Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Many Loves of Hercules

The alternate title to this mythic cup of instant soup is Hercules Versus the Hydra, so take your choice to the kind of thrills to enjoy here,

When I was very young, Hercules as an entertainment entity was quite the thing. There were the Steve Reeves movies that seemed incredible. I never saw them but whatever I heard about them sanctified the idea of wonder in this world, entertainment division. I believe The Three Stooges met up with Herc in one of their later cinematic affairs featuring Curly Joe. There was even a lame-o cartoon in which a lot of mythic names were misapplied. The cartoon was stupid, even young Allen could tell.

Like Samson, Hercules was more anti-hero. He couldn’t quite handle his power, thru impetuosity, ambition, pride, a bit of ADHD. Welcome to the 2016 presidential race.

Anyway, here we have a movie to dissect as part of the teeming flood of entertainment that humankind apparently needs. By entertainment I guess I mean the broader word content. When you peruse the opulent lists of possible movies to watch on Netflix, or whatever fount of entertainment, you can only feel amazement at the quantity of items needed to keep us entertained. Who urges these projects, who pays for them, who profits from them, who cares? I mean the scale of movie making, even the shoestring budget stuff, compared to the production of poems and selfies, is huge. The Many Loves of Hercules was the instance of soothing entertainment for this nonce.

Entertainments like these are worthy one’s attention. Within their machinations and veritable excitement lies the intent to capture. That intent deserves consideration. For years Donald Trump sparkled in public as a celebrity dingbat. Turns out he was serious, and seriously sucked people into his production. We take the greatest of shit seriously, to our core.

The movie begins straight away with action, leastwise with a number of people running around without much dialogue. Whoever scored this thing apparently understood that this was a dramatic event of some flurry. Unfortunately that person never saw the rushes, which honestly aren’t all that rushed, if you get my drift. Grand musical incitement occurs while on the screen half-hearted actors try to read their lines and hit their marks correctly. The catchphrase Make America Great Again holds no future or past, it’s just a rousing musical score to accompany a lot of dithering. Dithering opens the action of the movie, with the invading army laying waste in lightly swishing gestures. The person who scored it read it differently, with vital armies and vital objectives. On the screen some listless grappling, like recalcitrant calisthenics.

This opening action, to call it that, is oddly intriguing. I found myself drawn to the sub-vignettes of the extras attempting to bring forth the carnage of war without overly exerting themselves in the hot Italian sun.
Plot starts when the he of evil beard invades the tent of, it turns out, Mrs Hercules. She is a pawn on this fell person’s chessboard. He is the adviser to the invading king. I think his perfect beard and ringlets tell the story well enough. He has Mrs Hercules killed. Mrs Herc vows that her hero will avenge her. The plot says that her death will be attributed to the king. Pathway to the throne cleared.
The king is then dispatched, but with the story that he died bravely in battle against all those peasants with sticks. Evil smirk. Believe me now and hear me later.

Hercules is played by Mickey Hargitay, erstwhile husband of Jayne Mansfield. Herself is the other dot of civilized glamour in this Italian-American production. Hercules is first seen chatting up the oracle. Hargitay was a body builder but back when one could still look humanly plausible. He looks beefy, albeit glistening with oil, He looks a little brash, a little self-involved, a touch of boyish charm. Not heroic but at least he has qualities fitting of the hero. Thru out the film, he wears a skirt, I guess, and sometimes a sash across his shoulder.

Hargitay was from Poland in real life and retained an accent. A poncy English person spoke his lines, wishing in his heart, no doubt, that this was King Lear. He of the glistening hairless pecs pleads with the oracle as to when his life might settle down. The oracle is none too positive on that question.
Suddenly, a colleague of Hercules interrupts this misty scene to announce the defeat of the city and death of Hercules’ wife. Hercules heads to the city. The oracle is left to look oracular.

Hercules arrives at the city gate and yells that he wants admittance. An army awaits behind the gate but no one replies. Exasperated, Hercules picks up a lengthy tree trunk. It is long enough that he has trouble gaining balance. Carrying it awkwardly overhead, he applies it battering ram style to the gate, which eventually succumbs. The army runs away. The slain king’s daughter chooses to meet him.
The queen is movie star galore, Jayne Mansfield, whose star I wot has already faded. She tells Hercules that her father is dead and that he can avenge himself on her. He decides against wreaking further havoc. There’s some claptrap about the now queen having to endure some test if she meets with Herc. Bravely she does so. 

Priests strap her to a wall and Hargitay must revisit his presumed Vegas act of throwing axes at her. If he can sever all four cords and not the queen, she can go free. Calling on Zeus, head honcho of Greek gods, he succeeds. Jayne faints.

Hercules comfortably makes himself at home with the queen, despite having threatened the city and breaking its gate. His presence upsets the plans of the evil bearded one. He sends a text message to the queen’s betrothed. This was to be an arranged marriage unburdened by the shackles of love. He arrives to find the queen and Hercules all lovey dovey. He attacks Hercules with a knife but Hercules overpowers him. In the ensuing dust up, we see Hercules holding the betrothed over his head somewhat pointlessly, and the queen pleads for the man’s life. Hercules accedes, and leaves.
Maybe it was earlier that Herc and the queen were out on horseback when suddenly... Well, kind of suddenly, some cattle escape and Hercules manages to corral them in a scene of scintillating milling about. A bull, however, wanders over towards the queen. She falls off her horse and screams as the bull apparently considers whether to gore her. While the bull considers his next move, Hercules arrives in time. He wrestles the bull to the ground then stabs it. He leaves the knife in the beast as he rushes to see to the queen. A stealthy co-conspirator cannily takes the knife. Now go back to the scene where Hercules fights the betrothed.

Hercules leaves in a huff. He camps with a couple of colleagues. Someone arrives to say the queen’s betrothed is dead and Hercules is implicated. Hercules rushes back to the city.

Looking for extra credit, the director makes more of the funeral scene than you’d expect for a minor character albeit a linchpin to the plot. We see a full procession including women in nightgowns and men in short skirts. A couple of servant boys wear thin bibs that reveal barely unbare butts. Fashion choices. Jayne Mansfield is always squeezed into some sort of emphatic Hollywood gown.
Hercules crashes the funeral to say he is innocent, calling upon Zeus and the dead guy as his witnesses. Somehow, it is worked out that tho Hercules’ knife did the dirty work Herc himself was not responsible. A certain someone is identified and Hercules goes in chase. Someone says that the perp was headed to the gates of Hades, like how did that person know and why would the perp go there.

We see the guy with his chariot clattering along. Hercules a-horse catches up. The perp tries to ascend an embankment but lacks horse power so he leaps from the chariot and enters a cave. Motivation unclear.
As he stands in the cavern, three giant monster heads arise. They look like dragons, spew flames and smoke, and bob their heads. Ray Harryhausen was not called in for animation duty, this is just paper-mache. An enormous paw presses down upon the unfortunate one.

Hercules arrives, enters the cave, scopes the scene and grabs an axe that happened to be there. Forthwith he goes banging at the monster, the Hydra of one of the movies’ titles, which bobs its heads and furthermore bobs its heads. The perp had gotten free from under the paw but then a head grabbed him n its jaw. Hercules keeps thumping. Eventually he hacks thru the neck. He pushes at the head so that it falls off. Dead hydra. Dead perp, as well. If you had entered this by way of Hercules vs the Hydra, you’re done. Herc won, winner take all.

Hercules endured injuries in the fight and swoons after the Hydra’s death. A couple of warrior women on horseback saw him enter the cave and go in to find him. They take him away.

Hercules’ two colleagues discover the chariot of the perp and head to the cave. For some reason we now hear the sound of rushing water, which was not audible earlier. Dead Hydra and Herc’s cape, where could he be? One of them remembers that this is the land of the Amazons and no one has ever left it alive. They decide to return to the city.

The healer of the Amazons says she can fix up Hercules right nice, but warns Hipolyta, Queen of the Amazons, that his presence will not go well. He is still transfixed by the other queen. Hipolyta entreats the healer to transform her into the queen’s likeness.

Here, then,is Jayne two, a redhead. The other queen was black haired. I suppose it shows Jayne’s range that she can do black and red hair as well as her patented platinum. Hercules is smitten. We get some overacting on the part of Jayne. Thru out the movie, her lines sound concocted. She’s trying to take the dialogue straight but there aint much to hang on it. She resorts to gasps and thunderstucks, plus a curious widening of her eyes which seemingly betokens sexual attraction, if not some ophthalmic distress. Too much effort.

Earlier we had seen the evil side of Hipolyta. She visits a blasted area of stunted trees. Only thing is, these trees are former lovers. One is still human enough to plead horribly to be freed. Yikes! Hercules falls right in line with the temptation. Interesting to note that now it is Jupiter to whom people call in times of atavistic distress.

One of Hipolyta’s minions can’t abide this bullshit and warns Hercules. She shows him the trees, breaking a twig to show blood flowing from the wound to prove her point. She tells him to return to the city, where insurrection against the bad guys is rising. Herc carelessly trots off. Hipolyta arrives in time to shoot an arrow into the one who betrayed her. In turn, one of the trees grabs her and kills her, and her appearance returns to normal.

Within the city a reign of terror, The bad guy tortures a fellow, trying to gain information about the revolt. The fellow eventually is dropped into a pool of dry ice. We don’t know what that pool might be.

Hercules gathers a force of people escaping the terror. Proudly a-horse, he leads them back to the city. Insurrection in the city and the army joining the peasants.

On stone steps the army makes a stand. They shoot arrows, which sort of damages the insurrection. Hercules finds a cart with a large wheel. He removes the wheel, hefts it over his head and runs towards the archers. I think the theory is that the wheel offers protection. It would, but only from those archers shooting directly above Herc. And no one else is protected. No matter, the mob presses thru the gate, energized by Hercules’ lifting capabilities. Hercules lifts a very large stone block to smash one enemy, and that’s about the only offensive action he takes to defeat the enemy.

Hercules runs to the dungeon to save the queen. The Bad Guy is already there and drags her away. They ride off and Hercules follows. The Bad Guy finds a cave. In it is a big hairy beastie, Bigfoot. Bigfoot kills the Bad Guy. He looks lovingly at the queen, who screams. Herc arrives and the two tussle. Hercules is knocked against a wall, which causes a paper-mache boulder to fall on him. He lifts it up and crushes Bigfoot. Then everything is good again.

This whole ride is of the 2016 presidential race. Secret motives and machinations. Self-involved heroes. Idolatrous public. Tricks, deception, unwarranted ambitions. Hercules for sure does very little. Especially during the revolt, which he charismatically led, he hardly supplied any muscle, and his sole aim was to save the queen. It all sounds too familiar, like the tv show we’ve been watching about electing a president in 2016. At least we got ninety minutes of thoughtless entertainment out of this movie, clearly a core ideal in this world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Watched this beauty on my phone, using something called an ‘app’. I previously saw it in my youth, I believe, in a theatre, certainly not a first-run film. I think even then I recognized the limitations of the movie, yet the power of the monster projected intense visceral response.

I somehow understood that there were a gazillion of these rubber-suited monstrosities on show somewhere serving the need for unexamined fear. Donald Trump now fills that role. Few of these movies were available to me in the darkness before VHS and Internet. This movie somehow exceeded the niche and became a classic. It’s not The Thing (50s version), which is both more primally scary, and also has a livelier script. Still, it’s an iconic sea monster until we can get Spielberg to present sharks as psychopathic killers.

The movie begins with an archaeologist whose team discovers a large, unprecedented clawed hand from, as repeatedly said, the Devonian Era. The archaeologist hacks it out of the earth to bring it home. He wants to return with a proper crew to excavate the site.

His two native workers were to remain at the site. Whilst they discussed the logistics of the archaeologist’s return, we see a living version of that hand reach out of the nearby river. It just feels the ground a bit then draws back into the water. That, my friends, is presaging. Use it wisely.

Scene change to somewhere else. The staff ingenue, yclept Kate, drives a speed boat to a larger one. Under the sea someone is scuba diving. The diver, David, emerges from the water and we get some exposition going. Kate brings the archaeologist to meet with the diver. David and Kate are an item, albeit unmarried

They gather with the rest of the cast, which includes Kate’s boss. He too is a scientist but, as belaboured, he thinks too much in terms of bottom line. His name is Mark as in the ill-fated King in the Tristan and Iseult cycle of stories. Just saying.

Meanwhile, the two natives back at the archaeological site are in their tent one night. A, but we know it is the, creature emerges from the water and heads for their tent. We see one native sleeping, the other a-fright and saying “No! No!” The big claw lands on the fellow’s head and then from outside we see the turmoil of his death. Similarly so for sleepyhead, who wakes just in time to see himself killed. Okay, monster fully checked in. Such a monster can easily get thru first floor windows, and find its way upstairs to bedrooms of overly-imaginative youngsters. Easily!

The scene changes to our scientific party as it starts its journey African Queen-style down the Amazon. The captain has been charged with overacting as the wise but eccentric master of the river who needs a shave. A couple of natives help him drive the boat while our science friends lounge on deck.

Kate has a remarkable facility to keep her hair well-fussed with pins and scarves. Her shorts don’t seem like Amazon ware. David seems to look older as the movie progresses but they remain fluttery in their moon eyes. Mark proves to be a bit grouchy. He never seems to have been in the game vis-a-vis Kate but jealous nonetheless. Also, he’s not idealistic like David is.

At the site they happen to notice that the two natives have been eviscerated. Everyone’s almost shocked, but then they get back to business. They dig at the site for a while until Mark becomes disgruntled about not discovering a fishy Piltdown Man. They decide they need to investigate the water, on the off chance that earthquakes and landslides had moved the rest of the bones. David and Mark do the diving.

I believe that every movie or television show featuring diving becomes an act of following random fish around with a camera then occasionally taking note of the divers. At least glimpses of the Creature sends some adrenalin into our bloodstream. He does a lot of lurking, kind of a wallflower.
After one dive, Kate decides the boys are having all the fun so she takes a dip herself. We see her swimming luxuriously. She even performs some synchronized swimming routines for our viewing pleasure. And the pleasure seems even more so for the Creature, who lurks below watching. At one point she swims backstroke and the Creature below her unbeknownst does the same thing. A curious mating dance.

Lucas, the Captain, espies Kate and tells her to come closer, it is dangerous out there. She complies. Despite webbed feet and hands, the Creature barely can keep up with her, outstretching his clawed paw but unable to grasp her.

Just after she is back on board, the boat is rocked. Something large has gotten into the net they have in the water. They try to reel the net in but whatever that was caught burst thru the net. Later that night, the Creature climbs aboard and kills a native, using his patented claw to the head maneuver. Kate gets to scream.

Mark and David argue what to do next. Mark wants to kill it, and bring it back as a lucrative trophy. David wants to capture it, and bring it back as a scientific trophy. In a hunt for the Creature, Mark wounds it with a spear gun. It may be that it is now that the Creature comes aboard to kill a native. Specific narrative doesn’t matter, we know what’s going to happen.

Lucas suggests using a powder the natives use to catch fish. When they get the dose right, the Creature becomes woozy. I think the boys chase it to its grotto or something.

Whatever narrative details I have missed, Mark still falls to the clutches of the Creature, tho David does his best to save him.

Since it would be silly to take defensive measures, Kate sits out somewhere dreamy-eyed. The Creature appears, and the last native runs to her defense and is killed. That guy in all the 50s movies (Whit Bissell by name) joins the affray and is wounded, David and Lucas coming in the nick of time shooting guns.

While discussing the next move in a cabin with Whit Bissell laying there with his head completely bandaged, the Creature’s hand appears at the porthole. David slaps at the hand and closes the porthole. What was the Creature planning anyway? Surprise attack thru the 10” porthole?

Well, time for denouement. Kate sits out in the open on the shore and the Creature scoops her up and takes her to his grotto. David follows with loaded spear gun. Finding Kate he drops his weapon and they enter full smooch-mode, At which time the Creature reappears. Before things go too far regarding David’s head in the grip of the Creatures clawed paw, Lucas and the archaeologist appear with firearms a-blaze. The Creature hightails it. David, out of some arcane definition of humane, prevents the coup-de-grace. They let the Creature return to the water, where death comes soon enough. The end.

Like in King Kong, the movie wants to suggest the Creature’s humanity, or humanness, at least. And he seems attracted to Kate, tho expressed in a muddy way. But this is a monster, and the trumped up logic is simple:
  1. See monster (code word Other)
  2. Kill it.
  3. Revel in the thrill of fear.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Generic franchise title: beyond what? An uncrowded theatre welcomed us yesterday. We considered going Sunday but off day Monday worked well.

The upcoming films look downgoing. Tom Cruise again asserts an image of invincibility with an apparent rash, yes, rash of fight scenes of complete improbability. It keeps getting said that Cruise does all his stunts. Bullshit or not, it suggests an overweening self-concupiscence. Plus video game glory in murderous mayhem. Really, screw that! His name is mud.

That nugget was followed by Matt Damon likewise, as Jason Bourne. Previous Bourne movies have been pretty good, not for the fight scenes but the narrative tension. The highlights yesterday stressed fight scenes but maybe some narrative tension remains in the franchise.

There were two, yes, two films that were based on true stories. Snowden, and something about apparent frat boys as big time gun runners. Oliver Stone directs Snowden, so it will pretend to be journalistic while clearly taking a side. The frat boys looks like it was made for frat boys. Now Ben Hur… I never read the book or saw the Charlton Heston film, but it looks like Gladiator so I’m all in.

Beyond begins with Kirk looking restrained and official, like he got old on us. He’s on a diplomatic mission with some cgi creatures. The diplomacy immediately goes comically bad and ends with the creatures swarming him and him getting beamed out. No worries!

Really, Chris Pine completely out-shatners Shatner. Bemused yet heroic, and comfortably so, he wears the role well while remaining an actor, not an icon. Shatner was never more than Hollywood okay.

From there, things go dim for me, narrative-wise. The problem is that much of the expositionary parts explaining why things are happening are shouted in the midst of action scenes. I couldn’t track it all. Especially as the screen is so visually active with stuff going on, and noises. Much of it exceeded my processor speed. Your mileage may vary.

For the most part, my lack of understanding didn’t matter. The ensemble is really good together, with lots of wry, dry comments of hearty yet likely humour. The action scenes certainly are active.

So the Enterprise sets out on a rescue mission at the behest of some captain or something. They encounter an alien ship that pulverizes the Enterprise with pokeballs, I believe. It looks like 99% of the crew dies, except for a handful of captives and our headliners. There’s even a point where it looks like Kirk will have to sacrifice himself to save the crew, just like his father did. In the event, the headliners all escape using pods. They land scattered on the planet below.

Spock and Bones land near each other. Spock is injured. They spend a while bantering, then head off knowingly to somewhere. Sulu and Uhura end up together, I forget how. Scotty lands on a cliff edge, we see him hanging by one hand. Later it appears he has made it to the bottom of the cliff without utilizing the falling protocol. Must have been a considerable hike. Here he is met by some aliens (natives, actually) who are about to kill him. Then appears a warrior woman, almost deus ex machina. Some sort of flashing business makes her difficult to fight, so she vanquishes the aliens. She befriends Scotty, or the other way around. They go back to her place. Her name is Jayla.

Her place turns out to be a long lost federation ship. Alone, she’s trying to defeat the perp who attacked the Enterprise earlier. Gad, it is confusing. She joins the good guys, when they finally, and somehow, get back together.

I didn’t mench that the captain who sought Federation help turned out to be traitorous. I think the Enterprise crashed on top of her. Her crew had been captured by Kraal, the same who attacked the Enterprise, and she was trying to save them, even while selling out the Enterprise crew. Oh well.

Kraal has been doggedly seeking a thing-a-ma-jig that I dunno who originally found. Turns out the thing is a key part to a super-destructive thing. Kraal wants that thing, so he can destroy everything, something like that.

After much battling, our heroes defeat Kraal’s forces. Kraal escapes, heading towards the space station whence the story began, bearing his Destructo-thing.

The gang manage to get the ancient ship into the air and back to the mondo space station. Kraal unleashes his remaining forces and his pokeballs at the station. By broadcasting the song “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys (redux from the first reboot), the good guys jam the ships and pokeballs. That leaves a last battle between Kirk and Kraal. I was thinking maybe Kirk would lose...

I never made out how the leap was made that Kraal, who I was thinking might be a Klingon, was actually the captain of the ancient ship. And he had the ability to change his appearance radically. Everything rushes by.

So narratively, I think the movie was messy. It doesn’t matter to me, really. I’m not much interested in the development of the canon. Some of the fight scenes are exaggerated but somehow don’t seem so woefully stupid as the Cruise vehicle. It’s Cruise’s self-satisfaction that annoys me. He likes the imagery too much. Kind of Donald Trumpish, don’t you know.

As a villain, this Kraal falls well below the level of those in the first two reboots. He’s just a crazy angry guy. The evocation of the space station, well, that’s what I’m here for. And the dialogue.

Jayla, who was a pretty good character, ends up a space cadet. Tho alien in appearance, she didn’t have to wear a football helmet to indicate her alien heritage. Likely she will appear in the next blockbuster. Better start worrying what the next one will be about.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

In, Out, and About

I was awake betimes and coincidentally so was the cat. He has discovered that staring at me not only wakes me but causes me to feed him. I then broke fast, then settled into a Coursera course: Buddhism and Modern Psychology. I listened to the first lecture, all three parts and the addedum. Made a fruit salad and juiced some greens, apples, and carrots. That was much the morning. Okay, I am also up to speed concerning the Red Sox.

Beth had an inspection to do so I rode shot gun, all the way to the exploding Arlington market. I remained in the car as Beth did that. The Alewife Brook itself flowed nearby tho I suspect sans alewives now. Being smartphone-empowered, I sat in the car and practiced some very simple Spanish lessons. This is completely different from the runner who crossed busy Alewife Brook Parkway while textually confronting her phone.

Beth had a list of comps to take pictures of, so we hunted around for them, occasionally noting the happy fact of street signs and house numbers to, like, clarify where we were.

The excitement didn’t stop there. Beth had neglected breakfast, which I am constitutionally, and even morally, unable to do, so we stopped at Panera for something more like lunch. It was after two, I guess.

We went next door for catfood then headed for Wegman’s for replenishment of juicing ingredients. A side street in this industrial hi-tech mess near the Burlington Mall and Wegman’s passes thru wetlands. Make way for goslings occurred here. A car widdershins awaited as the gang sashayed across the street. Mother bird made a point of standing there eying the car as the young ones crossed to the wetlands. She did the same for us.

This was my big camera-ready moment. I had my phone in my hand the other day when we saw a little puppy-like fox casually take in the summer rays. I completely blew that opportunity. With the geese, I should have telephoto’d. Beyond that, I haven’t quite got the right grip for the phone to steady it. If interested in these blurry relicts, lemme know. Erin, I learned last night, got notice that he was on the Dean’s List his last semester. Given the nadir—totally wrong major—this zenith is macro awesome. I shall soon zealously boil pasta for tonight’s dinner offering.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Out and About, Again

Erin joined us as Beth and I went for a walk at Punkatasset Hill. Talk and thought. A moody day of some clouds and much wind. We arrived late morning, and a goodly collection of cars were parked along the road. One car had a sulky teen, by herself, preferring the comfort of her phone.

A woman with leashed brown lab stood at the entrance to the path. The lab was ecstatic to have more new friends, not just us but other people and dogs. This is called a good attitude.

We found two twined snakes by the pond. Clouds and a peppy wind modified the day’s warmer beginning. The smaller snake was I gather a male. They remained motionless, as we tried to be.

Eventually the female stirred. She opened her jaws wide in a way I have never witnessed. Tasting the world? She slithered and the male rode along. You could sense the imperative.

We headed to the bakery after, just for coffee. Among the free books: selected letters of Emily D and an account of the Mayflower crossing by Nathaniel Philbrick. Total score! I just recently finished his account of the sinking of the whale ship Essex. Random grubby detail: capturing sea turtles as additional provender. Because they could survive foodless for two years, they were allowed to. Callousness completes the human experience. At hashtag Trump Anger.

I am some backward about the history of those doughty Puritans Not so pure, I’m sure.Andit is my history, if that records means a thing.

I have read Emily’s letters some but not enough. Her intense and personal vocabulary was a strange and eager possession. Beth said (not verbatim), Had ED not been comfortably positioned in the world, she would have been not have been. A factory drudge or crazy secret. The world hasn‘t changed much in the ensuing years. Outside is even more outside.

Beth had comparison pix to take in Waltham, after we et. Waltham was a working class town in one of its days, factories beside the helpfully rushing Charles River. It has upped its class rating with economic appeal but still has a diverse aspect. Maybe the onward crowd of bathroom protectors will season down to capture. I have no answer to the Trump pit of fear, and fifty dead at a night club, except to say how small the world people are. Where is the music of anger? Oh, right, there aint none.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Early Prophets by Everett Fox

Some fine person keeps putting publisher galleys of recently published books on the give-and-take shelf at the bakery. This book is the latest score. It is a translation of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. You know, from The Bible, the big important nonsense.

The Bible, incorporated as it is, represents a declining resource for me. I never met a catechism or otherwise had to read or even believe the thing. I felt the point of a moral or spiritual compass, however, and tried to find the flint and tinder supposedly in the book. I mean in the way of a drifty teenager with willing reach. I read most of this bestseller but wow, when Paul shows up in Acts, I am done. You can have your swarthy New Testament. The darkness is of unobserved ignorance, blinders to the heart.

I’ve only started meddling with this new translation. It seems fresh and different. So many ancient texts exist, to explain or at least comfort our sense of existence. The Bible seems to have endured a steroid kiss that makes it perfect in its rebuke.

The compelling stories have been co-opted by the rules committee. We can read The Epic of Gilgamesh as if it came from a curious intent. The Bible has been blown into a correctional institute. The mythic texture has been abandoned for Donald Trump certainty. Just as Donald Trump, the terrible tv show, shouldn’t be alive, neither should this bulwark of fear called King James Version, Ltd.

Fox seems to be on a rescue mission, and I’m for it. He has done his home work, if notes and commentary galore make the case. I aint finished the book but I got the sense that someone was thinking in the process of making it.

I say that because I hate The Bible by the weight it is wielded. Incontrovertible, my ass. At some point, thinking of the Trump horizon, we will need to respond to thinking. Emotion is a distracting gusset, enabling the lizard to pull the plough. We need a more thoughtful response to an ephemeral world. Anger hides fear. Behemoths called stranger, resource, death, worry our daily day. An angry trumpeting brings no cure. True word, it brings no cure.

Bible baby brings nothing if no mind attaches thought. Fearmonger Incorporated has attached his graded face to the scared kid who can’t explain. Maybe this Joshua cat was just another pogrom. Pogroms don’t work because survivours remember. I don’t care about a people, I care about the world. That is to say, we are crowded together, beings of purpose, on a momentary world, and we don’t need the fluffy designs of a ruling committee. The indications of the ancients aren’t cut and dried, they were wondering too. Wonder more, explain less, and look at the fear again.

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

This is an account of the sinking of the Essex, an event that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick. Long ago I read the narrative of Owen Chace (that’s the spelling I remember), one of the few survivours. I recall it fondly, tho the starvation, dehydration, and eventual cannibalism among the survivours doesn’t make for happy thoughts. Philbrick had access to an additional account by a participant, a cabin boy whose account did not come to light till years later. This second voice gives a wider, less defensive view of events.

Philbrick usefully describes the Nantucket whaling industry. I remember how exciting it was to learn about whaling in elementary school. The subject was anything but dry. Nantucket sleighrides, capsized whale boats, peppy shanties, oh my gosh! I always felt kindly towards whales, especially sperm whales in the deep, battling giant squid. These wild exploits amazed me, even as I rooted for the whale.

Criminy, tho, it was an industry. For half a century, these creatures were hunted with growing efficiency. Mostly for the oil that can be extracted from their blubber, to light the human life, with the purer bonanza of spermaceti from sperm whales, for well-oiled watches. Baleen, I believe, went to corsets, and other uses were made. I don’t know if the meat was much used then. Redux would come in the shape of buffaloes. I remember film of modern whalers, with cannons for killing, and some well-tuned factory for the rendering.

And give OSHA a call: rowing out in whaleboats to poke a harpoon into a whale, causing it to wear itself out trying to escape. At which point the mate jabs the lance into the secret portions of life. Cruel is the grip of our economic hosts, that push us to these lengths.

One thin supposition was brought out: that the whale that attacked the Essex may have responded to a noise from the ship. During a hunt, Chace’s whaleboat needed repair. It was brought back to the ship and hammering ensued. Some thought the hammering might have sounded like a male whale to the perp, so the territorial whale attacked. No question whales are smart enough to have reasons for their actions, so I don’t know.

I’m not so keen to read the grisly parts, tho worry not, I’ve read accounts of the Donner party. I would not want to cast a moral shadow because I don’t know my own strength.

I saw ads for a movie version of the book last year. It looked like Hollywood express: vertiginous and suffocating. I’m sure it was one more glistening botch for Ron Howard. Just blitz us shining things of alchemical adrenalin.

When I read William Manchester’s book about the Krupp weapons-making dynasty, I kept thinking of the gouging machines (and people) ripping ore from Alsace-Lorraine, for all those masterful and masterless guns and ordnance and wolfish war.s The invigourated slaughter of the whales brings a similar feeling. The needs that we consider needs, right down to the latest Justin Bieber, dig bigger holes of nothing, this North Atlantic turbine.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Erin graduated UMass Lowell today. It has been a long yet fruitful road.

The morning began with the typical rush to get ready betimes, which was steadfastly not accomplished, at least not on the schedule we had in mind. Out the door imagining there will be no (general admission) seats left. We picked up our friend Truus and got onto busy Rt. 3.

Beth had asked me to print out the tickets, but I didn’t print them all, so we wondered how we would get everyone in. We had a chance to think about this while waiting in traffic in Lowell centre. It was not really bad traffic, police details were in force, so it moved well enough, given the mass of vehicles.

Within sight of the Paul Tsongas Centre we saw a parking lot still inviting patronage. As far as we were concerned, it was a bargain at twenty bucks, at least since I had twenty one in my wallet. The parking was all cash, a detail not widely bruited. I didn’t mench that it was a summery spring day.

Paul Tsongas story. Years ago, after my grandmother died, my mother, brother and I drove up to Townsend to clear her place out. On the way, we saw Paul Tsongas walking along the road. He was running for representative at the time. Just him and a couple of other people, trudging along, greeting who he may. On our way back, he was still walking. Something real and warm about that, or the memory.

Erin enrobed himself in the parking lot—I know that you can read that (weirdly) in two ways—and bustled off. Beth stuck the coathanger in a bush for later retrieval.

A nervous but organized mob scene at the Tsongas. We went up to the information booth to see what can be done about the lack of tix. The man said, You can come back next year. He quickly added that they can scan Beth’s phone. So that was much easier than expected. Truus and I found contiguous seats while Beth awaited friend Melinda. Melinda helped start the homeschool cooperative where Erin went and has been a mentor to him, and to us as well.

A collection of brass instruments played pleasantly. “Simple Gifts” was a friendly sound. Energy in the place was skyrocket.

I never walked for any of my graduations, and neither did Beth. It was circs for Beth. For me, more like an obtrusive social anxiety. I was psyched to see Erin walk again (previously, his AA).

Bunches of robed people walked in and sat. A sort of drum major with derby and staff commenced the proceedings. Then a trio of bagpipers with drums marched in. Nice!

A chorale group sang the National Anthem. I don’t know who arranged it but it was quite lovely. It began with just women’s voices. The men came in, I think with the bursting bombs, but gently. F. S. Key could see something fragile and beautiful from his vantage, but in the Trumpian, Tea Party present, the answer to Key’s question in the first verse is no. Sorry, but craven and enclosed is the answer now.

Anyway, we could see Erin in the entering mass, he held his hands behind his back as the walked. Provosts, chancellors, presidents, and trustees spoke positively and encouragingly. Marty Meehan had been a US representative for years till be became chancellor then president of the school. I guess he done a good job because UML has grown rapidly in recent years. Likewise, it must be said, tuition. It is a vital school.

Honourary degrees were presented to Chris Cooper, Marianne Leone Cooper, and Judy Woodruff. I don’t argue with any of them, but couldn’t they have selected someone who hasn’t a television show or movie in their cv?

As to the walk, it took some time. Two people were calling out the names, with two lines of recipients. We were admonished not to applaud till the end, which held true for a while. Eventually claques started erupting, and finally everyone got a yelp. Beth and I whooped for Erin.

Three big screens showed the grads as they stepped onto the stage. Beth was locked and loaded for the picture, but neglected to have the camera on at the vital moment. C’est la vie and it don’t make no never mind.

The Centre slowly drained, and we were out in the warm sunlight. We took a bunch of the usual pictures along with everyone else. It was neat seeing all these family nodes gathering around their grad. The chancellor said that the class of 1400 had students from 96 countries. I didn’t think there were that many countries. Education is hope, no matter what comes out of conservative mouths.

Despite the crowd, Lowell released us rather quickly. We will celebrate Erin’s graduation tonight at an Indian restaurant. Erin persevered, and that’s saying a lot. Beth’s strength made this happen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Jungle Book

We saw The Jungle Book Sunday. The movie choice stacked up this way. Of the cinemaplex’s offerings, only the Batman-Superman conflict attracted me. Beth would rather The Jungle Book. For Erin, it would have been a tie between the two, except that reviews have been largely murderous concerning the contentious superheroes. Those same reviews made me rather eager for the experience, but it was not to be.

So we arrived betimes, settled into our comfy chairs, and saw the previews. Since an audience of youngsters was expected, the previews completely lacked explosions and all the rumbling assault that the previews I usually see revel in. Two offerings were animated sequels that you’ll have to take your kids to, and later they can stream it in the backseat of your car. Tother was a live action tra la featuring the dusty suburban perfection of ageless Jennifer Anniston, along with Hollywood’s most burnished situations and comedy. For example, apparent running joke of child peeing on park bench, HILARITY!

Then to the feature.

Only one human appears live on the screen, Mowgli. The youngster is comfortable in the role. The movie begins with him running with wolf cubs while Mowgli’s step-panther pursues. I thought the panther, Bagheera, was voiced by Patrick Stewart, but it was Ben Kingsley, as if there’s a difference. The animals talk, that is, speak English—talk and speak English are synonymous locutions—but I don’t think much bother went to making animal lips move. Most, but not all, the animals spoke English.

The jungle seemed more like a garden, lush green and prettily filmed. The animals are rendered lifelike in appearance but lifeless in action. Like animatronics, as Beth said. There’s plenty of kid-sized banter between the animals.

The crux comes during the dry season. When the Peace Rock is exposed in the pool of water, a truce occurs. During it, all animals may partake the water without fearing survival of the fittest.

And then Shere Khan arrives. This big slinky tiger don’t like no man, reasonably enough. All evil, he means to hunt down Mowgli, once the Peace Rock has been submerged again with the rains. Plot, tension, OMG!

Mowgli decides he must leave, to protect the pack. Bagheera offers to take him to man. Well then.

Off they go. Shere Khan appears and attacks. Mowgli runs. Bagheera fights the tiger and gets smacked down. Oh dear. Mowgli gets carried away by a running herd of wildebeest or whatever. Later, a rain-induced landslide throws the herd and Mowgli into a rushing river. Mowgli gets to shore, never mind the others.

Meanwhile Shere Khan comes threateningly to the pack, kills Akila, the alpha male, and maintains a solid threat. Standard evil incarnate.

Mowgli wanders thru the jungle, heading for the place of People. He encounters Kaa, the huge snake. She—voiced by Scarlett Johannsson—helpfully fills in the backstory of how Shere Khan killed Mowgli’s father. Mowgli’s father wounds the tiger with fire to save the boy. While the tale is told she slowly ensnares him. Then he is saved.

Mowgli wakes to find himself with a bear. Yclept Baloo, and voiced by Bill Murray, the bear saved Mowgli, tho I don’t know how or why. This is the most laidback and unthreatening bear ever. He’s just as realistic as the other animals in appearance yet somehow carries a cartoonish aspect.

Baloo wants Mowgli to collect honeycombs from a precarious cliff in recompense for being saved. Mowgli uses “tricks”, human ingenuity, to do so. As part of the pack, he was disallowed from doing such things.

Bagheera appears, not dead, to bring Mowgli home. He scorns Mowgli’s use of human ingenuity until Mowgli saves a young elephant. They plus Baloo head for the pack.

On the way, monkeys and apes abduct Mowgli. Oddly, these primates don’t speak English. They bring him to an abandoned temple atop a cliff. Within, amidst a mob of primates, is a King Kong-sized orangutan (my guess), who oddly does speak English. Voiced by Christopher Walken, of all the. Despite Walken’s unmatched cadence, this is a ridiculous scene. Especially because one of a couple of musical numbers has been squeezed in here. King Louie (sic) is too big for the temple and his chase thru walls to catch the escaped Mowgli is plain stupid. I should mench that Bagheera and Baloo helped Mowgli escape. The two battle the myriad primates, which somehow don’t pile up. King Louie manages to cause the temple to fall on himself.

King Louie wanted Mowgli to give him the red flower, i.e. fire. With fire, reasoned the big ape, he could rule the world. Mowgli didn’t know from fire.

I think when finally informed that Shere Khan killed Akila Mowgli went to the human village and horked a torch. Now to face the evil tiger. Shere Khan mocks the boy, who then discards the fire. Then the battle royal with the pack and the others fighting the tiger. The battles seemed unpackish, mostly one on one.

Eventually Mowgli runs, with Shere Khan in pursuit. Mowgli had already stated that he would no longer run from Shere Khan but okay. Mowgli had prepared a trap. Earlier there was something about dead trees. Mowgli heads into the trees and onto a branch. Shere Khan follows. The branch breaks. Mowgli catches hold of the swing he had set up earlier. Shere Khan falls to a flaming death. The shot resembled Gollum’s tumble into Mount Doom.

I read the book years ago. I don’t remember it well. I think Kipling’s animals had more gumption as animals than Disney’s aesthetic allows. Anyway, underlying the movie is an awe of movie magic. The technical aspect of all this verisimilitude is impressive. It simply plays without much emotion. I know the target audience is the young for whom emotion plays lively but still.

I will say that the credits had some charming effects. We see an open book, with apparent pop-up scenes. The figures tumble about in brief tableaux. The glimpse of the Jennifer Anniston movie—it should be titled A History of Hollywood Cliches—didn’t even want movie magic. Just the sense of salve for a populous needing entertainment as the ship nears the iceberg.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Drive About, Spring 2016

Another drive about as Beth collected appraisal pictures and I went along. It looked like the first day of spring, burgeoning and lovely. My father died on the last day of winter in 05, which seemed appropriate.

Down Rt 3 to I-95, which is still Rt 128 to me. Took the exit onto Rt 2A/Marrett Rd, heading towards East Lexington. Passing close to where I grew up.

For instance, the Old Res (for reservoir), Threw a lot of rocks into that thing. It represented semi-wildness in my cultivated childhood. It became a town swimming hole at some point but that usage seemed wrong to me. Too civilized. Passed the store where I used to get comic books and the usual oddlots of candy. Now a paint store. There are now also places where I can get a fresh BMW or have a laser scrape my face potentially fresh face. Progress.

Further on, the busy intersection of gas stations, convenience stores (not called that in the day), and so forth. Considerable so forth, in fact. A daunting number of large houses have been squeezed in behind the Dunkin' Donuts. My goodness. My former home just visible above thru the winter trees.

Somebody left coupons at our store to a Sports Barber Shop here. There used to be a pharmacy at the location. Free haircut, were I inclined. Beth thinks I’m absurd for abstaining, but see: it’s gonna be talkative stylists hepped up on local sports, and there’s something about a towel on my head and a scalp massage. Sitting in front of a mirror whilst hirsute machinations occur is travail enough, don’t add to the list.

So anyway. On to Mass Ave, within sight of the convent where I worked thru high school. It was a French-Canadian order, they were just enduring modernization (younger nuns opting for less tonnage in regards to their habits), and Catholicism was mystery to me then. Unlike now. The place now serves the assisted-living community, of which I am not, to the depth of Republican soullessness, a part.

Got pix of a comp near the bike path. The path is a stretch of paved intent running from Bedford to Cambridge. Formerly, trains ran all the way to Concord, with a northern spur to Billerica. Such modicum of individualism has been displaced by the three car garage.

Next we took the contrary route back 2A. Past, for instance, the site of an ice cream stand of much enjoyment, as the lad I was. Now part of the Minuteman National Park, the stand has been removed, and more emphasis has been placed on the fact that Paul Revere was captured at the site, on the fateful night (hardly a man is now alive). Pix taken.

Then on to Rt 2, the vital artery to Cambridge/Boston and the palooka world of valid employment. Route 2 has been receiving a quick, perhaps vicious, update from the country road that wandered to the western end of the state to a sluice that pours workers of the world to and fro, poor sods. Where quaint Concord and Lincoln meet, a swath of hillside has been transformed into condo heaven, a hillside sliced free from consideration and replaced by bonded construction of delirious intent. Irony Inc decreed this must happen maybe one mile from the vapid sanctity of Walden Pond. You know, where the guy wrote “Amplify! Amplify! Amplify!”

Past Walden, and over the culverted Sudbury River, Emerson Hospital, where I was born, and my mother died (not the same day). Dad died across the street. Looping around the famous rotary in front of the Mass Correctional Facility, we bended toward West Concord. Formerly the working class side of Concord, but real estate prices make that a memory.

Heading to Maynard on Rt 62. Maynard remains a working class town, but shows earnest in upgrading. It nestles around the Assabet River which, with the Sudbury, joins the Concord, eventually. Found all necessary comps.

Homeward, oh. A gas station in West Concord was removed for the flowering of a new bank. Next to old bank. Thru Concord. Bang left past the Colonial Inn, once owned by Thoreau’s father. Monument St past the Old Manse of Hawthorne’s mundane writing career (mundane, of the world). Past the real estate prices and horses swathed in blankets. Some real world, no doubt, exists beyond the palaver. I mean, we saw crocus and daffodils.

Dropping her report off meant we could side trip to Wegmans. Nothing egregious about the store but the crowd overwhelms me. Where should I put my piddling cart amidst the thronging? We escaped with provender and victuals. I hear the cat snore behind me as I write.