Let's continue with part three of my series highlighting a few of my favorite exploitation film trailers. (For part one of this series, click here. For part two, click here. For part three, read on.)
"Teenage Mother means 9 months of Hell!" If just for that line, this trailer would be one of my favorites. However, there is so much more to relish in the trailer for 1967's Teenage Mother. Everything from the amazingly sexist narration ("Yeah, she was a real tease...") to the suggestion that this movie's main goal is to provide a valuable public service is pure old-style roadshow. Even more interesting is to consider that this film was released in the year of The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde. With all the revisionist history of the past few decades, it's nice to be remembered that even in the late 60s, most Americans still looked like members of the Future Astronomers of America.
Of course, if you didn't look like a Future Astronomer in the 60s, maybe you looked like Dean Stockwell in one of the many "guru" roles that he specialized in before relaunching his career with Blue Velvet and Quantum Leap. Check out Dean here in the H.P. Lovecraft "adaptation," The Dunwich Horror. (Also be sure to check out a rather sexy Sandra Dee who, one assumes, was probably trying to break free from her Summer Place image.)
Let's continue with yet another horror film from the late 60s, Scream and Scream Again. While The Dunwich Horror has dated horribly (and, quite frankly, it was dated when it was first released), Scream and Scream Again remains one of the best (and more offbeat) of the various B-movies of the 1960s. I'm not ashamed to admit that the film served as the inspiration for my short story Remembering Michael Powell (which appears in my second book, Oswald Acted Alone).
One more example of metaphorical mayhem from the exploitation cinema of the 1960s. You might not guess it from this trailer but I Drink Your Blood is probably one of the best films ever made about the generation gap. If nothing else, it shows just how easy it is to infect psychotic hippies with rabies.
Let's close this up with something a little less "heavy," as they might have put it in any one of the previous four films. This next trailer is for a film that is amazingly silly. However, I have to admit that I really enjoyed this film when I was around ten years old.
In other words, it's time for Yor, The Hunter From the Future! (Yor was actually meant to appear in several films but, to the best of my knowledge, this was his only cinematic outing. Also, the film's final twist is a bit obvious from the title but when you're a kid, it's actually pretty cool.)
I recently discovered that the police department of Denton, Texas (my home from 1992 to 2001) maintains a website for the Denton City Jail. There are currently two jails in Denton. The county jail is where people go to serve out a sentence after being convicted of a crime. The city jail is more of a holding center. When someone is arrested by a member of the Denton Police Department (as opposed to the Denton County Sheriff's Office), they are usually first booked into the city jail where they either wait to be bonded out or until they are transferred over to county.
I'm neither proud nor ashamed to admit that, in the very late 90s, I spent a night or two in both of these jails. Fortunately for me, my youthful run-inswith the law were more of a case of me being young and irresponsible as opposed to me being a criminal. As such, my infrequent stays in the various holding cells of these two institutions never lasted for more than a couple of hours and never cost me anything more than the occasional fine. That said, I can still say that, from my limited experience, I was always relieved whenever I found myself being booked into the city jail as opposed to the county jail. Whereas the county jail was always overcrowded, loud, and was run by a bunch of pot-bellied rednecks, the city jail was almost peaceful. The guards were always polite and quick to laugh at a good joke. Since the Denton City Police tend to arrest fewer people than the Denton County Sheriff's office, the city jail was never all that crowded. One could be sure that, if nothing else, he'd at least get a private holding cell where he could lie down on a fairly comfortable cot and enjoy the quiet.
Add to that, the food was better in city jail. Indeed, the only bad thing about the Denton City Jail in the late 1990s was the total lack of television in the cells. However, it was a small price to pay to avoid the claustrophobia of county jail.
I don't know if that description is still accurate. It's been a while and, quite frankly, repeating the experience holds little appeal to me. In fact, I probably would have blocked all that from my mind if not for the fact that I've become rather addicted to visiting the homepage of the Denton City Jail.
On this website, they post the name, age, and latest mugshot of everyone currently being held in the jail, what they're being charged with, and how much it is going to cost to get them out of jail. This is, of course, a public web site which means that if you're arrested in Denton, the entire world can know about it within a matter of minutes. The Denton Police Department claims that the reason they're doing this is so that concerned friends or relatives can know if their loved ones are currently in jail and in need of someone to post bond.
Now, I have to admit that, personally, I'm not really comfortable with the idea of putting someone's picture on the Internet just because they've been arrested for a crime. Quite frankly, it seems like a massive invasion of privacy as well as a blatant violation of the whole concept of innocent until proven guilty. As a concerned citizen and a Libertarian, I think that the web site should be taken down.
However, as an individual, I'd be sorry to see that happen. The site, as reprehensible as it may be in the grand scheme of things, is just too addictive to maintain any sort of outrage towards.
One of the key components of this addiction is the fact that the site is updated in "real time." What this means is that each time a person is booked into the city jail, that new name is immediately added to the site. By that same token, whenever someone is finally released (whether by completing a sentence or getting bonded out), that name is removed from the site. As such, one could spend several hours just continually reloading the page and seeing if any names have disappeared and if any new names have materialized. Words cannot begin to describe just how entertaining this can truly be.
Each time the page is reloaded, it's like turning the page on a trashy but involving novel.
For instance, when I was visited earlier tonight, the first thing I noticed is that the two cute girls who were arrested for shop lifting have apparently either finally been bailed out or else have transferred out to the country jail. I'm hoping, for their sakes, that they bonded out and are free tonight. After all, they spent the last three days in the city jail. During that time, six separate guys were all arrested on DUI charges, booked in the jail, and subsequently released. With each visit to the web site, I would see their two names remaining even as all around them, new prisoners were being brought in and then released. I found myself feeling a lot of sympathy for these two strangers as I imagined what it must have been like to be setting in those cells and watching as everyone but them was eventually allowed to leave. I wondered if those two shoplifters were best friends or were they just casual acquaintances? Was one of the girl trying to impress the other by stealing? Were they just two spoiled suburban brats who were stealing because they could get away with and was their subsequent abandonment in jail the punishment of an outraged parent who refused to bond his daughters out? Or, I wondered, were they two desperate runaways who were shop lifting because they desperately needed something to bargain with?
It was better than a soap opera. Indeed, I was on the verge of driving to Denton myself just to bail these two out of jail.
The web site's genius is that it gives us just enough specifics to get our attention without giving us any of the details that would serve to limit the imagination. For example, when I visit the site, I might discover that a 47 year-old individual named Tom Smith has been arrested for public intoxication. I might click on Tom Smith's name and be presented with a mugshot of a balding, overweight white guy with a grim expression on his face. However, what the site won't tell me is who Tom Smith is and why he was intoxicated in public. Those facts are left to me to try to uncover based on the thin evidence provided.
As a result, I might find myself spending a lot of time examining Tom Smith's mugshot. I'll look at his grim expression and I'll wonder if the frown is a permanent feature or is it just a result of being arrested. I'll look at the face in search of any scratches or bruises or scars, any evidence of a struggle. I'll look at that mugshot and I'll ask myself, "Is Tom Smith a villain or is he a tragic hero? Is he a man with an addiction or is he a man trying to cope with pain?" In the end, the only thing that can be said for sure is that the Tom Smith of my imagination will probably turn out to have a far more interesting story than the Tom Smith of reality.
As I've mentioned before, I have a "day job." I don't go into a lot of specifics about that job because the company has a strict "no blogging" policy which, essentially, boils down to this: write negative things about your employer online and your employer will fire you.
Of course, that may sound a bit paranoid on my part. However, my paranoia is a direct result of the paranoia that I'm confronted with each and every day. The company that I work for is not an extremely popular company. The public pays us a lot of money for various services and the public hates us for it. If you think that I'm suggesting that this hatred has created the type of corporate atmosphere where the company pays people specifically to spend each workday running google searches, well, you're not far off the mark.
That's why I choose to be vague about who signs my paycheck. Don't get me wrong. I am a writer. I have always been a writer and I will always be a writer. If I ever found myself in a situation where -- for any reason -- I could no longer write, I would probably end up standing in the middle of Central Expressway during rush hour and waiting for some angry commuter to run me over. However, writing does not the bills. Or I guess I should say that it does not pay my bills. That is not a complaint on my part. I don't write to make money. I write to live. As a result, my day job -- and the fact that I depend on that job's paycheck to eat -- often feels like society's way of punishing me for preferring the company of fictional characters to living people.
As you might have guessed, I don't really like my job that much but some days are better than others. Specifically, these are the days when the boss is either on vacation or out of the office at some meeting. On those days, when I don't have to worry about the guy calling me into his office so that he can inform me of some new, largely pointless policy that he expects everyone to follow simply because he says we have no choice in the matter, I almost enjoy being at work.
Don't get me wrong. My boss talks up a good game and, for the first few weeks after he arrived, everyone was really looking forward to working with him. It was only later that we all came to realize that the guy is basically the same as every other jackass that's ever been promoted into upper management. He just happens to be a bit smoother. He's actually only been with the company for about four years or so. He's one of the new young turks; one of the guys who is supposedly going to take us to the next level. He certainly seems to believe that's what he's going to do. Of course, the rest of us -- who have all been with the company a bit longer -- know better. What's especially galling is the way that he makes us feel whenever we ask him a question. Most of our former bosses responded to disagreements by threatening to fire anyone who didn't do exactly what they were told. Our new boss, however, responds by smirking, lowering his gaze so that there is no doubt that he's looking down at you, and saying, "I appreciate your concern but..." Simply finish that statement with the first condescending comment that comes to your mind and you'll have a fairly good idea what it's like to try to have a conversation with my boss.
That's why we're glad whenever we know we're not going to have to see our boss for an extended period of time. Of course, when he's out of the office, that means that the assistant director is in charge. He's a typical assistant director, really. I imagine you could find his type at any workplace in America. He's an older fellow; older than just about anyone else in the office. He's been with the company for decades and he's one of those guys who everyone used to think would eventually be the top guy. However, he has instead come to represent the Peter Principle -- everyone rises to their general level of incompetency. He's never going to the top guy. No, at his age, the best he can hope for is to end his career as second-in-command to a young kid who tends to view him as a burned out relic. Not that anyone in the office has much sympathy for this guy. If he's reached a dead end, we all feel that's probably where he deserves to be. He's never shown any great loyalty to any of us and we all know that he probably screwed a lot of people over to get to his current position. He's a bit of jerk as well, the type of guy you can count on to make a tasteless joke and to constantly exaggerate his own importance.
Still, the guy's been around so long that none of us take him that seriously. We all know that, regardless of how much he might growl, he doesn't have the credibility to back up his bite. Despite the fact that the guy's a totally incompetent windbag, I'm always happy when I get to work and discover that it's just him in the boss's office.
On a related note, Barack Obama is currently in Europe.
Writer Philip Jose' Farmer died on February 25th. He was 91 years old. It should be noted that, in recent years, Farmer's death was prematurely announced quite a few times and, in fact, I even once referred to Farmer online as being "the late writer, Philip Jose Farmer." I received an e-mail that same day from Win Eckert, one of the leading students of Farmer's Wold Newton Universe, correcting my error. Unfortunately, I feTarzan Alive ar that I shall not be receiving a similar e-mail after posting this.
Over the course of his long career, Farmer was often pigeon-holed as a "science fiction" or "fantasy" author. And indeed, he was an author who not embraced so-called "genre" fiction but celebrated it as well. However, a rather sly and subversive sense of humor also ran through everything Farmer wrote and he was that rare writer of "popular" fiction who not only understood what made the conventions of a genre work but also knew how to subvert those conventions without scaring off the reader. As a result, his books can even be enjoyed by someone like me who, typically, tends to have a toxic reaction to anything labeled "science fiction."
Farmer was probably best known, to the general reader, for the River World series. Clever as those books are, I think they actually pale in comparison to some of Farmer's lesser known works. In particular, his taboo-breaking Image of the Beast is just as shocking today as when it was first published four decades ago.
However, to many, Farmer will always be best known as the man who wrote two highly accomplished and very entertaining biographies of two fictional characters. Tarzan Alive (1971) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973) both served to give new life to two classic pulp characters who were in danger of being forgotten.
After decades of Tarzan being turned into a parody in cheap movies and a campy television show, Tarzan Alive reminded readers of why the original, literary Tarzan had captured the public's imagination in the first place.
Doc Savage, meanwhile, served as my first introduction to this legendary figure and it inspired me to start collecting not only the 60s era, paperback Bantam reprints of Doc Savage's adventures but to start reading the original adventures of several of the other fictional characters that Farmer mentioned while telling Savage's life story.
Indeed, I owe the two things that have brought my the most happiness over the past few years -- my love of pulp fiction and my hobby of collecting old books -- to Philip Jose Farmer.
One of my prize possessions is a hardback, first edition of Tarzan Alive.*
Philip Jose Farmer, R.I.P.
* What I do not have, and desperately want, is a copy of Doc Savage: An Apocalyptic Life. Considering how much that book really has affected my life, it's a bit strange that I've never actually owned a copy of it. Instead, I would just check it out from the Richardson Public Library. Unfortunately, during the ten years I was living in Denton, Texas, something happened to the library's copy and I haven't been able to find it in the seven years since I first moved back to Richardson. So, if anyone out there has a copy that they might be willing to sell, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My third and, in my honest opinion, best short story collection, Fish Can Not Carry Guns, has officially been released by Xlibris. Expect to see it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all the other online book sellers within the coming month. As for now, copies can be purchased directly from the Xlibris web page.
From the back cover of Fish Can Not Carry Guns:
"Welcome to Glory Hole, Texas! Spawned from a marriage of bloodshed and greed, Glory Hole is a town where certain unfortunate incidents are best not discussed. Whether it's the true identity of the mysterious and doomed Sybil Grimm or the ex-Scientologists meeting in the back of the community center or the dead Samoan midgets buried in Casper Perryman's basement, Glory Hole is a town full of secrets. In this darkly humorous book, Jeff Ellis exposes those secrets. Fish Can Not Carry Guns is not just the story of Glory Hole. For better and worse, it is the story of us all."
Fish Can Not Carry Guns.
In these uncertain days of economic panic, global warming, reality television, Barack Obama, 90210 revivals, Sarah Palin, smaller cell phones, bigger SUVs, and a Wal-Mart on every street corner, no trip through the hidden darkness of America is complete without it!
I recieved a royalty check from my publisher today. I always look forward to getting those checks, despite the fact that the monetary amount involved in always almost pathetically small. However, that check serves two very important purposes to me.
Number one, it reminds me that, despite the occasional appearance to the contrary, I actually am a writer.
Second of all, it means that someone out there actually bought one of my books at some point over the past six months.
Thank you, unknown stranger. I hope you enjoyed them.
Today was not a good day as far as my job was concerned. I have never left work feeling as frustrated, angry, and just plain defeated than I did today.
That's pretty much all that really needs to be said about that, though. Is there anyone out there who doesn't hate their day job?
How do I deal with the frustration? I write.
Since arriving back home, I have devoted myself to working on my current literary project, mizmoon.
On those rare occasions when writing doesn't soothe my nerves, I look at the image below.
This famous still is from the 1902 French film, La Voyage dans la Lune. This was the first science fiction film. Interestingly enough, a print of the film was apparently stolen and copied by agents of Thomas Edison. Edison proceeded to distribute this film in the United States and made a considerable profit off of it. (This, of course, is to be expected considering the fact that the only money Edison spent on the movie was the money necessary to steal it.) The film's actual director apparently ended up going bankrupt as a result of Edison's actions.
Eight years later, Edison would make a science fiction of his own when he produced the first adaption of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. His version of Frankenstein's monster (seen below) looked a tad bit different from the Boris Karloff version.
The actor underneath that makeup was a gentleman by the name of Charles Ogle. When I was a kid, this picture used to scare the Hell out of me. Even looking at it now, I have to say that it still makes me a bit uneasy.
It's interesting for me to think that, around the same time that I thought Charles Ogle was the scariest thing I'd ever seen, Thomas Edison was a bit of a hero to me. And I guess he still is. He may have been a bastard but at least he was productive bastard, eh?
And, perhaps more importantly, he was our bastard.
I look at these images and I search my imagination for inspiration and, regardless of the final result, I am reminded that there is so much more to life than a pointless job that wastes 40 hours of my time.
On Monday afternoon, I received my author's review copy of my third short story collection, Fish Can Not Carry Guns. As soon as I've confirmed that I'm satisfied, Fish Can Not Carry Guns will be officially released and available from the site, Amazon, the Xlibris website, and all the other online bookstores.
As excited as I was to finally hold the actual book in my hands, it was still a rather strange experience. As you may remember from reading this blog, it's actually been a bit less than a year since I finished up my final draft of Fish Carry Not Carry Guns. While I was working on that final draft (and all the drafts the came before it), that book dominated every aspect of my life. It was all I thought about and it was all I could talk about. My entire life was about finishing that book. When I actually did finish, I was exhausted.
Writing a book is like having a passionate romance with a beautiful, charismatic sociopath. When it starts, you're excited by the possibilities and you're even willing to be a bit reckless. It's only halfway through the process that you suddenly realize that you're the only one with any emotional commitment to what you're doing. That's when you start to worry. You start searching for ways to escape the pain that you know will come from the inevitable end of it all. And then, when it does end, you're left numb.
When I held that book in my hand, I felt as if I was meeting an ex-girlfriend who I hadn't seen in over a decade. I was excited to see it, I was curious about how the final product turned out, but, in the back of my mind, I knew that I had moved on, both intellectually and emotionally.
Right now, my life is consumed with mizmoon. What's mizmoon? If all goes well, mizmoon (and yes, the lack of capitalization is intentional) will be my next published work. What is mizmoon about? I'm actually a bit curious about that myself. So far, writing mizmoon has been an interesting and (at times) rather disturbing experience.
However, today, I set aside mizmoon and I devoted my time to revisiting Fish Can Not Carry Guns.
And, if I may say so myself, it's actually pretty good.
Fish Can Not Carry Guns will be officially released at the end of this month.
(For the sake of trivia, now seems like a good place to point out that Fish Can Not Carry Guns was originally entitled Rain. For a year and a half, Rain was the official title. In 2007, the book was retitled Pariah's Progress. Fortunately, I then read Philip K. Dick's brilliant novel Valis. The term "Fish Can Not Carry Guns" appears prominently in Valis. The term (and Dick's writing in general) stuck in my mind as I wrote the final draft of Pariah's Progress. As I neared the end of that rewrite, it was becoming very clear that Philip K. Dick -- along with Raymond Carver -- had emerged as the biggest influence on my own writing style. For that reason, it seemed only appropriate to pay homage to Dick with the collection's title. Hence, Pariah's Progress became Fish Can Not Carry Guns. It's a definite improvement, don't you think?)
(The book, I might add, is dedicated to the memories and work of Philip K. Dick, Raymond Carver, Billy Lee Brammer, and Babette Hall. While Dick and Carver remain, even in death, widely read and admired, Brammer and Hall have fallen into obscurity. Billy Lee Brammer only completed one novel but that novel -- called The Gay Place -- is one of the best works of American political fiction ever published. Hall is the credited author of The Professor and the Co-Ed, an oddly touching pulp novel that I was reading at the same time I was finishing up my final draft. Again, for the sake of trivia, my first book -- It's Impossible To Start A Fire If You Have No Desire To Burn -- was dedicated to AJF (the initials of someone who was once quite important to me) and my second -- Oswald Acted Alone -- was dedicated to the French filmmaker, Jean Rollin.)