Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Radio: "Listen to them. Children of the night."

Certainly, the most famous Halloween-centric broadcast of the legendary Orson Welles (shown here in dapper and shockingly young form) is the much mythologized War of the Worlds show that, if one believes, was responsible for widespread panic throughout the Tri-state area.

But Welles's alien invasion radio play isn't the only show in The Mercury Theater archives of interest to the spookshow junkie with a taste for the retro. Over at the fine music and horror blog Psychobabble you can listen to The Mercury Theater's production of Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel: Dracula

When The Mercury Theater (full title: The Mercury Theater on the Air) debuted in 1939, Dracula was their first broadcast. Welles himself provided the voices of the eponymous vampire and Doctor Seward. Theater regular Agnes Moorehead plays Mina and the great Bernard Herrmann provides the score. But why stay here reading my blah blah blah? Click on over and enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stuff: "There won’t be enough bullets left to kill them all."

Just in time for Halloween, the defense-sector rag Military Times takes a look at effective responses to the inevitable zombie holocaust. Some of the article is delightfully wonky, in a sort of crazed militia-man way:

Perhaps the single hottest topic of debate among necro-warfare experts is what makes the ideal weapon against the undead.

Fortunately, as anyone who has seen the “Living Dead” movies knows, the possibilities are infinite — anything that will take out a zombie’s brain will do the trick.

Former Marine and “Top Shot Season 2” champ Chris Reed says he would keep it simple. “A good Ruger .22 is hard to beat for your typical zombie killing,” Reed says. (His perfect deadpan delivery inspired our take on this story.)

Others worry that a .22 round just won’t have the stopping power needed for zombie headshots. “The .22 won’t get skull penetration beyond 100 yards,” Bourne says. Instead, he’d grab an M4 carbine or — better yet — an AK47 for drag-through-the-mud-and-still-shoot reliability.

Outdoor Life shooting editor John Snow’s top pick: Lauer Custom Weaponry’s LCW15 Zombie Eliminator with the arrow gun attachment and Beta-C 100-round ammunition drum. For backups, he says he’d add the Remington Model 870 Shotgun and Para Super Hawg .45-caliber pistol. All that might seem like overkill for something that’s not even alive — or real — but among the ranks of zombie hunters, you can never be too careful.

Of course, firearms need plenty of ammo and maintenance. That’s why Matt Mogk, president of the Zombie Research Society, prefers simple, lightweight and silent — a baseball bat, metal pipe or other blunt, maintenance-free implement that will deliver a head-crushing blow.

While the simple crowbar and more elegant katana, favored by ancient samurai warriors, typically top zombie fighters’ list of cold steel, Mogk says he isn’t a fan of bladed weapons.

“You have to keep swords sharp, especially if you’re to trying take off heads. Plus, it’s too easy for them to get stuck inside a zombie. Then you’re really hosed.”

As fun as that is, I found it liked the more atypical bits of advice. For example, how should the smart soldier dress for the reign of the dead (Romero, feel free to snag that title - it's yours, gratis). Again, from the article:
When things come to blows, you’ll be glad you dumped your heavy battle rattle for simple protective gear that will keep you light on your feet and infection-free. A supply of medical face masks and surgical gloves are a no-brainer, but to keep all that blood at bay, try a heavy rubber butcher’s apron.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Movies: How much does knowing you suck excuse you from sucking?

What does one write about Monster Island, the Jack Perez (of Mega-Shark Versus Giant Octopus "fame") helmed MTV-produced made-for-TV oddity that pits a gaggle of youths against an island populated by stop-motion animation giant insects and Adam West?

Honestly, this thing is barely a movie, so I feel it's only fair that I barely write about it. The most interesting thing about Monster Island is the unintentionally philosophical question it's existence raises: How much does knowing you suck excuse you sucking? This isn't a purely hypothetical question. Regular readers, God forgive them, will know that we here at ANTSS refer to this as the Byrne Problem, after author Anthony Burgess (yes, of Clockwork Orange fame, but he wrote a lot of other, better stuff too). To sum up: Burgess's last book, Byrne, consisted of the fake autobiographical epic poem of the supposed worst poet in the world. That sounds funny, until you realize that it means reading through 150 pages of the intentionally worst poetry ever written. At no time during this trudge through these 150 pages of utter crap verse do you think Burgess isn't on the joke. He knows he's creating bad verse; that's the point. The idea is that knowing he knows will somehow make what's universally admitted as excruciating somehow less so. Still, you've got to read 150 pages of shit. So, how much does knowing you suck excuse you from sucking? Entire careers have been based on the idea that the answer is "100%." Zack Snyder, I'm looking at you. (Not to be confused with people who don't know that they utterly suck; Day of the Woman, I'm looking at you.) Smack dab in the Byrne sweet spot, you'll find Monster Island.

I'm hesitant to review MI, as I feel that gives it too much credit. So, instead, I'm going to extract some observations from my notes. That's right. I take notes. He says as he indignantly pushes his glasses further up the bridge of his nose.

Two random points.

1. MTV gets props for presenting themselves as heartless exploiters of young people. It would have been enough if MTV had simply allowed their staff to be depicted as shallow, heartless dicks willing to put young lives on the line for a quick buck - which this movie totally depicts them as being - but they actually take it further. Central to the plot of the film is the idea that teenagers would be totally stoked to see a concert by Carmen Electra. Even in 2004, this alone was enough to push the film clearly into sci-fi/fantasy territory, no giant bugs necessary. The oddly brilliant twist is that, later, giant ants (no relation) kidnap Carmen to sedate their human slave population (long story). In drawing the parallel, the film basically suggests that the entertainment MTV peddles isn't just exploitative, but actually part of a control system meant to keep you a slave of the colony. Kudos to everybody involved for the lucid moment. That you buried it in a made-for-TV movie that all of maybe twenty people saw, eh, not so great. Still, lollipops for everybody involved just for doing it.

2. Whenever a film targeted at the mainstream, no matter how hopelessly as may be the case, has to include the taste of an indie music slob, there's always an interesting conflict between the visual and the audio. The perfect exemplar of this is the film High Fidelity. The cats in that flick are supposedly the ultimate in music snobs, but the first time we meet Jack Black's character - a character so music obsessed that he regularly chases away customers by insulting their taste - he's grooving on Katrina and the Wave's "Walking on Sunshine." A spiffy little song to be sure, but hardly the signifier of obscure, elitism. Throughout the whole film, we get, again and again, bizarro cop-out music choices. When Jack Black tries to take over the store's stereo from the sad sack mumbly dude, we learn that the sad music he was trying to play was Belle and Sebastian. That's as indie as it goes. The rest of flick rest clearly in common knowledge. When the shop staff debate esoterica like what's the best first track of the B-side of an album, they land safely in Clash and Stevie Wonder territory (not to diss either of those, 'cause they're great). Who is the favorite musician of the indier-than-thou record store owner? The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Don't get me wrong: the only boss I ever listen to is Bruce - as me spotty employment career more than attests to. Still, it's kind of weird.

(Okay, as a I'm-no-hipster device, sure. When I was a college DJ, the head of the station was a brutally hip woman - so indie her shirts don't fit - who swore that she was the biggest Madonna fan; but it was bullshit, she deployed this po-mo hyper-intellectualized version of Madge as a defense against the charge that her profound love of intentionally inaccessible math rock was some classist affectation. It's the same reason modern hipster doofuses professes to love Beyonce. But we all know it's bullshit. Own your hipster elite douchebaggery and be done with it.)

Anyway, I bring this up because there's an important scene in MI when our hero, a perfectly insufferable self-righteous dick of a indie boy, thumbs through the CD collection of Carmen Electra - and that's not a euphemism, though the phrase "thumbs through Carmen Electra's CD collection" sounds dirty because of Carmen Electra - and decides, despite the fact that she's whoring out (metaphorically this time) for MTV, she must be okay. The pivot point: Radiohead and the Ramones. Seriously? Why does this kid have the taste of 37-year-old man? What's the point of being a snotty music snob kid if you have to worship at the altar of your parents' balding over-the-hill hipster's music tastes?

That said, the whole scene has an unintentional patina of nostalgia: how long before digital music effectively kills the tradition of secretly checking out a potential sexual partner's music collection for hints as to their suitability?