by Richard Reynolds, AKA Mr. Doomed Stuffing
Horror films usually suck. The reason is that most of them are low-budget with shitty actors and shitty scripts and shittier directors. Horror isn't just about having a big monster's head come out of a closet and bite someone's head off unexpectedly, then showing buckets of blood that couldn't have possibly been inside the victim for the monster to spill out everywhere.
Good horror films should start creepy, build upon the creepiness layer by layer, then reach a climax that leaves you heaving your breath out of your lungs like you were shoveling wet sand until you had filled an empty swimming pool full of dead people.
A great horror movie is so rare that you could probably fit the list on a pinhead. Great horror movies start creepy, build upon the creepiness layer by layer, then reach a climax that leaves you feeling like you were just attacked by two jaguars and a deranged traffic cop on PCP with a blackjack and who thinks you're the Devil.
The only film that has ever truly fit that bill with me is The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin in an intentionally documentary style of realism that builds into a surrealistic swirl of terror-filled imagery.
I first saw it when I was about twelve, when the really nasty parts were cut for regular television (although plenty of nastiness was left in for my taste at the time). I wasn't a squeamish kid. I had been raised on Alfred Hitchcock films like Psycho ... and I would regularly sneak out of bed in the middle of the night to watch creature features and Eurotrash horror films from the late 1960's and early 1970's. But I had never, ever seen anything remotely like The Exorcist.
The Exorcist knows no boundaries. It introduces its particularly human characters, none of them especially exciting or funny ... most of the while you're watching these characters in the first thirty or forty minutes of the film, none of them really strikes you as someone you want to get killed off quickly so they won't annoy you anymore (as usually happens in most shitty horror films). You don't find the characters especially interesting or their personalities especially note-worthy. They are rather banal characters (although the film's main protagonist, Ellen Burstyn, who is brilliant in everything she does, plays a movie star ... even her character is rather banal and understated, but not at all annoying or obnoxious). And while you're watching the first forty minutes, there are few, if any, scares -- maybe one, which happens in an attic and involves a candle.
Shortly after those first forty minutes, things get progressively fucked up. The pace of the film doesn't so much quicken as it does starts, stops, starts, keeps going, stops, explodes, stops, and then fucking dementedly explodes into a culmination of the creepiest fucking sound effects ever done in film. I felt traumatized after I watched the film on television for the first time as a kid; then I watched it every time I could until it no longer had that effect, and I kept watching it over and over, marveling at how well-executed the film was. It was a perfect horror film, the best one ever done. No horror film has surpassed it.
Stanley Kubrick made an OK horror film called The Shining. It had creepiness, but it had the true horror-scare factor of maybe ten-billionths of The Exorcist (and I'm a big Jack Nicholson fan).
Some dickhead once suggested to me that The Amityville Horror was as scary as The Exorcist, and I wanted to projectile vomit into his face. The Amityville Horror was one of the worst horror films of a significant budget ever made, and I felt it was disgraceful to mention that piece of shit in the same breath to say it was comparable in any fashion to The Exorcist.
I wish I had never seen The Exorcist, so that I could watch it now for the first time, and get that same feeling back I had the first time. Alas, no film since has come close to the relentless tension and horror of that film, made back in 1973.
Oh, well. They say never give up hope.
And then a monster eats them.
Friday, October 5, 2012
(Image of Stephen Hawking: NASA)
I love astronomy. Some of you (whomever you are ... I realize no one is probably ever going to read this, but I like to delude myself into believing that I have a mass readership) are probably wondering why you should give a fuck that I love astronomy. Well, fuck you, you insouciant or downright callous readers (is it any wonder, really, that I don't have a mass readership when I am always so insistent upon insulting my non-existent mass readership?)
In any case, I developed an interest in astronomy unknowingly when I was a small child. I would sit in a swing at a local park and stare directly into the sun, trying to visually resolve the star so that I could see the gigantic flames billowing across its impossibly bright sphere. Don't do this. It's terribly bad for your vision, which I was told only long after I had been doing this inadvisable activity for some time. Also, you can't see any flames billowing across the sun's surface just by squinting at it, no matter how long you do it.
I never had a telescope as a child and was never encouraged by anyone during my lifetime that one was necessary. Recently, a few years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase a telescope. Since then, I developed my interest further, expanding it into an interest into astrophotography. I have photographed star fields, planets, the Moon, the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, Saturn and Jupiter themselves, nebulae, and galaxies. When you look at your first photograph you've taken of a galaxy, it is an experience almost incomparable in value. (Look, sure, it's not necessarily as good as the first time you orgasmed into your fist, but I'm trying to keep this "Doomed Stuffing" blog entry uncharacteristically classy for once ... and undoubtedly failing miserably at doing so).
If you have a young son or daughter, try to interest them in this hobby before they're too old and get their minds taken away by the less-than-illuminating ventures of playing video games and smoking crack cocaine. I have nothing against playing video games (I play them myself) or smoking crack cocaine (I just smoked a big rock myself, and I can tell you that my dealer totally fucked me over with too much baking soda ... that miserable comet-watching motherfucker!) If you get your kid a decent telescope (they're cheaper than you think, if you read up on the free internet advice in "Sky and Telescope" magazine or "Astronomy" or on many other websites), and get him or her several amateur astronomy books (the best is "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide," and a sky atlas -- my favorite is probably "The National Audobon Society's Field Guide to the Night Sky" -- you could potentially be raising another Einstein or a Stephen Hawking, hopefully without the ALS, instead of raising just another hick who will grow up to kill a convenience store clerk while trying to rob the store for its cigarettes.
America has an enormous, almost incalculable number of stupid people. Try to raise a smart one.
by Richard Reynolds, AKA "Mr. Doomed Stuffing"
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Image: DonkeyHotey, from Wikipedia Commons
Who won the Presidential debate? That's the question that media consultants, analysts, pollsters, pundits, and everyone else are and will be asking everyone, and everyone will have a different opinion that will be wrong.
The right answer is that America lost. Mitt Romney has no specifics he is willing to divulge; President Obama has a record of nearly four years as President that he has to defend ... but the point isn't that one of them could have won the debate.
I'll explain. It's a two-party system, American politics, that doesn't allow anyone else to get in on the action. We have an electoral college/representational system that doesn't allow votes (like mine) to be counted with all the other votes throughout the nation (I'm a registered independent in a red state that thinks Jesus has personally come off the cross and approved Mitt Romney and that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim with a "fake" birth certificate and he's out to destroy America).
Romney wants deregulation. I disagree vehemently. Investment banks, with their fraudulent "toxic" assets, subprime mortgage lending practices, and bullshit credit default swaps were exactly what put this nation on the razor's edge of another Great Depression ... and we could all be easily standing in line at soup kitchens and waiting in line for a cot in a rescue mission if it weren't for the fact that the government realized (very nearly too late) that it was going to have to engage in "socialistic" behavior and bail the financial industry out even before Obama took office.
This is not an endorsement of Obama, at all. President Obama ramrodded the Affordable Health Care Act down Nancy Pelosi's throat when she tried to dissuade Obama from pushing it through Congress. Americans don't like to have government force things on them (even in emergencies), and Obama spent enormous political capital accomplishing his major initiative. He succeeded ... the price was just too much for the payoff.
Undecided and uncertain voters know that the choice between a hawkish deregulator (Romney) and a pragmatic but hopelessly stubborn progressive is like the choice between taking that job as a minimum-wage janitor in an underfunded morgue that's plagued with endless sanitation violations and taking the other job in a fancy, well-decorated office that pays little more and where you'll be stuck under a ceiling vent that spews small asbestos dust-bunny balls down upon you while you're trying to print out another resume to get you the fuck out of this dead-end civil service nightmare. As they say, it's a huge shit sandwich and we're all going to have to take a big wet bite and swallow.
My solution (which will, admittedly, probably fail if implemented ... but why not give it the suicidal last-ditch effort?) is to storm the castles (metaphorically) by writing, calling, and denouncing -- in editorials whenever possible in whatever media outlets you can find available -- the whole political process of the two-party system. Make the argument that every vote should count; that the Electoral College is out-dated, anachronistic, and superfluous. Let the people's vote (all of them) count. Demand your congress people insist that a Constitutional Amendment be created to disallow for-profit lobbying, get corporations and unions out of the political payment business, and give the fucking vote back to us, the people, who easily know how to fuck up this nation just as well as some asshole or some monolithic industry who's found access through money to whisper into the ears and tickle the rib-bones of the gate-keepers of the two-party system.
It's just a thought. I don't have faith, really, in the possibility of a rational expression of popular political will ... but what the fuck ... it can't hurt to try and fail.
It only hurts to not try and fail.
Richard Reynolds, AKA Mr. Doomed Stuffing
Monday, October 1, 2012
Photo of "The Argument" sculpture by Austin Wright
by Richard Reynolds (AKA Mr. Doomed Stuffing)
We do not currently have civilized debate skills. It is arguable whether or not we ever had them; certainly, throughout history, oratorical, rhetorical argumentation has been the métier of scholastics ... and the peasants and tradesmen of the world were free, to a very minor extent, to express their disagreements in the basest of manners, most often using the coarseness and hoarseness of their booming voices to prove their correctness without the necessity of factual argumentation. What is different in modern times is that we have an almost infinite stream of coarse oratory via the Internet, and facts are forever being twisted or wholly ignored to win debates that are as illuminating as the bowl of a crack pipe after all the crack has been dissipated and nothing remains but the glowing embers of tars and contaminates. Try finding your way through a crack house with a depleted glow from a spent glass dick and you might fall into a vat of boiling methampetamine. Awkward drug metaphors aside, we have been left with the dregs of debating skills -- the amateur pundits who want to put their opinions forward without basing them on any more semblance of any reality than a UFO convention.
My worry is that we're teaching our children that volume of voice, intensity of slanderous insult, libelous chiding ... all these nefarious techniques of communicating ideas ... is the way to engage with people with whom one disagrees. I'm guilty of it; most people are guilty of it; if you think you're not guilty of it, you're probably a sanctimonious asshole with the conscience of a pedophile.
Will things change? No, unfortunately. The cable-waves and satellites and Wi-Fi spend twenty-four hours a day inundating our minds and our communities with nonsensical lies that are backed not by science, certainly not backed by scientific consensus, not backed by rationality, and rather these lies rest on the willingness, so intense and desirous, like a bad romance novel, to please ourselves in some misguided obligatory political compulsion of masturbatory ego-stroking, to think our unsubstantiated beliefs are less appalling than those of our opponents.
We are our opponents. We concede no point to our opponents; we do not strive for independence of thought. We want confirmation of our own conceits ... and we all diminish the truth, the factual, the supportable, with our willingness to ignore our own fallibility.
No need to cite examples of what I'm describing. If you don't understand what I talking about here, examples will just confuse you. We're all in this together, for worse or for more worse.
Our only hope is to teach our children well (to cop a phrase from the hippie-rock-folk band Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young) ... teach them to understand that to disagree civilly with someone who is full of shit is just as important as changing their minds from believing in unsupportable bullshit ... because a time will come when our children will believe unsupportable bullshit ... and we want our children to be treated civilly when they are called out on their bullshit.
It just makes sense.
A wise man once said, "Opinions are like assholes ... almost everybody's got one ... and just about every one of those assholes is full of shit once in a while." Okay, the wise man was kind of gross, but you can't make the point better than that vulgar adage.