"Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit." Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Can it happen here?

It can if we don't stand up for ourselves. I made a promise to myself not to get political on this blog. But this and certain related issues are just too damned important. We must speak up, loudly, against these threats to creative freedom and expression.

No, not loudly but with a primal scream of outrage and indignation. Last I checked the 1st Amendment to the Constitution reigned supreme. But here we see attempts to chip away at that guarantee of freedom of expression.

I have not spent my entire adult life up until now as a soldier, protecting and defending those very same rights enshrined in our Constitution, to see them eroded.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is only the tip of the iceberg though...and it's the part you can't see that is the most dangerous. Such as what the Department of Homeland Security is up to.

Are we prepared to gently slide into an Orwellian nightmare future for the sake of dubious security measures? To have have the Thought Police monitor every single bite on websites, blogs, and social media. It's for our own safety and security of course...

I call BULLSHIT on this. You should too. Contact your elected representatives down in D.C. and let them know in no uncertain terms how you feel about SOPA and PIPA. Call or e-mail them today. Flood the switchboards of their offices and overwhelm their e-mail servers. I'll even help you find your Senator and Congressional Representative.

While you're at it, let them know how you feel about the DHS data-mining the internet as if we're all potential terrorists. Which by the way, is what returning veterans were labelled in a 2009 report disseminated by the DHS to law enforcement agencies nationwide. The report was changed rather quickly after howls of outrage by veteran's organizations, but still...if they can think and publicly say this about the ones doing the real fighting against terrorists, what about you?

I know I'm already on a watchlist. How do you feel about being put on one for reading this?

"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." George Orwell

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Birthday National Guard

375 years ago today, the Massachusetts General Court in Salem officially declared that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia.

I myself have proudly served for 27 years now, between the Army and the Army National Guard. Yeah, it's been a love/hate relationship at times but I have served voluntarily. For two reasons mainly. First, growing up all I ever wanted to be was a soldier. Like my father before me and his brother, who was also a father to me in his own right. Secondly, because I felt it necessary as an American citizen to serve and protect our way of life.

Through the Cold War, Korean DMZ, natural disasters, civil disturbances, homeland defense, border security, and the war in Iraq. I have served with my brothers and sisters who answered the call. But now I await my retirement for medical reasons and pass on the heritage and legacy of service to the next generation.

To all of you, my fellow Citizen Soldiers, Happy Birthday.

"Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others." Alexander Hamilton

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Solitude, a short film

Solitude from robin risser on Vimeo.

"What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it - like a secret vice." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Devil Dogs...

Or Teufel Hunden as the Kaiser's troops nicknamed you.

The Warrior Song-Hard Corps.

"Remember, you are the 1st Marines! Not all the Communists in Hell can overrun you!" COL Chesty Puller, 1st Marine Regiment, Chosin Reservoir.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The poetry of Robert E. Howard

Yes dear readers, THE Robert E. Howard. Author, poet, and man of letters. Who deserves equal credit with J. R. R. Tolkien for bringing tales of mighty heroes and their epic adventures from the realm of mythology to the genre we know today as "heroic fantasy" and "sword and sorcery".

I'll save my well deserved contempt for the awful adaptations of Howard's creations to film for another time. Let's just say say that H'wood has done an extremely poor job with the characters of Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane.

That being said, let us move on to why we're here today. This being the season of Halloween, I would like to share with you some of the darker poetry of R. E. H. I hope that you get as much from it as I do in the spirit of the season.


The dusk was on the mountain
And the stars were dim and frail
When the bats came flying, flying
From the river and the vale
To wheel against the twilight
And sing their witchy tale.

"We were kings of old!" they chanted,
"Rulers of a world enchanted;
"Every nation of creation
"Owned our lordship over men.
"Diadems of power crowned us,
"Then rose Solomon to confound us,
"Flung his web of magic round us,
"In the forms of beasts he bound us,
"So our rule was broken then."

Whirling, wheeling into westward,
Fled they in their phantom flight;
Was it but a wing-beat music
Murmured through the star-gemmed night?
Or the singing of a ghost clan
Whispering of forgotten night?


Golden goats on a hillside black,
Silken gown on a wharf-side trull,
Screaming girl on a silver rack-
What are dreams in a shadowed skull?

I stood at a shrine and Chiron died,
A woman laughed from the purple roofs,
And he burned and lived and rose in his pride
And shattered the tiles with clanging hoofs.

I opened a volume dark and rare,
I lighted a candle of mystic lore-
Bare feet throbbed on the outer stair
And book and candle sank to the floor.

Ships that reel on the windy sea,
Lovers that take the world to wife,
What may the Traitress hold for me
Who scarce have lifted the veil of life?


There came to me a Shape one summer night
When all the world lay silent in the stars
And moonlight crossed my room with ghostly bars.
It whispered hints of weird unhallowed sight;
I followed, then in waves of spectral light
Mounted the shimmery ladders of my soul,
Where moon-pale spiders, huge as dragons stole-
Great forms like moths with wings of whispy white.

Then round the world the sighing of the loon
Shook misty lakes beneath the false dawn's gleams.
Rose-tinted shone the skyline's minaret.
I rose in fear and then with blood and sweat
Beat out the iron fabrics of my dreams
And shaped of them a web to snare the moon.

As the veil that separates this world from the next weakens, allowing the shades of those long gone to speak to us, I leave you with these verses of spectres fantastique to read by candlelight on Halloween. What was that? Oh, it's nothing, just the wind whistling through the trees. I think...

"'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world."
Hamlet: Act 3, scene II. William Shakespeare

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The return of what to watch for Halloween...

Did you listen to me? NO...You fools failed to ensure the monster was truly dead, and now it has returned to wreak it's vengeance! I warned you! Lock your windows and doors. Get out your pitchforks and torches. Say your prayers. Hide the women and children. Wait, what?

Oh never mind, just read on. If you dare...

1.The Devil Rides Out (1968). A classic from Hammer Films. The Duc de Richleau battles a Satanic cult led by the sinister Mocata. Based on the novel of the same title by Dennis Wheatley. You'll just have to watch it to see who prevails. As for the original novel? So horribly boring that I put it down after the first chapter and never picked it up again.

2.Horror Hotel (1960). Originally made and released in England as The City of the Dead. More Devilish goings on to give you the creeps. It opens up in Puritan New England as a witch is burned at the stake, then jumps forward to the present where such things are superstitious cruelty practiced on the innocent by the ignorant. Or is it? I remember discovering this film late at night in my youth and absolutely loving it to the point of owning it on dvd now. Low budget but effective, it has what a good gothic horror needs, mood and atmosphere.

3.The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968). Another excellent made for television film. Jack Palance straight up owns the role of the mild mannered Henry Jekyll and his alter ego, the diabolic Edward Hyde, as if the part was written just for him. This is my favorite adaptation of the novel of the same title by Robert Louis Stevenson.

4.The Night Stalker (1972).When I saw this at eight years old I was hooked. The follow up television series was one of my favorites at that age and still is, even if it got ridiculously cheesy at the end. Because Darren McGavin as the reporter turned monster hunter carries on despite the fact that no one will believe him. Based on the novel of the same title by Jeff Rice, which I have read and highly recommend.

5.High Plains Drifter (1973). Wait a minute, this is a Western shoot 'em up you say? Why yes it is, but... Watch it and pay attention to what's going on beneath the surface. It is a ghost story. A very vengeful ghost at that. The entire town was complicit in his murder and he's come back to make them all pay dearly for it.

6.Stir of Echoes (1999). Based on the novel A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson, this creepy, effective film was relatively unnoticed when it was released because The Sixth Sense hit theaters a month earlier. Your average blue collar working class guy is hypnotised for fun during a party. Then he starts seeing things that aren't there. Even his own wife starts to doubt his sanity. Hallucinations and voices in his head? Maybe...

7.The Haunting (1963). A team of paranormal investigators goes to an old mansion to attempt to dispel the stories of it being haunted. Are there ghosts? Or is the house itself the malevolent entity? Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which I read once and found boring. To be fair I will go back and give it another try one day. This was remade in 1999 and I found that version rather forgettable because it relied on the CGI effects to carry the story.

8.Haunted (1995). I discovered this little gem of a ghost story browsing through the horror section somewhere. Professor David Ash, a debunker of "psychic" phenomena, is called to investigate and calm the fears of an old woman. What he discovers causes him to question his own sanity. Based on the novel of the same title by James Herbert, it is the first of three novels concerning David Ash which I now absolutely have to read.

9.The Skull (1965). This creepy film stars Peter Cushing as a collector of occult artifacts, who comes into possession of the skull of the infamous Marquis de Sade. Unfortunately for him the skull has a will of its own that overpowers those who possess it. Christopher Lee also appears, but only just, much to my disappointment. Lee and Cushing together are just cinematic magic to me. Based on the short story , The Skull of the Marquis de Sade, by Robert Bloch.

10.The Changeling (1980). Ah...this film is a ghost story. And what a story it tells. George C. Scott is perfect in his role as a composer and Professor of music overwhelmed at times by grief for his wife and daughter, killed in a tragic car accident. Is the ghost of his daughter attempting to communicate with him? Or is it something else entirely and what does it want? Some secrets will not stay buried...

Once again horror films with no or little blood. The actors, story, and atmosphere carry you along to tell a creepy tale best watched with the lights out. Not a complete list by any means, but a fair sample of what I consider worth watching. Far too many films rely on gore, special effects, and punch you between the eyes shock value in between predictable scenes of the unsuspecting being led to their ridiculously creative deaths.

So my dear readers, see the films for yourselves. If you dare...

"We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight." H. P. Lovecraft

Friday, October 21, 2011

What to watch for Halloween...

Why? Because I said so, that's why! After all, I am a cineaste. Or maybe just snobbish and opinionated. I do like using the term though because it makes me sound sophisticated. Besides, I know that you come here for my wisdom in these things dear readers.

So, here is my list of ten films that I'm sure will entertain, delight, and satisfy your need for things that go bump in the night. The season of Halloween, or if you prefer, Samhain is upon us. When the veil between this world and the next weakens and things from the other side may come through to visit. You never know...

1.The Uninvited (1944). A ghost story set on the coast of Cornwall. The first time I saw this I was alone in my darkened living room and got so creeped out I had to turn a light on.

2.The Others (2001). Again, a ghost story. I like ghost stories ever since I was a child. Creepy and effective, the tension builds and builds in this superb film. Is Nicole Kidman's character unhinged? Or is there something very, very wrong going on in this empty old house?

3.The Innocents (1961). Based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It slowly but surely builds up the atmosphere of uncertainty. Oh how cute, the children have imaginary friends...or do they?

4.Carnival of Souls (1962). A very low budget B-film when it was first released, it has become recognised as a classic of the genre. Who is that silent, white as death man? And why won't he stop following her? Yessss... another ghost story. Told you I like them didn't I?

5.Curse of the Demon (1957). The American version of the English made original, Night of the Demon. Watch the full length original as the US release was cut from 95 minutes to 83. A no nonsense man of science attempts to banish superstitious beliefs. Mere hallucinations he says. Gullible peasants and old wive's tales he says. Hypnotic suggestions implanted in weak minds he says. But he's starting to see and hear them too...

6.Dracula (1974). Yeah sure, this has been done so many times. But this version? Ah, a true delight. Directed by Dan Curtis, written by Richard Matheson, and starring Jack Palance. I found this made for television film to be quite the scary story. No sparkly teenage vampires in love here. Twilight...feh...

7.Don't Look Now (1973). Based on the short story of the same title by Daphne du Maurier, it is a ghost story. Yeah...another one. A couple move to Venice after the death of their young daughter. Who is that young child they keep seeing out of the corner of their eye? I have to give credit to my friend Adrianna for introducing me to this film for which I am grateful, otherwise I might never have discovered it.

8.Black Sunday (1960). Ah...a true masterpiece of gothic Italian horror, directed by Mario Bava and starring Barbara Steele. The atmosphere is thickly laid on with a trowel in this tale of a witch come back from the grave to wreak vengeance on the descendants of her executioners.

9.The Legend of Hell House (1973). You think Ghosthunters is scary? You'll think it's more like Scooby Doo after watching this tale of paranormal investigators who get more than they bargained for. Based on the book of the same title by Richard Matheson. I've read the book and find the film just as scary.

10.Lady in White (1988). This takes me back to the Halloweens I remember as a boy. The grey overcast sky, the smell of the leaves as they turn and fall, the much simpler things we considered scary, and the growing anticipation of trick or treating. But, there are ghosts and it's not Charlie Brown in a bedsheet either.

So, there it is. My recommendations for what I watch when I am in the mood for horror. I'm sure you've noticed a trend towards ghost stories, which I absolutely delight in. Why? For starters it was the first form of horror I remember as a child, being told around the fire on camping trips. Secondly, they are truly effective with little or no blood spilled. It is the craft of a good storyteller (or film director) to give you that mood and atmosphere without beating you over the head with it. Any jackass can splash blood and gore all over a thing, but that doesn't build a true sense of horror, it just shows their inability to craft a tale guaranteed to give you the creeps.

I hope you, my dear readers, watch one or more of these films and get as much enjoyment from them as I do. And no this is not a complete list by any means. There are many films in the genre of the fantastic to share. But that is for another time.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Hamlet: Act 1, scene V. William Shakespeare