Posted by: Mark | February 27, 2015

The Horrors of They Live

I picked up They Live from the library and watched it for the first time in about 30 years.

A while back, I read C.J. Henderson’s diatribe from his Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies From 1897 to the Present: [They Live] “depends for its success on the audience’s complete and unreasoning hatred of Republicans. The film’s premise is that the American right-wing is completely made up of alien creatures bent on the destruction of humanity. Those not ready to blame the GOP for every single thing that has ever gone wrong in the history of man might want to skip this movie.”
From what I remembered, Henderson was off the mark. That changed when I re-watched They Live. Henderson is more than off the mark, he is indefensibly wrong.

For a movie with a central theme of class warfare, They Live is aggressively apolitical. Characters take pains to point out that all politics and mainstream media is controlled by aliens. Not just Republicans but also Democrats. Not just AM radio (They Live came out before the inception of Fox News) but NPR. And most tellingly, not just rich people but turn-coat working class humans as well.

Several left-wing publications attacked John Carpenter for a perceived lack of focus. The New York Times wrote “Since Mr. Carpenter seems to be trying to make a real point here, the flatness of They Live is doubly disappointing. Another critic claimed: “The social commentary wipes clean with a dry towelette – it’s not intrusive and not pedantic, just lighter-than-air.”

The liberals miss the point as much as the conservatives.

At one point a character protests that the aliens are trying to make the public think that the rebellion are “commies.” He spits out the word as if it was worse than the aliens. The audience is reassured that left-wing politics have no truck in this film.

What Henderson and right-wing critics missed is that the movie is not promoting liberal politics but a mindset that would appeal to general wrestling fans (having the protagonist played by a famous wrestler might have been a tip-off).

Years ago I heard David Letterman talk about Bobby “the Brain” Heenan. It was early in Heenan’s career but he knew how to work an audience. When he fought on a Thanksgiving day match, he had himself announces as “hailing from Beverly Hills, California” and the working class crowd went nuts (IMDB still has his place of birth as Beverly Hills but even the most gung-ho wrestling sites admit he was really from Chicago). Just by fudging his place of birth, Heenan took control of the crowd. John Carpenter did the same thing.

Just as the blue-collar crowd hated Beverly Hills but would have hated someone from Moscow even more, They Live is a fantasy about “taking this job and shoving it,” not Das Kapital. Henderson and the others are not only grossly misreading the theme but the genre.

To paraphrase an old saying, superheroes aren’t about darkness; superheroes are about people flying.
They Live has a social commentary which could make some of its viewers think about the way they live their own lives but it’s also about punching each other for six solid minutes for not putting on a pair of sunglasses. They Live appeals to a demographic rarely served social messages. Carpenter might not have changed wrestling fans into social activists but he at least tried to make them think.

I found the short story that They Live was based on: “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson. Like the movie, it’s about a protagonist named Nada who wakes up to a world where parasitic invaders are secretly infiltrating our lives. Unlike the movie, it doesn’t have a hook that would grab a particular demographic.

John Carpenter’s movies seem to be misinterpreted more than any other director I can think of. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Posted by: Mark | February 26, 2015

Resolution Update VIII

It’s been another bad week. Devilboy got suspended from school, a hamster escaped,  and my back is out again.  It could be a lot worse.

1. Blogging. Goal:  300 posts for the year. What I have: This makes 72.

2. Writing. Goal:  100,000 words for the year. What I have: Not a great pace but I’m up to 21,509 words.

3. Running. Goal: 2,200 miles for the year.  What I have: 408.9 miles.

4. Publishing. Goal : 105 manuscripts sent out. What I did: Still haven’t renewed Duotropes; still at seven.

5. Video. Goal : five video projects.  What I did: Just the one from last time.

6. Weight. Goal : lose 35 pounds. What I did: Gained 2.1 pounds.

7. Art. Goal: Photograph 100 species. What I did : 36

Mammal (6): Gerbil, Robo hamster, Campbell’s hamster, Syrian hamster, Rabbit, Gray Squirrel

Bird (18): Budgerigar parakeet, Rock doves (pigeons), Northern cardinal, House sparrow, Mallard duck, Canada goose, House finch, American robin, Red-tailed hawk, Common crow, European starling, Tufted Titmouse, Ring-billed gull, Swan Goose, American tree sparrow, Herring gull, Downy woodpecker,  Red-bellied woodpecker

Reptile (2): Red-eared slider, Leopard gecko

Amphibian (2): Dwarf aquatic frog, Fire-Bellied Toad

Insect (4): Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, Stink bug, Wax worm, Mealworms

Myriapod (1): Millipedes

Annelid (1): Canadian nightcrawler

Planaria (1): Planaria

8. Kids. Goal : 300 events.  What I did: 36 events (two trips to the Anderson Library, once to Campbell County Library,  and once to the Cincinnati Zoo’s Bird Show at the Newport Library)

9. Exercise. Goal : 8,000 leg lifts and 5,000 push ups.  What I did : Pretty much nothing:

Leg lifts: (1,125)

Push ups (846)

10.  Read “Hypnos ” by H.P Lovecraft.


Posted by: Mark | February 25, 2015

Woodpecking Duo

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Maybe I’m a chump for not breaking this into two posts but I managed to get a bunch of fuzzy shots of two species of woodpeckers. The first is a downy woodpecker, just outside my window.

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This guy is a red-bellied woodpecker at my parents’ feeder. You can’t see his red belly so you’ll have to take my word.

Posted by: Mark | February 24, 2015

Bird Show

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I took Devilboy to the Newport Library for the Cincinnati Zoo’s Wings of Wonder bird show. Pictured above: Not a bird.

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Spectacled owls look like they have avian afros.

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If I had a zoo show, I’d bring this guy, a bat, a cat, and a hyena. It would probably go horribly wrong but it would be great while it lasted.

2015-02-24 18.06.00

Posted by: Mark | February 24, 2015


Yesterday Devilboy trashed the house and I had to clean up before bed, but during the night he got up and made an even bigger mess.

I was only going to go 33 minutes on the elliptical machine but, knowing that I had to clean up when I got home, made me keep adding time until I’d gone 82 minutes.

It gave me 402.3 miles for the year.  I still had to clean up when I got home.

Posted by: Mark | February 23, 2015

R.I.P. One-Eyed Jack

I found Jack, one of my daughter’s Robo hamsters, dead in his nest this morning. Jack was free because he’d been in a fight with another hamster and lost an eye. (I guess that doesn’t go over well for most hamster enthusiasts.) What he lacked in-depth perception (actually, with the way their eyes are spaced, I don’t know if two-eyed hamsters have depth perception, he made up for in personality.

His death brings up two thorny issues:

1. Normally I replace dead hamsters with look-a-likes and hope the kids don’t notice. Unlike Syrian or dwarf Russian hamsters, Robo hamsters don’t vary in appearance. They’re the easiest type of hamster to replace. . . unless one is missing an eye. I’m not going to poke out another hamster’s eye and I’m pretty sure an extra eye is an unmistakable characteristic, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

2.  Again, normally I bury pet hamsters but now the ground is frozen and under six inches of snow. In the past I’ve stashed dead rodents in the garage, but the door is broken and for all I know might  be frozen shut. I could hide him in the trunk of my car–that’s my most serial killer-esque statement ever–but I don’t want to forget about him then find him in July. I’m lucky we don’t own a pony.

Posted by: Mark | February 22, 2015


I finished H.P. Lovecraft’s “Hypnos” and, after a few disappointments with some of his earlier works, was happy I did.

I’m surprised that more of a fuss isn’t made about “Hypnos.” It doesn’t have cosmic monstrosities but is my favorite Lovecraft story so far.

It’s nothing like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive except for the effect it had on me. While I was reading, Lovecraft’s adjective-heavy style got in the way of completely enjoying it, but looking back with the exact wording no longer so clear, I remember “Hypnos” as the best thing in the world.

It’s fitting that the story is about the nature of dreams and it’s become the weirdest half-remembered dream I’ve ever had.

I’m not even close to reading all of Lovecraft’s stories but this has got me re-energized to keep going.

Posted by: Mark | February 21, 2015

Red Worms

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Our turtle normally eats Canadian nightcrawlers but in this weather she’s happy to get what’s available. Red worms are smaller than nightcrawlers but don’t look much different. I’d have to ask the turtle if they taste different.

Posted by: Mark | February 20, 2015

Thousand Day

The kids were off school again today but I managed a few things anyway.  My back is not completely better but I tried push ups and leg lifts again. It wasn’t good but I hit 1,000 leg lifts for the year. That’s still short of where I should be but I have time to catch up.

I didn’t write much but hit 20,000 words for the year. That’s well ahead of schedule but I have time to screw up.

At least we didn’t watch the Star Wars Holiday Special again.

Posted by: Mark | February 19, 2015

Star Wars Holiday Special

I bought a DVD of the Star Wars Holiday Special for Devilboy a few years ago and he had the good taste not to watch it. His school has been snowed out for a solid week with a two-hour delay tomorrow.  With cabin fever setting in, he opened it up.

I remember this when it was first broadcast when I was nine. I remember even then that some parts didn’t make sense but haven’t seen it since.

So far it’s a 70s TV introduction to Star Wars. Including Bea Arthur. It’s not so bad yet.

Now it’s getting bad.

Okay, now there’s a terrible special effects dance routine of a guy wrapped in green gauze. It took an excruciatingly long time to finish.

Mark Hamill looks like he’s 12. Michael Jackson would have died for his hair.

Art Carney looks like he’s paying for a lifetime of sin.

Harvey Korman in blackface and drag! It’s the best thing so far. And it’s painful.

Oh, hurrah! Art Carney ‘s back.

Now there’s a spinning bubble effect with a lady with pink hair. She talks like a phone sex operator. She singing. She not stopping. It’s as long as six Pink Floyd albums.

Princess Leia seems to have a concussion.

A long stretch of Art trying to drag things out. Jefferson Starship is on the holo-radio. It’s like Stevie Nicks on Coven only it’s not good and goes on forever.

I remember liking the cartoon but it’s pretty weak so far. Devilboy fell asleep so I’m turning it off before Boba Fett shows up.

Well, that was far worst than the prequels. I’m hoping school isn’t closed tomorrow.

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