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  • 31121.1702

  • 31111.1659

  • 31111.0715

  • 3118.1022
    A film set in a techno-human heartbeat, John Carpenter's only studio-made masterpiece, The Thing, has three sources. A Hawks/Nyby remake, the short story "Who Goes There?" and direct references to contemporary shockers Alien and The Shining. Carpenter reduces these scifi-horror discovery tales into a nightmarish fable about isolated men. His film doesn't have to spend its first act inventing a reason to explore, instead the horror arrives instantly. A saucer drops from deep space and descends in great flames, into the center of the frame. Through systematic art-direction (one of many egs: the Norwegian base they investigate is actually theirs, shot after its filmed destruction and freezing), Carpenter uses the audience's memory against them. The alien form is unseen when unfrozen out of a monolithic ice shape (the same ratio as the film screen). Headed by a massively trapezoidal mouth riddled with teeth, it's barely seen in a glance among the charred, gooey results of its merging with available mammalians: dogs and man. By reversing the plot, one gathers how smart 'the thing' actually is, while never knowing exactly what it looks like; it initially attacks the resident scientist offscreen (Blair), presumably during a messy, first autopsy, who then feigns insanity as a result of discovering how dangerous 'it' really is. Watch 'him' regard his former victims, his Norwegian discoverers, pictured in a black and white still. Notice how Blair uses "we" during his autopsy lecture. Later, in 'his' madness-ruse, Blair-thing decimates the radio, kills the remaining dogs, sabotages the blood-supply, drops off hints to sow paranoia (he mouths off about dog keeper Clarke and hides charred MacReady-labeled clothing), then disappears into an off-site jail where he lets the remaining men pick each other off. Unlike Alien, the alien's logic here appears to be highly strategic, hide-in-plain-sight while still nearly invisible. Defensive chess moves instead of  attacks. The tools are gestures that support doubled logic, notoriously hard to find and wield, here any one of Blair's actions could be perceived as solving both beings' problems.  Ingeniously, Blair-thing lectures the base about his own purpose while imitating a human (he bellows "Oh my god" as he splits its skin, exposing the alien's true head, and hilariously this god has dog heads as well). Another 'thing,' Norris, feigns cardiac arrest when confronted with MacReady's potential dynamite-suicide, he serves as a decoy to the crisis.  The thing is smart while appearing blandly demonic.  In the film's reverse of Alien's chestburster, a chest opens vaginally into a mouth; the alien becomes a nonstop series of mouths with appendages. In a movie littered with filmic references, perhaps his most ingenious move is to show the Hawks film version staged as the Norwegians' video of their expedition, in both video and source film, the protagonists unearth the saucer and retreive its frozen passenger. The expedition playback looks uncannily like watching the first Thing on a television broadcast, the way Carpenter grew up watching it on late night Chiller Theater. As for the contemporary, Carpenter gets to homage The Shining repeatedly, and then replace Kubrick's explosion-free ending going full-assault in a dynamited orgy, the film switches quickly from icy blue electric to light by flickering flame. Suddenly they're in the same place as the Norwegians they've found. MacReady and Childs end the film prepared to double the Shining's frozen ending, if necessary. By morning there will be two seated, frozen men. Or will there? Childs's final intro line is "So you're the only one that made it?" while MacReady, spouting breath clouds where Childs has none, seems to know who's who. The visual touches are brilliant: an Asteroids game in the rec-room is followed by Blair-thing's cellular animation, which looks like the Atari game except you see floating shapes absorbing instead of cleaving. Notice the heavy use of signs and color-reversal. The first object the Norwegian helicopter passes over, before the station's perimeter, is a sideways gasoline drum slapped with a Chevron logo. As MacReady hears the thing's far away howl for the first time, he sets off the FIRE alarm, showing wryly the entire film is a movie about setting and exploding fire. By not showing us the thing's first state (how the Norwegian's found it in the ice) Carpenter and latex whiz Rob Bottin play the audience subtly even as the creature's scenes seem like overkill; they fill the void in the ice-monolith with a creature that mutates at will, showing off real-time genetic advancement. A virus that rules over cellular life. Once thawed and left alone, it cannot be stopped. Critically attacked, largely ignored by an audience feeding on the afterglow of E.T. and opening the same day as Blade Runner, The Thing might be Universal's greatest unsung monster, a tradition-genre Universal began in its Lamaelle days with Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy.

     

  • 3110.1212

    Alan Lomax's crucial, out of print guide to the expanse of North American music has this brilliant map as its front endpaper. By navigating the book, one follows both Alan's and his father John's intensive research into the development of various styles (sourced in various cultures) of music on the 'new' continent. The migration patterns prove the evolutionary role music plays in history. Truncated from the map are the words Wagon, Walking, and Cattle Trails.

  • 312314.1955

    Like items displayed for historical curators of presidential libraries and museums, the Great Downturn is best exemplified in a single person, the martyr Madoff and his ecstatic possessions. In preparation for the auction house, the vast collection of items are on view at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, once the second largest navalworks in the U.S. now a mixed commercial area littered with historical artifacts and architecture. No doubt one day what lies underneath it, and in the proximate waters will be a treasure to archeologists. For one day, today, Friday November 12, it becomes the most visible remains of the discordance in World Capitalism. Pay your respect to the present while remaining in the past: http://www.proxibid.com/

    Search madoff

  • 312306.2312

    Mausoleums in a Sinaloa cemetery, built with A.C., private rooms, balconies, for deaths at the upper echelon of the drug cartel wars.

  • 312300.1009

    The most ingenious theory you've never heard of is Susanne Langer's process philosophy. An intellectual descendant of A.N. Whitehead (he was her thesis advisor), Langer blended his views of the mind's power (some of which she later rejected) with myth-symbolist philosophers like Ernst Cassirer, then combined them with advances in the behavioral sciences, cognitive science, neurology, genetics, and evolutionary sciences developed through the second half of the 20th century and arrived at what might be the most articulate view of what DNA and the brain hold dormant for us. Everything. The entire history of our earth's geology and biology may lie hidden in various manners as yet untappable inside its nearly infinite chambers and fluids. Her arguments are compelling and her data ranges from earth science to astronomy to zoology to neuroscience. To sum it up is a pity, it must be experienced to be understood. Although her key text is considered Philosophy in a New Key (and should be read), the true volumes of her revolutionary work are a trilogy called Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, a strangely titled masterpiece that may have laid the groundwork for the next few centuries' discoveries. The trilogy has been condensed slightly into a single volume now in-print.

  • 312292.1811

  • 312287.0504

    Melies, the grand experimenter of scale in early cinema, laid the groundwork for vast achievements to come in genre and optics. Here two opposing yet similar approaches. First a mechanized giant torso is filmed, then a head seems to inflate like a balloon.