Saturday, March 25, 2017

Joker Returns

There is something in the wind. The Joker is back, in a couple violent situations. Are copycats going to be in the news?

Jeremy Putnam, 31, of Winchester, Virginia was arrested and charged with wearing a mask in public Friday, March 24, 2017, after he was spotted walking around dressed as the iconic comic book supervillain the Joker, police said.
Police in Winchester -- located about 75 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. -- said the Winchester Emergency Communications Center received "several calls" around 2 p.m. on Friday of a suspicious male wearing a black cape and carrying a sword walking around the city.
Jeremy Putman was charged with wearing a mask in public, a felony that could land him in jail for up to five years, the Winchester Police Department said in a statement.

A week previous, a Joker-obsessed student shoot up a school in France on Thursday, March 16, 2017.
He had posted a bizarre clown-masked video on his Facebook.

  • Killian Barbey opened fire at the Alexis de Tocqueville lycee (high school) in Grasse, near Cannes, wounding four. He was arrested after injuring headmaster Herve Pizzinat and three pupils, two named Julie, 16, and Akram, 17. The gunman was armed with two revolvers, a hunting rifle and fake grenades and is said to have been bullied. He is the son of far-right French politician Franck Barbey, who is a councillor for the Rally for France party.

  • Barbey's cover photo on Facebook is a picture of the Joker - the Batman villain - with the caption "give a man a mask and he'll become his true self."

    And posted this image of himself too.

    Late in March 2017, truly the Joker had returned.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    2017 London Attack

    March 22, 2017, is the first anniversary of the 2016 terrorist attack in Brussels. Three suicide bombers killed 32 people and injured 316 in the 2016 Brussels bombings at the airport and at the Maelbeek/Maalbeek metro station.

    Also on this date, in 2004, Ahmed Yassin, co-founder and leader of the Palestinian Sunni Islamist group Hamas, two bodyguards, and nine civilian bystanders are killed in the Gaza Strip when hit by Israeli Air Force Hellfire missiles.

    On this day, in the UK 22-3-17, at about 2:40 (2:37?) pm local time, a terrorist incident occurred. A woman was killed on Westminster Bridge in central London in what police are treating as a terrorist incident. Reportedly a police officer has died too. Five people are reported to have died. At least 40 people have been injured, some severely.

    The car.

    The police officer was stabbed in the nearby Houses of Parliament by an attacker, who was shot by police.

    It appears to have begun with a vehicle ramming on the Bridge, striking several pedestrians as he drove a car across the bridge, before crashing it into railings.

    A doctor at St Thomas' Hospital said a number of other people were hurt - some with "catastrophic" injuries.

    A combination of a ramming, stabbings, and shootings occurred. The scene is unfolding, and it is unclear what form of terrorism was thrown at Parliament. There are even reports of a body in the Thames. Breaking news notes that a woman has been recovered (alive) from the river.

    The suspect.

    This happened just across the bridge from the obelisk named Cleopatra's Needle (which I visited on March 2, 2009).

    The Year 2017 has begun with car rammings in Heidelberg, New Orleans (Mardi Gras), Bellingham (UK), and during MardiGras in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

    Tuesday, March 21, 2017

    Another Coat Hook Death

    In 2010, I wrote of the mysterious series of deaths of young children, all killed in similar ways via hangings from hooks. The deaths often occurred due to coat hooks, sometimes in closets, sometimes in bathrooms. That essay appeared on January 24, 2010, under "The Peter Pan/Hook Deaths." I followed this on February 27, 2014, with "New Hook Death." Below are some other writings on the overlap with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.

    Now there's been a new, as CNN called it, "unspeakable tragedy that happened in the most mundane of places -- a thrift store dressing room."

    On Saturday the 18th of March, after St. Patrick's Day, 2017, Ryu Pena, 4, was found hanged to death in a dressing room of the Again Thrift and More store in Mankato, Minnesota. 

    Ryu had been with his grandmother, who was shopping in the store. She lost track of him. He was literally a "lost boy."

    Police and parents told the media that they think Ryu "went into an empty changing room....apparently closed the door, climbed on a bench and got the hoodie he was wearing caught on a coat hook."

    It is the same scenario we have heard before.

    The meaning of the name Ryu is Dragon. The origin of the name Ryu is Japanese.

    Peña or de la Peña is a Spanish habitation surname. The origin of the surname can be traced directly to the Middle Ages. The earliest public record of the surname dates to the 13th century in the Valley de Mena (Burgos) in the Kingdom of Castile. It is a topographic name for someone who lived near a crag or cliff.

    "We believe that he got himself caught up on a coat hook within that dressing room area and couldn't free himself from it," Commander Jeremy Clifton with Mankato Public Safety told CNN affiliate WCCO.
    Ryu's mom, Denise Gonzalez, said her son lost his life simply playing.
    "That's the only way I can describe it. He was playing because he's very curious, adventurous, and it all just happened so quickly," she told WCCO.
    "He was such a daredevil."
    On December 26, 1862, the largest mass-hanging in U.S. history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, 38 Native Americans died. It was more specifically, a mass execution of 38 Dakota at the end of the 1862 Dakota War. Let me say that again. A mass hanging.

    While it may or may not be true that the city was intended to be called Mahkato, the Dakota called the river Makato Osa Watapa (meaning "the river where blue earth is gathered"). The Anglo settlers adapted that as the Blue Earth River. Source.

    The list of "hook deaths" grows longer, as shown here, chronologically, which I first began gathering in 2010. There probably are many more. Of the known named children, the some of the first names are relatively unusual - e.g. Ryu, Montana, Aquan, Imhotep. Yes, Imhotep.

    1. Ethan Rider, 11 or 12. A sixth grader from St. Jean Vianney Catholic School in East Baton Rouge Parish. The student, Ethan Rider, was found unconscious in a bathroom at the school on Thursday [Feb 20, 2014] and taken to a local hospital, and died early Saturday [Feb 22, 2014] morning.
    2. Montana Lance, 9 - Stewart's Creek Elementary School, The Colony, Texas; January 21, 2010; allegedly hanged himself in bathroom; deceased.
    3. Unnamed youth ~ Kanpur (old English Cawnpore), India; February 20, 2009; hanged from the hook of the toilet in a train; deceased.
    4. Unnamed girl ~ South Side Chicago, Illinois; February 20, 2009; hanged on a clothes hook in home closet; deceased.
    5. Unnamed boy ~ Chatham, Illinois; February 4, 2009; hanged by hook; deceased.
    6. Aquan Lewis ~ Evanston, Illinois; February 3, 2009; hanged on a school bathroom hook; deceased.
    7. Tevin Park-Flowers (a twin) ~ Austin, Texas; January 30, 2008; hanged by a hook in a gymnasium bathroom; pants were down at his ankles; deceased.
    8. Unnamed boy ~ New Bedford, Massachusetts; January 30, 2008; found alive, hanging on a hook in a children's room of the New Bedford Public Library; man arrested, charged with child molestation and rape.
    9. Unnamed child ~ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; April 27, 2005; near death, found hanging on a hook in a school coatroom closet.
    10. Imhotep Lubin ~ Brooklyn, New York; 2004; found alive hanging by his belt from a hook in a school closet; teacher arrested.
    11. Unnamed child ~ Chatham, Ontario; 1998; hanged from a hook in school bathroom; deceased.

    12. Morgane, 3 ~ Brussels, Belgium; June 1994; hanged from a coat hook in a school restroom.

    h/t Robert Schneck

    13. Jesus Martinez, 9 ~ Chicago, Illinois; November 13, 1967; hanged from a coat hook in a school coatroom.

    Monday, March 20, 2017

    Mangold Corn: Logan, Shane, Perdition

    "The idea of the Western is more than horses and hats and gunfights." ~ James Mangold

    Before going to see Logan this weekend, I had expected a few items - like the film having a bit of a Western flavor and a jump in time. Nothing too surprising there, as I knew James Mangold was especially good in utilizing the Old West theme. His under-appreciated 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma was a movie I liked. Mangold had also directed Wolverine (2013), so he probably had a good fix on the timeline he wanted to explore in Logan.

    It was an excellent movie. An intellectual film that uses words, violence, and feelings in ways that will surprise you. But you don't need me nor Rotten Tomatoes to tell you that.

    What I was not anticipating was how my recent synchromystic awareness of "corn" popped up in Logan (2017), at least three times.

    The character Laura (X-23) was born in our world as Daphne Keen Fernández, in 2005. She is the daughter of British actor Will Keen, and Spanish actress, theatre director and writer María Fernández Ache. Will Keen was born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, the son of Charles William Lyle Keen and Lady Priscilla Mary Rose Curzon, daughter of Edward Curzon, 6th Earl Howe. The Earl, thus, would be Daphne's paternal great-grandfather.

    It stuck me like lightning. There she was, relatively early in the movie, eating corn flakes.

    Some have noticed this shot of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, citing it as an example of product placement. I think it is more than that. 

    Next, the trip to the supposed safety point for Laura leads Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart), with their young ward, along roads showing the cornfields of the West/Midwest.

    Cornfields. And more cornfields. But is it a journey to Heaven or Hell?

    Logan directly synced for me with Sam Mendes' 2002 film, Road to Perdition.

    Perdition: a state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and unpenitent person passes after death.

    A hitman (Michael Sullivan, played by Tom Hanks). His innocent son (Michael Jr., played by Tyler Hoechlin - btw, born on 9/11/57). And a road to hell (Perdition) lined by cornfields. Redemption or perdition? Or even Elysian Fields (full of corn)?

    On a deeper level Michael Sullivan thinks he will find sanctuary on the lake shore in the fictional town of Perdition, Michigan. Instead, another future dwells there.

    In one memorable exchange, Road to Perdition sounds like Logan, which we shall see sounds like Shane:
    John Rooney [the gangster boss, played by Paul Newman]: There are only murderers in this room! Michael! Open your eyes! This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see heaven.
    Michael Sullivan: Michael could.
    John Rooney: Then do everything that you can to see that that happens.

    Logan is on the same journey. These cornfields signal the way. 

    But in Logan, the cornfields are said to be full of enhanced GMO corn, where the crops are grown not to eat any longer. In the future, only the corn syrup is added to drinks, because people are addicted to the byproduct.

    After all, Logan is set in 2029. Other films set in 2029 include the Japanese version of Ghost in the Shell (1995), a remake of Planet of the Apes (2001), and a trilogy of Terminator films (The Terminator, 1984; Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991; and Terminator Genisys, 2015).

    Logan's world is more realistic, like ours, thanks to Mangold, than some of the other "2029" films. The corn was evolving. Compared to Blade Runner, for example, set in 2019, Logan's 2029 is almost as unevolved as Shane's.

    Logan's producers told local media they picked Ferriday, Louisiana, specifically because the movie needed "a beautiful country setting with corn."

    Farmer Will Munson (played by Eriq La Salle) takes Logan through some cornfields during part of his trip to his and Laura’s future. Violence is always around that next cornstalk.

    It is Shane where the story comes home in Logan.

    The merge is complete in the final scene.

    At the end of Logan, Laura gives a reflective look back (and forward?) that is straight from George Stevens’s 1953 Western, Shane. She memorized a monologue directly from Shane, which Laura, Logan, and Professor X had watched earlier in an Oklahoma hotel, during their journey. It summarizes much about the core of Logan.

    There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from it. Right or wrong, it’s a brand, a brand that sticks. There’s no going back. Now, you run on home to your mother and tell her, tell her everything’s alright, and there aren’t any more guns in the valley.

    It seems only right that James Mangold would end on this note.

    Logan's use of Shane, it turns out, has a very personal sync for me.

    I was in Hollywood shooting an interview for a feature documentary when a movie director friend, Peyton Reed (Ant-Man and the Wasp, 2018; Ant-Man, 2015; Yes Man, 2008; Back to the Future, tv series, 1991; Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump, tv documentary, 1994; The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy, tv documentary, 1990) called me out of the blue. He invited me to a special showing down the road from the hotel where I was staying.

    On October 7, 2013, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, I got to attend a special screening of a newly remastered version of Shane, which was being shown there.

    The introduction was by director James Mangold. The following is his complete talk on Shane.

    I am here to introduce one of the most inspiring Hollywood films ever made. A film so resonant that it is always in my consciousness as I make films, yes – but also as I live and struggle with the choices in everyday life.
    I will try not to spoil it for those of you watching for the first time but I want to speak for a few minutes about this film’s monumental achievements. There are so many elements worthy of discussion.
    Firstly, the brilliant direction. George Stevens’ body of work is legendary and diverse. Films as varied and wonderful as Gunga Din, Talk of the Town, A Place in the Sun, Woman of the Year, Shane and Giant all exist in his resume. Such versatility has fallen out of fashion in Hollywood and as someone who aspires to the range of Mr. Stevens, his artistry is a particular inspiration to me.
    Versatility can be a liability in Hollywood as it is much more fashionable to brand yourself as a master of one genre or another. But that denies a filmmaker the lessons each genre can teach us about the other. In Shane we see Stevens at the height of his powers and also unafraid to play with action, epic visuals, humour, stylization, sentiment, intimacy and love – many genre-contradictory elements – all utilized in the same film. He was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director for his work on Shane.
    The idea of the Western is more than horses and hats and gunfights.

    The film is also a powerful, bold and poetic example of the art of screenwriting. Tribute must be paid to A.B. Guthrie Jr. who was nominated for an Oscar for his great work. Let’s remember Guthrie not only wrote what people in this film say, but more importantly, what they don't say.
    Shane was magnificently photographed in dazzling Technicolor by Loyal Griggs who won an Oscar for his efforts. I think tonight, with thanks to all who worked on the films restoration, you will see why. The film also features an ensemble of actors performing roles that will come of define their careers. Alan Ladd as Shane, Van Heflin as Homesteader Joe Starett, Jean Arthur as Joe's wife, Marian. Arthur's performance is critical to the film's depth and sophistication, walking a fine line portraying not only the ideal of a loyal homesteader's wife but also a flesh and blood woman with desires and dreams of her own, and whose admiration for Shane is not judged by the film or even by her husband but just allowed to be.
    No mention of the cast can be complete without recognition of the magnificent contributions of Jack Palance, Elsiha Cook Jr, Ben Johnson and, of course, the miraculous performance of Brandon DeWilde as young Joey.
    Joey's wide eyes are the prism through which we experience the entire film. The story begins (and famously ends) with him taking in the arrival and departure of the title character. I am always reminded, through Joey and this film, of one of the most bittersweet facts. That the course of our lives can be profoundly changed by folks who sometimes cannot stay. The temporary nature of some relationships in our lives does not diminish their power and in fact sometimes enlarges them.
    We also feel through Joey, that moving moment when a child first becomes aware of the darker complicated shadows and mysteries that await them in adulthood.
    I’d also draw your attention to a simple observation. While the film is beautifully staged and photographed, it is relatively light on Hollywood glamour. Everyone, principals and extras, looks their age and real. Clothes are worn and the land is real. Starting with young Joey and his hacksaw haircut nearly crossed eyes and moving through the rest of the cast, there is a daring naturalism and humility.
    To me, as someone who has made a Western and hopes to make more of them, the idea of the Western is more than horses and hats and gunfights. It grieves me when the Western is reduced in conversations I overhear to a cinematic trip to Knotts Berry Farm.
    Shane is a fever dream of American aspirations, values and character.

    No. The best Western films (and this is an example of the very best) are not centered on nostalgia, are not historical in nature (the moment in history when these films took place is largely a manufacture of imagination). The best of these films create a landscape that has evolved into an American mythology, one as resonant and evocative as Religious parables, Japanese Samurai tales and the Greek Gods of Olympus.
    The moment I first looked past the quaint artefacts of Western life, the sagebrush, the hats, the breakaway chairs and "varmint" talk -- and saw the genre as parable, was the moment films like Shane became transcendent to me.
    In great Westerns like this, you will find a story that relates as profoundly to current times and troubles as it does to the past.
    Shane is a fever dream of American aspirations, values and character, conflicts with right and wrong, our ongoing struggle with the contradictory goals of freedom and law, self-reliance and big business-- and definitions and explorations of heroism, courage and family responsibility all observed and made even more penetrating when they are brought to life in an environment without cars, phones and the ability to dial 911 whenever you feel nervous.
    The great grey Tetons that fence in the characters of Shane both contract the scope of the film (it will all happen in this valley) and at the same time explode the scope of the themes make the film feel huge. The mountains also define the nature of the characters’ isolation. It will be up to these folks to solve their problems. They are on their own.
    Because some of you are seeing this film for the first time, I hesitate to over quote scenes you are about to watch. But I do want to bring up one moment-- a moment that defines my admiration for the film and my own sense that no matter how large the themes, there was no small gesture of intimacy missed by the watchful George Stevens.
    An hour and twenty minutes in, Joey, our young hero, is attending a funeral for a homesteader who has been murdered – and while the scene contains the requisite sombre and beautiful staging that define this genre, there is a fleeting moment that runs counter to this tone.
    You will find a story that relates as profoundly to current times and troubles as it does to the past.

    As the homesteaders lower the casket of the murdered man into the dirt, a distracted Joey, perhaps looking to escape the adult world of tears and grief, wanders over to a light brown foal nursing on its mother tied to a post. As Joey reaches out to the foal and a lone harmonica plays for the dead man, and we cut to shockingly tight close up of a little girl, presumably a daughter of the murdered man. She blurts out "He's gonna bite you! It’s gonna bite you!" But Joey touches the foal anyway and it does not bite him, though it bares its teeth. And the little girl grins and laughs.
    The moment is over as soon as it begins and may seem slight to you. But to me it is a fleeting illustration of this film's attention to detail and even more so to its courage to do the unpredictable. It feels like a stolen moment of some real life magic happening on set – but within it, the whole enterprise of the film is revealed. We are watching an exploration of absolute innocence and absolute darkness at the very same time.
    Thank you for listening to my ramblings. Please sit back and enjoy the film, but like the little girl, I will warn you now. It may be a golden age film. It may be sixty years old. But it’s gonna bite you. In fact, I hope it does. ~ James Mangold.

    More to read about corn:

    What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, The Shining, and Corn Flakes

    Go see Logan, and then...

    Watch, with spoilers, 19 Easter Eggs in Logan.

    Saturday, March 18, 2017

    Cryptokubrology: Two Jacks

    The 2016 movie Passengers, directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts, contains a segment that gives a huge nod to Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining, which was inspired by Stephen King's novel of the same name. 

    It was the Gold Room bar scene.

    You remember it? Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance who is being waited on by Joe Turkel, who plays the bartender Lloyd. Lloyd also gives Jack advice.

    In Passengers, Michael Sheen plays the bartender Arthur, who serves Chris Pratt, who plays Jim Preston, with drinks and counsel.

    Jack Nicholson was born on April 22, 1937.

    Ten years earlier, Joe Turkel was born on July 15, 1927.

    Turkel is best known for his roles as Lloyd, the ghostly bartender, in The Shining (1980), and Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner (1982).

    Christopher Michael Pratt was born on June 21, 1979.

    Michael Christopher Sheen, who plays Arthur, in a mirror like fashion, was born ten years earlier than Chris Pratt, on February 5, 1969.

    Clearly, Passengers direct Morten Tyldum set up the scene to replicate (no Blade Runner pun intended) the scene from The Shining.

    But there appears to be at least one level deeper to this than anyone knew about.

    Michael Sheen's father Meyrick Sheen, who is about 76, has worked worldwide, late in life, as a Jack Nicholson impersonator.

    Michael Sheen (right) with his father Meyrick and his mother Irene (née Thomas), are from Wales.

    Jack Nicholson (above and below)

    Meyrick Sheen.

    Cryptokubrology: "A useful methodology for deconstructing cinema, history, and synchronicity." ~ says Alex Fulton, January 31, 2017.

    Cryptokubrology has been defined as "digging through the works of Stanley Kubrick on the premise that its body is a muted mass of coded cabalistic ministrations comparable (in scope) to the works of William Shakespeare, but incomparable (in complexity) to anything in recorded history. In fact, Cryptokubrology has led to an entirely different view of so-called 'history' itself." Source.

    Via Twitter, I bemoaned to Alex Fulton at Crypto-Kubrology Twitter that "modern Cryptokubrology is frustrating when Shining scenes are in new films w/out sync-reasoning."

    To which Fulton replied that "modern films w/ 237s inserted... hard not to assume the filmmakers just being clever. Pre-Shining 237s are where it gets weird."

    When I began looking at the less than subtle, entirely created syncs between Passengers and The Shining, there did not seem to be anything there to see. After all, director Morten Tyldum admired Stanley Kubrick and so he manufactured the bar scenes to reflect the bar scenes in The Shining.

    Tyldum places other tributes (often nowadays called "Easter Eggs") in Passengers to link his film rather obviously to Kubrick's 2001 (think running around a circle going up) and to Gravity (the tether drama).

    There are also directly overt items tied to 1959's Sleeping Beauty (Princess Aurora, not to mention what I've written about the name Aurora on this blog), 1992's Aladdin (space walk = magic carpet ride), 1997's Titanic (Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack), and others.

    After I saw Passengers, recently, I did more research and found this segment of an interview with the Norwegian director about Passengers.

    Can we talk about your apparent love for Kubrick because when I watched Passengers I could tell that Kubrick was a huge influence. Was Passengers the film where you thought to yourself: I have this big Kubrickian itch I have to scratch and this is my opportunity?Definitely. [laughs] There’s a few Easter eggs for Kubrick fans where they can see very specific set elements from at least three Kubrick movies. I said, “I want, not just to be inspired by it, but I want THAT.” These specific things will be popping up in my movie so people can find it for themselves.
    In every Kubrick movie, the set and surrounding are like a character in itself. The Shining, of course, is a big example but also in 2001 [with] the space station. Every detail in the sets is such an important part of the story. I felt that the spaceship Avalon is a character in itself. The way that Kubrick treats the sets and how the character is put in its surroundings is something I was very inspired by when I was doing Passengers. It felt very natural to do a literal tribute to him. It’s also fun because our production designer (Guy Hendrix Dyas) is also a big Kubrick fan and it was fun to put those little Easter eggs in there and sprinkle them in the movie.
    Can I ask what the third Kubrick movie is?Nope!
    Sure, there's another Kubrick created "egg" in there. But I found more.

    The deeper Michael Sheen -> Meyrick Sheen -> Jack Nicholson overlap was a complete surprise to me. It might be such a subtle one that only certain Kubrick scholars and the Sheen family have reflected on it.

    For the reader, I hope you find these "two Jacks" a unique (minor) discovery, as this science of Cryptokubrology establishes itself.


    A couple notes:
    Very interestingly, Chris Pratt's birthday of 6/21/79 came exactly one day (24 hrs) before the general release of Alien, which is the film from which the 2037 screenshot in my Twitter banner was taken.
    Jack Nicholson was born on 4/22/37... which you can spread out to find 42 - 237.
    From Nicholson's birthday to the birthday of Michael Sheen, who plays the Lloyd-copy, is exactly 1659 weeks.
    1659 = 237 x 7
    Nicholson was born 42 years, 2 months before Chris Pratt & the general release of Alien.
    & on and on it goes!
    I have yet to see Passengers, but these C-K studies have proven to me that much of these strange connectors are entirely subliminal... the filmmakers may know they are referencing Kubrick, but may not truly understand WHY they are doing so, or how deeply the connections run. Kubrick has somehow subliminally affected the entire history of cinema, backwards & forwards. Maybe History too...
    Alex Fulton

    Frozen journey, by P.K. Dick (I hope I shall arrive soon).Frozen/JackRemember the number of Aurora's room and the use of an axe to destroy a door !JP