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Random flotsam from the shattered windmills of my mind

Me, architecture, history, politics, Washington D.C., photography, Cleveland

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For all those with a December or January birthday:

Parent: "This present is for Christmas and your birthday."

Translation: We spent too much on your siblings, and can't afford your birthday. But we'll give them presents when theirs comes around, don't worry.

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Inspector dog.


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Wendy's cigarette ash in the film The Shining often draws derision. It shouldn't.

It shows how rigidly Wendy is holding herself during this interview with the physicial. It shows that despite her smiles, her conversational tone, her reassurances to the doctor, and the relative looseness of her face, neck and shoulders -- she knows something is horribly wrong.

Throughout the film, Wendy smokes when she's nervous. But here, her nerves are so near the breaking point that she can't even move.
Stanley Kubrick is letting the audience know that Wendy is already on the edge, about to snap. Everything she is telling the doctor is a lie (or should be treated as one). Jack is not under control, Jack has not really stopped drinking. There's only been a temporary cessation in his alcoholism. Probably something that's happened before, and which has probably ended in disaster before. Jack has not stopped beating Danny, either.

Wendy has undoubtedly practiced this behavior before. This isn't something new. Her ability to be completely convincing to the doctor is not coming out "all of a sudden". It took lots of practice.

Yet, despite the practice, she cannot bring her hand to her mouth for fear of showing the doctor that she is shaking in fear.


Vampires on Buffy the Vampire Slayer really are more Lovecraftian than vampiric.

In the first season episode "The Harvest", Giles says that demons known as "the Old Ones" ruled the Earth with humanity as their slaves and food source. Viewers later learn that a group of god-like beings known as the "Powers That Be" lived on Earth, but that over time some of them became corrupt. These corrupt gods became the "Old Ones". The Old Ones gained more and more strength, and the Powers That Be fled to other worlds or dimensions. (Angel, "Shiny Happy People", S4 E18)

The most powerful of the Old Ones (pure demons) ruled over vast territories, commanding huge armies of lesser demons. The Old Ones constantly made war on one another, and some were killed. Others fled or were banished to other dimensions. (Angel, "A Hole in the World", S5 E15)

Old Ones cannot really be killed. Their corpses retain an essence, and theoretically they could be resurrected. To prevent this, each "dead" Old One was placed in its own sarcophagus, and the sarcophagus lowered into the Deeper Well. This is a hole in the world that links the Cotswolds in Britain with New Zealand. (Angel, "A Hole in the World", S5 E15)

Giles tells Buffy that the Old Ones began to lose their purchase on reality. This allowed the rise of humankind. (Buffy, "The Harvest", S1 E2) Although most humans worshipped the Old Ones as gods, (Angel, "A Hole in the World", S5 E15) some humans learned to use magic. (Buffy, "The Harvest", S1 E2)

The origin of the demons known to humankind as vampires is unclear. The book Vampyr says that the last Old One infected a human being with its blood as it was banished, creating vampires. (Buffy, "The Harvest", S1 E2) However, the Old One known as Illyria claimed that the demons later known as vampires already existed during the reign of the Old Ones, and only began to proliferate as the Old Ones were banished and more humans survived. (Angel, "Shells", S5 E16) Illyria's tale seems more likely. Giles later tells Buffy that the Turok-Han were the "uber-vampires", an extremely powerful vampire-like demon which roamed the Earth before vampires did. (Buffy, "Bring On the Night", S7 E10)

Sineya was the first Slayer. Three powerful magicians known as "The Shadowmen" kidnapped the teenage girl, chained her to the floor of a cave, and imbued her with the heart, soul, and spirit of a demon. (Buffy, "Get It Done", S7 E15) Sineya was the most powerful of Slayers, and slaughtered demons by the tens of thousands. But she lived alone, isolated from humanity. Eventually, she stopped speaking and became little more than action, a cry, absolute destruction. (Buffy, "Restless", S4 E22)

A group of witches known as "The Guardians" became concerned for the Slayer and began to watch over her. To assist the Slayer, they created the Slayer's Scythe -- a nigh-omnipotent weapon which could kill the last remaining Old One on Earth. (Buffy, "End of Days", S7 E21)

Eventually, humankind learned enough powerful magic to banish most of the Old Ones to the "Hell Dimension". (Buffy, "The Harvest", S1 E2) The Slayer used the Scythe to kill the remaining Old Ones. The last Old One was slain atop a hellmouth in what would later become Sunnydale, California. (Buffy, "End of Days", S7 E21) The Guardians then hid the Scythe from the Shadowmen and embedded it in a rock. Only a Slayer could remove it. (Buffy, "End of Days", S7 E21)

Giles told Buffy that nothing remained on Earth of the Old Ones except vestiges like certain magic items and certain creatures. (Buffy, "The Harvest", S1 E2) According to Anya, without the Old Ones, all demons left on Earth were eventually force to mate with humans or animals in order to remain in this dimension. Thus, all demons which Slayers encounter are hybrids. Over time, all hybrids have grown weaker. (Buffy, "Graduation Day, Part 1", S3 E21)

Those humans who formerly worshipped the Old Ones managed to pass on their beliefs to a small number of followers. In the late 20th century, there were dozens and dozens of these cults. (The Cult of Aurelius, which The Master led, was one of these. [Buffy, "Welcome to the Hellmouth", S1 E1])

A human being could take the form of an Old One through a process known as Ascension. (Buffy, "Graduation Day, Part 2", S3 E22) An Old One's essence could be released from its resting place if placed in a human body, although the human died in the process. (Angel, "A Hole in the World", S5 E15)

* * * * * * * *

The writers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer started with the vampire myth, and then added ideas from Lovecraft, other myths, comic book villains, the movie The Exorcist, and the way demons had been depicted previously on film and television.

In myth and in Bram Stoker's Dracula, vampires were very odd-looking people. They are uniformly thin and pallid, with pointed ears and unnaturally sharp teeth. They also have hair on the palms of their hands. Stoker's Count Dracula has a long white bandit mustache, a pointed Van Dyke beard with a white streak in it, and a hooked nose. Vampires can be harmed by metal objects (Jonathan Harker hits Dracula with a shovel, which leaves a scar on his forehead for the rest of the novel), but not killed by them.

Traditionally, vampires in film and television look just like normal people.

Joss Whedon liked the idea of normal-looking vampires because this way his heroes could interact with them and be shocked and surprised when they turn out demonic. This would help create a sense of paranoia.

He worried, however, that unbalanced people who watched the show would start going around stabbing people, and decided to have his vampires take on a demonic visage when in vampire form.

Optic Nerve Studios was the special effects company hired to work on the vampire makeup and effects for Buffy. It specializes in prosthetic make-up, animatronic puppets, full body suits, and speciality props. The company was founded and headed by John Vulich (1961 – October 12, 2016), who was nominated 11 times for an Emmy for outstanding makeup. He was nominated four times for Babylon 5, winning in 1995; four times for Buffy, winning in 1998; and once for The X-Files, winning in 1999.

Whedon and some of the lead writers met with Vulich to discuss what they envisioned for the look of vampires and for the way vampires would die. Vulich created several prototype designs for the vampire look, and Whedon selected the one he liked the best.

Todd McIntosh was hired as the show's Head of Makeup. He administered the department, oversaw the budget and scheduling, hired and fired makeup people, and was responsible for ensuring continuity in makeup design. He also acted as a liaison, working with the producers, episode director, and the prosthetic lab foreman.

Once prosthetics were manufactured, they were delivered to McIntosh's home at 3 A.M. He took them to work, and he and his three assistants would assemble and apply the pieces and then color them.

McIntosh and his team had only a limited number of standard products to work with in the 1990s. These included cremes, pancake, and powders. He also had PAX Paint, developed by legendary makeup artist Dick Smith (Dark Shadows). It is a long-lasting opaque makeup that is a 50/50 mix of adhesive and acrylic paint. He also had 24-color Rubber Mask Grease Paint (RMGP), made by Kryolan.

Buffy required an immense number of prosthetic pieces in every episode. The Optic Nerve staff often turned out prosthetics the day of a shoot. McIntosh began using an airbrush for both beauty and prosthetic work, which made his job much easier.

* * * * * * * *

The vampire brow ridges were a foam prosthetic glued onto the actor's face. Latex was used to smooth the transition from foam to skin.

Skin is translucent. Light literally enters the skin, bounces around a bit, and then emerges. To mimic this "glow" of normal skin, the prosthetic was first painted with a light red tone. Skin tones were painted on top of this. The combination of red tint and skin tone made for a normal-looking skin "glow". Details were then added using creme and PAX, and then airbrushing done.

McIntosh found it was essential to darken the areas around the eyes to make the vampires look mean.

McIntosh originally painted the vampires very pale for the show's first season. Buffy was nominated for Oustanding Makeup at the Emmys that year, but lost. Emmy voters said that the reason the show lost that year to Tracy Takes On... was because the faces were pale and the necks were red.

McIntosh admits that this was a problem. Greasepaint was used on the neck to blend with the pale PAX paint on the face. But actors and stuntpeople were working in a converted water heater factory located at 1800 Stewart Street in Santa Monica, California. The building was made of sheetmetal and had little air conditioning. The greasepaint simply melted in the heat. McIntosh gradually shifted the vampires to have a more normal skintone, much to Whedon's dismay.

Optic Nerve also made all the vampire teeth for the series. Regular or recurring actors had custom-made teeth. A silicon mold of their teeth was taken, a hard plastic model made from the mold, and then fangs sculpted around this mold. These teeth had special modifications, such as slightly wider incisors and differently curved canines and premolars, which enabled the actor to enunciate clearly without a lisp. A mold was taken of the sculpture, and then a mouthpiece made from the mold. The actor was fitted to ensure good adhesion and comfort, and the teeth shaved or modified as needed to ensure that the actor could speak clearly.

Background actors and extras used generic vampire teeth. These had an acrylic lining which was removed and replaced after use. These generic fangs were so bulky that extras generally could not speak when using them.

The contact lenses for the vampires were provided by Dr. Jonathon Gording, a doctor of optometry. He is a leader in designing and fitting contact lenses for the film industry, and has won Emmys for his work. The lenses were applied on the set by lens technician Sean Kenny.

KDI supplied the fake blood products used on the show. (I don't think the brand is around any more, as internet searches turn up zilch.)

Buffy's writers envisioned vampirism as a kind of disease. The longer a vampire lived, the more pronounced the demonic look. Vulich and the designers at Optic Nerve developed a series of seven drawings that showed the differing degrees of vampirism, becoming more bat-like and pronounced the longer the vampire lived. The Master was intended to be the most vampiric of all vampires. McIntosh says he struggled with how to paint The Master's prosthetic. He wanted to avoid the typical "white and veiny" look. He was inspired by a photo of his own cat, a very old animal which was losing hair around its ears, nose, and mouth so that the pink of the skin showed through. He painted The Master to indicate that parts of his white skin had worn through and were revealing the pinkish flesh beneath.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

How does a vampire die? In most myths, when a vampire is killed, they return to a state like a fresh corpse. Bram Stoker, however, had his vampire get a look of peace on his face and then turn to dust.

Joss Whedon wanted his vampires to turn to dust, too. He reasoned that there was no way Buffy could leave hundreds of corpses lying around Sunnydale without the police getting involved.

Whedon had a very specific idea regarding "dusting". He felt that when a vampire was staked in the heart, all the moisture in its body disappeared. However, he also wanted each dusting to be different. He absolutely did not want the same effect in every killing, or the dusting would become cheesy and lose its effect.

Visual Effects Supervisor Loni Peristere used 3D animation and compositing to achieve the dusting effect. Buffy would stab in and out with the stake, and then everyone but he actor portraying the vampire would freeze. This actor would continue to act out the vampire's death-throes, then walk out of the frame. The camera would film the remaining actors and set another seven to ten seconds before the director called "cut".

Initially, the actor would be dissolved off and the CGI particle explosion would be dissolved in. (Clothing, too, dissolved. This was a budgtary necessity, as it would have been too expensive to rig or animate falling clothing.)

In the second season, the dusting effect was changed so that the actor's body turned into dust, which hung in the air for eight to 12 frames before before exploding.

The effect was upgraded again in the third season. A single dusting took $5,000 and five to six days to complete. A computer-generated wireframe skeleton was created, and posed to match the actor's near-final movement. It was overlayed with texture and shading, and CGI dust matched to the last few frames of the actor's death-movements. Light reflected off a piece of tinfoil was composited into the shot.

In the final three seasons of Buffy, flesh would "erode" to dust first, then the skeleton would erode to dust, and finally the dust would explode.

Each dusting was accompanied by high-pitched scream. This sound effect was also used to indicate that a vampire had died off-screen. This enabled a vampire to be killed without the cost of CGI and animation. Viewers who pay close attention will often see a vampire bent forward before Buffy or pushed by Buffy, taking the actor off-screen. Buffy then stakes the vampire, and only a small amount of CGI exploding dust is seen.

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It's the birthday of the American railroad!!

On October 7, 1826, the Granite Railway opened in Quincy, Massachusetts.

It is the oldest known chartered railway in America, and the first known "common carrier" (a railroad that transports goods or people for any person or company).

The Granite Railway ran three miles from quarries to the Neponset River. Although steam locomotives had been in operation in Britain for 13 years, the Granite Railway used horses to pull its cars. The rails were wood, plated with iron and laid 5 feet apart.

In 1830, a section called "the Incline" was added to haul granite from the Pine Ledge Quarry up to the railway level 84 feet above. The Incline continued in operation until the 1940s.

The railway introduced several important inventions, including railway switches, the turntable, and double-truck railroad cars.

The Granite Railway remained in operation until 1963.

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I think at times I should shut this down. It's been so long since I posted here....

Yes, gag me
March 15, 1930 – The infamous fake documentary Ingagi premieres.

The success of the film prompted RKO to make King Kong.

Ingagi was the brainchild of Nat Spitzer, of whom little is known except that he was born July 11, 1876, and had spent most of his life as a circus promoter. He started Bull's Eye Studios in 1919. From 1920 to 1921, he produced a dozen comedy shorts starring Billy West and Gale Henry. When that venture collapsed, he tired his hand at a comedy western feature film in 1925, The Heir-Loons. It bombed.

In 1930, Spitzer formed Congo Pictures. He decided to make a sexploitation film to revive his career. After coming up with the story, he hired sometime screenwriter and playwright Adam Hull Shirk to write the script.

The idea was to cull footage from previous documentaries no one would remember. The highlight of the film would be the "discovery" of an African tribe who worshipped gorillas. Once a year, the tribe turns a woman over to a male gorilla, who has sex with her.

Gorillas were a relatively new species at the time. The first gorilla bones were only collected in 1847, and the first live gorilla only spotted in 1861. A dozen dead specimens and a handful of live ones made an appearance over the next 40 years, but it wasn't until the 1920s that the "homeland" of gorillas was located and scientific study made of them. Even then, the prevalent idea was that gorillas were highly violent.

Faux documentaries were unheard of at the time. Ingagi was really the first. Anthropological documentaries were well known, and included Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925; a nomadic Iranian tribe moves to find grass for its cattle), Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927; a Thai boy grows up), and The Silent Enemy (1930; the cultural ways of embittered Ojibwa).

Fake documentaries like Africa Speaks! (August 1930; monsters, disfigured tribal people, and a faked scene of a lion ripping a man limb from limb), Ubangi (1931; a fake investigation into a 1924 expedition whose filmmaker was killed by a charging hippo), The Blonde Captive (1931; a fake investigation into "humans most closely related to Neanderthals" which discovers a blonde European woman living with Australian Aborigines), Virgins of Bali (1932; two virgin women lounge about in the nude prior to their marriage and deflowering), and Wild Women of Borneo (1932; half-naked women lounge about smoking [!] and enticing men into sex) would all come later.

Released in both silent and sound versions, Ingagi stole 16-year-old documentary footage from the film Heart of Africa and a few shots from Chang and spliced it together with contemporary footage shot at the Los Angeles Zoo. The "native women" were African Americans hired from Central Casting. The "pygmies" were local Black children made up to look like adults. Legendary gorilla portrayer Charles Gemora not only played the part of the rapist gorilla, but also designed his own suit at the whopping cost of $1,000. (A lever attached to his lower jaw moved the ape's mouth open and caused the lips to snarl.)

There was no real attempt to make the contemporary footage look old. It was crisp and clean. The costume given to the uncredited actor portraying "Sir Hubert Winstead" didn't even match that of the real explorers in the 1914 footage.

The "monstrous" new species, the Tortadillo, found in the first half of the film is little more than a leopard turtle to which scales, wings, and a tail have been obviously glued.

Spitzer got RKO Pictures to screen Ingagi at several of its theaters in March 1930. It made $1 million.

The uproar over Ingagi was fairly strong. The Federal Trade Commission investigate the film for fraud. Spitzer admitted that 85 percent of the film had been shot in Hollywood. (He later backtracked, claiming 85 percent of the film had been shot "by" Hollywood). Moralists persuaded Will Hays of the Hollywood Production Code office to ban the film because it featured so much nudity and was suggestive of bestiality.

Usually, these types of sleazy, no-budget films were booked only by the most marginal of theaters, the kind that showed venereal disease films, nudist camp exposés, and sub-Monogram level pictures.

Now that the Hays Office had barred studio-owned theaters from screening the film, independent theater owners realized they had a gold mine on their hands.

RKO sold the distribution rights to Road Show Pictures. Congo Pictures created a special trailer explaining the controversy surrounding Ingagi, and handed out ballots asking audiences if the local theater should screen it. The answer was a unanimous "YES!" It made another $3 million in 1931 and 1932.

Byron P. Mackenzie, the real big-game hunter and documentarian behind Heart of Africa, sued Spitzer for copyright infringement. He won $150,000.

Charles Gemora also sued, claiming Spitzer owed him $20 in wages. He won, too.
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My crap teacher
When I was in high school, I had a teacher who was a real bully. This man was highly respected in the school system, and a noted figure in his local church.

But he was a bully. He called students names, he shouted in class, he threatened students.

As a gay youth in the early 1980s in Montana, I could hardly come out of the closet. And I showed no interest in girls. So this teacher began calling me "numb-nuts". I don't really recall when it began, but it was a constant throughout the three years I had his class. I guess I didn't act "manly" enough for him. I should have been talking about pussy and hitting on girls who didn't like me.

In retrospect, he did a lot of damage to me. What he did was essentially call me "faggot" every day.

I somehow dredged up this memory over the weekend, and have been feeling sick, humiliated, ashamed, and violated ever since.