Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

Appendix A

by Sara Gran
Screenshot of Steve McQueen from the trailer f...

Image via Wikipedia

Funny little addendum to yesterday’s post: yesterday afternoon my boyfriend and I went to the last matinee of the Film Noir Festival in SF. After the movies, we stopped and got a bite to eat, which we didn’t finish, so we wrapped the leftovers up to take home. We go to the car, get in the car, start driving, turn a corner, and something comes flying off the car. Me: “What was that?” Boyfriend: “I don’t know.” Me: “Did you leave our food on top of the car?” Boyfriend: “No. Oh, wait…”

So boyfriend makes a u-turn, swings back around to the corner, and then, without fully stopping the car, opens the driver door, reaches out, and snatches the bag of leftovers (which were not in such edible shape, but I don’t like to litter). Which of course is another of those strange recurring movie images, although one that’s less common lately–the hero-driver swoops in and picks up his package without stopping the car. I’d never had that happen in real life before!

You’ll be happy to know, though, that the flan was saved.

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January 29, 2011

recurring images we may not need

by Sara Gran

Image by kevindooley via Flickr

I was talking with some friends the other day about these recurring images I’ve noticed in movies over the past few years, and what they might mean. The strongest recurring image is the vomiting scene. I would say over 90% of movies made within the last, say, four years have at least one scene of a person vomiting, loudly. The sound seems to be a part of the phenomena. When did vomiting become so appealing? I used to work in this building where people would always fight about the garbage–who’s dumpster was who’s, what night which garbage went were, what went to the various garbage outlets. And my brilliant co-worker (Hi Carolyn! Are you out there?) said well, elimination is a very deep issue. So maybe that’s part of the vomiting issue. I also wonder if it has to do with “not swallowing” something. But what are we not swallowing? What is it that we just can’t stomach?

Another image, one that’s waning in movies but still going strong on tv, is this: someone sets a match, timer, or other gimmick to blow something up. Person walks away from incendiary device. Huge explosion follows. Our hero walks away, explosion in the background, without breaking stride or looking back. This one is a bit more obvious, and I think it’s even been poked fun at in a few parodies. But I still think it’s a fascinating image. Why the complete lack of response to the explosion? Why a refusal to even glance back? And these scenes are nearly always physical impossibilities–the hero is usually way too close to the explosion not to get burned, but he never does.

The last one is one I’ve seen in a lot trailers lately–I noticed it in trailers for the new harry potter movie, for example. This is a design element where, behind the titles or credits, there’s a kind of big roiling black smoky somethingness–a weather system or fire or smoke incident that involves big round black cloud-like things rolling around. It’s a very dark image. It’s a bit reminiscent of the giant clouds of dust created when the towers fell down, but in shades of black.

I wonder if these images have something to with the fact that we’ve been at war for like ten years? What do you think? I don’t have any strong opinions here, but I’m curious to hear what others think.

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January 26, 2011

home sweet

by Megan Abbott

A few weeks ago, the fabulous Miss Gran and I were talking about our childhood daytime hours lost to television shows, and one of my favorites was old reruns of A Family Affair, which I remember distinctly as being a central touchstone in my early childhood–so much so I can picture the color palette, the thickness of its bright colors, like coils of oil paint.

The show’s premise was that architect-and-man-about-town  has “family” thrust upon him when he must raise his brother’s orphaned children–the red-haired twins, Jody and Buffy, and teen sister Cissy. Sebastian Cabot famously played Mr. French, the butler (later replaced by John Williams as Mr. French’s brother).

The show had so many of the common fantasy elements of children’s books/movies: beautiful orphans living in a palace (in this case, a sleek urban bachelor’s apartment, which was always my idea of a palace as a kid), cherubic twins and a gorgeous and caring older sister, gruff but kindly caretakers. Everything was yours.

Funnily enough, when I told Sara about it, I think I was framing it as one of those “sexy dad” shows–in large part because Brian Keith was the male lead and Brian Keith has a strong place in my Ralph Meeker-Sterling Hayden-William Holden pantheon. But, of course, I later remembered he wasn’t the dad at all but “Uncle Bill,” which is even better.  All of this is sort of summed in this picture, rather perfectly.

One of the reasons, I will admit, that I think the show absorbed me so much is that it had the tinge of tragedy. I remember learning that the real-life Buffy, Anissa Jones had died in her teens from a drug overdose. (Brian Keith had a sad end of his own.)  To me, it seemed impossible even to believe she’d grown up at all, much less died. So doll-like was she, with what one TV critic calls the “saddest eyes on television, even at age eight.”

Like so many childhood fixations, the things that have stuck with me are kind of random, but the physical space of Uncle Bill’s apartment looms very large. I’m not the only one, as this post on TV party references the interiors, even directing me to a House Beautiful spread from 1970 that showed rooms “inspired” by the show.

It’s so interesting, these shows we watched as kids. I don’t actually remember any of the plots now and had even forgotten the name of Buffy’s famous doll (thank you, Alison Gaylin, for reminding me: Mrs. Beasley).

Yet I am sure I could walk through the family’s whole apartment and feel utterly at home. In some ways, I feel as close to it as to the house I grew up in. The candy-colored children’s rooms, the warm, Eames-style wooden paneling, the modernist sleekness of Uncle Bill’s den, which announced “man” to me.  It was mine.

January 25, 2011

Alchemy & Ormus

by Sara Gran
Nicolas Flamel had these mysterious alchemical...

Image via Wikipedia

Ormus is…well, I don’t know exactly what ormus is. It’s some kind of alchemical potion I started taking a few months ago. It’s a magical substance that may or may not be the Elixer Vitae. It’s a liquid that theoretically has the power to increase your vibration and increase instances of synchronicity in your life. But what IS it? I’ll let these guys explain:

During the 1970’s and 1980’s David Hudson, an Arizona agriculturist, discovered ORME (orbitally rearranged molecular elements) and found these materials shared characteristics of that “essential salt” sought by alchemists. The knowledge of ORME is a wondrous bridge between the ancient work of the masters and the world of new possibilities. ORME material displays amazing effects on plants, animals and humans.

Others were inspired by David Hudson’s results and merged “philosophical processes” with his methods. The offspring of this work also displayed astonishing characteristics and beneficial traits to plants, animals and humans. This is Ormus. It is considered to contain the same material that David Hudson found and the same material that alchemists described as the “spirit of the source.”

Although known by only a few, the presence of Ormus in our body appears to benefit life: the physical “body” carries more vibrancy and a stronger constitution, the physical “mind,” greater communication with the “quantum field of energy. Imagine experiencing fantastic “insights” and enjoying that greater “wisdom.”

Despite the “quotation marks,” that’s a “pretty good description.” I think. There’s naturally-occurring Ormus, and then there’s alchemically made/extracted Ormus. In nature, Ormus is found in cool, structured water, in gemstones and minerals, in potent plants like Aloe Vera and other herbs. It’s qualities are cool, moisturizing, calming, enlightening. Not being so on top of my alchemical studies, (which one is the red lion again? who exactly was married at the alchemical wedding?), I’m pretty hazy on the details of extracted Ormus. But basically, it’s a whole new substance. According to fans, it will change the world. According to skeptics–well, we all know what they say, right? And they may be right.

I first heard about Ormus in David Wolfe’s books (you can watch some interesting videos of him talking about it here) and I’ve been curious ever since. When my friend met the folks from Ormus Miraculous at an event, I felt like the stars were aligned and I finally bought my own Ormus. And I am totally digging it. A few drops a day really seems to make the planets align. Synchronicity is definitely increased. Things seem to be flowing more flow-ish-ly. And I have an enormous bottle of it because I only bought the cheap little bottle, but they sent me a really big bottle by mistake, and they wouldn’t let me send it back. It’s about eight or ten ounces and you take one dropper-full a day, which will last me approximately forever. So I like them.

Anyone else tried it?

January 24, 2011

Medicine Show for Kindle

by Sara Gran

Hey readers! You can now get the Abbott Gran Medicine Show on your Kindle. You can get it here and it costs like a buck-ninety-nine to subscribe. Megan and I are using the money to fund a theme park in Sarasota–details T.B.A. I’ll post a permanent link somewhere as well but for now, just go buy it! And let me know if there are any other formats/platforms/whatever that you’d like to use to read this blog, OK? Thanks! You guys rock!

January 23, 2011

the lid comes off

by Megan Abbott

I missed his birthday by a day or two, but in honor of David Lynch, one of my favorite filmmakers, I present a particularly favorite moment, which appears on the extras for the DVD of Inland Empire, a movie which I find astonishing and impossible, frustrating and revelatory.

Lynch remains the primary fount—or, more likely, conduit—of my unconscious life, and Inland Empire is where I discovered his Rabbits project, which probably accounts for half my nightmares, if I remembered them. (It is in fact so terrifying I must stop writing about it now for fear I will dream about the rabbits tonight).

The clip I’m going to share, though, is not terrifying at all but, to me, celebrates all the delightful Dale Cooper-ish qualities of Mr. Lynch. Moreover, I have followed this recipe to a tee many times (minus the cigarette ash) and have found it to be delicious.

Click here for Part 2, which is even better and includes Lynch’s great coca cola story:

January 20, 2011

Yes, Bob Hope is violently insane

by Sara Gran

One recurring theme of this blog seems likely to be people who have an unwholesome relationship with Bob Hope.  As we’ve touched on before, there’s Brice Taylor, who in her book ‘Thanks for the Memories!” maintains that she was a mind-controlled slave of Bob Hope (and others!) for years, thanks to the CIA and their Mk-Ultra program (or so I think–the book is expensive, and therefore I’ve never read it). David Icke, too, I think, is on the Bob Hope bandwagon. And there’s also the infamous Sally Fox letters, which thanks to an Abbot Gran Medicine Show tipster (yes, we have tipsters!), I now have in possession (you can read them here). Sally Fox was a lucid New Orleans woman who was certain that Bob Hope was implanting unpleasant thoughts in her head. She wrote the FBI, the CIA, and her representative, Lindy Boggs, about this. Surprisingly, only Ms. Boggs agreed to investigate Ms. Fox’s case, but she came up empty handed. From Fox’s first letter to the press:

I am involved in a phenomenal situation which I believe merits investigation.

The whole thing started about seven years ago when I began to “see” Bob Hope (the comedian) when I would close my eyes and concentrate. Through study, I learned that the reason I could “see” Bob Hope was because he is violently insane and uses abnormal thinking processes which introject and project others’ egos.

When this problem began, besides worrying about my mental health, I also felt that my civil rights were being violated by an other person’s insanity, so I began to write letters to the FBI. At first, the FBI thought I was crazy, but a year or so later, the FBI told me that they had been getting 800 to 900 complaints a day from people all around the country saying the same thing I was: Bob Hope is crazy and interferes with their normal thinking. The FBI told me they were investigating.

The really strange twist here is that in Harper’s (they ran them in that little front-of-the-book section of of odds & ends), these letters are followed by a reply to Sally Fox, from an anonymous woman who believes that she, as well, is being mentally violated by Bob Hope:

I was recently visiting a local college and I was describing to a friend the rather odd things (all involving Bob Hope) which seem to be happening to me. Amazingly, someone nearby overheard our conversation and recommended that I contact you.

I understand that you too have experienced these thought disturbances…Yes, Bob Hope is violently insane.

How Harper’s would have gotten these last letters–the response–is a question I don’t have an answer for. A mystery indeed.

It’s easy to make fun of these people, and hey, go ahead. What fascinates me about this, though, is the same thing that fascinates me about the (at least!) three people who have written books claiming their father was the Black Dahlia killer. That is, how public figures fill holes in our psyches that we can’t fill through ordinary means. My father wasn’t just a shithead, he was the Black Dahlia Killer! I wasn’t just screwed by the CIA (heck, tons of people believe that–and some of them are undeniably right), I was screwed by Bob Hope working for the CIA! But I don’t understand exactly what role Bob Hope fills in people’s psyche’s. He fills no holes in mine, I’m sorry to say.

This also ties into one of my other obsessions; otherwise-sane people who think they’re the victim of mind-control programs. This Washington Post article is one of the better pieces of writing ever done on the topic (and check out the fascinating follow-up discussion). The other day I think I mentioned Gloria Naylor’s book 1996, which is also a must-read for anyone interested in the topic. It’s easy to call some poor soul who posts on the internet a nutjob, but Naylor is an accomplished, highly successful, entirely lucid writer. We don’t know much about Sally Fox, but we know she was, repeatedly, able to type a letter, get a stamp, get to the post office, etc. And her letters are pretty lucid. The issue isn’t “mental illness,” not in the sense of someone of someone who can’t function or be trusted to take care of themselves (again, see: Gloria Naylor). So what is the issue?

Bob Hope gets plaque on Hill.

Image via Wikipedia

But Megan, I think you have a contrary opinion on this vital topic…

January 19, 2011


by Sara Gran

Hey! if you like this blog–and I know you do, or why would you be here?–please consider posting a link here. Thanks!

January 19, 2011

worn men

by Megan Abbott

I have always had a special affection for Robert Culp, who was a master of a kind of delicious and yet always knowing lightness. He embodied a kind of paradox of seeming both worldly or even world-weary but still taking an immense amount of pleasure in the world—on finest display in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and of course on one of my favorite shows as a kid,Greatest American Hero.

But, for me, one of his most exciting ventures was his directorial foray into neo-noir with 1972’s seldom-screened Hickey & Boggs, which has always seemed to me to have more interesting and subtle things to say about the Vietnam-era decline of the hardboiled hero than Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, which came out the following year.

In a canny bit of stunt casting, Culp costars with his I Spy partner Bill Cosby, from a script by Walter Hill. It’s a dark, mournful ragged little movie and one of those movies whose “flaws” (its meanderingness) are also its strengths. Its rambling nature makes it feel lived in, worn, like the groove of an old scar.

I first saw the movie a while back, from the murky depths of a multi-year immersion into Raymond Chandler and noir and had been hoping one day to revisit it with clearer eyes, and some distance.  This weekend I have my chance, with a screening at the 92nd Street Y-Tribeca this Saturday night, thanks to the efforts of Cullen Gallagher, with the added treat of an intro by writer Duane Swierczynski , nominated this very week for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original for his novel Expiration Date (which, to brag, I was lucky enough to read in advance).

Cullen has a terrific essay on the film here. Summarizing the complicated logic of the film, he writes, “The Private Detective is dead. Long live the Private Detective.”

Another great piece about the film can be found here.

Best of all….re: Mr. Culp…this.

January 18, 2011


by Sara Gran

I have become obsessed with Robert Bly‘s A Little Book on The Human Shadow. Bly describes the Shadow as those parts of ourselves, dissaproved and unloved by our parents, peers, society and self, that we’ve stuck into a great big bag and tried to forget about. So you might put, say, your anger, or your kindness into the bag–two qualities that many interepert as “weaknesses.” You think they’re gone, but they’re not gone. They’re in this big bag of crap you’re dragging around with you everywhere! And when the things in your bag, which are after all living things, start to poke and prod at you, you’re likely to project that experience outward, and think it’s that guy over there who’s poking you. Bly suggests that because a lot of us have put qualities we associate with the “other” gender in that bag, our projections might likewise land on that “other” gender. So a man might “project his witch” onto the women in his life, or a woman might project what Bly calls her “giant.” So you think this other person is out to get you,

because you know SOMETHING’S poking you all the time, but it’s not the other person at all–it’s your own witch, trying to tell you hey, buddy, you’re been ignoring me since you were five but I’m still here, and I never stopped growing! We have things to do together and you’re ruining it!

One way to find your shadow is to find the things that irrationally piss you off in other people. The key is the emotional charge, and the degree to which you’re willing to admit complexity. That person who is so awful maybe isn’t. Maybe that’s your Shadow.

“A human being who has. . .absorbed the shadow gives the sense of being condensed,” Bly writes. He says that people who have absorbed their shadow have a thick, viscous quality. People who are fighting the shadow might therefore be scattered, fragmented, brittle.

Earlier he says, “If we have given away thirty parts of our self, we will then eventually feel ourselves diminished in thirty different ways.”

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