knowledge or consent of the American people, have long term effects on us as a nation. No longer can we pretend mere ignorance will be enough for us as a nation: our fellow citizens died on 9/11.

The citizens of this nation should have been outraged and distraught, which we were, but not merely at the sight of two falling towers but at the government that put us, as a nation, in harm's way.

No more, we should be saying: no more. The greatest value of the internet is the means by which we can speak to all nations, all humans with access to the machines, and we can say without the need of our government "We are not that different, you and I. Come, and let us make peace."

Having said that: To the Muslim world, I say, come, let us make peace. We share the same enemy. To the world at large, I say: Come, let us make peace. We share the same enemy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shattered consciousness

Last time on Tirades, rants and other things ignored:

I cancelled my Facebook account a while ago. I'd found that I was obsessing over it the way an alcoholic obsesses over that next drink.

I also found that I was becoming a monster, a ranting screaming sort that acted more of a troll than a man. So. Not for me.

And now:

As if this blog weren't enough.... (insert self-deprecating laughter here)

However, as I had lost contact with several people there, one who is a good friend IRL sent me a note full of angst. I understood what he was saying in that email, and the more I thought about my response to him.

Being connected to the world is IMHO a good thing. We can communicate without boundaries, and I truly believe that the more we understand about our fellow humans, the less likely we are to think of them as something other than less than human... Q.E.D., it goes to follow.


My son in law and I were discussing music one eve, as we are wont to do, and while we were talking, he was waiting for a web page to load, and the longer the page took the more annoyed he became. Finally, after I chided him about his lack of patience, he said: You don't seem to understand. Our generation wants everything at a click.

A statement that, had it been said twenty years ago, would have been meaningless... but now, I see that he was correct, and more... or less, as the case seems to be.

By our collective interconnected instantaneous response to the World As We Know It, we as a culture seem to have lost the capacity for reflection, which means a death of contemplation.

The more I thought about it, and thought about the note my friend had sent, the more I kept coming back to a simple phrase that I have now heard so often that once I repeat it here, you, dear reader, may say, that sounds like me....


I need a vacation. Not from work; from my life.

Indeed: so it would seem.

During the first week I disconnected from FB, I noticed something that can adequately be described by an album title: The Roaring Silence. There was a sensation of total quiet, a type of emotional solitude that I had not known in quite a while, and it made me to grow uncomfortable with my self.

As time continued, I so desperately wanted to go back to the noise of Facebook that I struggled, every day, to NOT do so. It was an addiction, an alluring sense of being with others... and I thought to a moment in the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

The moment is during a group therapy session, and the villainous Nurse Ratched is speaking down to one of her wards (as she is wont to do both in film and novel), mentioning that this patient had withdrawn from the others during the day. One of the men present, possibly the man being quizzed (I forget), says, "Are you saying it is wrong to want to be alone sometimes?"

The accuracy of the moment and quote notwithstanding, the fact is: people need a moment alone. We need the quiet, the moment of contemplative thought, we need the book and candle and peace.

Consider: the more interconnected we have become, and the more information that floods in, the less time we have, the less focus on the things that we, ourselves, cherish that the rest of the world has but a nanosecond, or less. We do not have time to process what is coming in, and thus cannot consider the ramifications for anything more than a moment.

Our collective subconscious is falling apart, the world about us is charging in and that which is most private, that thing that is the self separate from the rest, is being drowned in minutiae.

Of what value are the latest antics of some Hollywood actor when we ourselves have our own lives to live? Vicariously we surrender our own souls to be part of a greater whole...

This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang, but the whimper of you have been sent a friend request. Click here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Facebook no more.

A few days ago, I deleted out my Facebook account. The reasoning, at the time, was rather clear to me. I was developing the signs of addictive behavior. My sleep patterns of late have been disrupted, one thing and another, and I found I was online, on Facebook, reading and posting, posting and reading. When I wasn't, I was surfing the web to find clever, funny and sometimes brutal things to attach to my Facebook page via Shareaholic... in and of itself that name should have been a warning.

As if spending more time on Facebook and Facebook related activities were enough of a sign, I began to notice that more and more I was acting like an angry drunk: simple comments would lead to a blind unreasoning and unreasonable response, which would lead to the inevitable "I'm sorry."

Just like a drunk... or an addict.

Regardless, the point remains: it had to go. In so doing, the withdrawals were strange. I sit at the keyboard, uncertain where to go. There are other sites I go to, of course, and one, Zen Running Order, is in its own way a social networking page. The problem, I found, is that that sudden rush of adrenaline was missing. Where's the rage?

That is a good thing.

The more time I have, and will continue, to put between myself and FB, the better. I find now that my fingers itch to write, and write more and more. Hell, from the moment of deletion, I realized that had I spent half as much of my time writing my second novel (or first non-fiction book) as I did on FB, I'd be done by now.

There was a defining moment for me, that moment one feels when the bottom drops out and then gravity does the inevitable thing.... and that sudden shock when hitting bottom. I had made a couple of posts, all rather innocuous, one meant to be a "funny" and another just a page about a band, and I had commented on someone's page in re: baseball. One thing lead to another, and the next thing I knew I was flying between the three posts and I completely lost sight of the fact that I was speaking to three separate people. When I completely went batshit insane, the internet version of SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS, complete with multiple exclamation marks and a few stumble rage fat finger typos, I slammed out of my browser... hands shaking, sudden shortness of breath (more like I'd been running) and could feel my heart pounding in my chest...

And then, reality, dear friend and occasional visitor, came back. In webspeak: WTF? What brought that on?

And then: Who was I screaming at?

I honestly could not remember at first, and slowly it came back to me... and I thought, well, I need to go back and remove it, or at least apologize... but what was said to me that made me so possessed of rage? Backtracking: nothing. Nothing.

Nothing was said to me, by anyone, at any moment, that could conceivably provoked that response. WTF?

No, said I. No more. Google: Delete Facebook Account: click here. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye...

Three people (out of close to 200, mind you) asked me what happened, where did I go? Three. Well, so be it then. That, too, was a wake up call. While there are some there that I didn't talk to a lot, fact is there were a lot of "friends" that while wonderful people, I simply did not and still do not know....

Thinking about this on this fine AM, I was wondering if I should post anything here. Letting my mind wander over its own internal landscape, I threw in a couple of films, watching them until I could identify where they jumped the track and/or shark, and had picked up the newspaper.

There, I read the column of a Mr. Leonard Pitts. I don't always see eye to eye with this fine gentleman, but I didn't see eye to eye with James J. Kilpatrick, either, nor did I with David Broder, and still don't with George Will, but I love (adore!) good writing and straight talk, and Pitts is one of the best. His column dealt with privacy, and how it has all but died.

Pitts does the one thing that I admire most in a writer: he causes me to pause, to ponder and reflect.

Privacy, according to the United States Supreme Court (see Roe v. Wade) is not in and of itself a right found in the Constitution, but is implied throughout. Freedom of expression (the 1st Amendment) would point to the right to private thought prior to the expression, freedom from unlawful searches (the 4th) takes the argument that one has a right to demand to be left alone, and the right to refrain from self-incrimination (the 5th) suggests that one can withdraw into one's own self.

Having said that, as I hear time and again Those Who Will Not Think saying out loud that "perhaps our rights should be more limited," it keeps coming back: Freedom cannot be taken from a free citizen, but it can be surrendered.

Facebook, et al, offer a unique opportunity to keep in contact with others and in ways far better than phone or mail. Tweeting does the same.

The question, of course, then would be: when does one stop? Is it our right to stop?

Of course we have the right to pull back, and in fact perhaps some should consider it. Much has been said and written within the last year of people that have lost their jobs over public postings of private matters, career options sabotaged regardless of the strength of resume or interview. The internet is public and the more public it is, and the more we reveal to the world around us, the more likely we are to find ourselves surrendering the right of privacy for nothing more than merely being able to gossip online.

Pitts' column was about an application that would allow a cell phone camera photo to be entered into a facial recognition database... and that, frankly, was all I needed to read. Dear God, are you kidding me? Big Brother is unnecessary, we don't need the Thought Police, we will do it ourselves!

This country (US of [North] America) has always had a proud tradition of attaining any goal the mind could imagine. We could go to the moon if we merely set our minds to it.

The horror is that more and more we are setting our minds to creating a technocratic tyranny and we seem to be hellbent to have it happen before the end of this decade. Total control is possible when the controlled populace does the work themselves.

How long will it be before we ask for it? How long before we ask for cameras on every corner, facial recognition scanners at everybody's fingertips?

How long before we sacrifice freedom for security? We are on our way, FedEx red labelled to Hell.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Film review - Malcolm X (1992)

Based on the book The Autobiography Of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley, screenplay by Arnold Perl and Spike Lee, who also directed and played Shorty. Denzel Washington as the lead role, featuring Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo (as of this writing one of the best reasons to watch The Chicago Code) and Al Freeman, Jr.

An epic film based on the life of a real person is always cause for both excitement and alarm. Short of a complete, second-by-second film of a person's existence any book or film is going to be edited, whittling out the parts that Sir Alfred Hitchcock called "the dull bits." We cannot as an audience actually bear witness to every moment; it is impossible. It is just as impossible for a writer or filmmaker to bear witness, even if the tale they are telling is their own. Memory, as Stephen King wrote, is such a subjective thing.

Epic films, for me, always have at their center one figure. (Usually it is a man; how I wish someone would give an epic treatment to the life of Mahalia Jackson.) As the film weaves its tale, the central figure usually has to fight their own demons until they see that they themselves are not as others and simultaneously the times around them are in a similar upheaval. The central figure of an epic, then, is a showing of the zeitgeist; their tale is the story of us all, writ large, showing on the expansive canvas of history as it unfurls.

Think of Lawrence Of Arabia; Gandhi; Patton; even The Ten Commandments. Here, we see men, men like no other but not seeing that they are different until events surpass them. (Granted, the real Patton had a rather clear view of himself in history, but he is an exception rather than the rule.) As the events of their world overtake them, they rise up and refuse to bend, standing taller than the rest but showing a reflection of that which we all know and feel.

The story of Malcolm Little, who later became Detroit Red, and then Malcolm X and finally El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, is the story of the United States writ on the flesh of one man, whose soul and blood make clear so much of what has been missed.

His own story is the story of a man's journey, from angry heartbroken child to thug pimp hustler to an awakened soul to, finally, a soul of legendary proportions. In the book's introduction, Haley remarks how, upon meeting (the then) Malcolm X, that the man was closed, refusing to open himself up until Haley asked X about his mother. That caused a moment, a breakthrough and the tale began to flow.

This film is massive, like any other epic. It catches the ebb and flow of the times and the tsunami of a man's understanding of his own soul and his proper place in history.

To be completely honest, I was raised during the time of his ascendancy and the man was not a man but a monster, hate filled and rage possessed.... or at least I was told. When the film came around, my family was in one of our periodic moments of low funds, so I had to wait until it came out on video.

I was most interested in the film mostly due to the director. Spike Lee has made some truly astonishing films. Also, I have been a fan of Denzel Washington from his days on St. Elsewhere, and the two men working together sparked a real desire. I'd already seen She's Gotta Have It (which was hysterical) and Do The Right Thing (genius but misunderstood). DtRT was an angry film, a different form of hysterical, and I could see how people thought it was about hate when it was, instead, about anger. Hot days, hot nights, hot tempers: how could the film NOT end any other way?

I approached School Daze with some trepidation, then, fearing more rage, and instead was shocked back to my core. The film did not come out and say to me, Hey, White Boy, you don't get it half what you think you do, but it could have, and maybe should have. The last line, spoken by another acting giant Mr. Laurence Fishburne "Please. Wake up." was a kick in the balls.

From that moment, I was totally all about Spike, as I had in the past with his closest peers, Ingmar Bergman, Frederico Fellini, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa.... brilliant.

Finding the first pairing of Washington and Lee Mo' Better Blues, I was stunned. Not that the film was so good (I expect no less from Lee), not that the acting was first rate (no less from Washington) but that it was so damned neglected... the fucking thing ends with a brilliant montage that is, at heart, a music video for John Coltrane! What's not to love and adore here?

Thus, seeing them team again, to approach one of the biggest figures of my childhood... I could hardly contain myself.

There was absolutely nothing to prepare me for this film. I am glad of that. The first thing I want/need to say is that the film was so powerful, so perfect in its rendition, that after I rewound the tape I dug my copy of the book. Had I not had to be at work, I would have read it cover to cover in one sitting. I was stunned: the first thing that went through my mind was the old Firesign Theater album: Everything You Know Is Wrong.

I was also stunned into a silent rage that this film, so sweeping, so grand, so epic in every conceivable manner was utterly neglected by the Oscars. Nothing, not a nomination or recognition.

The supporting cast is brilliant. Watching Delroy Lindo's character go from street power to hopeless waste of a man is heartbreaking. Angela Bassett, so beautiful as to bring the film to a halt is so flawless in her portrayal that one cannot fathom why she isn't in more films. Al Freeman, Jr., a familiar face in so many films, carries a quiet sense of personal dignity that is majestic.

It is Washington, though, that carries the burden of bringing this misunderstood man to the screen and to life. He performance of the man mirrors Lindo's at some points, and Freeman's and is a perfect foil with Bassett. The man's life is shown as a series of movements in the symphony of American History, powerful, strong and (as Arthur Miller wrote) needful of attention. We dare not ignore this man.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gestalt: Zeitgeist as Auteur

The Auteur theory of filmmaking was based on a series of articles in the Cahiers du Cinema (Movie Notebooks). Within the pages of that magazine were critical analysis' of certain trends found in cinema, notably within the cinema of the United States. (It was also here that the genre known as film noir was coined.)

The Auteur theory was: the director of the film is its author, more so than the screenwriter. It was the unique vision of a given director that marked their films. Both Howard Hawks and Sir Alfred Hitchcock were used as examples, and for the most part this theory has remained, along with genre criticism, as the foundation of film theory.

For the most part, there is a good, solid foundation for this. The filmography of certain directors show a tendency to various patterns: Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, and others, all created films (and some continue) that had a unique stamp, not only visually but in all manner of the presentation. The dialog, the music, the editing and, of course, the camera work and editing.

What caused me to post this was the work of various directors whose work is largely uneven, sometimes brilliant, sometimes merely pedestrian and sometimes... the only term that is appropriate would be Epic Fail. Joel Schumacher immediately comes to mind. His brilliant 8MM and flawless Falling Down are superb, A Time To Kill is good, solid filmmaking but hardly a work of lasting art as is his rendition of the Weber version of The Phantom Of The Opera, and his two entries into the Batman series are, at best, regrettable.

It was, however, in looking at his career that I started to wonder. Why? Why so uneven?

I began to notice how certain directors were also stuttering along, one moment grand opera and the next barely a cut above porn.

Here, then, is a little background.

In what was once called The Studio System, the studio (usually in the form of the producer) would assign certain films to certain directors. This was due to a track record of success; Hitchcock made thrillers and mysteries, Hawks made westerns. As the director grew in terms of monetary return to the studio, that given director would be given a little more authority over the film (or product) and some (certainly not all) directors began to thrive.

Hitchcock made few Epic Failures, but one that comes to mind was Jamaica Inn, an attempt to do a period piece. It is wretched. That last three word sentence is overly kind.

Be that as it may, as the auteur theory took hold, and Hollywood saw that the directors were growing in stature, the reins began to loosen. Granted, at the same time, the Studio System was faltering, but the era of the Auteur that was self-aware of the Auteur theory began. From this era, we got: Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, Altman. The list goes on and on, but more interesting is what was happening underground.

In the cheapie, grade Z movie industry, certain studios (much smaller than the majors) were still using the old Studio System, even if they weren't completely aware of it, but also tagging young directors and giving them a certain freedom, if only on a restricted budget.

From here, then, we find Bogdanovich being allowed to make a film so long as he included Boris Karloff. This gave us what may be one of the best films of his career, Targets.

As the years have gone on, and the director became weaker in authority (losing final cut privileges, for example: the studio can hack and re-edit without consent of the director), and the free agent style of actors and directors wandering from studio to studio, the films of the United States as a whole started to take on a different feel.

While a film can be (and sometimes is) a work of High Art, it must never be forgotten that a film is, first and foremost, a product. It is meant to make money, pure and simple. What this mindset has birthed is the idea of using an audience survey prior to releasing a film. This is nothing new: Stan Laurel (of Laurel & Hardy) would often preview a film before an audience. The difference was, though, that Stan stood at the back of the theater with a stopwatch and would time the laughter, so that he could then return to the editing and tighten up the comedy.

Now, however, the audience dictates editing. Sometimes to the point of rewriting the entire film.

On the DVD release of Final Destination, the producer, director and screenwriter all talked about using the audience preview to make changes in the film. Of importance here was that the film was completed, but the audience reaction was such that nearly the entire film had to be rewritten, re-shot and re-edited.

As making a film has become an expensive endeavor, and as the director has become less powerful, what is starting to happen is that the group effort in making a film has become paramount. There is no one particular voice, but rather a group.

This leads us to M. Night Shyamalan.

While his very first film, Praying With Anger is sadly not available for purchase, his second, Wide Awake is, and there, in that film, there is a significant difference between it and that which follows. Wide Awake is the last film he has made that uses someone other than James Newton Howard as the music director.

Newton Howard creates a score for Shyamalan's films that never cease to be anything other than brilliant, making a good film great, and a great film classic. Think of Hitchcock with Hermann, or Lucas with Williams (or Spielberg with Williams), or Burton with Elfman.

This is a gestalt, a group of separate minds gathering together, and adding their own touch to an overall work.

When we, the intended audience, are brought in, which is becoming more and more the norm, to witness the "finished" (if not released) product, then the gestalt widens, and the zeitgeist, the collective unconscious begins to alter the direction of the film. Here, everyone is involved, if only loosely.

When this works, it is unmistakable, the film ends up making a dent in the minds and psyche of the viewing populace that was not involved in the creative process. When the film makes a return grand enough to inspire the studios to continue in a similar vein, then the process repeats itself, as if the zeitgeist demands more, the collective consciousness of the global brain says to a smaller, more selective few: Here, this: this is what we want, give us more.

Coming to mind also, then, was the fact that two separate novels had been written and released within months of each other, and each was optioned by different studios. One was The Glass Inferno (by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson) and the other was The Tower by (Richard Martin Stern). Both novels dealt with the same premise: fire breaks out near the top of a superstructure and the stories of the people trying to survive as well as the efforts of the rescue workers to get them out and stop the fire. Rather than release two competing films of the same nature, the two studios joined to cover production costs and split the returns and the resulting film was the entertaining and rather flawed film, The Towering Inferno.

Armageddon and Deep Impact were released the same year by differing studios as were Volcano and Dante's Peak. The first two deal with an impending impact of a meteor /comet, and the second pair deal with the results of a volcanic eruption.

Some of this is mere happenstance of course, but there is also that sense of multiple minds gathering to create one, new fable, a story that wants to be told.