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Following in the Footsteps of Victor Frankenstein

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James Whale's 1931 classic film, Frankenstein spawned six direct sequels. In The Bride of Frankenstein, The Monster learned to speak. In the next film, The Son of Frankenstein, the screenwriters dropped the idea of a talking Monster, and invented the character of Ygor, the doctor's assistant. In The Ghost of Frankenstein Ygor's brain is transplanted into The Monster, and after the operation The Monster speaks … with Ygor's voice. And then, because brain transplants can be tricky, The Monster went blind.

And now a little backstory …

After the success of Dracula, Bela Lugosi was offered the role of The Monster in Frankenstein. Lugosi considered the part to be beneath his talents, said he was a star in his own country, and did not come to America "to be a scarecrow." William Henry Pratt, a struggling British actor, took the part, changed his name to Boris Karloff, and became a movie star.

Karloff played The Monster in the first three Frankenstein films. Bela Lugosi played Ygor in The Son of Frankenstein and in The Ghost of Frankenstein. Lon Chaney Jr. assumed The Monster's role in The Ghost of Frankenstein.

At the end of The Ghost of Frankenstein, the laboratory is in flames, Lon Chaney Jr. is stumbling around as the blind Monster speaking in Ygor's (Bela Lugosi's) voice, and finally the roof caves in trapping The Monster in a white hot inferno.

The Monster Movie
was the cash cow that kept money rolling in to Universal Studios throughout the Great Depression and beyond. But by 1942, Frankenstein's Monster wasn't the impressive draw it once was. It was time to rejuvenate the franchise by adding another monster into the mix. It was time for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. But there was a problem.

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... And Now, th' Snooze

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Thinking can be dangerous -- thoughts can go anywhere.  Maybe that is why so little thinking is done any longer by the masses.

This is especially true, given the vast array of predigested information sources available to the various publics which still clot and cling together, despite our vast differences, as we start to exit our country's Terrible Twos, as the perspective of world history goes.

Our brains now scurry and scramble for their allotment of junk-food information, whether fresh or stale, direct from the squeeze-tubes of right wing think tanks, from the boiling vats of corporately-cooked fodder, from the overstuffed pork barrels of stout political earmarks.

The watchdog press has been harnessed, debarked, un-fanged, and reduced to handout journalism, repeating whatever overly-massaged, HD-digitized, pre-uploaded 3D press release kits are available for filing fresh, authentic -- and most of all, entertaining -- reporting.

Truth is what you make it, my friends, depending on what you want to hear, depending on which of the many propaganda channels most draws your self-identification, your perceived alliance, calls to your peer group, educational base, patience threshold, ignorance quotient, income cluster, and relaxation rating.

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Survivor's Gilt

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It's a wonderful thing, when stuff normally taken for granted goes missing for a bit, then pops back up, reasserts itself, and gets appreciation flowing in your veins again.

Like gravity.

Toward the end of the end of my month-long experimentation with colds, flus, and pneumonia-wannabes, I was thrilled when all those sumpy pockets and pools of rippling gravity faded from the swooping and swerving, eerily unfamiliarly, looking-through-binoculars-backwards, miles-long hallway between bed and bath -- into the Great Beyond, where all the cold and flu products danced in a long conga line, like a 1950s theater intermission moment, when all the popcorn, drinks, and candy bars danced themselves out into the lobby for your happy, refreshing treat.

Those transparent pockets of flexible gravity would ripple like rings in pools of water, but only at the perfect bodily temperature pushing into triple digits -- just as snow will only squeak underfoot at just the right temp,  no warmer and no cooler.  Those patches of sneering hallway gravity were unpredictable, alternating between slick and snide.

Now that I am back in The Tricky World of the Vertical, it's nice to know there's no need to be on lookout for malleable wells and sprouting fluctuations of variable gravity, ready to make you involuntarily lurch and sway.

(Here, I am tempted to ponder the delightfully high value a tavern named The Lurch & Sway might bring in general terms, located anywhere at all, let alone if established in Iowa and New Hampshire, where such unplanned banana-split ballet motions, come balloting time, are painfully traditional.)

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The Flue Flu: Two Dox to Open

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Despite my flu shot, I've gotten the flu anyway.  The irony is not lost on me, but it's a complex vintage, and one not easily achieved or savored.  For example, part of me wants to feel I have finally gotten my money's worth in a modern-day transaction.

So much for theory, where the shot is supposed to give you the flu -- sort of -- in order to build up some immunity to the flu.  Well, sure.  Got it.

But,  I'm feeling on the wrong end of an old punchline, where this guy in a joke walks in to a drug store and asks, "Have you got anything for a headache?" and the pharmacist whacks him on the head with an SUV-sized wooden mallet.

Only, in my version of the joke, which is set in current-day America, and involves many players, major political parties will collide, generations of wealth will be shed, and the powerful will melt down their long-standing base over the intricacies of the details which fascinate them:  Who built and provided the mallet?  Who were the suppliers and contractors?  What form of manufacture and transportation was used? What were the raw materials?  Was anyone consulted along the way?  Who did the paperwork?  Who was employed, and where?  And, of utmost importance, of course, where there any emails involved?

And so on.

Then, we'd take a trillion dollars of The People's money -- representing a considerable amount of their labor -- and burn it, right in the well of the combined Congress, in a show of who and what is truly important in this country, despite official documents and statements, and then we'd all take the Nineteen Millionth consecutive vote -- hey, they're only a few hundred million dollars vote, you know -- regarding how and and when and where and under what considerations and conditions might The People be entrusted with the dispensing and receiving of Mallet Care.

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Bad Horror Movie

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A bunch of teens decide to go up to The Old Dark House on the night of the full moon. As they mount the creaking stairs up to the front porch the nerdy guy of the group says, “I don't think this is a very good idea guys.”

Of course it's not.

What the teens don't know … but what everybody in the theater audience knows … is that somewhere in The Old Dark House is:

An escaped lunatic from a nearby insane asylum who has returned to the house where he committed terrible unspeakable murders. It was, in fact, This Very Night 20 years ago when he took an axe and chopped up his entire family.

Or …

An Alien needs to extract fresh pituitary glands from human beings between the ages of 18-24. It needs to do this once every 20 years in order to continue to masquerade as a human and This Very Night is its last chance.

Or …

The house was once inhabited by satanists who performed arcane rituals to open a Portal to Hell in the cellar. A blood sacrifice is needed to keep the gates of hell closed for another 20 years and … you guessed it … The Door opens This Very Night.

Or ...

Hidden in the cellar are the rotting bodies of the victims of the current slasher killer who has been terrorizing the town. Unbeknownst to the teens is one of their own group is the killer. And is probably related to the lunatic currently imprisoned in a nearby insane asylum for hacking up his family This Very Night 20 years ago.

Regardless … it's past curfew … and the band of teens enter The Dark Old House.

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Nightmare Alley

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No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

So begins Shirley Jackson's classic The Haunting of Hill House.

Perceptions and appearances cannot be trusted. Hill House looks like it was properly built, “… walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut ...” but Hill House is not sane.

Why?

Because … No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.

But … is Hill House alive? Ask whatever walks there. It knows. Whenever it dreamt, the dreams too were not sane. When mad dreams and absolute reality are peculiarly inverted … that's when everywhere becomes Hill House … and everyone who lives there … lives alone. Come daylight they dream with their eyes wide open, and at night they keep their eyes sensibly and tightly shut against the darkness of reality.

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Ides and Go Seek

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'Tis the time of the wild-eyed Bewilderbeast which is nearly upon us, boys and girls -- thick as broomstick'd witches on candy bags, heavy as depleted uranium foil strewn on scrawny, screw-together tannenbaums.

You know where we are, calendar-wise:  It's that time of the year in which Life makes even less sense than usual, in an American post-Summer simmer and in a pre-sprung Spring.  Here we are, the lull between the Equinoxes -- the seasonal gap between locked and unlocked, as Vonnegut's sense of season would have it.  It is neither Fall nor Winter, more Hypnotic Lockdown than anything -- making it Hypdown or Locknotic, I suppose.  Up to you.

We're in the No-Sanity Zone betwixt the tart, fictional, Slack-jawed, Sourpussed War on KrissMuss and the all-too-real, tempting jar of Trick-or-Treat Sweetmeats and Jaw-breaker Bribes.

We always worry and fear the wrong things here, in this country.  Halloween has us cringing at thoughts of chain-saw killers and headless horsepersons -- but, right now, and all year long, there are headless Congresspersons taking chain-saws to national life support systems, and pulling the plug on keeping infrastructure alive.

Who knows?  We might even vote another 40 or 50 times to repeal a starting effort at health care for citizens, at pointless costs of hundreds of millions of dollars.  We might even focus another dozen empty and vacuous hearings, and another hundred thousand pounds of baseless rage, against women's health care.  Or, maybe, Poe's pale blue eye of the Tell-Tale Heart, lately of the GOP, will descend its unseeing gaze on concerns of global climate change, and House Republicans will again chase science out of its Science Committees, hoping instead to place religion in all public classrooms, and Ten Commandment monoliths in every public space larger than a two-dollar bill.

Who knows what will happen when the ice-cold violin shrieks from Psycho start up again as marching soundtracks for the Republican faithful?

It's a strange season, all right.  All quicksand and quicksilver.

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