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Thursday, April 28, 2022

DRACULA SUCKS (?)

Christopher Lee as Count Dracula: a standard of excellence trapped in a steadily deteriorating franchise.

Okay, here's where I commit horror fan heresy...

So, I finally made my way through all of the Hammer Draculas and, overall, I am not impressed. 

Now that I have seen all of them, the only things I felt they had going for them was Lee and Cushing — provided they were present — and roughly four good entries out of a total of nine films (with one bad one that's fun in spite of its considerably idiocy). If anything, the run is wildly overrated, which may be a reflection of the era in which they were released. And as they go on it's sad to witness, because Lee very obviously didn't want to be involved, but the studio more or less blackmailed him into participating by making it plain that people would lose employment if he didn't play ball. As franchises within a franchise go, the Hammer Frankenstein's are far superior.

I will expand on this in detail with this year's round of 31 DAYS OF HORROR Halloween horror movie essays.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

SERIOUSLY???

 

Christoper Neame as... Oh, read it for yourself...

During today's dialysis session I watched DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972). Considered by many to be the weakest of Hammer's Dracula flicks, I didn't hate it and it's far from my least favorite of the run. That said, it's really, REALLY stupid and moving the setting out of the Carpathian mountains in the 1800's to Chelsea as the "Cool Britannia" era was on its last legs just does not work. Also, it includes as a secondary bad guy who sets the plot in motion, a modern Dracula cultist named "Johnny Alucard?" SERIOUSLY??? Gee, I wonder if he could be evil? (massive eyeroll)
 
Johnny. Fucking. ALUCARD. And the fact that Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) didn't instantly go "'Alucard,' my ass..." was just insulting to the intelligence of everyone everywhere ever.
 
Oh, go fuck yourself, screenwriter!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

THE PACHYDERM AND THE PITY: on DUMBO (1941)

I'm not crying...YOU'RE crying!!!

So...
 
I watched DUMBO (1941) again the other night, the first time I'd sat through its entirety in close to 20 years, and while I consider it to be among the strongest of Disney's early features, I doubt that I will be able to sit through it again any time soon, and if I do I definitely will not enjoy much of the experience. You see, I have adored elephants my entire life and if a nature documentary is on, I will stop whatever I am doing to observe the footage and any new information that may be imparted. Meaning that I get elephants for who and what they are, so witnessing the outright cruelties inflicted on wee Dumbo from virtually the moment the stork drops him off is an agonizing ride. 
 
Dumbo (and let us not forget that his actual name is "Jumbo Jr.") is relentlessly abused and bullied by all and sundry, with the sole exceptions of his mother and Timothy the mouse, and he's just a defenseless baby. When his mother justifiably rampages against a kid who's abusing her child, she is attacked and whipped by the circus's ringmaster and assorted roustabouts as they subdue her, and she ends up in chains, separated from Dumbo while he is forced into the humiliating and dangerous role of a clown, and the viewer's heart breaks. Then the "Baby Mine" number comes on, where Dumbo visits his mother during her imprisonment and the shackles prevent his mother from coming close to the window to actually see him, so all the she can do is extend her trunk through the bars of her prison to caress the wee, weeping baby while singing him a lullaby. For me, it's the Disney moment that wields the most emotional power. A real haymaker that just comes in and mercilessly shatters what remains of your broken heart into about a million shards. I wept for all I was worth while watching it. Utterly wrecked me.
 
And do NOT get me started on the murder of crows who befriend Dumbo and Timothy and sing the now-infamous "When I See An Elephant Fly." I wish Richard Pryor or Paul Mooney had commented upon that sequence. Watching it this time, I was shocked by its sudden intrusion of outright minstrel show antics in a tone completely at odds with the rest of the film. I have no illusions about such material in old Hollywood productions, but as seen here it was just odd, and it mars an otherwise excellent (if painfully miserable) classic. (Same goes for "What Made the Red Man Red" in PETER PAN, and that was arguably a better song.)

Poster for the original theatrical release.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

DOCTOR WHO: "THE LEGEND OF THE SEA DEVILS" (2022)


Regarding "The Legend of the Sea Devils," they had me with "pirate Sea Devils in the 19th Century." That said, while the story had its moments, and the improved Sea Devil makeup (with blinking eyes that I believe were CGI) was quite fun, not much was done with the return of this little-utilized threat from DOCTOR WHO's classic era. 
 
Unlike the Daleks and the Cybermen (and to a lesser extent, the Sontarans), the Sea Devils previously were unseen after 1972's "The Sea Devils" and 1984's"Warriors of the Deep" until the latest episode, so they have not had the opportunity to become stale from over-saturation. Therefore, the return of a beloved foe promised a lot, especially with the scenario in which they were resurrected, but we only really got one chief Sea Devil with whom the Doctor and friends interacted, and we did get to see a good number of the chief's crew, but they had no lines. And maybe I blinked, but what became of the Godzilla-sized sea monster that the Sea Devils controlled? I don't recall it being decisively dealt with by the conclusion. And do not get me started on the utter squandering of Madame Ching, a famous historical pirate
 
This story had a lot of potential that would have benefited from making it a two-parter, as there have been many stories in the rebooted series that got the two-part treatment without warranting it. The very idea of the Sea Devils as pirates in a flying pirate ship calls for epic treatment, but this being the BBC, I guess that just wasn't gonna happen. Too bad, really...


Monday, April 18, 2022

RIDING WITH THE LIQUOR MAN

 It's no secret that I know a lot of real characters, and during my nearly two years of being driven to and from the dialysis center, I have met several car service drivers who qualify for their own sitcoms. My favorite of these is a 49-year-old dumpy Russian-Italian Jew who speaks fluent (if heavily accented) English, and it's always a delight to get him for the journey. We chat about what's on our minds in all areas of discussion, and today found him once again lamenting the sorry state of his romantic life. He's told me many times about how his wife ran off and left him to raise their three kids and how he wants a girlfriend more than anything. He'd recently been simping for some much younger woman, and from what he has told me of their interactions it seems as though she's stringing him along for the attention, but he's convinced he can get somewhere with her.  I suggested that he back off and see how she responds to not being the focus of his attentions, and when he did that he had a rude awakening when she basically forgot all about him.

Anyway, today's conversation was about that situation and how frustrated he is, especially since he is a self-proclaimed "pleasure giver." He then launched into what can only be described as a heartfelt and scholarly discussion of the fine art of orally pleasing women, and the detail he went into led me to believe 100% that he knew what he was talking about, him looking like a cave troll notwithstanding. Not being the prettiest of specimens myself, I'm aware that a guy who's not conventionally attractive can get over when he applies himself, but I was in no way prepared for the turn that the conversation took.

After comparing notes on the fine art of "whistling in the wheat field," he turned to me and said "We know each other pretty good, right? Well, check this out..." He then reached up to a compartment on his rearview mirror and pulled out a business card, the business card seen below. 

He handed it to me and claimed that before he married his wife, he met a number of unsatisfied housewives who were aching for sexual release with the aid of a man who knew what he was doing with his tongue and fingers, so he hooked up with some of them and, according to him, they enjoyed his services so much that he was able to parlay his skills into a paying gig. He claimed that these women would recommend him to their friends and would make decent money as a "liquor man" for hire, only giving up his hustle when he married his now-fled wife. He also told me that while he is not in favor of being on the receiving end of ass play, he claims to have once had a housewife who paid him a grand to let her play with his prostate. He said the thousand-dollar fee broke through his inhibitions and while he would not do it again, he said he enjoyed it because her prostate stimulation skills were unexpectedly on point.

Once we reached my building, he told me to keep his card and that he was getting new ones printed up that will have his current contact info. He wanted me to ask if any of the women I know would be up for his services, and these days he's so lonely he'd gladly do it for free.

I swear, you can't make this shit up.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

YET ANOTHER OBSERVATION ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)

Man, slave girl Lilia (Debra Paget) goes through some shit in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956).

First she gets conscripted as a sex slave/flagellation victim by Egyptian master builder Baka, then when he's killed by Moses she ends up as the property/sex slave of scumbag Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) for several years, and finally, once the Jews make their way out of Egypt and she is reunited with her true love, Joshua the stone cutter (John Derek), she is ordered by Dathan to be tied down on the altar of the golden calf as a human sacrifice the minute Moses fucks off up the mountain to receive the titular laws from Gawd and the Jews suddenly throw a wild party/orgy that apparently includes every form of wickedness and perversion known to man. She gets saved from that sorry fate at the last possible second, but the poor girl simply could not catch a break during the movie's 3 hour and 40 minute running time.

ANOTHER OBSERVATION ON THE TEN COMMENDMENTS (1956)

This time around with THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) finds me paying closer attention to certain plot details. For example: In the scene where the vile Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) has acquired the slave girl Lilia (Debra Paget) as part of a massive and lucrative "thank you" package from soon-to-be pharaoh Rameses (Yul Brynner), and he has her dressed in sexy finery by his house slaves. He orders a purple flower removed from her hair and replaces it with a "more appropriate" white one, a clear symbol letting us know that she is a virgin. Now she is not only very much unwillingly Dathan's property to do with as he pleases, but her compliance to his sexual whims will prevent Joshua the stone cutter (John Derek), from being sent to an horrific life in the copper mines (a promise that is never kept, unbeknownst to her), so she utterly surrenders her dignity and weeps while swearing to Dathan that she will do anything to save her love's life. 

It was always obvious to me what Lilia was being leveraged into, but this was the first time I noted the flower as a virginity signifier. Makes the scene that much more tragic, once one grasps that rather obvious symbol that I somehow missed for over forty years.

AN OBSERVATION ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)


Watching THE TEN COMMANDMENTS from an adult perspective — and a dirty-minded one at that — is a totally different experience than it was when I was a kid. Seeing this sequence again right now, I only just noted that Baka (Vincent Price) had those tethers at the ready in his lounging area when about to whip Joshua the stone cutter (John Derek) to death. Baka was clearly a slimy motherfucker, as evidenced by his conscripting slave girl Lilia (Debra Paget) into unwilling sexual slavery and his statement that he would only keep her "for a little while," then return her to her life of everyday slavery "a bit more worthy." If he had those tethers ready, what the hell kind of scene was he into, and how many previous slave girls (and boys; he seemed like he would be rather fluid) must he have whipped into oblivion?

Friday, April 15, 2022

THE FREEDOMOBILE

9:14am Currently in the car to the dialysis center. 

Got one of my favorite drivers. She’s a Russian who’s fluent in English and has Captain America’s shield on her steering wheel. She’s friendly and doesn’t play the awful Freedom FM radio favored by most of the Russkie drivers. (In case you don’t know, Freedom FM is a local Russian language station that plays stale ‘80’s hits interspersed with awful Russian pop music that stopped evolving somewhere around 1977.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

ON WEATHERING THE HORRORS OF NYC LIVING

While I was ruminating on this morning's subway horrors — a mass shooting on the train, a mere four stations south of the one at the end of my block — several friends contacted me to see if I had been anywhere near the incident and find out if I was safe. (I was bundled up in bed when it all went down.) While responding to one of them, this is what I told her:

The crazy thing about NYC living is that once you have been here for as long as I have, it's kind of like being an animal in a jungle. You just go on about your business, fully accepting of the fact that someday, with zero warning, your number may be up. It's kind of like adopting a zen readiness for death, so one has no fear should it come, and one just soldiers on until one can no longer do so. It's kind of freeing, really, and I have that way of thinking deeply ingrained into me after 32 years in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Believe me, it has come in handy many times, most notably on the day of 9/11, which speaks for itself.

Monday, April 11, 2022

"MEMORY...ALL ALONE IN THE..." (HURLS SELF ONTO THE HIGHWAY)

After the longest dialysis day in a good while, a length dictated by my car service picking me up nearly an hour late (thus making my release time also an hour late) and by my ride home also being late and making the return journey during the time when the streets are dominated by and congested because of afternoon school buses, I am finally, blessedly, at home. I'm just glad I took the time to make a decent breakfast before this morning's departure. Otherwise, I would be insanely ravenous at the moment. And let me note that you have not truly lived until you ride in a car whose Russian driver has his iPhone set up to play a concert performance of famous movie and Broadway themes and tunes played by a full orchestra with some guy on a Pan flute as the headliner. When selections from CATS came on, I nearly rolled down the window and leapt out onto the Prospect Expressway.

A FOOL FOR YUL

 

Yul Brynner as Rameses, a larger than life antagonist perfect for one of classic Hollywood's greatest spectacle films.

This Friday evening, Passover, will find me bundled up (after the day's dialysis session) for my annual screening of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956), a film that I have loved since childhood and one that's on my short list of favorite classic Hollywood epics. Its scale and sweep are vast, and the piece is dominated by Yul Brynner as Rameses, a charismatic villainous turn for the ages. The guy wields unlimited power and has not concept of just how much of an asshole he really is, so since childhood I have enjoyed the character and performance that much more by thinking of Ramses as perhaps the only time the screen will ever see the Sub-Mariner's look and overall character perfectly portrayed (despite the only water in the film being the Nile and the Red Sea, neither of which does Rameses live in).

Saturday, April 02, 2022

HAPPY 50th ANNIVERSARY, PINK FLAMINGOS (1972)

No lie, one of the movies that changed my life.
 
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the general release of PINK FLAMINGOS, the third feature by legendary groundbraking writer/director John Waters, and I shared it at a screening at my friend Lexi's place. Including myself, there were eight attendees, three of whom had not seen the film. I was somewhat disappointed to see the reaction of the newbs, which was far more reserved than I would have thought. Too bad they did not see it before years of being able to watch any kind of filth imaginable fro the privacy of a laptop. Anyway, when I asked "Well?" at the end, Charlie, the hostess's little brother, simply said "Of all the films I have seen, this one of them."

Consuming a chocolate Ho-Ho, in honor of the film's legendary ending.
 

The classic ending.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

WITHDRAWAL

 As seen across the street from my friend and former roommate Patrick's home in Bedford Stuyvesant, the eastern edge where it meets Brownsville and Weeksville. Yes, they got the cash box.

When I was growing up, Bed Stuy was one of the most feared of all NYC neighborhoods, but over the past three decades gentrification has sanded away much of its once-savage edge. However, traces of its hardcore nature are sometimes clearly present.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

DELECTABLE WEREWOLF CHOW.

 May 1957 PLAYBOY Playmate Dawn Richard, forever burned into my memory as the high school girl who meets her horrifying fate at the hands of Michael Landon's adolescent wolfman in I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957). I saw that film when I was six, the first werewolf movie I ever saw, and her upside down POV of the slavering monster is one of my favorite shots in all of horror cinema.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY...NOT


I was thinking back over my torturous years of dealing with the agonies of unchecked all-over atopic dermatitis, which rendered my skin looking like I had been using a chicken joint's deep-fryer as a hot tub, and I recall with horror the time that I was prescribed a cocktail of Gabapentin and Doxepin as a way to relieve the relentless itching and peeling of my skin. I'm no stranger to psychoactive chemicals, but I can say with authority that that combination gave me what I can only describe as an actual out of body experience, coupled with flesh-crawling imagined terrors. From drugs.com:

"Using doxepin together with gabapentin may increase side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. Some people, especially the elderly, may also experience impairment in thinking, judgment, and motor coordination."

I took that combination for a total of three days, after which I took myself off of it and told the prescribing doctors that I refused to continue with that course of treatment. It's the closest thing to what I imagine the worst kind of demonic possession being.


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

THE LOST CITY (2022)

Bullock and Tatum, up Shit Creek without a paddle. (Actually, a South American jungle, but you get what I mean.)

While caught up in the activity of the past 60 hours, I forgot to mention that Michele and I saw THE LOST CITY the other night. It's as light and fluffy as the trailers portray it to be, but it's also aggressively silly and very, very funny. 

I'm a fan of both Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, and the two have an undeniable chemistry when working opposite one another. Daniel Radcliffe, completely shedding his Harry Potter image, strikes all of the right notes as an unhinged rich kid with major sibling jealous issues, and Brad Pitt steals the movie in an extended cameo as the kind of adventure hero that every guy wants to be, the kind of rugged dude whose mere presence women's panties into a swamp. 

The film knows exactly what it is and aims to be a crowd-pleasing want to spend a night out at the movies, with Channing Tatum being especially fun as a seemingly vapid bohunk romance cover model. He pokes fun at his own beefcake appeal, and for those who enjoy ogling quality man-flesh, you'll get what you want to see, but his masculine perfection is totally deployed for laughs. (The scene with the leeches being the go-to example...) 

Anyway, THE LOST CITY is the very definition of a "popcorn flick," a fun romp and a great date movie.

Poster for the theatrical release.

Monday, March 21, 2022

THE FLAVOR OF COCK


After today's treatment, I waited five hours until making something to eat, an amount of time that allowed my stomach to settle. There are some days when I come out of dialysis absolutely ravenous, and that's because I often do not eat breakfast before going, but this morning I ate before treatment, so that is probably what allowed me be able to eat a meal five hours after treatment rather then eight or nine hours later. (For those who do not know, after treatment I usually hurl my guts up several times before my stomach settles and I can eat something. It's highly unpleasant but I've gotten used it, and I kind of zone out when it happens.)
 
Tonight's meal could not have been simpler: I made slow-roasted chicken legs and thighs that fall off the bone, a roux from which I made a rich gravy that incorporated some chicken stock and the copious drippings from the legs, and a small pot of sticky rice. The star of this meal was the seasoning, specifically Caribbean Traditions Cock Flavored Seasoning. (You there! Stop that giggling!!!) The stuff lends the perfect flavor accent to fowl, and I cannot recommend it enough.

WEEK 83 OF DIALYSIS BEGINS

                                                       "It's the never-ending storeeeeeeee..."

Saturday, March 12, 2022

AN OBSERVATION WHILE GETTING A HEAD START ON THINGS

While getting a head start on refreshers for this year's upcoming run of essays for October's annual 31 DAYS OF HORROR run, last night I as through DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) for the first time in over four decades, and I have to ask this: 

If you were a British tourist in the Carpathian mountains in the late 19th Century and were vehemently warned by all of the locals to avoid the ominous castle in the distance, a place that does not exist on your map of the area but there it is nonetheless, would you still insist on going there? And when you got there and found the table set for dinner as though they were expecting you and your companions, and you were attended to by this savory-looking dude, would you stick around? 

Before the night is through, one of your number is stabbed in the back, hung upside down over the open grave of an arch-vampire, and his throat slashed so his showering blood could revivify said undead suckface's remains, followed by the vampire putting the bite on the guy's wife, thus transforming her into one of the legion of the damned. 

Seriously, even by horror movie standards, the hapless tourists in this story are among the all-time stupidest in cinema history. I was actually rooting for Dracula to get all of them and do the rest of the world a favor.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

IDENTIFYING WITH THE PLIGHT OF PROMETHEUS

 

As the last dialysis day of the week approaches, I once more feel the wind-up of anxiety on the night going into it. 
 
You all know how weary I am of this never-ending medical cycle that I am trapped in, and I fully accept why it is necessary, but every week I just break down mentally and emotionally at the prospect of facing another day of it, and the night before Friday is always the worst. It's the anticipation of it being the last day of treatment until it resumes on Monday, and it's at these times when I wonder if this was how Prometheus felt when that fucking eagle would swoop down every day to once more rip out and devour his regenerating immortal liver. I suppose that's a poor analogy, as Prometheus was an immortal, but I swear that the never-ending nature of my predicament feels like the worst kind of immortality. It's torturous rinse and repeat, ad infinitum.
 
I just want to be over. Please, let me get a kidney that's a match soon.

COLOSSUS AND THE HEADHUNTERS (1963)

"Kirk Morris" as pseudo-Hercules Maciste. "Wha???"

Last night's dull movie-as-sleep-aid was COLOSSUS AND THE HEADHUNTERS (1963), one of the seemingly endless number of Italian muscleman fantasy epics released during the 1950's and 1960's to cash in on the unexpected international box office success of HERCULES (1958) and HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959) starring legendary bodybuilder Steve Reeves.

This one stars Kirk Morris (born Adriano Bellini) in the fourth of his six films as shirtless, oiled-up Herculean strongman Maciste (he is never referred to as "Colossus"), as our hero rescues refugees from an island devastated by a volcanic explosion, only to immediately encounter a land in turmoil whose queen is being forced to marry the traitorous asshole who blinded her father and lusts for both her and the throne. Needless to say, our beefy protagonist lends his burly aid to the queen and her people, but the usurper asshole has aligned himself with the local tribe of bloodthirsty headhunters, so saving the day will put Maciste to the test. As dubbed Pastaland tits 'n' togas flicks go, this one's pretty tepid, and hero Maciste is as bland as dishwater, possessing no discernibly interesting traits such as drunkenness, an unbridled libido, or even much by way of personality. In short, he's a cookie cutter slab of beef with styled Frankie Avalon-style hair who runs around in a short skirt and a primitive pair of Ugg boots. 
 
This film is perhaps best known in the U.S. for the truncated version seen on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 back in 1994, and that version, while still dull, at least had the decency to be mercifully short. The full-length iteration moves like a Brontosaurus on a cocktail of Gabapentin and Doxepin — trust me on that one — and features only the thinnest of plots, punctuated by lots of aimless seafaring, sword-wielding combatants clashing and running around, women in super-tight and/or skimpy outfits, bad dubbing, and one of the worst dance sequences ever committed to film.
 
 Bob Fosse rolls over in his grave.
 
In a bid to add more "production values," aka tits and ass, nearly every movie in this genre at some point features a dance number that brings the proceedings to a screeching halt, and COLOSSUS AND THE HEADHUNTERS subjects us to a truly dire example of the trope. I cannot believe that the actress who performs the film's dance sequence was an actual dancer, as her movements appear to have been made up on the spot, literally whatever she could think to do, and her terpsichorean skills are about on par with those of a six-year-old who just donned her first Danskin. We're talking hopping around on her tippy-toes — nothing resembling trained en pointe — falling to the floor and sticking a leg up in the air, gesturing with her shoulders as though trying to spontaneously sprout wings, and shaking like she's experiencing a seizure, all while maintaining the most un-emotive of facial expressions. It's an embarrassing display that will make you feel bad for her at first, but it overstays its welcome by being three minutes long and by its end you want to hurl an unopened can of corned beef hash at her skull. And, as previously stated, it stops the story dead.
 
In other words, this movie offers absolutely nothing not seen before elsewhere and done to more entertaining effect. If you're suffering a night of insomnia, as many of us do, COLOSSUS AND THE HEADHUNTER is available on YouTube in a grainy print. That print lends the film a snuff film aesthetic that only heightens its cheesiness, be ready to doze before the first half hour is over.
 
Poster for the U.S. theatrical release.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

A JARRING BIT OF APARTMENT ARCHAEOLOGY

While digging through the stacks of stuff in my apartment, I found the manuscript to my mother's abandoned book on "firm but loving" parenting that she wrote sometime in the '90's or early 00s. It's 22 pages long and she gave me a printout of it for me to proofread and edit. I had completely forgotten about its existence, but I'm glad I still have it.

It's basically her manifesto on rearing an adolescent, with some examples culled from my teen years (only framing it as experiences related to her by a mother who was one of her patients during her family counseling years), coupled with the rigid, robotic emotionlessness of her own mother's horrid  parenting, a doctrine that damaged her early and the repercussions of which affect her to this day. It reads like an android writing a book on parenting based on an iron-clad philosophy that treats the child as a specimen rather than as a human being, and reading it again now, it's just sad. And I think she abandoned it because I told her straight up that it read like a book by and for robots.

I'm going to save that manuscript for posterity in my box of secret artifacts — old letters from long-ago girlfriends, "candid" photos that they gave me, rare porn, etc. — as it will serve as an actual written reminder of her ways after she's gone. It's a lesson book that bolsters my approach of doing the opposite of how she raised me when I deal with my friends' kids whom I love as my own.

The manuscript.

Looking over the manuscript again, I also note that it's clearly written by an individual who came of age over seven decades ago and who, even at the time she wrote the piece, had zero understanding of then-modern adolescence and could not relate to it as anything other than something to study, or as something she read about in textbooks and articles in magazines aimed at the mental health industry.

Also, bear in mind that once my father moved out, my mother began rebuilding herself as a stronger person, and her experiences with him left her with a deep hatred of men in general, so having her child growing her her doted-upon little boy into a young man was something she could not handle. She so did not understand male adolescence, genuinely thought I was mentally ill, and shipped me off to two psychiatrists starting when I was 10 and again during high school, when I knew there was nothing wrong with me. Coupled with her being a world-class gaslighter (something she only copped to as of the past few years, and she brought it up with no prompting from me), it all did a real number on me, and it took leaving home for college for me to truly be allowed the freedom to evolve into my own person and not her unrealistic fantasy of rigid perfection, and also to be happy for the first time since I was old enough to fully understand what was going on around me.

My mother's family deeply and irreversibly damaged her from early on. Just some of the stuff that shaped her includes being thrown into a sack in the middle of the night and kidnapped by her father when she was two or three, an incident that gave her severe claustrophobia for life (she still cannot sleep without a night light), and, because they were bored and had nothing better to in their rural Alabama isolation, some of her immediate family regularly tortured her with electricity because they thought it was funny. She only told me all of that — and worse — as of the past twenty years, which caused a lot to make start to make sense, and the contemplation thereof drove a stake through my brain. I had to leave the apartment earlier this afternoon and walk around Park Slope for an hour to calm my thoughts.

Anyway, this grimoire of maternal dysfunction is now relegated to the large ENTER THE DRAGON special edition VHS box on this shelf, where it shall forever be imprisoned.

AN INTERESTING BIT OF VINTAGE BAT-TRIVIA

 

Richard Widmark as Tommy Yudo, cinema's first version of the Joker (sort of).

Just found out that Richard Widmark's performance as his Tommy Udo character in the classic KISS OF DEATH (1947) was modeled after the 1940's original iteration of the Joker, and being familiar with the Joker of the comic's first couple of years, I totally see it. Widmark was reportedly a fan of Batman comics, so there you go. Even crazier, when Frank Gorshin essayed his legendary manic turn as the Riddler on the 1966-1968 BATMAN television series, borrowed (and exaggerated) his famous giggle from Widmark's Tommy Udo.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

THE BATMAN (2022)


Myself and Michele at THE BATMAN.

So, THE BATMAN. I won't go into the plot details, other than to say that it's basically a modern day noir for grownups that involves the mystery behind a string of connected murders, which intersects with a mob story, with both featuring a rookie Batman (he's only been at it for two years, and he's still sorting himself out) in a police/detective procedural.

Let's cut to the chase. This is hands down my favorite live-action Batman movie (I don't care for any of the previous ones; Adam West gets a pass because his was a comedy, and I'll grant you Heath Ledger's chilling Joker), as it's as serious as a heart attack, it's violent as hell, Batman actually does detective work, he's in the batsuit for 98% of his time onscreen, this version of the Batmobile would be right at home in a Mad Max movie, the Batcave makes sense, Catwoman steals the movie (though she is never once called Catwoman, but she does once refer to herself as "the Cat"), Jeffrey Wright is superb as JIm Gordon, Paul Dano does for the Riddler what Heath Ledger did for the Joker, an unrecognizable Colin Farrell works a miracle as the best Penguin ever (not at all what is expected of the character, and it works beautifully), its three hours just fly by, and it's totally for grownups. In short, this is the anti-BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 
 
Oh, and don't bother staying for a stinger at the end. There's something brief, about three seconds long, and it is in no way worth putting off hitting the can for a long-held leak.

Friday, March 04, 2022

100 YEARS OF NOSFERATU



Tuesday, March 01, 2022

PUNCTURED AND PATCHED

  

My arm, after taking off the bandages from a dialysis session. The center has some new trainees, and one of them, 6'8" Ifani, wraps the bandages painfully tight, along with a medical-grade plaster over each puncture wound, a thickly-folded piece of absorbent wadding is applied, and then the nurse comes in and tightly tapes it up. I then wear a compression sleeve over all of that, in order to keep pressure on the area and allow it to heal and seal before I go to bed for the night. That's all well and good, but Ifani, who's a really nice guy, applies the medical tape as tight as a tourniquet, and that is highly unpleasant after having two huge and very sharp needles jammed into your arm and taped into position for just shy of four hours three times per week. Also, with my history of skin issues, my skin does not like the adhesive on the tape, so when I take it off my arm resembles that of Imhotep (Boris Karloff version).

Friday, February 25, 2022

THE TORTURE NEVER STOPS

Today's dialysis was a trial.

Yesterday my appetite came back with a vengeance and I was able to keep all food down (a rarity of late), so my body was craving solid sustenance. I ate everything in sight, but I made sure to watch my fluid intake. (Late stage kidney failure patients are allowed only thirty-two ounces of drinkable fluids per day, and that's it.) Nonetheless, when I weighed in this morning my weight was 6.5 kilos over what it should be (100 kilos), most of which was food weight. (I had not deuced-out yesterday or this morning, so there you go.)

I got a new Russian nurse today, as Shaunda, my favorite nurse, had the day off — girl deserves a month, and an all expenses paid vacation at Club Med — and when she heard my weight and compared it to my departure weight from my last session, she was shocked at the gain. At first she was about to scold me about fluid intake, but I politely cut her off and explained what I just outlined. She considered what I said, and then she called Olena , the hardened veteran nurse whom I adore, over for a consult. Olena absorbed the information, and I asked her what was the maximum amount of fluid that could be taken from me that would be safe. My usual max is four kilos, but five was possible, depending on my blood pressure, but that much can cause painful cramping, so it is mostly advised against for patients. Considering how much I came in with, I asked her if we could see how well I take the removal of five kilos. As I trust Olena without hesitation, and knowing that she was around should something go awry, I agreed to give the removal of five kilos a shot.

The treatment went fine four the first three hours, and I slept through much of it. But then, during the final forty minutes, the tendons of my lover legs began to cramp, and some of the muscles in my torso, and let me tell you: if you have never experienced dialysis-related cramping, it is like medieval torture. The tendons tighten, causing the feet to contort as well, and is extremely painful, painful enough to make me yell in agony. The new nurse and Olena kept an eye on me, but there was little they could do, as the session was almost over, so I just had to ride it out. As my legs grew taut from the cramping, I attempted to keep my legs and feet straight, or bend them, depending on the ebb and flow of the cramps. When the session's time was finally over, my chair was adjusted to the upright sitting position, and the new nurse asked if I was okay. I was still cramping, so I had to sit there for a while as she administered saline into my system to equalize my blood pressure. It took about ten minutes before I could properly function again, but it was physically and mentally exhausting.

When I got home, I got some minor grocery shopping done, picked up a takeout order of chicken wings and French fries from the dirty Chinese takeout joint (I was able to keep it down), and though I wanted to stay awake and get to tidying up my apartment, I instead crawled into bed and crashed hard, deeply sleeping for a couple of hours. I feel relatively fine now, though some residual pain from the cramping in my legs remains.

 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

RED DAWN OVER BORO PARK - Part 2

For today's ride home from dialysis, the car service sent the driver I mentioned  a couple of months back, the Russian in his late 60's who was dressed from head to toe in a bright red track suit with USSR emblazoned on it, a matching red military cap with CCCP across the forehead, and Soviet military music playing on the car's radio. Today he was not dressed like a propaganda caricature, but he did have music playing that brought to mind images of Cold War-era troops marching in Red Square. I suppressed laughter as I videoed this.



Wednesday, February 09, 2022

BUH-KACK!!!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This questionable Black History Month meme reminds me of a long-ago night during downtime at the barbecue joint, when a huge, bald, dark-skinned black dude was seated at the bar, kicking back shot after shot of whiskey and enjoying an order of our smoked 1/2 chicken. The brutha's mouth navigated that bird like it was a fondly-regarded lover, his eyes occasionally closing in sensual bliss, and when he was done he turned and directly addressed myself and one of the place's black regulars. With a deep and authoritative voice, he stated, with zero trace of irony," Gawd made chicken for US, for the black man. When I eat me a piece of chicken, my brain and body say 'This was made for ME.'"

Yeah, I like chicken too, but come on...

Thursday, January 27, 2022

THE SLOW BURN OF MADNESS

 

Other than for absolute necessities like seeing my girlfriend, obtaining provisions, prescriptions, and going in for dialysis, I have been very diligent about staying in during the pandemic. Believe me, I get why one should stay in as much as possible while all of this is going on, especially when one has already a serious health issue like I do, but I miss having regular contact with my friends who are my chosen family.

I can't speak for you, but the lockdown has conditioned me for extended periods of existence minus human contact, so during the rare instances these days when I do manage to get some time with friends/family, it's like being in a dream, only to wake up too soon, once more in my apartment that at times feels like a cell with amenities. It just goes on and on and on, with no end in sight, and, coupled with my treatment while on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, its interminable nature is weighing heavily on my brain. There are days when I feel I am legitimately going nuts.

Any of you feeling the same way?

Friday, January 21, 2022

A WEIRD NIGHT

I went to be early after a day of not succumbing to my body's post-treatment recovery need to nap, in hope that I would sleep the night through, until 7:15am at the latest. My game plan was to get up that relatively early, shower and shave, eat a breakfast that will tide me over for the roughly eight hours until I arrive in Westport, and make sure everything was packed and in order to bring home for Mom's 89th birthday, as I can be a tad scatty after a given day's dialysis, so I ended up in bed and asleep before midnight.

I suppose it was inevitable, but in light of recent events, my processing of Oscar's demise made its way into my dreams. In the dreamscape, I was in a lavish, ethereal bed chamber, like the one Dave Bowman finds himself in at the end of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, observing an ancient, withered man in its large bed. Next to the bed was a Victrola that played classical music, soft and soothing, and the old man beckoned me over. He bore a strong resemblance to what I've seen of my father in recent photos; emaciated, frail, debilitated by poorly-managed diabetes and Alzheimer's, but unlike my dad's former chocolate-brown hue, he was a faded shade of Caucasian complexion.

With an infirm gesture he bade me sit on the bed beside him, and once I was seated he attempted to speak, but no coherent words came. Instead, his features contorted into a grimace of discomfort, and tears flowed down his sunken cheeks. For my part, I sat there unsure of what he was trying to express and, not being telepathic, no clarity came to me. He then closed his eyes and was gone.

When I awoke, it was to my chilly apartment, a space whose draftiness gave indication of it being 17° outside, and I found myself hanging upside down over the side of my futon's frame, amidst my three comforters and unzipped arctic sleeping bag, all of which were in a state of disarray, presumably from me thrashing about in my sleep.

There are a couple of ways to interpret the meaning of that dream, but I have no desire to get all maudlin, so I'll just leave it at that. That, and the realization that this year's celebration of Mom's birthday is likely to be all manner of weird, uncomfortable, and fraught with depressing emotion.

I don't know if I have mentioned it before, but one of the things that tends to happen when I go home for visits is my mother taking the opportunity of a captive audience and laying bare her agonized memories of the many awful incidents and situations that shaped her, often anecdotes about her time with my father, so his passing is likely to open a floodgate in her usual rigid reserve. If it helps her let loose some of the long-held poisons, then so be it. I will endure it with my mind and intent set on keeping things as pleasant as possible. I will make sure there is no anger or contentiousness on my part. I have no way of prognosticating how many more birthdays Mom will be around to mark, so now is a time for reserve and compassion.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

REGARDING MY DAD: THE BOOK IS FINALLY CLOSED

So...

Two days ago my mother called to tell me she received a letter from Social Security alerting her to widow’s benefits. Such payment is awarded to the deceased’s first spouse, so my mom called up Social Security and asked what all of that was about. That's how she found out Oscar Anderson Bunche, her ex-husband and my dad, died on December 28th of 2021 at the age of 85.  
 
For my part of the equation, what should be a gut punch is instead a state of apathy at his demise. There was no love lost between us and we had not had anything resembling a positive relationship since I was six (fifty years ago), so I note his passing but that's about it. In fact, my mother and I both admitted to a state of utter apathy upon receiving the word of his passing. Quoth my mother, "I was married to that man for sixteen years, yet I felt nothing when I got the news that he died."
 
When my mom called, she expected me to have some sort of an emotional flip-out at the news, but my calm shocked her. I explained to her that I understood her always wanting to foster a relationship between him and me, but it was never there. She finally acknowledged that she knew that there was no relationship between us and that is was all on him. If anything I felt bad for her, because I know she considers his failure as a father to me is somehow partially her fault when it absolutely is not.

The one thing that does rankle me, though, is that the obituary I found for him online completely erases any mention of his first marriage (the one to my mother), and while his survivors are listed, I am not among them. I suppose I should not be in way surprised, as the man actively worked to erase all evidence of his existence prior to the divorce from my mother (save for his acknowledgement of my older half-sister who was born to another mother some seven years before I debuted), something I discovered when I had lunch with my my younger half-sister some fifteen years ago when she tracked me down via the internet after not having seen me since she was three. She told me because she was shocked to see the photo album that I brought with me during the lunch where we met up when she was an adult. She had never seen even one photo of him from before he married her mother, so my erasure is part and parcel for the life he re-imagined himself into. In short, my dad basically erased all evidence of his life prior to his second marriage, starting as far back as 1976, but my existence and presence remained an inconvenient  anchor to a relationship that he never wanted to be in in the first place. And I was a disappointment by not being the fantasy son that he wanted, and if he could have he would have started over while completely forgetting the child he sired in a relationship he felt forced into by parental pressure. He started over with his new wife and kids and reinvented himself as a sepia Caucasian, a case of denial and self-loathing the like of which I have never seen. 
 
My involvement with him would have ended there, had it not been for my mother's well-intentioned but utterly misguided efforts to make sure he remained in my life as my father figure, despite lack of any real interest from either myself or from Oscar. There were many awkward and uncomfortable visits with him during the years when he was re-establshing himself, years that coincided with my junior and senior high school years, a period in which I really needed a solid male parental figure, but at the time he was not in a place where he could have provided that, if indeed he ever was. From all reports, his parents never showed him much by way of love and nurture, favoring his younger brother, Leonard (now deceased), over him, so he never learned the tools with which to impart such on either my older half-sister or myself.
 
My parents, both born into the deep, rural American south of the pre-Civil Rights Jim Crow era,  only got married because their folks — both families being highly dysfunctional — thought it would be the answer to both of their problems. Oscar's parents wanted him to marry someone of color, noting that despite her Native American complexion, my mom was still "the darkest thing Oscar ever brought home" (according to my mother; she told me that ages ago, claiming it was said to her by dad's mother) during the late 1950's). On my mom's side of the equation, her iron-fisted southern matriarch of a mother wanted her to marry and have kids and then take over as the matriarch of the James family's twisted dynasty. My parents were together for a total of sixteen years, all of which was a misery for both parties. And I, as their only child, bore daily silent witness as their relationship worsened with each passing day and year.

My favorite story of my dad, if I can even call it that... No. It's more of an anecdote that perfectly outlined his character: According to my  mother, early in my parents' marriage, it was apparent that things were not working out, and my mom, being the old school southern gal that she is, suggested that they go back to the church and see if that would help them. (Mom was raised in a strict Episcopalian household, and her religious programming persists to this day.) Hearing this, dad reportedly responded with "You don't need church. I am your god." (Having lived with the man for the first ten years of my life, I absolutely believe he said that.) When mom told me that, I said "If I were you and he said that to me, I would have immediately bailed." Mom just looked at me with sad eyes and a weary expression and simply said "I wasn't that strong then."
 
There's more, a whole lot more, to Oscar's history, but now it's over and I choose to just let it go.

As for any deeper expression of feelings I may have on the matter of Oscar's passing, they may eventually come, but right now I am just numb. I came to terms with my inner demons regarding him, demons that I sought to drown with booze and drugs for far too long, and since then I have been at peace with all that went down. I survived is what matters, and if anything, his legacy to me was a carved in stone example of what NOT to be as a spouse and as an influence on children. That said, the man that his second wife and kids lived with and knew was a complete reinvention of the man that my mother and I knew, so perhaps he found some measure of happiness in a family of his own choosing.
 
Despite his academic and career achievements, he was a weak and damaged man and a failure as a human being, at least during his pre-rebooted existence. If anything, I no longer hold anger towards him. Only pity.  
 
Anyway, I mark his passing simply as footnote in the pages of my life. No condolences are necessary, as he's been dead to me for close to thirty years. I leave the mourning to his acknowledged survivors and I wish them well.
 
Oscar Anderson Bunche (1936-2021), originally Bunch. (He added the "e" to the surname in an effort to sound more posh, and to spark speculation that he might have been related to then-prominent politician and Nobel Prize winner Ralph Bunche.)