Sunday, February 12, 2006

After the storm...

Well, up here in Marlboro, VT, we ended up with just shy of 7 inches of snow.

We're all shoveled out, and Marj and I painted a room that had been malingering, I touched up paint all about the house (we'd excavated and matched the exact color originally applied to our walls when we moved in back in April of 2002), and I finished and turned in the script I've been working on most of the winter (one of four; second of those four is about done, too, for later-this-week delivery). Got a chunk of work done on my sample chapters for my book projects for my agent, and also made some more headway on cataloguing the illustration material for We Are Going to Eat You. So, productive day, stuck at home in the storm.

Now to go upstairs and relax with Marj -- maybe there's something on TV? If not, we've got thousands of DVDs to choose from!
Sunday Morning Snowstorm, Odds & Ends...

It's snowing here as it is over most of the Northeast, but so far we're not getting too much (as of 7:30 AM). I'd say maybe a half-inch tops is on the ground, and the snow is fine as sand -- but falling steadily. We were planning a big birthday celebration with friends (the Dobbs and the Martins, two of whom -- I'm not telling! -- turn 50) in Massachusetts over brunch, but the inn we had reservations at called our amigos yesterday to say they'd be closed -- so, rescheduled to next Sunday. Sorry, Mark, sorry Mary; the goodies will have to wait.

When I made the trip last month to my friend Chris Golden's house (convening for a monthly writer's dinner Chris ringleads, which I make only occasionally; for me, it's a five-hour round trip!), his older son was on the family piano, playing -- Godzilla's marching theme. It was really quite touching, and I had Godzilla and Toho music playing in my head most of the drive home.

The man who composed that music, Akira Ifukube, died this past Wednesday, February 8, in Tokyo at age 91. As I read the news, the funereal music from the end of the original Gojira effortlessly resounded in my mind.

I've a number of CDs of Ifukube's music; they'll be getting rotation this week as I work. On its own terms, the music is invigorating, but it's impossible for me to separate it from my first experiences with each score, blasting from theater speakers at matinees, flattened into tinny dissonance from drive-in speakers hooked on my car door windows, leaning closer to the TV as I caught after-midnight broadcasts on "The Late Show" and had to keep the sound down low as to not wake the rest of the house while I strained to hear every note. Besides frequent screenings of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, there was an abundant harvest of monsters, machines and military mobilization in Rodan, The Mysterians, Atragon, Battle in Outer Space, Varan the Unbelievable, Dagora the Space Monster, Frankenstein Conquers the World, Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster, The Terror of Godzilla/Terror of MechaGodzilla, Godzilla on Monster Island, King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong Escapes, Monster Zero, War of the Gargantuas, Latitude Zero (big fun at the Capital Theater in Montpelier, with my high school bud Alan Finn laughing himself sick), the Majin trilogy, Yog, Monster from Space (spicing a double-bill with Return of Count Yorga at the Barre, VT Paramount Theater where brothers George and Steve Woodard and I had a high time with both), my personal fave Godzilla vs. the Thing -- and best of all, the widescreen Burlington theater experience of seeing Destroy All Monsters not once but twice in the same weekend (Saturday and Sunday matinees!).

Ifukube's scores for films I later enjoyed -- the Zatoichi films, The Burmese Harp, etc. -- were lovely, and those he composed for the 1990s Godzilla revival were essential, too, but nothing supplants the importance of those formative experiences seeing the first cycle of Toho monsters in action. Having steeped in them as a child, I had no idea it was Ifukube's music resonating in my mind as my childhood self built and smashed buildings and communities made of sand/Tinkertoys/Lincoln Logs/Flinstone blocks (choose your construction material of choice), creating my own Toho monster epics while playing.

But, of course, it was Ifukube's music that scored my play, his work becoming an essential component of my growing up. Later, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Ennio Morricone and others would assert their sounds over my formative years, but they all had to take a back seat to Ifukube.

Speaking of recent deaths, I noted Al Lewis's passing last weekend.

Turns out Lewis was actually 13 years younger than the weekend obits stated! While almost every performer on Earth has lied about their age to seem younger than they are, Lewis did the opposite (according to some sources, this advanced age was traced to his bid for his definitive role as Granpa Munster: Lewis didn't want casting to know he was actually younger than Yvonne DeCarlo, already cast as Grandpa's daughter Lilly Munster).

So, he was in his 80s, not his 90s -- still, Lewis was an active huckster and barnstormer to the end.

It's been "Bissette on the radio" week -- as noted in Friday's post, I was on Sci Fi Saturday Night broadcasting from Manchester NH (610 AM WGIR in Manchester, 930 AM WGIN in Portsmouth, 1540 AM WGIP in Exeter) last night, and I didn't mention my blathering on WNTK out of Lebanon, NH, earlier. Brian Belanger and his cohosts were happy with what went down, enough to invite me back in March -- more on that once the date is firmed up.

Tomorrow is my 'appearance' on NHPR's morning program "The Exchange", discussing the ongoing controversy over the Danish cartoons and Islamic world's vehement reaction. Check it out tomorrow (or after)
  • here, click on The Exchange.

  • I've turned up a great little case history from 1977 directly related to the ongoing Muhammed controversy, which I'll post about here, tomorrow...

    Redistribution of the Wealth:

    In this month's Fortune, a succinct one-page article "Pensions: The Big Chill" summarizes with pragmatic bluntness the ongoing national crisis in which corporations are rather blithely freezing (at best) or simply dumping (at worst) hard-earned pension benefits. With IBM announcing their pending freeze in pensions (in 2008), the procession of similar corporate announcements took on new force: IBM is a corporate giant still doing fine, not a former giant entering or threatened with bankruptcy.

    In short, workers are facing inadequate pensions at best, and nothing at worst (which is becoming frighteningly familiar news). All must necessarily begin planning for immediate backup plans they may or may not be able to afford.

    All of this of course makes the current Bush schizophrenia -- "our economy is fine" speeches coupled with gross proposed budget cuts on top of Bush's ongoing insistence upon making "his tax cuts" (for the wealthy) permanent -- all the more maddening.

    As the Feds are dumping social support networks left and right, corporations are either bailing in mid-bankruptcy or planning for their ongoing profitibility by forcing workers into increasing dependency on the very programs the Republicans are hacking to bloody bits.

    And lest you think this has nothing to do with the ongoing neocon redistribution of wealth into the elite of the New Gilded Age, dig it:

    The figure in bold blue type on Fortune's pension article on page 25 notes "16%" is the estimate percentile for "Large employers that are likely to freeze pension plans in '06" -- and across the spread, on page 24, in an unrelated "Career" byte on "Boss Envy," Fortune notes that "14.5%" is the "Amount by which CEOs' median salaries and bonuses increased in 2004."

    Hey, it's gotta come out of someone's hide.

    This insane parallel path of stolen pensions and budget-cutting of increasingly necessary support networks (which the corporations themselves are depending on now, a stark about-face from their tune in previous generations) is yet another disaster-in-the-making being lovingly orchestrated by our "leaders" in the White House every step of the way, with sociopathic disregard for the consequences.

    Criswell predicts --

    I Predict... that a small town in Nebraska will produce a woman physicist in the late 1970's who will develop a theory of magnetism which overcomes gravity. Practical application of her theory will result in aircraft and space vehicles which require no sustained rocketry propulsion.