Sunday, March 12, 2017

Time. Again.

This morning I'm a little hung up on the concept of time. Again. Which means that we've monkeyed around once more with its perceived linear construct for the purpose of Daylight Savings. These days, it's about the only 'savings' most people have. I waited until this morning to set my clocks ahead. For a brief moment, I considered setting them so far ahead that I'd have to deal with the Morlocks rather than the Trump reality show.


For those who have forgotten, or for the uninitiated, the Morlocks are creatures who inhabit a utopian/dystopian future in the H. G. Wells novel, 'The Time Machine' and its various subsequent radio, film, and television adaptations. In its future epoch, long after nuclear wars have devastated our planet, humans have evolved into two distinct branches. The Eloi live on the planet's surface enjoying -without work- a strife free existence of idle play, lush vegetation, and meals of fruit provided for them. Their only task is reproduction. 'Eloi' is the Hebrew plural for 'lesser gods' in the Old Testament. Think idle rich. The workers of this future have lived in the dark underground for so many eons that they can no longer tolerate light. They are the Morlocks, who tend the machines, and collect and provide fruit as food for the Eloi. Central to the story is a giant sphinx. This is more of a Greek sphinx that an Egyptian one. In Greek legend, the Sphinx asks a riddle. Those who can not answer it are killed and eaten. And therein lies the relationship between the Eloi and the Morlocks, who are, as you might guess, meat eaters.


I have the 1960 George Pal film adaptation in my DVR. I saw it at the movies back when it was released, and I've never forgotten it. In the part of the pretty blonde girl in distress (there was always a pretty blonde girl in distress back then) was Yvette Mimieux, who would be emblazoned into my consciousness in 1964 as the epileptic surfer girl love interest for tv's Dr. Kildare, as personified by the sigh-worthy Richard Chamberlain. The first episode of the two parter was called "Tyger, Tyger", a reference to a poem. I searched it out, and that is how I began reading William Blake at the age of 13. Surfer girl had grand-mal seizures, which was my introduction to such crises and attendant terminology. Also in the movie, in the part of 'best friend', was Alan Young. Mr. Young was quite well known to me, as he had been appearing on tv since 1958 as Wilbur Post. My father's name was Wilbur, so of course I was amused by this coincidence of nomenclature, and a fan of the show. The show was 'Mr. Ed', whose hero was a talking horse. Considering the movies and tv shows I watched as a kid, (which included action heroes like Superman and Zorro, do-gooders who wore capes and extremely tight pants) no wonder I was/am so fucking weird. (Sorry for the language there. I had considered the euphemistic 'fugging', which Norman Mailer utilized in 'The Naked and the Dead'. That tome was written in an era in which such words could not be seen in print without risking some quality time in prison. When Mailer was introduced to Tallulah Bankhead, she immediately remarked, "Oh, Yes. The young man who can't spell." As I often engage in battle with various spell-check and auto-correct programs, I am loathe to be the old guy who can't spell. At least my time at the computer isn't in the basement where I won't have to deal with a biologically acquired aversion to bright light while indulging in carnivorous pursuits. No, I'd be the Time Machine's narrator, trying to help the poor thoughtless Eloi survive. In my version of the story, the Morlocks are led by Steve Bannon.



I first recorded The Time Machine when it was last on Turner Classic Movies a couple of years ago, and deleted it after watching. That was before I got the video projector. When it was shown again last month as part of their Academy Award films run-out, I recorded it again. (It won for Special Effects.)
It should be noted that the lengthy set of steps going to the dome under which the Eloi eat and sleep were originally built for the 1944 MGM version of Kismet, which detailed fun with Muslims in old Bagdad. They were used every now and again, most memorably (for me) as the steps to a library on the Twilight Zone. By the way, in the Time Machine novel, neither the narrator, nor the machine's inventor, are named. In the 1960 movie, the hero is referred to as 'George'. Which was the G in H. G. Wells. Furthermore, when George sits in his machine in the movie, we see an engraved plate on the console which states, 'Manufactured by H George Wells'. In need of space on the DVR, I thought I'd delete the movie, but as I had only watched the Victorian era part of it via the projector, I decided to catch the rest of it first, which I did a few days ago. Seeing the various future sets, and noticing how cheap some of them were, there was no way I could erase it yet. It was just too much fun.


As it happens, there is a fairly recent entertainment trend of the last couple of years with which I've been intending to catch up. I first noticed it with a Fox tv series in which Ichabod Crane wakes up to fight the Headless Horseman, as well as various minions of darkness, in present day Tarrytown, NY. There are now three or four shows whose heroes travel around in time to solve whatever existential crisis is featured that week. I find it interesting that as vampires returned to being a bit passé, as zombies began wearing thinner than their ragged clothing, and as superheroes became too numerous and oversaturated, the problems we face are now solved through time travel. I should point out that one of the new tv shows, based on a 1979 movie, has a plot in which H.G. Wells uses his time machine to visit the present to track down a time traveling Jack the Ripper. I suppose in my mental casting for the ripper, who is out to destroy whatever he can, the part will be played by Stephen Bannon. Or maybe Stephen Miller.





Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dreams remembered

For the last few days those moments just before waking have provided a continuation of the same dream. I don't remember most of it; Dreams often fade quickly. I can recall that just before waking, in an era in which people with education were suspect, a roundup of intellectuals and dissidents had begun.
I was trying to save people, including myself.

Every morning has seen an intention to write in this space. I have started many posts, and left them abandoned. I am certain of the cause; it starts, much as it always does, with reading the news. It just happened again as I began sipping my coffee on a beautiful late Spring morning during the last official month of winter. The news makes me wonder about the use of winter as a metaphor.

For many years, I have kept a file in the "pictures" section of my computer labelled "Dreams Remembered". It consists entirely of old, often fading, photographs of men together, or women together. They are part of a history intentionally buried. When such images were found, often I would guess after the owner of the photo passed, they were destroyed by concerned family members. A good number of them escaped attention even though the pictures seemed to show affection between the subjects. After all, people note, men and women were freer to show affection to each other in days gone by. Such photos depict good friends, or family members. Yet now, in a more liberal time, many such photos seem to imply other relationships were depicted. They may be mementoes of a more innocent time, but they are also stories lost, or destroyed. For those who can see what is there, they are dreams remembered.

Two civil war soldiers in a hand tinted photo from the Library of Congress, posted to the Shorpy site.
Lest anyone assume that over interpretation is involved, here's a relatively sedate photo in which closeness
is portrayed, but there is no physical contact. Poet Walt Whitman is on the left, Pete Doyle on the right.
Pete Doyle, it should be noted, was Whitman's lover.
Having one's picture taken in those days was expensive. There was only one copy per photograph.
Were these two friends sharing an expense, a memento of a friendship, or something more?

As the process of photography changed and the cost was reduced,
some photographs began to suggest a little more about the nature of a relationship. 

These dreams come to mind due to a four night drama program which has been unfolding on the Disney owned ABC broadcast television network. "When We Rise" is a slightly fictionalized story of three people whose lives intersected in San Francisco, and the parts they played in the gay liberation movement.  The first part was shown on Monday, just a few days after the newly installed U.S. Attorney General rescinded and abandoned the previous administration's policy that allowed transgender teens to use the bathroom of the sex with which they identify. The new Attorney General had promised, just a few days before, that despite his past record in the segregated South, he would uphold civil rights of all Americans. He was passed on a party line vote, "conservative" and reactionary Republicans outnumbering the Democrats. The mini-series episode that night portrayed a time, in the first years after the Stonewall riots, when gay men and women were considered mentally ill, were routinely denied the rights of Americans, were routinely dismissed from their jobs, thrown out of their homes, denied housing, and just as routinely beat up and/or killed by thugs and police alike. I remember all of it, and was not ready for the pain it brought back.



Anita Bryant, pictured above, was a singer and orange juice pitchwoman who campaigned to rescind a Florida law
which banned discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation. She famously said that she would prefer
"my child be dead than homo".


The second night of the mini-series was postponed due to the new President of the United States giving an address to the entire assembled Congress. The speech was remarkable for dropping Mr. Trump's confrontational style, acting like an adult instead of a raving lunatic. The immediate response from the press, which Mr. Trump had constantly belittled, castigated, accused of making up stories (i.e. the unfavorable ones), and declared the enemy of the American People, was overly kind, remarking that he suddenly seemed presidential. They didn't really discuss his misrepresentations, distortions, outright lies, and attempts to cover up what may or may not be the truth.










Last night's episode of 'When We Rise' focused on relationships being built by the story's participants, the elation of the election of a gay man (Harvey Milk) to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, his assassination 11 months later, and the rise of what was being called a 'gay disease'.


The episode ended with one of the principals holding a protest in which people in San Francisco began posting the names of friends and lovers lost to this new disease onto the side of city hall. I've been crying a lot. The memories of the death of dear friends, the men with whom I was forming my family, have been overpowering.






This morning, intent on resuming my post of thoughts arising from the old movies I've been watching, I logged onto my computer to discover news that the new Attorney General had been caught lying about his contacts with Russia. These contacts, as well as a number of others surrounding the new administration, seem to expand into an ever deepening well. There are lies upon lies. As the stories of investigations into these incidents become public, they aren't just denied, the press is accused of making them up to discredit the President. Also in the news were further stories about the new administrator of the Federal Communications Commission and his repeal of polices protecting access to the internet, programs which helped the poor afford the internet in their homes, and rules of privacy which had hemmed in internet providers ability to keep records of what sites and information anyone had accessed. All of this is, of course, in the name of fostering business growth and competition. Such information would never be used to assist in rounding up people.



Other news stories concern the President's travel bans, people being deported due to such criminal backgrounds as having traffic violations, people being detained for hours or days without warrants, people having their identification papers checked as they left a flight which started and ended within the United States, and so forth. When the travel ban was imposed to protests and legal actions across the country, Homeland Security backed the President. They will be getting 15,000 new agents. The Department of Defense will get billions, partially to fund new atomic weapons. Other areas of the budget will have to be cut; these include monies for health care, social security, education, and the arts.



The man in the center of the above photograph is Bix Biderbecke. He is one of the men who was instrumental in the development of jazz. He was an alcoholic who died young, at the age of 28. He was gay.