The Conan of the Future

This afternoon devoured Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987. May have more to say but I must get in that Riad and his buddies obsession with the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie was an utter surprise hoot (Sattouf does a marvelous job of capturing the kids’ imitation of the Schwarzenegger scowl).

The Edgar Rice Burroughs reissued paperbacks had been thrilling me since Junior High School and the same Frazetta cover art drew me to Robert E. Howard’s Conan books when they first appeared. And it was a serious graduation — Howard was more modern, more violent, more weird, more fevered than ERB.

I outgrew Howard and his hero (who I started calling “Onan the Barbarian”) before the reissue series finished up. I needed fiction characters with interiors. I knew little about Howard’s life except that he was from Texas and most of his Conan material had appeared in the sacred Weird Tales. Everything came flooding back when I saw the captivating and wonderfully realized 1996 film The Whole Wide World (Vincent D’Onofrio performance of a lifetime). I immediately tracked down the Novalyne Price book One Who Walked Alone (more apt title, but I see why they didn’t use it). Both the film and the memoir are hugely recommended for their presentation of the value fantasy had for certain isolated souls trapped in the vast Western horizons. The Price book makes a more explicit case for Howard’s fatal fixation on his mother.

If You Don’t Have Everything Bessie Smith Recorded You’re Missing Out

“Blue Spirit Blues”

Had a dream last night
That I was dead
Had a dream last night
That I was dead

Evil spirits
All around my bed

The devil came
And grabbed my hand
The devil came
And grabbed my hand

Took me way down
To that red hot land

Mean blues spirits
Stuck their forks in me
Mean blues spirits
Stuck their forks in me

Made me moan
And groan in misery

Fairies and dragons
Spitting out blue flames
Fairies and dragons
Spitting out blue flames

Showing their teeth
For they was glad I came

Demons with their eyelash
Dripping blood
Demons with their eyelash
Dripping blood

Dragging sinners
To their brimstone flood

“This is hell”, I cried
Cried with all my might
“This is hell”, I cried
Cried with all my might

Oh, my soul
I can’t bear the sight

Started running
‘Cause it is my cup
Started running
‘Cause it is my cup

Run so fast
Till someone woke me up

Unquiet Thoughts About “A Quiet Place”

Watched twice on HD TV.

It’s been a bit overpraised, though you can sure understand why reviewers would be grateful for a horror movie that wasn’t screaming in your ear and slapping you in the face relentlessly. Nevertheless, Get Out or Arrival it is not.

I say it would make a dandy Saturday matinee at my Dad’s old movie theaters. First-rate Creature Feature. What most bugged me the initial watch is that I detected no clue where these superpredators came from. Can’t just come out of the Monster Hole. And because they’re beasts with no technology, it’s impossible to imagine them invading from UFOs.

Second time through I noticed a headline I had missed in the Dad’s War Room: “METEORITE HITS MEXICO.” The idea being that these monstrosities could be hibernating inside a smallish Asteroid, which would explain why there are not so many of them.

Horror highlights:

the opening sequence, which is perfectly paced, terrifying, believable and unforgettable.

the scenes with the grain silo, which center on one of my favorite little-known deadly dangers of the things and reveal that the predators are hard and strong enough to rip right through metal.

the clever climax which showers posthumous honor on Dad and shows Mom has unlimited courage. Once again, I believe it was A.E. Van Vogt who came up with the idea that a particularly deadly quality of an alien being would be its ability to remain perfectly silent and still and then attack with supernatural speed.

Prediction:

Millicent Simmonds is going to be a superstar. I was in her power after the first five minutes.

My Altamount Snippet

I see there’s a new book about classic rock’s darkest day, Just a Shot Away. With what seems like a much-needed remedial main thread. (And I must say that the event is the one thing I utterly hate about the Grateful Dead.)

My most vivid encounter with Altamount horrors came when I mentioned the Gimme Shelter documentary to a music photographer (forgive me for not remembering his name) and he said he was at the show, taking photos. But it was such a drug-soaked and violently deranged scene — more like a riot than a concert — that after half an hour he put away the camera and volunteered to work in a First Aid tent.

It was the look on his face as he recounted this that froze me. This was someone who had witnessed an atrocity.