David Bowie: Inspirational Stranger In a Deranged Land

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Now, I could start this off talking about the impact David Bowie had on the culture I grew up in. It had been quite clear for a long time that he had affected every section of the art community. There are many articles that show parallels and connections to him that we can play Six Degrees of David Bowie. In fact, for being someone from another planet, he has impacted my culture quite significantly.
As his last gift to us earthlings, Bowie gave us the beautiful album Black Star. When I first heard about Black Star, I wasn’t excited because we were getting a quick follow up to his solid The Next Day. I was particularly excited to see him so thrilled about the prospect of star KIC 8462852 having life that he paid homage to the idea by creating another work of art. Sadly, no aliens have been observed, but it would have been one hell of a departing gift for Ziggy. Don’t you think? Regardless, that is my attraction to him.
David Bowie is an artist who keeps his mind open and allows possibilities to spark his imagination and throws him into a creative frenzy. He never seems to be too concerned for his passions making him look too nerdy or too weird. That may have been why much of his lyrics adopt an outsider’s point of view, but it’s why I found him to be the most relatable artist. Every time I saw him perform or heard him sing or act, I knew that was 100% him. He was always genuine.
As I go back and look over David Bowie’s discography, it certainly reminds me of looking over a wine list. There’s quite a selection, but it’s hard to find someone who has a pallet for each choice. Also, just like wine, some of his material, such as the Berlin Trilogy, aged quite well over time, and for some people they themselves haven’t aged enough to appreciate the selection. I was one of those people.

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Growing up I remember David Bowie being the Thin White Duke with the sexy songs. I would sing to myself Let’s Dance while peddling my way over to my girlfriends house. Then I would sing Dancing in the Street on my way home. I would sing along with Mercury and Bowie to their love song to humanity, Under Pressure. Then, when nobody was looking, I would sing China Girl. In fact, I blame Him for my pseudo English accent that permanently set into my singing voice.

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Another great part of Bowie was that I could easily listen to him around the grandparents. Originally, to me he was that top ten artists with safe sounding hits. So, when I saw him take the stage next to Trent Reznor, my mind became blown. I was young, but it was at that moment when I realized he was so much more than the guy with the hits. He was the artist who wasn’t afraid to reinvent his style and passion for music. He had made a career out of being an iconoclast. He would build his image only to disassemble it and rebuild it again and again.
Much of consumerism America prefers their “artist” to stamp out hits, albums, whole bodies of work that are nothing but an imitation of the original money maker. However, true artists such as David Bowie in particular never conform to the demands of the public. They continue creating something new and inspired that reflects their current mindset. For example, I love the fact that those radio friendly hits I mentioned came out right after his most experimental phase. As I aged, my pallet now consistently hungers for those experiments during that Eno, Bowie, Visconti era.

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During my time couch hopping, I also found myself personally embracing more of his later works. His lyrics and themes often portrayed a voyeuristic wanderer discovering humanity. It was one of the tracks buried in Earthling that particularly resonated with me, Searching for Satellites. The minimalist lyrics over wailing synths and guitars reflected the mood of a lonely vagabond packing and taking inventory of his personal possessions while flicking through the news on the TV, which is something I’ve experienced more than enough times. Somehow, that was always the trick to his profound lyrics. He could be singing about walking out of a spaceship, but for me it’s a soundtrack about shedding my past and walking into tomorrow.

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As obituaries and eulogies pour out after news broke of Bowie leaving us, there’s one story from Duncan Jones that warmed me up. Back in Jones’s youth his father use to read SciFi tales to him. For me, this parallels my reading tales of black holes and quantum physics to my preschool daughter. I’m sure he also hoped that these tales would not only spark the imagination in his son but also illuminate the possibility of change. After all, David Bowie lived a life that proved that reinvention isn’t scary but rather beautiful.

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SoD : Let There Be Aliens! (A Critical Review of Mass Hysteria)

Lately, the news headlines have actually been interesting. It is not the fact that satirist have finally drawn the line, or that we are oppressing them their artistic expression. but it’s the fact that other people or other organizations are actually attacking them, fatally attacking them in some cases. A lot of people seem to be wondering why people believe strongly in these fictional depictions of their deities, and why are they so mad?
It reminds me of when I was a child. One of the big scary topics that most people can relate to being terrifying is child abduction, and this was deathly hot topic when growing up. For me, I never feared those strangers in the trench coats and the black fedoras or whatever the propaganda depicted them to be.

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I thought the most terrifying child abductors were alien abductors. I mean, while I was alone at night shivering under my blanket in my ninja turtle PJs, I how would seriously imagine that aliens were outside my window just staring at me waiting for their chance to take me. I believe these aliens had actually conquered space and time. They have evolved to a point that we humans no longer identified with them biologically. Their whole conquest, their whole soul purpose in their whole history of their very being in this universe was to become the most sophisticated advanced child predators. That was my conclusion.

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I know. I was a very impressionable young lad and quite honestly that’s probably not the most bizarre thing I used to be terrified of while growing up. Nonetheless, hear me out before you place judgment. The reason why I had this terrifying belief was because of Steven Spielberg. the master storyteller himself. I blame Spielberg. Here’s why.
In 1977 Steven Spielberg chose to release a movie that was entitled Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There was actually a scene depicting a child abduction by aliens, so it wasn’t quite unfounded. Yes, I know that was a movie. How dare I compare reality to a movie?

What type of alien did you imagine, standing outside my window, staring at me, and waiting for the perfect opportunity to take me and utilize their anal probe technology? Were they short gray people with bug eyes, big black bug eyes with a big noggin? Most of western society would agree with you. That mass hypnosis was because of Steven Spielberg. He made that possible for us all in 1977 when he released Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This is the first time we ever saw an alien like that. Take a second and realize that our culture, our minds, our imagination is collectively conjuring up an alien creature which did not exist before 1977.

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Now, here’s the preposterous thing. Here is the idea that makes one question reality. In the 1990s, there was a huge ordeal about this released film called the alien autopsy. Our culture tried to retcon our Alien continuity. A lot of people pitched this film not as a fictional depiction of aliens being dissected, rather this was being pitched as rediscovered film evidence of an alien that was recovered from the Roswell crash. Supposedly, this was a Roswell alien being dissected before our very eyes. Guess what? It was a little gray alien. To this day, although the film footage we all saw was faked, people say it was very closely based on a real film reel of an alien autopsy. This is unbelievable. Despite the cinematic evidence, despite the fact that these types of aliens completely do not exist in all the universe, we still for some reason hold on to this belief, this cultural belief that if we did have an alien autopsy film it would most definitely look like that.

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Now, this is like saying we found uncovered photographic evidence of Mickey Mouse being dissected because Mickey Mouse, just like the aliens Spielberg created for his movie, is only an artist depiction of something fictional.
I find it amazing that storytellers can actually pull things like this off. This is the foundation of movie magic. There’s no way a young Steven Spielberg had the foresight to believe that his movies, Jaws and Close Encounters, were going to create a small form of mass hysteria which would last for generations.
So, I’d like to talk about Orson Welles because he also attributed to our mass hysteria towards aliens, and yes, I’m talking about his broadcast that happened on October 30, 1938. For those who don’t know, Orson Welles did a radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. In fact, it was so magnificently produced and enacted, there were people who actually believed that we were being invaded by Martians. It was done so well there are conspiracy theories dedicated to how the production was pulled off.
Before we start imagining farmers running outside with their shotguns looking into the starry night wondering where these Martians were, we have to understand the culture and mindset of the people during that time. The world had just experienced the first great war. At the time, The Great War itself achieved the highest body count and committed violent atrocities that were previously unfathomable. Then the western world sunk into the Great Depression. Now, that farmer we imagined running out all excited like. He’s more than likely getting his farm taken away, and his livelihood, his tradition of being a farmer was nearing its end. Unbeknownst to many was the only light at the end of the tunnel was that his unemployment would end by becoming a soldier for the second great war World War II. Many people like this farmer were about to go overseas and be put on the front line and undoubtedly face their own annihilation. When one is put into this very bleak and stressful situations, our mind has a tendency to be very malleable, very easy to manipulate. It becomes a sponge towards very well told stories which give our lives a little bit of wonder.
This belief system is something that humans never actually evolve past. This is something that still prevails today. People find themselves facing the lowest point of their lives. These day-to-day lives which are mediocre, repetitive, and monotonous. Most of the workforce in the “better” parts of the world consists of servitude and labor. Then life can throw a curve ball and your phone has a tragic message. Maybe it’s about infidelity, miscarriage, terminal illness, fatal accident or any number of everyday things. Then maybe you look up in the sky and you see an epic battle between angels and dragons, and all of a sudden fate handed you your chance to redeem your mundane existence. I am not saying this will happen. However, there are millions of people out there who believe Revelations is a possibility. It’s simply because most religious texts are righteously told stories.

Because my mind has an inclination towards all things SciFi, it makes me ponder. If it hadn’t been L Ron Hubbard who wrote those atrocious Battlefield Earth stories, instead SciFi religion sprung out of the minds of the master storytellers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, I have definitely been devoted. That’s how belief systems work. Whatever story can fool you into suspending your disbelief, that point where it starts merging with your cognition, that is where anything’s possible. In conclusion, all I am really trying to say is there should be caution taken when one is trying to satirize people’s beliefs and the stories that they treasure.

Mad Monster Party Phoenix 2014

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Despite the searing 107 degree weather, many maniacs clad in black with black hair and touches of gray crept into the Sheraton Hotel for this year’s Mad Monster Party Convention. Once the fanatics were able to bludgeon their way through wide eyed and sometimes helpless volunteers and security personal, they were greeted with an exhibitor hall. Along the walls were tables and booths with actors from Nightmare on Elm St, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Child’s Play as well as The Runaways and Elvira. Each and every guest would smile and greet each fan who walked by and love to quickly engage their fans in conversation. Unlike other conventions who host actors and celebrities, at no point did the attendees have to cattle prod the guests to get them to dance and speak. Instead, the actors often geek out about their works just as much as their fans. Afterall, these are guest like Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen who wrote a book chronicling his experience working on TCM.

After prying ourselves away from the buzzing tattoo stations with horror themed flash art, we make our way down towards the cozy Panelist room. If there’s anybody missing from the booths or tables in the Exhibitor hall, it’s usually because the guests are taking part in a panel which focuses on the horror work they are known for. The moderator will do the obligatory “How is everyone?” followed by forced cheering and clapping. Then the moderator sets up a Q&A with the same set of eight questions from panel to panel. However, each guest has their own unscripted responses which can be short and sweet to long winded. We quickly learn these guests are far from being sadomasochistic tortured souls they’re known for portraying. Because most of them talk about the business from an outsiders perspective, it’s easy for them to joke about the absurd or odd behavior they’ve witness in Hollywood, or the reverence they have for the creation and conceptualization.

During the Nightmare on Elm Street panel, Heather “Nancy” Langenkamp explains how she use to have nightmares about Freddy’s tongue suffocating her. This is a scene pulled from Nightmare 7. This was her example of how sexual images can subliminally affect the mind. This imagery took time and therapy to ease her out of these night terrors. From Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp’s perspective, Nightmare on Elm Street was less about Freddy and the nightmares and more about Nancy being able to separate reality from dream. To solidify this aspect was how Wes Craven wanted to make New Nightmare focus more on Heather Nancy’s sanity rather than Freddy breaking out into reality.

Yet, there are other times the discussion slips into the darkness. For example, Brad Dourif was asked what he does in order to get into character when portraying Chucky. He begins by asking us if we ever fantasized about killing somebody who annoyed us. He then goes on to explain how we are all predators and it’s perfectly natural to feel that impulse. Dourif explains he takes that frame of mind and applies it to his role when he is in character. After all, acting is just another form of fantasizing. The room falls silent for a few moments before Dourif explains none of that frightens him. On the other hand, he is terrified of guns. Because he can’t look at one without knowing it was created for the sole purpose of turning people into meat.

Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen’s grim anecdote comes when he discusses the infamous twenty six hour shoot for Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He explains that the exhaustion from the shoot had made him delirious. When somebody yelled, “kill that bitch”, Hansen turned towards Sally with that very intent until he quickly snapped out of it.

In closing, one of the guest gave an ego stroking compliment to fans of horror. When it comes to horror movies, fans evaluate the movie based not only on the story, but also the creature effects, cinematography, acting style, originality and so on. It’s a genre of film that can’t be evaluated from a single aspect. For example, it’s why all the remakes don’t resonate as much as the originals did, Psycho being the greatest offender. Therefore, because of the complexity of the genre, it attracts not just the outsiders but the intellectuals.