Thursday, December 31, 2009
This is the kind of Synchronicity I hate...
I was out for a walk on Friday evening and was thinking about the rash of recent daylight UFO sightings. The sky was still light and there was a tremendous amount of air traffic overhead, most of it coming and going to Newark. As I walked towards the local 9/11 memorial, I saw three planes in the same small patch of sky. One was a jetliner that was obviously a good distance away but there were two small craft- one a plane and one something else, probably a helicopter- that looked set to collide. I stood dead in my tracks and thought "Oh shit, I'm about to witness a midair collision."
But it didn't happen, thankfully, though the other aircraft disappeared behind a massive cloudbank before I could ID it. I came home and told the missus about it, though I didn't mention I wasn't sure what the other aircraft was.
Then we're driving for a nice day out on Saturn's Day and hear news reports of a collision in the Hudson, not far from where Flight 1549 landed. The news kept saying something about "1 dead, 7 missing" which caught my ear. The missus and I discussed the coincidence in relation to the night before but I put it out of my mind.
I try to tread lightly with these stories, since these are real people dying and real families that will suffer with the aftermath. There's a tendency to look at these tragedies as grist for some semiotic mill, but this is human pain and misery we're dealing with. But two things caught my attention- the airplane took off from Teterboro Airport, which is on Route 17. And today is 8/8 not only another twin number, but also code among Neo-Nazis for "Heil Hitler." It made me wonder if the Hudson was the theater for some type of magical warfare between Masonic factions on the Left and extreme Right.
I also noticed that a plastics company called JM Eagle was sponsoring CNN videos on the story, who have taken Fleet Bank's old logo for some unknown reason.
Fleet is now part of BoA, whose logo has the hidden 33. And of course all of this took place smack dab in the heart of the American banking/financial homeland. Bank of America was originally the Bank of Italy, and the tourists killed in the helicopter were Italian. That beak is definitely a 7- where's the 1?
What does it all mean? Hopefully nothing.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Fringe - Well, as I write this there's talk that Fringe is on the verge of cancellation. Just as with Sarah Connor, it's future is in doubt just as it found its footing. And just like SCC, the first season had its ups and downs for me. I hated the cold, grey New York ambiance (particularly since it was supposed to take place in Boston) and the nauseating corporate teamwork ethic with all of those big fancy FBI sets. I hated the Charlie Francis character and was thrilled when he was killed off. F-S1 was definitely a case of too much money spoiling the broth (as it did with CBS' XF move, Threshold). But I loved the themes being explored, even though the show didn't really catch fire until the second half of the first season.
Then of course they did what all genre shows should do and moved to Vancouver. They also trimmed down the supporting cast and shifted the focus from Olivia to the Peter and Walter's tortured father-son dynamic. They also scaled down the Massive Dynamics elements of the Mytharc for more specific threats. Excellent moves all around. But a move to Thursday and the disruptions of post-season baseball has thrown the show off its ratings bearings, and now there's cancellation talk. Sigh.
Well, here's hoping for a third season. Maybe JJ Abrams has enough juice to twist Fox's arm. There is hardly any sci-fi on the networks anymore, and way too many lawyers and cops.
Carnivale- What a incredible show this was. The idea was to bring a bit of a David Lynch vibe back to series TV, but that seemed to be discarded pretty quickly in favor of a Baroque Apocalypticism that acted as a direct critique of the maniacal kill-craziness emanating from the neo- and theo-cons in control of Washington. This was good, old-fashioned good vs. evil storytelling, with a mysterious young drifter with healing powers and a power-mad Evangelist looking to bring some Hell up to Earth. Aside from the Lynch and Terrence Malick vibes, there was a heavy X-Files influence (particularly in the cinematography).
As with Rome, Carnivale looked to the past to find parallels of the present. You had the rise of radio acting as a conduit for tent revivalists, foreshadowing the billion-dollar Evangelical media empires of today. You had the wandering carnies mirroring the beaten-down and atomized counterculture. You saw a lot of desert as well, mirroring the myriad apocalypses being played out in deserts across the oceans.
The only weak spot in the series was the hasty ending, brought about by necessity. The costly show never got the kind of numbers The Sopranos earned and it was dumped to make room for Big Love, the Mormon polygamy soap-opera hit.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles- Sigh. You know what's killing network TV? Impatience. Execs expect shows to explode straight out of the gate, when many great shows had awkward beginnings. Sarah Connor didn't really find its legs until the second season, and when it did it garnered a diehard following who are still out there trying to bring the show back.
I mean- I get it. Economics are hard to argue with. The show was never a big ratings earner and wasn't owned by the network. But Fox faced a fork in the road- either save Sarah or Dollhouse and they bet the farm on Dollhouse. How did that work out for them? Well, DH earned some of the lowest ratings in the history of network television week after week after week until a red-faced Fox finally cut its losses.
But there's also a part of me that thinks it's for the best. It's better for a show to go out with fans wanting more. The second season was so intense (who would have thought Brian Austin Green could make for a credible badass?) it would have been hard to top in the third. Maybe knowing the axe could fall lit a fire under the writers' asses that wasn't there in the good-not-great first season.
Rome (Season One)- As an amateur Romophile, I was terrified this was going to be some dry Masterpiece Theatre-style snoozefest, and boy, was I surprised. Rome around the time of the changeover from Republic to Empire was a rollicking free-for-all of sex, violence and devious politicking and you need to fight past jaded American pallettes to put that across on screen. This BBC/HBO coproduction did that in spades. Rome had lots of killing, screwing and dirty dealing from the all-time masters of those dark arts. Not surprising seeing that the great John Milius was one of the series' execs.
But the center of gravity was the great Irish Shakespearean actor Ciarán Hinds, known around these parts as "BEST-CAESAR-EVER." Hinds must have really done his homework, because he completely embodies the endless contradictions and superhuman charisma of Julius Caesar like no one ever before. There was a lot of loose talk about Bush as Caesar during the early Zeros and it pissed me off more than I can say. For one thing, Caesar fought his own battles. For another Caesar never pretended that war was anything but a form of organized larceny.
The second season suffered badly without Hinds. That center was missing and the producers filled it with a lot of secondary storylines. The real Augustus was a very interesting character himself, but we saw too little of him as an adult. And probably better for it- the actor who played Octavian/Augustus as a teenager was excellent, but the adult version was an irritatingly wispy little nothing. James Purefoy was wasted as Antony - his story should have been front and center in the second season. Oh, well. We got a lot of entertainment value out of Vorenus and Pullo, played by future gods Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson.
The 4400- As I was licking my wounds over the cancellation of X-Files, along came this surprise from Vancouver, exec-produced by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by a gaggle of former Deep Space Nine hands and future V showrunner Scott Peters. It does the mass alien abductee bit a la Taken, but changes the aliens to future humans (but we all know they're just alien stand-ins). After a mass return, the 4400 abductees begin to manifest superhuman powers, which drives the government to create a special branch of Homeland Security to deal with the aftermath.
The show worked in a loose synthesis of standalone and serial, meaning the main story would usually be resolved within the hour and a the various subplots would surround it from ep to ep. In a nutshell the basic idea was 'X-Files meets X-Men'. There were also strange undercurrents of Scientology in the Jordan Collier storyline, something we see more of in V.
The show seemed to be a cable hit until Heroes came along and told pretty much the same story with a much higher production budget and a much sexier cast. The 4400 seemed to wilt, and its fourth and final season was an erratic jumble that started off strong, sagged in the middle (including a blatantly obvious "bottle episode") and recovered only to be axed. Well, for a while it gave me a jolt of Vancouverian nostalgia, as well as some tasty, politically-charged sci-fi.
The X-Files (Season Eight)- My favorite of the LA years, by far. After two seasons of relentless high concept and comedy, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz brought the XF back to first principles and reversed a ratings slide that put the costly show's future in doubt. Some Mulder diehards moaned, but the fans who signed up for the ideas explored in the X-Files- as well as the dark power of the MOTWs- love Season Eight.
The season was cut neatly in half: after a taut two-part opening (which Carter cut into a feature film for a theater screening for the cast and crew), Season Eight offered up a string of back-to-basics, old-school XF (with Terminator's Robert Patrick on-board as the new agent) and then switched over to a serial format for the second half, featuring the Mulder death/rebirth storyline and the beginning of the super-soldier mythology (which is based on a very real DARPA program). It all ended with a nail-biting Terminator-esque two-parter which was meant to send Mulder and Scully off to the movies.
It didn't work out that way. Fox enticed Gillian Anderson to stay on with a huge raise, and Carter signed back on at the last minute. Season Nine has its charms (and its advocates), but dragging out the Mytharc - after so much effort had been spent resolving it - muddied the effect of Season Eight's epic, cathartic power. Worse still, no one wanted to watch anti-government conspiracy yarns in the aftermath of 9/11. Nine was also bogged down by Monica Reyes' hasty hetero makeover (almost certainly a network order), leaving the SRR slashgirls to make do with all of those long, meaningful glances for their YouTube music videos.
True Blood - As with Rome the first season was much better than the second, but in True Blood's case it was still pretty damn good. True Blood serves up more of the new-model vampire-superhero archetype (a la Twilight), but throws in a shapeshifter, a Maenad, and a lead character with strange psychic powers (played by Anna Paquin, who played a faintly similar character in the X-Men movies). This being HBO, we get a good serving of sex (it could probably be a touch more generous) and a ton of humor.
I didn't hit Dragon*Con this past year so I'm not sure how True Blood is being received with the fan community, but I'm willing to bet it's going over pretty well. There's a lot of theorizing out there about the vampire archetypes running rampant in the culture, but the problem is that the vampires in True Blood and Twilight don't have a clear antecedent in cultural tradition- they're very much of a new wrinkle (and they're very different from each other as well). I get the feeling that the Twilight vampires could easily be aliens a la Strieber's Hunger novels, while the True Blood vamps are a bit more grounded in the supernatural. More on all of that later.
Justice League Unlimited- Pure geekgasm. I'm pretty sure it went down like this- Warner execs told the boys that the Justice League toon was a massive moneymaker, so as a bonus they were given a lot of money and carte blanche to do two more seasons for Cartoon Network. From there the Tooniverse boys pulled out every obscure character and storyline they loved as kids, wrote them down on little slips of paper and pulled them out of a hat. On top of that they threw in a government conspiracy mytharc that would never fly on WB Kids.
From then on JLU gave us Mister Miracle, Hawk & Dove, the Viking Prince, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, the Question and a host of even more obscure characters. All kinds of juicy subtexts were gleefully pumped in resulting in a sync-o-licious semiotic stew. The icing on the cake is the gorgeous animation that's just a notch below feature-quality. A nice little gift to the hardcore fanboys. Like me.
Torchwood: Children of Earth - My first reaction on watching a Season One episode of Torchwood? Horror. The show seemed to be a blithe and airy celebration of broad-spectrum invasive surveillance, using alien invasion as a pretext. The Torchwood gang poked and prodded into the most intimate details of people's private lives, all in a day's work. La la la. I'd heard it was the British take on The X-Files, but seemed to me its moral opposite.
I've not watched much of it since - until Children of Earth, that is. In this series the Torchwood writers show how all of that flashy technology cuts both ways, and the full brunt of it is thrown against the agents by a brutal and corrupt Prime Minister and his cold-blooded stooges. Ah, that's more like it. Stirring, sobering sci-fi.
I'm not sold on the new Doctor Who yet- as I've said before, I'm not a big fan of jokey, fannish sci-fi. Old school Who was quite literate actually, but that was a whole other world ago. But Torchwood picks up the old Who baton with Children of Earth, and produces five hours of television the great Nigel Kneale (of Quatermass fame) would have been proud to sign his name to. I can't wait for Season Four.
Firefly - This is an anomaly for me- as a middle-aged heterosexual male, I fell between all of the cracks in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's demographic targets. And not only did I deeply resent Dollhouse for getting Sarah Connor canceled, I thought the show's politics were an abomination. So I'm not necessarily a natural candidate for the Browncoat Nation.
So why did I like Firefly so much? I think it was the chemistry- the cast clicked in such a way that dialogue sparkled that might otherwise inspire cringing with different actors. It didn't hurt that there were two X-Files alums in the main cast - Adam Baldwin (aka Knowle Rohrer) and the adorable Jewel Staite (who guest-starred in the harrowing 'Oubliette')- or that Morena Baccarin's Brazilian beauty was in full flower (unlike her tomboy look in V). I don't know if there were more than 13 quality episodes to squeeze out of the premise (plus a feature film), but it makes for one hell of a fun little ride.
And a prophetic one. In Firefly, Whedon presents a galaxy ruled by the Alliance- a conglomeration headed by the US and China- and we're now waking up to discover that the US and China are now a single, contiguous economy. Certainly, China's pop culture is now startlingly similar to ours. I heard a segment on NPR a while back detailing how China's workers were addicted to the same TV shows we watch in the States - the genre material in particular...
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Gold, Frankincense and Mars - Guy Consolmagno|
The whole Vatican-ET meme we talked about last week seems to be a lot more serious than these jokey news stories let on. A quick Google search on 'Vatican' and 'Extraterrestrial' gave me more than a million hits. Do they know something we don't, or is this all just a diversion on the part of a few eccentric old Jesuits?
Because the point is completely moot until there is irrefutable evidence of ET life or the possibility of contact on a mass scale. Neither of which we have ('we' meaning the proles and the plebes). And as I've said before, I think most people would become extremely skeptical of any contact/disclosure scenario unless presented with mind-blowing evidence. Like trips around the Milky Way kind of evidence. And once that hurdle was cleared, there'd be the issue of humanity's limitless capacity for murderous xenophobia.
Which brings us back to our first question- why are we hearing so much about ETs being our brothers in Christ from the Vatican these days? They have all of those nifty telescopes to be sure, but more importantly they have those ancient texts they hid away from the rest of us 1600 years ago. Some might argue the vast distances between stars, but there is that idea, expressed by researchers from Charles Fort to Jacques Vallee, that the UFOs that we see (and we've seen a lot of them for a long time, denialists be damned) are some kind of surveillance/control mechanism, keeping an eye on us for parties unknown.
And then there's the wild card in the pack - the Church of Latter-Day Saints. We've talked about how the rise of the Religious Right quashed talk of ancient astronauts in the late 70s- but not among the Mormons. Play this intro to Battlestar Galactica a few times, let it sink in. Then remember that even though BSG was consistently the highest-rated show on Sunday nights in 1978, ABC inexplicably started shuffling it around the schedule, until finally cancelling at the end of season one. Again, BSG was created by Glen Larson, one of those legions of Mormon sci-fi writers.
Then watch the BSG/OS episode 'War of the Gods,' pt 1&2. It's fascinating to see Mormon doctrine of men evolving into godhood played out in a sci-fi setting (and how oblivious I was to all of it back in the 70s). Or watch Hangar 18 again, produced by Sunn Classics, a Mormon-owned company.
And then remember that some UFO researchers- Jacques Vallee among them- believe that Joseph Smith was history's most powerful alien contactee. Well, recent history's, at least.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Of course, by the time a meme reaches the mainstream it's often been drained of any meaning- certainly of any danger. But at the same time, the filtering power of the establishment media has been severely diminished, as the internet creates endlessly mutating microcultures, complete with their own secret languages and symbols.
All of which goes to show that the past ten years have been very interesting ones for those of us interested in looking under the skirt of consensus reality. So many strange memes are floating around out there and bouncing off the walls of pop culture, there's always something to dig into and pick apart. So, let me tell you what flicks buttered my toast in this often remarkably-unpleasant decade, in ascending order...
5. Dagon (2002) - Two of the main themes on my list are dream-reality and commercial obscurity. Dagon is certainly an extremely obscure film, and a lot of people I recommended it to hated it. Too bad- I love this film passionately (see an old rant on it here).
The holy grail for Lovecraft fans is the Great Lovecraft Adaptation, in which the largely-literary power of his writing will be transferred onto the screen. I'm not holding my breath. Lovecraft was a man consumed by the power of his unconscious mind and his dream, and was able to pull his readers into that reality. Tall order, when you think about it. Listening to other people talk about their dreams can often be pretty numbing.
If a great Lovecraft film- meaning one that transfers that improbable power onto the screen- is off the table, then the competent Lovecraft film becomes the next best thing. I'm not sure if Dagon is necessarily a Lovecraft film at all anymore- there are too many attractive women in it, for one thing. But it certainly translates some of the main Lovecraftian bullet points into a modern milieu. Shooting the film in Spain may have been an economic imperative, but it allowed an exotic lost-world feeling you'd never find in modern Gloucester, the town Lovecraft based Innsmouth upon.
The film also nicely encapsulates this process of the old archetypes resurfacing in the culture as the old certainties melt away under the merciless blowtorch of Globalism. What's more we have that aquatic metaphor Lovecraft was so well-known for, something I'm going to be looking for in the culture at large in 2010. And ultimately, of course, Lovecraft's mythos is derived from a AAT variant, isn't it? Maybe this film will resonate a bit more in the future than it has in the past. You could take the same exact plot points in the story and neatly translate them into an alien/ET context. Or an AstroGnostic one, for that matter.
4. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) - If you told me in 1997 that in five years an epic trilogy of films based on Tolkien's Rings novels would dominate the worldwide box office and rule the imaginations of a whole new generation of kids, I would have thought you were insane. Maybe in 1972, but 2002? Nah, there weren't enough Rennies out there to ever make that happen. Plus, Hollywood would muck it all up, and cast Keanu Reeves as Aragorn, Verne Troyer as Frodo and Whoopi Goldberg as Gandalf. Little did I know.
There's an old cliche that the movie is never as good as the book it's based on. Not with the Rings. For my money, Jackson transcends Tolkien's wooden prose and cardboard characters and makes you care about these people and their stories. The Rings Trilogy is now his, just as much as it's Tolkien's.
The Two Towers shows us why- the battle at Helm's Deep is practically a footnote in the novel- here it's the Blitz, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 rolled into one and mainlined with steroids and crystal meth. For my money, one of the top three battle scenes in the history of film. The Elizabeth Fraser number in the scene's soundtrack didn't hurt any, either.
Tolkien denied that the war in the Rings trilogy was an allegory, but I never bought that. It's pretty obvious to me that it was about Britain in World War II, and Jackson brings that to life in a way a straight up historical retelling could never do. Jackson took a hoary old relic from the mid-20th Century and fashioned a true mythology out of it, a process that Tolkien could begin but never finish. And for a big-budget blowout, the Rings trilogy really burrowed into the depths of my unconscious mind at times. Not something I normally associate with that kind of fantasy.
3. The Nines (2007) - This is the second-most obscure movie on this list, but it's really gotten under my skin in the way that films like Jacob's Ladder and Apocalypse Now once did. The closeness and intimacy of the story lends it its magic, and makes its big reveal not so much a revelation as a realization. And as with many of my favorite films, the music is an integral part of the storytelling.
There's something about this film that has a lost, archaic quality to it as well- it reminds me of something that Bunuel or Jodorowsky would do in the 60s or 70s. Technically it's a sci-fi film (since it's essentially about aliens) but there's also a very strong current of magical realism here, again more in that arty Latin vein than an modern American indie film. In that it also reminds me of Jodorowsky's comics work- a quiter and obviously more sedate take on ideas explored in The Incal or Madwoman of the Sacred Heart.
2. Mulholland Dr. (2001) - I'm not in touch with my dreams as I should be- or as I once was. There are a lot of good reasons for that, and I don't think of this condition as being permanent. But I've always fantasized about putting the numinous power of dream on film. Of course, David Lynch has that covered. He's been doing it since Eraserhead.
Lynch lost me for a long time- Twin Peaks might be a Synchromystical motherlode, but it wasn't an entertainment motherlode (at least for me) come its second season. Same goes for the rest of it- Wild at Heart and Lost Highway. Hotel Room I blanked out on entirely. I will go back and pore through them again one day, but Lynch's renaissance came with Mulholland Dr., a filmed adaptation of an unsold pilot for ABC. This is a film that is not only about the power of dream, it embodies that power. The film is ultimately about failed dreams, and how Hollywood acts as a conduit/parasite for our collective dreams.
All of which sounds mind-numbingly tedious until you actually watch the film and let it draw you into that reality (it helps a lot if you've been to LA, and have some experience in the industry- but it's certainly not a requirement). The film is like a collection of Lynch's greatest storytelling riffs- it's as much about his command of the medium as anything else. It seems to exist outside of time- it could take place in 1971 as easily 2001 (it's also sexy as all get-out).
It's fascinating that Mulholland Dr.- with its wakeup call theme- came out just as America's dreaming was about to come to an abrupt end, just like Diane's in the film. The mysterious figures behind the scenes who are pulling all the strings in the film make for a nice analog for all of the globalist plutocrats whose work we got to know quite well during the gloves-off Bush era.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - Not even a contest. This is not only my favorite film of the decade, it's probably my favorite of all time. Again, it's a sci-fi film in disguise, and also trades in that numinous dream reality. It's another film in which the music is crucial to the overall effect of the storytelling- without Jon Brion's score it wouldn't work nearly as well. It's a much more interesting story than Kaufman or Gondry could have pulled off apart (more interesting than their first collaboration as well).
In addition to the score and the brilliant direction and cinematography, Kaufman throws in a whole host of tasty mythological and poetic elements as well. There's also a dark current of mind control and the Montauk mythos to add a dash of salt to the confection. But most of all I love this film because it truly delivers that elusive numinous quality of dream reality - and dream logic - that many films have tried for but have usually failed. The cast is awesome and sync-worthy (note Jim Carrey did a dumbed-down synchro-narrative with The Number 23 a while after), most notably Kate Winslet and the masterful Tom Wilkinson.
I love this film and yet I hate it. Why? Because I'm afraid that nothing will ever recapture its magic again.
RUNNERS-UP: Several films make up my top 30 or so. I Want to Believe was disqualified from the top five since I consider it part of the overall XF canon. Iron Man was one of the best times I've had at the movies, but doesn't really consume my thoughts otherwise. Solaris might well be a glorified music video, since I'm more obsessed with the soundtrack than the film. The 40 Year Old Virgin is great fun and is filled with interesting symbolism, intentional or otherwise.
Donnie Darko I loved (both theatrical and director's) but don't think much about these days. Michael Clayton is great, but is nongenre, so it's not eligible for the top five. Mothman Prophecies, The Ring, Clerks II and X-Men 2 were four more of my favorites as were others not necessarily coming to mind at present. National Treasure was a hoot and filled with a hilarious subtextual thread I can't decide was intentional or not. Star Trek: Nemesis is a great film that got unfairly pounded by the entirely justifiable Trek backlash created by Voyager and Enterprise. Spielberg's War of the Worlds knocked my socks off, but the effect was mitigated by a weak ending. Guilty pleasures- Blade: Trinity, Elektra, Hancock.
Now for the animated films, intentionally in no particular order.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker - Being a big Cyberpunk fan from back in the day, I was sold on the Batman Beyond concept from day one. Not only did Bruce Timm and co. ransack William Gibson's ouevre for the series, they also dove into the classic 60s Marvel playbook. Terry McGuinness as Batman had strong echoes of classic Spider-Man, and the villains were often Kirbyesque in the extreme. I loved BB's future spins on the Fantastic Four and the Justice League as well. And to tell the truth, nearly 40 years of reading/watching Batman stories has pretty much satisfied my appetite for the Bruce Wayne character.
Return of the Joker is a great entry in the DC Tooniverse catalog, and has much crisper animation than the series itself. It's also quite a bit darker, though the darkness is leavened with humor (unlike, say The Dark Knight). I'd really like to see more done with the Terry McGuinness Batman, maybe in a more sophisticated direction, like the DVD movies DC/WB has been scoring with.
Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme - This DVD probably got overlooked by most fans and a lot of old school Doctor diehards resented the mythology being rewritten. Not this one. I used to obsess on the old Lee-Ditko Doctor Strange stories like a maniac and I thought this reimagining was totally in the spirit of classic Doctor Strange, adapted for the times. I liked all of the new characters- it's too bad we won't be seeing more of them. And what's more, the animation's a lot easier on the eyes than the Ultimate Avengers films.
Sorcerer Supreme has these same themes of dream reality - the plot is that Dormammu is trying to invade our dimension by invading the dreams of sleeping children. And this Dormammu's a lot heavier- and scarier- than the comic book version. I guess my only criticism of this is that it would have been a great story for a Doctor Strange film, something I don't think we'll be seeing anytime soon (even though there's a film in development with Guillermo Del Toro attached as director).
The Incredibles - I'm not sure I liked The Incredibles more than some of the other recent Pixar films, that is at first. But there's something very deep and numinous about this film that really gets under my skin and stays there, in a way that Finding Nemo or Wall-E did not.
It's obviously a shameless ripoff of The Fantastic Four (Bird would probably prefer you call it a 'tribute'), but exists quite capably in its own reality. I haven't watched it in a while, but I find myself replaying scenes from it in my head, almost like an imaginary ViewMaster. I'm not sure the story matters either -what matters to me is some elusive, numinous quality embedded beneath the story itself. Very similar to the feeling I get from the old Gerry Anderson puppet shows.
Green Lantern: First Flight - This is a recent entry and a great surprise. Green Lantern is a character I always liked more in theory than in practice, so I was a bit mezzo-mezzo about the prospect of a feature. Wow- how wrong one can be. I loved this film as if it were a live action feature. In fact at several points watching it I had to remind myself that I was watching cel animation- that's how seductive the story is. The animation itself is also quite crisp and tasty.
The film also reveals more of the arcane and esoteric streams that inform this character beneath all of the tortured continuity. You get subtle whiffs of Theosophy and Masonry, as well as echoes of the Knights Templar and John Carter of Mars. How much of that is intentional and how much is embedded in the character's DNA is uncertain (maybe the producers read Our Gods Wear Spandex) but either way this is an incredible example of modern mythology. I hope the Ryan Reynolds live action Green Lantern is half as good.
Spirited Away - I'm certain some of you were expecting this one. This film is a masterpiece of dream-reality, from the great master of feature animation, Miyazaki. Japanese dream-reality is quite a bit different than that in the West, but that just served to make the proceedings that much more seductive and unsettling. This film is alien in almost every sense of the word. It's so powerful that I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch it- it can easily overwhelm me since there is so little here which I can orient myself to. We've got a nice selection of Miyazaki films here at Secret Sun Central- they have mastered the art of capturing the wonder and horror of childhood dreaming, and refuse to pander to any adult preconceptions of what is safe and proper for their kids to dream about.
Bringing up the rear were Justice League: New Frontier, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Paprika and Hellboy: Blood and Iron.
My favorite TV shows of the Zeros
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Well, New Year's Eve is coming and from there on in a bleak expanse of cold, gray, short days. Christmas was wonderful (the snow stayed thick on the ground after the storm) but now there's a very February kind of rain falling out there- cold, hard, assaultive drops going out of their way to make you feel like shit. Today also begins Mercury Retrograde, one of the Astrological events I will never argue with. Things are always dicier before and after this transit, so I guess Detroit can be grateful that there aren't a lot of Astrological fundamentalist terrorists out there.
I know the Super Bowl is on the way (certainly a major holiday for many Americans) and Valentine's Day as well, but Winter - most of all of the seasons- needs more holidays. Something big and fun that we can keep all of those Christmas lights out for. I know a lot of you out there are well versed in ancient traditions- any suggestions for a big new holiday? Maybe something in the late January time period? Or maybe it can be something new - any fictional winter holidays in any popcult phenoms I'm not aware of? Something in Warcraft perhaps?
New York was supposed to have its big convention in February, but NYCC's been moving the dates around (possibly because the Javits area is frost giantly cold that time of year). But that's obviously not going to be observed by non-geeks. I don't know- I got nothing. So the floor is open. As is the culture, I might add. Never understimate the power of a good idea to fill a powerful need, and that gloomy stretch of cold darkness (at least for us Northern Hemisphere folk) desperately needs a little pick-me-up.
UPDATE: Well, maybe '10 will be a better year than '09.† Last year at this time we looked at a string of synchronicities surrounding a so-called "Christmas miracle" that turned out to be quite a bit less than miraculous once the banner headlines died down. This year we had a startling story of a girl abducted in Phoenix named Natalie Flores and rescued later that evening.
This drama caught my eye straight off because Natalie means 'Christmas Day'. And the whole drama took place in the shadow of I-17 (and in the old neighborhood of Twilight writer Stephanie Meyer, near a system of caves sacred to local tribes). The kidnapper was apprehended on Thunderbird Rd., the Thunderbird being a protective shapeshifter* in Native American mythology, similar to the Garuda, another protective bird-man resonating Horus, also associated with 17 (and Christmas Day, for that matter).
Christmas is 1/7 in the Eastern Orthodox calendar, as we see in this story. Behind the Name tells us this about the name 'Natalie':
This was the name of the wife of the 4th-century martyr Saint Adrian of Nicomedia. She is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Church, and the name has traditionally been more common among Eastern Christians than those in the West.Again, all of this was obviously overlooked because of the Northwest Air incident (and was resolved before it had much time to register), but I'm going to put this nice little semiotic jumble in my GOF (good omen folder).
Which has been pretty empty lately, it must be said.
† When I was a kid I always saw Christmas as a harbinger for the year to come. Good Christmas, good year, bad Christmas, etc.
*The Sioux believed that the Thunderbirds defeated a race of reptilian water monsters, similar to Apophis. Or the Silurians, for that matter.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Sometimes I wonder if this isn't the oldest holiday in human history. For ancient societies- particularly in the cold, dark north- the rebirth of the Sun must have been an incredible epiphany. Which may be why the most resonant Christmas memes are still about evergreens and snow and lights in the darkness and all of the rest of it- even in much balmier climates.
Speaking of which, here's one of the most enduring tunes from the rash of Christmas specials produced in the 1960s & 70s. The eternal war of light and dark, heat and cold all done to a Vaudevillian Dixieland beat. Classic stuff. Designs by the great Paul Coker Jr., one of my biggest cartooning influences. This is from The Year Without a
I wonder how the future colonists will commemorate the Winter Solstice on Mars. It may well be the closest analogue to the ancient northern cultures that the future will see. It will be interesting if and how they choose to celebrate when the elements show them a little mercy.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I don't know how I didn't hear about this earlier*, but Ben Stein coaxed a fascinating confession out of Darwinist rock star Richard Dawkins- that it's possible that life could have been seeded here from an intelligent civilization from elsewhere in the Universe. Astounding.
It could be that at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civillization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now that is a possibility and an intriguing possibility and I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry or molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer.Mind you, I don't know or care what Stein's agenda is here but for Dawkins to even admit to the possibility - something that is even more verboten in scientific circles than Creationism - is astonishing. Well, it shouldn't be, since AAT was widely discussed up until the rise of the Religious Right in the mid-70s, when it vanished entirely from the mainstream media. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that's not coincidental.
This also puts yet another statement on alien DNA from Francis Crick in a whole new light.
The only possibility, in the words of the man who discovered DNA.
“Is it possible,” I asked Crick, when I reached him at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California, “that our DNA came from another planet?”
“I published that theory twenty-five years ago,” said Crick. “I called it Directed Panspermia.”
“Do you think it arrived in a meteor or comet?” I asked.
“No,” said Crick. “Anything living would have died in such an accidental journey through space.
“Are you saying that DNA was sent here in a vehicle?” I asked.“It’s the only possibility,” said Crick.
What must be remembered here is that the mass media- in close concert with their coadjutors in the scientific and religious establishments- have gone out of their way to ridicule and vilify AAT, for the past 30 years at least. Crick was obviously slapped down hard and later back-tracked from these kinds of statements.
But I've been saying for some time now (and said on William Henry's program yesterday) that the symbols seem to indicate that this theory may be tightly held behind some very interesting closed doors, and perhaps Dawkins' slip here is more revealing than Stein could imagine.
Then there's this sequence, from one of the few big sci-fi films that NASA has directly cooperated in the making of. And let's not forget that the US Air Force was closely involved in the making of the Stargate SG-1 TV series, despite the fact that the Religious Right has a very tight stranglehold on that branch of the military. There was also cooperation with various military services in the making of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Although it must be said that none of those productions would inspire anyone to take the topic seriously- quite the opposite, in fact. Maybe that's the intent, who knows.
However, it's beyond debate that there is a tremendous infrastructure being put into orbit, scanning the skies. For what? Nebulae, black holes, distant stardust? Sure, that's all very interesting but doesn't justify the enormous sums being spent. They're looking for someone, there's no question about it. Which is why these stories of earth-like planets get such big headlines.
How fascinating how far ahead of the curve the Vatican is here, perhaps because they have access to all those obscure ancient texts that were hidden away during the reigns of terror of emperors like Theodosius and Justinian.
2009 was a fascinating year in so many ways. Maybe 2010 will be even more so...
* And only heard about it Tuesday shortly after recording the Revelations show, which is quite synchronistic in itself.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Wayne Herschel has been looking at the same memes and symbols in an ancient context that we've been seeing pop up like mushrooms in the media lately. Ancient or modern, it all points to the stars. Maybe it's no accident that so much of the symbolism lately has to do with the space program- maybe they've figured out the real meaning of the ancient mythology, using computers and telescopes. Herschel looks at the Key of Solomon here.
Somehow this seems very appropriate for this interim between the Solstice and Christmas. Enjoy.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
See? I told you this story will never end...
The excitement of the Norway "missile" was such that a lot of people overlooked another event that may or may not have occurred at the same time - a pyramid-shaped UFO floating above Moscow in footage taken on a cell-phone (allegedly).
William Henry and I were talking tonight about the Norway thing and how it's suddenly be thrown down the memory hole, dismissed as a failed missle test. That could very well be true, but on a gut level something seems a bit off to me. Not being a rocket scientist, I can't really speak definitively on it, but it certainly kicked off a week of weirdness culminating in that
I wanted to quickly revisit the pyramid UFO, since it was straight out of a movie regular readers all need to see: Enki Bilal's Immortal aka Immortel Ad Vitam. A pyramid UFO is at the center. The film is a bit tough to navigate on first viewing- it seems clunky and melodramatic. It reveals itself on repeated viewings. And as you can see from the trailer it hits on many of the themes we've explored in other films in the text and not the subtext, which is kind of refreshing.
Postscript: Was the pyramid footage actually taken the same day as the Norway spiral? Veteran UFOlogist Michael Salla smells a coverup:
The Moscow UFO pyramid appeared for several hours on December 9 and raised the possibility of a link with the Norway spiral lights. Was the failed missile test caused by extraterrestrials wanting to signal to the Russian Federation that nuclear weapons development was not in the best interests of Russia or the world? Did the extraterrestrials responsible for the failed test and/or linked to the Norway light spiral, then appear over Moscow’s seat of political and military power - the Kremlin? The alleged failed missile test, the Norway Spiral lights, Moscow UFO pyramid, and Obama’s Peace Prize speech, point to a startling conclusion. Extraterrestrials have begun to openly act in ways that directly influence the national security policies of the world’s two major nuclear powers: the US and Russia.Whether any of this is true or not, it most certainly puts the events of the past week in a whole new context.
UPDATE: How can it possibly end? It turns out all of the Oannes and water symbolism wasn't idle chatter after all. Michael Schact reminds us that the official symbol of Copenhagen is the Little Mermaid:
The Little Mermaid is the most famous and popular tourist attraction in Denmark. The statue, situated on Copenhagen's waterfront, is a national landmark and synonymous with the city.Here's info from Great Dreams on Sirius and the Mermaids.
UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser- photos of a Baikonur rocket test. Not much of a resemblance, but look further:
So, we see what may well be a test of a rocket for ISiS (see similar footage from other tests here) on the 9th and on the 17th (numbers well familiar to longtime readers) we see the retrieval of part of the gate of the Temple of Isis (Sirius).
At 05:14:37 Moscow Time a space logistics spacecraft Progress M-03M was launched from the Baikonur launch site.
The objective of the launch is to provide support needed for further functioning in orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) in accordance with the Russian commitments under the ISS project, as well as to continue developmental testing of the logistic spacecraft of the new series.
That fascinates the hell out of me. See also ISiS spreads her wings on the equinox.
UPDATE: Mike C! notes that the Copenhagen mermaid (flipped here) is oddly reminiscent of the statue-looking object found a while back on Mars...
I'm still agog that Copenhagen's city symbol is the mermaid. This series has been extremely sync-laden. To think it all began with my struggle with an I Am Legend post. But I have been told by an expert that what I'd described synchronicities are in fact precognition. Interesting theory, at least.
Friday, December 18, 2009
There is nothing kept secret that will not come to light. - Luke 8:17
This whole semiotic/synchronistic adventure started in Norway, with a strange aerial display and a host of symbolic aftershocks in its wake. It should be no surprise then that on the 17th we found ourselves in the ancient waters of Egypt, lifting up a stone pillar from the Gate of the Gods. The symbolism is so potent, it almost seems surreal.
Some of you might have been confused about the Sirius themes we've been covering this past week, and I admit that the initial connections of the Dog star to the Norway event were more a matter of intuition than anything else. The subconscious is always making connections the conscious mind is oblivious to.
But there was a whiff of the ritual theatrics we saw around the 2008 election with the Nobel charade, and the presence of Will Smith turned out to be a synchronistic bridge between the symbolism we saw in I Am Legend and Hancock, both of which planted subconscious 'Superman' memes that bolstered Barackobamun during the campaign (and which Obama was certainly not shy about playing into himself).
But here we are - Isis-Sirius in the news on the 17th- exactly a week after Obama's Nobel speech. 17 is a number I've been talking about since the earliest days of this blog (and I still have no clue what the real meaning behind it is), but has certainly become more and more prevalent in the news in the past year.
the Yahoo! front page for quite a while now, and sure enough we see the gateway of Sirius and yet another fluff story about a dog. Moreover, CNN celebrated the 17th with a pictorial on religious stonemasonry, something we'd looked at just the day before.
The AP story itself is bursting at the seams with the kind of symbolism we've seen over and over this past year as well.
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – Archaeologists on Thursday hoisted a 9-ton temple pylon from the waters of the Mediterranean that was part of the palace complex of the fabled Cleopatra before it became submerged for centuries in the harbor of Alexandria.
The pylon, which once stood at the entrance to a temple of Isis, is to be the centerpiece of an ambitious underwater museum planned by Egypt to showcase the sunken city...
"The cult of Isis was so powerful, it's no wonder Cleopatra chose to make her living quarters next to the temple," said coastal geoarchaeologist Jean-Daniel Stanley ...
(Egyptian authorities) are hoping the allure of Alexandria, founded in 331 B.C. by Alexander the Great, can also be a draw.
(Egyptian Antiquities honcho Zahi) Hawass has already launched another high-profile dig connected to Cleopatra. In April, he said he hopes to find the long-lost tomb of Antony and Cleopatra — and that he believes it may be inside a temple of Osiris...The Sirius Mystery. From UFOpsi.com:
"If the study shows it's possible, (the underwater museum) could become a magical place, both above and underwater," Hawass said.
...Temple describes the Nommo as amphibious beings sent to Earth from the Sirius star system for the benefit of humankind. They look like Merfolk, Mermaids and Mermen. They called the Nommo "Masters of the Water", "The Monitors", "The Teachers or Instructors", "Saviors", and "Spiritual Guardians".
The ancient historian Berossus wrote extensively of Oannes, who was based in the Persian Gulf, itself the center of so much excitement these days.
"(Oannes) was accustomed to pass the day among men; but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct cities, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge.Berossus describes Oannes much the same way as Plutarch describes the worship of Osiris:
- Berossus, from Ancient Fragments
That when Osiris reigned over the Egyptians he made them reform their destitute and bestial mode of living, showing them the art of cultivation, and giving them laws, and teaching them how to worship the gods.Plutarch reports that the ancient Greeks and Egyptians identified Osiris with all forms of water, and here again we see the identification of Sirius with water:
Of the stars, they hold Sirius to be Isis’ Water-carrier, they honour the Lion, and decorate the gateways of temples with gaping lions’ heads, because the Nile swells:— "When first the Sun doth with the Lion join."Plutarch also notes that the ancients "hold and believe the Nile the issue of Osiris, so do they regard the earth as the body of Isis." And here a whole new kettle of fish is opened...
Apparently the etymology of Ceres- the Roman name for Demeter (meaning "Earth Mother") is uncertain. But considering that the Greeks identified Demeter with Isis (the Vatican holds a statue of Isis-Sothis-Demeter from Hadrian's villa, Sothis being another name for Sirius), it seems pretty obvious to me that Ceres is a Roman adaptation of Sirius:
And apparently the rising of Sirius was celebrated at the Telestrion of Demeter at Eleusis. The Romans had a Sirius ritual to the goddess Robigo meant to protect the crops from wheat rust. Wheat rust is a fungal cousin of the rye ergot that some believe was the psychoactive component of Demeter's kykeon.
But some scientists today literally believe Ceres- the asteroid, that is - might in fact actually be the Earth's mother- that life was seeded to a barren, post-bombardment Earth from DNA-laden space debris arriving from Ceres:
At the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life conference in Florence, Italy, Joop Houtkooper from the University of Giessen divulged a theory that life could have originated on an object in the asteroid belt named Ceres.Whether panspermia or AAT, DNA is the great mystery here - it may in fact be a kind of cosmic pollen travelling the Universe in search of suitable hosts.
Ceres was considered to be a planet when it was discovered in 1801, but it was later downgraded to asteroid status. With the latest planet definition from the International Astronomical Union, the round object is now considered a dwarf planet. Is there a chance that this exotic world is home to extraterrestrial organisms?
The entheogen-inspired discovery of this cosmic contagion (short version- Francis Crick was tripping on LSD when the inspiration for the helix came to him) has sent alt-historians looking back at all of the caduecii and the trees of life and all of the other intertwined spirals in ancient art. And it seems the earlier in what we accept as human history that you go, the more you seem to find these enigmatic icons.
As we saw, this is the earliest and the most compelling - the Sumerian god Ningishzida, the "Lord of the Good Tree," who is the god of nature and fertility and "messenger of the Earth Mother."
Which brings us back to the idea of DNA as the messenger of the Ceres asteroid- or maybe some other, more exotic heavenly body that Ceres is just acting as a politically-correct stand-in for.
Francis Crick himself has been quoted as saying this:
“Life did not evolve first on Earth, a highly advanced civilization became threatened so they devised a way to pass on their existence. They genetically-modified their DNA and sent it out from their planet on bacteria or meteorites with the hope that it would collide with another planet. It did, and that's why we're here."I have no proof as yet, but my gut tells me that a lot of powerful and influential people agree with Crick. Where this is all going, we may very well soon see...
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