All it takes is one late Octber day that never lets go of the chill of the night, and autumn turns a corner. Rain today. You look around and you swear that tree was all green two days ago - and it’s all bones now. The rumble of the furnace is a comfort; you want nice warm things, pleasant things. Alas, this is 2016, and “The Walking Dead” is on.
Of course you have to see it because you liked it for a while six seasons ago, and have been waiting for it to stop being stupid, smelly, miserable, grimy, nihilistic, repetitive, manipulative, and populated by actors you do not, for the most part, care about.
Hey, it’s something to watch!
Or not. Couldn’t stand it. Redeeming factor: At least some of the violence is realistic. It’s not one of those shows that feature people hitting each other for ten minutes and falling head-first onto concrete and getting up, shaking it off, and fighting again. I’m tired of those. I’m tired of any fight sequence that lasts longer than a minute or two and doesn’t have one of the combatants holding his own hand in pain because he just smashed his fingers against hard bone.
No, someone gets hit in the head with a bat, that's it. But then you ask yourself "why am I watching someone get hit in the head with a bat? Is this part of cultural literacy now? Is this our new watercooler talk?
"Hey, you see that guy get hit with a bat last night, six times, until his head was steak tartare?"
"Nothing left of him, man."
"I'm wondering if they're going for nihilistic fatalism or fatalistic nihilism."
I worry they're going for ten seasons.
I don’t hate gore, but I don’t like it. I say that only because the HARD CORE, MAN demographic loves gore so much they figure anyone who doesn’t say awesome! guts! is weak.
No, I have a different definition of horror, as we’ll see in a bit.
Anyway. No more Walking Dead until the episode where Rick gets revenge. Right? Who cares what happens in the middle? We just want to see the bad guy get comeuppance, because that restores our faith in . . . a lawless world without mercy or joy! No, that’s not it. A hopeful world where our hardy band can move north, find Washington DC. and realize that both political parties have been replaced by new, robust entities? Not likely.
There’s nothing to look forward to. At least on “Halt and Catch Fire” they’re inventing the Internet. And yes, it’s a fine show. It’s the opposite of this zombie twaddle. It’s smart, flawed people, making things. Zombie movies are for people who fantasize they can inherit the world with all its tools and lots of gasoline, and dismember snarling humans without consequence.
I want the show to end in a way that ruins it for everyone who traded away every jot of critical opinion to defend it. I want the Hardy Band to get to the promised land, hack through the underbrush, find a clearing, and see the cast of Gilligan's Island, smiling and waving.
If there’s one thing about modern life I love, it’s the persistence of post-war culture. And if there's one thing that gets on my nerves, it's the same. No one in the 40s sat around watching silent movies. But now everything from the Boomer Age on is accessible and immediate, and eventually everything becomes part of a big indistinct slurry of consumable culture, unmoored from context. This is not a novel observation, I know.
When I was driving around the other day I was cycling through the satellite stations, which I have programmed thus: 40s / 70s / 80s / First Wave / Classic Rewind. I’m usually one for ten on recognizing the 40s songs. The rest I can name in seconds. And so it was: Tony Orlando and Dawn (click) INXS (click) Cure (click) uh . . . Robert Plant in his solo non-Honeydripper thing. (The guitar gave it away.) At some point the DJ came on, and it was Mark Goodman. From MTV.
We always hated him, because he was the bro dude. We also hated Alan Hunter, because he like the arrogant guy in the business frat. Mark and alan both smirked, because they were on MTV and you weren't, but it was a different kind of smirk. Triple J was cool, if a bit too old. Martha Quinn was the girl down the street you hired to babysit your kids but didn’t completely trust because she was too bubbly and nice. Nina Blackwood was the restaurant manager who was cool and would join you on smoke breaks and eventually put a hand on your leg.
Anyway, Mark - who would be followed on the channel by Alan, and Martha, and Nina (who sounds as if she smokes cigarettes by the pack now, not individually) - was counting down 1982 as if it was today. BUT IT’S NOT. Yet it was. My dad did not drive around in his pickup listening to songs from his youth. There certainly wasn’t a channel he could find on the TV that showed the movies of his 20s. What was old was regarded as such, walled off as oldies or late-late-movie fodder. Everything had moved on.
But we don’t move on from anything. We still move ahead, but we carry everything post-war behind us. It might be my age, because I have a distant familiarity with the styles and appearances of the 60s - the harshly lit TV shows and movies - so it doesn’t seem like it’s from a remote time. But the stuff on the other side of, oh, 1956, it’s a different world. Is this just me? Is it just because it’s black and white?
No. Does this look like it’s on our side of the wall, or the other?
I was thinking about this again while listening to a piece of music I hear once a year around this time, when I want to get into the Halloween mood. Note: I really don’t care to get into the Halloween mood. That’s done. It was a kid thing and I loved to put out decorations around the house to set the seasonal mood, because I always liked to dress the house for Daughter to reflect the seasons and holidays. I used to pick up Halloween window gel-clings and she’d put them up on the window in the family room. For years there was always something on the window downstairs, or in her room. One year I gave them to her and they didn’t go up, and that was that. Kid stuff, I guess.
And that’s fine. It’s how it goes. Don’t miss the witches or the arched-back cats, but I like the pumpkins and the leaves. On the other hand, we got out the decorations this Sunday and I found myself testing lights, and for GOD’s sake I was just doing this - okay, granted, Christmas lights, but I was just doing this.
So Halloween means nothing and there’s no mood into which to get. But I have a love of the old Universal Monster Movies, and this is always a good time to revisit them. It’s another era. It’s on the other side of the Wall of ’56. It’s the 30s / 40s culture with its different sense of sophistication, and when you consider that everyone who worked on these things drove cars and listened to the radio and smoke and drank and had toothaches and read the paper and complained about politics and regarded themselves as living in a technologically advanced civilization - which they were - then it’s possible to imagine yourself in that era, watching it anew on the big screen.
I haven’t watched any of the classics this year, except for one that will be your Halloween B&W world. I may watch the first 3 Frankensteins this week or weekend, because each is remarkable in its own right. The first, of course, for Karloff. The second for its arch take on the story with its brilliant last act, and the underrated third for its sets and lighting.
Below you'll find what I listened to; it’s just one of my favorite pieces of movie music.The constant timpani as heartbeats and approaching doom; the tragic, menacing discord of the Monster’s theme, the slinky shimmering Bride theme, the Theremin, the Awakening theme - a mad exhultation outside of God and Morality, drunk on its power.
There is something horrible going on here, expressed through the tonality of European symphonic tradition. There’s curdled Wagner, drunken Debussy - and a horrible void at the end as these human shapes struggle to express the crude sparks in their reanimated selves. It makes you wonder if somehow deep down they knew it all died in 1914, and the rest of the story was civilization as Frankenstein’s Monster.
The public appetite for star glamor cannot be sated. Shovel more flesh into its ravening maw! Shovel it!
Vera-Ellen Westmeier Rohe was born in Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, to Martin F. Rohe, a piano dealer, and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants. Her hyphenated name originated in her mother's dream in which she had a daughter named "Vera-Ellen
She danced with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire; her penultimate role was in White Christmas. Only 5'4".
Everyone in the comments is arguing about her weight.
Did we ever finish this one?
Probably not. It's a Western, and as you must surely know by now, we dabble in Westerns in between the good serials. The ones set in the modern age, with Telegator Beams and remote-control death planes and the other good stuff.
A reminder about our hero:
Not a speck of dirt on him. Dirt is reserved for the filthy bad guys, as it mirrors the corruption of their souls.
Let's pick up where we left.
Remember, there are only so many ways to do the cliffhanger: explosion, falling from a great height, an explosion in a conveyance, or having a conveyance pluge from a great height.
"Hey, go to Atlantic City and rent a nag from that show on the Steel Pier."
Wasn’t this Leap for Life? Wasn’t this Episode 2?
Our hero doesn't save his sidekick, and we see him hung. It's horrible. The twitching, the release of bowels and bladder, the purple protruding tongue.
Kidding! He's saved. Then our hero and his sidekick are going to the house to help the Damsel. Little they do know she can take care of herself.
Quite the spread on that buckshot. And once again, don’t miss episode 2, coming next!
Let’s go the start of episode 4:
Don’t worry; they used the special humiliating bullets.
Then some stuff happens and at the end there are men on horses being chased by other men on horses. Since this one is called “treacherous Ambush,” I assume there’s going to be an ambush, and it won’t be an honorable, above-board, morally defensible ambush. And so:
I respect this. When you consider the trickery we’ve seen in other cliffhangers, this is honest. If this was made 10 years later we’d see the gun go off, and brains fly everywhere, and then the next ep we’d see him roll away just in time.
Whew; that's a lot. And there's more! See you around.