Sunday, October 30, 2011

The worst PMS in recorded history

Ah, Carrie! Carrie, my girl. I think she may have been (in part) the inspiration for Mallory, the protagonist of my second novel (Turnstone Press, 2005):

(Buy it today!)

Except that this gal really knows how to get her revenge.

I watched it for the second time a couple of weeks ago, and this time it struck me not so much as a horror or suspense film as a comedy. A very black one, to be sure. From the first time we see the "popular girl" Amy Irving plotting to humiliate Carrie and pound her into the ground, we know some awful vengeance is brewing. Carrie is already "making things happen". When the bucket of blood lands on her and her eyes turn to stone, we know we're in for a real treat.

I'll SHOW those people. And I won't even need to commit suicide to do it (too often, the tragic result of extreme bullying). Her eyes fly open into that blank wallpaper stare, her fragile little body becomes as menacing as a space alien's, and she Walks Among Us, wreaking havoc at every step.

This is the ultimate revenge fantasy for every high school nerd who ever suffered humiliation at the hands of the social powerbrokers.  She even burns a whole lot of people to death and blows up John Travolta (always a cherished fantasy of mine), but not before rolling his car about seventeen times.

Toying with them, she is. What she does to her mother is even more excruciatingly funny, and she ends up like that saint in the painting, what's his name anyway, with all the barbs and arrows in him. But what I like is that little screech, like something out of Psycho, every time she unleashes another lethal projectile. 

This movie is based on a story by Stephen King that he supposedly dumped in the garbage during a moment of frustration. It reminds me of the story of J. K. Rowling writing Harry Potter on a napkin in Starbucks while living on welfare. In other words, it didn't happen, but it SHOULD HAVE because it will give all unpublished writers a sort of hopeless hope.

There's a sequel called The Rage: Carrie 2. Don't bother. It istars a completely unknown actress with no charisma whatsoever (and who remained that way), unlike Spacek who went on to do Coal Miner's Daughter (won an Oscar for it, I believe) and a multitude of other things. Her acting chops are obvious here, as she appears to be ignoring everyone. She inhabits another level of reality, the level of Get Those High School Bitches and Bastards And Annihilate Them For What they Did To Me. 

Watch this, it's a hoot, and it's just in time for Halloween.

(Look at this, too, then buy one, or two.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The scariest thing you've EVER SEEN!!

NOTE: this video wouldn't embed, but the link to YouTube should work. Really, this half-minute kind of sums up the whole thing.
I guarantee you, this is the scariest, creepiest, most Godawful thing you've ever seen in a movie. As with so many horror classics (like Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, which scared the giblets out of me), I watched this as a kid sleeping in the den on the pullout bed. This was a special treat and only allowed on non-school nights, which was great, because all the best creature-feature films were shown on Friday night.

I am sure I watched this with my older brother Arthur providing running commentary. We both burst into a sort of terrified "auuuuuugggghhhhhh" (not "ewwwwwwww": it hadn't been invented yet) at the "reveal", which only lasts a fraction of a second.

Mr. Sardonicus is probably William Castle's creepiest film. He was the master of horror schlock, and in this one he came on at the start and said the audience could choose between two endings.: "thumbs up" (Sardonicus lives!), or "thumbs down" (bye-bye, smiley face!) Only one ending was made, of course.

When we first meet Mr. Sardonicus he's living in the standard spooky old castle wearing an eerie-looking mask. I remember a sultry woman with a heaving bosom (hey, do you think I remember the whole thing after 46 years?), and a horrible scene in which some sort of Igor-esque servant (played by Oscar Homolka: with a name like that, what else could you be but an Igor?) carries a covered bowl into a room. The door closes and we hear Godawful sucking sounds.

Later on the story leaks out: Mr. Sardonicus use-da be a regular sorta guy, but his Dad won a lottery and was mistakenly buried with the money. Well, Mr. S. was thrifty and decided to dig the old man up. On seeing the decaying, reeking corpse crawling with maggots, his face spazzed into the "winning smile" you see here, and, just as Mama warned us, it froze that way.

He looks like a dead fox or something, just bloody sickening! You can have your Paranormal Activity 3, your endless Halloweens, even your parade of "Stephen King's. . . " (Carrie, Thinner, Pet Sematary, etc. etc. etc.) This nanosecond has to be one of the greatest, most disturbing moments in horror.

What I particularly like about this clip is that you can hear someone reacting in the background with an "auggghhhhhhhhhh." (Some things never change.) Watch it, yes - but don't watch it alone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Where Disney stole his stuff

I saw a documentary on TV years ago that talked about European influences on Walt Disney's animation. To make a long story short, he stole everything. These ghostly riders are from Murnau's 1926 masterpiece, Faust. Compare and contrast to Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia: except that these guys are a lot scarier. How did they do this, I wonder? Special effects were all manual then, but surprisingly creepy. Those horses, Jesus! (It took me years and years to track this clip down. I still can't find the documentary anywhere. I think it was originally in French.)

Just in time for Halloween!

Dem bones, dem bones! This clip is from the surreal British TV musical/psychological drama/crime series, The Singing Detective. I watched it on PBS in 1988 and taped it, then sent the tapes to my girl friend with a note: Watch these, then send them back. I've never seen anything quite like it. I'm watching it again on DVD, a six-part drama that runs about an hour and six minutes per episode. Only the British could get away with such tomfoolery (unless they ran in a 2-hour time slot and the rest was ads? No, that would be here.)

It's hard to describe this series. It's about a man whose skin is literally rotting off his body, incarcerated in an open hospital ward where people complain about cold tea and die in front of his eyes. To take his mind off the insanity, he invents an elaborate crime story starring Phillip Marlowe, a character he created for a series of novels. Entwined with these surreal scenes (which are punctuated by musical numbers straight out of a fever dream) are heartbreaking boyhood memories of his mother's suicide by drowning.

Sounds like a million laughs, eh? But actually, yes, it is funny in places. When it gets too silly, which it does from time to time, Michael Gambon's superb performance pulls it back. You want to feel sorry for this man, except that he's thoroughly nasty and looks worse than Jabba the Hut.

Anyway, this macabre scene seemed appropriate for the season.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lyrics for sale

I should title this post, "Wanted: one composer." For you see, the following poems were originally song lyrics. Song lyrics without tunes are a bit sad: they kind of wander around in the desert like orphans. It's yet another example of "gee, Margaret, you sure have a lot of talent," with the fruits of that talent disappearing forever into a sinkhole ten miles deep.

Well, can you blame me for being a little frustrated? Of everything I've written, maybe 10% has been published or even looked at. Most of it just kind of fizzled away. I don't know why this is. There are two explanations I hear all the time :

(a) I don't try hard enough, and
(b) I try too hard.

I want it too much, I guess. Meantime, here are quite a lot of orphan song lyrics. At one point I was semi-collaborating with a very talented jazz musician who had problems trying to get a tune together. One of them, SILLY BOY I think, was almost performed at a jazz concert. I say "almost" because after the first two lines, the female singer forgot the rest of the words.

Years later I rather stupidly showed what I thought were some of my best lyrics to the choir leader at the church I then attended. This man made a great show of being a professional musician and a serious composer and played a grand piano thunderously at every service. He didn't say anything at all about the songs. I waited and waited, feeling more and more humiliated. But that was nothing to what happened when I got down on my belly like a spaniel and begged him to tell me what he thought.

"Song lyrics have to have the same number of syllables in each line," he said.

And that's all.

Not meant to happen! Not meant to happen, my friend. I think I know how a stillborn baby feels, if it feels anything at all. But because a friend of mine begged me, I'm posting these. The unicorn fantasy is that Some Great Composer, or, even better, Some Great Performer Like Tony Bennett Or Diana Krall Or Somebody, will find these and want to use them.

(Note about the line spacing. These were originally in 28 separate Word files. Getting them into this form was torture, and it still looks kind of weird. They won't single-space, so I will leave them as is.)


The stars are aligning like jewels in the sky

The world is all juicy, like cherry pie

I feel such a rapture, at last I belong

For this is a new kind of song

And the bees in the trees make a buzzy old hum

My heart is dancing to a different drum

The door is more open than ever before

And there’s more -

More joy than I’ve tasted before

My life was a planet deserted and dry

And troubles came knocking, don’t ask me why

But something is changing, it cannot be wrong

And I’m singing a new kind of song

A song that speaks of a love that lifts me high

A song that proclaims a hope that will not die

For the tide’s rushing in, and the desert will bloom

And the saints are all chasing those prophets of doom

And the wheel is a-spinning, it pulls me along

For this is a new kind of song

And the bees in the trees make a buzzy old hum

My heart is dancing to a different drum

The door is more open than ever before

‘Cause there’s more -

More blessings than I’ve ever known before


You got to know

When to roll out that dough

Don’t touch it too much

And such –

Catch my eye

Get a slice of the pie

You got to know

When to pluck those cherries ripe

The big juicy type

So ripe -

Look, say hi

Get a slice of the pie

If you wanna bake

Or maybe make some good love with me

Baby, let’s try

To scramble or fry

Our destiny

You got to smell

When it’s coming so well

Come taste the sweet

It’s nearly complete -

Good enough to eat

Come and dig in

It’s a sweet kind of sin

Got to live ‘til you die

Make some love on the sly

Get a slice of the pie


“I love you” can never be unsaid

And what’s done is done -

Then why do you run

I took the greatest risk with you

One soul can take with another

Forsaking all others

So why is it all so unstrung

And a song unsung

Is no kind of song at all

The music undone

Dark horses running towards a fall

The words pulled loose like thread

Unbinding the fine tapestry

Is this hollow feeling

What it really means to be free

Giving your all

Is such an irrational act

A pledge, and a fact

I gave you more than I had

And my heart was glad

To make the sacrifice

More than once, more than twice

And a song unsung

Is no kind of song at all

Our plans undone

Dark forces pushing us to the wall

The love pulled loose like thread

Unbinding the fine tapestry

Is this hungry feeling

What it really means to be free

Then give me slavery –

This kind of free

Is the last thing I ever

Want to be


Oh why you running after me

When I have no strength to run

I’ve told you I’m not interested

In your kind of fun

If you don’t hold your horses

You’re going to lose this race

You must be plain addicted

To the thrill of the chase

And you’ve got to

Get down off that crazy horse

Right now before I burn

Those letters that you sent me

You know it’s not your turn

If you don’t stop we’ll soon be at

The point of no return

Get off that pony, rider

You’re smart, but you don’t learn

Oh why you keep on chasing me

When my race is almost run

Keep up the pace, and my resolve

Will quickly come undone

Don’t want to get my hopes up

I’ll get to see your face

So run right by before I go

Commit some great disgrace

And you’ve got to

Get down off that crazy horse

Right now while I return

All those presents that you sent me

This tide will never turn

If you don’t slow down to a walk

I’ll start to crash and burn

Get off your high horse, rider

You’re smart but you don’t learn

Jump off that horse and hit the dirt

You’re smart, but you don’t learn


Since you’ve gone

I have to take things

Day by day

Can’t make plans

Can’t see ahead to

some other way

And I know

I’m looking backwards into


I have to take things

Day by day

Day by day

It takes a lot of work to

Get me through

And I sigh

My watercolor’s

All one shade of blue

You were joy

But now my dream has

All come untrue

I have to take things

Day by day

And why

When we were planning something

That we thought would stay

Oh why

When I revealed my soul to you

Did you decide to stray

These days

Hang long and heavy

and my heart is sore

I try

to find the sunlight

and an open door

You’ve gone

but no one else can

love you more

day by day

Because there is no other way –

I have to take things

day by day day by day


The Moon is not so very sweet

In fact it’s down and dirty

You’re sweet, but kind of salty too

Mercurial and flirty

For in the sky, I see the why

Of how our love got started

We’re moonstruck fools, don’t know the rules

Tomorrow’s all uncharted

And that ol’ Moon Man is dirty

We better wash his face

We’ll shine up all the galaxies

As if we own the place

You’ll blaze just like a shooting star

Across the midnight sky

I’ll chase you ‘round the nebulae

So far, so wide, so high

The Moon’s not so romantic

It’s a great big hunk of stone

But rock can roll, and in your soul

You hate to be alone

We’re balls of cosmic fire

Colliding in the night

A beautiful disaster

Blindsided by the light

And that ol’ Moon Man is dirty

We better wash his face

And tip the constellations

Until they fall from grace

You’ll blaze just like a shooting star

Across the midnight sky

And I’ll chase you ‘round the nebulae

Until we feel so high

We’ll both go supernova. . .

So far, so wide, so high


To err is human

Your sins can’t be much worse than mine

And though I’m no saint, I won’t keep score

For love is a thing divine

A part of all that’s holy

A tender mystery

Glowing through the shadows we can see

And forgiving

Is the thing that lets us start our lives anew


The anguish and the shame that we once knew

Forgive me

And I do promise I’ll forgive you too

Then please forgive yourself

It’s the hardest and the best thing you can do

To stray is weakness

Temptation a powerful spell

And when you gave in, said yes to her

It took us straight to hell

The things I said were slashing

They cut you to the soul

There’s only one thing that will make us whole


Is the key to letting all this heartbreak go

For living

Takes more compassion than most people know

I love you

Embrace me and this cup will overflow


Is God’s own wish -

Let’s make amends, and let our feelings show


When we walked at midnight

Your eyes threw back the light

I took your hand

And we rode the starry night. . .


Twinkling celestial, and coaxing in the dawn

Catch the purple glow before it’s gone


I see galaxies

The long black skirt of night-time

Blows around you like the sway of midnight trees

Stirred by soft breeze

And in your eyes reflected

A treasure-chest of jewels that could be stars

I see Jupiter I see Mars

The Twins hang cool and sparkling

In a misty pool of deep and darkening skies

My heart’s unwise

And your long shadow shelters

My darlingmost desires in reverie

(when you whisper, come with me)

The mere revere of being here

All tangled in the forest of your hair

My soul aware

The sweet shock of your laughter

Like bells that peal and wake the sleeping night

All sorrow will take flight

And in my dreams, the firefly streams

Will trace the shining pathway of your soul

To make me whole

The future is unwritten

But something says we’re reaching for the moon

I know we’ll be there soon


The sun shone

For so blazing long

I almost forgot about the rain

I loved you

And it was so strong

I couldn’t remember feeling pain

But when clouds came

And the sky was dark

I couldn’t recollect the sun

Now I hang on

To that shining time

When God and the devil were one

And you were a mistake

I needed to make

A wrong turn I just had to take

A bad habit difficult to break

A road to nowhere. . .

When it’s so wrong

Yet so strong

Then reason abandons the scene

And I wasted

So much precious time

Just waiting for Fate to intervene

When you hurt me

With your hard words

My life came completely undone

Now I hang on

To that shining time

When God and the devil were one

And you were a mistake

I just had to make

A bad road I wanted to take

A habit impossible to break

A road to nowhere

That led me somewhere

A place of heartbreak

And ache. . .


It’s sunny and fine here, I’m sipping the wine

Of far-flung places,

But in the blank spaces, still there are tracings of you.

Where we walked, and spoke to each other

You joked, and all the lies of love came true

It seems I can have everything, but I can’t have you.

I can have headaches,

I can have heartaches,

But I can’t have you.

And what good are kisses,

And smiles and near-misses,

When it all turns blue

It seems that the farther I travel

The nearer I come to you,

I can lose myself in cocktails and find myself in pain,

I can run down the drain with the rain

But I can’t have you.

I’m feeling so well here, the boys are all tanned

And the water’s fine

And when I get restless, there’s always the haze

Of another glass of wine

And I’m sick of roses, and insincere poses

So it’s good that you’re gone

But one thing I don’t understand –

How will I go on?

For I can have headaches,

And I can have heartaches,

But I can’t have you.

It seems that I missed you

From the moment I kissed you

One and one did not make two.

And why is it the farther I travel

The nearer I come to you

I can lose myself in cocktails and find myself in pain

I can run down the drain with the rain

But I can’t have you.

I can run down the drain with the rain

But I can’t have you.


It scares me so much to hear you tell the truth

You’re making too much sense when you say

It’s time for our goodbyes

These agonizing whys

Will only make us lose our way

When you’ve tried for all those years

And hidden all your tears

The cost is just too much to pay

I gave you so much of my time

But this poem will not rhyme

And it’s time for us to part, and seize the day. . .

For no matter what was holding us together

The signs say we have to come apart

A will is not a way, that’s why I cannot stay

For love is not a science – it’s an art

And lately I feel like a boat that’s cast adrift

Like an angel that has only one wing

It’s a new pair of shoes

I’ve got nothing to lose

But this freedom is a lonely sort of thing

And no matter why fate tossed us together

The time has come for us to come apart

A will is not a way, that’s why I cannot stay

Though love’s an artless thing

It still is art. . .

For love is not a science – it’s an art


So much of life is taken up

With things we don’t want to do

With boredom and chores

And locked-up doors

And people that irritate you

I don’t want to chase you

Distract or embrace you

But wouldn’t it be a delight

To sit next to you

Admiring the view

And just shoot the breeze half the night

Let’s just talk

I’m tired of games and complication

Have a go

I think we’re due some

Sparkling conversation

Let’s just talk

I’m too old to tease and too wise to try

Please ignore me if I


Breathe a sigh

I know what you think about politics

It isn’t worth anyone’s while

I know what makes you furious

And I know what makes you smile

But I don’t know what you think of me

It’s none of my business, I know

So let’s just sit and visit a while

And take things very slow

Let’s just talk

I’m tired of all the old manipulation

I like you

You’re a source of mental stimulation

Let’s just talk

I’m too old to tease and too wise to try

Please forgive me if I


Breathe a sigh


You act like you have no idea

You’ve blown my cool

Set my heart to flame

An afternoon’s amusement

A way to kill some time

To you, it’s only a game

And when I see you, how my heart howls

You don’t even hear the sound

With that smile of yours that would melt a stone

I can’t stand to have you around

You dangle my heart on a watch-chain

To please yourself

It’s cruel, this thing

And I can’t believe

How I sit here and wait

For the goddamned phone to ring

And when I see you, how my hope soars

Until it crashes in flame

You’re the devil in jeans, a demon in blue

A man with no sense of shame

Because for you, this wild thing’s

Just a game –

For you, it’s only a game.


In blessings there are curses

So my Mama said to me

And just like that, your lucky streak

Can turn to misery

But do not be discouraged

Or lose your sense of cool

The biggest curse could be much worse

So listen to my rule:

You’ve got to take the salty with the sweet

Life is never so complete

You’re down but never out, my friend – repeat:

You’ve got to

Take the salty with the sweet.

The nasty turns of fortune

We’ll never understand

The sweetest jelly-babies

Turn to bullets in your hand

That great big fat bonanza

Is disaster in disguise

Rub the belly of the genie

And smoke gets in your eyes

So. . .you’ve. . . got. . .to. . .

Take the salty with the sweet, my friend

Life will never be complete, oh no it won’t!

You’re gone but not forgot, my friend,


Take the salty with the sweet.

When Pedro lost his girl friend

His burro was so sad

He wouldn’t run no more, and it

Made Pedro very mad.

Until he hung a carrot

Before that burro’s nose

And now he runs, and when he’ll stop

Poor Pedro never knows!

Take the salty with the sweet

Life ain’t always such a treat (and here is why):

You die just as it’s getting good – repeat!:

Take the salty with the sweet!


You walked into my life

And left your footprints on my skin

I could never tell if loving you

Was joy, or sin

It seems that if I touch you, I fall right in

And so I stay away. . .

Silly boy

I never should have

Set my heart on you

You’re a dream

That has no hope of coming true

When you smile

The angels smile along with you

Silly boy

I thought you meant it when

You said you’d be with me a while

But staying close to someone

Is not your style

It seems I have a habit of self-denial

And so I stay away. . .

Silly boy

I never should have

Lost my mind for you

You’re a dream

That bathes my heart in shades of blue

When you smile

The angels smile along with you

Silly boy

And when you left without me

All my plans just blew away

I knew that my composure

Wouldn’t last the day

It seems it doesn’t matter if I try to pray

And so, I say:

Silly boy

You never should have

Played games with my soul

I’m a fool

Who has no hope of feeling whole

Now you’re gone

My heart’s an empty, aching hole

You stole my joy

You silly boy

Silly boy . . .


I don’t know what’s worse for me

Chocolate or gin

These cravings I fight

Want to pull me right in

I’m addicted to things

That are bad for my skin

And my heart –

I don’t know why love’s

Such a powerful drug

So cunning and baffling

It pulls out the plug

And though I’m resisting

I’ve still got the bug -

Not too smart!

And you’re

So addictive

A passion I’m trying way too hard to control

So addictive

A poison invading my sanity and my soul

So addictive

I’d better seek help for it soon

Or I’ll break

And start howling at the moon

I’m twelve steps away from you

Trying to stay

On the straight narrow path

Though I’m losing my way

And I’m striving for faith

While I’m longing to stray

To your door

I’m feeling so powerless

Knowing it’s wrong

And why is recovery

Taking so long

Who knew that a poison

Could look like a man

I adore

Because you’re

So addictive,

A cocktail so potent I dare not take one drink

So addictive

I’m too buzzed to reason or even try to think

So addictive

That soon I fear I’ll slip

And take

Just a sip

Let me raise this glass

To my lip. . .

You’re so addictive.