Thursday, November 26, 2020

Clash of the Titans, the Movie and the reproach

 This past summer I watched both versions of the movie Clash of the Titans. The movies follow the adventures of Perseus, famous Greek hero. Unsurprisingly, the plot is the same with both movies, save the city, save the girl. A considerable difference in storytelling stands between the two efforts. One notes the dramatic technological change in movie making between the one made in 1981 and the one made in 2010. Movies don’t seem to age well. Not just technologically, either. One becomes aware of attitudes and mores of the older era. Still, a common thread runs thru the two movies, heroic quest.

As a title, “Clash of the Titans” sounds good. Really, tho, it should be Clash of the Gods. The Olympians were the generation following the Titans, tho sometimes gathered under the Titan name. The battles of Cronus, Saturn, and the rest, that was the real Clash of Titans. It would be a good movie if someone tried. Avengers End Game almost does that job, but the life of the franchises powered that too much. Even the Apocalypse needs a sequel. But anyway.

The older version of Clash should have been a doozy with hero and quest. The trials of Perseus offer cinema-ready action, and special effects were by Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen created the skeleton warriors, animate bronze statue, harpies, and the other monstrous threats that Jason battled in Jason and the Argonauts. That all mesmerized a certain adolescent, the perfect adventure movie. Clash 81 proved a tepid affair, however.

Harry Hamlin plays the lead role, Perseus, the hero. I know he starred in that popular lawyer show sometime after, but I have no more than that. I suspect that the director or producer chose him mostly for his yum factor. Unfortunately, dreamy eyes and hairless chest don’t provide enough zing for playing the Number Two Hero of Greek myths behind Hercules. Thru out the movie his quest seems merely like something to do till he can get to a club. I vaguely recall that he and the older but by no means creaky Ursula Andress became a Hollywood item. Forty years, I could be wrong about this exciting tidbit, but it does provide a meta look at Hollywood’s own Olympian playground.

The director had no interest in delivering what the Jason movie had in abundance: eye-popping action. Instead, it seems more like a drab philosophical inquiry about the world. I mean, he’s got Sir Laurence Effing Olivier as Zeus but the whole Olympus thing looks half-hearted and merely cheesy. The hero should be energized by his quest but instead strolls about his business. In the meantime, Olivier, Claire Bloom, and the aforementioned Ursula Andress all pick up checks for a few hours in a smoky studio. As gods, they just stand there. Now there is some strong commentary. No hint of the exaggerated egos of the immortals we know from the tales. They merely look uncomfortable waiting for the director to tell them what to do. The director, the real god here, doesn’t know. The pleading rashness of the gods has been set aside. They function as deus ex machina in drapes. Timeless mannikins. 

Meanwhile Perseus listlessly wanders into a few temperate battles against monsters and whatnot. His legion of red shirts, unnoticed by the gods, pass forgetably into oblivion, just like the middle class. At least Perseus scores the big payday as hero. He’ll be good-looking forever.

In contrast to the low-intensity aerobics of Clash 81, Clash 2010 embraces a vigorous sense of pesty gods, loud as rock stars. First we get some back story. Baby Perseus has been set adrift on the sea with his mother because the king her husband did not father the child. The child survives but mom does not. A kindly fisherman finds and adopts the child. The child becomes the short-haired and rugged star of the show. This Perseus is oddly muted. He has spirit but internalizes it. When he is grown to manhood the gods war against a city of uppity people. As collateral damage, the fisherman and his family, except Perseus, get killed. The smell of vengeance rises.

Visually, this movie is already way ahead of Clash 81. A god, a freakin’ god, bursts directly out of the sky. If that don’t make you jump... Well that’s Hades, pissed. Ray Fiennes plays him as if he was never satisfied with any of Shakespeare’s villains. Angry and mighty, yet with a touch of snivvel, Hades got some character attributes, as he wars against Zeus.

Perseus commits to being his own man. He learns that Zeus is his father but Perseus turns away from the god side of his nature. It’s like Jesus saying he’ll just remain a carpenter. Perseus ends up getting cajoled into his hero quest. As played by Sam Worthington, Perseus is grim and humourless. He gathers a much more lively crew than Harry Hamlin did. The crew that joined Perseus in the earlier Clash seem like those who gathered around cocaine lines at Studio 54. I mean, whatever!

2010 bobs along as a quest. Perseus reconciles with dad, played with vocal reverberation by Liam Neeson. The Hero loses most of his mates along the way, but the two funny, blundering guys survive. This is religion, right there.

Weirdly, we just don’t think about the things we think about. In 81, Perseus receives the various aids in his quest as needed. It resembles a scavenger hunt for him. The helmet of invisibility, the flying horse, the shiny shield all come serendipitously to him expressly to be useful. In 2010, I do not think he gets a helmet, and the shiny shield is just laying around and he sees a use. Zeus does give him something or other, I forget what, which helps bring victory. This gift is more a token of their reconciliation than help of the gods.

In myths, the heroes seem less self-motivated than just following the only path before them. You’ll need a helmet of invisibility, Perseus, someone says, and so he has the useful tool for moving on. Presently, heroes everywhere challenge the world with their belief or denial of the pandemic. In each case, the hero becomes firm to the point of combative to follow their belief. Yesterday at the store a man agreed with someone that the pandemic is nothing to worry about. “It’s bullshit,” he said. His 97 year old mother will be fine when the family gathers for Thanksgiving. Yes, and Perseus knows Medusa can be defeated, the sea monster can be defeated, the gods can be defeated. Confidence wins the day. The proof is in the movie. Even listless Harry Hamlin can beat the gods just by doing what someone tells him.

One feels satisfaction when the hero wins. The path has been followed, the quest finished. What follows the adventure may be diminishment. Jason and the Argonauts ends with Jason and Medea smooching, but the gods know there’s some hot material for the Greek playwrights as the love match progresses.

Clash 81 proved hard to follow because nothing in the quest seemed to matter, and Harry Hamlin is too good looking to die. Clash 2010 provides the tension and the zesty visuals to soothe the need for hearty heroics but ends with something akin to Field of Dreams dad hugs. Hollywood the God of Gods exerts control.

When Donald Trump became an actual candidate, let alone President of the United States, I despaired. He rode into all this on a flying horse called Bullshit. The rumble of his self-aggrandizing swagger sounded heroic to way too many people. The fat gaudiness of his image resonated in a populous way. He became a monstrance of hope for certain disenchanted people. Their disenchantment is real but his mission was never. A hero is the deed itself, not the bragging puffery. Trump exploited the urge and need that kept the tales of such as Perseus alive even now. Both movies are cheesy because Hollywood cannot do otherwise, but they still bespeak a human need for heroic endeavor. Trump just twisted that, and the gods just laugh.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Beyond the Pandemic a Bit

 A customer wished to redeem a handful of cans. I told him we cannot accept those of his that we don’t sell. He asked with dismay, “When will things be normal again?” I replied perhaps too vigouroudly: “Normal doesn’t exist anymore.” Seven months into the pandemic and we are still working on that.

The customer assumed this change in our procedure owed to the pandemic, as so much has these past months. In fact, beverage distributors have simply become more rigorous about what they’ll receive from us. Blaming the pandemic for the change proves easy enough, tho. A persistent narrative concerns how much we all have lost because of the virus.

I need not catalog that loss. Everyone has felt it. The narrative need not solely focus on the losses we have endured. We are learning along the way.

The lament about lost normalcy will remain a commonplace. Normal has changed yet we all still have things to do. A sales rep remarked recently that nearly 800 restaurants appear on the alcohol commission’s list of accounts in arrears for more than ninety days. I think twenty or less would be the typical number. A hotel association a while ago stated that ALL of Boston’s hotels face the risk of closure. One can add a touch of salt to the statement, the association wants to make a case, but obviously the pandemic offers no boon to the industry. Dominos tip in multiple directions at this time. Perhaps we can reset.

The forces unleashed by the pandemic, and I am okay with the drama of the verb, have revealed drastic weaknesses in our normal. world. We see many people and many businesses in straitened circumstances after just weeks of disruption. The economy is NOT GOOD, whatever the Wall Street soothsayers claim. Few back ups exist when things go pear-shaped. Public education, i.e. school as daycare, seems in mid-flub right now. Healthcare for this interconnected population clearly, clearly ignores the poor. The poor, according to any abacus, represent the vast majority of the population. Like such a majority could be ignored. Maybe the luxury of ignoring the problem has disappeared. 

I just today read that the University of Michigan issued a stay at home order to combat the spread of the virus. Student athletes, the money earners for the esteemed institute, stand exempt from the order. You have to believe the bottom line defines the mission to make that acception. I know some believe that we must keep the economy’s rockets firing. I get the thinking but not how such action meshes with the reality of doing so during a pandemic. The pandemic wants to win so badly.

While I believe some people really don’t accept the pandemic as serious, most do. Boredom and resistance to change seem like strong motivating factors for treating the situation as normal. We think the enemy is the virus but it is not. We have been treed by a culture of disintegration. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. Humans are not isolatoes, however. We are all creatures of the same light. As such, we are empowered by our connections, not our divisions. Tear down the walls!

Monday, October 05, 2020

Masque of the Red Death Lately

 I just read “Masque of the Red Death”. I haven’t bothered to read Pandemic-themed classics (The Plague, which I read in high school anyway, or The Decameron) during our travail. I’ve read “Masque” before but a Facebook friend posted a link to it yesterday so I partook. 

The story offers little plot. Poe just paints a formidable atmosphere. Like Hawthorne, Poe sets scenes as a state of mind. And that state is of a nervous intensity. Perhaps Hawthorne shows more Puritan restraint while Poe works out of night sweats. Both have a sort of stoned fascination with morbid consequences.

As I mentioned, “Masque” presents little by way of plot. Prince Prospero has opened his castle to his thousand most intimate hangers-on as they ride out a plague. My mind’s eye uses the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston to picture the scene. Once the residence of Gardener, the museum is a castle-like testament to the virtue of money transformed into courtyards, balconies, tapestries, and shadows. Poe describes the scene and the actors within it with an avid wildness of colour and detail. Think the shining nothingness of Studio 54. Poe’s story “Hop Frog” comes to mind too for its similar setting. That story has a plot, however, and the soothing delight of revenge. “Masque” simply brings Death personified into the tacky horror of Prince Prospero’s upper class playground, and Death don’t have no mercy. It is simply a consequence.

Poe’s language is lush yet lightly handled. The pulse of his heart pounds in each word. Words are not distant things to him. He knows each one he uses possesses ample charge. He was a learned but not schooled person. Last in his class at West Point, yet he often writes as if out to prove how brilliant he is. He writing is brilliant in its unsealed vigour. The vision he sees of the decrepit celebrants leaves him with eyes wide. Now slide partying college students into the picture, or avid participants at rallies, or any avoidable crush of people at the end of the world. See the child Trump enjoying his Halloween fun.

Monday, September 28, 2020

A Rushed and Indelicate Statement


The gaseous contents of the Republican soul sees no value but in ‘values’. These values carry nothing but a plutonic weight. They pretend toward a fixity that does not exist. They feature no moral compass beyond the cunning of Old Testament restriction. No doctrinal Prince of Peace provides comfort to this mindset beyond the great and welcoming Hell they envision for others.

The present administration shares no warmth or goal for the people, any people. The Heaven they intend for themselves bases it’s golden number in opposition. They enjoy the right side of the binary.

I use the word Republican but these feasters exceed the idea of party. The adepts just know that the world is a thing, a thing to corner, to collect, to devour. These words feel terrible to invoke. I mean, to consider such a ghastly register as the only view of the world and thus yourself. At some point we turn away, because we are alive. Alive just to autumn’s changes, wind in trees, abundance and sustenance in the mycorrizhal Earth, the mutual compact. None of your bullshit, then, this election year and in the world beyond.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Pluck of Raspberries as Autumn Returns

 Today we made yet another trip to Autumn Hills Orchard in Groton. Google sends us North on Rt 3 till we reach the Dunstable exit. From there the trail is southeast thru still viable New England farmland. It is a pleasant ride. Beth wants more raspberries to freeze. Again, it’s just an excuse to feel the early autumn sunshine on our faces. 

Fluffy clouds and steely sunshine filled the eye, with a constantly blowing and gravely refreshing breeze. On such a Sunday afternoon we were by no means alone along the lengths of raspberry plants. Apples too, Honey Crisps and Macs, were available for picking. The day’s largesse of ripe berries was nearly done by the time we arrived after one. We got two quarts but it took close perusal among the bent stalks to accomplish that.

I haven’t recounted yet how I picked raspberries one summer while a teenager, thus prepping me for these labors years later. My friend’s neighbor had a raspberry patch. My friend, his younger brother, and I got to pick the berries then take them to the local farm stand. I don’t know what profit the neighbour took but I got enough money for some records and books. Because the brothers routinely would end up throwing things at each other and chasing each other, I picked the most pints. It was a sweet deal. Now Beth and I pay for the privilege. The warm sun, the cool wind, the blue sky, the imposing white clouds, and the apple trees full of fruit indeed made it a privilege. I should now read The Shepherd’s Calendar by John Clare, and maybe I will,

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Calming Pandemic Response of Almond Butter

 Made a cup or two of almond butter. Roasting, blanching, and peeling the almonds took upwards of two hours. Nothing onerous in the task, it feels peaceful. Once blanched the almond skins mostly squirt off. They need reblanching when they cool. Sitting in boiled water for a minute constitutes blanching. I watched MST3K while I removed the skins.

Processing in the Cuisinart took 12 minutes. I added two teaspoons of sugar, painting the lily, and two or three teaspoons of coconut oil. Roasting supposedly brings out oil that the raw almond doesn’t release. The addition of oil makes the butter smoother, and imparts a sweet fragrance. I could have made more had I not chomped on quite a few of the roasted beauties that I had prepared.

The time/labour aint straightforwardly worth it if you wish to be a capitalist prod about it. The butter tastes like my effort, tho. It is as good as any commercial brand that I’ve had. I am not kidding anyone. I could buy better bread than I make. A good portion of France’s economy seems based on that thought. Store bought bread provides no feeling of accomplishment, however, nor yeast aroma in our abode. I like having almond butter on my to do list. My almond butter on my bread: It gives a rhythm to my life. That is to say, tho the results please, it is the making that matters. Despite the constrictions amidst the pandemic, happy chores make a widening.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Cooking Up A Pandemic Response

 I have been writing considerably about our Covid-19 Shit-Hits-The-Fan Food Gathering And Prep Initiative, ongoing. The intent is not to show that I remember hippies, Age of Aquarious, and all that righteous. I doremember all that, and feel a curious warmth towards it, tho I hardly breathed that air. More importantly, however, I just want to see the result of a little extra effort.

Beth and I went to the organic farm today to purchase 15 pounds of tomatoes. The property is sweet-looking, trailing down to the Concord River. The land is in trust, can never be subdivided. This is a big deal, what with all the monied estates nearby. The farm land can remain so as long as someone wants to dig.

A sign outside the stand said no more than three customers at a time inside. Two people entered just ahead of us. An employee at the door invited Beth in, and I joined her. There were at least six customers scanning the provender, plus a handful of employees: so much for the sign. Room enough to maintain social distance, at least. The rules are kinda random these days, err on the side of safety.

Because of a drouthy summer, lettuce and corn were unavailable. Beth picked up some cilantro and I immediately smelled it six feet away. Basil looked wilted. Some cooking greens came home with us, as well.

The above exploit occurred while bread rose. Couldn’t take the slightly more scenic route home (I’m talking a couple extra miles), the bread comes first. I readied the dough for a second rise, then looked to our new vacuum bagging system. This gizmo will help us freeze more goods, tomatoes for instance.

I have never used such a thing but it seems practical. The tomatoes can be processed tomorrow. We sourced cheap locally-grown peaches that we will pick up tomorrow. They are utility peaches, seconds. Not pretty, but they can be used in baking or more peach butter. Cost will be some 50% cheaper than farm stand pretty peaches

I just saw this article about quarantine envy. I cannot say that I suffer it, tho I don’t doubt people do. I have worked 40+ hours a week right along. While there’s a part of me that would like to have stayed home huddling, I had the stabilizing effect of my normal routine. Beth lost two temporary job opportunities to the pandemic, but her main job during this time was to study for her real estate appraisal test (which she passed yesterday). The job that Erin was to start in April was delayed till May. At least we were together, remained healthy, and held our own.

I didn’t have to adjust my work life to the use of Zoom. Outside of Beth’s mother, we have no family nearby, so there is little in that way that the pandemic curtailed. Beth has been cautious about visiting her mother because I didn’t isolate but the phone eased that.

The pandemic has reminded us that we must make do. Thus, we have looked to gather food and find ways to maintain an abundance as hedge against whatever the hell comes next. Beth and I have put our heads together deciding how to maintain our own food supply, and do so affordably. The act of preparing the food and freezing it has been both creative and cooperative. In that, then, we have established a dynamic act. We are engaged in a positive pandemic response.

Maintaining our distance and wearing masks won’t soon end. Our key focus is figuring what we can do for ourselves, because our government no longer sees social welfare as a goal. This is a betrayal, and it will be remembered, but for now, we do what we need to do for ourselves.