Return to Blogging? I Think So!: A Bullet List of Random Thoughts and Pictures

Thanks for you messages and well wishes. My health’s improving, and I’m hoping to get back to work slowly.

What’s been happening since I’m gone? Did I miss anything important?

Good advice!

Good advice!

Let’s see, what’s been going on in my life for the past few weeks…

  • I was mostly vegetative on the couch or in bed for two solid weeks, watching a truly epic amount of Planet of the Apes, as in the entire franchise: movies, TV show, and cartoon. You know what? With the exception of Tim Burton’s movie, it all holds up amazingly well, and the TV show is far, far better than you might expect given its short life. Apes, Harryhausen, Universal Monsters, King Kong, Corman Poe movies, Hammer, and Doug McClure loomed large in my childhood. Star Wars was, relatively, a late-comer.
Jean Stapleton, Jean Simmons, Roddy McDowell, Alice Cooper

Jean Stapleton, Jean Simmons, Roddy McDowell, Alice Cooper

dcapes

didache

  • However, I wrote almost nothing. I just didn’t have any words.

avoid

  • I see that the Supreme Court reached into their collective buttholes and yanked out an imaginary Right to Gay Marriage. I can’t even pretend to be angry because it was always expected. This is what happens when a country is ruled not be sound reason or laws, but by All The Feels. This is the triumph of sentiment over sanity, and of moral relativism over reality. A person can no more “marry” someone of the same gender than he can marry a lamp. The doesn’t change because our Black Robed Overlords say it’s so.
He's not quite gay enough, apparently.

He’s not quite gay enough, apparently.

  • My dog turned one year old yesterday. Happy birthday Ivy!
My Mastiff-Chihuahua.

My Mastiff-Chihuahua.

  • I’ve been following Rod Dreher’s writing on the Benedict Option, which people continue to insist on misunderstanding as a “withdrawal to the hills” rather than as a building of intentional communities directed towards preserving and strengthening the faith. The idea, once explained this way, is so obvious and simple that only the most obtuse can continue to misunderstand it once it’s explained, but there’s no shortage of obtuseity. (It’s a word because I damn well say it is.)
St. Benedict

St. Benedict

  • My father’s day presents from the best family in the world.

2015-06-21 14.19.47

  • This is a book weight for keeping a book open while you’re doing research. It’s brilliant.

2015-06-21 16.59.44

  • The staggering OPM hack may not be the Digital Pearl Harbor some are claiming it is, but it’s at least the Digitial Invasion of Manchuria. I have been saying, and saying, and saying again that we are heading for a global cyber-war and we are not prepared and not taking it seriously. We will feel the pain of this, right down to the household level. America is not serious about computer security, and it will hurt us more than all the Muslim fundies in the world put together.

robots

  • St. Augustine’s finger is coming to Floridia. This makes me unbelievably happy. My religion is cooler than yours.
I like to imagine him making rude gestures with it.

I like to imagine him making rude gestures with it.

The Most Wicked Man in the Whole World

The Most Wicked Man in the Whole World

  • Did you know Samuel Beckett drove Andre the Giant to school because Andre couldn’t fit on the bus? True story.2015-07-08 11.06.38
  • Oh, what’s this? The pope is a Marxist! Because he scowled at an absurdly offensive and blasphemous hammer-and-sickle crucifix given to him by the little anti-clerical prick ruling Bolovia instead of dashing it to the ground and whizzing on it, because that’s what popes should do! Seriously, people: stop reading hysterical Catholic blogs and outrage-trolling social media. It’s bad for the soul.
Yeah, he looks thrilled.

Yeah, he looks thrilled.

  • Of course, there’s something grotesquely appropriate about the Lord being nailed to the symbol of communism, since so many hundreds of millions have suffered at the hands of leftist ideologies for so long. We are being crucified on a cross of progressive politics right at this very moment. We are being told to move to the back of the bus, bake the gay wedding cake, and STFU. I refuse. Now what are they gonna do? It’s their move.

rebellious

 

 

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Comics Legend John Byrne Angers Transsexual Activists UPDATED

Wikimedia says this is a drawing of Demon by noted hate-monster John Byrne, but really it is a picture of his evil soul.

This just in from the Social Justice Warriors: John Byrne is evil.

This very stupid year is already, quite obviously, the Year of the Transsexuals, because the rage-fits of a tiny cadre of deeply troubled people must be part of Our National Dialog all day every day.

The latest Enemy of the People is Byrne, one of the giants of the 70s and 80s, best known for his runs on X-Men, Fantastic Four, and, most spectacularly, the reinvention of Superman for Man of Steel (comics not movie).

Byrne was asked about transsexual issues on his forum, particularly this article from feminist Elinor Burkett objecting to some of the language used by the “trans” community.

He said things I and many others have said. And now he’s going to pay for it by being subjected to boycotts and shrieking fits from people who are not at all hysterical.

This is the real starting point of this discussion: being born male or female, physically, sets up a series of parameters. Those parameters are not really altered if the male puts on a dress and declares himself to be a woman. (I have grown tired of transvestites being called “she.”)

As so often happens in our Society, the pendulum has swung, and as it usually does it has swung further in one direction than the other. Thus, in the last hundred years or so, we have gone from being incredibly narrow and restrictive in matters sexual — incarcerating homosexuals, for instance — to stretching perhaps a little too far to be “all encompassing.”

I understand the biological processes that can happen in utero, which are considered by some to be the cause of “transgender” individuals, but, as some have noted, the jury is still out on whether this creates a genuine condition or a mental illness.

Later in the exchange, he says this:

A REALLY hard question, then: Many people are tortured and driven by a desire to have sex with children. Our society frowns on this, and such people are considered mentally ill. We do not accommodate them, we do not respect them.

How is being “transgender” different? Given all the twists and turns that have happened in our general understanding of how the brain and mind work — still a work in progress — how difficult is it to imagine a future in which it will be determined without doubt that “transgender” is, indeed, a mental illness? How will we feel about all those people who, instead of actually helping them, we encouraged in a program of self-mutilation?

This is a long, long road, and so far we have taken barely a single step upon it. (Christine Jorgenson was half a century ago. How much has changed?)

Amen, John. Reasonably argued, and completely logical.

Naturally, the mere fact that he brought up pedophilia even if only by analogy is sending the SJWs into orbit. Some of the sites I read are already saying they will no longer run any John Byrne art and plan to have a blackout on his work. They argue that this kind of Stalinist purge is perfectly a-okay because they don’t have to give space to a “hater.”

What we have to remember is that most of the people writing on these fan sites and posting to social media are 20-somethings: self-important naifs with a minimal understanding of the world beyond their comic books and computers–special snowflakes fed on a steady diet of peanut-free food and “social justice” propaganda. Nothing is more insufferable than a 20-something with an opinion. (I know: I was one, and I was widely published at the time, and I cringe every time I think of some of the things I wrote.) Their thoughts on social, political, and economic issues are almost invariably useless, based on shallow reading and inexperience, and isolated from the messy realities of life in the real world. Because of the socially disorienting times in which they came of age, they’ve spent too much of their lives in narcissistic contemplation of every aspect of their own specialness, which is how we get stupid crap like “gender fluid” people and “microaggressions”. These are exactly the kind of PC twits Jerry Seinfeld has been driving into a frenzy with his criticisms of their unique blend of thin skin and pig-ignorance.

John Byrne was also defamed by the director of the new, certain-to-be-awful Fantastic Four movie. The actor playing Johnny Storm is black, and his sister, Sue Storm, is played by a white girl. Obviously, this is all very silly agenda-driven stuff that I don’t care one whit about. They want to cast a black actor as a white comic book character? Fine. Who cares. Yay for diversity in fictional characters who catch fire. That’s a big deal, right?

Then again, I’m not Byrne and didn’t draw Johnny Storm for five years, so I have no skin in the game. (What? Bad phrase?)

Here’s what Byrne said:

When it comes to casting a Black actor as Johnny Storm, there is a degree of historical ignorance at work that is insulting to Stan Lee and the memory of Jack Kirby.

Lee and Kirby, both New York Jews, did not “cast” the Fantastic Four as extensions of themselves. It took fifty years for a writer (and I wish it had been me!) to identify Ben Grimm as Jewish. But what Stan and Jack did when shaping the early Marvel Universe was demonstrate a social conscience in the best ways the Nation at the time would tolerate. And let us not forget, it was Stan and Jack who desegregated the American Armed Forces almost a decade before it happened in real life.

Lee, Kirby, Ditko and the rest introduced ethnic and racial minorities with a far greater frequency than, say, DC. Wyatt Wingfoot became a regular member of the FF’s supporting cast. Robbie Robertson showed up in Spider-Man. The Black Panther arrived. Heroic non-White figures arose from the ranks of the common man. Remember Al B. Harper, who died to save the world?

When Johnny is race-swapped the inevitable response from some segments of fandom and the media is that this is “necessary” due to comics in the 1960s being hotbeds of White supremacy — while nothing is further from the truth. American comics had long been the home to some of the most liberal, forward thinking people you were likely to meet. They cannot be taken to task for portraying society as that society perceived itself. But they should definitely be lauded for being, often, ahead of the curve when it came to social reform.

He makes some good observations, and is eager to defend his generation and the one that came before from accusations of racism. That’s the point at which someone involved in the new movie, like director Josh Trank, could address this respected FF artist and engage his arguments on their strengths and weaknesses.

byrne

Oh.

Stacy Keach played a Nazi in American History X.

Ergo: John Byrne–John Friggin’ Byrne–is a racist Nazi who hates black people.

UPDATE: On Twitter I was alerted to a tweet by Josh Trank claiming the comment above was a joke. Color me unconvinced. Does it read like a joke? Is calling someone a Nazi in this overheated, oversensitive environment funny or even responsible? Nothing about the wording suggests so.

So, no: not buying it. I’m imagining Marvel told him to back off since they have a $122 million reboot about to release and they don’t need a s***storm of controversy.

Christopher Lee’s Best Movie

I was genuinely saddened to learn that Christopher Lee died last Sunday. For some of us, he wasn’t just great talent, but an iconic figure from our childhood. I was a Monster Kid of the 1970s: raised on Saturday matinees, the 4:30 movie, Chiller Theatre on channel 11 (that hand!), and Famous Monsters of Filmland. I didn’t do sports and wasn’t much of a student. I did Karloff and Chaney and Cushing and Lee.

And he was the last. They’re all gone now. Lugosi and Chaney, before I was born. Then Uncle Boris, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr, Peter Cushing, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Peter Lorre, John Carradine, all of them. And now the towering legend with the giant voice and those amazing eyes joins them.

house-of-the-long-shadows-group-picture

Reunion time?

Christopher Lee appeared in a couple hundred movies. I’ve sought them out and maybe seen less than half. A great many of them were crap, a number of them were quite good, and some were classics.

There are a few titles that fans would place at the top of their lists: The Wicker Man, of course. Horror of Dracula. Curse of Frankenstein. Lord of the Rings. Maybe Hound of the Baskervilles or The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes or Richard Lester’s Musketeers movies.

But one film many of fans, myself included, would single out as their favorite is The Devil Rides Out (1967), directed by Terence Fisher from a screenplay by Richard Matheson.

This was a pet project of Lee’s, and he had to push Hammer to get it done. Lee was tired of the pop-up scares of Dracula movies. He wanted to depict real evil and Satanism in a serious way. He wanted to show that the occult was dangerous, and treat it with intelligence. I just rewatched this film a week ago with the commentary track on, and was struck by how knowledgeable he was about the subject, and how much the film meant to him.

Jesus wins.

Based on Dennis Wheatley’s novel, the film stars Lee as Nicolas, the Duc de Richleau, a character who appeared in many other novels by Wheatley. Nicolas and Rex Van Ryn learn that a young friend, Simon, is being drawn into Satanism by a charismatic Aleister Crowley type played by Charles Gray. (Both Gray and Lee later played Bond villains.)

The film is notable for its accuracy and its sober depiction of occult practices and their dangers. Even more notable is its strong Christian message. Over and over, either God or Jesus is used to thwart evil. The final triumph (it’s not like I’m spoiling things here) is accomplished by the overwhelming power of the cross. Even when the good guys use an incantation, it hearkens back to Solomon. (In esoteric tradition, Solomon was able to control and cast out demons.)

A lot of horror has a winking quality: the audience understands this is a lark. The Devil Rides Out plays it straight down the line, and it’s stronger for it.

Lee clearly believe in the devil and the power of God to thwart him, and was adamant about the dangers of trifling with the occult, as he shows in this clip.

Lee himself was Anglo-Catholic. His noble blood line was traced back to Charlemagne, and I believe that he had a pope somewhere in his family tree. He was the one of the last men of a dying generation. He saw evil up close in the war, and he knew the devil’s power.

lee

Lee’s autobiography is great fun.

The Devil Rides Out is out of print on DVD, but you get all 11 of the original Wheatley occult novels in one Kindle collection

Get all 11 of the original Wheatley occult novels in one Kindle collection. Well-researched and good fun.

Out of print and expensive. Even when I needed money I wouldn't sell this one.

Out of print and expensive. Even when I needed money I wouldn’t sell this one.

Who Is That Priest in the “Pawn Sacrifice” Trailer?

Pawn Sacrifice is a new film from Edward Zwick about the brilliant, disturbed chess prodigy Bobby Fischer. Tobey Maguire plays Fischer and Liev Schrieber plays his nemesis, Boris Spassky. Here’s the trailer:

Some viewers may be puzzled by the prominence of a Catholic priest in the trailer.

The IMDB entry doesn’t list the character’s name, but I can’t imagine it being anyone other than Fr. Bill Lombardy.pawn

Lombardy was an International Grandmaster who finished second to Fischer in the 1961 US Championship. Rather than taking his well-earned place in the international qualifiers, he retired and entered the priesthood. He left ministry to marry in the 1980s.

He began coaching Fischer as a child, and when Fischer found himself in the spotlight in his legendary 1972 match against Spasky, he called Lombardy for help. Lombardy got permission to take a break from his priestly duties and flew to Reykjavik to help stabilize the troubled genius. He acted as Fischer’s “second” and is credited with getting Fischer through the match. He was coach, analyst, and friend, and it’s unlikely Fischer would have completed the competition without him.

Fischer’s religious beliefs were notoriously erratic. Born Jewish, he later became a raving anti-Semite, joined the Worldwide Church of God, left it in a huff, and may (or may not: stories vary) have been a Catholic at his death.

Night Will Fall: Watch The Actual “Hitchcock Holocaust Film” Online

By all accounts, the documentary Night Will Fall is an excellent piece of work. It chronicles the production–and suppression–of a vivid and gruesome documentary about the Nazi death camps shot in April 1945.

The marquee name attached to it is Alfred Hitchcock, even though Hitch’s exact contribution is unclear. He was brought in to supervise the production and had some input into the filming at the camps, but while he was working on the editing and the script the British government pulled the plug. Was it a loss of nerve? The horrifying nature of the material? Or just plain old antisemitism? Those are some of the questions Night Will Fall tackles.

Here’s the trailer:

Yet, in many of the articles I’ve read about the film, there’s no mention at all of a singular fact: the film was actually “made” 30 years ago and broadcast on PBS Frontline. They dug up a surviving script, got hold of five of the original six reels of footage, edited it together, and got Trevor Howard to narrate it.

And you can watch that film–called Memories of the Camps–right now, online.

Here’s how PBS describes it:

As the film’s history shows, it was a project that was supervised by the British Ministry of Information and the American Office of War Information. And during that summer of 1945 some of the documentary editing was done under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock.

“At the time we found the film, it was not entirely clear what role Hitchcock played in its development,” says David Fanning, executive producer of FRONTLINE. “Moreover, one reel of the original six, shot by the Russians, was missing. There was a typed script intact — undated and unsigned — but it had never been recorded.”

FRONTLINE took the film, added the script and asked the late British actor, Trevor Howard, to record it. The aim was to present the film unedited, as close as possible to what the producers intended in 1945.

“Memory of the Camps” includes scenes from Dachau, Buchenwald, Belsen and other Nazi concentration camps whose names are not as well known. Some of the horrors documented took place literally moments before the Allied troops arrived, as the Germans hurried to cover the evidence of what they had done.

Twenty years after its first broadcast on FRONTLINE, “Memory of the Camps” remains one of the most definitive and unforgettable records of the 20th century’s darkest hour.

HT: No Garcia.

Ozzie & Harriet Meet Boris & Bela, And Then They Sing

This actually happened:

The Pittsburgh Press, 3/11/38

On the March 13, 1938 episode of Baker’s Broadcast, a radio variety show on NBC starring Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff did a skit and sang “We’re Horrible, Horrible Men,” while Boris read “The Supplication of the Black Aberdeen” by Rudyard Kipling.

Here they are, singing together (badly, but still).

Finding That Safe Place in the Imagination, With General Urko and Dinosaurs

On Monday, Kyle Cupp asked his Mindless Monday Question: What toys from your childhood do you most wish you had with you today? Elizabeth Scalia replied with Answering Kyle Cupp With A Plastic Trumpet and a Scream.

I’m  answering with this:

apes

If you recognize this as General Urko from Planet of the Apes, then you are probably a male in his 40s and remember Ape-mania. I don’t know what happened to Urko or the other doll I had (Cornelius/Galen, who was played, of course, by the incomparable Roddy McDowall) but they were treasures. I didn’t even mind Urko’s bright purple tights because he had that cool plastic helmet and gauntlet.

I do still have a few toys from my childhood. These were my favorite:

2015-01-27 14.15.05The army guys belonged to my son, and are provided for scale. It’s the anachronistic collection of dinosaurs (including a caveman and a woolly mammoth, just because) that got the heaviest workout, and which I’ve kept these 40+ years.

The set came with mountains and trees and I’d play out scenes for hour with my own army guys and other random toys and figures. It was part of the grand parade that fired my young imagination: Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Lost World, Ray Harryhausen, King Kong, In Search Of, Twilight Zone, Trek, King Tut, dinosaurs, monsters, all the wild worlds of the 4:30 movie, comics (Swamp Thing, House of Secrets, Creepy, Hulk, Batman, Superman, etc), pulps, and old time radio.

And you know what? I still love it all. As much I enjoy digging deeply into theology and history and great literature, I’ve never lost the bug for the great Burroughs-style works of pure imagination and grand adventure. There’s real beauty in them: the beauty of little boys who grew up to be men with fierce creative talents, but never lost that boyish sense of wonder and adventure.

Is it merely empty nostalgia?

I don’t think so, though I probably wouldn’t recognize it if it was. I see these things for what they were: a way for a sad and lonely kid to flee to a safe place that also fired his imagination. I understand that this safe place, formed in those pivotal childhood years, is built of stone and mortar with foundations laid right on the bedrock of my psyche.

There’s always going to be a place in my mind where Col. Steve Austin is a man barely alive but gentlemen we can rebuild him because we have the technology, where Kirk and Spock and McCoy are beaming down to a planet, where Doug McClure fights dinosaurs and Boris Karloff is a sad and misunderstood monster.

And I’ll still return to that place, like some people return to comfort food or certain music. When I was little, sometimes it was my only safe place. It doesn’t serve that purpose any more, but it’s still somewhere I like–and maybe even need–to visit from time to time.

 

 

Remember When Artists Had Courage?

Now we’re taking orders on what we’re allowed to watch from North Korea? That’s how brave Hollywood stands by their principles? (As if they have any principles other than devotion to the almighty dollar and contempt for their audiences.)

I’m not saying a Seth Rogen movie is worth risking lives. Heck, just the idea that “Seth Rogen” and “international incident” are in the same news stories is proof of our deeply odd times.

But if any nation on earth is demonstrably evil, it is the prison-nation of North Korea, run by a murderous and delusional dynasty that gets crazier in each successive generation. If creative people can’t stand up to crummy little tyrants like this and poke them in the eye, then what possible use are they? Even the lowest court jester of the nobility would mock the king.

Is it worth risking a single life for the possibility of a terrorist incident?

That’s entirely the wrong question. The studios and theaters are making a decision based on the potential for lost revenue if people get scared by the threats of terrorist action against theaters and stay away. And, given that we live in a climate of fear generated by one manufactured crisis after another, some people may indeed stay away. The film industry might even have to face a 10% reduction in box office returns during the lucrative Christmas season, and that’s how executives lose jobs.

Remember when Walt Disney and Warner and Charlie Chaplin mocked evil men like Hitler with vigor and courage? Now studios cringe in fear. It’s easy to do what Hollywood usually does: mock conservatives and Christians. Given the fallout from The Interview, we’re almost certain to see more of the villain that dominates headlines with his relentless cruelty and terrorism: the white male Methodist.

It’s almost a metaphysical certainty the The Interview is a terrible film, but if Seth Rogen and James Franco are the bravest member of the entertainment class, then they’re in good company.

Language Warning for these, obviously:

 

How To Send an Email With Style

Use a typewriter to type it on your letterhead (can’t you just feel that nice 24lb bonded paper?), sign it, and have your assistant scan and email it.

That’s what writer-director Terrance Malick does, as revealed in the Sony leak. Malick–who takes this reclusive artist thing seriously–doesn’t use email. Here’s the letter:

 

Mmmm, Courier.

Mmmm, Courier.

The letter is notable for its courtesy, professionalism, good grammar, and style. People used to know how to communicate this way, and it’s becoming harder to find. I can’t help thinking the entire form here–letterhead, font, signature, proper spacing, alignment, word placement, and all–helps imbue even routine communication with a dignity that email and texts can never offer.

Looking at this letter, I realized that kids won’t know how to do this unless parents teach them, and that maybe it’s something worth preserving.