High Weirdness by Mail

Jim Swallow, London – “Another cool TC – and another cover that gifted me with plenty of dirty looks as I read it on the train… As usual, I found many things in #22 that had me highly amused or nodding in rueful agreement; the latter mostly when I read about your exposure to the “It’s A Small World” ride at Disneyworld (be thankful you never entered “The Carousel of Progress”) and your new taste for cordite. Thanks as well for the edifying wrestling feature; never have I seen so many scary Oriental girls in one place…outside of your video collection, anyway.

I was interested by your take on jai-alai – I had an experience of the same sort (that of being a foreigner exposed to an arcane, alien sporting event up close and personal) last year at an LA Dodgers game. I know baseball sounds less interesting – methinks that’s why they have so many beer vendors – but I was still gobsmacked when I witnessed one batter deflect a supersonic fast ball and have his bat severed by its’ impact. Watching a broken chunk of wood as big as my arm arc through the air and impale itself in the dirt at my feet almost made me drop my wax cup of Budweiser and hot dog. In addition, my weird shit-o-meter pinged loudly with Marc Lewes’ “Raven” article…where did this guy come from?

I’ll end with a tip of the hat to you, regarding your item on the Nick Carter books; my interest duly piqued by your descriptions of this pulp spy saga while visiting my folks on the East Coast, I found myself wandering through one of the myriad second-hand book shops that dot the region – and I left with copies of Temple of Fear, Time Clock of Death and Trouble in Paradise weighing me down. Great stuff…How could I not like a character with pet names for his Luger and stiletto knife? I for one wouldn’t have minded seeing a longer article on the ‘Killmaster’.”

Ah, yes, Wilhelmina was the gun…or was it the knife? And wasn’t Pierre the gas-bomb he kept in his underpants? Fabulous stuff. I actually have grown to like baseball, as you’ll see from elsewhere in this issue. It has a fine rhythm, and can be appreciated on a whole range of levels, from Mark McGwire taking a ball coming towards him at 95 mph, and hitting it 150 yards, to the subtleties of pitch selection on an 0-2 count. And the fielding is amazing, even allowing for the help given by having a glove. It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to seeing much more of in Arizona.

Tim Greaves, Eastleigh – “Have to say this wasn’t one of my most favourite issues to date, mainly because the Japanese wrestling stuff wasn’t of much interest.  Mind you, it’s your bag, it’s your mag, so who the hell am I to complain? I liked the Bond movie overview (though didn’t agree with all your ratings – AVTAK better than FRWL and TB? Come on now!), and was amused to see you posed with the inimitable Douglas James. When and where did that happen? I met him at a press screening/luncheon for Tomorrow Never Dies in November 1997 and found him to be extremely pleasant but extremely full of himself also.  Other than this. I think the Floozies with Uzis article was probably the highlight, although the Film Blitz section is always a fave (but how anyone can’t love Dark City is beyond me). Overall, however, another fine issue.  How long till the next one then? Hehehehehehe.”

Oh, about fifteen months or so – though there are some questions you just don’t ask! I can see your point with regard to From Russia With Love; it has its moments, even if the novel isn’t one of Fleming’s best. But I found Thunderball simply dull: way too much of it took place wearing scuba-gear. Met Mr. James (Pierce Brosnan’s stand in for the 007 films) at my birthday party, which Chris had arranged with a Bond theme; she hired him as a guest. It was a surprise anyway, but suffice it to say that my jaw dropped when I saw him…

Steve Pay, Brentwood – “Thought I’d drop you a quick line to enclose a cheque for some beans for some issues. (Well, alright, a tenner, which ought to see me through until I get my bus-pass.) I also thought I’d pass a few random thoughts about what was actually in the damn thing.

The Phantom Menace. I went to see it because The Guardian gave it a review that made it sound like a Plan 9 for our generation, but it turned out to be a load of old tosh, albeit very pretty. The only thing that makes me angrier than its runaway success is the number of people, who should know better, who actually think it’s a worthwhile way to spend two and a half hours. I’ve not seen Titanic (think I’m probably unique in the population of Great Britain, if not the world, that I can honestly claim not to have seen Titanic, The Full Monty, Four Weddings, Notting Hill or Pretty Woman.) but I do know that nobody could enhance their reputation for anything with the steaming pile of cack that was T2. A salutory lesson as to why stars should never, ever, ever be given script control of any kind. (See also True Lies and Total Recall.)

Got something against Arnie, have we? The only one of your list which I’ve seen all of, is Four Weddings (dragged by a then-girlfriend), and I can add Phantom Menace to the list. Did catch the last ten minutes of Titanic once…most amusing.

Women’s wrestling. It might interest you to know that Terri Power (under the name Tori) is presently kicking her heels in the WWF, though frankly she might as well be farting in a wind tunnel for all the effect it’s having on their moribund attempts to revive the women’s title. Miss Texas is also knocking around, though I’m assuming her role- as “valet” means that she’s decided the athletic stuff is too much these days.

Madusa Miceli is about as Italian as a Pizza Hut pizza. She’s as American as apple pie, but she has had a longer career than most women wrestlers in the States. Certainly, when WWF was available in this country on ITV, she was kicking around trying to fuel a fire with (I think) Reggie Bennett. Under the name Alundra Blaze, she had some success in Japan, and indeed, the WWF brought her back as well as Bull Nakano, and they had some half dozen fights for the women’s title in the mid-1980’s. She ‘retired’ after losing a retirement match some 3-4 years ago, but has recently returned to WCW under the name Madusa, as part of that ageing, creaking pantomime..

Get a grip, man. The days of said intelligent SF cinema never did exist. Ever since its creation, it’s been an ill-favoured bastard son of the cinema and is doomed to always remain so whilst the likes of Lucas are about. Whilst small, smart guys might get away with making something half-way interesting, anybody wanting money from the studios will automatically have to lower their sights to the likes of ID4, Wild Wild West, Phantom Menace, Godzilla, T2 and Total Recall, none of which have anything resembling a thought in their pretty but very expensive heads. And there is every sign that the horror movie, left alone by Hollywood for decades, is about to suffer a similar fate with shit like I Know… and Scream flooding your local picture pit.

A good example of the Hollywood “dumb-down” factor is given in The Hamster Factor. You watch and weep as Terry Gilliam is made to jump through every hoop imaginable in order to get 12 Monkeys made. Remember, the studio wanted to make Brazil a “revenge thing”, centred around De Niro’s character. Ridley Scott only got Blade Runner made after the studio tinkered with it to an horrendous degree. Frankly, intelligent movies of any kind have always been the exception rather than the rule. Have you ever read any of Harlan Ellison’s pieces about his experiences in Hollywood? I think you’d like them – he makes you look mild-mannered…”

Certainly true that as budget goes up, control goes down. However, with respect to Gilliam, his rep in Hollywood has been troublesome since he went wildly over on Munchausen, so it’s no surprise he has been subject to close control ever since. Would you give him $28 million of your money to make a movie based on a French short film consisting entirely of still pictures? Still, it is possible to make cinema that is intelligent without going up its own backside: the fabulous Run Lola Run comes to mind.

And finally, the following, which I thought was worth repeating in full, and as received. I hope I can find a suitable font in which to present it…

Florence Nabakooza, Box 12504, Kampala, Uganda, East Africa  “Dear friend in Christ. It is a blessing from God that I have come across your lovely name and address and that I have been able to introduce and share my problems with you in the name of Jesus Christ Son of the Living God. I am a Christian girl 17 years old the eldest of the five and a student of St.Joseph Academy and midwifery Training school. A tragic misfortune struck our family on the fateful day of 2-4-99 when both our parents perished in a boat disaster which sunk into Lake Victoria. All twenty three people who were on board of the boat perished.

May God rest their souls in eternity. We are now staying with our grandmother a widow who is blind and who do not have any income generating activity as a result we are now living in a very poor and bad conditions. Daily after attending school I become engaged with all sorts of petty jobs like cleaning toilets, collecting and dispersing dirty garbages, but the money which I receive is very little and sometimes not enough to buy sufficient daily food for the family. Although I am the one who is fully responsible.

Incidentally sir, I have been expecting to sit for the finals towards the end of the year, but now I am worried of failing to do so because I do not have any way of raising the money to clear payments of the school dues. I am humbly appealing to you in the name of Jesus the Lord for sponsorship of £200 to clear payment for examination, registration and all the school dues for a complete year and then sit for the final exams. Thereafter I would be assured of getting an Established job for the welfare of our family and our grandmother. I shall be very gratefull to receive a considerate reply.

Your prayerfully in Christ, Florence Nabakooza”

Dear friend in Florence, I think you really blew it with “Dear friend in Christ”, I’m afraid. It would probably help your finances if you didn’t waste your money on a PO Box, but I’m sure that’s not because this is any sort of scam. Have you considered prostitution, or perhaps selling some unwanted minor body parts? Please find enclosed a sample copy of Trash City; we would love to expand our subscription base into Africa. Do write back soon. Yours prayerfully in Britney, Jim.

She never did reply…