Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Little Bit About Monsters

Got home from work yesterday and there was chaos on television.

My very first thought was that North Korea had actually bombed themselves with their brand new missile. Amy caught me up. Explosions at the Boston Marathon. Then NBC showed the footage, over and over, red and orange and smoke and people blown apart.

I didn't want to open Facebook, usually on my top screen, because I knew what I'd see: sympathy at first, then outrage and then the conspiracy theories, all tumbling over each other. Lots of "thoughts and prayers" and "hopes" for the injured. Lots of outrage over this new horror that some humans inflicted on a great mass of other humans.

The calling for blood didn't take long. The very first one I read was, surprisingly, unrelated to Islamic extremism, but focused squarely on other Americans. The bombs went off in Boston, site of the great original Tea Party, on Tax Day, during a marathon whose last mile was dedicated to the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. The American political ideologists known as "Tea Partiers" MUST have done this! To protest taxes, and their fears that the Second Amendment is being removed, that their guns will be taken away, that Obama has installed himself as a dictator.

Then came the other side, calling it a smoke screen of hatred from the Liberals. Everyone knows that Liberals hate America and all it stands for.

Then a CNN reporter got us all back on track, calling for the worldwide killing of all Muslims.

Outrage at horror is natural. So is finger-pointing because, in helpless situations beyond your control, blaming FEELS like you're doing something. It actually does feel like helping. The police are so busy restoring order, maybe they need our input. "Look at this person, look at that one!" A burning sensation in your gut is much better than feeling like you're tied down and defenseless.

For more than a decade, we've been a Nation of Rage. Impotent Rage, but rage nonetheless. We are all dogs behind a glass door, barking at the mailman.

It took a Mr. Rogers meme -- "look for the helpers" -- and a post from Patton Oswalt to put things in perspective for me:

Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."

But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

Because, before I could even allow myself to take in the reality, I saw people running towards the explosions. Some, knocked over by the blast, took cover first, then instinctively ran to help. And not just the people in their uniforms, but those in civilian clothes, who had been, seconds ago, enjoying the day, and were responding to other people in danger.

I'm numb to the acts of sociopaths. I have no personal reactions to these seemingly increasing numbers of tragedies. Sandy Hook and Aurora, Colorado - I felt nothing but growing blackness, then disgust at the people politicizing tragedy. And that was my initial reaction to the Boston footage. But watching people rush to the aid of others, actually witnessing it instead of reading about it later, it caused my arthritic, shriveled hope to jump a little. And Oswalt's post put that jump into words for me, because quite frankly, I didn't recognize the hope when I felt it.

The next few days are going to be horrible. And I'm under no illusion of what our government is or should be. If this was indeed an hysterical response to what political paranoids see as the "New World Order", well congratulations, you just held the door and ushered it in.

If this was an attack from a different nationality or "just" an act of yet another lone psychopath -- whatever actually happened, the fallout is going to be massive but nothing is really going to change. More inconvenience, more governmental control, and a new spate of circular arguments of safety vs. liberty. Guns will not be confiscated and mental health care will still go unaddressed and unfunded. The bomb will be found to have been made with some household chemical and we'll all have to sign forms and get fingerprinted every time we buy Clorox. Something like that. That'll fix everything.

So I have to focus on the people who rushed into danger. The helpers. I'm married to a helper. Amy is always the first on the scene of a fall, a wreck. If something bad happens in her field of vision, she rushes to help and comfort. I've witnessed this dozens of times over the years, while I usually feel inconvenienced and ashamed.

I'm not going to join in the finger-pointing or in any of the conspiracy reindeer games. I'm going to read and keep up and listen and not feel much of anything. I'm going to acknowledge personal tragedy: that it always takes an act of horror to remind me that the good people, the helpers, outnumber the monsters. But now I have those words to keep in mind when the monsters, given particularly loud voice on the internet, show their faces. The helpers are the white blood cells of the Earth and the monsters the cells who've gone bad.

And I will attempt to believe, with all my heart, that the good is the majority.

Friday, April 12, 2013



I know, I’ve been gone a while. I’m hoping to change that.

My excuse, such as it is, is that I’ve been busy. I spent 2012 editing Razor Days and putting together a pair of books, the first of which made its triumphant debut at the Spring Horror Realm in Pittsburgh: 

Hot off the presses at McFarland Publications comes my first “mainstream” publication in years. While “labor of love” has become an overused term, it pretty much applies here because, above all else, I never ended up hating it.

The title comes from the publisher and I’m not wild about it either. I preferred their previous suggestion of “No Holds Barred Cinema”, even though that too is a bit cumbersome for the human mouth. See, the title gave us all sorts of problems because the book contains essays on a variety of movies that barely—if at all—relate to each other.

I write about cult films like Forbidden Zone, Ralph Bakshi’s Coonskin, The Projectionist, and Stephen Sayadian’s Dr. Caligari.

I also cover old and new indies like The Prodigy, All About Evil, Deadwood Park, Sixteen Tongues, Shatter Dead and Hey, Stop Stabbing Me.

And there are some eccentric foreign films in there—Peter Greenaway’s The Baby of M√Ęcon, Renais’ Je T’aime, Je T’aime, Bigas Luna’s Anguista (aka Anguish with Zelda Rubinstein).

More than a few under-the-radar movies—Meet the Hollowheads, Twice Upon a Time, The Boneyard, The Return of Captain Invincible, Alex Cox’s Straight to Hell.

And a couple of movies very few people have ever seen for one reason or another, like The Dueling Accountant and Roberta Findlay’s infamous final, unreleased film, Banned.

The only things these movies have in common is that they’re all relatively obscure and completely off the wall. Some in unhinged glee like X-tro, and others in quiet ways like Bertrand Travernier’s La Mort en direct. In the majority of cases, if not all, the filmmakers had near-complete control but either failed to reach the right audience or were saddled with distributors who couldn’t fathom what the audience might be.

I like underdogs. So I wrote about some. It encompassed a good chunk of the first half of 2012, while I was finishing the Razor Days cut, and once the writing was complete I spent another goodly few weeks running down photographs for the chapters, some of which had never been published. I’m pretty proud of the damned thing. 

If there’s any drawback to you running out and buying this book immediately is McFarland’s pricing. McFarland, a company with a lively mixture of pop culture and text books, sets their prices for the specialty market. As I write this, there are copies of Fervid Filmmaking in libraries across the country and can be special-ordered from Barnes & Noble and whatever other “major” bookstore is still standing.

But, like the movies I cover, the target audience gets the shorter end of the stick as Fervid Filmmaking retails at $39.99. I’m sure over the coming months that it’ll become easier to find at “used” and “like new” prices on Amazon, but for right now, that’s a chunk. I understand it all too well as I can barely afford to buy copies for myself!

On the plus side, it seems to be worth the cost, at least as far as them what done bought it’s concerned. The first review it received was from Rod Lott at Bookgasm and I don’t even know that guy (even though he's now my new best friend). I had seven copies with me at Cinema Wasteland and returned home with only two. So I think this book just might have some legs under it. I might even do another one if it sells particularly well, but I won’t know the numbers until next March.

Of course, if you’re not one for pages and physical space, it’s available to download for Kindle and will be offered in other digital formats very soon. The eBooks are a little lighter on the wallet and still contain all those valuable nouns and verbs I love so much.

I’d like to close with a little plea: if you do roll the dice and choose to purchase a copy of Fervid Filmmaking for your very own, please do me the favor of reviewing it on Amazon. Doesn’t have to be a lengthy review, just a few words of “yea” or “nay” (honestly, I don’t care if a review is negative as long as both my name and the book’s title are spelled correctly). I don’t think the cockroaches will worship it after the apocalypse, but I’m pretty proud of it and I think you’ll like it.

Yes, even you.

More press and links: 

Fervid Filmmaking - McFarland Publishing


We Owe Mike Watt: A Review of Fervid Filmmaking | Micro-Shock.com

and, of course, the official FACEBOOK PAGE