Saturday, December 06, 2008

R.I.P. Uncle Forry - Thanks For Everything

It is no exaggeration to say that Forrest J Ackerman made my life better. He also made it possible for so many science fiction, horror and fantasy stories and movies and television to be created, and for today's online world of fans of all those genres exist thanks to him.

Ackerman passed away Thursday at the age of 92 and there will be many remembrances and salutes and some sadness for weeks to come. He was the First Fan, the man who created the very worlds of Fandom. The Uber Fan Boy. His life's work, his home, his influence stretches across decades. There was simply no one like him - he was more than just a fan, he knew everyone from Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, from Ed Wood and Ray Harryhausen to Rick Baker and George Lucas.

He made a welcome and hearty home for the odd folks like me who are fascinated with tales of the fantastic and the mysteries of monsters. He wasn't just a name - he was Uncle Forry to me (and many others around the world.)

Says Stephen King:

When you think of the size of the business, the dollar amount, that has sprung up out of fantasy, the people who made everything from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Jaws,’ ” Mr. King said, “well, Forry was a part of their growing up. The first time I met Steven Spielberg, we didn’t talk about movies. We talked about monsters and Forry Ackerman."

I was about 9 or 10 years old the first time I saw a copy of Ackerman's magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland", and I bought every issue thereafter I could find. The magazine didn't print Fan Mail, it printed Fang Mail. Living in Los Angeles, he called it Horrorwood, Karloffornia. His humor and his deep admiration for all things fantastic made him an astonishing collector and curator and turned his home, the Ackermansion, into the biggest and most celebrated museum of the fantasy and horror genres ever.

He housed items from the silent film "Metropolis" to Spock's pointy ears, and tens of thousands of books and magazines long since out of print.

He earned the prestigious Hugo Award for Number One Fan in 1953, long before he began to publish Famous Monsters of Filmland in 1958. The magazine celebrated the movies of Dracula and Frankenstein, and anything science fiction (he is credited with coining the abbreviation "sci-fi"). Not only was his magazine the only guide to fantastic films, it showed me how to create the make-up and effects used.

As I was growing up in a small town in middle Tennessee, there was no one who liked this stuff as much as I did - except for Uncle Forry. He let me know my curiosity and fascination was part of a huge world. My room soon became a place for Aurora models of The Creature From the Black Lagoon, life-sized posters of Karloff's Frankenstein, models of rocketships and creatures from the stars, and even today I proudly own movie posters and action figures of all kinds.

He also was literary agent for hundreds of now-famous writers, selling the first Ray Bradbury story in 1938, and was, as he called it, "illiterary agent" for director Ed Wood. He was a prolific writer of the fantastic as well and has appeared in over 200 movies.

And his home, which sadly he was forced to sell, along with over many hundreds of thousands of items he had collected from the movies in order to pay escalating medical bills earlier in this decade, that home was always open to visitors. For years and years, he would open his doors on Saturdays and give any and all comers a personal tour. Here is Forry being interviewed in his home:

And here is one fellow fan's video of a trip to the Ackermansion:

Another interview with Uncle Forry includes another comment from Stephen King which I love:
"Forry was the first; he was best and he is the best. He stood up for a generation of kids who realised that if it was junk, it was magic junk."

Thanks Unc, for all you did and for your endless enthusiasm. You will always be the best that ever was.

Remembrances from fans and celebrities at
Ain't It Cool News.
A Flickr photo set.
His movie credits.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Camera Obscura: Jazz Movies and Other Ultra-Cool Picks

I continue to emphasize a wee corner of cable TV called TCM Underground and tonight (well, it starts at 2 a.m.) they provide another great selection, starting with the seldom seen "All Night Long", an early 1960s ultra-cool jazz version of Shakespeare's Othello.

Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck and other jazz legends are captured in performance in this film, which stars a pre-"Prisoner" Patrick McGoohan as a drummer who schemes to break up one of the couples attending an all night swinging and groovy party of hep-cats and dope heads. And all thru the night, incredible performances get laid down, like this one from Brubeck:

God bless Turner Classic Movies for airing films like this.

The second half of their Underground double feature is "The Knack and How To Get It," a Richard Lester film from the mid-1960s which was rather scandalous in it's day with all the talk of how to have sex with as many women as possible. Today, it seems rather tame, but has many of the stylistic touches Lester was soon famous for - jump cuts and camera tricks and more. But there is more nostalgia than scandal here. All in all, it makes the swinging 60s sort of boring and boorish.

But do not miss "All Night Long" - it's a fascinating peek at a time when folks at a 'wild party' wore suits and tuxedos and drank martinis without fru-fru additions of apple or chocolate flavor. They would smack you just for asking for such a thing.


I also continue to be impressed with all things found at Cinebeats. This week she offers a Vampire Film Alphabet. Here's just a sample:

M. Martin (George Romero; 1977)
N. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Werner Herzog; 1979)
O. Omega Man, The (Boris Sagal; 1971)
P. Planet of the Vampires (Mario Bava; 1965)

And her collection of movie posters on Flickr is a true thing of beauty and it makes me burn with envy. There is no better blog of 60s and 70s cinema.



News this week that efforts are underway for more remakes, from the old Errol Flynn action movie "Captain Blood", a prequel to "Planet of the Apes" called "Caesar", but will not include any talking apes .... whaaa?

And the creator of the Babylon 5 TV series says producers are ready to bankroll his "re-imagining" of "Forbidden Planet":

To that end, he's researching astrophysics, A.I., and planetary geology to create a scientifically accurate Krell backstory -- none of which will be stylishly retro. "At the time it was made it was cutting edge ...People that went to see that film saw things they had never seen before. What we have to do now is have this one be as innovative now as the original was then."

Newscoma pointed me to another remake on the way, this one of John Carpenter's sci-fi satire of alien invasion called "They Live". The original is a perfect little movie -- made during the waning days of the Reagan era, Roddy Piper plays an out-of-work fellow who finds himself struggling for survival among a group of homeless folks and stumbles onto efforts to unmask a vast conspiracy of aliens who have taken over the planet.

This group, he learns, is devising ways to short-circuit the mind-numbing technology the aliens are employing and Piper soon sees the world as it really is, as this clip shows:

And it has one of my favorite movie lines, when Piper confronts the aliens with a shotgun and says "I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass and I'm all out of bubblegum."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Conflicting Claims In Cherries Internet Cafe Collapse

There are many conflicting claims in a mini-flurry of press reports yesterday regarding the collapse of the Cherries Internet Cafe, and sadly the press reports aren't digging into those conflicts or into the simple fact that employees have not been paid for work done months ago. Meanwhile, CIC's owner/operator has darted away to start another business leaving those workers and other contractors empty handed.

It may just be me, but if my company collapsed, I think I would like to think I'd have the decency to be accountable for it, and not blame those who gave financial support to the business. Now it looks like a long round of court battles are ahead, which does not help out those who are owed for work long since completed and will instead cost them earnings. (A DISCLAIMER: I know several folks who worked with CIC in a wide range of capacities, but we have seldom talked about the problems. I am really perplexed by these press clippings and the conflicts they include.)

Also, while those folks and others are locked into legal battles and are advised by attorneys not to speak publicly about the issues involved, the owner of Cherries decides to head to the press and lay out some blame and dodge the problems of not paying employees or vendors.

The Metro Pulse had a report in which it is claimed Cherries For Life's Ingrid Gee has started a new business called Blue Dress TV, but in reports in the Knoxville News Sentinel she says she was hired by them to run the business. Which is it?

And the thought of starting up another biz while former employees go empty-handed ... well, that's just lousy treatment, in my opinion.

Also, the KNS report
originally stated that Ingrid started BlueDress and was updated to reflect that an "undisclosed management group" has hired her to run the company. But no such change has been noted with Metro Pulse.

More conflicts in that KNS report:

" ...
Gee said she agreed to walk away from the company with about $155,000 worth of debt."
"She said at least $70,000 is owed to creditors and that part of the agreement she signed required the management group to pay all creditors."

KNS reporter Carly Harrington, in a third report yesterday, presents more oddities from Gee. Emails Harrington received from Gee were offered to prove how other investors in the business failed to do their jobs, but they just make no sense. These aren't documents which detail the specifics of the business operation.

This email (which noted concerns on how accounts are or are not being handled) has the last few lines blocked out by a note from Gee. That line includes the telling question "Who is setting up the books?"

In this email (again, offered as proof of the 'business structure') Gee asks "Do we have any investors" and that funds are already depleted for the business (dated September 6th).

This email is a copy of a Code of Ethics for the best way to do business ... but again, no documents which detail the actual responsibilities of investors or Gee. Odd. What are these meant to actually prove? Why did the reports not dig into these issues?

Seems to me if I had investors or co-owners who failed to deliver on their responsibilities, then I would provide the press with more that some emails of me asking some folks for more money. Why not provide the documents which detail the structure or documents of refusals/failures to do said jobs? If I were offered what I considered a forced buyout, then I again would provide some documents to back up the claims.

So now the public is watching a "he said-she said" battle. And contractors and employees are forced into court to obtain earnings for work already supplied.

I hope the press digs deeper, and offer some hard facts on what has really been happening.

One reason I'm posting this today is to get your feedback -- what do you make of these reports? Do the claims make sense? Doesn't the press need to double-check claims made prior to printing/publishing stories?

One more item of note - a November 12th post from Harrington on the closing of Cherries from Gee:

Ingrid Gee, who founded the cafe that opened in September, said she decided to sell in order to "put it into the hands of somebody who could develop its full potential."

"I like to be in the development of new ideas and concepts. It was a pleasure to start and found the cafe. Now, I'm off to bigger and better things. It was nice to work with all the people who helped make it happen," Gee said."

Nice? Is being "nice" a substitute for paying employees? So many conflicting comments - which ones are true?

SEE ALSO: KnoxViews

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pop Culture Victim Number 3,042

Let's move the Topic-Meter waaay over here for a moment, into the twilight land where worldwide fame intersects with the ordinary. There is a person here, somewhat dazed looking - or worse - someone wounded to a point where longevity is a real question.

The someone in this weird land is Britney Spears - who turned 27 today. I'm no fan of her music. It's catchy pop stuff, over-produced manufacturing via the Music Industry, which needs such acts as hers for basic bread-and-butter earnings. Still, I can observe - and you can too - how her 'career' and her private life have taken on that quality of a ticking time bomb which usually plays out on the E! network in specials about how some celebrity went from fame and fortune to despair and death on a rocket ride of thrills and chills.

I tried to watch the 'documentary' which aired on MTV Sunday, "Britney: For The Record", but it became very clear in just a few minutes that the poor woman is the Mayor of that twilight land, that she hates it, that the 1000-yard stare on her face bodes ill omens.

Is she zonked out on something which used to get her high and now keeps her unhappy? Other than her own life and career, that is. No one in the media or the MTV special is asking that question, even though the media hovers about her every move and has since she was a child. Few if any can survive living in such glaring darkness.

TV writer for the L.A. Times Mary McNamara cites some of the sad qualities of her distorted days and nights:

Far more revealing than her "for the record" words is the glimpse the film provides into the strange, insular world of the pop star. The hours spent in makeup, in wardrobe, in meetings, in weird places that aren't really places -- hotel rooms, greenrooms, sound stages. There are several scenes shot from the interior of a black SUV (Memo to celebrities: The paparazzi are on to the whole black SUV thing), including a harrowing incident in which she literally cannot safely get out of the car. But that space, in which about six people can fit comfortably, is an unnervingly accurate symbol for how confined she is, or at least how confined she believes she is.

"I wish I wasn't famous," she says at one point with a wistfulness that seems sincere, "so I could feel part of people."

"The trap Spears finds herself in may have more to do with a lack of imagination than the paparazzi -- at one point, she laments that the cameras have taken away her cool-girl cred, that she can't be a party girl anymore, which makes her kind of boring. "There's no excitement, there's no passion, there's no nothing. It's just like 'Groundhog Day' every day, you know? So I'm really bored," she says. During another moment of high emotion, she drives herself practically to tears arguing with her entourage that not only doesn't she always get to do what she wants, she never gets to do what she wants.

Here is Britney Spears, apparently on the road to a tremendous comeback, young and pretty, talented and rich, who can not only get a documentary made just so she can make herself seem less crazy to her audience but can also provide the commercial sponsorship herself ("Britney: For the Record" is brought to you by Spears' fragrances Curiosity and Fantasy, which means even the commercials are vehicles for her career).

And yet she has to make an effort to "stay positive every day" because life can "be so cruel."

But for me, there is a clear picture in that documentary of a person who is so close to the edge, you can see the abyss reflected in her eyes. She stares at the camera and tells the crew there are too many cameras in her life. Is it all part of the act, or is it that despair never recognizes itself?

I hope I'm very wrong, that she endures for many, many years.

But given the Music Industry's constant need for acts to feed on and then discard like plastic wrap around a Twinkie, their long history of pouring gasoline on performers who are in full burn out mode in hopes of earning a few more dollars, the best future for Spears is to take her earnings and flee from those who want to live in her wake.

Maybe she should read those reports issued annually about how some performer who has died is still earning millions and billions for others who have turned tragedy into profit.

If you happen to see the MTV documentary, I think you'll have to agree I'm right - that they have not just filmed a train wreck, but are keeping the camera focused on someone the wreck has just about killed and is watching them gasp for air.

Conservatives Target Imaginary Foes

I've heard claims for many weeks now on Conservative media outlets that they are facing extinction from Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration. But that's just not true. It has been voters who have turned them out and told them "thanks but no thanks" for their bridges to nowhere.

Following their defeats in congressional races in 2006 and the presidency in 2008, they have decided to dodge the facts of their failures and now are pointing to imaginary foes as they whip up a sound and fury over nothing at all.

Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and other friends have spent the past year screaming about the horrors of Barack Obama. And, while it's true that they talked ad nauseam about socialism and the Weathermen and Jeremiah Wright, careful listeners would have noticed a recurring theme of anxiety: that Obama was going to use the newly acquired levers of government to destroy them. Specifically, conservative paranoia over the possible reinstatement of the "fairness doctrine," a defunct policy requiring that broadcasters allow opposing points of view to be heard over the airwaves, has reached a fevered pitch. In September, George Will was warning his readers that, "[u]nless McCain is president, the government will reinstate the ... 'fairness doctrine.'" In October, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page chimed in, predicting that under the spooky-sounding "liberal supermajority," the fairness doctrine was "likely to be reimposed," with the goal being "to shut down talk radio and other voices of political opposition." And, two weeks before the election, the New York Post blasted: "Dems Get Set to Muzzle the Right."

"Responses from the offices of most of the Democrats who have been pegged as fairness-doctrine proponents--Schumer, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, and others--have ranged from a firm denial that the issue is a priority at all to disbelief at finding themselves at the center of a manufactured controversy. "Somebody plucked this out of the clear blue sky," says the press secretary for New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat who was questioned about the issue by a conservative radio-show host a few weeks ago. "This is a completely made- up issue." Senator Durbin's press secretary says that Durbin has "no plans, no language, no nothing. He was asked in a hallway last year, he gave his personal view"--that the American people were served well under the doctrine--"and it's all been blown out of proportion." In fact, as recently as last year, the House voted by an overwhelming three-to-one margin to temporarily prohibit the FCC from imposing the dead policy; 113 Democrats voted to support the move.

Meanwhile, the president-elect himself has said in no uncertain terms that he does "not support reimposing the fairness doctrine on broadcasters." Republican paranoia is nothing more than that.

"Democrats may scratch their heads over why this has lately become a right-wing obsession, but the paranoia is not without precedent. The prospect of being in the opposition often brings out the worst in conservatives--paranoia and self-pity. Plus, when the conservative coalition seems threatened, there's no better way to unify the party than scaring up liberal bogeymen."

In a constant and predictable way, the politics of Conservatives depend on identifying Evil Conspiracies, and they ignore the daily realities of actual problems the nation faces.

And they wonder why voters have rejected them??

Monday, December 01, 2008

Shopocalypse Now!

Economic turmoil whirls about the planet these days, and the best part of such dire times is that it offers a chance, for those who seek better days, to examine and hopefully improve the way we live.

So in the wake of news about how you did or did not shop on Black Friday and the rising and falling world economy, here's some information I've found which can, at least, challenge your way of thinking. That's the first step in identifying the habits and ideas which may lead to problems with worldwide impact of both positive and negative results.

A bonus can be found here too - since we are into the Christmas season, perhaps the info provided will lead you to experience a holiday that has meaning beyond the moment. Some readers will repulsed by the following, some may be inspired. My goal is simple - to encourage you to consider that now is the best time to Think about the way we live and work.

Your first video, then, is a short take on Consumerism:

The second video is from Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping, who uses satire and public performance to jolt you from assumption and into thought. A new documentary about the Reverend and his Crusade, "What Would Jesus Buy?", is now in theaters. The trailer for the movie is here.

Amy Goodman talked this weekend with the good Reverend -

Part 2 is here and Part 3 here.

I have many friends who work for big corporations and who work very hard to provide for themselves and their family. And they are surely not bad people. Providing for our needs has never been simple, but too often we pay dearly for our choices. Here's a Q and A with Reverend Billy which you'll want to read. As he says:

The key fundamentalist church in this country is not the church of Jimmy Swaggart, the key fundamentalist church is the church of spacey consumption, the fundamentalist church of transnational chain stores, transnational product life, the media and the rest of it. That's what really leaves us with a very set kind of set of behaviors and set of gestures and set of language -- meaning, language meaning -- and it's all done in the name of freedom and democracy, but that's just an advertising campaign."

Finally for your consideration, an artist named Chris Jordan created a project with some astonishing imagery as he photographs what we waste and what we use, from plastic bottles to paper to cell phones. Check out the results here.