Monday, April 03, 2006

Of Quasi, '60s Dinosaurs and Weak-Kneed Supreme Courts

I am outraged at the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this morning to sidestep the questioning of the Bush Administration's detainee policy (see
  • Supreme Court Rejects War Powers Challenge).
  • The worst fears of those of us who opposed Bush and feared his two appointees to the Court would refuse to confront their boss's abuses of power have now been confirmed.

    Bush's claims of supreme, unchallengable "war powers" are just one of the abuses he's heaped on the world, but arguably the most destructive of all for its fundamental break from the rules of the Geneva Convention -- an international treaty this Administration discarded the moment they assumed power and saw a window of opportunity to institute their neoconservative reinvention of the 21st Century. The active undermining of the U.S. Constitution at the hands of this current President and Administration remains unchallenged, and most likely will remain so with a ideologically-divided & cowardly Court and Republican-dominated House and Senate. The U.S.'s steady slide into fascism, theocracy and plutocracy continues unabated.

    In Oregon, a woman is being charged for sedition -- sedition -- for airing her views on this President and Administration. In Vermont, the Associated Press just fired a venerable AP reporter (30-year vet Christopher Graff) for submitting a column our VT Senator Patrick Leahy scribed concerning this President and Administration's actions to dilute the federal Freedom of Information Act (AP simultaneously fired Graff and removed Leahy's column from their package of articles celebrating "Sunshine Week," an initiative by the American Society of Newspaper Editors intended to ballyhoo America's open government, democracy and freedom of information issues -- perverse irony, eh wot?). Bush smugly continues to erode bills he signs into law with the snarky impudence of a Third World despot: having already claimed a waiver to the John McCain/John Warner (both Republicans) sponsored anti-torture bill, Bush exclaimed that he would not be held to the USA Patriot Act's requirement that the Justice Dept. track the FBI's new powers and report on their use to Congress.

    And that's just a wee bit of what's visible to even the blind. Beneath the radar, the constant erosion of our Constitutional rights continues, and insidious shit like the Administration's insistent opposition to mandatory HPV (Human Pappilomavirus) vaccinations for young women goes unquestioned by the populace because they don't even know it's going on. Why is the Bush Administration opposing vaccinations? HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US, the primary cause of cervical cancer (which claims almost 5,000 women's lives annually in the US alone); according to an article by Michael Specter in The New Yorker, the vaccine Merck & Company has applied the FDA to license for sale is "an immensely effective one." But the patriarchal and puritanical Bush Administration maintains that "eliminating the threat of infection would only encourage teenagers to have sex."

    Have you got that? The Bush Administration is refusing -- refusing -- to permit vaccination against a killer STD because protecting the populace might encourage teenage sexual contact. Can you fathom such lunacy, such outright patriarchal madness? Though I've spent a lifetime creating monsters and writing and drawing horrors, I can barely get my head around this kind of insanity.

    We are being led by madmen and monsters -- the only axis of evil we have to fear is the one leading our country.

    Bush and his cabal actively and aggressively project their worst fears onto other nations, galvanizing and polarizing us with their mad power fantasies and nightmares, and all the while they actively seek to kill our children -- via war, via poverty, via spiraling debtloads, via refusal of science and education and medicine -- to further their own sick fundamentalist religious agendas and doctrines.

    What a sad time this is for all Americans -- save for those in power and the filthy rich -- and what hellish pipers we'll have to pay down the road.

    Of course, those in power will blame the pipers and the messengers, not themselves, enough fuck-headed bleating Americans will nod their heads in bovine complicity, and the madness will continue until it's far too late to do a goddamned thing about it.

    But you don't want to read my ranting about any of that, do you? Back to this morning's previously-planned post on completely trivial matters:

    Last night I screened for Marj a recently-uncovered-in-the-garage ancient video dub (circa 1985 or earlier) of Sally Cruikshank's remarkable Quasi cartoons, Quasi at the Quackedaro (1977) and Make Me Psychic (1978), capped with Cruikshank's hopeful 1980 pitch to possible investors to back her planned Quasi feature Quasi's Cabaret (promo trailer circa 1980, feature unproduced). I was relieved to find the old vhs copy was still intact in visual and audio, and Marj was mildly amused by the whole fendango. For me, though, Quasi evokes lots of memories: hearing about the toons from friends and my then-fiancee living in Santa Fe, where the Quasi cartoons unspooled at the local alternative cinema; seeing Make Me Psychic at that same cinema before a showing of The Wicker Man in its fringe-at-best US release in 1980; the invite from a friend for a vhs copy of the Quasi reel back in '84, and frequent viewings with my kids Maia and Daniel throughout their childhoods. Great stuff!

    Cruikshank's cartoons were glorious creations, conceptually and creatively mercurial and akimbo from stem to stern, fusing the sensibilities of the venerable Fleischer Brothers animation with aspects of the underground comix scene (including the active participation of Kim Deitch and Tim Boxell among the animators, and Bobby Armstrong and his cronies scoring the toons with unforgettable music) -- all in all, they were simultaneously pleasingly retro yet utterly of their late-'70s era, contemporaries of Richard Elfman and Oingo-Boingo's now-classic Forbidden Zone, to which they remain ideal companion shorts.

    I recall reading a few -- very few -- articles about Sally Cruikshank in the early '80s, and it was a hoot seeing her work on the big screen again later that decade: Cruikshank animated the title sequence for the comedy Ruthless People and the perverse animated TV program li'l Jeremy Licht exiled his "sister" to in Joe Dante's mostly-marvelous revamp of "It's a Good Life" episode for the portmanteau opus The Twilight Zone. Both were absolutely true to the Cruikshank universe of the Quasi toons, but alas, she and her work seemed to drop out of sight after that brief mid-'80s sunshine.

    Does anyone out there have any info, insights and/or links to bring us up to date?

    On the video just before the Quasi fest was an ancient off-the-air recording of Dinosaurus!, the venerable Jack Harris production for Universal that was so key to my childhood cinema viewing. Cuing up for Quasi meant fast-forwarding through Dinosaurus! final moments, to that animated 'question mark' after "The End."

    Though it was always a cheapjack dinosaur pic, Dinosaurus! was a prime piece of '60s sf matinee fodder. It boasted a goofy sympathetic Neanderthal, the vicarious kid fantasy of the young Mexican hero (to most of us in the audience) getting to ride a Brontosaurus around (ya, I know, it's really Apatosaurus -- but it wasn't in 1960!), one of the pair of stop-motion animated saurians starring in the pic. The effects were the work of Wah Chang & Gene Warren, breathing life into the last dinosaur models King Kong sculptor Marcel Delgado made for the big screen (he still had the model for the US/AIP version of Goliath and the Dragon and some Projects Unlimited work ahead of him, I believe), and they resonated through our prime-time childhoods thanks to providing stock footage visits via series like It's About Time and the like.

    So, see, I love Dinosaurus! to this day with the love one continues to steer to that long-dead first puppy, even if Cahiers du Cinema thought it was a piece of shit and you young whippersnappers look at it today and shrug with either a contempt or an indifference "vast, cool and unsympathetic" (to paraphrase H.G. Wells).

    So, Marj's glimpse of the herky-jerky Tyrannosaurus rex vs. crane climax (in and of itself an influential, almost iconic, finale, anticipating those for Aliens, Carnosaur, etc.) prompted a sarcastic retort to my saying "Whoa, I forgot how cool this old movie was!"

    "What, for looking so phoney?" Birthday-Girl Marjory purred.




    Ah, but I love her.

    And, it's, like, her birthday.

    All of which brings to mind amigo Doug Winter emailing me this weekend about a new Dinosaurus! soundtrack CD that's just out, and my decision to track down a copy for myself and to let you know you can get one, too, at the
  • Soundtrack CDs at the Percepto Website.
  • Now, some of their other offerings might interest you more -- I mean, look, there's soundtracks for Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Fly/Return of the Fly/Curse of the Fly, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, and more, much more, including a digital re-release of the long out-of-print Forrest J. Ackerman/Famous Monsters of Filmland staple & curio Music for Robots!

    So, cool.

    But me, I want that Dinosaurus! CD.

    I'll break out my old Dell Jesse Marsh comic when it arrives and curl up on the couch for some heavy flashbacks to a kinder, gentler era...

    ... when all we had to worry about were crabs, VD, eternal damnation and hellfire, Communist invaders, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and all-out total nuclear war.