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Monday, July 6, 2015

Criswell (Part II)

As this generation passes into the uncomfortable future of our future, it is only fitting that we remember the amazing work of the great Criswell, his numerous predictions and foppish silver hairstyle. Some of you may remember him from the story of the great film director Edward D. Wood Jr., and others still will recall his startling appearance in the film Plan Nine from Outer Space, as well as his numerous appearances on late-night television talk shows in the 1970’s, including Johnny Carson and Jack Paar.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a remarkable 1968 volume of his work entitled Criswell Predicts in which he makes predictions. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s a veritable wealth of something, though I can’t decide whether it’s portentous wisdom or fatuous kaka.

The book opens boldly with Criswell’s prediction of “homosexual cities … I predict that perversion will flood the land,” he writes, even noting that the Supreme Court itself will sanction (in 1973) acceptance of a civilization he likens to both Rome and Babylon. The irony, of course, is that I believe Criswell himself was homosexual, or at least looked homosexual, which is not actually protected under the Supreme Court still to this day.

Sex-capades seemingly proliferate when, according to Criswell, we enter an “aphrodisiacal era,” owing to a scientist who, while trying to create a new disinfectant, inadvertently invents a powerful fragrance that turns America upside down. “I predict that the sex urge will advance rapidly and many men will flagrantly expose themselves in public,” he writes. Sex antics will simply get out of control, especially in Hollywood, where naughty escapades will be taking place in the very streets. Criswell writes, “I predict a wealthy San Francisco attorney will announce his marriage to his mother and a Hollywood producer will openly declare his daughter is going to bear his child, and a young man in Arkansas will ask to be legally wed to his pet cat.”

No, really, I’m not making this up!

Criswell brings forth a motley wealth of other predictions, from the bizarre to the even more bizarre. In 1983 women in St. Louis, he predicts will being going bald en masse, causing widespread hysteria and massacres. (It’s amazing how many massacres were predicted, stemming from everything from flooding and aliens, to hair loss and technology.) Mass massacres were also predicted as the result of rampant cannibalism, which sprouted up in Pittsburgh because of another sloppy scientist who couldn’t keep his work in the beaker.

Many of Criswell’s predictions involve public nudity, and this alone makes his future one worth contemplating. The only problem is that some of the predictions seem to contradict others. For instance, while in the late 90’s in one prediction it’s commonplace to see your neighbor (through your invisible walls) playing nude with her dog, in another scenario the nudity is the untoward result of some scientific mishaps.

Nudity and massacres aside, in the end Criswell places the blame for the end of the world—which he predicted would come in August, 1999—squarely on merciless Mother Nature, whom we have abused and who forsakes us in the end for our rampant transgressions and just because she’s got a mean spirit.

Sadly the only survivors will be those who had the foresight to join the colonies on Mars, Venus and Neptune.

All I can say is I’m glad I was one of them!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Criswell (Part I)

I’m sitting in my daughter’s orthodontist office working on a first Blah-ugh! entry in god-knows-how-many years. I have my Criswell book open and am pulling quotes and weirdness, in yet another lame attempt to make my little audience laugh a bit, when a woman—another parent—comes over. 

“I noticed you’re reading a Criswell book,” she said, and then—with absolutely no prompting from me—goes on for literally 10 minutes about the coming Apocalypse …

Now, I’m not one to ever poo-poo the imminent destruction of our civilization, or to ever turn my back on any conspiratorial theory, no matter how many blood moons, six-state military operations or closings of Wal-Mart stores it involves. (She explained that they were citing poor plumbing in their closings, but inferred that it had something to do with hundreds of miles of underground tunnels, along with many animals dying and the seven-year cycle of the stock market’s collapse.) Still, there was something in her urgent, wide-eyed paranoia, coupled with the cross she was wearing, that put my antennae up.

I found myself—who’s usually overly polite to too many people, frankly—wondering how long she would keep talking with absolutely no words from me, no nodding, “Mmm’s,” or any kind of response … It was a long, long time … It was somewhat extraordinary 

But it reached a limit, for I realized—as Arnold Schwarzenegger had tried to warn me about in his book Total Recall when he cited taking on the negativity of others—this woman’s nervous, negative words—however true they might be—were starting to infect my spirit. After a point my question to her was going to be, “Okay, but what can you do about any of it?” after which I intended to begin a short discussion on the merit of Emmett Fox … Yet after her interminable blather continued, I wasn’t even up to bothering.

I could feel the toxins collecting in my growingly fit body, almost happily feeling myself getting pushed to the point where I could say or do anything as rude as I wanted, because she had invited it--a unique point in a day, and one we shouldn't abuse--when she gave me the perfect out. She reached a conclusion of her point, paused and then asked, “So, are you a Christian?”

I just stood up suddenly and literally muttered, “I’ve had enough,” and retreated over to the reception desk. Her son’s dentist came out at that very moment to consult with her, and I had a bill to settle, so it was a smooth transition.

As she was leaving and I tried to mollify her with my disarming, Apocalypse-averting smile--she may be right, after all, and I didn't want to have to face her erratic judgement come the Apocalypse. But instead of walking past me in humble contrition, as would have been appropriate following her weird psychic assault, she countered with that ever-creepy, “Have a blessed day!”

“Yeesh!” I thought. “What a bitch!”

The worst part was that my Criswell essay was temporarily derailed, as I felt I had to document this remarkable nonsensical experience, being a writer and all and not producing at the levels I should be, (that is, if I hope to please my infernal god and do my part to avert an Apocalypse). That’s why I’ve recorded all of this now, for I’m still sitting in the reception room, trying to work through it all emotionally and editorially …

So look for the Criswell piece soon … hopefully within the hour … for I predict it will be a fascinating look at the mysterious work of a genuine hammerhead.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Content to be Arnold

I was recently reminded of the 21st century necessity to generate crap—I mean content—to continually replenish my rousing marketplace value and keep my awesome name before the unsteady eyes of an adoring but fickle public.

The problem—and you know there’s ALWAYS a problem of some kind—is that I’m not sure it’s humanly possible to maintain the extraordinarily high level of quality that people have come to expect from my intermittent Blah-ugh! pustules. I feel it’s important that I at least try to fool them into believing I’m keeping up with some degree of quality, whether provisions are bright or nye, but given the growing pressures of modern times to make this a veritable joke factory of regularity, I worry that those loyal readers—you guys—will somehow get short shrifted, or short changed, or possibly both, in my zealous attempts to grind a generous helping of delectable pap out of my editorial blowhole.

That said, there is never a shortage of important things to address, beginning with my utter laziness. The good news is I’m coming to see my laziness as a beneficial part of my work pattern—mainly the part where I don’t get anything done. This is actually very important because it makes other things I do seem that much more striking—or at least makes the things other people do seem strike-worthy, and if that’s not public service, I don’t know what is.

But this is about content and I have a lot to get to, beginning with an in-depth analysis of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography—Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. People will think I’m being facetious, but I’m actually astounded how informative a textbook it is for me, not to mention an entertaining and rather culturally intriguing pile of pulp. (Kudos to Arnold’s editorial blowhole!)

Still, I want to start with complaints, as they’re more fun. The first—possibly the prime, or even only—is the subtitle, which is grammatically stupid. I’ve spent many minutes wondering if he suggested the title and was then too stubborn to admit that it should be “unbelievable” and not “unbelievably.” (And by the way, if you’re too thick to know why they’re not interchangeable and would need me to explain it to you, you have no business reading a sophisticated Blah-ugh! like mine and I want you to unplug right now and go take an English class!) I imagine him sitting in his sunny office in Venice (CA) with his loving klatch of semi-sycophantic cronies, reviewing the business of the day in his bruised Austrian English, “Dis book, it should be just having a funny, simple title, like ‘My unbelievably true life story,’ because it is unbelievable. Don’ cha see?!”

Despite some of our political separations and his rather cruel treatment of Lou Ferrigno in Pumping Iron and his harsh foreign accent and his crude military haircut and his muscles and his money and his cigar smoke, I really like Arnold. I think his movies are the cat’s pajamas, and I can honestly say—with the possible exception of the third reel of Jingle All the Way—there isn’t a movie of his I wouldn’t call worth at least two viewings, if not many, especially if you have Alzheimer’s and forget things very quickly.

My fond memories of Arnold extend to when he was governor and I was living in California. One evening at a softball game in Brentwood—many of you don’t know this about me, but I was a highly advanced if not particularly well dressed softball player in my day—a cavalcade of very large, ominous black Humvees showed up near the field. The whole game stopped and everyone stood around in a kind of stupid terror, unclear what the danger was, for it certainly all felt very dangerous. A small group of large Secret Service-type men emerged and prepared the way for what turned out to be Governor Arnold, who was apparently stopping in at the adjacent gymnasium to pick up one of his kids, or perhaps watch one of them play basketball or do curling or something.

Everyone stood far away in dumb amazement and fear as Arnold, escorted by his large cronies, paced confidently toward his destination. But being me, of course, I had to jog over—actually putting all the men on momentary alert in what might have been a tense moment had not both Arnold and I handled it with such aplomb. “Hey!” I announced. “You’re the best!” We shook hands and he said, “Tank you!” He was shorter than I reasoned he was supposed to be—6’ 2” my ass!—but I didn’t want to be rude and mention it, though if I’d read his autobiography back then—that is, if he’d written it—I would have drawn a humorous comparison to him insulting Dino De Laurentiis about his height and accent, and we would have laughed … or perhaps not.

But none of that’s here nor there. I can tell you he was very sweet, in spite of his decaying stature. I advised him to start making movies again, to which he declared, “Ha ha!” And now, years later, as I read his book, I think of our moment together, which I suspect he looks back upon with all the acuity he might devote to some forgotten moment he was bitten by a mosquito in his Austrian past.

Now many of you are probably asking why I’m so smitten with this book, and I will say shortly it involves Arnold’s frank description of his Germanic discipline and his steadfast commitment to his vision. He offhandedly describes how he knew he was going to do certain things and at times even imagined them so vividly that it was as though he’d already done them. This is quite fascinating and inspiring, as was his explanation that he likes to go into situation like a “puppy” and not be told any of the negative possibilities that could occur. In fact, at one point when someone was telling him the reason why he couldn’t or shouldn’t invest in his first big real estate deal, he cut him off and said, in essence, “Oh my gosh, I was almost started listening to you and your negativity!”

Arnold offers a variety of great ideas to consider and even, perhaps, live by, provided you don’t get caught boinking your nanny.

It just goes to show that, if you’re open, you never know where you’re going to come across thoughts that could be of value to you—even in some stupid Blah-ugh!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Je Suis Charlie; In the Name of Charlie

The Paris shootings have me very upset for a variety of reasons.

There, but for the grace of god, go I … That’s the first one, though to be perfectly honest I don’t know if I really have the nerve to be Charlie—to stand by my convictions as both a satirist and journalist in the face of potentially dangerous threats by this generation’s Nazis.

I sincerely admire them for doing so. In my career I’ve experienced relatively small examples of public discontent in one form or another and it never feels good. I like to think I stand by my beliefs to some extent, but I’d be lying if I said I would definitely willingly open myself to such grave possibilities … I’m really not sure I could do it … I’m glad I don’t have to decide today …

Meanwhile a part of me questions the wisdom of inciting the insane. The longer I live, sad to say, the more pointless it seems to waste time trying to sway anyone’s ideas, let alone the warped, murky reasoning of authentic fanatics.

So what was the point behind taunting these assholes?

Reflecting on it, I don’t think most normal folk feel that compelled to offend anyone or do anything so outlandish that it would significantly buck the conventions of their time. And yet being told that one is not allowed to do something almost makes it a necessity—nay, a responsibility—to do so.

Therefore to some extent there was no point, excepting the fragile value of simply being free to do so. And that is really something—to commit yourself wholeheartedly to a value for that value’s sake.

Yet how many of us would potentially jeopardize our warmth and safety—at least in this age of placid comfort—to do so?! I’m reminded of my favorite quote from Dumbledore in Harry Potter, who said, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

Whether it ever intended to or not, the American government has done a brilliant job of neutering its dissenters. Following the emotional explosion of the Sixties it wisely allowed a generous liberal girth in which those with opposing ideas could grow fat and sedentary. (Television—the great lobotomizer—was a key part of this, but there were other weapons employed.) It was a brilliant strategy to, in essence, peacefully disarm rebellion.

To me it serves to demonstrate how religious fanatics of this strain have other pathological motivations beyond changing the world to their so-called god’s liking—namely a disturbed desire for confrontation. That’s why on one level standing up to these kinds of people is a mistake, because the confrontation feeds them. Would that we could just ignore them, like errant toddlers, and they would tire and fall to sleep. Their misplaced zeal is of the same fabric—the stuff of undeveloped brain casings and the delusions of an infant’s mentality.

Another key button to this whole tragedy involves people—in this case the editorial team—not being allowed to just be themselves. From a purely psychological standpoint I place tremendous value on the benefits of a person being allowed to embrace their authentic self. Personal repression of one kind or another grows to infect and damage. I suspect a lot of emotional maladies could fix themselves if people were only given the safe space to be who they really are. So to consider this from that standpoint—an extreme example of simple intolerance—is sad and frightening, as well as grossly unfair.

I earlier referenced these people as Nazis in part because they embrace those same values. One of the things I find so frightening is not just the physical dangers that people like this present, but that overriding fascistic threat to conform or die. It seems there are so few of us these days that have the strength to resist. If push came to shove how many of us would quietly roll over and start reading the Quran even though we didn’t want to.

But through the darkness of these evil deeds comes the vibrant outpouring of light and love and consciousness, and that brings its own set of strong emotions.

People around the world—normal people—are once again being united in their clear common beliefs of what they think is right and what is wrong, what they value, what kind of world they want this to be, what it means to be human and humane, what it means to be spiritual, and what the “God” that unites us all—whatever the hell his name is!—wants us to be doing in that name!

         Vive la France!  Vive la Liberte’!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hammer Time

September 24, 2014:  The letters have poured in—many of them postage due; others addressed to Current Resident—but the message has been clear: Blah-ugh! Readers (and see, I’m capitalizing you all now, out of respect and fear) have been wondering about my failure to file new and exciting entries for the past few days (and I believe there’s been about 215 of them ... days, I mean ...) …

Well, it hasn’t been for lack of trying, but I’ve found myself easily distracted by REAL work, familial conflicts & commitments and this new lava lamp I bought which I just can't seem to take my eyes off. In fact, I’ve started quite a few entries, but they’ve consistently failed to materialize because of a new spiritual practice I’m exploring called laziness. (It’s incredibly fulfilling, and I will write about it when I get round, perhaps in the latter 21st century.)

But as the groundswell has seemed to swell, and I had an hour to kill, I felt it might do this dilapidated forum service to actually keep it alive with a feeble injection of humor, wisdom, words and whining.

Just this week I made a brilliant purchase of an eight-movie Hammer Films Horror Pack on DVD. DVDs, as you know, are those little shiny round discs that people take out of the library to use as bases when they play pick-up softball games. What you probably didn’t know was that they can also be used to play magical classic films, such as Night Creatures and The Evil of Frankenstein.

My ever-growing allegiance to Hammer Films has been soundly augmented by this new collection, which I proudly put alongside my various Christopher Lee Dracula movies, the underrated Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, and of course the terribly sexy Vampire Lovers, which offers some of the most sensitive and titillating vampiric lesbianism one is likely to find in British cinema.

I’m yet to explore each selection in this lovely collection, but I can assure you it’s already proving to be a veritable cornucopia of English joy. I decided to watch The Phantom of the Opera first, as it had perhaps the lowest attraction for me compared to some others in the collection. (The Curse of the Werewolf, featuring Oliver Reed, is the one that I’ve long hoped to find, for I don’t remember ever seeing it, and so I’m saving that for last.) Much to my sincere surprise, however, I found this 1962 version of 'Phantom,' featuring the great Herbert Lom—whom most of you know as Inspector Clouseau’s twitching foil—an absolute delight. One of their delicious Technicolor Victorian-era pieces, it’s got all the elements—likable hero, sweet heroine and a most heinous bad guy played by the great Michael Gough, who you’ll also remember from Horror of Dracula.

My second foyer (and I hope I'm spelling that right) into this collection—Paranoiac—was equally as thrilling, even though it took a few more minutes for me to get into. Reed shows up here too and makes it clear why he’s one of the creepiest character actors in the tradition of, say, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Peter Lorre and perhaps Dame Judy Dench. Filmed in luscious early-sixties black and white, it’s both visually and narratively a treat.

And today I have popped in The Kiss of the Vampire and let me tell you, from the awesome opening scene, it’s awesome! While a fool might argue that it’s somewhat predictable—and really, what movie isn’t, except perhaps Darjeeling Limited—I challenge anyone to find a predictable ride that offers more in the way of a satisfying classic gothic soft horror trip. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Well, I could go on, as many of you know, but I think it’s better to get something completed and up rather than try and perfect it, or try to expand too long, or try too hard, or try at all, for that matter. So I hope you enjoyed this autumnal offering and will look forward to other offerings which I hope will come presently—among them a closer look at coffee shops and the conversations people hope to have there, as well as a unique examination of what might have happened if Hitler got into art school.