Posted byShane Simmons
Posted onApril 17, 2017
As a home owner, I have had to remove a broad range of dead critters from the property over the last couple of decades. The day we moved in, there was a dead baby bird on our doormat. On the roof, I discovered several years’ worth of raven and crow victims, and had to spend a couple of hours removing half-eaten pigeons and pigeon parts.
Then there was the dead mouse. And the dead rat. And fragments of a skull that likely once belonged to the squirrel prey of the predatory orange tabby that used to live next door. His kills were legion, and I still dread ever having a look at what might be stored and desiccated behind our backyard hedge.
With the spring thaw and the receding snow comes the revelation of the new crop of trash and remains that got buried in the winter. Today, I found a candidate for most exotic corpse yet excavated on my land.
A squid. An entire dead squid, about the size of my hand. I’ll be removing him once he finishes melting out of the layer of ice.
Bear in mind, I’m in Montreal. Miles from the water. And squids are not local.
Obviously, this came from a fish shop. I imagine someone bought it, decided they didn’t really know how to prepare it, and then threw it away once it started to go off. Then it got fished out of the trash by an animal looking for an easy meal. One of the squirrels, or perhaps another urban-wildlife scavenger, moved it to the side of my house before deciding it, too, didn’t fancy squid after all. At that point it was dropped in the snow, covered over, and preserved for me to discover in March.
So, y’know, yuck.
I’d rather have more chunks of pigeons to sweep off the roof. I am not looking forward to scraping up this slimy, gooey cephalopod. I’m also not looking forward to the flashbacks the next time I order a plate of calamari.
“Damn you, 2016!” shouted the mountain range of cocaine and the ocean of alcohol ingested in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Snickering between themselves, they slunk away to the back of the gathered mournful crowd, who were again lamenting how the cursed year had robbed them of another celebrated celebrity.
Remember when Groucho Marx died within a few days of Elvis Presley? Everybody was so upset about the bloated icon, destroyed at a young age by an overindulgence in drugs and fatty foods, they paid no attention to the passing of a true master of the language and a writer of extraordinary wit and intelligence. Thankfully the internet allows us to act as our own media filter now and we can focus on the stories that matter most to us, if nobody else.
Richard Adams, it was announced today, died on Christmas Eve at the age of 96. Hardly unexpected so late in the game, it’s still a blow to fans of his classic novels such as Watership Down and The Plague Dogs. I was thinking of him only a couple of days ago, noting his advanced age on his Wikipedia entry, not realizing he was already dead. Like a lot of celebrities who are less in the public eye—writers in particular—word of their passing often comes days after the fact, once the family or representation issue a statement.
Watership Down remains one of my all-time favourite novels. I haven’t actually read The Plague Dogs because I saw the movie (adapted by the same animation studio that made the brutal film version of Watership) and it kicked the shit out of me. In my 40s. I recommend exposing your children to Adams’s animal-centric stories as early as you can. They’ll be traumatized in all the important ways children should be traumatized while preparing themselves for a vicious, merciless world.
But, of course, stealing all the headlines is a competing celebrity death that eclipses all others. Because she was in Star Wars.
I like Carrie Fisher. I’ve read a couple of her books. She was a reliable Hollywood script doctor and occasional actor, who showed up for mostly small roles in a variety of non-Star Wars related films. But let’s be honest. We’re mostly surprised she lasted this long.
Back when it was popular to do so, Carrie Fisher snorted ALL the coke. Drank ALL the booze. Did ALL the rehab. It’s astonishing she survived the 20th century at all. And even though she was the picture of health in Rogue One (it’s like she hadn’t aged at all), the fact that her body finally gave out in the wake of all her old bad habits should shock absolutely no one.
Callously, my greatest concern is how much rewriting this is going to inflict on the current trilogy. Not that there was much story to The Force Awakens, but if the writers have been doing their job and stepping up their game for episodes VIII and IX, Leia may have actually been part of a real character arc, now cut short. It’s a bad blow to the franchise in general and, I expect, Fisher in particular.
Here’s my fix:
Because Star Wars is all about fan service (and Richard Adams and The Plague Dogs is fresh in my mind), cast Fisher’s pet Gary the Dog as Darth Plagueis. Seriously. Gary is beloved, he’s creepy looking, and we haven’t seen Darth Plagueis on screen in a Star Wars movie yet, so they can cast ANYBODY. Disney, I’m talking to you. You want to protect your four billion dollar investment, you need to do shit like this. Or at least cast Gary in a Yoda prequel. He’s a natural. He’s a STAR. Much more so than whatshisface and whatshername or whosthatguy you’ve got filling in the slots of the next generation. Run with him.
People will love you for it, you’ll be doing Carrie a solid, and Gary will have the cash he needs to feed his Milkbone habit. I’m nothing if not a problem solver. You’re welcome.
In other news, Harrison Ford is still alive. He was in a plane crash, the Millennium Falcon tried to eat him, he was trampled by elephants, shot by John Hinkley Jr., blown up in the Hindenburg, stripped to the bone by ravenous piranhas…and that was just today. The man is accident prone, but nothing can kill him. Except maybe his role choices since the ‘80s.
One final note. A word of warning in these closing days.
You have not yet survived 2016.
2016 is still out there. Prowling. Waiting. Hungry.
Selections for what to watch at my curated Movie Night have always been informed by celebrity deaths. Whenever someone famous kicks off, I like to send them out with a film to show the ignorant masses who they were and what they were famous for. Lately, I’ve been a tad too on the ball when it comes to who’s about to push up a daisy or two.
Three months ago, I anticipated the long-delayed death of Abe Vigoda so close to the event, I went out of my way to grab a screenshot from abevigoda.com less than 24 hours before the site had to finally tick over as to his live vs. dead status.
Well, it’s happened again.
Last Movie Night, a mere 18 hours ago, I forced the class to watch the 1982 Agatha Christie whodunit, Evil Under the Sun. It was directed by the fairly legendary Guy Hamilton. In case you’re not familiar with the name, he’s mostly remembered for being one of the early James Bond directors who helped define the series and turn it into the endless formulaic juggernaut is it today. It endures because it’s a formula that works, but it didn’t come to fruition until the third Bond film (Hamilton’s first), Goldfinger. That was the one that introduced such James Bond staples as: an unrelated opening action sequence, spy cars, Q’s contentious relationship with Bond, the definitive henchman, the definitive non-SPECTRE villain, multi Bond girls who get killed off before he gets to the real leading lady, and, of course, the winning over of a lesbian for the forces of hetrosexuality.
Obviously, Hamilton directed a whole bunch of other films. And they include the Hercule Poirot mystery, Evil Under the Sun, which was shot on the island of Majorca. Well, guess who just died on Majorca right after we watched that movie – possibly WHILE we were watching it.
I’ll admit, this is starting to freak me out. It’s like I’ve been imbued with some horrible superpower. I feel I might need to be put down like Tetsuo in Akira before it grows out of control. Already, I’m thinking about which celebrity I should will dead with the eerie force of my brain next. The thought has crossed other sinister minds as well.
“Next week: a Michael Bay film starring Adam Sandler,” is the first official request I’ve received.
And it’s tempting. I’ll kid myself that I’m using my power for good at first, but eventually I’ll start wiping out perfectly innocent celebrities who appear in terrible franchise films to help pay for their latest divorce. And if it comes to that, Hollywood will be a smouldering ruin by the time I’m done.
Tremble before me.
In related news, my dead-celebrity novella, Filmography, is due out soon. Rest assured, I invented a celebrity to kill off in that one. Perhaps I needn’t have bothered. You can’t libel the dead, and anyone still alive won’t stay that way long if I put my mind to it.
My unhealthy obsession with dead celebrities has come to fruition. Filmography is a novella I wrote about a trio of film nerds who end up kidnapping the corpse of their favourite movie star in order to shoot one final opus with the deceased actor. It’s a sick and twisted comedy. If you’ve ever read more than three words here at Eyestrain Productions, you might have already anticipated the tone.
The book got picked up by Dark Passages Publishing for a May release in physical and e-formats. The listing and bio are up on their site, and have been for weeks, but this is my official homepage announcement.
I’ve been meaning to get around to it for a while, but was finally inspired by the timely events of yesterday. What was so special about yesterday? It was Jerry Lewis’s 90th birthday of course. And it was Wednesday Movie Night. So therefore it was time to force everybody to watch The King of Comedy.
Martin Scorsese hasn’t made many comedies in his career – though, let’s face it, Taxi Driver is HILARIOUS. Jerry Lewis, on the other hand, has made boatloads. Most of them terrible. Combine these two entities and it was inevitable something truly fucked up would emerge. Such was The King of Comedy, the single most prescient satire of the film and television industry to come crawling out of the 1980s. Like Network from the decade before, it was off-putting and extreme in its day. Watch it now and you’ll realize, with a shiver, that not only have we arrived at that moment in time, we’ve gone a good deal past it. Much as Network anticipated Fox, Glenn Beck, and the nightly news spun as tawdry entertainment in the name of higher ratings, The King of Comedy anticipated stalker culture. At this point, if you’re a celebrity and you don’t have at least one or two stalkers slapped with a restraining order, you ain’t nobody. The King of Comedy asks you to identify with Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro), an outgoing, ambitious sociopath who doesn’t only want to chum around with his idol, he wants to replace him. In many ways, he’s creepier than Travis Bickle (also Robert De Niro), who merely wants to assassinate a celebrity
The fame phenomenon is a theme I keep coming back to in my work. I come from a city that notoriously doesn’t give much of a shit about celebrities. They come here to shoot movies, often with an over-compensating amount of security, and we (perhaps disappointingly) don’t mob them, don’t hassle them on the street, and don’t pester them for autographs and photos. Not unless they’re at an event arranged for just such a meet-and-greet. A certain respectful distance can be relied upon. Not so in many other places in the world, where famous faces have to hide under wigs and sunglasses, or stay indoors.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t fans here. And fans – serious fans – are odd animals. They can feel so close to people they’ve never met, remember more details about their lives and careers than the celebrities themselves do, and will mourn them like a loved one when they die. As the plot of Filmography points out: fans digging up dead celebrities has happened before. How long will it be before a group of idiots attempts exactly why my group of idiots do in this book? I’m a little shocked it hasn’t happened yet. In another decade, I may be just as shocked at how many times it has happened.
More major projects are on the way as the year progresses. Filmography may well prove to be only the first of three books I have coming out. Plus another four confirmed anthology short stories so far. Details, as always, will appear here. Hit the FOLLOW button on your right for email notices. Or follow me on Facebook. Or follow me on Twitter. Or follow me home and hide in the bushes while you peer through my window and watch me change into something more comfortable.
In one of the most profound tick overs since the date change on January 1st, 2000 and when an extra digit had to be added to the official U.S. debt clock, the websites, abevigoda.com and isabevigodadead.com, have had to change their status. After standing vigil for venerable character actor Abe Vigoda for years, watching over his current state of being so diligently, he has transitioned from a living state to a dead state. He died today at age 94.
But, like Baron von Munchausen, that was only one of his many deaths. Abe Vigoda was first declared dead by People Magazine in 1982. It was just a misprint, but it got the ball rolling. Since then, he has been declared dead more often than any other celebrity. Rumours of his demise, and shock that he was, in fact, still alive, abounded for decades until it became a widespread joke.
Vigoda was in on the joke. Although his film and television rolls diminished over the years, he made regular appearances on comedy shows to poke fun at the fact that, yes, he was alive and well, and yes, he was really really old.
I knew about his pending (real) death a few days ago, when I happened to read an update to his Wikipedia page. I was having one of my “How’s Abe doing?” moments and had to check. A member of his family had made a statement on Friday that he was dying – and dying soon.
It’s hard not to feel a certain morbid excitement about the event. I grew up watching Barney Miller, and The Godfather is among my favourite films. Abe Vigoda, with his alarmingly regular pronouncements of death, seemed to thumb his nose at mortality. He was the crown jewel of deadpools everywhere.
I’m fascinated by celebrity deaths – how so many people who know them, but don’t actually know them, come to mourn the loss of these famous strangers. Hell, I wrote an entire book on the subject (coming out later this year, announcement pending) and it’s not out of my system yet. I’ll be writing about this topic again, I know it. Because no matter how many beloved actors and musicians and politicians and artists and writers and reality-show narcissists snuff it, there are always legions more clinging to life.
In related news, Zsa Zsa Gabor is still alive.
It’s that time of year.
Time to listen to Christopher Walken read The Raven.
Enjoy Halloween, because life is shortbread.