Clockwork Orange, Abfab, Reno 911 Matryoshkas

clockwork orange matryoshkas

Quite a long time ago I posted about the Rocky Horror Picture Show Matryoshka Dolls available from bobobabushka's Etsy store. This is definitely a case of No Regretsy. However, all the pictures appear to have disappeared from my server. WTF?

The thing is, since that day bobobabushka has been a busy little whack job-slash-genius. Her name, apparently, is Irene Huang and she lives in Gold Coast, Australia. She is about the coolest person ever, and if you have to ask why, well, perhaps you didn't hear me. Her job is making Clockwork Orange matryoshkas. We are not worthy, Irene.

In addition to the Clockwork Orange dolls up top, below is just a sampling of the awesomeness waiting for you in bobo's store, my little babushkas.

The Addams Family

Is it just me, or does Wednesday look hot? Don't get me wrong, it's not weird of me or anything. I just think it looks kind of like Wednesday Addams just turned 18 and is ready to ritually slaughter Marilyn Munster in a sex-mad blood orgy. (Note also that the artist included little Pubert, so this must be Raul Julia-era Addams, in which case it has been age-appropriate for me to think Christina Ricci is hot for well over a decade now, or at least as age appropriate as it needs to be. Wait...if that's true, though, then...where's Debbie? OH SHIT, SHE'S RIGHT BEHIND ME!!!!AAAAHHHH!!!!)

this is spinal tap matryoshkas

"Hello, Cleveland! This is the first song off our new album. It's called 'Lick My Love Pump.' With backing vocals provided by the Cleveland Hopkins Airport control tower..."

abfab matryoshkas

"Oh, don't be like that, sweetie. Mummy only had one, sweetie, can she be blamed if someone put roofies in it, or whatever?" Yes, that's the crew of Absolutely Fabulous, making your tchotchke shelf, well...FABULOUS.

The Young Ones

That's right! It's "The Young Ones." A mysterious man calling himself M. Chistian introduced me to that show one day in the distant past. I'm still staring blankly, almost twenty years later.

reno 911 matryoshkas

The Reno Sheriff's Department is waiting to ask you a few questions, starting with, "Who's laughing now, Milkshake!?"

 And, of course, we now arrive at the classic...the one, the only....the one everyone thinks about when they hear "Pop culture matryoshkas." I'm referring, of course, to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where "Everyone gets in Frank," which sounds like it should be an audience participation line from the first act, but it's not. In this case, it's a simple fact of economical Russian design. Because, as Mr. Putin would say, "In post-Soviet Russia, house guests get in your belly."



There's more waiting for you in the shop. How can you not want a set of Royal Tenenbaums matryoshkas? What, other than nesting within each other, could better communicate the film's central theme about the inescapability of family?

Happy International Bat Night!


That's right, folks, tonight is International Bat Night. Wanna know who told me? Kylie Ireland. That's why I'm Twitter friends with badass old-school porn stars, you see; sometimes they're also bat nerds.

The video above was taken maybe ten minutes from my house, at the Yolo Causeway, 'neath which the bat hordes doth hide. If you've never seen these babies swarming out of their hiding places at sunset, you have missed one of the most amazing sights in the world; this video just captures the barest whisper of what it's like to see the vast river of bats emerging from their hiding places in the hollows beneath teh Causeway.

But I am given to understand that the Causeway is mini-fingerlings when it comes to bat flights -- fingerlings, even. I remember a couple of friends who road-tripped it to the caves in the Santa Guadalupe mountains, where they said the bats darkened the sky.

I couldn't find a video of the bat flight in the Guadalupe Mountains, but here's one taken at Carlsbad, set, pretentiously enough to "Flight of the Valkries" (I would have preferred "Bela Lugosi's Dead"):


Remember, all you baby bats out there, if you're bad ass-enough to go hunt down some bat flights, watch from a distance and no flash photography. It pisses them off. And the last thing you wanna do, kids, is anger the bat gods. They'll get you while you sleep.

Speaking of which, I'll have you know that Google has no predictive search entry for "most adorable bat pictures." WTF? Still get some batty results:


Kirsten Hubbard

We Scream to Say

Honduran White Bat



Portrait of the Artist as a Baby Bat

  As a former Gothic Net columnist, I am professionally qualified and required by durable contractual obligation to inform you that no matter how many girls she's kissed, Katy Perry is only posing as a baby bat in the above picture. She's such a conformist. These bats, however, are real:

Today in 1946: The Big Sleep Premieres

"Physically, I'm not tough. I may think tough. I would say I'm kinda tough and calloused inside. I could use a foot more in height and fifty more pounds and fifteen years off my age and then God help all you bastards."

--Humphrey Bogart

The Big Sleep

Damn, but I love being subscribed to The Humphrey Bogart Estate on Facebook. Last night they posted this:

Today in 1946, a few days after Bogie planted his prints in the wet cement outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre, The Big Sleep premiered, and the world got its first glance at what remains the best portrayal of Philip Marlowe on film.

Of all the great masculine icons of the golden age of film, and the crime film specifically, I admire Bogart the most. He somehow made acting like a man seem simultaneously effortless, impossible, inescapable and seizure-inducing. Watch his Spade and his Queeg back to back. You will need stitches afterwards.

Chase it with Fred C. Dobbs; you'll need a trauma surgeon.

The Bogart Estate also posts this beautiful and heartbreaking picture of Bogie and Bacall, as the former imprints his mitts in the concrete jungle:

Bogie and Bacall

On camera, Bogart could be the hard-ass to end all hardasses, and frequently was. But what made him special to me was that in every crazed borderline-psychopath doomed villain-hero or mopey pile of regret stewing in his juices snapping, "Play it!" to his long-suffering friend, there was that smile in Paris, the joi de vivre that the icons of the era, like all men of my father's and grandfather's and great-grandfather's generations, could experience long as they kept it inside. They could dream big and love large but they were required, by their maleness, to hide it the way they had to hide the fear.

Which is why it isn't the hard-ass that matters to me about Bogie. That's not what cooks along just under the boiling point within Humphrey Bogart's genius. The Bogie gift, to me, isn't just the violent and glorious male iconography rampant in that moment when Spade's psychopathic grin breaks across his savage face just before he bitchslaps Joel Cairo, or even the wild eyes of Queeg as he paces fanatically from one side of the Caine's bridge to the other. It's that Parisian smile.

Because the way I see it, the Rick Blaine that handed over those exit visas wasn't the bad-ass. It wasn't the psycho. It was the smiling Blaine in Paris, who was thankful enough for beauty and life and love to give up, irrevocably, both what he had been given and what he had taken. Rick has the sack to take those visas from Ugarte and keep them from Strasser...but his bogeys are bigger still when he gives them to Lazlo.

Bogart "got" that. Did Mitchum or Sterling Hayden understand it? Maybe a little. I'm certain William Holden did. But it's Bogart who could so vividly showcase the desperate, gaping, festering absence of a few days in Paris in Rick Blaine's soul. And it's Bogart who could give it back to us, as casually as handing over a couple of tickets to Lisbon.

Similarly, Queeg's internal landscape of fear and insufficiency was more real to Bogart than to anyone except maybe Herman Wouk himself. The quavering piece of Fred C. Dobbs's rotting soul that never let anyone put anything over on him wasn't some shallow ass-clown of a punch line to Bogart. He was a very real scaredy-cat living underneath the man's man, knowing at any moment the latter could crumble and the former could drag us all, tumbling, into fetid, stinking darkness.

In Rick Blaine, the man's man triumphed because those moments in Paris had been beautiful enough to sustain him...once he let himself understand what they meant. In his Marlowe, as concretely as in Chandler's characterization, it was the gimlet-greased wisecracks that made life tenable.

With Dobbs and Queeg, terrors ate them alive from the inside.

I think any male, born or chosen, can relate, if he's had to maddog his fear and find a masculine identity that matters in the context of a world where Major Strassers predominate and Lazlos and Elsas are far too few.

It's not so much about being a's about mattering, because, okay, Ugarte may not matter in the long run, maybe not enough to stick your neck out for...but Lazlo and Elsa sure as hell do.

And if Rick Blaine blows it and Strasser gets his way...well then, God help all us bastards.

Bogie "got" that equation like no other icon of the golden age.

That's why he matters.

Memento mori, sweetheart.

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Don DeLillo Interviewed in The Paris Review

Don DeLillo

I love this quote from Don DeLillo, which The Paris Review excerpted on their Facebook page from Adam Begley's interview with him. It feels eerily reminiscent of how I feel, not so much about being a writer but specifically about being a novelist.

...I wish I had started earlier, but evidently I wasn’t ready. First, I lacked ambition. I may have had novels in my head but very little on paper and no personal goals, no burning desire to achieve some end. Second, I didn’t have a sense of what it takes to be a serious writer. It took me a long time to develop this. Even when I was well into my first novel I didn’t have a system for working, a dependable routine. I worked haphazardly, sometimes late at night, sometimes in the afternoon. I spent too much time doing other things or nothing at all. On humid summer nights I tracked horseflies through the apartment and killed them—not for the meat but because they were driving me crazy with their buzzing. I hadn’t developed a sense of the level of dedication that’s necessary to do this kind of work.

Read the whole interview here, if you're into that sort of thing.

On Gene Kelly and God

Gene kelly

Happy 100th Birthday to Gene Kelly! Of course, Mr. Kelly passed away in 1996, but today, August 23, would have been his 100th birthday.

He was a brilliant dancer and a great actor and he inspired me very much when I was a kid.

But in this time, and this week, of gargantuan political asshattery, I would like to spotlight one particular thing that Mr. Kelly endured at the hands of certain...ELEMENTS...of society.

In short, like so many geniuses in so many generations, he took a beating from his era's Team Fuckhead. From Wikipedia:
Kelly was a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party with strong progressive convictions, which occasionally created difficulty for him as his period of greatest prominence coincided with the McCarthy era in the U.S. In 1947, he was part of the Committee for the First Amendment, the Hollywood delegation which flew to Washington to protest at the first official hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. His first wife, Betsy Blair, was suspected of being a Communist sympathizer and when MGM, who had offered Blair a part in Marty (1955), were considering withdrawing her under pressure from the American Legion, Kelly successfully threatened MGM with a pullout from It's Always Fair Weather unless his wife was restored to the part.

And, because this is one of those weeks, I am fascinated to hear the reasons that Mr. Kelly left the Catholic church.
Kelly was raised as a Catholic, but after becoming disenchanted by the Catholic Church's support for Francisco Franco against the Spanish Republic, he officially severed his ties with the church in September 1939. This separation was prompted, in part, by a trip Kelly made to Mexico in which he became convinced of the Church’s failure in helping the poor.

These reasons do not coincide with my own reasons for leaving the Church, but I do very strongly identify with Mr. Kelly's reported disenchantment.

I do not in any way "hope I am wrong" in my belief that there is no God and no afterlife; any hopes along those lines that I did harbor would be irrelevant.

But, oh, how part of me would love to see Christ get ten minutes alone with Moneylender Ratzinger and a tire iron.

And yes, I believe He would put down that tire iron, with no blows delivered.

But it's the effort required for Him to put that tire iron down that makes the Christ story matter...yeah, even to an atheist.

Happy Birthday, Gene Kelly, and may more than your dancing inspire future generations.

Double Indemnity Screenplay

Double Indemnity Screenplay
Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche
Recently, I thought to myself, "Hey, there's money in Hollywood, right? Huh. I should learn to write that shit." I figured I would learn from the masters. That was a terrible idea. Vintage screenplays are formatted completely differently than contemporary ones; after reading a few of them, I haven't the foggiest fucking idea how to write a screenplay. In fact, I'm more confused than ever. It's alright, however, because my "connected" friends tell me, in fact, there isn't any money in Hollywood anymore; it's all remakes and reboots for the next ten years. Everybody's tapped out, so movies are pretty much greenlit only if they're, y'know, "re-imaginings" of The Partridge Family, TJ Hooker and/or Webster, preferably without any resemblance to the originals because, let's face it, that shit sucks.

However, I did stumble across at least one good experience, completely in spite of myself.

If you have any interest in noir, screenplays, movies, popular American literature, or the fact that life sucks and human beings as a philosophical and moral construct quite simply blow chunks, this facsimile edition of the "Double Indemnity" script by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler is a must-read, like the unparalleled -- but flawed -- novel by James M. Cain.

In fact, I believe it just may be the best screenplay for a crime movie ever written -- with the Maltese Falcon running either a close second or just barely edging Indemnity out, depending on my mood. The script is recreated in exact typographical detail; there are even handwritten notes from the original, whether by Wilder or Chandler I couldn't begin to speculate, but I get goosebumps just thinking about either of them scrawling notes while glaring at each other.

Because the very best part of this amazing screenplay from an amazing book (with a crappy ending, which the screenplay remedies)? It's the story in Jeffrey Meyers's introduction of just how much Chandler hated working with Billy Wilder, and just how fussy and insane Wilder found Chandler.

According to the introduction, Chandler actually went to movie company execs and demanded that Mr. Wilder not wave his cane under Chandler's nose or assign him arbitrary tasks, like "Ray, open the window, will you?" "Ray, close the blinds, will you?" Chandler was also pissed off that Wilder wore his hat indoors. Honestly, the idea of Raymond Chandler, wry sarcastic tough-guy author from England sitting there stewing while Billy Wilder asks him to open the window -- I mean, hell! Could anyone MAKE this stuff up?

That is not to distract from the point that, despite its weak ending, this is one of the most nearly perfect imperfect crime novels ever written, and the brilliant screenplay by Wilder and Chandler completely remedies the weak ending with a one-two punch that leaves you gasping. When Edward G. Robinson lights that match? Fuck's sake, man. You know it's all over: It's the death of the human soul, people, and little time to mourn it.

The screenplay also crowbars Chandler's brilliance out of the master's main shortcoming, in my opinion -- that being his tendency to write detective novels that linger on incredibly confusing details that, honestly, I don't give a damn about. For all that Chandler is a poetic stylist with no peer, his plots could get bogged down in details and repeated red herrings to the point where I always feel like I have no idea what's actually going on and, more importantly, don't care.

Cain was nothing like that. He was straightforward to a fault -- almost to the point of being blockheaded. It seems evident that Chandler thought Cain an inferior writer for this reason. I believe it's Chandler's disdain for Cain that led to his and Wilder's tapping into a breezy, cynical, world-weary tone that was 100% Chandler, 100% Cain, and 100% f#*@!#ing genius. They just don't write 'em like this any more.

Read the novel, see the movie, gape in awe at the genius of it all. This is classic America, A-list noir, the soul of the nation laid open and bloody with a tire iron.

Happy Birthday Michael Moorcock

michael moorcock Originally uploaded by Cat Sparx
I can't let the day pass without wishing a very happy 70th Birthday to Michael Moorcock. Best known for his sword-and-sorcery Elric novels and his tales of the Eternal Champion (of which Elric is one aspect), Moorcock also wrote some of the darkest, funniest and most bizarre science fiction of all time. But wait! There's more! Moorcock was also one of the most influential editors of the science fiction New Wave, which completely reinvented science fiction in the 1960s. He edited New Worlds, which for years was the showcase for radical and disruptive sci-fi. Cool enough for you? He's also a political activist and a powerful political writer. Oh, and he also wrote a bunch of songs and created music, most famously in collaboration with the sort of sci-fi-geek-death-hippie band Hawkwind but also in many other projects over the years (my favorite is Hawkwind's "Sonic Attack," a truly creepy and uproariously hilarious sort of acid nightmare). Did I mention he all but invented steampunk with the brilliant The Warlord of the Air and its two even brillianter sequels, The Land Leviathan and The Steel Tsar? Or that I may have come to the conclusion that his Elric series actually may be a bigger influence on the esthetics of fantasy fiction than even Robert E. Howard? (In terms of influence they're both outstripped by Tolkien, of course -- but more about that momentarily). I could write reams of weird stream-of-consciousness Freud shit on this guy...but I've spent most of the day at a funeral and the rest of it driving there and back, so I am not much for deep thoughts at the moment. Perhaps most importantly, I ask your indulgence by insisting (at gunpoint if necessary) that, as soon as possible, at the very least you read Moorcock's The War Hound and the World's Pain, Breakfast In the Ruins, Behold The Man and the abovementioned Warlord and its sequels. Seriously. Trust me on this one. A relentless experimenter, Moorcock practically remade the way my mind worked with his wholesale reinvention of narrative time and space. If I had not read Michael Moorcock when I was in my early teens, I would not be the guy I am today; this fact might conceivably piss Moorcock off a bit, since one of his favored areas of political writing was (is?) as an antiporn activist and a great admirer of Andrew Dworkin (he interviews her here. But then, as a critic Moorcock can still cause outrage and consternation twenty years on with his 1989 essay Epic Pooh, in which he savages Tolkien, and his 1977 Starship Stormtroopers first published in Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, in which he refers to:
"Lovecraft, the misogynic racist...Heinlein, the authoritarian militarist...[and] Tolkein and that group of middle-class Christian fantasists who constantly sing the praises of bourgeois virtues and whose villains are thinly disguised working class agitators -- fear of the Mob permeates their rural romances."
When I read the latter essay, reprinted in 1984's The Opium General, I was mindfucked something fierce. Was this a science fiction and fantasy writer politically shit-talking science fiction and fantasy? Was this someone holding SFF writers responsible for their subtexts? To me, at the time, science fiction was utterly divorced from politics; in fact, I felt utterly divorced from politics, except for the fact that I rabidly hated Reagan and was quite sure he was going to drop the bomb on Russia any second and wipe us all off the face of the planet and why weren't all the adults freaking out about that shit? I can honestly say that Starship Stormtroopers was one of the first times I looked at fiction in the context of politics and thought something along the lines of, "Oh, that's why all the adults aren't freaking out about that shit." My brain was a mirror, and what I saw of Moorcock's political writing revised my thinking with a hammer.  A quarter century later I'm still reading Michael Moorcock, and he still makes me think. I highly advise learning more about him at Wikipedia, or at his site Happy Birthday, guy. Now hit the bookstore, people -- The War Hound and the World's Pain isn't getting any younger.

Happy Birthday Mr. Zamenhof

L.L. Zamenhof
Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche
Happy Birthday to L.L. Zamenhof, born December 15, 1859 in Bialystok, now in Poland but then part of Russia. Zamenhof is best known as the inventor of the internationalist contstructed language of Esperanto. Today is the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The young Mr. Zamenhof spoke his father's language, Belarussian, then considered a dialect of Russian, and his mother's Yiddish, a German language of Jewish origin written in the Hebrew alphabet. (Bialystok then had a Yiddish-speaking Jewish majority). He also learned German, French, Hebrew, Latin, and English. Zamenhof was sure that the quarrels of Europe and the world were caused by lack of a common language, and he set out to design one that everyone could understand to serve as a lingua franca for a bold internationalist era. He finished his first "Lingwe uniwersala" in 1878 when he was nineteen, but was too young for anyone to take it seriously. He became an opthamologist.

It wasn't until 1887 that he had raised enough money to self-publish his book "International Language, Foreword and Complete Textbook," under the pseudonym "Doctor Esperanto," or "Doctor Hopeful." He believed that the establishment of a common language would lead to international cooperation and peace. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910, but did not receive it.

Zamenhof later joined the Zionist movement following a wave of pogroms in the early 1880s, but ultimately left the movement and in 1914 declined membership in a group of Jewish Esperantists, stating:

"I am profoundly convinced that every nationalism offers humanity only the greatest unhappiness... It is true that the nationalism of oppressed peoples -- as a natural self-defensive reaction -- is much more excusable than the nationalism of peoples who oppress; but, if the nationalism of the strong is ignoble, the nationalism of the weak is imprudent; both give birth to and support each other..."

He died in 1917. There are streets named after Zamenhof throughout Europe, in Brazil, and in Tel Aviv.

About three weeks ago I was in the cafe at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op and sitting there at the table I saw two bookish-looking silver-haired white dudes, chatting amiably. On the table between them sat a tent sign proclaiming: ESPERANTO SPOKEN HERE. Sadly, I was too shy to take a picture.

But, if you wish to pay bizarre acid-nightmare tribute to Mr. Zamenhof, please rent Incubus, the 1965 Esperanto-language horror film starring William Shatner, directed by Leslie Stevens (who created The Outer Limits and with cinematography by 3-time Oscar winner Conrad Hall (Butch Cassidy, American Beauty, Road to Perdition).

Incubus is a fairly predictable Hammer-style gothy horror movie, and Shatner emotes in Esperanto pretty much exactly the way he emotes in English (or, presumably, any other language). It's kind of weird. The film was restored in 2001 and you can rent it from Netflix or wherever; I highly recommend it. Come up with your own Esperanto-language drinking games! It really helps.

Though Incubus is often claimed to be "the first Esperanto horror film," it is not the first Esperanto movie. It's either the second or the third, depending on how you reckon it.

The honor of the first Esperanto feature is usually said to belong to 1964's Agonies, a crime story set in the Paris underworld. But an Esperanto-language silent publicity film had been produced before World War II, called "Antaŭen!" (Onwards!).

Google put the Esperanto flag up on their home page in honor of Zamenhof's 150th birthday. The fact that Esperanto hasn't generated world peace should not serve as a mark against Mr. Z. It's the dreaming, ain't that the point?

Courtesy of the Online Esperanto Translator at "Feliĉa naskiĝtago, Mr. Zamenhof, kaj multaj feliĉaj revenoj" -- "Happy Birthday Mr. Zamenhof, and many happy returns."

Information and photo from Wikipedia.

Happy Birthday to Harriet Stratemeyer Adams (1893-1982)

Born December 11, 1893, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams was the daughter of Edward Stratemeyer, head of the Stratemeyer syndicate that created the Tom Swift, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins lines, plus literally dozens of other juvenile properties. Harriet herself wrote Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins books under each series' house pseudonyms.

With her sister Edna, Adams took is credited with maintaining the business through the Great Depression after her father's death in 1930. In the '50s and '60s, she also reportedly started revising the books to take out some of the "racial and ethnic references," according to the awesome page Girls Series Books Rediscovered at the University of Maryland. If you've read the original Stratemeyer Books, or even the ones from the '50s, you probably know what I'm talking about. Those Brungarians could be so inscrutable, and why did the "agents of a foreign power" in the WWI-era works always have black mustaches?

Anyway, back to Harriet: a short list of her works at her Find-a-Grave site, but none of it's in the public domain so you'll just have to visit your public library, where plenty of these series are probably still safely ensconced in the juvenile section.

Happy Birthday to the ghost of Mrs. Adams, and for what it's worth: "To Tom's consternation, the computer had come unhinged from its moorings with a thundering CRASH and was sliding toward the railing of the tiny schooner! With a cry of surprise, the blogger's hand hurtled toward the PUBLISH button -- but would it arrive in time?"