Friday, December 12, 2014

The Smokeless Screen

You didn’t hear much about “product placement” in movies prior to the 1970s. If a brand name appeared on screen it was because it could not be avoided. The large neon bucket advertising Kentucky Fried Chicken briefly glimpsed in Goldfinger might have been too much trouble to remove in 1964. By 1979, however, another Bond movie, Moonraker, clearly had an agreement with 7Up to prominently feature the beverage on screen. Runaway speedboats crashed into 7Up billboards, and coolers bearing the brand’s name did not get there by accident.

The other night while watching 1969’s Pendulum on Get TV, I noticed that when George Peppard reaches into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes, the blonde-haired actor with the cold steel blue eyes was smoking Camel, the original unfiltered style. There was no mistaking the camel’s hump on the package. Peppard smoked throughout this police thriller and probably used a Zippo to light up. On its website, Zippo boasts of its appearance in movies and TV shows, but Camel does not. How many actors who puffed up a storm on screen died of illnesses believed to be linked to the smoking habit?

Peppard died in 1994 at the relatively youthful age of 65. Pneumonia was the official cause of death, but it followed surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his lungs. All those Camel cigarettes took their toll, as did other brands of cigarettes. (When Jean Seberg, who plays Peppard’s wife in Pendulum, asks him to light a cigarette for her, she says there are menthols in her purse. After firing it up, he takes a long, deep drag of that, too.)

No actor did more for smoking on screen than Humphrey Bogart who smoked Chesterfield, a brand that is no longer manufactured. A critic once compared Bogart’s use of a cigarette on screen to a painter’s brushstrokes. When I started smoking, it was Bogart to whom I looked for tips on how to hold a cigarette, how to take a drag, and how to look cool engaging in what author Nick Tosches calls “The manly art of smoking.” Dying of lung cancer is manly, too, though women succumb just as often.

If smoking is a manly art, you don’t find many men practicing it on the silver screen these days. 1995's Smoke actually celebrated the habit, but it's a rare film indeed. James Bond smoked ferociously in the Ian Fleming novels, but only during Timothy Dalton’s brief tenure in the film series did the cinematic 007 smoke cigarettes with any regularity (Roger Moore's secret agent preferred thin cigars). In an attempt to be true to the character, Dalton lit up often enough in 1989’s Licence to Kill that the Surgeon General’s warning about the hazards of cigarette smoking was even included in the credits. Once Dalton departed, Bond became smokeless. In these politically correct and hysterically health conscious times, we’re more likely to see Bond eating Kentucky Fried Chicken than lighting a cigarette.

Brian W. Fairbanks

© 2014 Brian W. Fairbanks

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bob Dylan at the State Theater, Cleveland, Ohio, November 12, 2014

Signs in the lobby of the State Theater reminded patrons that Bob Dylan and his band would take the stage promptly at 8:00 p.m., and they did with a predictable reaction. Once the house lights were dimmed and we could see several shadowy figures move to their positions on stage, the applause, mixed with shouts of “I love you, Bobby,” were almost deafening. Dylan is in what I call the “later Elvis” period of his career. Like Elvis, Dylan merely has to make an entrance to bring the crowd to its feet, and while Elvis could bring the house down with nothing more than a sluggish shake of a leg, Dylan does it blowing on his signature harmonica. It did not matter that all but a handful of songs were unrecognizable to anyone but fans of his most recent albums. It did not matter that he talks his songs more than he sings. He’s still the best show in town.

Wearing a white hat, a long white scarf, and a dark duster that might have come from the wardrobe department of an Italian western, Dylan opened the show standing at center stage, blasting out “Things Have Changed,” his Oscar winning song from the 2000 film, Wonder Boys. The rest of the night found him alternating between that position and the piano. The band crackled and, unlike the last Dylan show I attended at Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall, the stage was well-lit. You could see the guy as well as hear him. He even spoke for a change, not to introduce the musicians (he never did), but to alert the audience that there would be a 15-minute intermission.

Although the highlights were when Dylan performed the undisputed classics in his vast catalogue (“She Belongs to Me,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” and the first encore, “Blowin’ in the Wind”), my ears gained a greater appreciation for some of those newer, less familiar songs thanks to his impassioned delivery. This was no aging legend giving a perfunctory reading of his “hits” for the benefit of an undiscriminating audience, but an artist who is still inspired or can sure make you feel that he is. “Long and Wasted Years,” with its distinctive guitar riff, was especially impressive. And the closer, a cover of an old Sinatra ballad called “Stay with Me,” gave the audience a preview of his upcoming album of standards, Shadows in the Night. If the album is anything like his performance of this song, it will be worth the wait.

Then, cloaked in those shadows, Dylan and his band headed for another joint. It was a memorable night, one that will stay with me until my own long and wasted years are complete.

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

9/11: The Devil in the Details

In commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the "terrorist attacks" of September 11, 2001, an excerpt from chapter 10 of The Illuminati Zone by William Fevers (a pen name for yours truly) concerning the significance of numbers on that day which is proof that the official story is, to put it politely, incorrect:

“11 and 22 are particularly fortunate and excellent numbers,” Richard Cavendish writes in The Black Arts, “representing a higher plane of experience than the numbers 1 to 9. Eleven is the number of revelation and martyrdom.”

And multiples of 11 have a unique power:

“Just as adults always carry their inner child within them, the numbers 11, 22, 33, and 44 carry within them the number they can be reduced to. The number 11 is also 2 (1+1=2); 22 is also 4 (2+2=4); 33 is also 6 (3+3=6); and 44 is also 8 (4+4=8).”

There’s no avoiding the fact that 11 was a most unfortunate number on that infamous day in 2001. Consider the following from the web site, The Forbidden Knowledge:

● The date of the attack: the eleventh day of the ninth month. Add the digits in 9/11 (9+1+1) and the result is 11.
● The World Trade Center’s two towers each had 110 stories (11x10=110).
● The building known as 7 World Trade Center had 47 stories (4+7=11).
● The State of New York, the scene of the attack, was the eleventh state added to the Union.
● The year 2001 had 111 days remaining following the attacks of September 11.
● September 11 is the 254th day of the year (2+5+4=11).
● The Twin Towers themselves formed a symbolic number 11.
● The first plane to strike the towers on the morning of September 11 was Flight 11.
● Flight 11 had 11 crew members on board.
● Flight 11 had 92 persons on board overall (9+2=11).
● Flight 175 had 65 people aboard (6+5=11), and, of course, 1+7+5=13, the number notoriously associated with bad luck and, not surprisingly, the number of the chapter in the Book of Revelation in which the Antichrist appears on the scene. 5

The number 9 is also important in the occult.

According to Texe Marrs, occultists regard the number 9 as the “ultimate number of power and authority” for the usual blasphemous reasons. It was at the ninth hour on the cross that Jesus drew his final breath, and there are said to be nine orders of devils in Hell.

Submitted for your approval: world-shaping events in which the numbers 9 and/or 11, or multiples of one or the other, appear to have an occult implication:

● The Pentagon was also targeted on 9/11. Ground was broken for this structure, a think-tank for war, on September 11, 1941. Here we have 9/11 and, when adding the digits in the year (1+9+4+1), we get 15. Add one to five and the result is 6. When turned on its head, 6 becomes 9.

● World War I, the “war to end all wars” which the League of Nations hoped would usher in a world government, ended in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

● President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. That’s 11/22. Adding those figures gives us 33, multiple elevens.

● September 11 was also the date in 1973 when a coup d’etat took place in Chile. That event, triggered by policies conceived by the Rockefeller controlled Council on Foreign Relations, led to General Augusto Pinochet’s establishment of a military dictatorship that would last through 1990.

● The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. That’s 11/9, the reverse of 9/11, and when you add the digits in the year, you get 27 or 2+7=9 for a total of 11/99.

In none of the mainstream news accounts of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center was there any mention of whose idea those haughty towers were in the first place. Hang on to your hats, conspiracy buffs, because here comes a surprise: they were David Rockefeller’s dream!

These giant towers of Babel-like structures were deemed impractical by many. No doubt those who worked in them and bellyached about the constant swaying motion they experienced were never convinced otherwise. But Rockefeller always gets what he wants, so the towers, derisively nicknamed Nelson and David, went up at his behest.

The architect, Minour Yamasaki, didn’t live to see his arrogant masterwork destroyed. Of his baby, he said, “World trade means world peace, and consequently the World Trade Center buildings in New York . . . had a bigger purpose than to just provide room for tenants. The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man’s dedication to world peace.”

Architect Charles Jencks had a different take, however:

“Repetitive architecture can put you to sleep. Both Mussolini and Hitler used it as a form of thought control knowing that before people can be coerced they first have to be hypnotized and then bored.”

Indeed, Hitler recognized that architecture played an important role in the psychology of a totalitarian state. In Hitler and the Power of Architecture, Frederic Spotts describes Hitler’s obsessive participation in the design of new building projects in Nazi Germany:

“The overall effect - and, indeed, intent - was to aggrandize himself and to debase human beings into tiny objects, automations as insensate as the stone of the building.”

“Is it possible to imagine the World Trade Center as a ruin?” Eric Darton asked in his “biography” of the Twin Towers in 1999.

Prior to September 11, 2001, few of us could. Psychologically, 9/11 reinforced the feeling that we are tiny objects, vulnerable and easily crushed.


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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Dylan's Basement Tapes and the Mighty Eskimo

For several months now, visitors to bobdylan.com have been greeted by a homepage that seemed to be advertising a new Bob Dylan album titled Shadows in the Night. Once you clicked what appeared to be an album cover, you were taken to Dylan’s recording of an old chestnut, “Moonlight and Open Arms,” once recorded by Frank Sinatra.

On Tuesday August 26, however, the news was about the release, on November 4, of the 11th collection in The Bootleg Series: The Basement Tapes Complete, a six-disc compilation of those fabled homemade recordings of Dylan and The Band (before they were even known as “The Band”) from 1967, a period between the motorcycle accident that gave Dylan an excuse to take a rest from his hectic career and the release, on December 27 of that year, of John Wesley Harding. When the basement tapes found their way onto an unauthorized and illegal set called Great White Wonder, it was the beginning of that illicit and shadowy industry known as “bootleg” recordings. In 1975, Columbia officially released a scant selection of these recordings on a two-record set, The Basement Tapes, but there was something inauthentic about the package. Robbie Robertson of The Band was in charge of compiling the songs and included eight tracks by The Band in which Dylan did not participate (and were not even recorded during these sessions), and there was some tinkering with the sound to make the crude recordings (part of their charm) sound more “professional.” There were also some mind-boggling omissions. Neither “I Shall Be Released” nor “The Mighty Quinn” (aka “Quinn the Eskimo”), two of the most famous songs from the sessions, were included even though a character obviously meant to represent the latter was pictured on the cover.

“The Mighty Quinn” (aka “Quinn the Eskimo”), a 1969 hit for Manfred Mann, is on the track listing for The Basement Tapes Complete. Like most Dylan songs, “The Mighty Quinn” (aka “Quinn the Eskimo”) has led to speculation concerning who or what Dylan is singing about. The man’s own comments, and there have been very few about this song, are not too helpful.

“’Quinn the Eskimo,’ I don’t know,” he told Cameron Crowe when asked about the song for the booklet packaged with 1985’s Biograph. “I don’t know what it was about. I guess it was some kind of nursery rhyme.”

I don’t know what the song is “about,” but I’ve always suspected that the Quinn in the song came from actor Anthony Quinn, Zorba the Greek himself, which is not to say the song has anything to do with him, only that two movies he appeared in may have triggered Dylan’s imagination. As a film buff (and Dylan left no doubt that he is one by including Todd Browning’s 1932 Freaks among the movies that “stay with you” in that same interview with Crowe), Dylan probably saw The Savage Innocents, a 1961 film directed by cult favorite Nicholas Ray (Johnny Guitar, Rebel Without a Cause), in which Quinn was cast as an Eskimo. Dylan almost certainly would have seen Federico Fellini’s La Strada with Quinn as a circus strongman (you know, the kind who breaks chains across his chest). From those two Anthony Quinn movies we get both “Quinn the Eskimo” and “The Mighty Quinn.”

So there. Another Dylan mystery solved. (Others may have made the connection between the song and two Anthony Quinn movies, but I’m not aware of it.) More mysteries are sure to be unearthed on November 4 with the release of The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Volume 11, though I’m guessing that the riddle of “Yea, Heavy and a Bottle of Bread” will never be solved. That’s just as well. What is life without wonder?

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Blood Moons are coming

Does God communicate with us through signs in the heavens?

Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs (WND Books) by Mark Blitz is the second book that I’ve read on the subject of the tetrad due to occur on Jewish feast days in 2014 and 2015. (A tetrad is the name that astronomers give to the phenomenon of four successive blood moons.) The first, Four Blood Moons by John Hagee, did not thoroughly persuade me that blood moons, at least when falling on feast days, are significant in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Blitz hasn’t erased my doubts, but he doesn’t confirm them either. Blood moons? There may be something to it.

A blood moon is an eclipse in which light traveling from the sun to the moon is blocked by the earth. The moon turns blood red as a result. In the Bible, there are warnings about signs in the sun and moon as we enter the last days. In Matthew 24:29, we read that “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light.” In Revelation 6:12, there’s this: “And I beheld when he opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.”

Blood moons are not uncommon, but four in a row, a tetrad, all on Jewish feast days, is unusual. When they occurred in the past, they preceded or followed major events of prophetic significance. In 1967, the first of four blood moons became visible prior to the Six Day War in which Israel reclaimed Jerusalem. The four blood moons in 1949 and 1950 occurred after Israel became a nation in 1948. Blitz believes these signs were “God’s way of telling the world it was His doing . . .” The inconsistency in the timing, with blood moons preceding one event and following another, has made some prophecy students question Blitz’s theory. Blitz thinks they “are totally missing the point.”

What is intriguing is how rarely a tetrad takes place on feast days. It happened only twice in the 20th century. Prior to that, there were no tetrads for 300 years. Between 1400 and 1500, two of four tetrads fell on feast days (1428-29 and 1493-94). During the first, Jews sought protection from the pope. One year before the latter tetrad, the Jews were ordered to leave Spain. The blood moons of 2014-15 will be the only tetrad to fall on feast days in this century. This is interesting, indeed.

One difficulty that a reader may encounter with Blitz’s book is the author’s reliance on the Torah which means he refers to Jesus throughout as Yeshua, explaining in a footnote that “Jesus is a totally manufactured name. It is a distorted transliteration of the original Greek into Latin, and then into the various evolutions of the English language.” I don’t doubt that this makes for a more accurate reading of Scripture, but if you’re accustomed to reading the King James Version of the Bible, the effect is jarring at times, and confusing at others.

The nature of those feast days is also a surprise for anyone who accepts the modern definition of a feast as a “banquet” (formal dinner). In Hebrew, the word is “moed,” meaning a “divine appointment.” Blitz writes, “The feasts of the Lord are the divine appointments, when God predetermined that He would interact with human history.”

Whatever they mean, the blood moons are coming - ready or not. Expect the first on Passover, April 15, 2014.

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Friday, February 28, 2014

The latest "Awesome" words

On a show called Culture Click that I accidentally caught one recent Saturday morning, a girl named Isabella said that “epic,” “beast,” and “legit” are popular words among today’s kids to designate something as “awesome,” which is an earlier and sadly indestructible exclamation to indicate that something or someone is great or “cool.”

I suppose these words, with the exception of “beast,” are preferable to “bitchen,” which was popular in 1966 when Richard Burton mentioned in his diaries that his stepson was saying it. Burton described it as “the new and horrible word for ‘up-to-date,’ ‘modern,’ ‘cool, ‘unsquare,’ ‘with it,’ etc.”

I think I used “cool,” “neat,” and maybe “in,” the last very briefly, when I was a kid, but I began to shun slang by the time I reached my teens, using it only facetiously to mock those whose speech is littered with such crap. Anyone who was truly “cool” or “hip” wouldn’t allow such words in his vocabulary.

Slang always sounds foolish in retrospect. A movie from the 1960s with characters who say “groovy,” or one from the 1950s that allowed the cast to say “Daddy-O,” always look like the works of old fogies desperately trying to appear young and contemporary. The same is true of books. Those that use the slang expressions in vogue at the time they are written are often unreadable, at least to me. Every book and movie reflects the time in which it was created, but only the worst make a conscious effort to be current and are usually laughable only a few years later.

I don’t think you’ll hear a word like “groovy” in any songs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Rolling Stones, but it’s there in songs by lesser artists, most of whom never made it into the 1970s.

Art is timeless and transcends its era. The rest is artifice, not art, and artifice is not “cool,” it’s not “hip,” and it’s certainly not “beast.”

Brian W. Fairbanks

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Friday, January 31, 2014

When is a book not a book?

A library that recently opened in Bexar County, Texas contains only electronic books. This is another way of saying that this library has no books.

A book is something shaped like a square, or sometimes a rectangle, or . . . well, you get the picture. It has a cloth or cardboard cover and has pages made of paper. That, my friends (and enemies, if any happen to be reading this), is a book. A book is something you can hold in your hands. The words printed on the pages of a book are called text.

Now, you can put the text on an electronic device or a computer screen, but what you’re reading is in no way a book. You can also see plenty of images on a computer screen and even your phone, but you are in error if you call them photographs. They are pictures, but a photograph is made of paper and was printed from a 35mm negative. There is still such a thing as a movie, but in most cases the movie you’re watching can no longer be called a “film.” A movie made with digital technology is not a “film,” but . . . well, I don’t really know what the hell it is. As for music, music is still music, but records are pretty much done for. The vinyl LP in its cardboard cover might as well be a tombstone.

If this trend continues, as I’m sure it will, what will become of collectors? Will a first edition e-book one day be selling at Ebay or put up for bidding at Christie’s or Heritage Auctions? Is anyone ever going to collect music downloaded from iTunes?

I mean, I’m just saying.

Brian W. Fairbanks

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