I Remember Sept. 11, 2001

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the cowardly attacks on the World Trade Center by a handful of hate-filled religious maniacs.

I am once again reprinting my blog of remembrances of the sickening — and inspiring — events of that day, as someone who was in midtown Manhattan at the time.

I was awakened by an airplane early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. No, it wasn’t one of those jets; it was just a passing low-flying plane, the kind that zoom toward Westchester County Airport all the time. It was before my alarm was supposed to sound, so I tried to get another 15 minutes of sleep. When I did finally get up and venture outside to drive to the train station, I distinctly remember marveling at what a beautiful day it was: The sky was clear and such an amazing deep blue that I actually noticed it. The temperature was comfortable, with a light breeze, and I was sorry that I would have to spend such a gorgeous late-summer day in an office in Manhattan. I actually thought it was one of the most beautiful days of the year. How wrong I was…
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The Thing About 9/11

My sister Michele asked me this morning what the mood was in New York City on the anniversary of the terror attacks. I’m sure she wasn’t expecting the rant I texted her, stream-of-consciousness style. But I realized it was a pretty good summary of how I feel about 9/11 so many years on, and I figured it was time to update my original Sept. 11 post, so I decided to share (and amplify) my thoughts…

The city typically feels sad on this date, but it’s not an ominous thing. There’s a real sense of community on the surface that is usually only a subtext among the denizens of NYC. There is a sense of community loss. It’s usually much quieter on the streets — though nothing like the eerie silence that dominated on the afternoon of 9/11/01

The hustle of Grand Central Terminal is much more hushed, even among the throngs of tourists, who somehow seem to perceive the public mood. There’s a genuine pall over the entire island of Manhattan, and an almost palpable longing. It’s hard to articulate, but it’s a longing for what the world was like before the World Trade Center towers fell.
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Remembering the ‘Excitable Boy,’ Warren Zevon

Yesterday would have been the 67th birthday of  singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, one of my favorite musicians. He passed away on Sept. 7, 2003, at the age of 56, a victim of cancer of the abdominal lining. You hear it said a lot that certain people “died too young”; well, Zevon was one of those people.

In this terrific clip from Sept. 8, 2003, David Letterman and Paul Schaefer announced the passing of their good friend Zevon, who had appeared on Letterman’s various shows for over 20 years. This clip includes Zevon performing an absolutely heartbreaking rendition of “The Mutineer” on the Oct. 30, 2002, LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, which was devoted entirely to Zevon.


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Composer of ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ Score Dead at 81

Wojciech+KilarWojciech Kilar, who composed my favorite film score ever, for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, died in his hometown of Katowice, Poland, on Sunday at the age of 81 after a long illness.

Kilar’s haunting, otherworldly score for Francis Ford Coppola’s film was a major contributor to the menacing atmosphere of the 1992 version of the Dracula story, which starred Gary OldmanWinona Ryder and Anthony Hopkins.

The music was at once heavy, dramatic and unsettling but also at points light and romantic, befitting the mood shifts in the flawed but wonderful film. Compare the prickly, skin-crawling horror of the atonal passages that morphed into boisterous timpani pounding and trumpets during the attack of Dracula’s brides to the music box-like simplicity and innocence of Lucy’s theme. And then there was the peerless main theme that swells with the power of love, hatred and revenge!
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H.P. Lovecraft: A Dreamer and a Visionary

lovecrafttombToday would have been the 123rd birthday of one of my very favorite writers, H.P. Lovecraft. The Gentleman From Providence is probably the most influential writer of the 20th century that most people have never heard of.

Lovecraft was the foremost practitioner of “weird fiction” in the early part of the last century. His stories specialized in atmosphere — atmosphere that would suck the oxygen right out of your lungs. Atmosphere that was truly terrifying and really could send chills through your bloodstream. (Read “Cool Air” for a truly chilling tale of… air-conditioning?)

Without Lovecraft, horror movies, books, games and comics would look very different. Perhaps someone eventually would develop the idea of beings from other planets worshipped as gods by primordial humans, and lurid tales of Piscean species interbreeding with centuries of townsfolk and ancient ruined civilizations in Antarctica and leaping, chittering things trapped in crypts — but in our universe, H.P. did that. His was the imagination that gave us an artist who painted ghouls from live models.
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No Ponds for DOCTOR WHO’s 50th — Or Ever Again!

DOCTOR WHO S11.3Well, Steven Moffat, the show-runner (and de facto Lord President of all things DOCTOR WHO) has finally spoken definitively about the possibility of Amy and Rory Pond (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill) returning for the Time Lord’s 50th anniversary story. And his answer is a simple No.

As the creator of Amelia Pond and Rory Williams, Moffat had every right to be their destroyer, and destroy them he did. He both killed them and didn’t kill them the same time by going back to the Weeping Angels’ roots: the Angels sent Amy and Rory into the past and them “live themselves to death.” So they lived full lives and yet died before their time — at the same time. It was the ultimate case of a creator having his cake and eating it too; killing his darlings without murdering them.

So when asked about bringing them back already, Moffat was clear and unambiguous:

“You could never eliminate the possibility of dream sequences and flashbacks, but will the Doctor see them again? No. When I was first talking to Karen and Arthur about it, we said, ‘Let’s make it the proper ending.’ Bringing back things just gives you sequel-itis. Just end it and get out. Heaven knows if they’ll appear in some form of flashback — I have no plans to do that, I have to say — but the story of Amy and The Doctor is definitively over.”

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth: No more Ponds.
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Robert E. Howard Did More Than Just Create Conan

rehfence
REH in a pensive mood

Today marks the 107th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard, the quintessential American pulp author best-known for creating Conan the Barbarian.

REH, as he known to fans, had an incredibly prolific and all-too-short career lasting from roughly 1929-’36. His powerful, evocative writing has always been an influence on my own writing, almost as much as H.P. Lovecraft. Like Lovecraft, Howard had a talent for painting lush, detailed scenes in only a few evocative words — although literary critics like S.T. Joshi dismissed REH’s prose as “subliterary hackwork that does not even begin to approach genuine literature.”

But, hey, Howard did much more than unleash a barbarian on pop culture. He helped shape modern pop culture by fathering the “sword and sorcery” subgenre of fantasy and contributing to Lovecraft’s horror mythos. Howard came up with a number of other vivid characters, including Solomon Kane, Kull the Conqueror,  Sailor Steve Costigan, Cormac Mac Art, Bran Mac Morn, El Borak and James Allison — notable for being disabled. I have previously looked at REH’s life, which tragically ended in suicide, so now I turn to his literary output.
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