Friday, March 31, 2017

The snow this time

Another snow is falling.

I have things to do, but I don't feel like doing them.

Watching the snow is peaceful, even with the roar of traffic going by; the sounds, not of quiet, but of tires on wet asphalt, punctuated by the whirrs of small motors, and the occasional groans of trucks.

I haven't been able to write much, and what I have been able to get out has been in orgasmic spurts on Facebook, commentary meant to attract the reader to news stories that seem important.

There are too many stories.
There is too much to try to understand.
There is too much to think about,
there is just too much.

One night last week, I watched 'Gojira', the 1954 Japanese movie that was altered for release in the United States, where it became known as 'Godzilla'. I dare say everyone knows the outline of the story: a few years after the atomic bomb, a monster arises from the seas, a monster that shows little use for logic, a monster bent on destruction.

Such plots call for a scientist who will quell the beast. In 'Gojira', that role was filled by Takashi Shimura, known to film buffs worldwide for his roles in the films of Akira Kurosawa. In his role as the scientist fighting Godzilla, every time the camera zoomed in for a close-up of his concerned face, all I could see was his face at the end of Kurosawa's 'Ikiru', in which he plays a bureaucrat struggling to find the meaning of life, his life, as he dies of cancer.

The picture I want to use as illustration shows the actor, in the snow, on a child's swing. It has a stock photo company's watermark on it. A lot of photos which used to be considered to be in the public domain are now claimed as the property of such companies. They want to be paid for their use, and the amount they want to be paid, even for a blog almost no one will read, is not cheap. I know the progression of this takeover for a fact, as for several years I have done occasional searches for particular photos, and watched as this has happened. In this case, a 65 year old photo from a Japanese movie is claimed to be under the ownership of a stock photo company. Much of the world seems to be becoming divvied up by owners who were not creators.

The snow outside of my window isn't sticking to the road yet, but is already piling up on the earth which had just started to suffer the appearance of crocus and the earliest signs of Spring.

About two weeks ago, I woke repeatedly throughout the night, which is not at all an unusual occurrence. That evening was different, however, in that every time I woke, I was in the same dream. I only remember the part at the end, from my stirring in the early morning. That's a metaphor, I suppose. In the dream, people were being rounded up. Color was draining out and everything was becoming, well, not black and white, but gray. Gradations of gray. Gray upon gray. People were being rounded up and sent off to somewhere. Younger men were being sent to the army, that much was known. Other people were being sent someplace unknown, to be unknown. I managed to sneak away from the roundup, and made my way down a long corridor which seemed an endless void. There were doors everywhere, lined up neatly, evenly, like some Levittown style apartment house. As I came close to my door, the corridor was flooded with people, people rounding up people, people trying to escape, there was a crush of people. I managed to open the door to my place, and snuck in, hopefully unobserved in the chaos. It was my space without a doubt. Except that my stuff had been largely removed. The furniture that was left had been covered by sheets and tarps, resembling one of those old closed up apartments opened years later with layer upon layer of dust covering everything. That was when I woke up.

The snow covers the world like layers of dust.

I feel stupid. I may have misread the situation, and the intentions of the Trump coterie. I just read several of the comments made by Nikki Haley, the new United States Ambassador to the United Nations. The situation in my country grows more surreal by the day, by the hour. I'd long assumed that the takeover by the reactionary right was an attempt to gut the government, to remove any help given to the working class, to move as much money and resources as possible to the rich, the oligarchs, the robber barons of our time. This seemed like the natural, and predictable, outcome of years of de-regulation, of lies and distortions by media representing the far right. A fight that had used the religious culture wars had paid off, but the cost was Donald Trump and the destruction of the Republican Party. I think I was wrong. I should have kept focus on the religious right. They don't just want to end abortion, or end gay rights (and gays). They don't just want their version of Sharia law, a world in which the husband will rule the home, with an obedient wife to wait on him (if she knows what's good for her - by now a working life in an often corporate culture should have taught women that they are expendable, their roles replaceable).

As I look at the proposed cuts to -this year's - budget, the toll in human misery can easily blind one to the toll on science, on the arts, on international aid, basically everything. I thought these people were simply ignorant of the interdependencies of the world, and had no understanding of the outcome of their actions.

But it's what they want. They are depending on it. Many of this crowd are fundamentalist Christians. The Bible is their word, their God, infallible, and Trump is His servant. They are not here to destroy the world so the United States can take over, so the moneyed class can acquire more than they already have. They are here to destroy the world. Period. They seek nothing less than to force Armageddon; they aren't looking for the end times - they consider that we are already in the end times. They are looking to hasten the end.

Mr. Trump isn't the intransigence and chicanery of the Republican Party come back to haunt them. He is their monster, rising out of the sea of their despair, come to destroy.

And me? I'm just another observer, a loser at life, swinging back and forth in the snow.

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.