Tag Archives: future

Link Dump: #90

This week’s kitty is from The Sessions, a movie that doesn’t take many creative chances but is unusual by virtue of being about disability and sex. And now, a whole bunch of links:

And here are our recent search terms, which read like a window into some sad Google user’s erotic nightmares: “fat firl uteras pics,” “www.real-virgil-pussy-ukraine.com,” “she bends on her four ready for deflowring her stories.”

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Link Dump: #45

This week’s lucky kitty, being held by Natalie Wood, comes to us courtesy of the Super Seventies tumblr. This week’s collection of links, meanwhile, is extra-swollen with informational goodness, since we didn’t have one last week (blogathon and all, you know). Also, keep in mind that we’ve got one more week of “normal” blogging before we switch over to all-horror, all/most of the time, for October. And now, enjoy:

We had two search terms of note over the past couple weeks. The first, which made laugh out loud, was “what is antarctica pussy?” It’s one of life’s big questions. The second was “сатанисты фото,” which is apparently Russian for “satanists photo.” I feel like somebody has a very flawed impression of what we write about at Pussy Goes Grrr!

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Edgar G. Ulmer and Sci-fi Noir

I always love a good time travel yarn. I double love it if it’s directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, who made one of my all-time favorite noirs, Detour (1945). So I had high personal expectations for Beyond the Time Barrier (1960), a cheap, obscure sci-fi movie that happened to be streaming online through the magic of Netflix Instant. It’s not exactly a great film—OK, maybe not enough good. It’s very prone to the clichés and bad writing endemic amongst low-budget Cold War sci-fi. But it’s still very much worth a viewing.

That’s because it’s weird and visually striking, in a way that recalls Ulmer’s history as a set designer during the height of German Expressionism. It’s got a plot that’s familiar now, but wasn’t much used in films at the time: test pilot Bill Allison (Robert Clarke) goes on an experimental flight into the upper atmosphere, somehow goes beyond the time barrier, and lands only to find his Air Force base in a shambles. After wandering around the bleak wilderness, he spots a giant, solar-powered citadel, and is suddenly teleported inside.

There, he ends up in the middle of post-apocalyptic politics as the Citadel’s leaders each try to use him for their own purposes—including, potentially, the repopulation of the earth in the wake of a civilization-ending plague that rendered most human beings infertile and mutated. Plus some accidental time travelers from Russia want to use his ship to get back to their own respective times. It’s a surprising amount of conflict for a movie that’s barely over an hour long, with some surprisingly original conceits that occasionally one-up the film’s big-budget rival, George Pal’s The Time Machine. (Although Beyond the Time Barrier‘s bald, scaly mutants are nowhere near as effective as The Time Machine‘s morlocks.)

By far the most appealing element of Beyond the Time Barrier, though, is its visual aesthetic. The most obvious recurring example is the triangles that dominate the sets, whether in the shapes of doors or in the overall design of various rooms. Bars and shadows also proliferate, so the whole Citadel feels like a giant, futuristic panopticon. This sense of confinement goes along with the film’s unexpectedly intense pessimism. After many stand-offs and confrontations, Allison may get back to his own time, but 1) the future’s still fucked over and 2) he ends up mysteriously aged beyond his years.

Or look at those first few moments as he wanders around the countryside in the ruined future, as represented by a real-life rural area shot in stark black and white. It’s like something out of Godard, maybe Alphaville or Week End, in how it forges the dark future out of the present. As always, Ulmer was the film industry’s most frugal visionary, using pocket change to make bizarre, unsettling nightmares about the human capacity for selfishness and betrayal. At times, Beyond the Time Barrier may sound like a generic Buck Rogers-esque sci-fi saga, but deep down it’s full of the same despair that powers Ulmer’s other offbeat forays into the dark side of the soul.

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Images of Wild, Wild Planet

I recently entered the 366 Weird Movies June review writing contest; you can check out my review here. However, if you’re more visually-inclined, I have a treat for you: more screenshots from this bastion of Italian sci-fi weirdness, Wild, Wild Planet. Enjoy!

This last image might be my favorite, if only because of the dialogue that immediately follows it:

[The officer on Mike’s right tries to touch the mutant.]

Scientist: No, don’t touch it!

Officer: Why not?

Scientist: I’m not certain, but… don’t touch it.

All this after Mike and the scientist both touch it repeatedly. That planet sure is wild, wild.

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Animated satire and the death of our planet

So, at last, it’s 2010 (the year we make contact). I’m back in Northfield, classes have started again, but I still hope to find time to post every now and then. And in this, my first post of this new year/decade, I will turn my view forward, toward the future (“…for that is where you and I will spend the rest of our lives“). That’s right: spurred on by Ashley’s recent discussion of Nina Paley’s “Thank You for Not Breeding,” I want to talk about the near-certain doom that awaits mankind and this planet before too long!

For a long time, I’ve been pretty fascinated by ecological catastrophes, the relationship between man and nature, and the many ways the one can fuck up the other. My first memories of the phrase “global warming” comes from a lame joke, learned either from Laffy Taffy or a classmate, sometime in elementary school:

Q: What would worms cause if they took over the world?

A: Global worming.

Soon thereafter came the five-legged frogs. I don’t remember the specifics of it, though a quick Internet search turns up many possible such stories; basically, the gist is that in the mid-’90s, mutant frogs were found across the midwest sporting an extra appendage. The culprit? Pollution, to which frogs are extra-sensitive (breathing through their skin and all, you know). Somehow this news story stuck in my mind. As a lifelong X-Men devotee, I was already familiar with the concept of mutation, and these poor frogs just solidified it as something real, dwelling quite literally in our backyards.

Around this time I also saw an episode of Captain Planet called “Planeteers Under Glass,” which Ashley and I recently revisited. The plot’s pretty typical for the show, involving a scientist’s attempts to run a virtual reality simulation of pollution’s effect on nature. The nefarious Dr. Blight traps her and the Planeteers in the simulation, Captain Planet himself intercedes, the day is won, etc. But the reason I remember it today is for its gruesome, Nightmare Fuel-laden visualization of the havoc wrought by industrialization.

You know what’s terrifying? Seeing all the careless damage and waste produced by a couple centuries of factories and smokestacks summed up into one slimy, bleak amalgam of statues and skyscrapers. Captain Planet may have been a very flawed show – OK, even a sucky show – but just this once it managed to parlay its eco-friendliness into some effective doomsday imagery. I’ve forgotten most of the show’s preachiness, and I can’t remember whether the motto “The power is yours!” belonged to its hero or to Smokey the Bear. But you know what I remember? That giant, scary effigy of destructive corporate greed!

While mulling over the topics of this post, I had a little realization: one of the perks of being a child in the ’90s was that environmentalism was no longer just a hobgoblin of wacky tree-huggers. (Granted, the first Earth Day was in 1970, but what can I say, I haven’t really done any research.) Instead, it was in the posters on our classroom walls, in our PSAs, even in our cartoons. Most weren’t as blunt as Captain Planet, but consider Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What made them “mutant”? The mysterious “ooze,” of course, a mutagenic pollutant released into the sewers of New York, which apparently also transmitted a craving for pizza. So even in the context of a straightforward, hyperactive Saturday morning cartoon, we see traces of this anti-pollution zeitgeist. (Also worth noting: Fern Gully was released in 1992.)

Another animated source of such nods to pollution and environmentalism as issues pervading the sociopolitical climate of the Clinton years is, naturally, The Simpsons. Tonight, Ashley and I watched “Marge vs. the Monorail” (season 4, episode 12) which even begins with an extended jab at corporate irresponsibility in the guise of the show’s many-layered plutocrat, Mr. Burns. Cramming barrels of toxic waste into a tree at a neighborhood park, Burns decries what he perceives as inefficiency: “The last tree held nine drums!” Meanwhile, a mutated squirrel frolics about with glowing, laser-emitting eyes.

I’m consistently astonished to see how much caustic satire The Simpsons at its prime could cram like toxic waste into 22 minutes. It’s even more impressive to think that as young children, we were laughing like idiots at it – even as the episode took on government corruption, the ignorance of the masses, and the sleazy con men who rip them off. And we learned about them all, satirically, through The Simpsons. For more evidence of the show’s subtle environmentalism, consider Blinky the three-eyed fish, another product of the power plant’s shoddy waste control, who I recall featuring prominently in advertising in the show’s early years.

It’s a testament to the show’s lasting genius that even in The Simpsons Movie, which devoted an hour and a half to an epic, environmentally-driven plot, the jokes just look stale and toothless compared to the most casual barb from episodes like “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish,” “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington,” or “The Old Man and the Lisa,” just to name a few of the times when the show probed our collective ecological nightmares. The fact was that the show had tread this territory already, only with far more venomous quips and more profound points to make.

So God bless The Simpsons for playing its own irreverent, invaluable part in bringing these issues to the cultural forefront. This goes right along with what I’ve long believed about getting ideas across in fiction: the sight of the ruined land that was once Springfield, devastated through Homer’s ignorance and incompetence, at the end of “Trash of the Titans” (season 9, episode 22) is so much more powerful on every level than having Captain Planet bark “The power is yours!” at you every day. The former serves as the ending to a wickedly funny and emotionally involving episode; the latter almost makes you want to pollute more, just to piss off that self-righteous Planet prick.

While I’m on the topic of animated satire laced with environmental messages, I’d like to pay tribute to a film that’s not seen nearly enough. I enjoy it immensely, but maybe that’s because it suits my sensibilities so well. I’m referring to Bruno Bozzetto’s uneven 1977 compilation film Allegro Non Troppo, a frequently witty series of vignettes set to classical music in the style of Fantasia. Except that Disney’s majesty and grandeur are here replaced with an earthy, lovably crude aesthetic, akin to the work of René Laloux, or Terry Gilliam’s animations for Monty Python.

Aside from the free-for-all, rapid-fire bunch of cartoons that end the film, the stand-outs are undoubtedly the hauntingly tragic contemplation of war and death set to Jean Sibelius’s Valse Triste (i.e., “the sad kitty”), and the parody of Fantasia‘s Rite of Spring sequence set to Maurice Ravel’s Boléro. It’s this second piece I want to single out as relevant to the discussion at hand: it starts out beautiful, imaginative, and a little strange, progressing with Ravel’s martial rhythms through the ages until the marchers evolve into a panoply of wide-ranging creatures.

A primate starts quietly stalking some of the weaker fauna, but they march on, a little fazed by the artifacts they pass (pyramids, a cross, a tank), until at last they reach a barrier: the highway. Then, in a scene paralleling that horrible moment from Captain Planet, skyscrapers rip out of the earth, hurling the animals aside, only to be gazed down upon by a smiling colossus… whose head breaks off, revealing a devious monkey inside. It’s a comically pessimistic statement on man’s capacity for oblivious destruction.

So these are some of examples of how animated satire can (at least try to) make a difference in the broader discourse about how we treat the earth. I’d also add to that list the animated shorts included in “Thank You for Not Breeding”: “The Wit and Wisdom of Cancer,” “Goddess of Fertility,” and “The Stork,” all by Nina Paley. (She is an incredible woman, both in her animated work and her stances on art; expect to hear more about her in the coming weeks, and months.)

For whatever reason, I’ve always been attracted to these kinds of cartoons – the darker and more extreme, the better. I love people’s viewpoints, and I’m addicted to fear, so the further under my skin each vision of environmental apocalypse gets, the stronger my reaction. (These are some of the many reasons why Avatar‘s trivial, feel-good sparkliness didn’t work with me.) I’m terrified by what human beings have done and are doing to the planet we live on. And the fact that we can’t stop without giving up our current lifestyles. And that we won’t stop unless we want to, and we really don’t want to.

So what’s to become of us as a species, of earth as a living place teeming with endless biological diversity? What does the next decade hold in store for life in these parts? Will we wait until we’ve reduced this fertile land to a smoldering, treeless pile of ashes, poisoned the oceans, and hidden the sun behind a veil of smog? Then will we wring our hands, muttering to ourselves, “Hmm, we should do something about this before it gets out of control…”? Would you really be that surprised?

I’ll conclude with a brilliant little piece, the opening sequence to Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. Its juxtapositions of cosmic iconography and surreal imagery really let it skewer modern man’s penchant for ignorance coupled with conformity. Also, it’s really fucking funny. And if the world’s slowly coming to an end, we’ll all need a laugh, right?

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Gazing into the frantic melange

Where to start? Where to start ever? It’s all cyclical anyway. “a last a loved a long the… riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s” and so on. Today I had one of those moments of enlightenment where I saw the world as being chaotic, jumbled, confusing, and incoherent. I had two sources prodding me to write today: the experience of watching the disappointing History Channel show UFO Hunters, and reading Chris Turner’s intriguing tome Planet Simpson. Now, I’m slightly drowsy, so this might all come out entirely incoherent, but that’s the way I like it. My thoughts (more or less):

Turner’s book makes me think about questions and problems that repeatedly come back to plague me, inevitably, as facts of life in the part of time and space I happen to occupy. I want to live life as a creative person and none of us has a choice about when we’re born. And beyond that, it’s thrilling to live in an age where… well, all this shit happens. Let’s confront some of these facts-of-new-life: for one thing, in 2009+, I think that media studies (i.e., my field of study) is the place to be. Lot of reasons for this. One is that, well, we people of this new age that’s dawning tend to learn, process, think, and understand our world and our selves through media.

When we were born roughly 20 + or – years ago, the Internet was just gradually coming into being. It had not yet insinuated itself into the technological mainstream. In 2009, I don’t know if a day has passed in college that I haven’t used the Internet or a computer. It’s fucking invaded every aspect of our lives. But we can’t escape. The world has permanently changed; it’s different now. Maybe we’re headed to a technological singularity. Maybe people can study this from a computer science, political science, sociology, or history standpoint. Me? I look at it in terms of media. So I feel like I’m in the right place, intellectually. When I was interviewed for the yearbook in my senior year of high school, I said that in 5 years I saw myself “on the cutting edge of something.” I have 3 more years to accomplish this goal. I, like everyone else, have this unquenchable thirst to do something new. But it’s a brave new world we’re inhabiting, of our own (collective) design. And it’s hard to wrap your head around. One thing I know for sure? I need to watch the other 2 movies in Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi trilogy. Koyaanisqatsi is a masterpiece of coming to grips with our strange breed of modernity. Trying to reconcile the natural world and our place as part of it with the synthetic nature of computing technology. (Why am I saying this? I’m not going to break any new ground, probably. But at least I’m coming to grips with all this shit for myself.)

Considering this topic, I thought of a few major subtopics: the Industrial Revolution (which has been on my mind a lot recently for some reason). Postmodernity. Globalization. And again, the Internet. I have no real interest in being on the cutting edge of anything really high-tech. I just want to light out for the territories like Huck Finn, wherever these territories are, and then seek out new life and new civilizations, like Capts. Kirk & Picard. When did the Industrial Revolution take place? Mid-to-late 19th century, if high school history textbooks are to be believed? Think of everything that’s changed since then. My beloved movies? All of them are post-Industrial Revolution. I was thinking about this: mass. The masses. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau. Mass production, mass-marketing, mass media, mass murder. The approach to large quantities of human beings, lumped together as a “mass” – prior to the 19th century, human beings couldn’t be economically targeted by corporations as if with heat-seeking missiles. Now they sure as hell can.

And consider another subtopic that plays into my media obsession: visions of the future. Futurology, and Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, which I once owned 3-4 copies of in different colors but only read small bits of (collectibility of intellectual material? Oh, brother…), and The Jetsons, which I watched an episode of earlier today: “Viva Las Venus” was far from the show’s peak, but at the same time, I think it illuminates something about the phoniness of the show’s futuristic visions. I joked about how someone should point out how the Jetsons’ world is really an Orwellian dystopia. George and Jane drop off the kids from the upper atmosphere down to their relatives in the United States (which is never shown). In this far-future world, the “ground” of earth is never once shown or trod upon. Has mankind forgotten how to walk? It’s an unrealistic vision – George’s car seems to be powered by about as like a source as Fred Flinstone’s feet; there is no energy crisis in the Jetsons’ world, but the ability to freely move about the solar system – as long as you stay within two lanes, apparently. Why are there highways in outer space? The Jetsons wasn’t big on answering such obvious questions. It relied heavily on the suspension of both disbelief and natural curiosity. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good show; it was just as entertaining as any 1960s cartoon sitcom, I guess. But I think how Hanna-Barbera viewed the world to come reveals something about all of our expectations. Especially since, if you ask someone about a cultural representation of the future, they’re just as likely to say “The Jetsons,” as anything. They think of the motorized treadmills that serve as George’s every sidewalk, and of course of Rosie, the sassy robot maid. Sassy? A little sour taste of humanity to give us something to sympathize with. Robot? Technology, wave of the future, sentient AI – glory of glories. And maid? Even amidst the suspended space-bound platforms that form the Jetsons’ humble abode, someone must be condemned to a life of servitude. Otherwise, no work would get done. Rosie’s just another one of the wonders of technology. Consider that: she’s a wonder of the machine age, yet she must be a she, and endowed with a personality. And what of HAL and that computer from the movie Demon Seed? Apparently we just have to give humanoid speech patterns to our machinery. So, what does The Jetsons teach us? God, I have no idea; maybe that the people of the 1960s wanted to see their lifestyles transplanted into a glittery, slightly easier World of Tomorrow where they still have to slave for The Man (Mr. Spacely) and suffer through empty bourgeois lives (that’s you, George Jetson), but at least they had mechanized sidewalks. Thank God for that.

What was I even talking about? I was contemplating whether the Industrial Revolution led to the advent of advertising as we know it. The large corporations, after all, naturally view the large media that were born as, if nothing else, an excellent way to transmit messages about their product. Thus commercials were born. Think of the word commercial – it’s one of those funny little adjectives-turned-nouns. Do I doth dissect too much, probing into the deeper meanings of words as if that’ll tell us something about the broader world? Sure. Sure as hell I do. But if there’s anything my time in college so far has taught me, it’s that one essential piece of (over)analysis, to produce any meaningful results, is close reading (or viewing, depending). All I’m doing is some close reading of the language we speak now. As I was: commercials. Noun form of the adjective “commercial.” Which means? Pertaining to commerce. So a commercial is some tidbit relating to commerce. Commerce… Commerce Blvd. was the name of the main road through Mound, where I sadly hail from. Towns like to encourage commerce. Commerce, trade, exchange, the busyness of business. The point is? Commercials are inherently trying to sell you shit. One way or another, every single commercial must at its heart be saying: INSERT $$$. It’s a pretty fundamental message. All my talk about the Industrial Revolution makes me think of anarcho-primitivist, mathematician, and murderous terrorist Ted Kaczynski, whom you may know better as the Unabomber, whose infamous manifesto had something or other to do with the Industrial Revolution. I, however, do not advocate mailing bombs to people. Hand delivery gives it that personal feel. (Black humor? Yes. Advocating terrorism? Not quite. Insensitivity to victims? Ask again later.)

I guess my big point is one that, as I said earlier, has plagued me and plagues all of us. Dilemma: I want to create [something beautiful for others to enjoy]; however, living in the year AD 2009, it feels like it’s all been done already over and over and over again. Our output now is reduced to copies-of-copies-of-copies. And worse yet, everyone’s an artist (everyone’s a superhero; everyone’s a Captain Kirk) so we’re all simultaneously trying to unearth that last New Idea in a big frenzied struggle that plays out over all media – television, film, music, books, and of course as always, the motherfucking Internet. There’s Google. Wikipedia. YouTube. The websites no one can live without because they’re so damn universal and they alter our perception of reality – any image or knowledge is a few keystrokes away. But that’s another blog (self-restraint?). Hell, this fucking blog itself is an example. I’m repeating myself and countless others all trying to puzzle out the nature of the media in a rapidly-changing, insane, technomaniacal world torn from the pages of William Gibson (or maybe I’d say that, if I’d ever read any of his work); it’s just all kind of, well, like gazing up at the sky and stumbling backwards and getting dizzy. How am I any different than anyone else; how can I assert my identity? It’s harder to do when all culture and knowledge is thrown together in a frantic virtual melange that turns every string of art or education into one worldwide pastiche. And imagine if you will that as of now, no children will be born who have not heard of the Internet, or likely even used it on a regular basis. Is this good? Bad? Neutral? How the hell should I know? I’m just trying to get a vague idea of what the fuck is going on.

A concluding note: I listened to Nena’s 99 Red Balloons after linking to it, and it reminded me that German women have sexy voices, especially when singing. And I think of Marlene Dietrich, and Nina Hagen, the Germanic influence (via Grass, Brecht, Weill, et al) on Amanda Palmer, and the beautiful, self-possessed Franka Potente from Lola rennt (potentially a postmodern masterpiece itself, and very relevant to this discussion). Falling in love again, wha am I to do? I can’t help it…

(I didn’t get a chance to write about UFO Hunters. Maybe later. This was a fun entry to write. But as always I bite off more than I can chew. I’ll try to correct this in the future.)

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