It’s easy to assume that everyone in the world follows Randall Munroe’s geeky online stickman webcomic XKCD, since it seems all my friends do. For those that don’t, last Monday he put up a strip called “Time.” This strip, like his uber-large “Click-and-Drag”, plays with the conventions of the form. “Time” started out with a static, non-gag image with the hover-over label “wait for it.” Since then, he’s updated the image every half-hour to an hour, even though he’s done new strips on the usual M-W-F schedule. If you follow the images in order, “Time” shows two people (which XKCD devotees have dubbed “Cueball” and “Megan”) building a sand castle.
The obvious metaphor is how time continues to flow and things change when you’re not watching.
As of this writing, the images are still being updated. Munroe could keep updating that one comic for a long, long, er, time, especially if he decreases the update rate.
Conceivably, “Time” could be a long-running conceptual art project and keep updating for the rest of our lives, and beyond, like that German church playing John Cage’s “As Slowly as Possibly” for 629 years…
The Love God?
Director Nat Hiken
Writer Nat Hiken
Starring Don Knotts, Anne Francis, Edmond O’Brien, James Gregory, Herb Voland, Maureen Arthur, Maggie Mancuso and B.S. Pully
The concept of The Love God? is as amusing as it is absurd: Don Knotts not only as an unwilling Hugh Heffner, but also as an unaware object of unbridled feminine lust. (If Don Knotts as sex symbol seems beyond the realm of possibility, consider that in 1969, his separated at birth twin was precisely that.) Knotts plays his usual nervous-nebbish-with-a-heart-of-gold character, and the movie plays out very similar to his more famous works, save for the suggestive nature of the material. And it is only suggestive; it’s about the cleanest film you could ever make about a dirty magazine.
Part of the charm of the film is how it’s both strangely out of time and exactly of it’s time. You couldn’t have made a family movie about a dirty magazine too much earlier than 1969 because it would have been too risque to get greenlight by Hollywood. And you couldn’t have gotten it made too much latter, because the Sexual Revolution quickly become so sacred that no one in Hollywood would have been willing to make such ruthless fun of it, or have an ending that rejected it for the wholesome joys of marriage. One of the films funniest running gags are the “hip” fashion atrocities they foist onto our blithe protagonist, which obviously couldn’t have come from any era but the late 1960s. By contrast, the “swinging” signature song “Mr. Peacock” would have been considered too old-fashioned for the 1950s, much less the era of Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. Also, the characters are mostly stock types that could have appeared in most of Knotts’ other films. For a film that came out the same year as Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider, it has all the edge of a bowling ball.
The movie starts in court (with a technically interesting multi-camera, multiple-window view of the scene along with the credits, and possibly the first use of it on film), with an oddly sentimental pornographer Osborn Tremaine (his wife is the proud covergirl of all his issues) getting a slap on the wrist from the judge on obscenity charges, only to have his precious 4th-class mailing yanked moments later. Shortly thereafter he’s driving through the sticks when he discovers that Abner Peacock’s (Knott) namesake bird-lover magazine The Peacock is on the verge of liquidation. Tremaine quickly rescues the magazine (and its fourth-class mailing permit) and sends Abner off on wild bird chase to South America. When he gets back, it’s only to discover that Tremaine has remade the The Peacock over into a porno mag, and Abner (still listed as the publisher) is under indictment as public enemy number one.
Abandoned by all but his innocent sweetheart Rose Ellen (Maggie Mancuso, playing wholesome, loyal, and very dim), Abner is about to put his head in a noose (literally; a pretty dark touch for a Knotts film) when two ACLU types show up at his door promising to pay for his defense and hire the best attorney money can buy to support free speech.
At the obscenity trial, the Attorney General (Herb Voland) condemns Abner with delicious gusto:
I have another duty, a higher duty to perform. And that is to protect you, your children, the very morality of our nation, from the smut and moral corruption spewed forth like garbage from the lecherous, vile, lewd and licentious mind of this filthy, little degenerate! Look at his face. It is the face of a smut monger. Look at his body: thin, wasted away by the dissipation and debauchery of a life of unspeakable orgies and depravity!…He says he’s innocent. And he does look innocent…until you look into his eyes. They’re the eyes of a man obsessed by sex, eyes that mock our sacred institutions; “bedroom eyes,” they called them in a bygone day. They’re the eyes of a man whose lust knows no bounds, who lives but for corrupting others to a life of carnal pleasures and lewd designs. A man whose erotic desires and libertine practices are used to titillate the unsuspecting, who regards women as his playthings and would stoop to any depths to satisfy his pornographic tastes. The Marquis de Sade would have regarded Abner Peacock as a peer in his search for lechery. We can have a clean America, but only when we remove this sex-ridden smut peddler from the society he is bent upon destroying.
Then his own attorney, played by James Gregory (Angela Lansbury’s husband/patsy in The Manchurian Candidate and Barney Miller‘s inspector Lugar, along with a hundred other supporting roles) gets up and, ahem, defends him:
Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen, I have sat here and heard my client, Abner Peacock, called “a filthy, obscene degenerate; a sex-ridden, lascivious defiler of virtue whose lust knows no bounds, whose publications have plumbed the depths of degradation, and are a reflection of his own sex-obsessed mind.” We’re not going to argue about that. We can see that Abner Peacock is everything the Attorney General has told you he is. It is the unsavory creatures like Abner Peacock who test the strength of our Constitution, which, like our Rock of Gibraltar, has withstood challenge after challenge in protecting our freedom of the press through the years. Now, ladies and gentlemen, are we to stand idly by and allow the first crack to be made in this rock because of this dirty little pornographer? This is a dirty case and a dirty little man. It is with disgust to the point of nausea that I find myself sitting next to this filthy little degenerate! But when I see this filthy degenerate’s Constitutional rights being threatened, then I must take this filthy little degenerate into my arms, clasp him to my breast and fight for this filthy little degenerate’s Constitutional rights and liberty with my very life!
You just don’t see enough people called “filthy little degenerates” these days.
Naturally Abner is acquitted.
With all the publicity, Tremaine knows he has a goldmine on his hands, but can’t raise the money to do the huge print run required to capitalize on it. This necessitates a visit to mobster “Icepick Charlie,” who’s mad for sophistication and self improvement (he has a tutor in to teach a new word every day). Charlie not only wants to underwrite the most sophisticated dirty mag in existence, he thinks he should be the publisher. He hires up-and-coming powerhouse journalist Lisa LaMonica (Anne Francis, still incredibly hot 13 years after Forbidden Planet) to edit The Peacock. She agrees, but on one condition: Abner has to stay on as figurehead, since the trial has made him the lust object of the nation’s id.
Abner just wants to clear his name, and assert that he’s just a clean, wholesome guy, but everyone from his lawyers to the magazine backers insist he must stay on for the sake free speech, and set him up in a penthouse (outfitted in the finest Late Bordello Red Velvet fashion) with french maids and his own “Peacock Pets.” Despite his wholesome nature, Abner (like all Knotts characters) isn’t exactly the the strongest-willed of men, and soon finds that a guy could really get used to the Hef lifestyle…
One of the high points for modern viewers of the film is the stunning array of “hip” outfits Peacock sports. Like this:
Or even this:
And this is so far over the top, it’s almost awesome:
The running joke, of course, is that Abner, far from being a filthy degenerate, is still pure as the driven snow, and spends his spare time teaching his Pets bird calls. Despite the supposedly risque nature of the material, The Love God? plays out like Knotts other star vehicles from the period: nebbish elevated through fluke to exalted status, fall flat on his face, suffers abject humiliation, is abandoned by his friends, triumphs through combination of honesty, good-natured perseverance and a bit of luck, and gets the girl in the end. It works well not only because Knotts was a master of the type (as his five Emmys for Barney Fife attest), but because no matter how grandiose his pretensions or painful his embarrassment at falling woefully short of them, he never loses the audience’s sympathy. Orwell famously noted that “any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats,” and Knotts’ characters not only garner more than their fair share, but also stand in for our own. The gulf between his character’s self-image and reality may be vaster than our own, but we’ve all suffered social faux pauxs. We’re willing to enjoy his abject humiliations because we know, in the end, he’ll overcome them; pathos rather than bathos.
Also, like Knotts’ other starring vehicles of the period, The Love God? is pretty funny. Lisa falls for Abner despite the obvious absurdity (“He’s a big square! (pause) Just like the one my mother married.”), and Icepick Charlie falls for her, setting up one of the stranger love triangles in cinema history (or love quadrilateral, counting Rose Ellen). There are pieces that don’t quite work (the birdcall song refrain bit falls a bit flat), but most do. Like many of Knotts’ other films (or a Shakespeare comedy) it ends with a wedding.
In this clip, British comedian Stephen Fry observes that American comedians like to be the triumphant trickster, while British comedians like to play the mournful failure.
And, as a broad generalization fair enough. But this quick and dirty bifurcation ignores not only the many straight man/fall guy comedic pairings on both sides of the Atlantic (Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Cook and Moore), it ignores Knotts entire career as the quintessential victim.
The movie was written and directed by longtime TV writer Nat Hiken, who died before his debut film was released. That’s a shame, as it’s really well-written, smoothly executed comedy of much the same pace and style of other comedic films of the era (How to Succeed in Business Without Really trying comes to mind).
This being the Internet, someone has put up the entire film on YouTube:
You can also get The Love God? as part of the Don Knotts Reluctant Hero 4-pack, which also includes The Ghost & Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut and The Shakiest Gun In The West. That’s a lot of Knotts for your buck…
No particular theme, just a few books fellow science fiction bibliophiles might find of interest.
Anderson, Poul. Homebrew. NESFA Press, 1976. First edition hardback, one of 500 copies signed by Anderson (Currey B, no priority), a Fine- copy with slight bumping at head and heel in a Fine- dust jacket with a tiny bit of dust patterning to rear dust jacket. Currey (1978), pages 10-11. Three short stories plus miscellany.
Asimov, Isaac and Theodosius Dobzhansky. The Genetic Effects of Radiation. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, 1966. Presumed first edition chapbook (no additional printings listed), a Near Fine copy with slight dust soiling and age darkening to covers, and phantom crease to bottom corner. Non-fiction pamphlet. Marjorie M. Miller, Asimov: A Checklist, page 48.
Smith, Reginald. Weird Tales in the Thirties. Self published, no date (but 1966). First edition, 8 1/2″ x 11″ side-stapled, mimeographed from typewritten copy, Near Fine- copy with small abrasion at top front, and slight bend to front and rear self-covers. Long essay about the magazine. Joshi, H. P. Lovecraft: An Annotated Bibliography, III-D-574.
Vance, Jack. Strange Notions with The Dark Ocean. Underwood/Miller, 1985. First edition hardbacks, number 47 of 500 signed (Strange Notions only, as issued), numbered sets in slipcase, Fine, sans dust jackets, as issued. Mystery novels. Hewett, A75 and A76.
Zelazny, Roger. Damnation Alley. Putnam, 1969. First edition hardback, a Fine copy in a Fine- dust jacket with just a tiny bit of edgewear along top front. Levack, 9a. Currey (1978), page 570.
Earlier this year, science fiction writer and North Carolina State University professor John Kessel declared that “I know the world does not care, but nobody could pay me enough money to go see The Hobbit. Well, maybe someone could, but nobody is going to.”
The Internet knows how to respond to such statements.
Soon a fundraiser for the SFWA Emergency Medical fund was launched, with various levels of funding support:
$250 — Prof. Kessel goes to see The Hobbit (the upcoming Peter Jackson version, in a movie theater before the end of the year, no cop-out home screenings of the Bass-Rankin animated classic)
$750 — Prof. Kessel will either before or after the film eat Denny’s The Hobbit-themed Ring Burger
$1000 — Prof. Kessel will dress as Gandalf when watching the film
$2500 — Prof. Kessel will dress as Galadriel when watching the film
And the result?
Well, feast your eyes:
The last picture is with John’s “Hobbit escort” Kate Maddalena, who took these pictures.
Click any picture to embiggen and more fully display all of John Kessel as Galadriel’s, um, glory.
If you’re impressed by this outstanding display of selflessness (or else you have a fetish for really tall, butch trannies), you too can donate to the SFWA Medical Fund.
Poking around some old posts, I noticed that some pictures from more than a year ago weren’t showing up. Turns out it’s because Facebook likes to completely change the name for pictures every now and then.
My process for putting up con pictures is:
Upload to Mac.
Do a quick edit in iPhoto.
Bulk upload to Facebook.
Copy URLs for JPEG’s from Facebook and reference them from the blog post.
This method is quick, easy, and hosts pics on Facebook’s dime. The downside is the Facebook rejiggering, and having to go back every now and then and redo the links.
Anyway, I’ve gone in and changed all the URLs for my Armadillocon 2011 pictures:
“I understand what all those word mean individually, but together in the same sentence they don’t make any sense!”
Sometimes you buy something just so that later you can prove to people it exists.
This is one of those times.
Feast your eyes on this:
I thought they might be white chocolate covered Pringles. But no, they’re regular Pringles with a hint of…white chocolate peppermint. It’s actually pretty subtle. But I’m not sure I want my mass produced pressed potato chips to be “subtle.”
If you want to try them, you should probably pick them up, as I doubt you’ll see them again after this Christmas.
Next on our Halloween tour of scary and/or creepy phenomena: Mummies.
Yawn. Bad Universal monster movies. How banal.
OK. How about Japanese mummies?
Meh. Maybe worthy of a slightly-arched eyebrow.
OK. How about Japanese monks who mummified themselves while they were still alive?
I thought that would get your attention.
Meet the Sokushinbutsu:
Let’s go to Wikipedia, the source of all vaguely-accurate knowledge, for the grisly details of how a monk would voluntarily turn himself into a Sokushinbutsu:
For 1,000 days the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another thousand days and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls.
This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it made the body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive.
When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed. After the tomb was sealed, the other monks in the temple would wait another 1,000 days, and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful.
If the monk had been successfully mummified, he or she was immediately seen as a Buddha and put in the temple for viewing. Usually, though, there was just a decomposed body. Although they were not viewed as a true Buddha if they were not mummified, they were still admired and revered for their dedication and spirit.
There are reportedly some 24 “successful” examples of monks turning themselves into mummies in northern Japan, which suggests that they were probably hundreds of unsuccessful attempts. So just imagine a starving monk, entombing himself alive, wasting away toward his inevitable demise.
That would be one hell of a time to discover you have claustrophobia…