I’d like you to buy my book. Also, I’d like you to help some kids you’ve never met.
The Curse of Frankenstein: A Dissection is my e-monograph on the 1957 Hammer Films picture, exploring the themes of queer sexuality in this classic British horror film. At about 76 pages, it’s a scene-by-scene analysis that tackles the relationship at the heart of Terence Fisher’s lurid Gothic chiller — between renegade scientist Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), his mentor-collaborator Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart), and the murderous, symbolically rich Creature (Christopher Lee) that is the product of their scientific union.
When did zombies stop needing to be about something? They’re the easiest monster in the world to employ as metaphor, and they are so relentlessly uninteresting when they represent only themselves (cf. AMC’s The Walking Dead). And they’re not metaphors for sex either, like werewolves or vampires — a zombie is dead, and so it portrays Death, our fear of it and, most compellingly, our fear of how death rips away our loved ones and subjects them to decay, until we recognize them only with repulsion.
I approached Max Brooks‘ novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War a few weeks ago, seven years after its publication, maybe stirred by the movie (which I still haven’t seen). I’d paged through Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide, which was okay as a one-off stocking stuffer, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from a globe-spanning horror novel told by its survivors in retrospect. What would the zombies represent here? Continue reading
Mad Men didn’t used to be about people all watching the same thing on TV. The current season, however, is irradiated with television. The newly-redubbed Sterling Cooper & Partners is making a lot of its money off it. Harry Crane is swimming in it. Characters build their interactions out of what they’ve seen on it. The people on Mad Men have never had so much in common, nor been so isolated from each other.
Posted in TV
Tagged mad men, television
Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is politically abhorrent, an ideologue’s digest of how torture “works” on behalf of democratic governments seeking to defend from or avenge themselves upon terrorism. There’s no debate: by means of torture, CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain) digs her way from Osama bin Laden’s outer network to his inner circle, one, two, three. As journalist Malcolm Harris put it, “That Kathryn Bigelow used to be involved in left aesthetics should make us shiver in fear about who we may yet become.” But subtly, in the way Bigelow presents her lead character’s view of the battlefield and the flag under which she strives, Zero Dark Thirty betrays mixed feelings about its own ramifications.
After calling on CNN reporter John King, Bush says, “This is a scripted—” and then breaks into laughter. King, like his colleagues, continues as if nothing untoward is happening. Author and media commentator Eric Boehlert will later say: “[Bush] sort of giggled and laughed. And, the reporters sort of laughed. And, I don’t know if it was out of embarrassment for him or embarrassment for them because they still continued to play along after his question was done. They all shot up their hands and pretended they had a chance of being called on.” Several questions later, Bush pretends to choose from the available reporters, saying: “Let’s see here… Elizabeth… Gregory… April.… Did you have a question or did I call upon you cold?”
Q. I have a question. [Laughter]
The President. Okay. I’m sure you do have a question. Continue reading
They howled for me at just the right time. I’ve been an evangelist for Brooklyn-Boston postpunk group the Beatings for several years now, as the band that distilled the anger and displacement I felt during the worst of the Bush years. Revisiting their mid-2000s discs this week the enthusiasm is unabated — but so are the wars, so is the suctioning of wealth from lowest to high, so is the whittling of constitutional freedoms. The scar’s still hot and raw, demanding a scratch.
I keep pointing people to this as one of the most brain-bending interviews I’ve ever done, and it wasn’t easily accessible online. (Although if you google “Phil Alvin” + “set theory” it comes up pretty high in the rankings, but who’s combining those search terms habitually?) I thought my experience with Phil Alvin, Ph.D. was unique, but it turns out this 2008 conversation with the cofounder of the Blasters is the kind of thing he does all the time, whether in interviews, on camera, or in conversation.
Alvin, who started the Blasters with brother Dave and other players in their hometown of Downey, California, fell badly ill on tour in Spain in 2012, leading to benefit concerts to raise money for his medical bills. Now 60, he’s on the mend and playing again, including an appearance at his own fundraiser. My only regret about this interview is I forgot to mention to Phil the first time I saw or heard the blasters: in that cracked-out ’80s action-musical Streets of Fire. The text was first published here.