Archive for August, 2010

Girls of Summer: Delores Wells, Miss June 1960

August 31, 2010

Photographed by Don Bronstein.

Delores Wells, Playboy’s Miss June 1960, shares her October 17th birthday with the anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, which stopped the World Series and collapsed the Cypress Structure on the Nimitz Freeway and part of the Bay Bridge, and with the birthday of my dearest old friendoh Big Ben, who I’ve gotten to see twice this month and am super glad of it (a much more cheery connection).

At the time of her Playboy appearance, Ms. Wells was living in Chicago, like a lot of the early centerfolds. She worked as a bunny in the Chicago club. Sources suggest that Ms. Wells made $1,000 per week working at the club, but that her payment for this pictorial was only $500.

The above picture did not make it in to the original spread because Ms. Wells’ pubic hair was slightly visible, which god forbid — until the Pubic Wars of the 70’s.

Ms. Wells eventually wung her way west and appeared in several of the surf-rock propelled, beach party movies that were popular in this era: Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, and Bikini Beach.

Beach party movies came up for us recently in the context of Sharon Tate’s Actual Life Awareness Month, but I had not taken the time to discuss them because I was trying to stick to my self-imposed edict of keeping the spotlight on Ms. Tate. In this post I am beholden to no such stringency and will tell you all about it.

American International Pictures produced the first “beach party” movie, titled, go figure, Beach Party in 1963. I do not count the Gidget movies. Wikipedia does, but I do not. In my opinion the AIP beach movies were too different to give Gidget inspiration credit, and had a totally different market and theme in mind. Also I have been a huge Connie Francis guy since birth, and even though I know it is stupid and pointless, I bear a grudge against Sandra Dee for being the one who got to marry Bobby Darin. Yes, I know: stupid and pointless.

Following the success of Beach Party, AIP cooked up more films featuring beachy monkey shines, about seven in all, which mainly served as frontispieces for selling the motion picture soundtracks with appearances from popular musicians of the era. (You know — like Shrek movies.)

Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon starred in the majority of the AIP beach party flicks, and players like Ms. Wells appeared regularly as the same “Type” of person, though sometimes with different character names from film to film. The important thing was their recognizable persona. You know, the giggly flirts, the schoolbookish types, the buffed dimwits, etc … and, of course, the ne’er do wells. In the AIP beach party movies, the ne’er do wells were the comically inept Rats & Mice.

Oh, the decorative sex*. Hands-down my favorite shot.

The villains of the story were usually biker Eric Von Zipper (played by comic actor Harvey Lembeck as a parody of Marlon Brando in The Wild One) and his inept gang the Rat Pack, or “Rats & Mice”.

(the wiki)

The most popular running gag of the beach party series is “The Himalayan Suspender” technique, originated by Professor Sutwell in Beach Party, in which the forefinger is pressed against a certain part of the skull, rendering the victim paralyzed. The victim of this move (aka “The finger”) was always [Rats & Mice leader] Eric Von Zipper, who learned it from Sutwell and threatened people with it in subsequent films, calling it “The Rats’ Revenge.”


However, Von Zipper’s finger never worked on others, only himself. Once Von Zipper became paralyzed (usually with a big open-mouthed smile on his face), the Rats & Mice would carry him out and declare “Eric Von Zipper will return!”


I am pretty sure one of my girlfriends in high school lay “the finger” on our other friend as he knelt between us in Math class trying to coax my friend to share more of her large water bottle full of vodka mixed with orange juice, from which we’d been healthily improving our outlook on the late morning for at least a half hour. We told him to go away before he made it obvious what was going on, but he was having none of it.

I was particularly concerned about “maintaining” because I was not the kind of student who got in trouble, living a very weird double life in which I outwardly exemplified a golden student and banner citizen and genuinely cared about service to others and studying for tests, yet I also secretly ditched school, drank, and smoked. I was too young at that time to reconcile those behaviors with one another. I was also worried because I was better friends with his sister than with this guy, though he too was a friend, and I looked up to her as a role model, and my opinion at that time was that the less he knew about my bad behavior, the better.

A close contender for favorite shot of the spread.

Exasperated and sympathetic to my worries, my girlfriend made hoo-doo signs in the air over our annoying friend’s head and elaborately pressed her index finger to the middle of his forehead, and he did a method face plant from his knees in to the carpet of the classroom.

We thought this was hysterical.

I have no idea how any of this was going on while a teacher was in the room, but that shit would never fly with me. My covertly misspent youth is a mixed blessing for my students: I am empathetic to their desire to break the mold and be bad, and party down and word up and whathaveyou in the process of living their life, man, but I am simultaneously wise to their shenanigans. The hell you are flashing a pack of Marlboros in here, young lady — if the girls’ bathroom during passing period was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you; and you may save your joints for behind the tennis court like everyone else since time out of mind, mister.

Coda about the three characters in this anecdote, as we stand fifteen years later. My girlfriend in this story’s son and my daughter were baptized together five years ago. She works as a physician’s assistant. The guy on whom we lay the finger and I got high a few years later on the state seal the night before he went to join the Marines, or maybe the Air Force. I’d gotten over my hang-up about fearing too greatly the judgment of people I cared about. We stumbled to the Hard Rock Cafe and ate our weight in onion rings, and he told them it was my birthday even though it wasn’t, so we scored free dessert. Later he worked as the music teacher at our Catholic high school in town and is now pursuing a full-time career in Los Angeles as a musician.

I am now substitute teaching at the very church at which we all met, and drive every day past the high school in the story. All that time I wanted to drink and smoke away the trapped feeling of the pressure of living in this town, which shrinks the longer you live here and the more people you know, so that a town of 215k or so can start to feel quite small indeedy, and now I like it just fine. Did I mellow out, or did I sell out? I think the former.

One of the above pictures has made an appearance here before, in the inaugural “Showdown!” edition. I’ve totally dropped the ball on “Showdown!”s. Those were fun. All apologies: will remedy it soon, promise.

Coda to Ms. Wells’ story: the very lovely and talented Ms. Wells continued to work in film and television in Los Angeles. Later, she worked for a while as personal secretary to the late Linda Lovelace, controversial star of Deep Throat. They met at a party at the Mansion in Holmby Hills. I assume her time with Ms. Lovelace ended before Ms. Lovelace’s denunciation of the pornography industry.

Ms. Wells is still alive and kicking and will celebrate her 73rd birthday this coming October 17th, which brings us full circle to the beginning of an entry that it’s taken me four days to write. Again, all apologies — had a lot of dogs in the fire, Stanimal. No reflection on marvelous Ms. Wells or the AIP beach flicks. This post has now reminded me that I need a movie moment on both Deep Throat and the magnificent camp parody Psycho Beach Party. I’ll try to get to that, I swar to gar! All y’all keep on rockin’ in the free world and please forgive me my absences.

*Phrase borrowed with amused admiration from chainedandperfumed right here on the wordpress, then googled and found to be of even more apt camp and vintage. Thanks for the loan, c&p. Truly you are the O.G. of this biz.

Movie Millisecond: Fuck me gently with a chainsaw

August 30, 2010

As promised, Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1989).

Sharon Tate’s Actual Life Awareness Month: Day 30

August 30, 2010

At Joshua Tree, probably via geminichilde on the tumblr.

Sharon Tate’s Actual Life Awareness Month is drawing to a close and I have so many beautiful pictures left still to share. I thought I’d use a few today to illustrate an aticle that sheds a lot of light on Sharon’s personality and some of her unique struggles with that unusual program for stardom we’ve touched on this month: how Sharon Tate continued to gratefully and sweetly obey her managers but unrelentingly champion her own intelligence despite being dominated by Marty Ransohoff and his “money men,” which is an admirable thing that many startlets of her day did not bother doing.

Like a lot of quiet, competent people-watchers, Ms. Tate followed the letter of instructions from “superiors” while retaining an independent spirit focused on the maintainenance of goals without compromising her sense of self. She did not want quite the type of spotlight for which they were grooming her, but she wasn’t going to turn down the chance to use their grooming to launch a career which followed more closely her own vision.

So here it is: More on Marty’s master plan and how Sharon integrated that with her own personal identity and gentle, inquisitive intellect. All quotes come from “Venus On A Treadmill,” by Johnny Columbus for Photo Screen, June 1968.

There was a top-level conference in [Marty Ransohoff’s Filmways] office. Sharon Tate, the little girl from Dallas via Rome, was going into hiding. Sharon Tate, Movie Star, was going to be manufactured.

“They said they had a plan for me. They would train me and prepare me,” she remembers. “I was immediately put into training — like a racehorse.”

Three years went by. Sharon was completely under wraps. “I had a job to stay the way I was,” says Sharon. “They told me ‘Cream your face, Sharon. Put on more eyeliner, Sharon. Stick out your boobs, Sharon.’”

Sharon had many things in common with [her Valley of the Dolls character] Jennifer [North]. Both were acutely conscious of the value their bodies held in the flesh commerce of Hollywood; both were innocents; both were involved with European “art” filmmakers.

“I am like Jennifer,” says Sharon, “because she is relatively simple, a victim of circumstances beyond her control. But I have more confidence in myself…”

“I’m so afraid of hurting other people’s feelings I don’t speak out when I should. I get into big messes that way,” she once said.

via welcometothepast.
Both Marilyn [Monroe] and Jennifer [North] were the “Beautiful Blondes” of their day. Both had astonishing figures. Both were treated very badly by those producers who exploited their sex appeal for the moviegoers. Both posed nude before they gained stardom. Both rejected their “dumb blonde” images to marry intellectuals.

“I will never be another Marilyn Monroe,” Sharon says now. “But I had to do what they wanted, at first.”

Valley of the Dolls still via lovely and officially sanctioned

And they, meaning the money men, wanted her to be a well-trained sex symbol with a vacuum for a head. Sharon was tortured by their demeaning attitude towards her.

via weheartit.

“They see me as a dolly in a bikini, jumping up and down on a trampoline,” she said of her producers. … “I love it on the beach — it gives me a kind of freedom. I don’t have to be a sex symbol or a movie star.”

“Beauty is only a look. It has nothing to do with what I’m like inside … I won’t play any more dumb blondes,” she insisted.

“Sometimes,” she says ruefully, “I think it would be better to be a sex symbol, because at least I would know where I was. But I’d lose my mind!”

Maybe that’s the happy medium. If Sharon can get off the Hollywood treadmill … if she can prove to others what she has proved to herself — that there is a head above her body — then she will have achieved true happiness and satisfaction — without escaping from her responsibilities.

Sharon puts it very beautifully: “I still have this teddy bear I’ve had since I was three … and all my old boxes — valentine boxes, cigar boxes, all kinds of boxes — I just won’t give them up. It’s like if I give them up, I’ve given in to being a movie star.”

Special thanks to the SensationalSharonTate blog for the full transcript of this interview.

Just another Monocle Monday: Heathers edition

August 30, 2010

via The Millikan Daily right here on the wordpress.

Grow up, Heather: bulimia is so 1987.

Winona Ryder rocks a monocle in Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1989). Look for a Heathers movie moment one of these days soon. Maybe a millisecond later today as a foretaste, even.

Daily Batman: Strong legs

August 30, 2010

via comicallyvintage on the tumblr.

Tightly clamped legs is just what the doctor ordered, eh, Bruce? I suppose Dr. Wertham would make much of this, but sometimes a boy dangling from a chain and riding you is just a boy dangling from a chain and riding you.

Sharon Tate’s Actual Life Awareness Month: Movie Moment, Don’t Make Waves

August 29, 2010

Turn on! Stay loose! Make out!

Don’t Make Waves (Alexander Mackendrick, 1967) was a Tony Curtis comedic vehicle in which Sharon Tate debuted in the part of Malibu, a beautiful blonde bunny who rescues a New York tourist from drowning and sucks him into the swingin’, farcical Southern California beach scene, complete with over-inflated egos, nouveau riche developers, mudslides, meditation, and Muscle Beach.

via Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur on the blogger.

The Ransohoff-produced-MGM film also stars Claudia Cardinale (Once Upon A Time In the West) as Laura Califatti, a hot-tempered and spontaneous Italian woman who is an even worse driver than this hot-tempered and spontaneous Italian woman used to be, and features genius comedian Mort Sahl (more on Mr. Sahl can be found in the recent Girls of Summer entry on his long-time wife China Lee, who also pops up in Don’t Make Waves). Also in a cameo is model-actress Joanna Barnes — she was Vicki Robinson, the gold-digging bad fiancee in the original Hayley Mills version of The Parent Trap, a role she lampooned/reprised in the Lindsay Lohan-starring 1998 remake as Vicki Robinson Blake, the gold-digging bad fiancee’s encouragingly avaricious mother; the idea being that a leopard never changes its spots, yes?


The cast of Don’t Make Waves was rounded out by a number of popular bodybuilders of the Venice Beach area and era, including David “The Blond Bomber” Draper, Mr. America 1965 and Mr. Universe 1966, who portrayed Ms. Tate’s character Malibu’s boyfriend, Harry Hollard.

The $4,000,000 film is based on Ira Wallach’s novel Muscle Beach. The movie can be described as a “sex and flex” gala spectacular featuring blondes, bikinis and bulging biceps. …

(Mozee, Gene. “Don’t Make Waves: Hollywood’s Greatest Muscle Movie.” Muscular Development, December 1967.)

As is Hollywood’s custom, the film pokes a little fun at the muscle world, but on the whole, the movie is quite entertaining and I am sure bodybuilders throughout the world will enjoy seeing it.

Co-starring as [Dave] Draper’s girlfriend is the very lovely Sharon Tate, one of the most beautiful girls these eyes have ever seen!


A legend in bodybuilding, Mr. Draper had a long career as a competitive weightlifter, actor, and author, and he runs a voluminous official website devoted to health, nutrition, and weightlifting.

I think of Sharon often as pictures of her during our filming of “Don’t Make Waves” adorn the walls of my gym in Santa Cruz, California. The members are mesmerized. … We first met on location in Malibu when we were advised to practice a trampoline dismount for the next film sequence, to begin promptly.

“Sharon, this is Dave. Dave, this is Sharon. Sharon, I want you to bounce on the tramp as high as you can and jump into the arms of Dave, standing right here. He’s a sturdy fellow. Good.” — The instructions of Sandy McKendrick [sic], cogent director assuming magic. We smiled, nodded, shook hands and she mounted the trampoline for the first time in her life …

Sharon and Dave filming, via

… Any fear or doubts the sweet girl had turned into resolve. Sharon bounced with all her might and within five minutes was leaping through the air like a gazelle. I didn’t dare miss her. We were smiles and laughter.

First take, “Cut. That’s a wrap.” I miss her now. A star on Hollywood Boulevard bearing Sharon’s name would warm my heart. She has a special place there, indeed.

(David Draper, memorial statement on Ms. Tate’s official website supporting Sharon’s receipt of a posthumous star on the Walk of Fame.

I can’t believe it is even an issue that needs lobbied. Why would Sharon Tate not get a star? Her career may have been cut short by something that we must reasonably not want to accidentally celebrate, but look at that career — even her presence in the cult classic Valley of the Dolls, which has likely never stopped playing at least somewhere in the campy-theater-viewing world, alone should position her for a star on the Walk of Fame. Come on. They gave ones to Pat Sajak and to Rin Tin Tin. Okay? Let’s get real. It’s bizarre to me that there is even debate.

Official soundtrack — the Byrds’ sang the theme song. Ransohoff spared no expense. (Get it.)

I do hate to throw in detracting non-Sharon Tate stuff on the “Sharon’s actual life” posts because, like I said from the beginning, it pisses me off that her unique character and burgeoning career is always getting overshadowed by the doings of all the others in her life story, but I must add that two reknowned Academy-Award winning actor-director-producers, Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood, do not have stars yet either. Lassie and Tony Danza, yes. Dirty Harry and the Sundance Kid, no. Um, what? The process of selection and awarding now officially baffles me. A more complete list of strangely overlooked performers, or those who have declined or been disqualified, is here.

Back to Don’t Make Waves.

A great deal of money was spent on an all-out publicity blitz for this movie (no doubt with the urging of Ransohoff, the head of Filmways and Sharon’s personal career guru, who’d been waiting for his chance to spring her on the public), with everything from cards with stills to giant cardboard cutouts of Sharon Tate as Malibu in theaters to promote the film. There was even a tie-in with a Coppertone ad, shown above.

The amount of attention that was suddenly on Sharon and her body was not terribly to her liking. Though her later roles in Valley of the Dolls and The Wrecking Crew, as we’ve discussed this month, gave her the opportunity to show off her more robust dramatic and comedic talents, she was at this time pretty nonplussed by her box office debut as Malibu.

Among her friends, [Sharon] began to refer to herself as “sexy little me.”

(Bowers, John. “Sexy Little MeThe Saturday Evening Post, May 6, 1967.*)

Despite the lauded publicity campaign, Don’t Make Waves did not do as well in theaters at its release as its backers hoped, but it has gained in popularity with critics as time has passed.

The film has [recently] received more positive comments from reviewers, such as Leonard Maltin who describes it as “a gem”, and makes note of the “fine direction and funny performance by Sharon Tate”.

(the wiki.)

As a final note, the character of Malibu is often cited as the inspiration for the Mattel line of Malibu Barbie dolls. The doll was introduced in 1971 and I’ve so far read nothing that confirms Ms. Tate in Don’t Make Waves being Malibu Barbie’s rock-solid model as fact — but it is certainly a thing that could be true.

*Besides interviewing Ms. Tate about her upcoming film releases, the article sheds light on the early stages of her relationship with her eventual husband and portrays his interaction with her in a none-too-flattering light from the get-go: I found it insightful but very depressing and disheartening. So if you are a person who does not like to read things like that about him, don’t follow the link, or at least don’t tell me about it if you have followed it and are unhappy with what you’ve read. I did not write it. I just quoted from it.

Daily Batman: the little Robin was a hot button

August 29, 2010

vintage poster art by Michael Myers on the behance network.

“Like the girls in other stories, Robin is sometimes held captive …. They constantly rescue each other from violent attacks by an unending number of enemies. The feeling is conveyed that we men must stick together because there are so many villainous creatures who have to be exterminated. They lurk not only under every bed but also behind every star in the sky” (p. 190-1).

Wertham argued that danger could be stimulating, and that in the wrong circumstances that stimulation could take a sexual turn. He called such stories “erotic rescue fantasies.” They were intended, he said, to make Robin more devoted to Batman than to anyone else on earth.

(Wertham, Frederic. Seduction of the Innocent. 1954. qtd in “Wertham’s Ghost,” The Animated Batman. April 19, 2006.)

Childrens’ rights crusader, noted comic-“reformer,” and homophobe Dr. Frederic Wertham took special care in his explosively nonsensical bullshit-book Seduction of the Innocent to devote more time to dissecting the perceived homoeroticism in Batman than to any other comic of the time. Winner, winner, chicken dinner? Dubious and highly disputed honor. For the record, the creators initially found his accusations laughable and explained that the character of Robin was indeed intended as wish-fulfillment, but only to keep the audience of young boys who imagined themselves being able to aid the Dark Knight in his efforts to clean up his city. Oh, what rabble-rousers.

On the other hand, Wertham is perhaps the first theorist of any note to take a genuinely psychological and critical eye to comics, trying to root out the source of their success and overarching mythos in their stories, and, though I may not 100% agree with his conclusions, I cannot in good conscience decry that early and earnest undertaking of a stab at a [misguided] unified theory of comics. People read them: they do matter.

Flashback Friday: Talk nerdy to me — Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: People feel strongly about Pluto

August 27, 2010

Originally posted on March 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm.

There’s no grey area on this issue, dudes. You know?

Heartfelt message found in North Melbourne, AUS.

You are either pro or con. Myself, I feel real funny about the abrupt disinclusion of Pluto from planet status … I understand the physics of the matter, I “get” it from the scientific standpoint of proper nomenclature. It’s just that, trumpet mushrooms, you guys — Pluto still orbits right along with the rest of us, so this is not going away. You know? That’s kind of like when you ask a girl to prom and she says “yes,” but then it turns out the other girl that you liked better but you thought her strict church-type parents would not let her go drops a hint that she is allowed to go and you actually call the first chick and tell her straight up she is un-going to the prom with you. Like, come on, The World. Are we so base and classless as to behave like a horny 16-year-old whose first-choice crush has conservative parents? Let us not be exclusive and uninvitational: let us consider Pluto’s feelings and be a man about this. Pluto probably already bought a dress and called its grandma all like, “I’m a planet, Nana!” and Pluto’s grandma was all choked up and happy for it, saying, “Of course you are, honey, because you are special — if your Poppa was here, he’d be s-so proud of you,” and we are actually discussing taking that moment away from them? I mean, really. Come on. That’s messed up.

That’s all I’m saying.

Movie Millisecond: Word of the day

August 27, 2010

Two in a row. Scream real loud.

Think it’s Antoine et Colette (François Truffaut, 1962). If not, please correct me.

Had a conversation I did not think I would have nor did I want to have today. It was ugly and unhappy and none of it was unnecessary nor I think unexpected from the other end, just difficult. Difficult in the broad delivery sense to say upsetting things to someone for whose well-being I do care, and difficult in the close and personal sense to voice deep-seated, long-meditated-over anxieties. Balancing the manifest past with predictions for an even slightly hopeful future is such a fine and delicate thing, it’s like splintered glass just working its way through you. It’s so layered and overwhelming.

Edit: The still is from Masculin Féminin (Godard, 1966). Thanks to Linda for the sourcing!

Fight Club Friday: Warning

August 27, 2010

Friday night’s all right for fighting.

Tyler, I will quit excessively masturbating when you pry the internet out of my cold, dead hands.

The usual warning on the VHS/DVD release of Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999) has been … altered. In many ways it’s a far superior and more dire warning than the normal: less materialism, more connection to one another — no threat of jail time, but rather the threat of an empty life.

Is this little fun tidbit also on the Blu-Ray? I assume yes, but haven’t seen it personally.

Daily Batman: Everyone carries a shadow

August 27, 2010

Art by Zbigniew Goik on the behance network.

Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.

(Carl Gustav Jung. “Psychology and Religion.” The Terry Lectures, 1937.)

E.E. Cummings month: “My sweet old etcetera”

August 27, 2010


my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent
war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

my sister


isabel created hundreds
hundreds) of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers
etcetera wristers etcetera, my


mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my


self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

     cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

(E.E. Cummings. “My sweet old etcetera.” is 5. New York: Liveright, 1926.)

is 5 was a collection of satirical and anti-war poems which Cummings wrote during his time as an ambulance driver in France during the Great War. That’s when he also began working on his novel The Enormous Room.


The above letter of August 15, 1918, is transcribed:

“My Darling little sweetheart,

Just a few lines hoping that my letter finds you in the best of health, I’m very well at present and my family the same, Well loving, you see I’m faithfully thinking of you,

You know I love you very well my little heart, I am never loving anyone else,

If you are killed I will stay with you all the time and with my little baby if you give me one, I hope to see you very soon,

So will leave you now with my best remembrances from all my family,

Best love, from your loving little sweetheart, wife very soon.”

The beautiful and painstakingly artistic letter has recently become part of the Love and War exhibit at the Australian War Memorial, who are asking anyone who recognizes the couple, a Martha Gybert of Saint Sulpice, France, and the Australian soldier to whom she writes, to notify them as to what became of the two. They believe the letter may have made its way to Australia because it had either come over from France with the bride, or was returned with the soldier’s body and other effects. Obviously, the hope is that it is the former explanation. More info here.

Yesterday, in lieu of my previous service plan for the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa, I was called in to substitute for my ill colleague again. So, during the time the children write in their journals, I had them instead follow a basic form letter and write thank you notes, with drawings, to soldiers who will be serving in Afghanistan. The Cappy (he has been promoted now but calling him the Commie seems … “off”) is hooking it up because he knows the unit and the chaplain to whom I’ll be sending the letters, for which I’m so thankful. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea that ended up working out much better than I could have imagined; I initially thought it was hackneyed but I hadn’t counted on the children’s reaction to the letter-writing. The kids were genuinely fascinated by the project, and we traced over the world map in the classroom to demonstrate the countries their letters would cross before they arrived in their recipients’ hands.

I was surprised by how engrossed they were in the idea and how the details of why there are U.N. forces in Afghanistan at all seemed so revelatory to them. (I stuck mainly with the line that there are bad people there who are keeping the good people in the country from having the resources they need to succeed, so we and other forces are trying to help the good people get their country back from the bad; like, how do you explain the complexities of involvement in Afghanistan to fourth graders? Even explaining it to ourselves is problematic.)

When a girl told me, “My grandfather is a vet. He lives with us now,” and I said, “Oh, was he in World War II, or Korea?” and she replied, with a look at me like I was deranged, “Vietnam. My uncle was in the first war in Iraq,” I realized that these nine-year-old American children have grown up with the Towers down and all manner of skirmishes and action in the Middle East as a matter of course. They were so “in to” the project because the idea of a military presence in the Middle East, with attendant nightly television news reports of suicide bombers and attacks on bases, is so completely de rigeur to them as to be almost meaningless; unless someone in their life has been personally touched by the violence, it is just another part of the buzzing adult world that surrounds them.

For most, this was the first time it occurred to them to put a physically human face on stories that are a regular — and regularly ignored — part of their daily lives. This was a first time of actual connection, emphathetic thought and prayer for people serving around the globe in wartorn places that are just names on television for the kids.

For my part, I’d been concerned, because it is a parochial school, about taking care not to conflate patriotism with a love of God because that can lead down such dangerous behavioral and judgemental alleyways, as well as being always wary of the wavering line between informed support and general jingoism. But I was surprised that, beyond drawing war planes and helicopters or crosses and flags, the kids wanted to know more about the actual lives of the people who would be receiving their letters: I learned something, too, from this project, and that was that I can be as guilty of stereotyping an abundantly adamant yellow-ribbon-sporting, SUV-driving fellow citizen as I suppose they might be of me, who approaches an understanding of conflicts in what I thought was a less black-and-white way. I don’t know it all and neither do they. These kids drew their symbols and wrote out their dutifully trite declarations of support, but it was from a place of real love, and curiosity, and empathy. They are the next generation who will decide how to successfully negotiate international conflicts, and they are not a lost nor entirely manipulable cause. It was a very sobering and educational experience for us all. Probably more so for me than them, but I am glad that they seemed to have derived a real pleasure from the project.

Movie Millisecond: Word of the day

August 26, 2010

Scream real loud.

saved long before I was wise enough to source, goddamn me.

As of press time for me, which is not the time this is appearing, I cannot source this screencap. Feel like the actress at least is on the tip of my tongue but it’s the middle of the night right now and I’m bushed and heading to bed. Help is appreciated.

Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: He hasn’t forgotten you

August 26, 2010

Monterey, California, USA.

Sharon Tate’s Actual Life Awareness Month: Day 26 — Eye of the Devil

August 26, 2010

Cropped shot of Ms. Tate from the trailer for Eye of the Devil.

In 1966, Sharon was cast and began working on the picture Eye of the Devil. She worked with Deborah Kerr (who filled in for Kim Novak after Ms. Novak dropped out of the project), David Niven, Donald Pleasence, and David Hemmings. The picture was her first featured film performance. Though Sharon had only a few lines, her part as Odile de Caray, a mysterious witch with a vulnerable and sexual vibe, landed her in the hot-seat for stills and posters. She was already catching eyes.

Publicity still for Eye of the Devil.

Sharon is a great discovery. First of all, she’s a fabulously good-looking bird; and she’s got all the fun and spark and “go.” She’s a marvelous girl. She’s up on cloud nine, Sharon is. And I think she’s a very, very good actress. She’s obviously going to make a big hit in this picture.

(David Niven, co-star in Eye of the Devil (J. Lee Thompson, 1966).)

Daily Batman: Teevee Time — How I Met Your Mother edition

August 26, 2010

How I Met Your Mother.

If you know how HIMYM turns out, please don’t tell me. I like surprises. Anyway, Robin has been my favorite character on this show (which I admit I only sporadically catch) since the time that, in a green and white button-up baseball jersey, she talked the character Lily in to ordering Chinese and smoking cigars in Marsh’s car. That is just exactly my kinda gal. And she “suited up” for Laser Tag? Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

E.E. Cummings Month: “All in green went my love riding”

August 25, 2010

The following Cummings poem is not much like his usual at first blush, but is really full of simple wordplay and tricksy manipulation of conventions that conceals a more complex meaning than simple medieval ballad — which is much more in keeping with what you’d expect, yes? “All in green went my love riding” has been set to music and sung by, among many, Warren Kinsella and one of my patronessiest of patron saints, Joan Baez. The most widely accepted meaning of the poem is that it is a subtle retelling of the myth of Artemis and Actaeon. (Variations of the myth here.)

Modesty Blaise.

As far as I can tell, in the version on which Cummings has based “All in green went my love riding,” Actaeon is a merciless hunter who desires to marry Artemis after he sees her bathing. The virgin warrior goddess is furious at this cheek, particularly that he would spy on her and then imply she owes him marriage (she fiercely protected her physical privacy and chastity).

The lovely and talented Marguerite Empey.

Artemis punishes Actaeon by warning him that, if he ever speaks, he will be transformed in to a stag and devoured by his own bitches, which is where it seems Cummings picks up the thread. Here it is.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the merry deer ran before.

Fleeter be they than dappled dreams
the swift sweet deer
the red rare deer.

Four red roebuck at a white water
the cruel bugle sang before.

Horn at hip went my love riding
riding the echo down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the level meadows ran before.

via sabino on the tumblr.

Softer be they than slippered sleep
the lean lithe deer
the fleet flown deer.

Four fleet does at a gold valley
the famished arrow sang before.

Photographed by Neil Krug.

Bow at belt went my love riding
riding the mountain down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the sheer peaks ran before.

Paler be they than daunting death
the sleek slim deer
the tall tense deer.

Four tell stags at a green mountain
the lucky hunter sang before.

Amber Weber for I.D., September 2008.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
my heart fell dead before.

(E.E. Cummings, “All in green went my love riding.” Tulips and Chimneys. 1923.)

He just had to sing all triumphantly, didn’t he, in front of the green mountain? Heart = hart. A synonym for stag. Pretty sure that between the line about stags and the repetition of “all in green,” Artemis changed him in to one of the “Four tell stags” and his own dogs ripped him to pieces.

Liv Tyler.

Also I noticed on this re-read that she dwells longer than I remembered over her four dead does. This makes sense because besides being the ruler of nature and the hunt, she held deer and cypress as her closest animal and plant brethren. The victims of Actaeon’s arrow and his ravaging dogs, those four deer emerge in her description unquestionably as females: they are slender, pale, lithe, slippered — red and rare. Virginal language, am I right? That purity and feminity gives the “Four” power and deserves honor, just as does Artemis’s own virginity, which bathtime-peeping Actaeon and his sleazy, brutish hounds do not seem to understand or respect.

via thechocobrig on the tumblr. fabulous photojournal.

By contrast, in all of the lines which describe his four animals, Actaeon’s “four” appears in lowercase letters — the only Cummingsish punctuation-play in the poem, as the four remain in lowercase despite following periods, which Cummings otherwise obeys with great restraint for the rest of the poem. Actaeon’s four are the four hounds; the miniscule rather than majuscal “f” usage denotes the speaker’s low opinion of them and bodes very badly for them, considering Artemis’s usual respect for nature. The number four, besides paralleling the count of her lost deer, is suggestive of pursuit of living creatures in all four of the cardinal directions, a kind of inescapable squared threat in terms of the swath a disrespectful hunter might cut through the planet of a goddess who considers herself the mother of nature — because of its relationship to “four corners,” “four winds,” etc, the total of four hounds is exactly the right number to appear confounding and problematic. An unignorable affront which must be dealt with.

Abbey Lee Kershaw for Dazed and Confused.

The four hounds may also perhaps be a reference to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse who accompany Death in the Revelation of St. John: the hunter brings destruction to what Artemis is sworn to protect; she is the patroness of life on earth, a mother-warrior figure who gives her attention to springs and deer, and Actaeon is that life’s death, a sanguine, horn-blowing archer with attendantly destructive hell hounds that tear her living creatures apart. An essentially unforgivable encroachment on all that Artemis stands for. Those four lean crouching motherfuckers act as a smirking antithesis to her binding and symbiotic method of mothering the earth, by dismantling and devouring everything they encounter, famished agents of a chaos she is sworn to repel. They tear things up.

In this case, their master, too. Does the punishment fit the crime?

I’ve read that there are allusions here to “The Knight’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I never make it far through those. I know as a happy medievalist I’m supposed to read and adore them and that what I’m about to tell you could get me yelled at and kicked out of the society of nerds who read material that predates van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the very lenses the best of the best wear to strain our eyes over the stuff we love, but I feel that poring over Chaucer is something akin to people in a thousand years venerating the script of Rat Race. Great movie, solidly entertaining, good cast with varied backstories, but, like, how dire is reading it to the quest of accurately intrepreting society in this era? Not much. (Commence lambasting, Chaucer-lovers. Change my mind?)

Journey Into Perplexity right here on the wordpress.

Anyway. If you follow that link to the wiki list of variations on the Artemis and Actaeon story, you can see that different authors have spent time cataloguing the precise names of the up-to-fifty hounds involved in Actaeon’s punishment.

I guess the lesson here is that, if you want even a chance with Artemis, you need to be green in deed as well as dress. Keep your elbows out and for god’s sake recycle, dudes.

Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Forgive us

August 25, 2010

via abandonedplaces on the lj.

Confession: today has been all ghost posts. I’ve been substituting for a sick friend at school and will likely do so tomorrow as well. But tomorrow marks the 100th birthday of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She said, “If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive.” Like so many things she said and did, it seems simple on the surface and is confoundingly difficult for us modern muddlers to put in to its justly deserved practice.

Mother and others; talk about liberating a space.

Mother Teresa also said, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.” Reflecting on that always helps me with the forgiveness part. But I am not telling you how to live your life: figuring out how to be at peace is everyone’s own unique gig, and I get that.

I wish I could be around to make more of her special day, but I’ll do my best late tonight/early tomorrow morning, and perhaps more when I get home tomorrow if I’m lucky. In the meanwhile, let’s really try to love and forgive one another? We’ve made an awful mess of this mudball, sure, but I don’t believe it has to stay that way.

Hope I’m staggering these properly and I’ll catch you on the flip!

Movie Millisecond: Wednesday Wednesday

August 25, 2010

via subs-conscious on the tumblr.

Daily Batman: Unlikely li’l G — Give this kid all your G.I. Joes

August 25, 2010

via lookatthisfrakkinggeekster on the tumblr.

Error: Student is too cool for school. (Beep, beep, beep — smoke starts coming out of the Unlikely G detector, holy cats, have we got a live one!) Give him all your G.I. Joes and that milk money you’ve been telling your mom you were spending on 2% but really you’ve been squirreling it away for the arcade. Yes, he knows.

Dopest kid ever.