Gore Vidal on Bush, Cheney, Kucinich and the Demise of the Republic

Anyone who follows the news closely– er, maybe that should be “Anyone who seeks out the news that only a few bother to report”, know about Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s “Articles of Impeachment for President George W. Bush presented to the House on June 9th of this year. Rep Kucinich listed some 30-odd articles describing impeachable offenses committed by the president and vice president.

In the always passionate and insightful Mr. Gore Vidal‘s most recent article, he observes, “Although this is the most important motion made in Congress in the 21st century, it was also the most significant plea for a restoration of the republic, which had been swept to one side by the mad antics of a president bent on great crime. And as I listened with awe to Kucinich, I realized that no newspaper in the U.S., no broadcast or cable network, would pay much notice to the fact that a highly respected member of Congress was asking for the president and vice president to be tried for crimes which were carefully listed by Kucinich in his articles requesting impeachment… It is Le Monde, a French newspaper, that told a story the next day hardly touched by The New York Times or The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal or, in fact, any other major American media outlet.”

Go here to read “Gore Vidal’s Article of Impeachment” in its entirety. 

Justice, indeed. 

Gore Vidal on Bush, Cheney, Kucinich and the Demise of the Republic

Handheld Zombie Madness: DIARY OF THE DEAD, [REC] & The Culture Of Media Experience

About fifteen years ago, my then writing partner, Teal Minton, said to me, “You know that scene in ALIENS where we see everything that’s happening through the cameras in the guys’ helmets? We should do a whole horror film just like that.”

It was a great idea. We had many great ideas. This is one we should have acted on.

Today, handheld horror films are spreading like the plague. Starting with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and still going strong, these films are a running commentary – whether intentional or not – on our society’s obsession with and technology’s ability to record life as it happens in a way never available to us before. Even “reality” TV is an offspring of this relatively new potential. History will now be recorded and distorted in ways we never imagined before! And stories will be told in ways that are both viscerally exciting and, if done well, almost indistinguishable from real life events and how we experience them. And I’m referring to events that we are not personally a part of, but through the eye of the camera, we become both viewer and participant all at the same time.

Take the Hurricane Katrina disaster, for example. For the billions of people around the world who were not in New Orleans themselves, they experienced those horrific events through – not only the lens of a news camera – but through cell phone cameras, home digital cameras, camcorders, etc. Those events came streaming to us on the web as well as on our televisions. And as a result, the media was no longer able to control what we saw and what we didn’t. And technology has expanded swiftly since then. The current war in Iraq is another prime example as soldiers and other eye-witnesses upload their experiences for all to see. A new language is being written; a new way of sharing; a new way of living; a new way of experiencing.

This year’s CLOVERFIELD was another example of a familiar horror genre being adapted to this new language. A monster movie a la GODZILLA or 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH or, yes, ALIENS. But this time told through the lens of a “witness”, our visual narrator, our third eye.

George Romero, the director who single-handedly defined the rules of the contemporary zombie genre via NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and many others to follow, has finally found his way to this new form of storytelling. But a little background first. Romero’s early film, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, changed my life. I saw it at a much too early age and was instantly traumatized. And addicted. Not to the blood and guts that became the primary focus of so many horror films to follow, but to the level of true primal horror Romero’s films tapped into. Never one to miss an opportunity for social commentary, Romero knew the strength of the genre and managed to use it to its fullest and most extreme.

Then came his recent Hollywood studio attempt at the genre, which resulted in the very un-scary and at times downright ridiculous LAND OF THE DEAD. With its awful digital zombies and overwrought action, the film drowned under the studio’s heavy hand, which apparently weighed down on Romero like an anchor.

Diary Of The DeadBut then he bounced back earlier this year with a super low-budget installment of the franchise titled DIARY OF THE DEAD. The film garnered mixed critical response, but I personally found it a welcome return to form for Romero. DIARY is scary, at times darkly funny (Romero’s wit is hard to suppress) and insightful as to the pros and cons of society’s newfound love of the digital recorder. Granted, Romero’s film is a little lacking in subtlety, but this I can forgive as it still posed interesting questions while scaring the pants off of me. Never before had I thought so much about the future of film and felt I might be witnessing the beginning of the end of storytelling as I’ve grown to know and love it. And then there’s the notion of being the detached voyeur; does witnessing these seemingly real events through a camera’s lens allow us to become part of what’s happening, or does it offer us a newfound detachment (i.e who are the real zombies?)? When we record something in our own lives, are we still experiencing it as people who are present, or are we there, but somehow disconnected as our experience is not through our own eyes, but through the comfortable familiarity of a camera lens?

[REC]Then there’s the recent Spanish zombie flick [REC], by directors, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. [REC] is still unavailable in the U.S., but is currently being remade – for American audiences too lazy to read subtitles – under the new name QUARANTINE. I was lucky enough to score a copy of [REC] and, though not the social commentary DIARY was, it’s one hell of a scary film and a new take on Romero’s style of zombie flick. In a “normal” movie, the director is outside the action. We know that we are being told the story by someone who was not actually there, someone who is not himself in any danger, but who can pick and choose what we see and what we don’t so as to allow us the best storytelling experience. While the reality is actually the same in films like DIARY OF THE DEAD, [REC], CLOVERFIELD and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, the illusion is that no one is in control, that we are helpless viewers watching events unfold through the eyes of helpless participants.

[REC] had me covering my mouth in fear as I watched (yeah, I’m a big baby). And, just as I’d done only nights before after viewing DIARY, I asked myself what it is about this experience that I keep coming back to. I loved horror films as a kid, but I all but abandoned them as an adult. They ceased to scare me anymore. Slasher pics, torture porn, the last 20 years of horror films had slipped into a void more obsessed with the makeup and effects than with the psychological and social impact these films were capable of having. It’s one of the reasons I made THE PLAGUE, though, as many already know, that film was destroyed by its own producers who were simply not ready to make a horror film that tapped into real primal fears, and instead reverted back to what I think of as their safety zone of harmless, meaningless, ineffectual horror.

But thanks to some other filmmakers and some (oddly enough) less frightened producers, we are starting to see a trend emerge that still has a lot of unknown territory yet to explore. And hopefully I will continue to be moved to ask myself why I – and so many other audience members like me – feel it is somehow cathartic to experience helplessness, panic and terror, while also being artistically, socially and morally stimulated.

Handheld Zombie Madness: DIARY OF THE DEAD, [REC] & The Culture Of Media Experience

Robert A. Harris, PATTON & Blu-Ray: There IS Something To Fear

Check out Robert A. Harris‘ article “DNR… and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night” at thedigitalbits.com. For those unfamiliar with his work, Robert is a highly respected film producer, historian and preservation expert, who has been responsible for some of the most important work to save and restore our favorite classic films.* His restoration work includes such films as: Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, My Fair Lady, Napoléon and many, many others. 

In his new article, Mr. Harris discusses the current dangers facing our cinematic heritage on Blu-ray discs via the removal of not only film grain (which is an inherent part of a film and a film’s look), but of important details lost in the removal of high frequency information through the use of DNR (Digital Noise Reduction). 

And, as with so many things, this danger exists in large part due to a combination of fear and misinformation. But with a little education, Mr. Harris shows us that we can nip this problem in the bud and have a bright future of films on Blu-Ray disc that look more like the films as they were intended, and less like video games. 

As an example of what NOT to do, Mr. Harris uses the most recent Blu-Ray release of the 1970 Academy Award-winning film, Patton

“When people see things they don’t understand, they become frightened, and the concept of what [a film] is — or was — still eludes some people. We all tend to reduce or expand things to a level we understand, and it can be fatal to a film… if what someone understands is Petticoat Junction.”

–cinematographer Gordon Willis

Update: Apparently Robert Harris’ post was removed from thedigitalbits per his request. More on that as I learn. 

DNR Mona Lisa


*from thedigitalbits.com

Robert A. Harris, PATTON & Blu-Ray: There IS Something To Fear

Caren McCaleb: Touching The Intangible


Filmmaker/Editor Caren McCaleb’s continuing series of Youtube vlogs (under the moniker Eagle Crow Owl) on the nature of art are consistently thought-provoking, engaging, inspiring, weird, creative and, well… artistic. Here’s McCaleb’s latest vlog, “Hell In A Handbasket”:

To see the entire series and to learn more, go to:


And for those who are looking for something a bit less “out there”, but no less entertaining, check out Caren’s series on her daughter, Olive. These are no mere home videos, but an ongoing cinematic journey unto themselves:


Caren McCaleb: Touching The Intangible

PLAGUE campaign steps up a notch!


Hi everyone.

I’m encouraging anyone who would like to see THE PLAGUE: WRITERS & DIRECTOR’S CUT released to DVD to not only sign our petition, but to e-mail, write, call or fax Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and let them know your thoughts and desires. And, as always, I ask that you do this with the utmost respect and consideration for the people you contact. Do NOT bombard them with e-mails or harass. 

Respect and consideration at all times.

If there’s a big enough audience (and we already know there is!), the film will get released. Thanks again for all the incredible support!

 I ask that your e-mails or phone messages be polite and to the point. Here’s an example (feel free to put it in your own words and show your own personal passion in seeing THE PLAGUE: WRITERS & DIRECTOR’S CUT released):



I am writing to ask you to release THE PLAGUE: WRITERS & DIRECTOR’S CUT to DVD and Blu-Ray. The film, written by Hal Masonberg and Teal Minton and directed by Masonberg, was dramatically re-cut by the film’s producers and released as CLIVE BARKER’S THE PLAGUE, though it was not based on any Clive Barker material. 

The producers’ cut of the film has all but run its course. But a grassroots campaign to get the Writers & Director’s cut of the film released (a campaign supported by the film’s cast & crew, as well as film journalists, authors, historians and fans) is well under way with a petition climbing quickly in signatures on a daily basis, a documentary titled SPREADING THE PLAGUE talking openly about what happened on this film and why the cast and crew want the director’s cut released, and a wealth of information about the background and history of this film. 

You can visit that site here: 


And view the petition here:


There was also a three-page article on THE PLAGUE: WRITERS & DIRECTOR’S CUT in a recent issue of MOVIEMAKER MAGAZINE (the #1 top-selling Indy film mag in the world). 

Please take this request under advisement as there is a large, passionate audience of fans eager to see THE PLAGUE: WRITERS & DIRECTOR’S CUT released. 

I am one of them. 

And keep in mind, releasing this cut will also allow you to financially reinvigorate a film you already own. 

Thanks for your time and consideration.


Your Name Here

I thank you in advance for your support of me, this film and our campaign. It’s been a long road (10 years and counting!), but we’re getting close. 

Thanks again, 

Hal Masonberg


PLAGUE campaign steps up a notch!

Quote Of The Week: Straight From The Horse’s Mouth

Ya gotta love this quote I found on Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood:

I really think, this late in the day, that grassroots support for our movie could significantly improve our chances of reaching a much bigger audience…”

–Clive Barker

If you say so…


Quote Of The Week: Straight From The Horse’s Mouth

Baltimore Symphony to Perform Lee Johnson’s Dead Symphony

DeadsymphonyI’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I read about this. We’ve heard jazz renditions of Grateful Dead tunes and other various interpretations over the years, but Lee Johnson‘s Symphony is no muzak rendition of these beloved songs. It is, in fact, something to truly marvel at.

According to Johnson’s web site:

“Lee Johnson has conducted and recorded with world class orchestras such as: The Russian National Orchestra, The London Symphony Orchestra, The Taliesin Orchestra, The London Session Orchestra, The American Rock Orchestra, The Cyberlin Philharmonia, among many others.

“He has composed six symphonies, numerous chamber works, four musicals, two operas, concerti, choral and vocal works, works for ballet theater, feature and experimental film, and hundreds of works for multimedia and interactive technologies.”

Great credits, but it still doesn’t mean the guy understands the music of the Dead, right? Maybe so, but it didn’t take long for this listener’s ears to realize that Mr. Johnson not only “gets” the Dead, but has expanded on them. Which is only appropriate as the Dead’s music was based in improvisation and experimentation.

Deadsymphony.com states:

“It was “China Doll” that opened the door for Lee Johnson, initiating his personal journey into the Dead, through an introduction by longtime fan and music producer, Mike Adams. Mike took the Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich loving composer and introduced him to American roots music, as exemplified, by the Grateful Dead. Each and every recording, score, and lyric that was experienced and studied helped to pass the genetic material of the Dead’s core essence into Lee’s creative compositional mind.”

Take a moment and listen to a sample of Mr. Johnson’s Dead Symphony conducted by Johnson and performed by the Russian National Orchestra.

If you like what you hear, the entire symphony can be purchased (download or CD) at:


And you can read Grateful Dead biographer Blair Jackson‘s review of this work here.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will be performing this work in its entirety under the direction of Mr. Johnson himself at Baltimore’s Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on August 1st (which would have been Jerry Garcia’s 66th Birthday).

“The essence of the Dead’s music was improvisation, and the root of that is an attitude that says transformation is at the center of all art. Dead Symphony takes different fragments of the Dead’s music and reweaves them into a sparkling tapestry that satisfies a whole ‘nother realm of possibility.”

–Dennis McNally, Grateful Dead Historian and Publicist

Baltimore Symphony to Perform Lee Johnson’s Dead Symphony