Yet more HP

Since I mentioned my my experience with one Lovecraft movie adaptation, here’s another I discovered as I was looking for some background noise for grading: The Color Out of Space. It’s auf Deutsch, with subtitles, and it’s not bad. Slow and creepy, which was perfect for something I didn’t want to be too distracting (that other recent adaptation of the same story with Nicholas Cage? No way. Way too loud and busy).

It’s surprising how many Lovecraft stories you can find that have been turned into movies.

Now…back to the exam.

A nasty little list — the JK Rowling fan club

There is a petition going around in support of awful transphobe JK Rowling. It’s remarkably stupid.

We are a group of writers, actors, directors, musicians, producers, comedians and artists who wish to speak in support of JK Rowling. She has been subjected to an onslaught of abuse that highlights an insidious authoritarian and misogynistic trend in social media. Rowling has consistently shown herself to be an honourable and compassionate person and the appalling hashtag #RIPJKRowling is just the latest example of hate speech directed against her and other women that Twitter and other platforms enable and implicitly endorse.

We are signing this letter in the hope that if more people stand up against the targeting of women online, we might at least make it less acceptable to engage in it or profit from it.

We wish JK Rowling well and stand in solidarity with her.

I’m not sure what the purpose of the petition might be. It’s not urging any changes or action. It just wants everyone to stand on one side of a line in support of transphobia and a ridiculously wealthy writer.

It wants to stop people from profiting by disagreeing with JK Rowling, which is not a thing. Nobody is getting rich from pointing out her ugly ideas.

I don’t see how saying “Eww, ick, I won’t buy her books anymore” is authoritarian. It’s also not authoritarian if I look at that list of over 7000 signatories and think “What a bunch of assholes” and think poorly of them for their association.

Rowling has not been “honourable and compassionate” — she’s been a pious bigot — and if you regard standing in solidarity with a bigot is a commendable position, think again.

But yes, please, do go sign that useless petition if you agree with it. I love it when horrible people drop the mask and slap a clear label on their forehead.

Man, the UK is a weird place, where this flavor of prejudice is still socially approved. It’s bad when an American can say Britain is even worse than we are.

I like my monsters easily killed and their malignancy easily dismissed

I’m not going to write about last night’s debate, because a) I only saw a few moments of it and b) I cannot bear it. I spent my evening grading exams while playing a movie in the background because that was a less agonizing use of my time. Maybe you’d like to hear about the movie instead? It was crap, but it warmed my heart anyway.

The movie was Die, Monster, Die, and I first saw it when I was 9 years old. It triggers a cascade of remembrances, most of which have nothing to do with the movie itself, but with the circumstances. If I had to pick a happy moment in my life to dwell in for eternity, it would probably be being 9 again.

The context first, what came before. My family had gone through a rough patch, what we’d now call “economically distressed”, where everything conspired to increase our misery. My father was, as he was for many years, struggling to feed his family. He was on the Boeing roller coaster, occasionally getting a job with good benefits at that company, only to be laid off shortly afterwards and have to scramble to find some miserable manual labor job. My mother, with 4 kids, had tried to get a job herself, and this had increased Dad’s distress — he was a man of the mid-1960s, after all (he got better). If I had to name a moment of misery in my life, it would have been the year before when my parents were fighting and threatening divorce and I was totally bereft.

But that was all over when this movie came out. Parents were reconciled, family was stable again, and honestly, I came out of the experience with a deep appreciation of family. It was all that got me through the 1960s, and 70s, and 80s, and 90s, and 2000s, and 2010s, and it’s my only hope for the 2020s.

I also had a grand extended family. In my childhood times of trouble, I’d stay with my grandmother. My Uncle Ed lived with my grandmother, and he was one of those man-children who doted on his nephews and nieces, and had a near-total lack of ambition. He was always cheerful, though, and he seemed to have a thorough understanding of what children liked, because he was one himself.

On a fairly typical weekend, my brother and I would spend it with my grandmother and Uncle Ed, and get indulged. A great Friday evening would start with getting out of school, having dinner, and then going off to grandma’s house. Uncle Ed would take us to Stewart Drug in downtown Kent, and we’d buy comic books, come home, and lounge about for a while reading. Then we’d head over to the Vale Theater if there was an interesting movie playing (I’m getting to the movie, don’t worry!). After the movie, we’d get home to put on the Friday night creature feature, and stay up ridiculously late while Ed fell asleep on the couch.

Paradise, right?

So finally, this one night, the movie in town was Die, Monster, Die, irresistible bait to a 9 year old. We piled into Ed’s old Ford and trundled off across town. It was going to be a thrilling experience, even if an honest assessment of the movie is that it was fairly typical American International Pictures cheese, mainly about milking the name of its star, setting the stage with nice set full of creepy staircases and cobwebs, and throwing an occasional jump scare at us. In the 1960s, though, a jump scare was the sudden appearance of a bunch of rubber bats on strings. That was enough.

The star was Boris Karloff.

The story was based (loosely) on HP Lovecraft’s “The Color Out of Space”. There was another recent remake of the story, I think because it’s a classic of familial anxiety. It’s about a family that finds a mysterious glowing rock that corrupts everything — it generates monstrous growth and slowly poisons the family and leads to horrifying mutations.

It’s a metaphor for capitalism, you know.

So Karloff has a greenhouse full of giant plants and a zoo from hell, all made by tainting them with fragments of glowing green rock.

But his intentions are good! He wants to feed the world, he thinks his mysterious rock will lead to prosperity and restore the reputation of the Witley name. He continues to think that as his loyal servant, Merwyn, sickens and eventually dies, leaving a greasy stain on the floor. His wife Letitia is confined to her bed, her skin turning grey and mottled, begging her daughter and her boyfriend to escape while they can. Eventually Letitia goes mad and attacks everyone, her head covered with horrible growths, and she dies and decays in front of everyone’s eyes. That finally convinces Boris that he’s wrong, and he goes to destroy the rock with an axe, but is attacked by the family maid, also made monstrous by the malignant influence of capitalism the color out of space, and she pushes Boris into the rock, and he starts glowing and raging and rampaging, until the boyfriend knocks him off a balcony and he falls, his glowing body parts explode in blood and fire, and the movie ends with the family mansion burning down.

For some reason, this cheaply made “B” movie resonated with young Mr Myers. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time — the ghastly fate of the Witley family worried me so much and I took the deaths personally. I still remember the highlights of that otherwise nondescript cookie-cutter horror movie.

The other thing I remember is the ride home in Uncle Ed’s 1950s era car, the one with the high bench seats and no seat belts, of course. Those seats weren’t flush with the floor, and I was positive there was a monster under them, waiting to grab my ankles with malformed glowing claws, so I rode all the way home with my feet up on the seat. It was the only way to be sure. I didn’t sleep well that night, either. It was a great experience!

So I rewatched the movie last night while grading papers. It was a trifle, not too distracting, and it was bad. Not recommended unless you’re also carrying similar baggage, and unless the alternative is some ghastly shitshow. I won that evening!

Come to think of it, though, it would have been entirely appropriate to title the debate “Die, Monster, Die.” Can we please get rid of the green glowing rock imbedded in the heart of America? I want a simple solution like that, even if it ends with the entire goddamn thing burning to the ground.

They really hate Ilhan Omar

I’m not in her district, so I can’t vote for her, but if I were I would. James O’Keefe, professional slimeball, is targeting her yet again with pseudo-exposes of what he claims is illegal behavior.

Project Veritas has claimed Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar is engaging in illegal ballot harvesting and a cash-for-ballots scheme in her district in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The group, which has targeted mainly liberal groups with “sting” operations, posted a video late on Sunday showing what it claims is evidence of an illegal effort to harvest absentee ballots.

The group’s founder, James O’Keefe, alleged on Twitter that Omar’s team may have bribed voters in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, which she has represented since 2019.

A few problems here: he has no evidence of voters being bribed (which would be peculiar, since the population of her district are eager to support her, and you’re not going to bribe local bigots to vote for her anyway), so that accusation is basically libelous. A second problem is that assisting others in delivering ballots (“harvesting” ballots) isn’t illegal in Minnesota. The practice has even stood up in the state Supreme Court. The Republicans hate it, because how dare you help the elderly and shut-ins and the overworked practice their rights?

Also, this smear campaign has nothing to do with Omar. The ballots they’re complaining about were collected by campaigners for Jamal Osman, for a city council seat. But hey, he’s Muslim, they’re all the same, right?

None of that matters. Project Veritas is a sleazy operation that’s desperate to distract voters from the spectacle of Republican corruption, so they ginned up some weak sauce to splatter Democrats with. Mediocre.

This election should be the clearest, easiest decision you ever make

Charles Pierce summarizes the the man exposed by his tax returns.

But he stands also exposed as a failure who was allowed to thrive because he failed at a time in which politics and government were rearranged to keep his particular genre of failure ever from being fatal. In fact, if he hadn’t run for president*—and, especially, had he not been elected president*—he likely would have floated gracefully into eternity, leaving a complex disaster for his heirs to straighten out, and remembered in history as a crude, wealthy wastrel with some interesting eccentricities. And measured only against his fellow plutocrats, posterity might have gotten away with remembering him that way. But measured against the presidency, he was what Wayne Barrett said he was in 1979: small and venal, with no ideas big enough to transcend profit, a fitting epitaph for the republic in the age of the money power.

Good stuff, but let’s never forget that he successfully tapped into a vein of national venality and rose to extraordinary power, which could happen again in November. He’s going into a national presidential debate tonight, which I’m not going to watch, because I know what he’s going to do: he’s going to mug and preen for his base, which will happily glug down the lies he vomits up, and at the end of the evening, he will have solidified his support among the American troglodentia. It’s what he does. It’s how he won (well, that and the Republican cheating and vote suppression).

Tonight, Biden has to show up strong and clear-eyed and confident, which I’m giving 50-50 odds he can do, and he’ll probably “win” the debate, in the sense that polling will show a slight increase in his support. But remember the debates with Hillary Clinton! I watched those, unfortunately, and Trump came off as a creepy bully and Clinton was definitely far more competent, and the polls all showed Clinton as the “victor”, but we all know how that turned out.

To be uncharacteristically optimistic, though, an incremental gain might be enough and is all we ought to expect. Debates aren’t a football game, although way too many people see them that way: there will not be a battle in which one side is definitively declared the winner. We’re in the final grind of the election, and shaving off a few fence-sitters here and there is the best we can do. Biden just has to come off as slightly better than Trump to a few people who are swayed to vote for him in November, and mission accomplished for the night. Don’t expect to wake up tomorrow morning to learn that Trump was like a punctured bladder flopping to the floor and immediately fading away — won’t happen. You still have to show up and vote. You still have to fight the anti-democratic strategems of the Republican party.

So get to work, throw the pig out.

Cool story, bro

Every few years, stories of Organism 46-B rise up again, and of course, I’m starting to see it again in 2020. Organism 46-B is a mythical creature of extreme inaccessibility — it lives in Lake Vostok, the freshwater lake buried 2 miles beneath Antarctic ice. You’d think that would hamper the spreading of the tall tale, since you’re not going to have drunk tourists stumbling around the edge of the lake snapping blurry photos of phenomena they call the Lake Vostok Monster, but it also prevents skeptics from dissecting the claims. They think. Except this story has Russian scientists building an elevator and sending scuba divers down to visit. Not true and not possible! A couple of holes have been bored down to the surface, but no one is going for a swim.

The scary story claims that the Russians found a giant monster down there.

Organism 46b is a species of giant octopus, but with 14 arms rather than eight.

It also spits poison and can mimic human form. I think I see a bad B movie developing here.

I’m disappointed. It’s so implausible on every level, yet I think 2020 really needs a tentacled man-eating sea monster.

By the way, one truly cool story: the existence of deep Antarctic lakes was predicted by the great Peter Kropotkin.

The late, great Catface

I am sorry to report that, on my latest scan of my house, I have discovered that our beloved feral friend, the Cat-Faced Spider That Lives Under the Eaves of our Garage, has died. She seems to have passed quietly in her web, probably due to the dropping temperatures in the area. She simply curled up quietly and died, possibly just overnight.

Internment will be tomorrow. I’m warming the body in my house in case she revivifies.

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