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The Thrillville Beat

By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo

THRILLVILLE BEAT

By Will "the Thrill" Viharo

THIS MONTH:
SOME THEORIES ON WHY THE WORLD AND PEOPLE SUCK;
DUELING ALIEN BRAINS & HEAD-HUNTING RUBBER MONSTERS!

WINNERS AND LOSERS: THE GAME IS OVER

The recent riots in Oakland following the Raiders’ Superbowl loss demonstrated a lot of points I’ve made here before.

We live in a country that teaches its citizens that if you’re not a winner decided by popular contest, you’re a loser, through and through, no matter what else you’ve accomplished in life. A lot of the disenfranchised in our society get their self esteem and civic pride from the success of their sports teams. This is a sad but true fact. Conversely, they feel worthless if their team – a bunch of strangers, really – loses. When that contest is in the international spotlight, that sense of inferiority is magnified.

This kind of competitive “spirit” – which proponents claim is “healthy” - is evident in the popularity of stupid “reality” TV shows, too, the latest spectator sport. Everything is based on some overblown competition these days, or so it seems. Even war is treated like a game by the current administration. You think these politicos would be so hot to send troops into battle if they had to personally lead the charge into Hell? No. To them, it’s about as up close and personal as a chess game – they’re just moving little figures around a board and calling it courage. Unless the old boys are willing to invade the streets of Baghdad and risk getting horribly gassed to death themselves, I call them contemptible cowards. All of ‘em, from the president on down. Easy for them to call on others to sacrifice their lives, ain’t it? Easier than sacrificing their own, that is. And yet, once “we win” the war, if “we” do, they will celebrate as if they won, since“we,” collectively, as a nation, are “winners” – when in reality, it was the soldiers who gave their lives that really “won” or “lost” the battle. On both sides of the conflict. Not the fat cats sitting back on Capitol Hill, watching the action safely from afar, and taking all the credit, but none of the heat.

There’s an economic war being waged right here at home, fought on the streets every single day, that our own government ignores, in favor of “rescuing” oil rich foreign nations. There’s a major war of values going on, too, which the media tends to overlook as well, even as it fuels the fires with its biased reporting.

I live in Oakland, and for the most part, I’m pretty happy here. I’m not the Oaktown cheerleader Monica, Tiki Goddess is, but the positive aspects of life in this town far, far outweigh the negative ones obsessed on by the media. There are plentiful good neighborhoods of diverse cultures and races, cool and creative people, lots of trees and natural beauty, great weather year round with at least a semblance of seasons, many outstanding restaurants, and the two best movie theaters in the entire Bay Area, the Paramount and The Parkway.

Focusing only on the crime, unrest and angst in the downtrodden ‘hoods poorly reflects on this city as a whole. That’s the media’s fault, mostly. But I blame a lot of Oakland’s troubles and perceptions on its citizens, for wallowing in this inferiority complex, and using it as an excuse for weakness. Fuck the media, people. For the most part, they’re part of the contract of propaganda and political prostitution the government has in place to perpetuate its own arrogant, isolationist, belligerent agenda. Frisco (I just say that to annoy ‘em) is a great town but has its own inferiority complex to deal with (because it will never be the media centers LA and New York are, for one thing) – so it keeps its little sister Oakland at bay, so to speak. Kinda like a kid who gets picked on at school then goes home and whacks on their sibling. All they can find to report on in Oakland is the murder rate, or the riots – which even superceded actual Superbowl coverage.

Is it a conspiracy? Sure it is. It all is. And I’m not a “conspiracy buff” at all. I don’t know who shot JKF or why, and to be honest, I don’t really care at this point, because it doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t trust anything organized unless it’s grassroots, and even then, I hold back a bit lest the inevitable pack mentality takes control. There’s power in numbers, but more times than not, that collective power gets corrupted by individual greed, bitterness, ignorance and blind hatred. That’s why I try hard to maintain a detached, if impassioned, stance on world events and philosophical matters in general, without getting sucked in by any one group’s ideology or dogma.

Both local and national media buy into the same game. For example, I was personally a bit puzzled by the intense attention given the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia – all “symbolism” aside. I mean, sure, it sucked, and it was very sad seven people died, but I wonder if the media will broadcast round-the-clock memorials and intensive coverage of the “national mourning” for the first seven soldiers killed in the upcoming war? Or how about the first seven innocent Iraqi citizens blown to pieces by our bombs? Will there be testimonials for each and every one of these star-crossed warriors? Will Bush openly weep on TV for these “fallen heroes”?

Well….we’ll see.

Me, I was much more affected by the poor Oakland man shot in the head for 31 bucks while unloading laundry in his driveway. That really depressed me. The Space Shuttle disaster affected me like any other air disaster – a distant tragedy. It all equally sucks, as far as I’m concerned.

They caught the punks who wasted this poor guy, by the way. A gang of young thugs who randomly drove around the East Bay robbing and killing complete strangers – and they admit they did it for the “glory” the press bestowed upon them. They made a mark on society the only way they knew how – through violence. Just like the rioters. But in the end, what motivates these misguided malcontents isn’t any kind of righteous social rage – it’s ego and materialism, the same demons that afflict all humans in any station. All kids see on TV nowadays is war, violence, mannequins getting married for money, or commercials for belly button surgery. The music of today’s youth is either bland, bellicose or bleak. What kind of culture would you expect that kind of pessimism and dullness to propagate? Or are they simply reflecting and reacting to the world they were unwittingly born into? Who knows?

I find it interesting that most progressive, liberal and free thinkers tend to live on the coasts, and most conservative, right wing, uptight people live toward the middle of our country. Think of the psychological symbolism: people open to new ideas and freedom of personal expression live on the brink of an expansive ocean, gateways to different lands and people, with a free flowing exchange of cultures; people in the middle of the country are land locked, afraid of anything new and different and foreign which challenges the status quo, and feel falsely “safe” and secure in their isolationism.

But as the reckless rioters demonstrated for the entire world, we on the coast have more than our share of idiots. You can’t really escape fear-driven ignorance anywhere these days.

Speaking of ignorance, leave poor Michael Jackson alone, for Chrissake. Who’s the “freak” – the guy livin’ his own life the way he chooses, eccentric as that may be, or the millions of suckers who wasted two hours of their lives watching that stupid interview, intensely focused on and obsessed with the public hanging of a former idol? First everyone elevates him to an impossible pedestal, then swarm like vultures over his remains. Man, now that’s sick. His life may be strange but it’s his, go out and get your own. I’m not even that big a fan of the guy’s (though Monica is). But gleefully engaging in the international media vilification of a pop star and justifying it by saying “well, he’s in the public eye, he asks for it” is a distasteful mix of sour grapes and bullshit, a crass, cowardly cop-out for engaging in mass-media masturbation. This was about as morally kosher as a circle jerk around a car crash. A bunch of “losers” getting their revenge on the big “winner” by making him a loser again – and because he’s now a famous loser, that makes him even lower, in the popular esteem, than just another anonymous loser, like the rest of us. I turned on this new late night dude Jimmy Kimmel’s show out of curiosity and there he was, taking cheap potshots at easy target Michael Jackson – wow, what imagination and ingenuity! How revolutionary – a late night talk show host making lame wisecracks about the crucified celebrity of the day! I turned it off instantly and watched reruns on TV Land instead, where my dial is normally pre-tuned anyway. This society’s worship and condemnation of celebrities is flat out pathetic. Future generations will hold our population in roughly the same esteem as these hyenas now hold poor Michael Jackson –widely deemed and dismissed as a bunch of spoiled, silly sickos.

Beware: they did it to Elvis, and if you ever get insanely famous, they’ll do it to you, too. The general public will only respect a famous figure for so long before they begin to resent them. First they love a celebrity because he or she is vicariously living out their own fantasies – then they grow to hate them for the very same reason. It’s human nature at its most hypocritical and disgusting. And you can count on it every time. Check out the wild success of all these insultingly insipid “reality shows” – people don’t really celebrate the “winners,” they relish in the public humiliation of the “losers.” To me, you win just by turning off network TV and popping in a DVD of your own favorite flick, regardless of how many Academy Awards it didn’t win. Or switching to Batman on TV Land, at least – where the villains are as cool as the good guys, if not more so. That’s my all time favorite show, and after a long hard day in the real world, it’s about as real as I wanna get. POW! ZAP! BAM!

Create your own reality, your own way, and dare to dream of better times ahead.

MYSTERY SCIENCE THRILLVILLE THEATER 2003

Of course Thrillville is my own little dream world made real twice a month or so, one I invite anyone to share with me, regardless of their personal politics or views, which everyone is entitled to. This month, on the brink of my sixth year as The Thrill, I am elated to bring you two solid reasons why I don a smoking jacket and fez hat and host mostly forgotten B Movies.

Both of this month’s flicks at The Parkway are brought to us from Uncle Bill, the Trailer King of Palm Springs. No, he doesn’t live in a trailer. A former award-winning TV film editor, Bill Longen now collects his own rare drive-in trailers and movies, and even programs film festivals down in PS, often culled from his own atomic archives. He’s everyone’s Uncle Bill!

Now, Uncle Bill – who gave us the infamous hybrid Hercules in the Haunted World of Captive Women – offers 35mm prints of two primo examples of classic 50s drive-in cinema, only at The Parkway, your neighborhood indoor drive-in. And hey, with all the worst elements of the ‘50s coming back into vogue – Federal witch hunts, national alerts of imminent attack, nuclear standoffs, failed space experiments, institutionalized racism, hypocritical sexual standards, judgmental morality, generalized xenophobia, etc. – why not bring back some of the really cool stuff from the good ol’ days, too?

First, on Thursday, March 13, it’s John Agar’s finest moment, THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1958), the timeless, incredibly amusing but deadly earnest cult classic about two dueling brains from outer space. I’m not sure if this was ever shown on the late great Mystery Science Theater 3000, since it’s prime material for that format, but no matter - you can experience it now on the big screen and bring your own robot sidekicks (just cut the wisecracks to one funny one; if the audience laughs, cut your losses and let it go, likewise if they don’t –it’ll be plenty funny enough without the audience commentary, especially if you’re drinking beer.) The evil brain, Gor, takes over nice guy scientist John and makes him cause worldwide havoc, and the good brain, Vol – possesses John’s dog to stop him! Joyce Meadows is the blonde caught between the battle of the brains. Agar passed away recently but left us a legendary legacy of B movie masterpieces, including Tarantula, Revenge of the Creature, and The Mole People, and many more. He was married to Shirley Temple in the 40s, too – and she was quite the babe by then, even if she did become a rabid Republican (hey, I also heard Wonder Woman Linda Carter is a right wing wench too – but with an ass like that, who cares?). Anyway, as if this far-out flick isn’t funny enough, and it’s positively side-splitting, also on the thrill-bill is another amazing acquisition from Uncle Bill – the pilot episode of THE ABBOTT AND COSTELLO SHOW! Nothing short of atomic war should prevent you from attending this thrilling evening of wacky, weird and wild wonderment.

Then on Thursday, March 27, to help celebrate the birthday of Berkeley’s own TV hep cat horror host, Doctor Goulfinger (www.goulfinger.com), I am presenting another unbelievable gem, recently unearthed by Uncle Bill: THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1959), starring drive-in doll Jeanne Carmen as the sexiest babe in a small seaside town plagued by a cousin of the Gill Man. The monster’s cool rubber suit alone is worth the price of admission, but watching it walk out of a café carrying a human head and later screaming like a horny banshee after kidnapping Jeanne (wearing a nightie, natch) just puts it way over the top. This is another of my favorites from TV “Creature Features” shows ubiquitous in the 70s (back in Jersey it was “Doc Shock Presents Mad Theater” and “Horror Theater,” out of Philly), and it’s only fitting we let Dok Goulfinger co-host his own birthday party featuring a rockin’ rarity like this. I heard the real town of Piedras Blancas in central Cal shows this movie once a year, since this is its one claim to fame (explaining why you’ve never heard of Piedras Blancas before now). But you won’t have to go that far to see it this year. I’m bringing the beast to Oaktown, via Thrillville.

These movies have never been even remotely considered for an Academy Award, or any other kind of award. But they win big time here in Thrillville – and so will you.

NEXT MONTH:
TOUGH GUYS WEAR TOUPES!



Bookcover
Order a copy of
"Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me,"
a novel featuring Vic Valentine, Private Eye
by William Viharo from Wild Card Press:

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