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Monthly Archives: September 2022

Trust the Work

”Present your work to the public. Some people change their work to meet what they believe their public is. Well, that might work for a while, but I have no idea what my public will want, so if I hear something, I follow it. If I see something, I follow it and present it to the public, trusting that there will be a sufficiency in order for a supper to arrive. And historically that’s worked. Some times have been better than the others, but riches and popularity have never been on the top of my to-do list.”

– Robert Fripp

House of Pain

“What is the law?”

By the time an unrecognizable Bela Lugosi utters those words in “The Island of Lost Souls,” an absolute masterpiece of horror from 1932, you have already seen things you wished you hadn’t. Things that will haunt your nightmares for many years to come.

I last saw this film over 30 years ago, and I remembered it as very creepy. After watching it again last night, I was struck by what a queer piece of art it was. For anyone who thinks films from this period are so dated as to be unwatchable, I would say, watch this. That is, if you can.

Charles Laughten’s performance as Dr. Moreau is Brando-like 20 years before. I make that comparison not because of any physical similarity, rather because the actor’s choices are so bizarrely unusual and effective. It’s a great script, but you can’t write what Laughten does with the role.

Erle C. Kenton’s direction and the cinematography by Karl Struss, together with some very surrealistic set design, creates an uneasy atmosphere of mounting dread. This is a pre-Hays Code film, so expect to see some surprisingly shocking images and unsettling themes explored head on.

To wit: The human/animal hybrids, lurking on the edges of many scenes, are sure to disturb you in a way that won’t be easy to forget. Let’s not even discuss The House of Pain. Seriously.

The mutants, headed by Lugosi as “The sayer of the law,” along with their creator Laughton, will haunt your mind like a fever dream.

“What is the law? Not to spill blood, that is the law.

Let’s see how that works out.

Waterfront at Night (Part 2)

We are living in a transitional period in human evolution; more specifically, the phase in AI development where it begins to appear everywhere, yet, for the general public, it seems almost transparent. Like it’s not really that big a deal.

But it is a big deal. One AI researchers already don’t fully understand. Case in point: DALL-E 2.

Yesterday’s image “Waterfront at Night,” was created from a short text prompt by the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) model initially developed by OpenAI in 2018.

After getting access to the free program, this was my 8th attempt to have the algorithm generate something cool. It’s so simple a child learning to read could use it.

Because it uses machine learning (I.e. it teaches itself by analyzing input, in this case over 6 million images), the designers can’t reverse-engineer how it actually creates a specific image.

In other words, humans created this thing and then gave it the ability to recursively teach itself – so unless it tells us, we don’t know exactly how it makes its decisions.

And yet here it is, in the wild, happily teaching itself how to become better at what it does. To OpenAI’s credit, they’ve tried to limit its capabilities (no porn or violence), but at the end of the day, good luck with that.

Welcome to the future. Ready or not, it’s here and raring to go.

Or perhaps I should say, it’s here and raring to show us what it can do.

Hunter S. Thompson (Part 1)

Here’s how you open a non-fiction piece of political coverage:

I feel the fear coming on, and the only cure for that is to chew up a fat black wad of blood-opium about the size of a young meatball.

What kind of editor would approve that for print? Jann Wenner, of course!

Out to Lunch (Part 2)

ERs are the only unit in a hospital that has no limit for the amount of patients admitted.

Say what?

That’s right. We basically take patients until the whole system breaks down. First we put a stretcher in every nook and cranny of open space. Then we double up every room. Then we take overflow from units that are “full.”

Speaking from experience here folks. It ain’t pretty.

Welcome to American health care. I know you’re not happy, but I’m doing my best.

Sociopath

“This was the first time I’d murdered someone, and I was surprised to find I didn’t feel any different than I had before. I didn’t plan on ever killing anyone again, but not because I felt remorse.

The truth was I didn’t feel anything.”

Not What it Seems (Part 1)

Declan walks in and sees Knobby emptying the safe deposit box into a canvas bag. “You really think you’re going to walk out of here with that?”

Knob looks up. “How the fuck did you get in here?”

“I don’t think that’s the right question, mate.”

“It’s not, is it? Well suppose you tell me what the right fucking question is?”

The two men stop and stare at each other, weighing their next move.

“You remember that time at Crowley’s Circus?” Declan reaches in his pocket and lights a cigarette. “Back in the day?”

Knob stands still as a statue, his face expressionless, impossible to read. An interminable silence leads to an almost imperceptible beginning of a grin. “Carswell. That right prick. Thought the threat of the guv’nor would have us pissing ourselves. What a misguided cunt…”

Good Sentences (Part 3)

“The witch’s mask was still clasped in her waxy, pale hand, her mouth slack, an open portal of death.”

“The crickets chirped, and the night creatures roamed, and sleep fell over me like a shroud.”

– from ”Lost on the Wilder Shores”

More Than We Bargained For (Part 1)

“Wanna come to a party?”

We were returning from a lecture George Martin had given on his work with The Beatles, and it was still early, maybe 10:30 on a beautiful cool fall night in Boston. I’d driven in from New York for the event after he announced this would be his last public appearance. You were beside yourself with excitement and bought two tickets as soon as they went on sale. Both of us being musicians obsessed with the Fab-Four, this would be as close as we would ever get to hear an eye-witness account of history. We’d stopped by a Store-24 for ice cream and beer before heading back to your apartment when a young woman approached me at the checkout.

“What kind of party?” I said. May as well hear her out; I wasn’t young; the days had long passed when this sort of thing happened as a normal course of events.

“Follow me; I’ll tell you outside,” she said, smiling and motioning to the parking lot.

You were waiting in your car when I approached with my new friend. Clearly not amused. She checked you out, took a second to run some mental calculations, and decided you passed muster before spilling the beans.

“It’s a private sex party; you guys’ll have fun. “You know know,” she winked. ”B & D, that kind of stuff.” Something about her was off, making the whole thing even more enticing.

Always down for weird experiences, I wasted no time. “Sure; how do we get there?”

After giving us directions and a secret password, she got in her car and drove off. I looked at you with a shit-eating grin, my Haagen-Daaz already getting soft, and said, “C’mon — we’ve gotta check it out! We’ll leave if you’re not into it.” Of course, you didn’t want to go, but I was relentless. My plan wasn’t to have sex with strangers, I just wanted to check out what sounded like a freaky scene. I could tell my wife I was doing research. Maybe not the best plan, whatever; I’d figure that out later.

Humoring me, you begrudgingly went along. By the time we pulled up to the address, it was brutally cold. Boston weather’s like that, always changing on a dime. The place was a massive old candy warehouse in an industrial district that seemed to be deserted. We’d been driving in alleys, passing empty loading docks that looked like they hadn’t been used in a while when I saw someone go in an unmarked doorway.

“C’mon, this must be it.”

Oh, this was it, alright. You were my best friend, and this would turn out to be another memorable night in a long line of memorable nights stretching over decades before you passed away seven years ago today.

I loved you, my brother, and still think of you every day.

Rest In Peace.